Central Asia in the Iranian geopolitical imagination

Wastnidge, Edward (2017). Central Asia in the Iranian geopolitical imagination. Cambridge Journal of Eurasian Studies, 1, article no. #1YRJ04.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.22261/1YRJ04


This article charts Iran’s relations with Central Asia following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. This event gave Iran a new set of neighbours to the north, and this came at a time when Iran was undergoing changes in the direction of its foreign policy from radical idealistic goals, such as the export of the Islamic Revolution, to more pragmatic aims, including giving priority to its own national interests and pursuing good neighbourly relations. Since 1991, Iran has attempted to develop relations towards the Central Asian states, both bilaterally and through various regional fora. Iran’s actions have been based, in part, on a greater commitment to regionalism that has been evident in Iranian foreign policy since the early 1990s. This has focused on cultivating economic, infrastructural and cultural links with the region, rather than any form of ideological crusade, and has helped reduce Iran’s international isolation. Following a historical contextualisation and explanation of the place that the lands of Central Asia hold in the Iranian geopolitical imagination, the article explores the key concerns of Iran in the region. It will examine Iran’s position on what it perceives as being the key issues shaping its Central Asian diplomacy, namely regional economic cooperation, pipeline politics, the status of the Caspian Sea, security cooperation and cultural diplomacy. This provides a revealing case study of how Iran perceives itself as a vital player in the region, seeking to emphasise the benefits of its geostrategic location, relative stability, and increasing international role following the nuclear deal.

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