Foreign relations of Iran

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Politics of the
Islamic Republic of Iran
Government of Islamic Republic of Iran

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Darvazeh-e-Bagh-e-Melli: the main gates to Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran.

Foreign relations of Iran refers to inter-governmental relationships between Iran and other countries. Geography is a very significant factor in informing Iran's foreign policy.[1] Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the newly born Islamic Republic, under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, dramatically reversed the pro-American foreign policy of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Since then the country's policies have oscillated between the two opposing tendencies of revolutionary ardour, which would eliminate Western and non-Muslim influences while promoting the Islamic revolution abroad, and pragmatism, which would advance economic development and normalization of relations. Iran's bilateral dealings are accordingly sometimes confused and contradictory.

Iran currently maintains full diplomatic relations with 97 countries worldwide.[2]


Iranians have traditionally been highly sensitive to foreign interference in their country, pointing to such events as the Russian conquest of northern parts of the country in the course of the 19th century, the tobacco concession, the British and Russian occupations of the First and Second World Wars, and the CIA plot to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq. This suspicion manifests itself in attitudes that many foreigners might find incomprehensible, such as the "fairly common" belief that the Iranian Revolution was actually the work of a conspiracy between Iran's Shi'a clergy and the British government.[3] This may have been a result of the anti-Shah bias in BBC Radio's influential Persian broadcasts into Iran: a BBC report of 23 March 2009 explains that many in Iran saw the broadcaster and the government as one, and interpreted the bias for Khomeini as evidence of weakening British government support for the Shah. It is entirely plausible that the BBC did indeed help hasten revolutionary events.[4]

Revolutionary period under Khomeini

The newly renovated building of Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses pre-Islamic Persian architecture extensively in its facade.

Under the Khomeini government Iran's foreign policy often emphasized the elimination of foreign influence and the spread of Islamic revolution over state-to-state relations or the furtherance of trade. In Khomeini's own words,

We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry "There is no God but God" resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle.[5]

The Islamic Republic's effort to spread the revolution is considered to have begun in earnest in March 1982, when 380 men from more than 25 Arab and Islamic nations met at the former Tehran Hilton Hotel for a "seminar" on the "ideal Islamic government" and, less academically, the launch of a large-scale offensive to cleanse the Islamic world of the satanic Western and Communist influences that were seen to be hindering the Islamic world's progress. The gathering of militants, primarily Shi'a but including some Sunnis, "with various religious and revolutionary credentials," was hosted by the Association of Militant Clerics and the Pasdaran Islamic Revolutionary Guards.[6] The nerve centre of the revolutionary crusade, operational since shortly after the 1979 revolution, was located in downtown Tehran and known to outsiders as the "Taleghani Centre". Here the groundwork for the gathering was prepared: the establishment of Arab cadres, recruited or imported from surrounding countries to spread the revolution, and provision of headquarters for such groups as the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, the Iraqi Shi'a movement, and Philippine Moro, Kuwaiti, Saudi, North African and Lebanese militant clerics.

These groups came under the umbrella of the "Council for the Islamic Revolution", which was supervised by Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, the designated heir of Ayatollah Khomeini. Most of the council's members were clerics, but they also reportedly included advisors from the Syrian and Libyan intelligence agencies. The council apparently received more than $1 billion annually in contributions from the faithful in other countries and in funds allocated by the Iranian government.[7]

Its strategy was two-pronged: armed struggle against what were perceived as Western imperialism and its agents; and an internal purifying process to free Islamic territory and Muslim minds of non-Islamic cultural, intellectual and spiritual influences, by providing justice, services, resources to the mustazafin (weak) masses of the Muslim world. These attempts to spread its Islamic revolution strained the country's relations with many of its Arab neighbours, and the extrajudicial execution of Iranian dissidents in Europe unnerved European nations, particularly France and Germany. For example, the Islamic Republic expressed its opinion of Egypt's secular government by naming a street in Tehran after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's killer, Khalid al-Istanbuli.[8] At this time Iran found itself very isolated, but this was a secondary consideration to the spread of revolutionary ideals across the Persian Gulf and confrontation with the US (or "Great Satan") in the 1979-1981 hostage crisis.

Training volunteers

Arab and other Muslim volunteers who came to Iran were trained in camps run by the Revolutionary Guards. There were three primary bases in Tehran, and others in Ahvaz, Isfahan, Qom, Shiraz, and Mashad, and a further facility, converted in 1984, near the southern naval base at Bushire.[9]

In 1981 Iran supported an attempt to overthrow the Bahraini government, in 1983 expressed political support for Shi'ites who bombed Western embassies in Kuwait, and in 1987 Iranian pilgrims rioted at poor living conditions and treatment during the Hajj (pilgrimage) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and were consequently massacred. Nations with strong fundamentalist movements, such as Egypt and Algeria, also began to mistrust Iran. With the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Iran was thought to be supporting the creation of the Hizballah organization. Furthermore, Iran went on to oppose the Arab–Israeli peace process, because it saw Israel as an illegal country.

Iran–Iraq War

Relations with Iraq had never been good historically; however, they took a turn for the worse in 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran. The stated reason for Iraq's invasion was the contested sovereignty over the Shatt al-Arab waterway (Arvand Rud in Persian). Other reasons, unstated, were probably more significant: Iran and Iraq had a history of interference in each other's affairs by supporting separatist movements, and although this interference had ceased since the Algiers Agreement (1975), after the Revolution Iran resumed support for Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq.

