Iran finds its self-isolation gets a cool reception abroad
Iran's attempt to get Israel removed from the United Nations is only one aspect of an aggressive, largely negative foreign policy.
As a result, this country today has become isolated and faces a mostly hostile world.
Its brand of Islamic revolution deeply worries moderate Arab leaders. Tehran crowds still shout ''Death to America'' - the most frequently heard slogan here. Even Iran's relations with the Soviet Union and Soviet allies appear to be cooling.
Remedying the situation is difficult. Iran's foreign diplomacy appears to be split between idealists, who want to spread their revolution, and pragmatists, who desperately try to bring the nation back into the international community. The result is dismal inconsistency. There are many examples.
Iran is at odds with Saudi Arabia - but praises the Saudis' best ally in the Indian Ocean, Pakistan. Iran pushed ahead with its effort to have Israel suspended from the UN General Assembly - long after its fellow Muslims and the Arabs have decided on a more moderate approach of expressing ''reservations'' about Israeli membership.
Iran claims it wants to export Islamic revolution and ideology, but it doesn't aid Muslim guerrillas in Afghanistan fighting occupying Soviet troops.
The Iranians' almost total isolation during the first months of the war with Iraq has led them to boost ties with Pakistan and Turkey. The Iranians want to build a railroad linking them with Pakistan. Rumors have also spread in Tehran that Revolutionary Guards have asked to be trained on American jet fighters by Pakistani military experts.
From Turkey, Iran is mainly importing food. But, a Western diplomat says, ''Ankara also plays the role of an intermediary between them and the Western world.'' One example is a joint Iranian-Turkish project for the building of a pipeline that would take Iranian gas to Europe.
Still, Iran's foreign policies are overwhelmingly negative. The cornerstone of its international diplomacy is anti-Americanism, which sometimes helps to shift the population's focus away from domestic problems.
Twenty-one months after Iran released 52 American hostages, the so-called ''Islamic students'' who stormed the US Embassy remain influential. They continue to print volumes containing documents found in the embassy. These generally pave the way for new purges. Documents that mention the secular National Democratic Front usually precede a new wave of arrests of secular nationalists.
Any talk of improving relations with the US is taboo here. Those who support renewing low-key ties don't dare express it openly.
Iran contends that in violation of the Algerian agreement that ended the hostage crisis, some $300 million of Iranian assets is still frozen in the US. Officials also complain that they haven't been given any information on the personal fortune of the late Shah's family.
Foreign diplomats in Tehran say they believe the Iranians are eager to settle as quickly as possible their legal disputes with the US. ''After all the damage they suffered from the embassy takeover, they want to show to the international business community that they are again trustworthy,'' a European economic attache says.
Current ties with European countries are minimal. There is neither a French nor a British ambassador in Tehran. And recent assassinations of clerics, said to be have been ordered from Paris by resistance leader Massoud Rajavi, have aroused a new wave of anti-French demonstrations.
Now that there are almost no Westerners in Tehran, small groups of experts from communist countries have become a popular attraction here. ''But they don't have currencies,'' mutters a carpet seller, reminiscing about more affluent Westerners.
Western observers see relations with communist countries cooling. North Korea remains one of Iran's main arms suppliers. But the Iranians, a European economic diplomat says, ''are discovering that communist countries are not able to provide them with high-technology equipment, that their prices are not always lower, and that they are often very slow at sending spare parts.''
Also cooling is the friendship with the Soviets' best ally in the Middle East - Syria. Despite increasing economic exchanges, Syrian diplomats deplore the Iranian drive into fellow Arab nation Iraq. Iran's rejection of the Islamic Conference Organization's latest effort to arrange a truce in the Iran-Iraq war is certain not to earn points with Arab nations.
As for the Soviet Union itself, Iran's leaders play down communist militants' claims that the Soviets are among Iran's best allies. Some contend that the USSR is simply one of several countries with which Iran has relations. Others, mainly members of a hard-line fundamentalist faction known for its anticommunist stance , the Hodjatieh, describe Moscow as the ''second Satan.'' (America remains the ''great Satan.'')
The Soviets have done their best to benefit from the hostage crisis - inviting mullahs to the Soviet Union and reportedly providing the government with intelligence reports. But economic ties have not increased.
True, Soviets are building new dams in the northern provinces. Still, the number of Soviet experts at the Isfahan steel mill has not increased, and the gas pipeline that fed the Soviet Union's southern republics is closed.
(One potential strain in relations is the defection to Britain this summer of a Soviet diplomat stationed in Iran. Vladimir Andreyevich Kuzichkin could possess some valuable information for Western intelligence, although his defection's effect on Soviet-Iranian ties is unknown.)
A Soviet delegation recently experienced the growing anticommunism of Tehran's crowds. It was greeted at the opening of the annual trade fair by aggressive demonstrators chanting, ''Death to the Soviet Union.'' The Soviets decided to leave the ceremony.
Paradoxically, the Afghan war is not a major factor in Iran's growing anticommunist sentiment. In April Tehran played down the bombing of an Iranian border town by a Soviet helicopter chasing Afghan rebels.
''It's an old Persian tradition,'' says a former university professor. ''We never really cared about what was going on on our eastern border.''
Relations with Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, are chilly. ''The Arabic service of Radio Tehran is aimed at infuriating Saudi authorities,'' explains a diplomat. ''Almost every day they (the radio announcers) charge the (royal) Al Saud family with corruption.''
The Saudis had refrained from open criticism of the Iranian regime while discreetly providing funds to the Iraqi government. Now they openly back Baghdad. Riyadh's press describes Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as ''inconsistent with Islam.''
Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain endorse the Saudis' tough stance, but the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait keep on talking to Iran's mullahs.