Iran’s Longstanding History of Tumultuous Diplomacy

ByNorah Alsubaie

A new chapter of Iranian violations of international diplomacy has recently unfolded. Ukraine announced the downgrading of diplomatic relations with Iran, the revocation of the credentials of the Iranian ambassador, and a decrease in Iran’s diplomatic representation in Kyiv over the latter’s accusations of Iran sending drones to Russia that have already been used in the battlefield in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Iran, accordingly, placed itself at the heart of the current conflict in Ukraine. It can be argued that Iran, by taking this step, is sending a message to the West that it has aligned with Russia in a greater war for influence worldwide. Two weeks before Kyiv downgraded diplomatic ties with Tehran, Albania severed diplomatic ties with Tehran over accusations of Iran launching a series of cyberattacks against Albanian state institutions and infrastructure. According to diplomatic norms, expelling or even reducing the diplomatic representation of one state is most commonly undertaken when the sending state violates the rules and norms of the receiving state.

When reviewing history, the latest steps of Ukraine and Albania cannot be understood without taking into account the nature of the Iranian ruling system and its view on how international relations operate. Khomeini’s worldview was based on his theory of Wilayat-al Faqih and his mission to export his 1979 revolution to the world; Khomeini’s followers have adopted his Wilayat-al Faqih strategy since the victory of the 1979 revolution. In his strategy, Khomeini never recognized sovereign borders nor the sovereignty of modern states. As a result of his strategy, Iran has continuously faced diplomatic crises and tensions in foreign relations.

Perhaps the most famous example of Iran’s numerous diplomatic crises was the US severing of ties with Iran over the US hostage crisis in the early years of the establishment of the current Iranian ruling system. Iran subsequently faced deteriorating relations with Western countries against the backdrop of terrorist threats posed by consecutive Iranian governments in European territories. Iran has established active assassination networks to eliminate Iranian opponents on European soil. Needless to say that Iran has exploited terrorism as a bargaining chip to place further pressure on the Europeans in order to achieve more compromises in the talks for reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran’s continuous targeting of the West is a natural result of the latter’s flexibility, whether of the current US administration or the European countries that aspire to establish normal relations with Iran. The West’s flexibility with Iran is crystal clear as evidenced when Albania and other Western governments as well as NATO remained silent for 53 days over Iran’s latest cyberattacks on Albania. Western countries have made many compromises in a bid to reach an agreement to revive the nuclear deal with Iran. A couple of months ago, an international controversy emerged over a draft of the prisoner swap treaty between Belgium and Iran, which will potentially result in the release of Asadollah Assadi, an Iranian citizen who is accused of planning terrorist attacks in Europe in exchange for a Belgium national who is a hostage in Iran. The silence of statesmen in the West regarding the terrorist attack on the novelist Salman Rushdie in New York and the reluctance to mention the potential involvement of the Iranian government in this attack is another clear example of the West’s leniency toward Iran. Western countries have turned a blind eye to Iran’s acts with an explicit aim to reach an agreement to revive the nuclear deal that restricts Iran’s nuclear program. But, such a potential future agreement will help to revive Iran’s faltering economy and accordingly Iran will be able to carry out more terrorist attacks and violate the basic civil rights of individuals and communities as well as international law.

We cannot overlook in this article Iran’s continuous violations of state sovereignty and its interference in the internal affairs of regional countries, seriously jeopardizing regional and international security and stability. Iran’s hostilities are quite evident in its violation of states’ sovereignty and good neighborly principles through funding and supporting terrorism and threatening international maritime navigation. Iran also has intensively engaged in proxy wars, attempted to penetrate the Arabian Gulf and Arab communities through its espionage networks and sleeper cells which wait for suitable opportunities to destabilize national security. Iran’s hostilities in the Arab region are far more dangerous than the latest threats which Ukraine and Albania faced. In a nutshell, the international community hopes that Iran will act wisely and halt its hostilities and fomenting of tensions and chaos. Iran, however, is still indifferent and continues its tactics of prevarication, bargaining, and blackmailing. Iran does not care about the potential political consequences of its behavior; whether being isolated from the international community or widening the gap between the ruling system at home with its people. The Iranian people have continuously expressed their ire, launching a series of never-ending protests against the Raisi government’s policies. Lately, the protests have escalated over the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish citizen, who was beaten to death over wearing “inappropriate” hijab by the morality police in Tehran

 Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah

Norah Alsubaie
Norah Alsubaie
A researcher at the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah)