The Rising Shi’a Crescent: Iranian Smart Power and Implications for the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf

  • Natalia Paunic Carleton University


The circumstances of the American war in Iraq, the Arab Spring, and the international fight against Da’esh have provided an opportunity for the Islamic Republic of Iran to consolidate its power in the Middle East, as foretold by King Abdullah II of Jordan in his coining of the phrase “Shi’a crescent” in 2004. Iran’s successful resurgence can be attributed to its effective use of “smart power,” or the combination of soft and hard power tactics. Iran’s hard power, in the form of Shi’a militias and proxies, is supported with soft power tactics. These include Iran’s export of the ideals of the Revolution and its model of an Islamic Republic, its role as leader of the global Shi’ite community, and its investment in cultural diplomacy across the Middle East as well as its renewed engagement with the West.


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