Neighborhood and Integration: The Foreign Policy Doctrine of the Raisi Administration

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Faculty member of of Law and Political Science, Tehran University

2 Faculty member of the Research Institute of Strategic Studies (RISS)


With fifteen neighboring countries on its land and water borders, Iran is the second country with the largest number of neighbors in the world after China. However, when considering a broader neighborhood (including secondary neighbors), an additional ten countries can be included, bringing the total count of bordering and non-bordering neighbors to 25. This extensive neighborhood presents both challenges and opportunities for Iran. While it offers potential avenues for cooperation and growth, it also poses threats that require careful consideration. Paying attention to this issue from the perspective of opportunities or challenges shows the necessity of placing it at the top of the country's foreign policy priorities. However, despite the emphasis in foundational documents on the significance of the neighborhood environment in foreign policy, the absence of a strategic approach in this regard over the past four decades has led to the creation of threats rather than opportunities for the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In response, the 13th Iranian government has critically assessed the historical neglect of neighboring countries in Iran’s foreign policy. As a result, it has introduced the doctrine of ‘neighborhood and integration’ to capitalize on these opportunities and effectively address the associated threats. Based on this, the paper aims to explore the meaning and application of this doctrine. Specifically, it delves into its principles, goals, and strategic approaches in the context of developing relations with neighboring countries.
This study employs a qualitative research method, specifically the ‘descriptive-analytical’ approach. It draws from documentary sources, official statements by foreign policy officials, library research, and online resources. The analysis of the 13th government’s neighborhood doctrine is presented in six sections: 1) Neighborhood and integration in international relations knowledge; 2) Historical gaps in Iran’s foreign policy neighborhood approach; 3) Neighborhood and integration as a focal point in the 13th government’s foreign policy; 4) Principles of neighborhood and integration policy in the 13th government; 5) Strategy for neighborhood and integration policy by the 13th government; and 6) Implementation of the neighborhood and integration doctrine in practice.
Result and discussion
Iran, as the second country with the largest number of neighboring countries in the world, possesses significant potential. This potential can be both an opportunity and a challenge and largely depends on the perception of political governance and its orientation. Unfortunately, in Iran’s contemporary history, the challenging and threatening aspects of the neighborhood environment have often prevailed. While the ever-changing geopolitics and shifting borders of Iran’s neighbors contribute to this situation, other critical factors come into play. Notably, past governments have often overlooked the importance and position of the neighborhood environment in foreign relations. Their minimalistic approach and the absence of a well-defined strategic framework have also exacerbated the situation.
In addressing these issues, the 13th government has anchored its foreign policy on the doctrine of neighborhood and integration. Within this framework, fostering relations with neighboring countries and promoting regional integration serve as crucial components of foreign relations and act as a balancing factor in the country’s overall foreign policy. The government extends the concept beyond mere good neighborhood, taking a comprehensive view that encompasses both immediate neighbors and secondary neighbors. This approach is guided by principles such as respect for territorial integrity, non-interference in internal affairs, nurturing an endogenous regional order, cooperative security, and mutual interaction. These principles are deemed essential for establishing strategic and systematic relations with neighboring nations and are seen as prerequisites for successful regional integration.
The 13th government has characterized neighborhood policy as a stable and enduring strategy, rather than a temporary or fleeting tactic. Consequently, its advancement necessitates a well-defined plan and a specific strategic approach. Within this framework, the government acknowledges the region’s realities, particularly significant challenges such as security issues and the limitations of regional cooperation. It firmly believes that the region cannot swiftly extricate itself from these complexities. Instead, the path forward lies in building mutual trust, fostering regional stability, enhancing economic cooperation, and extending coordinated and collective security efforts.


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