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Critical Essay about Primary Goals of American Foreign Policy

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Foreign Policy is the way and the strategies that a country uses, and it determines the way that the state interacts with other states, and the main purpose of foreign policy is to protect the national interests of its nation, the foreign policy of states has been more significant in recent years because the relations between stats have been grown and complex (Frazier, 2019). The foreign policy of each state is differing from another state and each state has its particular way to do or to direct its policy towards another state or states. This essay will try to explain the United States foreign policy towards Iran, from a realistic perspective. The United States is considered a great power or superpower in the world, and Iran tries to be a regional power in the Middle East. Iran has been one of the most important international actors, regionally and globally. This essay will try to explain the important points of foreign policies of the two states, and also their relations. After that, this essay is going to answer some questions about the tensions and relations between the two states; The U.S foreign policy and its aims will be explained, also the things that the U.S. wants from Iran and things that the U.S. wants to change in Iranian behavior would be another point that this essay is going to explain, the concluding part will be the end of this essay.

The United States has contact and diplomatic relations with most nations in a formal way, the foreign policy of the United States is the connections and interactions with external nations, and states, and also is to propagate a special form of the state’s interests in foreign nations all around the world (Furtak, 2017).

Of course, each state’s foreign policy has some objectives and goals, the US foreign policy according to some sources has four main objectives including the first and the most important one is protecting the United States and its citizens, which means guarantying the state and peoples interests and safety, the second is the preservation of a balance of power in the world, as it is known that where there is a problem or a conflict the U.S. interfere to remain the balance of power in the world, third is continuing access to international resources and markets, and democracy and protection of human rights, although, in some other sources, there are some other goals of the foreign policy of U.S. (Lumen Candela, n.d. ).

On other hand, the aims and objectives of the Iranian foreign policy include the preservation of Iran’s independence, and also its national security, and also Iran wants to enhance its regional and global stature, and some other aims (Zarif, 2014).

The relations of the United States towards Iran are complex and inexplicit, as it is known that Iran is one of the greatest civilizations in the world, and of course, the relations of these two great states are important to be known and to be explained in many aspects, especially, the foreign policy of the US towards Iran, because the two states have discordance with each other. It’s clear that working together with Iran remains very difficult for the United States, because of the historical tensions between the two states, but both powers sometimes have common interests.

As it is mentioned above the U.S. have formal relations with most states, but since 1980, after the revolution in Iran in 1979, Iran and the United States have had no formal and direct relations with each other and it can be said that there is an antagonistic policy between them, moreover, it can be said that diplomatic damage culminated from this given crisis, they have two states which are (Pakistan and Switzerland) that serves each states protecting power in the other state, Pakistan for Iran in U.S., and Switzerland for U.S. in Iran, indirectly instead of the other state (Coates, 2014).

Some scholars think that the Iranian nuclear program is one of the main cause of the tensions between the two states, because nuclear weapons are banned and no states have the right to create nuclear weapons but that is clear that Iran did it, and they think that in place of taking the military actions the American government should relying on more economic and diplomatic efforts to stop the nuclear program in Iran, it means that most of them think that the economic sanctions are better than the military actions, because the economy is the key of the development of each state (Younis, 2019).

Moreover, in recent weeks, current tensions between the U.S. and Iran have increased sharply, and the most important reason for those tensions is the Iranian nuclear system, but some scholars believe that the nuclear deal in Iran may collapse permanently in the months ahead, while, neither country's leaders seem to want war, but it's explicit that because of the tensions between them, the war remains possible between them due to some factors (IISS, 2019).

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Some countries and especially the United States imposed a number of sanctions against Iran since 1979, and also the European Union and United Nations also imposed these sanctions with the US against Iran, and the sanctions have been renewed and expanded since then, the Iranian spokesman (Ramin Mehmanparast) advertised that “the European Union’s sanctions would have no impact”, but also it’s clear that the sanctions that imposed by US have a good impact to deter the nuclear weapon program of Iran, if so, the sanctions have no impact on the nuclear program as the spokesman said but it is better than doing nothing against Iran’s behaviors, because if they did nothing it means that nothing is going to happen and Iran will continuing its programs (Zirulnick, 2011).

Moreover, the U.S. wants to make Iranian supporters and its people see the Iranian prestige as damage, in order to make its sanctions effective and successful, but what is clear and distinct is that the American government in the near future is not able to break the economy of Iran, because Iran continues in exporting its oil, even directly or in the way of smuggles, bypassing the US sanctions, as it's mentioned above that Iranian spokesman said the sanctions will have no impact (Sadeeq, 2019).

In addition to the sanctions that U.S and others imposed, according to some sources, the economy of Iran is in terrible straits, more than two-thirds of its value was lost in its currency, and thousands of Iranians lose their job, so in accordance to the sources about this, the U.S. sanctions impacted the economy of Iran and bitted it hardly, it means that the whole country even by a simple thing was affected by the sanctions but in another hand, the Iranian regime does not want to look weak, so here they say that these sanctions have no impact over the economy of Iran, however, U.S. not only imposed sanctions over Iran rather, historically U.S. imposed sanctions over many states, and the sanctions of U.S. have the desired impact over other states economy, for example, Russia and Venezuelans (Heard, 2019).

