Iran and International Organizations

Monday, April 4, 2011

Behzad Khoshandam
PhD Student in International Relations

Approaches and Outlooks

Iran has had its own specific approach to important global actors, especially international organizations, in the past 30 years.

Throughout those three decades, establishment of justice, peace-seeking, prevention of militarism and promotion of south-south cooperation in international arenas have been the most important goals pursued by Iran in international organizations. In order to go on with its reconstruction and development drive, protect its sovereignty and increase cooperation among south countries, Iran has launched great endeavors through international organizations over about 30 years to introduce its own brand of the Iranian and Islamic order.

Therefore, the United Nations and affiliated organs, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Economic Cooperation Organization, the European Union, and Organization of the Islamic Conference, NATO, and Non-Aligned Movement have been the most important international bodies in the focus of the Iranian foreign policy attention.

Iran’s special approach to international organizations in the past 30 years has been marked by advantages and disadvantages. Double standards applied by these organizations to Iran’s national interests have been a major concern for the Islamic Republic. Various approaches taken by international organization to Iran can be summarized in UN’s treatment of Iraq’s aggression of Iran (1980-1988), Iran’s nuclear program and adoption of resolutions 1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, and 1929 by the Security Council.

Iran’s approach to international organizations has provided the country with opportunities and also caused limitations. Given the high importance of international organizations in the modern world, the Iranian foreign policy attaches great significance to these international actors especially when the public opinion, research, policymaking, and decision-making is concerned.

The reaction shown by international organizations to Iran’s national interests in the past 10 years, especially with regard to the nuclear program and human rights, has increased Iran’s suspicion of these organizations. If this unjust approach to Iran by important international bodies such as the United Nations and European Union continued, especially as concerns international sanctions, Iran is sure to become more wary about cooperation with international organizations. Such a scenario will finally cause Iran to consider international organizations as a major challenge to the realization of its national interests. This will, in turn, further deepen the existing gap between Iran and these international actors and also give rise to more basic challenges in regional and international interactions between the two sides.

Despite Iran’s cooperative approach to international organizations which has been characterized by Tehran’s goodwill, any change in conditions existing between these international actors, especially further intensification of international sanctions by the Security Council, can lead to a radical change in their interactions.

Apparently, in a world where global power is enforced through a network, more resilience toward Iran will be a service to international peace, stability and security. To do this, international organizations should remain indifferent to pressures from big international powers in relation to Iran. Another condition for the achievement of this goal is for the Iranian foreign policy officials to avoid of seeing international organizations as synonymous to the United States and other big powers or a tool in their hands. They should not generalize their historical pessimism of big powers to such international actors as international organizations.