PRAGMATIC POLITICS: IRAN, CENTRAL ASIA AND CULTURAL FOREIGN POLICY

Dr Edward WASTNIDGE


Edward Wastnidge, Lecturer in Politics and International Studies, Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University (Milton Keynes, U.K.)


ABSTRACT

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central Asia assumed renewed importance in Iranian foreign policy. The region has played a significant role in Irans historical geography, and Persian cultural influence continues to felt in the region today. Iran has sought to present itself as a status-quo power in its bilateral and multilateral approaches to Central Asia, something that is in marked contrast to the revolutionary rhetoric highlighted in Western media analyses of its foreign policy. This paper focuses on how Iran has made use of its historical cultural weight in the region to further its influence, something that is evident in its increasing activity in fellow Persian-speaking nations of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. As such, the paper will demonstrate how Iran has sought to present a pragmatic face to the region, one that draws on its own cultural levers as a way of expanding its influence.

Keywords: Iran, foreign policy, culture, Central Asia.

Introduction

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Central Asia has assumed a renewed importance in Iranian foreign policy thinking. The region has played a significant role in Irans historical geography, and is a region replete with cultural links to Iran and vice-versa. This article will provide an overview of Iranian cultural foreign policy toward Central Asia. As I demonstrate, cultural links are an oft-repeated theme in Iranian foreign policy thinking toward the region and as such form an interesting aspect of Iranian diplomacy. Since 1991, Iran can be seen as drawing on cultural and historical commonalities as a basis for.


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