The Islamic Republic of Iran and the ideal international system

From Wikivahdat

The title is an article by Dehghani Firooz-Abadi in which the unity of the Islamic world is refered to. It was published in the book “Iran And The International System” edited by Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Reza Molavi. The following is the full article.[1]


The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) as a revolutionary government hailing from the Islamic Revolution maintains a critical approach towards the current international system. In its view the present international order that dominates and the international system that goes with it is not suitable and should be revised. For this reason the IRI is considered a revisionist country and, contrary to the status quo countries, is trying to bring about revision and gradual changes in the existing international order and system. But the basic question is what type of international system is the country seeking to establish? In other words, what is the most suitable international system in the IRI’s view? Does the IRI aim to overthrow the Westphalian order and the nation-state system that is based on it, or is it working to structurally reform it? The present chapter aims to provide an answer to this question.

A temporary response is that, although based on the Islamic theory of international relations, the Westphalian nation-state system is not a suitable one, and the IRI as a nation-state is trying to establish and create a just international order which is devoid of domination and structural violence. The discussion and testing of this hypothesis will be conducted in three stages. First, definitions and different types of international system will be elucidated. In the second stage, revisionist and justice-seeking principles and sources of the IRI will be reviewed. The third part will be devoted to the enquiry and analysis of mechanisms for the establishment of a just and suitable system that the IRI would find acceptable.

Different types of favourable international order On the basis of the literature on international relations, different types of change in the international system are possible and conceivable. Kenneth Waltz differentiates between ‘changes of the system’ and ‘changes in the system’ (2000, p. 5). Only changes of the first type would make the anarchic nature of the international political system evolve. But changes at the unit level or even changes in the structure of the international system, despite their deep effects and outcomes, would not change the anarchic nature of the international system. Although structural changes would form different types of international systems, the nature of international politics is constant in all of them (ibid., p. 6).

However, democratic peace theorists (Doyle, 1983, 1986), institutionalists (Keohane and Nye, 1989) and interdependence theorists (Keohane and Martin, 1995), as Waltz elaborates, believe that as a result of the expansion of democracy, mutual dependence and the effective role of international institutions, the anarchic nature of the international system and international politics all change. K.J. Holsti (1988, chapter 2) in the definition of different types of international systems, refers to the constituent units of each international system as one of the aspects that highlights their difference and distinction.

Therefore, the Greek city-state system is different and distinct from the modern nation-state system. So it should be argued which of these changes are essential and would guarantee the formation of a favourable international system in the eyes of the IRI in place of the present one. Is Iran seeking substantial changes in the anarchic nature of the international system and international politics, or is it trying to change the Westphalian nation-state system? The preferences of the IRI in a change of system and the establishment of a more suitable one could be regulated in a hierarchical order and gradually followed up on the basis of national potentials and capabilities. Such a hierarchical order of preferences is: structural reform of the international system; evolution in the anarchic nature of the international system; reform of the Westphalian order and nation-state system based upon it; and finally formation of an Islamic world society.

An Islamic world society

The IRI as an Islamic state that has its roots in a transnational revolution has goals and interests in the world order. Based on Nuechterlein’s definition (1979, pp. 76–77), Iran’s goals and interests are development and establishment of an international political–economic order and system (either regional or world) in which it feels itself secure and enabled to deal with its political, economic and cultural activities peacefully. What would be ideal and desirable in its eyes is the establishment of an Islamic world system, one that is formed through the efforts of human beings utilizing worldwide Islamic values, common human interests, ethical principles and justice. A just Islamic world society would be devoid of power relations, domination, suppression and violence, and would proclaim the freedom and equality of all human beings as citizens of an Islamic world government (Dehghani, [1386] 2007, pp. 142–143). Perhaps it could be claimed that this is an Islamic example of world society that has been referred to by Hedley Bull (1977–1984) and other theorists of the English school. Formation of an Islamic world society necessitates the spread of Islamic values and norms throughout all societies, together with consolidation of the Islamic world within a united Ummah.

