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The Making of a Diplomatic Elite in a Revolutionary State: Loyalty, Expertise and Representativeness in Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Abstract : As a new regime emerges from a revolution, new political elites must define arrangements framing the functioning and composition of the state bureaucracy. Iran’s 1979 revolution is no exception. While Pahlavi-era public officials were initially maintained in their posts, bureaucratic structures were ultimately dismantled and civil servants – including diplomats – were ousted. As of November 1979, changing power balances among revolutionary elites triggered profound diplomatic purges. International isolation, exogenous pressures and lasting conflict with Iraq threatened the new regime’s durability. The Islamic Republic’s new diplomatic apparatus thus needed to articulate three fundamental and interconnected imperatives: diplomats must be loyal, they must be skilled and their social characteristics must echo revolutionary expectations. Pahlavi diplomats were first replaced by young and politicised revolutionary militants, who were promoted through clerical elites’ patronage, and often lacked diplomatic expertise. This very shortage of both diplomatic competencies and university credentials, combined with the absence of formalised recruitment processes, eventually challenged long-term regime consolidation. This paper examines how institutional instruments, set up to conduct the recruitment and training of the Islamic Republic’s new diplomatic elite, were fashioned into existence and reformed over time. More precisely, it highlights the intricate articulation between, on the one hand, new diplomats’ socio-political properties and the nature of their relations to political elites and, on the other hand, distinct sources of regime legitimation oriented towards the Iranian population and foreign diplomats. Relying on archival work, interviews, as well as data and network analyses, this work demonstrates how diplomats’ recruitment and training institutions, striking a balance between specific forms of loyalty, expertise and representativeness, ensured stable political-administrative arrangements over time. It further highlights how the Islamic Republic’s institutional duality regulates diverging elite agendas and interests, in that it facilitates a division of diplomatic labour between (1) the promotion of diplomatic overture and (2) the sustainment of a ‘revolutionary’ external agenda.
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Submitted on : Friday, March 18, 2022 - 4:30:27 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, March 19, 2022 - 3:39:30 AM

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Guillaume Beaud. The Making of a Diplomatic Elite in a Revolutionary State: Loyalty, Expertise and Representativeness in Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ministries of Foreign Affairs in the World. Actors of State Diplomacy, 18, Brill, pp.89-115, 2022, Diplomatic Studies, 978-90-04-50587-2. ⟨10.1163/9789004505889_006⟩. ⟨hal-03613707⟩

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