The Logic of Iran's Foreign Policy

The Logic of Iran

A lecture in Persian by Dr. Mansour Farhang (Bennington College)

A lecture in Persian by Dr. Mansour Farhang, Bennington College. Part of the Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran.


Some influential Israeli and American political observers maintain that preventive military action is the only effective way to frustrate Iran's apparent goal to gain the capacity to make nuclear bombs.  They consider the Iranian regime to be irrational in the sense that it is neither amenable to diplomatic negotiation nor can it be trusted to refrain from first use of nuclear weapons if it comes to possess it. According to this  view, the world is faced with a country capable of starting a nuclear war at the expense of committing suicide. Therefore, containment strategy is inadequate in responding to Iran's nuclear challenge.

If the rationality of a state is measured by concerns for its citizen's welfare, security, international prestige and human rights, then one could question the rationality of the Islamic Republic. But if state rationality is judged on the basis of whether it serves the ideological goals of an autocratic regime and its determination to remain in power regardless of the costs to the society it rules, then a close examination of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy reveals that the reigning Ayatollahs and their security apparatus are no more self-destructive or suicidal than their counterparts in other states. This perspective could lead us to conclude that a negotiated settlement of the nuclear dispute is both possible and desirable.


MANSOUR FARHANG has a PH. D. in political science from Claremont Graduate School. In 1970s he taught at California State University at Sacramento. Following the 1979 revolution in Iran he served as an adviser to the Iranian foreign ministry and as ambassador to the United Nations. He resigned his ambassadorship in protest when his efforts to negotiate the release of the American hostages in Tehran failed. In the early months of the Iran-Iraq war he worked with international mediators to settle the war. During this period he wrote and spoke about the threat of religious extremists who had come to dominate the course of the Iranian revolution. In June 1981, following the violent suppression of political dissidents, he was forced to leave Iran. In the fall of 1981 he returned to the United States and became a research fellow and lecturer at Princeton University. Since 1983 he has been teaching international relations and Middle Eastern politics at Bennington College in Vermont, where he has been awarded the Catherine Osgood Foster Chair for Distinguished Teaching. He is the author of two books and dozens of articles, in English and Persian, published in both academic journals and popular periodicals. His opinion pieces have appeared in various newspapers, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor. He has been a human rights activist and a member of Amnesty International since his undergraduate days in California. Currently, he serves on the advisory board of Human Rights Watch/Middle East and is a member of the Columbia University Middle Eastern Seminar and has been a participant in the seminars of Council on Foreign Relations and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is also a designated speaker for the Vermont Council on the Humanities. He has lectured at many universities, colleges and civic groups across the country and has appeared as a guest on numerous radio and television programs, including NPR, KPFA, Democracy Now, PBS News Hour, ABC's Night Line, Bill Moyer's Journal, 60-Minutes, CBS's Face the Nation and CNN. He is a regular commentator on  the Persian broadcasting of BBC , Voice of America, Radio Farda and  Radio France International.




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Duration: 51:19

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Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013