As will be explained later – and many writers have written about it – the Islamic political and international order does not conform with the Westphalian order and nation-state system, so an Islamic world society within the framework of a state-centric Westphalian order is not possible (Bromley, 1994, pp. 90–94; Tibi, 2000, pp. 87–89; Vatikiotis, 1987, pp. 42–44; Zubaida, 1989). This is because, using Philpott’s words, ‘Islamic cosmopolitanism’ does not consider the natural and legal division of human beings within the framework of geographical borders of any nation-state (Philpott, 2002, p. 86). The formation of an Islamic world society as one of the main ideals and a foreign policy strategic goal of the IRI has been explicitly asserted in the country’s Constitution and in statements made by its leaders. For example, in the introduction to the Constitution, with regard to the goal and application of this law, it has been stated:

The Constitution, with regard to the Islamic nature of the Revolution of Iran which was a movement for the victory of all the oppressed over the oppressors, will prepare the ground for the continuation of this revolution both inside and outside the country. Especially in further expansion of international relations with other Islamic and popular movements, it will try to pave the way for the formation of a unified Ummah in the world (This is your Ummah which is a united Ummah and I am your Creator, therefore worship me) and the continuation of the struggle for the salvation of the needy and oppressed nations in the entire world will be enforced (author’s italics).

The Founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, also stated: ‘Nothing should bring about aberration from the superb objective of the Revolution which is Islamic world government’ (Khomeini, [1371] 1992, p. 108). However, it should be noted that the formation of an Islamic world society as a world system proposed to replace the Westphalian order and nation-state system is a longterm goal in the foreign policy of Iran.

Therefore, contrary to the claims of some writers, present-day Iran under the status quo is not aiming to disturb the nation-state system, and indeed has recognized its main infrastructural institution, namely the principle of national sovereignty, and acts within its framework – in fact the Constitution of the IRI explicitly prohibits interference in the internal affairs of other countries (Article 154). An Islamic international society Formation of an Islamic international society is the second preference and priority of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Islamic internationalism, as expressed by Philpott, does not necessitate or ensure negation of the Westphalian order and nation-state system. That is to say, division of nations into separate political units of a nation-state are accepted, but commitments and responsibilities of Islamic nation-states go beyond national interests and embody Islamic and human values (Philpott, 2002, p. 86).

According to Bull’s (1977, p. 13) definition of international society, an Islamic international society is based on Islamic ‘common interests and common values’ and Islamic rules will govern relations of countries that have membership in common institutes. From theoretical and practical points of view, formation of an Islamic international society takes priority over an Islamic world society, for direct transition from an existing anarchic international system into an Islamic world society is not possible. Rather, after the formation of an Islamic world society, its government and citizens would gradually become aware of their interests, values and common fate, and this would prepare the ground for the establishment of an Islamic world society under a unified sovereignty and government. Such a process of transition would start in the Islamic world and, through the unity within the Ummah, would then spread throughout the entire world.

The Islamic international society stands for justice, common interests of nations which would bring about prosperity, peaceful coexistence, non-interference in internal affairs of others, mutual respect, peace and international security. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran has pointed to these principles and norms either explicitly or implicitly. ‘The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Muslims are required to treat non-Muslims with good manners and Islamic equity and justice and observe their human rights’ (Article 14).

Also, in Article 154 it has been asserted: ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran regards the happiness of Man in Human Society as its aspiration and recognizes independence, freedom and the right to just government as the right of all the people of the world.’ The formation of an Islamic international society would ensure change in the anarchic nature of international politics. Although the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran embodies principles and definitions of Islamic internationalism, such goals and principles provide for ideal circumstances.

This ideal order too, like the Islamic world society, is attainable under certain conditions in the long-term future. Therefore, the IRI, while acknowledging this ideal international situation under the status quo by accepting the nation-state order and system and respecting the right to sovereignty by other countries, will pursue the establishment of a just international system that is devoid of domination and domineering tendencies. A just international system As previously mentioned, what the Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing as worldorder goals and interests is the establishment of a just international order and system through structural, normative and institutional reforms rather than disturbing the present Westphalian order and nation-state system. These multi-dimensional reforms would be such that the present anarchic nature of the international system based on power politics and a power hierarchy would evolve, resulting in the formation of an international society based on the partnership of all nations and common human interests.

Because Iran sees the existing international system as unnatural, illegitimate and unsuitable in all the three structural, normative and institutional dimensions, it therefore should be changed. All active political factions in the IRI, who represent minor different facets of Islamic discourse in foreign policies, have reached a consensus in this regard. Their difference of opinion is merely confined to the mechanisms and tools for reform of the existing international system (Dehghani, [1384] 2005). So, the international system favoured by the Islamic Republic of Iran enjoys certain characteristics and components which make it different and distinct from the existing international system. The most important principles and components of this international system are: the equality of governments, a rule of law and international law, positive peace, the absence of domination by any one bloc and common human values.

