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Beyond Sunni and ShiaThe Roots of Sectarianism in a Changing Middle East$
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Frederic Wehrey

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190876050

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190876050.001.0001

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Sectarianism and Iranian Foreign Policy

Sectarianism and Iranian Foreign Policy

(p.87) 4 Sectarianism and Iranian Foreign Policy
Beyond Sunni and Shia

Afshon Ostovar

Oxford University Press

The Islamic Republic’s foreign policy is a product of its self-interest, but religion has been an inseparable component of Iranian decisionmaking since the 1979 revolution. Since the revolution, Iran’s leaders have stressed their commitment to Islamic unity, while downplaying the Shia character of the Islamic Republic when speaking on foreign policy issues. Despite its pan-Islamic aspirations, since 2003, Iran’s strategic approach in the Middle East has focused on supporting Shia armed groups. Religion matters little in Iran’s state-to-state relationships, but it figures more prominently in Iran’s relations with nonstate groups. Essentializing Iran’s foreign policy as sectarian obscures more than it reveals about its behavior. However, as the Middle East has grown more sectarian since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Arab Spring, so too has Iran’s regional behavior.

Keywords:   Iran, Proxy, Militias, Shiism, Hizballah, Identity

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