Iran demanded the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Iranian territory and the return to the status quo ante for the Shatt al-Arab, as established under the Algiers Agreement. This period saw Iran become even more isolated, with virtually no allies. Exhausted by the war, Iran signed UN Security Council Resolution 598 in July 1988, after the United States and Germany began supplying Iraq with chemical weapons. The ceasefire resulting from the UN resolution was implemented on 20 August 1988. Neither nation had made any real gains in the war, which left one million dead and had a dramatic effect on the country's foreign policy. From this point on, the Islamic Republic recognized that it had no choice but to moderate its radical approach and rationalize its objectives. This was the beginning of what Anoushiravan Ehteshami calls the "reorientation phase" of Iranian foreign policy.


Like other revolutionary states, practical considerations have sometimes led the Islamic Republic to inconsistency and subordination of such ideological concerns as pan-Islamic solidarity. One observer, Graham Fuller, has called the Islamic Republic "stunningly silent"

about [Muslim] Chechens in [non-Muslim] Russia, or Uyghurs in China,[10] simply because the Iranian state has important strategic ties with both China and Russia that need to be preserved in the state interest. Iran has astonishingly even supported Christian Armenia against Shi'ite Azerbaijan and has been careful not to lend too much support to Islamic Tajiks in Tajikistan, where the language is basically a dialect of Persian.

In this regard the Islamic Republic resembles another revolutionary state, the old Soviet Union. The USSR was ideologically committed not to Islam but to world proletarian revolution, led by Communist parties under its leadership, but "frequently abandoned support to foreign communist parties when it served Soviet national interests to cooperate with the governments that were oppressing them."[11]

Post-War period (1988–present)

President Khatami (in office: 1997–2005) played a key role in repairing Iran's foreign relations with Europe.

Since the end of the Iran–Iraq War, Iran's new foreign policy has had a dramatic effect on its global standing. Relations with the European Union have dramatically improved, to the point where Iran is a major oil exporter and a trading partner with such countries as Italy, France, and Germany. China and India have also emerged as friends of Iran; these three countries face similar challenges in the global economy as they industrialize, and consequently find themselves aligned on a number of issues.

Iran maintains regular diplomatic and commercial relations with Russia and the former Soviet Republics. Both Iran and Russia believe they have important national interests at stake in developments in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus, particularly concerning energy resources from the Caspian Sea.

Significant historical treaties

Current policies

The Islamic Republic of Iran accords priority to its relations with the other states in the region and with the rest of the Islamic world. This includes a strong commitment to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement. Relations with the states of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), especially with Saudi Arabia, have improved in recent years. However, an unresolved territorial dispute with the United Arab Emirates concerning three islands in the Persian Gulf continues to mar its relations with these states. Iran has close relations with Kuwait.

Iran is seeking new allies around the world due to its increasing political and economic isolation in the international community.[12][13] This isolation is evident in the various economic sanctions and the EU oil embargo that have been implemented in response to questions that have been raised over the Iranian nuclear program (Iran's Nuclear Program).[14]

Tehran supports the Interim Governing Council in Iraq, but it strongly advocates a prompt and full transfer of state authority to the Iraqi people. Iran hopes for stabilization in Afghanistan and supports the reconstruction effort so that the Afghan refugees in Iran (which number approximately 2.5 million.[15]) can return to their homeland and the flow of drugs from Afghanistan can be stemmed. Iran is also pursuing a policy of stabilization and cooperation with the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia, whereby it is seeking to capitalise on its central location to establish itself as the political and economic hub of the region.

On the international scene, it has been argued by some that Iran has become, or will become in the near future, a superpower due to its ability to influence international events. Others, such as Robert Baer, have argued that Iran is already an energy superpower and is on its way to becoming an empire. Flynt Leverett calls Iran a rising power that might well become a nuclear power in coming years—if the US does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear technology, as part of a grand bargain under which Iran would cease its nuclear activities in exchange for a guarantee of its borders by the US.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

Current territorial disputes

Southern Caspian Energy Prospects (portion of Iran). Country Profile 2004.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran is selected by the President of Iran.

Relations by region and country

South Caucasus
Country Formal relations began Notes
 ArmeniaSee Armenia–Iran relations

Despite religious and ideological differences, relations between Armenia and the Islamic Republic of Iran remain cordial and both Armenia and Iran are strategic partners in the region.

The two neighbouring countries share to a great extent similar history and culture, and have had relations for thousands of years, starting with the Median Empire. Iran only lost the territory that nowadays comprises Armenia in the course of the 19th century, by the Russo-Persian Wars, irrevocably to neighbouring Imperial Russia.[30] There are no border disputes between the two countries and the Christian Armenian minority in Iran, amongst the largest and oldest communities in the world,[31] and the largest in the Middle East, enjoys official recognition. Of special importance is the cooperation in the field of energy security which lowers Armenia's dependence on Russia and can in the future also supply Iranian gas to Europe through Georgia and the Black Sea.

