- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

TEHRAN Iran's footprint in the world has been enormous since the Islamic Revolution of 1979: it has inspired Muslim fundamentalism, opposed America and Israel, funded terrorism in the Middle East and assassinated opposition leaders abroad.
As a result, Iran has found itself isolated from nearly everyone the Western countries it reviles as tools of Zionism, as well as Muslim neighbors like Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia that it considers insufficiently Islamic.
In fact, Iran has better relations with largely Hindu India than with its Muslim neighbor Pakistan, mainly because Iran's Shi'ite brand of Islam is seen as an ancient rival and schismatic by the Sunni Muslims who predominate in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and most of the Muslim world.
Iran is also furious that Pakistan's ally, the Taleban government in Afghanistan, killed 10 Iranian diplomats and a journalist in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, in 1998.
Turkey is also angry with Iran, which it accuses of supporting Hezbollah fundamentalists who murdered secular intellectuals and have pushed to end Turkey's 70-year tradition of political secularism.
Egypt remains furious that Iran has named a major Tehran street after the killer of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat honoring the assassin for avenging Mr. Sadat's peace deal with Israel.
In fact, Iran remains opposed to the very existence of Israel, nearly 10 years after the Palestinians, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and most of the Arab nations have accepted albeit grudgingly its existence.
Iran still funds Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, which oppose Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's efforts to reach peace with Israel and are listed by the State Department as terrorist groups.
"Israel should not exist. There should be only Palestine," said former Iranian Vice President Hassan Ghafoorifard, currently a member of the Senior Council for the Cultural Revolution. "Jewish people would be free to live in Palestine.
"We don't believe in Israel. It is an illegal country."
But as with its economy and politics, Iran's foreign policy remains shrouded in mystery.
Iran's reformist president, Mohammed Khatami, calls for improved dialogue with other civilizations and speaks respectfully of America's democracy.
But then he backtracks, and speaks as do the hard-liners opposed to his reforms inside Iran of the need for Westerners to allow Iran to create its own Islamic democracy.
And finally Mr. Khatami who appeared last week at the U.N. Millennium Summit in New York has little real power over foreign policy.
"Foreign policy is in the hands of the hard-liners," said Davoud Hermidas Bavand, a professor of international law and political science at Iran's University of Supreme National Defense and two other schools.
"Khatami has called for detente and closer relations with Islamic states to get Iran out of political isolation. He has had a positive impact on Europe and the United States," which this year dropped import bans on Iranian carpets, pistachio nuts and caviar.
"But the hard-liners try to emasculate the process," said Mr. Bavand.
"They think that the reformers will get the benefit if Khatami improves relations on trips to Italy, France, Germany and New York."
When Mr. Khatami visits Europe, Iranian broadcast media, controlled by hard-liners, ignore him.
Finally, Iran, which Mr. Khatami last week in New York said was trying to improve relations with Russia, hopes to win some control over oil deposits recently discovered in the Caspian Sea off Kazakhstan.
But while Iranian officials say Iran should share 20 percent of the oil as one of the five Caspian littoral states, Russia and Kazakhstan claim the oil for themselves because it lies closest to their shores.

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