Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Regina C. Karp (Director)

Committee Member

M. Sukru Hanioglu

Committee Member

David C. Earnest


This dissertation aims at analyzing the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) extraterritorial activities in attaining Iran’s foreign policy goals. Based on observations and assessments from internal and external determinants, Iran’s foreign policy goals are defined as follows: regime survival, which is an indispensable goal of Iranian foreign policy, is above everything; state security and survival; projecting power and becoming the dominant power in the region.

The regime has deliberately supported several armed non-state actors to achieve the aforementioned goals, and as seen in the case studies, the IRGC has served as a node in providing a broad range of state support.

Although the IRGC has the characteristics of conventional armed forces, its extraterritorial activities contradict the legal frame of ‘use of military force’ and mostly fit the characteristics of ‘state sponsorship of terrorism.’ Moreover, these activities challenge international norms and provoke other regional actors. This condition creates an obstacle to Iran’s integration into the international system which is increasingly globalized and interconnected and an environment which is costly to live within and leaves it isolated. These attitudes paradoxically place Iran in a situation that challenges the goals of ‘state security and survival’ and ‘becoming the regional power’ in the long run. Thus, it is argued that the real reason behind the regime’s insistence on this strategy is preserving the current political systemand the power of current ruling elites; in brief, it is labeled ‘regime survival’ in this study.


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