The axis of resistance the role of religion in Iranian foreign policy
Uzun, Ezgi (2018) The axis of resistance the role of religion in Iranian foreign policy. [Thesis]
Scholarship on Iran's foreign policy has been primarily interested in Iran’s nuclear program in the recent years. Rouhani Administration’s historic nuclear negotiations with the international community have led many to conclude that Iran pursues an increasingly moderate and pragmatist foreign policy. However, the nuclear rapprochement happened in synchrony with an equally important phenomenon in Iran’s foreign policy – Iran’s increased engagement with the Shiites in the Middle East. This study examines the ‘Axis of Resistance,’ a dense Iran-led alliance network of state and non-state actors covering a wide range of Shia mobilization across the Middle East. Why does Iran pursue a foreign policy with distinct religious and ideological contours in the post-2003 Middle East, despite the observed pragmatism and rationalism in relations with the West during the same period? What role does religion play in Iran’s ‘Axis of Resistance’ policy? This study theoretically subscribes to an emerging research program which seeks to merge the study of religion into International Relations. The study first examines the role of religion in Iran’s foreign policy by historically tracing transnational politically activist Shiism and its implications on the Islamic Republic after 1979. The following chapter examines Iran’s foreign policy in Middle East after 2003 with a focus on Shia mobilization across Iraq and Syria. The last chapter examines the Iranian political elites’ discourses on the transformations of the region after 2003. This research is based on multiple qualitative methodologies including field research in Iran, elite interviews, process-tracing, and discourse analysis.
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