 Azerbaijan1918See Azerbaijan–Iran relations

The peoples of Azerbaijan and Iran share a long and complex relationship, resulting in deep historical, religious and cultural ties. The largest population of ethnic Azerbaijanis live in Iran and until 1813/1828, the soil of the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan was Iranian territory, prior to being forcefully ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813 and the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828.[32][33][34][35][36][37] Both nations are the only officially majority-Shia nations in the world as well, and have the highest and second highest Shia populations in the world by percentage.[38] Azerbaijan has an embassy in Tehran and a consulate-general in Tabriz. Iran has an embassy in Baku and a consulate-general in Nakhchivan City. Both countries are full members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

 Georgia15 May 1992.[39]See Georgia–Iran relations, Persia–Georgia relations

Iran and Georgia have had relations for millennia. Georgia, throughout its history, has several times been annexed by the Persian Empire, specifically under the Achaemenid, Parthian, Sassanid, and Safavid dynasties. Accordingly, there has been a lot of political and cultural exchange, and Georgia was often considered a part of Greater Iran. Iran (Persia) and Georgia, or the Georgian kingdoms, have had relations in different forms, beginning with trade in the Achaemenid era. The relationship got more complex as the Safavids took power in Iran and attempted to maintain Iranian control of the Georgian kingdoms. This continued until the 19th century when Russia, through the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813) and Russo-Persian War (1826-1828), took the Caucasus from the Qajars, and thus Iran irrevocably lost the whole region, including Georgia.[30] In the early 20th century, Iran–Georgian relations were merged into Iran–Soviet relations. Since Georgia's independence from the Soviet Union, the two nations have cooperated in many fields including energy, transport, trade, education, and science. Iran is one of Georgia's most important trading partners and an Intergovernmental Joint Economic Commission is functioning between the two countries.[39]

Middle East and North Africa
Ever since the Islamic (Arab) conquest of Persia, Iranian–Arab relations have been mixed. Arabs and Iranians share bitter cultural, historical, political, and economic rivalries that have fuelled mutual contempt. Within the Middle East historical conflicts have always coloured neighbouring Arab countries' dealings with Iran, sometimes peacefully coexisting, at other

times in bitter conflict. North African Arabs generally enjoy closer relations with Iran, having a history with fewer occasions for conflict.

Map of Arab League states in dark green, Iran in red.
country formal relations notes
 Iraq 1980s Iran–Iraq relations have been turbulent since the war they fought in the 1980s. However, bilateral relations have improved since the fall of Iraq's former president Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the first Iranian president to visit Iraq since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has an embassy in Baghdad and three consulates-general, in Sulaimaniya, Arbil, and Karbala. Iraq has an embassy in Tehran, and three Consulate-Generals in Ahwaz, Kermanshah, and Mashad.

 Israel No Relations

Iran–Israel relations shifted with the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: from close friendship, in the era of the Pahlavi dynasty, to hostility. Both countries have severed their diplomatic and commercial ties with each other. Iran does not recognize Israel and refers to it as a Zionist entity or a Zionist regime.


Around June 1982, Iran dispatched more than 1000 Revolutionary Guards to the predominantly Shi'ite Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. There they established themselves, taking over the Lebanese Army's regional headquarters in the Sheikh Abdullah barracks, as well as a modern clinic, renamed "Hospital Khomeini", and the Hotel Khayyam. The Pasdaran were active in many places, including schools, where they propagated Islamic doctrine.[40] Iranian clerics, most notably Fazlollah Mahallati, supervised.[41]

From this foothold, the Islamic Republic helped organize one of its biggest successes, the Hezbollah militia, a party and social-services organization devoted to the Khomeini principle of Guardianship (i.e. rule) of the Islamic Jurists (Velayat-e-Faqih), and loyal to Khomeini as their leader.[42] Over the next seven years Iran is estimated to have spent $5 to $10 million US per month on Hezbollah, although the organization is now said to have become more self-sufficient.[43]

In the words of Hussein Musawi, a former commander of Amal militia who joined Hezbollah:

We are her [Iran's] children. We are seeking to formulate an Islamic society which in the final analysis will produce an Islamic state. … The Islamic revolution will march to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem, and the Islamic state will then spread its authority over the region of which Lebanon is only a part.[44]

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 (2 September 2004) called for the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias". The Government of Lebanon is responsible for the implementation, and for preventing the flow of armaments and other military equipment to the militias, yet including Hezbollah, from Syria, Iran, and other external sources.

 Libya The relations between two countries began in 1967 when both countries were governed by monarchs.[45] However, the relations became strained when Muammar Gaddafi seized the power on 1 September 1969 due to his alliance with other Arab leaders such as Gamal Nasser against Shah Mohammad Reza.[45]

Libya broke ranks with most of the Arab states when it came out in support of Iran during the Iran–Iraq War. There is a Libyan Embassy in Tehran and an Iranian Embassy in Tripoli.


There have been several instances in which Iran and Morocco have mostly or completely severed diplomatic relations. Iran cut off diplomatic ties with Morocco in 1981 after King Hassan II gave asylum to the exiled Shah. It took almost a decade for relations to thaw; Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi of Morocco led the first Moroccan delegation to the Islamic Republic of Iran.[46] Economic ties increased greatly in 2009.[47]

On 6 March 2009, Morocco severed diplomatic ties with Iran, offering several reasons. Morocco's Foreign Ministry said it was a result of Iran's spreading the Shi’ite variety of Islam in Sunni Morocco constituted interference in domestic affairs.[47][48]


The Islamic Republic of Iran supports Palestinian national politics and officially endorses creation of a Palestinian state. However, in a 2006 interview, the former reformer President Mohammad Khatami said that Iran has also stated its willingness to accept a two-state solution if the Palestinians find this acceptable.[49][50]

The Iranian government regularly sends aid to various Palestinian causes, everything from transporting injured children to hospitals to supplying the Palestinian Islamist militant groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas with arms. Streets and squares named after Palestinians crisscross the nation.[51]