Iran and the ideal international system Equality of states One of the major principles of the present system is the principle of the equality of independent and sovereign states, as asserted in the first paragraph of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter: ‘This organization is based on the equality of all member states.’ But this principle has never been observed and respected within the international system and in relations among countries, to such an extent that it is the great powers that are enjoying great financial and physical power and influence.

Therefore, contrary to the views of Van Dyke (1966), countries are not enjoying equal rights, for their rights are not equally respected by mighty governments. The international political scenario that is so reliant on power shows only too well that all countries (contrary to the opinion expressed by Kelsen, 1966) are not equal before the law. The big powers because of their superior might could refrain from obeying international rules and such regulations would not be applied to them, as would be the case with other countries. The most important signifier and manifestation of the inequality of countries in the existing international system is the permanent membership of the five big powers in the Security Council of the United Nations and their power to veto – a specific right that has been granted to those five countries, according to the present power politics, because of their military power.

Therefore, the IRI has opposed the right to veto of the big powers and is seeking the strengthening of the UN General Assembly and granting of more authority and eligibility for decision-making to UNGA. Leaders of the IRI have constantly expressed their criticism and protested against this exclusive right for the big powers as a symbol of injustice in the international system. For example, Iran’s Foreign Ministry in a statement in 1982 said: ‘For the big powers, the use of the right to veto in the Security Council of the United Nations Organization is not in accordance with human standards and the principle of human equality and is a weapon which is used by the superpowers against oppressed and tyrannized nations of the world’ (Ettelaat daily, 16 January 1361). Over two decades later, Iran’s president in his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization in 2006, criticized the Security Council by stating: ‘The existing structure and work process at the Security Council is not responsive to the expectations of the present generation and the needs of contemporary mankind.

This structure and work process is the heritage of World War II. As long as this institution fails to make efforts as the representative of the entire international community transparently, justly and democratically, it will be neither legitimate nor efficient … As long as the structure and work process is not reformed, we should not expect injustice, tyranny and oppression to be rooted out in the world or not to spread … Today, serious amendments in the structure and work process of the Security Council are more essential than ever’ (Ahmadinejad, [1385] 2006).

Rule of law and independent international organizations

The second principle of a just international system favoured by the Islamic Republic of Iran is the implementation and practice of an international rule of law in all countries with the result that all nations – whether powerful or weak – are equal within international law. The proper mechanism for the realization of this goal is the existence of independent, legitimate, efficient and democratic international organizations and institutions, which reflect common human interests and, irrespective of a power hierarchy and exertion of influence by the big powers, implement and exercise international rules and regulations that are compiled and approved regardless of power relations and through the active participation of all countries. Under this international system, countries would treat each other with mutual respect. Meanwhile, based on the principle of sovereignty, powerful governments would refrain from interference in the internal affairs of other countries and recognize the interests and sovereignty of weaker countries.

Furthermore, international rules and regulations and the decisions of international independent and legitimate organizations would be applied to all countries without discrimination and under unified standards. In this case, there would be no trace of double or multidimensional standards in international relations and within the international community. It is the view of the IRI that in the international system none of these principles and norms is implemented or practised completely. Thus the big powers, using double standards and in a discriminatory manner, are not committed to international rules, regulations and responsibilities, but instead through the use of force and power impel other countries to follow them. So international organizations and institutions are also a reflex of the division of international power and maintain the interests of the powerful nations to such an extent that they become instruments which, instead of confining the activities of the big powers, legitimize their power and behaviour.

Therefore, the IRI has constantly criticized and protested against the unjust and discriminatory nature of the existing international system. Although such criticisms have varied, the IRI has never been happy with the status quo. For example, in a harsh criticism of the international organizations, Imam Khomeini said: ‘The world today is suffering from organizations subservient to the big powers, especially the US, that operate under hollow names such as the Security Council, Amnesty International and Human Rights and such empty concepts serve the big powers and are, in fact, implementing their verdicts and are assigned to condemn the oppressed and innocent people of the world in the interest of the world-devouring big powers’ (Khomeini, [1374] 1995, p. 427).

