Article

Politics and Foreign Policy of Iran

Mahmood Monshipouri

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online March 2016 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0169
Politics and Foreign Policy of Iran

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A nation of rich intellectual and historical background, Iran is indeed one of the oldest surviving civilizations in the world. Its political and intellectual depth has profoundly shaped a region of the world known as the Middle East. From the time of the prophet Zoroaster, to the potent and vast Persian empires, to the revolution of 1979, and to the 2009 Green Movement, its impact throughout the region has been remarkably real and consistent. Iran’s modern history began with Reza Khan (also known as Reza Shah), a military officer in Persia’s Cossack Brigade, who successfully staged a coup against the government of the Qajar dynasty and crowned himself the first shah of the Pahlavi dynasty. He was known for launching an ambitious campaign to modernize the country by laying down the infrastructure of a broad-based, nationwide education system, building a national railroad system, and improving the nation’s health care. By the mid-1930s, he officially renamed Iran as the heir and modern inception of the “Persian Empire.” Following the Second World War, the British and Soviets, who were suspicious of Reza Shah’s friendly relationship with and approach toward Germany, occupied western and southern Iran, forcing him to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who subsequently succeeded him. The young Shah then faced a significant challenge to his rule by Iran’s nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq who attempted to nationalize the British-owned oil industry. The shah ultimately lost the power struggle with Mossadeq and left the country, only to be brought back with the assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency and MI 6, which collaborated with Pahlavi to carry out a coup to overthrow Mossadeq in August of 1953. The shah’s repressive apparatus, and his failed “White Revolution,” mismanaged economy, and fast-paced socioeconomic Westernization spurred widespread popular resentment and opposition that included a broad spectrum of dissent, culminating in the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the Pahlavi dynasty. Spearheaded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (b. 1902–d. 1989), the 1979 revolution toppled the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, ending 2,500 years of monarchy. Since its inception, the Islamic Republic of Iran has guaranteed its political longevity by defending itself against real or imagined external enemies, thereby garnering the nationalist support of its population. By 2009, however, the Islamic Republic faced a new challenge: the Green Movement, which manifested in a green wave, reminiscent of the “color revolutions” in the Ukraine and Georgia posed a homegrown and popular threat to the country’s power structure. Although the suppression of that movement kept in check the reformist movement, the election of Hassan Rouhani in 2013 has held the prospects of much anticipated change and social freedom in a country that faces many formidable challenges, including the youth bulge, unemployment, as well as social and political restrictions. The conclusion of Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 group (the United States, China, Russia, UK, and France, along with Germany) in 2015 promises the beginning of a new era in building a relationship between Iran and the West aimed at addressing broader issues—such as the stabilization of programs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Syrian war, the refugee crisis, and the future of the region’s tempestuous political composition.

Article.  9245 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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