For all its talk of leading a “resistance front,” the Islamic Republic of Iran has historically had few allies. When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led his revolutionaries, “Neither East nor West but Islamic Republic” was a foundational slogan of the Islamic Revolution. Khomeini also described the United States and Russia as being “two blades of the same scissors.” He meant it: While the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran symbolized the Islamic Republic’s hostility toward the United States and its European allies, Khomeini was equally distrustful of the Soviet Union and its eastern bloc satellites. Iran’s isolation was cemented when every Arab state with the exception of Syria sided with Iraq during their 1980-88 war. Tehran’s ties with Damascus have remained tight, but Syria’s influence is limited inside the Middle East and its diplomatic weight is nonexistent outside it. The Iranian authorities sought to cultivate African states and were able to purchase the occasional vote on an international body, but Tehran’s declining resources limited its success.
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