Syria was one of the few Arab countries to support Iran during the Iran–Iraq War, putting them at odds with other nations in the Arab League. Iran was reported as helping Syria to suppress the anti-government protests that broke out in 2011 with training, munitions and high-tech surveillance technology.[52] The Guardian reported in May 2011 that the Iranian Republican Guard increased its "level of technical support and personnel support" to strengthen Syria's "ability to deal with protesters," according to one diplomat in Damascus.[53] Iran reportedly assisted the Syrian government sending it riot control equipment, intelligence monitoring techniques and oil.[54] It also agreed to fund a large military base at Latakia airport.[54] The Daily Telegraph has claimed in August that a former member of Syria's secret police reported "Iranian snipers" had been deployed in Syria to assist in the crackdown on protests.[55] According to the US government, Mohsen Chizari, the Quds Force’s third-in-command, has visited Syria to train security services to fight against the protestors.[56] On 24 June 2011 The EU's official journal said the three Iranian Revolutionary Guard members now subject to sanctions had been "providing equipment and support to help the Syrian regime suppress protests in Syria".[57] The Iranians added to the EU sanctions list were two Revolutionary Guard commanders, Soleimani and Brig Cmdr Mohammad Ali Jafari, and the Guard's deputy commander for intelligence, Hossein Taeb.[58]

Main article: Turkey-Iran relations

A period of coolness passed after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which caused major changes in Iran and the world's status quo. Today Iran and Turkey cooperate in a wide variety of fields that range from fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, and promoting stability in Iraq and Central Asia. Iran and Turkey also have very close trade and economic relations. Both countries are part of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Turkey receives about one million Iranian tourists each year[59] and benefits economically from Iranian tourism.[60]

Bilateral trade between the nations is increasing. In 2005, bilateral trade increased to $4 billion from $1 billion in 2000.[61] Iran’s gas exports to Turkey are likely to increase. Turkey imports about 10 billion cubic meters a year of gas from Iran, about thirty percent of its needs.[62] Turkey plans to invest $12 billion in developing phases 22, 23, and 24 of the South Pars gas field, a senior Iranian oil official told[63] Half of this gas will be re-exported to Europe.[64] Two-way trade is now in the range of $10 billion (2008), and both governments have announced that the figure should reach the $20 billion mark in the not-too-distant future.[65] Turkey has won the tender for privatization of the Razi Petrochemical Complex, valued at $650 million (2008).

Main article: Sudan-Iran relations

Owing to various cultural and historical compatibilities, Iran and Sudan have generally sought a very cordial and friendly relationship. The two nations share membership in the OIC and the Group of 77. Although they differ in ethnic identity (Iran is predominantly Persian, while Sudan is Afro-Arab) and denomination (the two nations are Muslim, but the former is mainly Shi'a, while the latter is Sunni), Iran and Sudan have a common strategic bond with both the People's Republic of China and Russia, and a common animosity towards the United States. Relations between Tehran and Khartoum have continued to grow, especially since April 2006, when then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voiced his opposition to the deployment in the Darfur region of Western peacekeepers from the United Nations. Sudan ardently supports Iran's nuclear program. Both countries are also firmly against Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki said the two countries were seeing increasing ties in regional and international fields to mutual benefit, as he called for a "continuation of consultations". He also said the two countries should continue in efforts to cement unity both in Sudan and amongst the ummah.[66] On January 4, 2016 Sudan cut off all diplomatic relations with Iran due to tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.[67]

 Saudi Arabia

Due to various political and cultural clashes throughout history, relations between the two nations have been greatly strained. Saudi Arabia and Iran established diplomatic relations in 1928. In 1966 King Faisal of Saudi Arabia visited Iran with the aim of further strengthening the relationships between the countries. The Shah (King) of Iran reciprocated by paying an official visit to Saudi Arabia, which eventually led to a peaceful resolution of a dispute concerning the islands of Farsi and Arabi: it was agreed that Farsi would belong to Iran and Arabi would be under the control of Saudi Arabia. A unique feature of this agreement is that it assigned only territorial waters to the islands, not the continental shelf.[68] In 1968, when Great Britain announced its withdrawal from the Persian Gulf, Iran and Saudi Arabia took the primary responsibility for peace and security in the region. During the 1970s, Saudi Arabia’s main bilateral concerns were Iran’s modernization of its military, which was capable of dominating the entire region, and Iran’s repossession of the Islands of Big Tunb, Little Tunb and Abu Moussa in 1971, challenging the United Arab Emirates' claim to the Islands.[68] Despite these frictions, the friendliness of Iran–Saudi Arabia relations reached a peak in the period between 1968 and 1979.[69] After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Khomeini and other Iranian leaders openly attacked and criticized the character and religious legitimacy of the Saudi regime. According to Le Figaro, on 5 June 2010 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Hervé Morin, the Defense Minister of France, "There are two countries in the world that do not deserve to exist: Iran and Israel."[70] On 3 January 2016, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran.[71]

Country Formal Relations Began Notes
 AfghanistanSee Afghanistan–Iran relations

Afghanistan's relations with Iran have fluctuated in modern times, due to the Taliban's control of the country in the 1990s, the Thousands of illegal Afghan immigrants and refugees in Iran who cause many problems for the Iranian government and with occasional disputes about water rights over the Helmand River. Iran is situated along one of the main trafficking routes for cannabis, heroin, opium and morphine produced in Afghanistan, and 'designer drugs' have also found their way into the local market in recent years. Iran's police said in April 2009 that 7,700 tonnes of opium were produced in Afghanistan in 2008, of which 3000 tonnes entered Iran, adding that the force had managed to seize 1000 tonnes of the smuggled opium.[72]

 BangladeshSee Bangladesh–Iran relations

Bangladesh and Iran signed a preferential trade accord in July 2006 which removed non-tariff barriers, with a view to eventually establishing a free-trade agreement.[73] Before the signing of the accord, bilateral trade between the countries amounted to US$100 million annually.

