How the phenomenon of a revolutionary policy in the domestic arena was transferred into a radical Iranian foreign policy concerning the United States?

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Este excerto foi retirado da tese de mestrado de Catarina Lagemann intitulada “How the phenomenon of a revolutionary policy in the domestic arena was transferred into a radical Iranian foreign policy concerning the United States? A comparison between the periods of 1980-1983 (post-Revolutionary Iran), and 2017-2020 (nuclear Iran).

The main point of this dissertation is highlighted by the following statement of Edelman and Takeyh, “Iranian foreign policy is an extension of domestic revolutionary turmoil for Khomeini, the world was divided between two competing entities: States whose priorities were defined by Western conventions and Iran, whose ostensible purpose was to redeem a divine mandate.” (Edelman, Takeyh, 2018, p. 14). Unlike the classical approach of foreign policy, this project demonstrated the interconnection of foreign and domestic policy, arguing that, in some specific cases like Iran, there is a dialectic relationship of influence between the two environments, where they interconnect and become the target of the same political agenda.    

Distinct from the International Relations theory, the proposal assumed here, alongside foreign policy analysis, is the relevance of the domestic system over the international events and decisions (Kaarbo, 2015). The black-boxes canonic principle, defended by Realism, is deconstructed to support the impact of the regime, decision-making, and institutional approach upon foreign policy relations (Kaarbo, 2015, p.191). In the dialectical relationship between Iran and the United States, the interference of the domestic revolutionary position in the foreign relation between both countries was indispensable to attain hostility and defend the national interest of Iran. (Edelman, Takeyh, 2018, p. 92).   

The theoretical approach of constructivism alongside neoclassical realism helped to understand the non-material variables related to the revolutionary relationship between both countries. The impact of values, ideology, historical past and fear of regime change shaped the Iranian foreign policy and Iranian hostilities against the United States over the years (Robert Jervis in, Mausavian; Shadnidsalless, 2015, p. 62).  Meanwhile, from a neoclassical realism perspective, the Iranian revolutionary process acted as a transmission belt that mediated and drove Iran’s foreign policy towards the United States (Kaarbo, 2015, p.203). The colonial past and the American intervention in the Sha’s government have never been forgotten and were the whole seed to implement the hostilities and the future conflict between both States. The final theoretical approach applied by Putnam’s two-level games helped to develop the argument concerning the simultaneity of the two levels and how the decision-maker as Khomeini and Khamenei, acknowledge both environments as a pre-requisite for their foreign policy agenda (Putnam,1988).    

When comparing both periods, 1980-1983 and 2017-2020, it is possible to defend the argument that the intrinsic relationship and intervention between Iran’s domestic and foreign policy was not only during the revolution period but had become a permanent policy. Despite the multiple discontinuities and different scenarios in the comparison, the fundamental variables that triggered the hostilities between both countries remain in Iranian society. The Shi’ite ideology, the anti-colonial and anti-American sentiment, and the permanent sanctions and economic problems have enough power to maintain what was first considered a revolutionary agenda but then transformed into a Foundation Myth and national survival.

Catarina Lagemann

Mestre em Relações Internacionais
London School of Economics and Political Sciences


Edelman, Eric; Takeyh, Ray (2018). “Revolution & Aftermath, Forging a New Strategy toward Iran”. Hoover Institution Press.

Kaarbo, Juliet. (2015)A Foreign Policy Analysis Perspective on the Domestic Politics Turn in IR Theory”. International Studies Review

Shahidsaless, Shahir (2015). “Iran and the United States, an insider’s view on the failed past and the road to peace”. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.