Anchored between the unelected Guardianship Council, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Iran’s foreign policy reflects a complex mix of political, military and ideological interests. The recently-brokered deal between the P5+1 and Tehran is a case in point. While Iran’s elected President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif successfully negotiated the end of sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, neither wield significant decision-making power within the Islamic Republic’s theocratic structure. At best, the presidency is the office of choice for international communications because it retains the trappings of a republic—an executive body with (apparently) executive authority. Consequently, Rouhani cannot pursue foreign policy goals without the consent of the Ayatollah, the Council and Guards.
Trying to define what, exactly, constitutes a ‘small state’ remains a matter of interpretation. The World Bank, for example, defines such a state as a country with a population under 1.5 million, while the United Nations’ Forum of Small States (FOSS) has over 100 (and often more populous) members. In today’s podcast, Mitchell A. Belfer explains why there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ definition of a small state. He also reveals 1) what inspired him to study the contributions that small states make to security; 2) why small states such as Bahrain are often good indicators of the security and geopolitical forces that shape a particular region; and 3) reveals which small states warrant greater attention on the international stage.
Mitchell A. Belfer is the founder and Head of the Department of International Relations and European Studies at Metropolitan University Prague, Czech Republic, and Editor in Chief of the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS).