It’s complicated: a timeline of Australia–Iran relations in a historical perspective

9 May 2013

This paper seeks to contextualise Australia’s bilateral relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran upon the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and at a time when the potential for military conflict is escalating.

It canvasses key milestones and events in the bilateral relationship from 1945 to the present. It argues that one of the key continuities in the post-1945 relationship has been the difficulty involved in balancing what has traditionally been a relatively strong bilateral trade relationship with Australia’s broader non-proliferation and global security interests.  Concern over the nuclear program and state-sponsored terrorism in recent years has shifted the balance in favour of a focus on security issues and, consequently, towards the position of Australia’s key partners (especially the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Canada and the European Union (EU)) on sanctions. 

This ‘rebalance’ will only be sharpened (and the scope to follow a more independent policy diminish) if Iran continues down the nuclear path and the likelihood of a military solution increases. Iran’s continuing resistance to provide appropriate assurances about the objectives of its nuclear program is increasing inter-state tensions in the volatile Middle East region, prompting Israel to strengthen its military capacities in the lead-up to the potential conflict.  

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