Iranian foreign policymakers are permanently torn between their wish to restore normal relations with the international community and their will to support Islamic revolutionary movements throughout the world.
Since the outbreak of the war with Iraq in 1980, Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has strived to break the country's diplomatic isolation. But he has met with limited success.
Iran's foreign-policy cornerstone remains anti-Americanism. But trade with the United States has resumed on a limited scale. Iranian officials admit that ''private companies might be dealing with US firms through intermediaries.''
Since the sale to Iraq of five Super Etandard aircraft, France has become the second ''Satan'' in Iran's revolutionary lexicon. France expelled three Iranian diplomats in December. And French police suspect recent bomb attempts in Paris were masterminded by Iranian activists.
Tehran denies the charges and insists it disapproves of terrorism. It accuses Paris of supporting Iraq's war effort. The two countries have not broken relations, though Iranian officials talk about ''reconsidering'' not ''severing'' their economic ties with France.
Iran also fulminates against French and US military presence in Lebanon.
Despite close ties with the Shiite community, real Iranian interference into Lebanon remains controversial. Nabih Berri, leader of the Shiite Muslim Amal party in Beirut, keeps his distance from the Islamic Republic.
Other groups like Islamic Amal are directly connected to Tehran. This group is believed to be responsible for the truck-bomb attacks against the US Marines and French paratrooper headquarters.
The Iranians, who keep a 1,000-strong contingent in Baalbeck, Lebanon, denied involvement. But Tehran's press compared the victims to ''Pharaohs buried under the rubbles of their palaces.'' A few days after the bombings the Lebanese government severed relations with Iran.
Iran's only ally in the area is Syria, which prevents Iraq from exporting oil through the pipeline crossing its territory. In exchange, Iran sells to Syria about 5 million tons of crude oil per year at a price that is said to be very low.
However, Syrian leader Hafez Assad strictly limits Iran's military presence in Lebanon: 1,000 Revolutionary Guards are said to be languishing near Damascus. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and France have tried in vain to persuade Assad to break his ties with Iran.
Iranian authorities reproach Gulf countries for helping Iraq in its war effort. Minister of Oil Muhammad Qarazithreatened to confiscate tankers belonging to countries friendly to Iraq.
Kuwait has implicitly accused Iran of being behind the recent bomb attacks there. Again Tehran has denied the charge. But the majority of the 21 suspects arrested are members of an Iraqi opposition movement backed by Tehran.
Iran's relations with Saudi Arabia, too, are very poor. The Saudis take very seriously Iranian threats to respond to any air attack against Iran's oil terminals by blockading the Strait of Hormuz. They have chartered 11 supertankers to store oil outside the Gulf.
Surprisingly, Iran maintains relatively good relations with Saudi Arabia's ally Pakistan. Also, Turkey has become one of Iran's most important trade partners.
Things began to go sour between Iran and the Soviet Union when in July 1982 Moscow resumed its arms sales to Iraq. Since then, 20 Soviet diplomats accused of being spies were expelled from Tehran, and members of the Tudeh Communist Party were arrested.
Although some of the trials are over, no sentences have been made public so far. Iranian authorities say that despite rumors circulating in Europe, no Tudeh member has been executed yet.
''The government,'' says a Western diplomat, ''wants to avoid any further deterioration in its relations with Moscow. But this doesn't prevent the Soviet press from running vitrolic editorials about the Iranian revolution.''