In mid-2007, the Bangladeshi government requested Iran's help with the construction of a nuclear power plant, in order to offset the decline in the availability of gas for power generation. The Bangladeshi Minister of Power, Energy and Natural Resources also requested Iranian assistance for the construction of new oil refineries in Bangladesh.[74]

 KazakhstanSee Iran–Kazakhstan relations

Trade turnover between the two countries increased fivefold in the last six years, from $400 million to more than $2 billion in 2009.[63]

Iran imports grain, petroleum products, and metals from Kazakhstan.[63] Iran is a partner in joint oil and gas projects including construction of a pipeline connecting Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with Iran's (Persian Gulf) which will give Astana access to the Asian markets. Kazakhstan is specially interested in Iranian investment in mechanical engineering, infrastructure, transport, and telecommunications.[63]

 KyrgyzstanSee Iran–Kyrgyzstan relations

Iran and Kyrgyzstan have signed agreements on cooperation in the spheres of transport, customs, trade, and economic relations. Iran and Kyrgyzstan interact in the spheres of education, culture, travel, customs, finances, and the war on trafficking and crime in general.[63]

The two countries trade in agriculture and capital goods. In 2008, Iran promised Kyrgyzstan €200 million for some economic projects. Iranian companies participated in construction of a highway connecting Bishkek and Osh. Iran and Kyrgyzstan hope to increase their annual trade turnover to $100 million.[63]

India IndiaSee India–Iran relations

After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran withdrew from CENTO and dissociated itself from US-friendly countries during the Cold War.[75] Some sources suggest, however, that Iran's Islamic revolution could have been an indirect influence on India's current problems with separatism in Kashmir.

The two countries currently have friendly relations in many areas. There are significant trade ties, particularly in crude-oil imports into India and diesel exports to Iran. Iran objected to Pakistan's attempts to draft anti-India resolutions at international organizations such as the OIC in 1994.[76] Reciprocally, India supported Iran's inclusion as an observer state in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.[77] In the 1990s, India and Iran both supported the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime.[76]

With the growth of India's strategic and economic ties with the United States and the West in recent years, there have been instances of marked differences in diplomatic stances of the two countries on core issues. Specifically, India has twice voted against Iran in the IAEA in 2005 and 2009, calling on Iran to halt its nuclear weapons programme.[78] as well as abstained on a key UN General Assembly resolution condemning Iran for its involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi envoy to Washington.[79]

Indonesia Indonesia1950See Indonesia–Iran relations

Indonesia and Iran are Muslim majority countries, despite the differences in its religious orientation. Indonesia has the largest Muslim Sunni population, while Iran is the largest Shiite nation.[80]

As Islamic countries that have among the largest Muslim populations in the world, Iran and Indonesia hold themselves responsible for promoting Islam as a peaceful religion.[81] Diplomatic relations have continued since 1950. Indonesia has an embassy in Tehran, and Iran has an embassy in Jakarta. Both countries are full members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), The Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and Developing 8 Countries.

Jakarta had offered to help mediate the Iranian nuclear dispute, Jakarta is on good terms with Iran and other Middle East countries, as well as with the West.[82][83]

 Japan1878See Iran–Japan relations

Throughout history, the two countries have maintained a relatively friendly and strongly strategic partnership.

 North KoreaSee Iran – North Korea relations

Iran – North Korea relations are described as being positive by official news agencies of the two countries. They have pledged cooperation in the educational, scientific, and cultural spheres.[84] North Korea also assisted Iran in its nuclear program.[85]

 South Korea1962See Iran – South Korea relations

Iran – South Korea relations are described as being positive despite Iran's close relationship with North Korea, and South Korea's with the United States. The two countries have maintained a relatively friendly and strongly strategic partnership. South Korea is one of Iran's major commercial partners.

 PakistanSee Iran–Pakistan relations

Iran was the first nation to recognize Pakistan's independence. Their relations are complex, driven by Pakistani geo-political aspirations, religious affiliations, Iran's relations with India, and internal and external factors.

 SingaporeSee Iran–Singapore relations

Singapore and Iran maintain brotherly relations, despite Singapore's close relationship with the United States. The island city state and Iran have conducted numerous cultural exchanges as well as a high expatriate Iranian population living in Singapore.

 People's Republic of China1971See People's Republic of China – Iran relations

Iran continues to align itself politically with the People's Republic of China as the European Union and United States push forward with policies to isolate Iran both politically and economically. Iran has observer status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and aspires to membership in this body, in which China plays a leading role.

In July 2004, Iranian parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel stressed China's support for Iran's nuclear programs.[86] China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing also said that his country opposes Iran being referred to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear program, and claimed that the Iranian government had a very positive attitude in its cooperation with the IAEA.[87]

 Philippines1974See Iran–Philippines relations

Iran has an embassy in Manila,[88] while the Philippines has an embassy in Tehran.[89]

 ThailandNo later than the 17th century Visits of Persian diplomatic delegations to Siam are attested as early as 1685.[90]
 Turkmenistan1991See Iran–Turkmenistan relations

Iran and Turkmenistan have had relations since the latter's separation from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Iran was the first nation to recognize Turkmenistan's independence.[91] Since then, the two countries have enjoyed good relations and have cooperated in the economic, infrastructure, and energy sectors. Trade between the two nations surpasses $1 billion and Iranians are the second-largest buyers of Turkmen commodities, mainly natural gas. The $139-million Korpeje-Kurt Kui gas pipeline in western Turkmenistan and the $167-million Dousti ("Friendship" in Persian) Dam in the south of the country were built through a joint venture.

Their Caspian Sea territorial boundaries are a cause of tension between the two countries. Iran's Islamic theocracy and Turkmenistan's secular dictatorship also prevent the development of a closer friendship.

 Vietnam1973See Iran–Vietnam relations
 Uzbekistan1991See Iran–Uzbekistan relations

The two countries have deep cultural and historical ties, and Uzbekistan is considered a part of Greater Iran. Iran has been especially been active in pursuing economic projects and social, cultural, and diplomatic initiatives in Uzbekistan. The two nations have also worked on overland links and other joint ventures. Although the differences between their political systems, Iran's Islamic theocracy and Uzbekistan's secular dictatorship, keep the two nations apprehensive, it has not deterred them from further improving relations.[92] Iran and Uzbekistan agreed to develop cooperation in agriculture, transport, oil and gas production, construction, production of pharmaceuticals, and banking.[63]

The Iranian–Uzbek trade turnover exceeded $600 million in 2008. Uzbek exports to Iran include cotton, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, fertilizers, and chemical fibres; Iran exports construction materials, detergents, foods, tea, and fruit to Uzbekistan.[63]


In 2010, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said it was a principle of the government to boost ties with African states. "Relations between Iran and African countries have had a special position in the Islamic Republic's foreign policy over recent decades. Iran intends to promote relations with Africa in all fields, particularly in economic areas."[66] However, there are some signs of disillusionment beginning to emerge in Africa in that twenty African nations threatened to close their embassies in Tehran following what they termed Ahmadinejad's failure to live up to the promises he made during his trips to Africa.[93] However, the Iranian government does not seem deterred by the misadventures, and seems to keep considering African countries strategically necessary to enable it to receive international support for its much criticized nuclear program.


In November 2010, Gambia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in reaction to a weapons shipment. The Gambian government allowed 48 hours to Iranians to leave the country.[94]


Iran and Ghana maintain a historic special relationship and Iran has an embassy in Ghana and Ghana has an embassy in Tehran.[95][96][97][98]


Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Senegalese counterpart Abdoulaye Wade pledged to expand bilateral ties in the fields of economics, tourism and politics in addition to increased efforts to empower OIC.[99] Iran Khodro established[100] an assembly line to produce Iranian cars in Senegal for African markets. The company had the capacity to produce 10,000 Samand cars annually.[101]

In February 2011, Senegal severed diplomatic relations Iran as it accused Iran of supplying weapons to rebels in the Casamance region.[102]

South Africa

South Africa and Iran share historical bilateral relations and the latter supported the South African liberation movements. It severed official relations with South Africa in 1979 and imposed a trade boycott in protest against the country’s Apartheid policies. However, in January 1994 Iran lifted all trade and economic sanctions against South Africa and diplomatic relations were reestablished on 10 May 1994.[103]

Republic of Congo

In 2010, the Congo's parliamentary speaker Justin Koumba visited Iran, and at their meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for an enhancement of cooperation between the two states: "In the areas of commerce, investment and conducting different projects, Iran could have better collaboration with Congo." He also called for a joint economic commission that would lay the legal grounds for further advancement of "common goals". Koumba hailed their bilateral relations and called for even closer ties in political, economic, industrial and commercial areas.[104]


There are growing economic, social and cultural ties between Iran and Zimbabwe. Relations between Iran and Zimbabwe started in 1979 when the late Vice President Simon Muzenda visited Tehran to meet leaders of the Islamic Revolution of Iran.[105] Zimbabwe opened an embassy in Tehran in 2003.[106]

In 2005 President Mugabe confirmed the formal engagement of Iran in bilateral relations during the State visit to Zimbabwe by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. In 2009 President Mugabe in a state TV address confirmed his support for the Iranian nuclear program and the shared struggle against "demagogues and international dictators."[107]


Country Formal relations began Notes
 Belarus1992See Belarus–Iran relations

Belarus has an embassy in Tehran; Iran has an embassy in Minsk. The two countries have enjoyed good relations in recent years, reflected in regular high-level meetings and various agreements. In 2008, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov described Iran as an important partner of his country in the region and the world.[108]

 Bulgaria1897See Bulgaria–Iran relations

Bulgaria has had an embassy in Tehran since 1939.[109] Iran has an embassy in Sofia.[110]

 Croatia18 April 1992See Croatia–Iran relations

Croatia has an embassy in Tehran; Iran maintains an embassy and a cultural centre in Zagreb. Iran was the seventh country to recognize the newly independent Croatia.

The Croatian national oil company INA is active in the Ardabil Province.[111] Iranian vice-president Hassan Habibi visited Croatia in 1995.[112] Croatian president Stipe Mesić had a three-day state visit to Iran in 2001.[113] In 2008 Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed the two countries' relations and said that their shared cultures and histories, owing to the possible Iranian origin of the Croats, would strengthen those relations.[114]

 CyprusSee Foreign relations of Cyprus
 Czech RepublicSee Czech Republic–Iran relations.

Czech firms mainly export machinery products, electrical goods, and other products to Iran while the bulk of imports from Iran consists of fruit and vegetables (2014).[115]

 DenmarkSee Denmark–Iran relations

The first Iranian envoy to Denmark arrived in 1691 in order to negotiate the release of the Iranian-owned cargo of a Bengali ship seized by the Danish fleet. The Iranian diplomat had been issued with diplomatic credentials by Suleiman I of Persia (Shah 1666–1694) and opened negotiations with King Christian V of Denmark. He was unable to secure the release of the cargo.