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says in this regard: ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran has a critical approach towards international organizations; we believe that after sixty years the United Nations Organization should undergo a pathology test in order to maintain the interest of all countries. We support the multiplicity of permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations and believe that the international situation has evolved and now different regions with differing levels of power should take part in decision making and participation in the Security Council of the United Nations Organization. Not only the United Nations Organization but all international economic organizations should represent the interests of the developing countries and medium-range powers of the world’ (Mottaki, [1385] 2006). Under these circumstances, President Ahmadinejad considers reform and change in the structure of the United Nations Organization, the Security Council and other international organizations on the basis of democratic principles and observance of equal rights for all the members as the only option to come out of the status quo: ‘The United Nations Organization should take steps in truly defending the rights of nations and the domination of any one country or centre over this organization should be prevented.

To realize this important task, we need basic changes in the structure of the United Nations Organization’ (Ahmadinejad, [1384] 2005). The IRI has also severely criticized the double standards in international relations and international organizations and has called for an end to this unjust procedure. It has constantly been critical of and protested against the double standards in areas such as human rights and resolutions passed by the Security Council. The climax of its criticism has centred around Iran’s nuclear issue and the performance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Security Council. Iran believes that the IAEA and the UN Security Council have failed to exercise unified standards in the implementation of the NPT, to such an extent that while ignoring the military nuclear build-up in Israel, they violate Iran’s explicit rights within the IAEA and NPT (Rohani, [1384] 2005, pp. 12–13).

A just peace

A just peace is one of the most important elements of the international order and system favoured by the IRI. Without the realization of justice, peace and security would not be maintained. It is for this reason that former President Mohammad Khatami has also stressed that ‘the first prerequisite to attain true peace is the recognition of equal rights for all human beings. We need to create a word society wherein all human beings are equal and enjoy equal rights. These are principles that replace struggle and bloodshed. And world peace would become sustainable only under such circumstances’ (Khatami, [1379] 2000). President Ahmadinejad also states: ‘Justice and the preservation of human dignity are two major foundations for the preservation of peace and security, the right for all nations and states’ (Ahmadinejad, [1385] 2006). Manoucher Mottaki too reminds us that ‘the Islamic Republic of Iran defines a direct relationship between justice and security’ (Mottaki, [1385] 2006). What Iran regards as a just peace goes far beyond a negative and minimal peace, meaning an absence of war, and is tantamount to the definition of the positive peace expressed in Galtung and Schmid’s theories. Positive peace goes beyond an absence of physical violence and, for it to be realized, conditions other than the annihilation of war should be present.

Thus, peace means social, political and economic justice and the integration of human society. Positive peace places war and violence in a more expanded context in social, economic and political processes and does not confine it to political trends, because political violence is only a manifestation of gaps and deeper social and economic inequalities (Galtung, 1964, p. 1; 1969, p. 190; Schmid, 1968). Therefore, for peace to be established, in addition to controlling disputes and fighting, quarrels with the potential to lead to structural violence should be prevented, for this kind of violence is a type of social relations in which one side is capable of exerting its domination completely, while the other side is deprived of expressing itself and its potential. Deprivation, famine, suppression, starvation, inequality, racism and racial discrimination, imperialism, dependency and underdevelopment are examples of structural violence that are institutionalized in political, social, economic and national and international cultural structures and institutions. In this definition of peace, contrary to a negative and minimal peace, social-economic justice has priority over the annihilation of war, because with the realization of a positive peace and in the absence of structural violence, there would remain no need for resorting to force, war and physical violence (ibid.). Thus, the IRI feels that in order to gain access to a sustainable peace and security, relationships based on power, hegemony, domineering structures and structural violence should be erased.

Absence of domination

Another fundamental factor and principle of a just international system is the absence of any tendency to dominate, for this brings about violence that threatens and weakens international peace and security. As previously mentioned, Iran feels that the most blatant form and type of domination in international relations is the hegemony of a superior power in the international system, for the hegemonic power imposes its favourite order, which maintains its interests within that international system. The post-Cold War international system is an example of the hegemonic order in which the US tries to impose its superpower domination over other countries, including Iran.

Therefore, with this unipolar system in mind, Ayatollah Khamenei, leader of the Islamic Revolution, states that as a criterion for the IRI’s foreign policy: ‘We can by no means accept the behaviour associated with the system of domination … in no way will we undergo domination, and we consider the criterion for our diplomacy to be confrontation with the domination system that reigns at present in the world order and departure from the rule of the domineer over the dominated’ (Khamenei, [1386] 2007). President Mohammad Khatami too has said: ‘Islamic Iran would not accept the thought and idea of hegemony, nor does it have any intention of being hegemonic … We are strongly opposed to a unilateral world in the sense that a certain power may try to impose its wishes and policies on the world simply because it enjoys material facilities’ (Khatami, [1379a] 2000a, p. 2).

