This chapter argues that Iran’s grand strategy has and is torn between three tensions: the prioritization of an Islamic identity versus attaining economic prosperity the use of an offensive or defensive military strategy and its self-conception as a revolutionary or “normal” state. Historically Iran has striven to reconcile these inherently ambivalent goals through the “principle of equilibrium” (tavãzon). This chapter demonstrates how tavãzon shapes Iran’s grand strategy. While these countervailing forces do account for some continuity in Iran’s strategy over time they can conversely result in abrupt changes in response to systemic shifts. Iran’s current strategic imperative is thus driven by three factors: the jostling internal power struggle between factions the economic imperatives chastened by sanctions and most proximately its hostile relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel. In this context Iranian policy elites have consolidated around a military strategy of asymmetric deterrence.
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