Eric Lob
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Iran’s foreign policy and developmental activities in Africa
Between expansionist ambitions and hegemonic constraints
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Based on extensive fieldwork in Iran, this chapter examines the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) developmental activities in Africa as a window into its foreign policy on the continent. Under the direction of the rightists or conservatives beginning in the mid-1980s, Iran instrumentalised development to establish and strengthen diplomatic and commercial relations with Africa. During the rise of the pragmatists and the reformists between the late 1980s and the mid-2000s, the IRI continued its developmental activities on the continent to repair its image, showcase its technical capabilities, and elevate its status as a developmental patron state in a hierarchical global system. With the ascendancy of the hardliners or principlists between the mid and late 2000s, the IRI’s expanded developmental activities in Africa helped to mitigate its isolation, balance against the United States, evade and delegitimise its sanctions, and expand Iran’s nuclear programme and military presence. Complementing and supplementing the IRI’s military, diplomatic, ideological, and commercial activities, development served as an effective and promising means for Iran to make deep inroads into Africa while also exposing Tehran’s hegemonic constraints and geostrategic interests inside and beyond the continent.

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