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Paradigm Shifts in the National Security Considerations of the Islamic Republic of Iran

By Sajad Abedi*

During the years after the Islamic Revolution of Iran, national security considerations have undergone various changes. Changes have been in the light of the pursuit and continuation of some of the great features of the Islamic Republic’s holy system. The country’s security considerations are divided into three axis-driven discourse-driven, center-driven and growth-driven divisions. In each discourse, four basic variables, namely, “national security objectives and goals”, “national power”, “national security threats and vulnerabilities”, and finally “national security policies” have been considered.

The fact that security discourse has entered a new era in the next Cold War has a general consensus. Accordingly, security studies have been compelled to keep their traditional focus on threats, use, and management of the military, while experiencing some fundamental changes, with new dimensions and considerations in the definition of security. During this period, we are witnessing the emergence of security issues and the emergence of new issues such as: acid rain, AIDS, ozone depletion, drug trafficking, depletion of natural resources, global warming, the population explosion, pollution of the air and environment, etc.

Although the security image presented seems fresh, it is believed that, beyond the scope of the topic, no further fundamental transformation has been made and, for some reason, the essence of security remains unaltered: first, although the Cold War is over, but there is little evidence to prove that global cooperation and the non-use of military force will somehow replace former military considerations. In other words, while the conflict between the West and the East is over, in practice, conflict and war are still there and have never been lost.

Secondly, the preceding security considerations, based on the militaristic element, remain in the realm of action, and the actors follow the slogans that they claim to pursue their security with regard to the militarization element, as in the past.

Third, in the evolution of the early 1990s, we conclude that the field of national security studies influenced the positivist tendencies dominant in the field of maternal studies – the field of international relations – initially tended to a small extent in the security equations. An example of this can be seen from a purely military approach to securing security for countries – by the government of men. Indeed, in spite of all the important developments that the national security community has witnessed during this period, its continuing nature remains unchanged until the end of the Cold War.

The rule of this new insight is that it produces a significant amount of texts related to national security studies, in which economics, the environment, cultural and intellectual, political, geographic, and etc. issues are emerging as new dimensions of national security have been discussed.

The “multidimensional” approach forms the culmination of national security studies in this era, which is being reformed with the arrival of the post-Cold War era and the emergence of critical views. It is not surprising; therefore, if it is observed that the main discussions of security during this period are about the central issue of the “conflict.”

The end of the Cold War has had widespread influences in various levels and dimensions of international relations, which means that “changing the security environment” is the most important result in the field of national security studies. In the coming Cold War, a new security environment emerged; with the focus is not on the role of the government, but rather the government’s interaction with non-state actors. After the end of the Cold War, many of the threats are diminishing, but the issue of nuclear weapons and their proliferation, conflicts between governments and the mass production of weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, non-traditional threats have also created an insecure global space. These include the growing trend of weak states and the emergence of transnational loyalty that have contributed significantly to the developments of the present era. Examples of such massive emigration of the elite, transnational movements, etc. are among the factors that the attention of security analysts has been taken seriously and has been recognized as effective factors in defining the state of national security.

Therefore, the end of the Cold War means the transition from a (traditional) paradigm to a new (and modern) paradigm of security, through which the meaning, theory, strategy and national security strategy is changing; a paradigm within which a wide variety of security studies have grown and developed. Studies that examine the collective life of all actors in the global arena, with common, universal, comprehensive and etc. security.

The national security considerations of the Islamic Republic of Iran have undergone various developments during the years following the Islamic Revolution. The country’s security considerations are divided into three: “expansion-oriented”, “centered”, and “center-driven” discourses. In each discourse, four basic variables, namely, the goals and principles of national security, national strength, threats and vulnerabilities of national security, and ultimately national security policies, have been considered.

Accordingly, in general, it can be said that “security policy” has a different meaning from what it has been so far, which includes two fundamental principles. On the one hand, political planners, such as diplomats, lawyers and intellectuals, have to come up with a collective agenda in order to find a place for subtle and supranational actors in politics and the administration of society. On the other hand, the global arena will represent new areas where governments alone play no role. In other words, “non-governmental” actors. So, while identifying the realm of government influence, a particular kind of problem arises when finding the right solution for them is not necessarily the responsibility of the government. Understanding and accepting this separation is an important consideration in the security equation. Accordingly, a new study program is being developed, the nature of which is not only the elimination of threats, but also the creation of opportunities and the realization of requirements that are relevant to the capabilities of a political system. In this framework, new think tanks in the field of security studies are divided into two approaches – state-centered and non-government – thus defining and identifying new actors in the national security equations, which has previously been for analysts they did not matter much. As the development of national security studies has progressed, the category of “threats” has also evolved, and we are turning to attention to new threats that are mostly non-governmental, and in contrast to the Cold War, in the two “national” and “supra” spaces of the national government.

In addition, Iran’s national security considerations have been subject to various developments; in summary, the evolution of “outward-to-introspection” from the “ideological approach and pure commitment to more realism”, from the “Ummah-axis to Iran-centered”. From “simplicity to complexity”, and from the “threat of perceived threat to oppression in the international system”.


*Sajad Abedi is a Resident Research Fellow at the National Security and Defense Think Tank. He obtained his Ph. D. degree in National Security from the National Defense University, Islamic Republic of Iran. His research interests pertain to Arab-Israeli studies, Cyber Security studies and National Security.






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