Thus the Ahmadinejad administration has determined and defined one of its foreign policy priorities and goals as a ‘confrontation with post-modern colonialism and a struggle with schemes of the world domination system’ (Office of the President). Meanwhile, Manouchehr Mottaki sees one of the tasks of the government as a ‘struggle with power monopoly at world level’ under the leadership of the US (Mottaki, [1385] 2006). Elsewhere he reiterates: ‘We believe that the international world system is suffering from a lack of justice and hegemony and the domination of one or several big powers is not effective in this international system’ (Mottaki, [1986] 2007, p. 5).

Common human values

The fifth element and principle to be aimed at in a just international system is common human interests and values. Common human values are not necessarily in contradiction with national interests; it rather means that national interests should acknowledge and accommodate the collective interests of other nations and countries. Maintenance of this goal necessitates a change in the present international system with its dominating powers, so that collective security would replace the principle of unlimited and unrestrained self-help, for ‘by changing the logic of international relations and keeping away from the logic of power’ security and human prosperity could be attained. ‘Countries should not behave according to a power-inclined resolve but according to a dialogue-inclined firmness which would finally bring about a resolution based on affection and morality’ (Khatami, [1379b] 2000b, p. 2).

Discursive sources of Iranian revisionism Iranian revisionism originates from three discursive sources: Islamic ideology, the concept of the importance of the Third World, and the search for and spread of justice. The coming together of these three discourses determines and enhances the revision of the international system that is visualized by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Islamic ideology

The most important factor in Iranian revisionism is Islam and Islamic teachings. Islamic discourse is based on the political theory of Islam according to which the international system based on nation-states and geographical borders has no inherent value. The Islamic world order is based on the pillars of ideological borders. Such a demarcation has been defined and determined as the Dar-ol-Islam (the abode of Islam) and Dar-ol-Kofr (the abode of infidels) in the international arena. The Dar-olIslam is a territory where Muslims reside and rule and constitutes a united ummah, a territory and political authority or sovereignty (Adib-Moghaddam, 2005).

The Dar-olKofr embodies all territories outside the Islamic and Muslim sovereignty. Given its relationship with the Dar-ol-Islam, the Dar-ol-Kofr is also divided into the Dar-ol-Harb (the abode of war), the Dar-ol-Hayad (the abode of neutrality) and the Dar-ol-Ahd (the abode of covenant). The Dar-ol-Harb refers to regions and societies that are openly at war with the Muslims, the Dar-ol-Hayad is neutral, and the Dar-ol-Ahd is a land which has signed peace and truce treaties with Muslims and would not be hostile to them (Zyaee-Bigdeli, [1368] 1988). Therefore, the existing state-centric international order and system, which is incompatible with Islamic ideas, is not favoured and should be changed to the Islamic world system. But, as previously mentioned, such a transition from the status quo to what is considered a suitable Islamic order could take place gradually, peacefully, step by step and be reformist to such an extent that although the final target is the formation of an Islamic world society, the realization of such a goal is first attained through the amendment of and change in the present international system, leading to the desired formation of an Islamic international society.

However, Islamic discourse requires the adoption of a revisionist foreign policy towards the present international system (Dehghani, [1384] 2005, pp. 71–72).

Third worldism

The second source of revisionism in the foreign policy of the IRI is what could be termed Third Worldism, which has an anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist and anti-hegemonic nature. This is an idea that opposes the present international political–economic order and is about amending and adjusting to reach a suitable situation and order for maintaining the interests of the Third World, or developing countries of the South. In other words, this discourse, by accepting the principles, rules, norms and fundamental institutions of the present international order, such as the political unit of the nation-state (national and territorial state), national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries, believes that the economic order especially should be changed in the interest of the Third World countries (Dehghani, [1386] 2007, pp. 132–133).

The most important goals of Third Worldism are: international justice; economic development; the practical equity of countries; independence and practical freedom; non-dependence on the great powers; reform, adjustment or change of rules, institutions, norms and international organizations; respect for national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of countries; positive international cooperation; nonparticipation in military acts and the provision of military bases to big powers; support for the United Nations Charter and international law; combating colonialism, imperialism and racism; general disarmament; non-interference in the internal affairs of countries, and fighting against underdevelopment and Third World internationalism (Holsti, 1988, chapter 4).

