Even measured against the Middle East's historically tumultuous dynamics, the dramatic political transformations witnessed in 2011 will shape global affairs for decades to come. The collapse of the ruling power structures in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, as a result of people's unprecedented street protests and the ongoing protests in Syria and Bahrain, were all unexpected events with global ramifications. In the midst of this turmoil with new national and international players and evolving political structures, Iran has attempted to use its soft power to exploit new opportunities and advance its narrow interests. The unpredictable outcome of these changes, coupled with a dearth of understanding about Iran's soft power capabilities and its intent, have proven to be a difficult mix for Western, particularly American analysts, as they attempt to predict Iran's future role in the region and the far- reaching implications of that role.

The authors of this article posit that regardless, of the eventual outcome of recent regional events, there should be little doubt that Iran will identify ways to take advantage of its soft power tools to productively serve its own interests. To that end, this article will show that Iran's employment of soft power has been an intrinsic element of its current political system. It has become a veteran practitioner of these tactical tools, and public diplomacy continues to remain indispensable for bolstering its internal claims of legitimacy.



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