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Iran Looks Outwards

WASHINGTON D.C.: Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the Islamic Republic of Iran has aggressively fostered a new set of regional alliances with Muslim neighbors, especially along its 1,400 kilometer northern border. In stark contrast to the theocracy’s first decade, today the ruling clergy’s focus is not on exporting Islamic zealotry or political revolution. The primary goals are now economic, reflecting growing pressures and priorities inside Iran as well as the shifting measure of power worldwide.

Ideally, Iran would like to become a hub — and perhaps the center — of Central Asia, providing communications, infrastructure, expertise and a major international airport and other transportation links. "We now see a predominant tendency worldwide towards regionalism. And this is now very much present in Iran," said Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, in an interview. This role also plays to Iran’s historic strengths as a land of bazaaris, one of the three pillars of society, along with the military and clergy.

Iran’s regional focus is typified several ways.