Daniel W. Drezner

International Relations 101 on Iran and Honduras

The following is not rocket science, but rather International Relations 101. Still, I hadn’t seen it anywhere else, so here goes: The parallels between ongoing events in Honduras and Iran are surprisingly strong, and it’s worth thinking about them for a spell. In both countries, conservative elements of the established regime conducted what was, essentially, a coup d’etat. ...

The following is not rocket science, but rather International Relations 101. Still, I hadn’t seen it anywhere else, so here goes:

The parallels between ongoing events in Honduras and Iran are surprisingly strong, and it’s worth thinking about them for a spell.

In both countries, conservative elements of the established regime conducted what was, essentially, a coup d’etat. In both cases, the coup-plotters used both legal and extralegal means to cement their hold on power. These actions have triggered mass demonstrations in the streets of Tehran and Tegucigalpa. Both governments are rather paranoid about external influence on their regime. And, in some domestic politics version of the security dilemma (I hereby label this the "sovereignty dilemma"), that paranoia about external meddling is merely fuelling greater international attention to their domestic affairs of state.

Now, what are the differences? They boil down to a few important distinctions:

  • Iran is much, much more powerful than Honduras.
  • Honduras possesses much less strategic significance than Iran.

What does this mean? It means that realist and liberal logics will work together in Honduras and against each other in Iran. The Organization of American States could never reverse a regime change in, say, Brazil — but multilateral coordination will have an effect on Honduras. Indeed, the fact that Honduras is relatively small is what makes it easy for the OAS to muster some consnsus on the issue. Furthermore, in contrast to larger countries, the effect of multilateral sanctions on Honduras would be pretty significant.

In Iran, on the other hand, conflicting strategic interests prevent any kind of great power concert that could push for domestic change. It’s also far from clear whether anything short of a gasoline embargo would really have an appreciable impact on the regime in Tehran.

So, holding everything else constant, the odds are that the coup in Honduras are more likely to be reversed than the coup in Iran.

Bear in mind, however, that life never holds everything else constant.

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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