In 1933, a Danish consulate was established in Tehran, and later upgraded to an embassy. Following a state visit in 1958, Iran established an embassy in Copenhagen. The Muhammad cartoons controversy of 2006 saw the Danish embassy to Iran attacked by protesters and the Iranian Ambassador to Denmark called to Tehran, straining political and economic interaction between the two countries.[116]

 FinlandSee Finland–Iran relations

Iran has an embassy in Helsinki. In 2010 an Iranian diplomat stationed in Finland applied for political asylum in that country.[117]

 FranceSee France–Iran relations

Iran has generally enjoyed a friendly relationship with France since the Middle Ages. The travels of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier are particularly well known to Safavid Persia. Recently, however, relations have soured over Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment and France supporting the referral of Iran to the United Nations Security Council. Under French President Jacques Chirac, relations were warm and friendly as the French government helped the Iranian government to hunt down PMOI terrorists.

 GermanySee German–Iranian relations

Official diplomatic relations between Iran and postwar Germany began in 1952 when Iran opened its first mission office in Bonn. However, Germany and Persia had enjoyed diplomatic relations well back into the 19th century.[118]

 GreeceSee Foreign relations of Greece
 Holy See1954 See Holy See – Iran relations

The Holy See and Iran have had formal diplomatic relations since 1954, under the pontificate of Pius XII, which have been maintained even during the most difficult periods of the Islamic revolution.[119]


Iran has an embassy in Dublin; Ireland closed its embassy in Tehran along with several others due to the severity of the Irish government's financial difficulties on 23 February 2012.[120]

 ItalySee Iran–Italy relations

Iran-Italy trade stood at US$2.7 billion in 2001[121] and €3.852 billion in 2003.[122] In 2005, Italy was Iran's third-largest trading partner, contributing 7.5% of all exports to Iran.[123] Italy was Iran's top European Union trading partner in early 2006.[124] Commercial exchanges hit €6 billion in 2008.[125] Although Italy harbours a large number of members of the MKO, as do many EU states, Italy officially considers the group a terrorist organization.[126]

 NetherlandsSee Iran-Netherlands relations

An Iranian diplomat stationed in Norway was granted political asylum by that country in February 2010.[127] In September 2010, an Iranian diplomat stationed in Belgium also applied for political asylum in Norway.[128]

Following the 2011 attack on the British Embassy in Iran, Norway announced that it has closed its embassy in Tehran due to security concerns, after Britain's mission was stormed. Hilde Steinfeld, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Oslo, said the decision to close the embassy was taken late Tuesday, but that Norway's diplomatic staff have not been evacuated from the country. "They're still in Tehran," she said.[129]


Iran has an embassy in Bucharest;[130] Romania has an embassy in Teheran.[131] They exchanged ambassadors for the first time in 1922.

 RussiaSee Iran–Russia relations

Relations between Russia and Persia (pre-1935 Iran) have a long history, as they officially commenced in 1521 with the Safavids in power. Past and present contact between Russia and Iran has always been complicated and multi-faceted, often wavering between collaboration and rivalry. The two nations have a long history of geographic, economic, and socio-political interaction. Their mutual relations have often been turbulent, and dormant at other times. Russia and Iran are strategic allies and form an axis in the Caucasus alongside Armenia. Iran has its embassy in Moscow and consulate generals in the cities of Kazan and Astrakhan. Russia has its embassy in Tehran, and consulate generals in the cities of Rasht and Isfahan.

 Serbia1936See Iran-Serbia relations

Iran has an embassy in Belgrade; Serbia has an embassy in Tehran.

 SpainSee Iran–Spain relations
  Switzerland1919See Iran–Switzerland relations

Switzerland has had a consulate in Tehran since 1919, raised to the status of embassy in 1936. This embassy represents the interests of the United States in the Iranian capital.

There are agreements between the two countries on air traffic (1954, 1972, and 2004), road and rail transport (1977), export risk guarantees (1966), protection of investments (1998), and double taxation (2002). Iran is one of Switzerland's most important trading partners in the Middle East. A trade agreement was signed in 2005 but has not yet been ratified.

 SwedenSee Iran-Sweden relations

When the new Ukrainian ambassador to Iran offered his diplomatic credentials to the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, he said there was potential for expanded ties and stronger relations. Mottaki reiterated the sentiment.[132]

 United KingdomSee Iran – United Kingdom relations

The Herald Tribune reported on 22 January 2006 a rise in British exports to Iran, from £296 million in 2000 to £443.8 million in 2004. A spokesperson for UK Trade and Investment was quoted to say "Iran has become more attractive because it now pursues a more liberal economic policy."[133]

In 2011, the UK together with the United States and Canada, issued sanctions on Iran following controversy over the country's nuclear program. As a result, Iranian government's Guardian Council approved a parliamentary bill expelling the British ambassador. On 29 November 2011, two compounds of the British embassy in Tehran were stormed by Iranian protesters. They smashed windows, ransacked offices, set fire to government documents, and burned a British flag.[134] As part of the UK's response to this incident the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, announced on 30 November 2011 that the United Kingdom had shut the embassy in Tehran and recalled all diplomatic staff. The Iranian chargé d'affaires in London was simultaneously instructed to immediately close the Iranian embassy in London and given a 48-hour ultimatum for all staff to leave the UK.

