For a radical Islamic fundamentalist state, Iran has maintained a remarkably pragmatic foreign policy. It has not supported Moslem Kashmir against Hindu India, in part because it regards good relations with India as more important and in part because Pakistan is already doing everything that needs doing there. It has not supported the Moslems of Northern Cyprus against the Greeks of southern Cyprus because it needs good relations with Greece (and Europe). While it has made great diplomatic moves in [ex-Soviet] Central Asia, it has not tried to export fundamentalist Islam there because this would alarm the Russians. It has not supported the Moslem Azeris against the Christian Armenians, partly out of concern for Russian reaction and partly because its own Azeri minority is restive. (At the high point of the war in 1994, Iran did send a few thousand troops to secure bridgeheads inside Azeri territory, a signal of possible military intervention that may have pressured Armenia into a quick ceasefire.) Its support for the Islamic mystics in Chechnya has been extremely limited and circumspect, as Iran need not anger the Russians while trying to secure its share of Black Sea oil. --Stephen V Cole
March 1, 2000; The reason for the lopsided vote in favor of reform legislators could be seen today when 45 young men and women were sentenced to 35 lashes each. Their crime? They were caught dancing together. Religious police regularly seek out these unauthorized gatherings. The punishment is often little more than a fine, or a lecture. In Iran, people who want to party are the majority.