Therefore, Third Worldism is based on ‘justice’ and ‘independence’, the latter termed by Bull as the first wave of the revolt against the West. But independence of the Third World countries in the process of decolonialization did not mean they gained freedom of action in the international system. So, with justice in mind, the Third World tried to gain equal economic and political rights in the second wave of its revolt against the West. Today, in the third wave, the Third World is trying to achieve cultural independence and autonomy from the West (Bull, 1988, p. 223). The historical background and positive and negative experiences of the Iranians throughout history, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries, has strengthened their enthusiasm for Third Worldism.

The rich Iranian background of culture and civilization surely entitles the country to a more enhanced standing in the world – even promotion to the status of a superpower, which would encourage it to pursue the foreign policy aim of reforming and changing the international order and system. But, on the other hand, aggression and invasion of Iran by foreigners, from Alexander the Great to Mahmoud Afghan, have resulted in some form of national humiliation. Furthermore, interference by colonialist Russia and Great Britain in Iran turned the country into a semi-colonized state. Such bitter experiences enforce the seeking of justice and independence in foreign policy and push it to further efforts to bring about change in the West-dominated and unjust international order (Moshirzadeh, 2007, pp. 529–533).

The search for justice

Justice and justice-seeking is the third stimulus for revisionism in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Seeking justice is rooted in the Iranian culture and civilization, and has been strengthened and stabilized by the Shia sect of Islam to become a part of Iranian identity throughout history, even of Iranian society prior to the arrival of Islam (Mojtahedzadeh, [1383] 2004).

In Islam, especially in the Shia sect, justice enjoys a high value and importance, being one of the principles of Shi‘ism. According to Islamic teachings, both individual Muslims and the Muslim community are required to implement justice and try to establish it both within and without their community. Therefore, the Islamic government and ruler are not merely responsible for the prevalence of justice within the country, but should make efforts for its establishment within human society as a whole.

Therefore, the IRI sees itself as commissioned to expand justice throughout the world and establish a just international order and system (Ramazani, 1990). The historical experience of the Iranians strengthened the justice-seeking spirit in them too, especially the bitter experience of the imposition of pacts on Iran in the 19th and 20th centuries by the colonialist powers, and the failure of the oil nationalization movement. The most important and evident example and symbol of its quest for justice is its support for the struggle of the oppressed against the oppressors, perceived as between evil and good powers or, in other words, between falsehood and justice, in which it is committed to supporting the rightful and just front. The administration of President Ahmadinejad has been forthright in upholding the above. The Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has asserted: ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran with the help of supportive countries is interested in becoming a standard-bearer in moving towards the realization of international justice.’ To this end, ‘the foreign policy of the 9th administration is to enforce a discourse based on justice, acceptance of equal rights for countries in playing their role in the creation of a new and justice-seeking world order’ (Mottaki, [1385] 2006).

Mechanisms for development of a just international system

The Islamic Republic of Iran offers proposals both at practical and theoretical levels for the establishment of a suitable international system. As for theoretical proposals, first the present international order and system should be deconstructed and then a just order and system should be elucidated and promulgated. At a practical level, too, change in the international system through the two strategies of unity within the Islamic world and formation of an anti-hegemony front or coalition would be followed up by revisionist and anti-domineering countries and players.

Deconstruction of the present international order

In the deconstruction process an attempt would be made to disrupt and displace the present binary oppositions and polarizations through revision, a redefinition and a rereading of the present international system, with the intention of bringing about a system that is natural, logical and legitimate. The Islamic Republic of Iran has embarked on the deconstruction of the present international system. Through describing and elucidating the unjust nature of the status quo and the established order, it is trying to denaturalize and delegitimize it. Denaturalization means showing the reality that the present international system, like any other social phenomenon, has its time and place and under special conditions it has found the opportunity to exist and with the passage of time and as a result of its position of dominance, has been considered natural.

The continuation and consistency of this supremacy has entailed some type of legitimacy. In the process of denaturalization the IRI has tried to disclose the contingent nature of the present international system and deprive it of the legitimacy it has obtained over the course of time (Dehghani, [1386] 2007, pp. 85–86).