On Tuesday 17 June 2014 the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, announced that the UK embassy would re-open "as soon as practical arrangements are made". On the same day David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister said he is committed to "rebuilding" diplomatic relations with Iran but will proceed with a "clear eye and hard head".[135] The embassy reopened on August 23, 2015.[136]


Latin America

Trade between Iran and Brazil quadrupled between 2002 and 2007, and it will further increase as much as fivefold, from $2 billion to $10 billion annually. In addition to Brazil, Iran has signed dozens of economic agreements with Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua. In Nicaragua, Iran and Venezuela have agreed to invest $350 million in building a deepwater seaport off the Caribbean coast, in addition to a cross-country system of pipelines, rails and highways.[63] Iranian firms are also planning to build two cement factories in Bolivia. Other developments include the agreement reached with Ecuador to build a cement factory as well as several other industrial cooperation MoUs (2008).[137] In the four years after Ahmadinejad ascended to the Iranian presidency in 2005, Iran opened six new embassies in Latin America. The new embassies are located in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Uruguay - in addition to the five already in operation in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.[138]


As one of the countries in the Latin American "pink tide", Bolivia also consolidated relations with Iran over economic and political ties. Bolivian President Evo Morales has supported Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power, amongst other political rhetoric. During a 2010 meeting in Iran with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad he said there was a need to "strengthen the resistance front formed by independent and freedom-seeking nations to fight against imperialism and global hegemony."[139]


Brazil and Iran have enjoyed increasingly close political relations over the years, growing with the volume of bilateral trade and economic cooperation.[140][141] The election of Dilma Rousseff as president of Brazil has brought a change to Brazilian policy towards Iran. Rousseff harshly criticized the human rights situation in Iran. During her electoral campaign she said that women stoning in Iran is "Medieval behavior."[142] and after coming into office Brazil supported a resolution for nominating a U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, whose eventual report condemned Iranian rights abuses.[143] in response Iranian President Ahmadinejad's media adviser, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, was quoted as stating that Rousseff had "destroyed years of good relations" between them[144] Ahmadinejad did not go to Brazil while touring South America in January 2012.

Main article: Cuba-Iran relations

Iran has a productive trade balance with Cuba. The two governments signed a document to bolster cooperation in Havana in January 2006.[145] Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called relations "firm and progressive" over the past three decades.[146]


In early 2010, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa alleged his country was being sanctioned because of ties to Iran. After an attempted coup against Correa in 2010, the two countries signalled intentions to deepen ties.


The first diplomatic relations between Mexico and Iran date back to 1889, although cooperation and trade between the two friend nations was not formally established until 1937.[147] Mexico and Iran have enjoyed increasingly close political and economic relations over the years, growing with the volume of bilateral trade and economic cooperation. The two countries aim to expand cooperation in several sectors, sharing science and technology, particularly in the oil industry. Both countries have also shared successful experiences in cultural cooperation and exchange. In 2008, an agreement to form a Mexico-Iran parliamentary friendship group was made at the Mexican parliament. Iran has an embassy in Mexico City, and Mexico has an embassy in Tehran.


Venezuela's former president, Hugo Chavez and Iran's former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have both described themselves on the world stage as opposed to US imperialism. Citing this commonality of opinion, they regard each other as allies, and they have embarked on a number of initiatives together. For example, on 6 January 2007 the two announced that they would use some money from a previously-announced $2 billion joint fund to invest in other countries that were "attempting to liberate themselves from the imperialist yoke," in Chavez's words.[148]

US and Canada


Canadian–Iranian relations date back to 1955, up to which point Canadian consular and commercial affairs in Iran were handled by the British Embassy. A Canadian diplomatic mission was constructed in Tehran in 1959 and raised to Embassy status in 1961. Due to rocky relations after the Iranian Revolution, Iran did not establish an embassy in Canada until 1991 when its staff, which had been living in a building on Roosevelt Avenue in Ottawa's west end, moved into 245 Metcalfe Street in the Centretown neighbourhood of Ottawa and the mission was upgraded to embassy status.

On 7 September 2012, Canada broke off diplomatic relations with Iran, saying "It is among the world’s worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups." In a statement, Canadian foreign minister John Baird said "the Iranian regime has shown blatant disregard for the Vienna Convention and its guarantee of protection for diplomatic personnel. Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran. Our diplomats serve Canada as civilians, and their safety is our number one priority."[149] The announcement of embassy closure happened on the same day that the movie Argo, about the Canadian Caper, was released at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Following the election of Justin Trudeau in October 2015, the new Canadian government is looking to repair diplomatic relations with Iran and lifted most of its economic sanctions, following a historic Iranian nuclear deal in July 2015.

United States

Political relations between Iran and the United States began in the mid-to-late 19th century, but had slight importance and aroused little controversy until the post-World War II era of the Cold War and the rise of petroleum exports from the Persian Gulf. An era of close alliance between Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's regime and the American government was followed by a dramatic reversal and hostility between the two countries after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Currently, Iranian interests in the United States are handled through the Pakistani embassy.[150]

Opinions differ over what has caused the decades of poor relations. Explanations offered include everything from the "natural and unavoidable" conflict between the Islamic Revolution on the one hand, and American arrogance[151] and desire for global dictatorship and hegemony on the other,[152] to the regime's need for an "external bogeyman" to "furnish a pretext for domestic repression" against pro-democratic forces, and bind the regime to its "small but loyal and heavily armed constituency".[153]


For the first time in thirty years, Iran held informal talks with NATO in mid-March 2009, when NATO negotiator Martin Erdmann met Iran's ambassador to the European Union, Ali-Asghar Khaji.

International organization participation

Iran is the member of the following organizations: CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-15, G-24, G-77, GECF, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, BRICS (observer), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OPEC,[154] PCA, SAARC (observer) SCO (observer), United Nations, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WCO WFTU, WEF, WHO, WMO, WTO (observer), ALBA (observer)

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  153. Rubin, Barry (1980). Paved with Good Intentions (PDF). New York: Penguin Books. p. 83.

Further reading

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