This article investigates Iranian–North Korean cooperation after the 1979 revolution in Iran as a case of sustained efforts effectively aimed at implementing Third Worldist ideas. Both Iranian revolutionaries and North Korean Communist officials referred to Third Worldism, although they held different views of it. Their alliance, however, did not rest on ideology alone: by analyzing respective links, the article shows how substate actors following their pragmatic interests have succeeded in bringing about a relatively stable alliance that was rationalized through Third Worldist discourse. In Iran, this relationship was driven by the radical factions of the Khomeinist regime, mostly the so-called Islamic Left. These factions, who controlled some government-affiliated organizations and agencies (e.g., the Revolutionary Guards), needed these foreign links to get the resources necessary to survive and prevail politically. The study is largely based on Iranian sources of the time and memoirs by Iranian officials and activists.

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