According to what the U.S. wants to change in Iranian behavior, some American scholars, such as the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, believe that changing the Iranian regime is not the main goal of sanctions of U.S against Iran, or it can be said that it is not the aim of U.S. policy towards Iran, rather, what the US wants from Iran is to change the behavior of the regime of Iran, not the regime itself, Pompeo also added that 'It’s about changing the behavior of the leadership in Iran to comport with what the Iranian people really want them to do,' (Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, 2018). And also the administration of state wants Iran to behave like a normal nation in the Middle East, like all other nations in the Middle East, and it’s not only about Iranian behavior on the nuclear program, but also the missile program, because these two things can be a support, or others consider it as support for the terrorists that are proxies (Smith, 2018).

In the situation of applying the case of the U.S. and Iran from a realist perspective, it should be as follow. From the realist point of view, the international system is anarchy, and there is no central authority that enforces orders, in the case of Iran and the U.S. none of them want to look weak behind each other, and the U.S. wants to be a leader in the Middle East, but Iran makes problems to this (Beck, 2018).

The realism theory is one of the most important theories in international relations, it says that if states want to protect their security, they must balance against other states, especially for great powers, like the United States, they must balance against other great powers, and also it is very important for United States to balance against other minor powers, that consider as important regimes strategically in their regions all around the world, such as Iran in Middle East, however, realism offers this protecting security without war (Rosato & Schuessler, 2011).

Realists believe that all states must pursue power to survive, Iran the nuclear program is an important tool to give Iran power and this power makes Iran survive, Israel also has nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and it's clear that Iran to make a balance of power with Israel was allowed or encouraged to a nuclear weapon, it means that Iran uses this nuclear weapon as a military capability for protect its power (Beck, 2018).

In addition, the realist view on the U.S. foreign policy towards Iran, as mentioned earlier, is that the United States and Iranian ideologies are quite different from each other, but national interests in both states were more important than any ideology, and their interests are relative gains, it means that the relationship is self- dependence (Coates, 2014).

This essay talked about the relationships between Iran and the United States. In order to do that, the foreign policy of the United States and its aims and objectives in foreign policy, and also the aims and objectives of Iranian foreign policy are explained shortly, then the relations between them are explained generally, it’s obvious that they have had relationships throughout history, but their relations were changed after the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, and the tensions between the two states started. The nuclear program of Iran is considered the main cause of these tensions because building nuclear weapons were forbidden, the U.S. and UN, and EU have imposed a number of sanctions on Iran, especially in the economic sector. But in the case of looking at this situation, it will be clear that none of the two states wants war with the other, rather, the American government wants to make Iran look prestige and weak in the eyes of its people and alliances. Also, the impact of these sanctions was explained in this essay, those sanctions most importantly impacted on the Iranian economy, because Iran’s currency lost its value, majority of people are jobless in Iran. Another point that is explained is that things the U.S. want to change in Iran, it’s mentioned that the U.S. administration wants to change Iranian behavior, not the regime, despite their cultural and religious differences. All those things were explained from a realist perspective because realism is a theory that considers states as the most important actors, and each state wants its national interests first.


  1. Beck, M. (2018) An International Relations Perspective on the Iran Nuclear Deal. [online]. Available from:<>. [Accessed 2 December 2019].
  2. Coates, A. D. (2014) U.S. Relationships with Iran, Israel, and Pakistan: A Realist Explanation. MA Thesis, Faculty of Arts, University of Southern Mississippi.
  3. Frazier, B. (2019) What Is Foreign Policy? Definition and Examples [online]. Available from: [Accessed 1 December 2019].
  4. Furtak, S. (2017) The History of Foreign Relations of the United States [online]. Available from: [Accessed 12 November 2019].
  5. Heard, L. S. (2019) Will sanctions and threats change Iran’s bad behavior? [ online]. Available from: [Accessed 1 December 2019].
  6. IISS. (2019) The US, Iran and ‘maximum pressure’ [online]. Available from: [Accessed 1 December 2019].
  7. Lumen Candela (n.d. ) Defining Foreign Policy [online]. Accessed from: [Accessed 28 November 2019]
  8. Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty. (2018) Pompeo: U.S. looks to change Iranian behavior, not the regime [online]. Available from: [Accessed 2 December 2019].
  9. Sadeeq, M. (2019) Does the US just want to change Iran’s role, or actually go to war? [online]. Available from: [Accessed 28 November 2, 2019].
  10. Schuessler, J. and Rosato, S. (2011) A Realist Foreign Policy for the United States. Jstor, 9(4), p.803.
  11. Smith, E. (2018) Former British ambassador says the US ‘deliberately provoking’ Iran to dismantle nuclear deal [online]. Available from: [Accessed 2 December 2019].
  12. Younis, M. (2019) Do Americans Want War With Iran? [online]. Available from: [Accessed 19 November 2019].
  13. Zarif, M. J. (2014) What Iran Really Wants [online]. Available from: [Accessed 2 November 2019].
  14. Zirulnick, A. (2011) Sanction Qaddafi? How 5 nations have reacted to sanctions [online]. Available from: [Accessed 29 October 2019].
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