Sectarian dilemmas in Iranian foreign policy: when strategy and identity politics collide
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The Islamic Republic’s foreign policy is a product of its self-interest. Striving to protect Iran’s Islamic theocracy from external threats drives the country’s approach to foreign affairs. That approach can, at times, look aggressive or pragmatic. A sectarian angle also exists. Given its relative alienation from its neighbors since the 1979 revolution, Iran has relied on a strategy of forming relationships with nonstate groups to help promote its strategic interests. Although it supports Sunni groups, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Iran’s backing of Shia organizations has most angered its neighbors. That practice, often fused with the unofficial policy of exporting the revolution, has paid dividends for Iran strategically but has also hardened perceptions of its confessional bias.
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