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Islamic Republic of Iran's Soft Power in Central Asia and Caucasus

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Authors: Ja'far Haghpanah, Assistant Professor of Regional Studies at the University of Tehran, Iran
Simin Shirazi- Moguiee, Ph.D. Student of Regional Studies at the University of Tehran, Iran
and Shiva Alizadeh, Ph.D. Student of Regional Studies at the University of Tehran, Iran

Publisher: Tehran International Studies and Research Institute (TISRI)
Publication date: 2014
ISBN: 978-964-526-233-3
Language: Persian
Pages: 240

Book Description

Eurasia is still the scene of the big game and intense rivalry among various powers, most of whom try to guarantee their short- and long-term interests through recourse to soft power. In view of the huge potential that the Islamic Republic has for getting ahead of many other actors in the field of soft power, it would not be befitting for Iran to lag behind other powers in this regard. This concern has been the main reason behind the compilation of this book.

An effort has been made in this book to provide the readers with a new viewpoint on the position and interests of Iran in the former republics of the Soviet Union. For a more thorough examination, five countries, that is Armenia, Uzbekistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have been chosen. The number of Persian books that have directly touched upon the very important issue of Iran's soft power capacities in this region is quite few.

Introduction

Following the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, Iran was faced with a number of newly independent countries in its neighborhood most of which were in a state of shock due to rapid process through which they had gained their independence and got rid of the Soviet Union’s domination. A small number of these former republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were ready to become independent. However, the newly independent countries had to deal with a great number of unprecedented difficulties and had to face countless problems. The most important of those problems included finding new sources of revenue for new governments that did not receive subsidies from Moscow anymore; fighting widespread poverty; and how to effectively maintain their territorial integrity. In some cases, they were faced either with the civil war on their soil, or were engaged in war with neighboring countries. There were also other security threats with the possibility of spillover into other countries. At the same time, the most important question facing these countries with which some of them are still grappled as a major challenge was the issue of identity, especially the national identity.

In fact, the process of getting along with these difficulties and problems has not been completed yet. The nascent republics in the Central Asia and Caucasus were forced to come up with national narrations in order to bolster their independence and national sovereignty. Historians and ethnologists of the former Soviet Union had provided them with adequate raw material for this purpose. However, there were many differences among the newly independent states. Some of them, like those dominated by Georgians and Armenians, had a long history of independence and sovereignty before falling under the spell of the former Russians and were even home to independence seeking movements under the Soviet Union. As a result of these differences, the newly independent states were facing different degrees of confusion with regard to their national identities. It seemed that the countries in the Central Asia were the most vulnerable in terms of identity and national solidarity. Most leaders of these countries believed that foreign actors, both at global and regional levels, were able to help reduce their problems through financial, military and economic assistance. Of course, even demonizing foreign countries in the eyes of their people was beneficial to some totalitarian leaders in this region.

The newly independent countries were not considered as mere sources of trouble because they had new things to present to other countries, including natural resources, untapped markets, and geopolitical position. They could be also potential political allies for any of their neighbors on the international level. Therefore, global and regional powers made rapid plans and formulated special agendas in order to regulate their relations with countries in Eurasia. In view of the changing nature of the power and increasing importance of soft power, taking advantage of soft power tools and public diplomacy, along with policies that would produce long-term effects, were put on the agenda of major actors that swayed influence in Eurasia. As time went by, those tools and agendas have become more important.

Contents of the Book

The first chapter of the book offers a theoretical framework and is dedicated to the explanation of the soft power theory and the issue of general diplomacy. This chapter will introduce the readers to the main question and hypothesis of this study and the difference between the Iranian version of soft power and its Western counterpart. The second chapter is about general image of Eurasian countries in terms of population, ethnicity, language, and religion. The third chapter explains about those cultural and historical characteristics of regional countries which can be considered a source of soft power for Iran, and focuses on the cultural and political relations between the Islamic Republic and these countries. The fourth chapter discusses Iran's performance in this region and offers solutions for its improvement. Finally, the fifth chapter is about obstacles to the realization of soft power potentials of Iran in this region, which include rival actors and discourses. In conclusion, the book discusses existing problems and offers solutions while depicting the future outlook on the basis of what has been said through the book.

More By Ja'far Haghpanah:

*Ghani Seeks Balanced Foreign Policy through Iran Visit: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Ghani-Seeks-Balanced-Foreign-Policy-through-Iran-Visit.htm

*Turkey Reducing Security Ties with West, Turning to East: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Turkey-Reducing-Security-Ties-with-West-Turning-to-East.htm

*Afghanistan Offers Common Ground for Iran-Saudi Cooperation?: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Afghanistan-Offers-Common-Ground-for-Iran-Saudi-Cooperation-.htm

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