The denaturalization and delegitimization of the present international system is essential for its deconstruction but it is not enough. Therefore, in the second step, the Islamic Republic of Iran intends to bring about change and establish a more favourable system. Such a goal is perceived as attainable through campaigning against the present system, unipolar and unjust relations and international centres of power, as well as criticizing international organizations and institutions and making efforts to reform them, for one of the manifestations of the unjust international system is improper and inefficient organizations and institutions that institutionalize injustice, discrimination and domination of the big powers and legitimize them (ibid., p. 87).

Unity of the Islamic world

One of the practical mechanisms and instruments for the establishment of a favourable international system is the alliance of Islamic countries and unity within the Muslim world. Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran, following Islamic teachings and its Constitution, is duty-bound to make efforts to create a unified Islamic Ummah. To quote the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran: ‘All Muslims form a single nation, and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has the duty of formulating its general policies towards cultivating the friendship and unity of all Muslim peoples in order to bring about the political, economic and cultural unity of the Islamic World’ (Article 11).

The unity of the Muslim world is possible and imaginable in three ways. In the first model, it will be realized within the framework of solidarity and cooperation of Islamic countries in different fields, especially in the area of foreign policy and at the international level by upholding the interests of the Islamic world. In the second model, it will be attained through economic and political integration of Islamic countries, forming an integrated and convergent politico-economic bloc like the EU. These two stages could prepare the ground for the eventual political unity of Islamic countries and societies, a united Islamic Ummah, under a united political sovereignty. Such an Islamic super state will signify the final stage: union of the Islamic world.

Formation of an anti-hegemonic coalition

The third mechanism for changing the present international system and bringing about the formation of a desirable international system is to make an antihegemonic coalition comprising those countries and players opposed to hegemony. Although the present order and system of domination does throw up opposition, the realization of anti-hegemonic aspirations demands intentional cooperation and the coalition and unity of all the anti-hegemonic government and non-government forces. To this end, the Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to form such an opposition from among the revisionist and revolutionary countries. Such an aim has always been pursued in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran as an external balance against hegemonic forces.

For example, Imam Khomeini has defined one of the aims of Muslim unity as confrontation with colonialist powers: ‘Our cause is the unification of Muslims and Islamic states against colonial powers’ (Khomeini, [1360] 1981, pp. 83–85). He also underlined the alliance and then uprising of oppressed people as a means to fight those powers. ‘It is hoped that a worldwide popular revolution would be staged against inhumane imperialist forces’ (Khomeini, [1361] 1982, pp. 113–115).

Based on this, the administration of President Ahmadinejad has announced one of the goals of the IRI foreign policy to be ‘enforcement of the multilateralism strategy at the international level and confrontation with unilateralism on the international scene’ together with ‘the expansion of cooperation with independent and non-aligned countries’. Within the framework of such a strategy, it has been stipulated by the foreign minister: ‘One of the axes of foreign policy of the 9th administration … is diversification of Iran’s international relations by putting emphasis on logical confrontation with the present order of world domination and unilateralism and maintenance of national interests and national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran through formation of a coalition from all over the world’ (Mottaki, [1385] 2006). The most evident example of Iran’s attempts to form a coalition is the emergence of Third Worldism and Latin Americanism in the foreign policy of the country (Delghani, [1387] 2008).


The Islamic Republic of Iran as a revisionist state is discontented with the present international order and system and is trying to change and replace it with a more suitable one. According to the IRI this would entail an Islamic world society, an Islamic international society and a just international system. Although its ideal is the formation of an Islamic world society, the country is more intent on a just international system on the basis of principles of equality of states, rule of law and common human interests that are free from domination and structural violence, an international system within which all countries, having nothing to do with power relations, could maintain their own national interests and the interests of humanity in general on the basis of mutual respect.

Therefore, contrary to some analysts, the IRI does not negate the Westphalian order based on the nation-state system; rather it seeks the reform and change of its principles according to a notion of justice. Revisionism in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran originates from three discourses, namely Islamism, Third Worldism and the quest for justice, all of which are against the power-based hierarchical system, recommending instead a just system that is free of domination. Therefore, one of the goals of the foreign policy of the country is the establishment and creation of a just and desirable international system. The most important mechanisms and instruments for the establishment of such a just system is deconstruction of the present system, unity of the Islamic world, coalition and unity of anti-hegemonic players at an international level, as well as the reform and launch of independent and efficient international organizations.


The bibliography is available in the book.