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by Dr. Morris M. Mottale, Professor of International Relations and Comparative Politics, Chair, Department of Political Science at Franklin University Switzerland

Abstract. This article analyzes the origins of Iranian foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution and the ability of the ruling clerics in Teheran to successfully integrate Iranian nationalism and Shiite millenarianism, thus expanding power and influence in the region and challenging American and Western influence in the Arab Sunni world. It concludes by focusing on the negotiations to contain the Iranian nuclear quest.

Iran and the United States
In February of 1979 an octogenarian charismatic Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini succeeded in bringing an end to the institutional monarchy in Iran and put an end to the last dynasty that had ruled an ancient land. The last shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, went into exile and died in Egypt sometime later. Iran under a theocratic regime embarked on a radical foreign policy that changed for decades Iran’s relationship with its neighbors and with the United States.1

The history of Washington’s relations with Iran in modern times can be really traced back to World War II. While it is true that the United States had relations with Iran before that period, it is World War II that brings America to play a central and crucial role in the international relations of the area. Two of the most important powers in the area had been Russia and Great Britain, and in fact the 19th century history of the area had seen a struggle for influence and hegemony between Moscow and London over the control of Iran. British domination of India made it inevitable for Britain to have an interest in Iranian affairs. In the earlier part of the 19th century, Russia managed to defeat Iran and seize part of its territory later to become Russian controlled Azerbaijan. As the British expanded their influence into Afghanistan and Baluchistan and into the Persian Gulf, the rulers of Iran came to confront two foreign powers that came to shape the international relations of Teheran and Persian leadership for over 150 years.2

In the 19th century the ever increasing British preeminence in the area and its influence on Iranian foreign relations, and certainly Iranian imagination, shaped the dynamics of Persian nationalism and its perception of the world at large. Britain’s role in Iran became even more pronounced as oil was discovered in 1908, following the successful search for it by a British businessman and oil prospector William Know D’Arcy. It iwa during this decade that the Royal Navy had decided to switch from coal to oil to power its warships. London had up to that point relied on American oil from Texas, and as America and Russia had become very large oil producers and exporters, British policy makers did not wish to be dependent on oil from countries that could potentially deny access to what had come to be a strategic resource. Thus the formation of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company and British investments in the oil industry in Iran made the area ever more important for London. Fear of German and Russian encroachments in the area gave London an ever greater interest in the strategic control of oil supplies.3

Britain’s role in Iran gave Iranian nationalists a pathological hatred for the British political presence in the area, and London came to be associated with perennial malevolence toward the Iranian nation. Iranian nationalism came to be buttressed by the Shiite religious antipathy toward Christianity and Western civilization. By 1925 Iran had come to be ruled by a new dynasty, the Pahlavi, whose founder Reza Shah embarked on a policy of military, economic, and social modernization which weakened traditional clerical and aristocratic control of the Iranian social, political, and economic system. On the eve of World War II, as Iran declared its neutrality, Britain from Iraq and the Gulf and the Soviet Union from the north invaded Iran to prevent a Nazi takeover, given the sympathies of many Iranians for National Socialism and Germany. It is worth remembering that Britain had also come to control Iraq, as that country, by 1941 had come to be controlled by a pro-Nazi, anti-British, anti-Western regime. In the 1930’s the most appealing Western ideologies in the area were Fascism and National Socialism, and both political ideologies shaped Arab and Iranian nationalism for decades to come. Liberalism in the area had been a failure.4

The entry of the United States into World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor generated an alliance between London, Moscow, and Washington, that saw Britain and the United States needing Iran as a southern route for military and other supplies to the Soviet Union as it battled the Nazi invasion. The North Atlantic route that was instrumental for the delivery of American and British supplies to Russia through the ice free port of Murmansk had to be complemented with a southern access to the Russian front. The fear of a German and Italian takeover of the Near East by axis forces moving from Libya onto Egypt and the Suez canal and presumably to the oil fields of the area prompted British and American military planners to focus on an area that certainly for Washington had not been a strategic theater.

Reza Shah, the ruler of Iran, was forced to abdicate and his son replaced him. Mohammad Reza Shah, ruled Iran until 1979. Under his autocratic rule Iran became an ally of the United States, a central column in the American and Western containment of Soviet power and certainly an important strategic base for the United States in monitoring the military developments of the Soviet Union in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Iran also became the recipient of US military and economic aid. However much maligned, the Shah of Iran succeeded in modernizing the Iranian economic, social, and educational structure, and in fact by 1965, Iran along with Taiwan was the first country in the developing world to wean itself away from foreign aid.5

As British influence waned in the Middle East, America came to have an ever greater role and thus Iranian nationalism, nativism, and Shiite Islamic prejudices and hostility toward Christianity came to be focused on Washington. Internal Iranian power struggles saw Mullahs, leftist intellectuals and nationalists opposed violently to the Shah. He was forced into exile briefly in 1953 and returned with the help of the Iranian military and loyal supporters, as well as the British and the Americans intelligence service, through a counter-coup against Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh, who with communist support had been responsible for the brief exile of the Shah. The United States’ primary interest in Iran, contrary to what many Iranian and American critics believed was not oil that was a concern for Britain. Washington’s main interest was the prevention of a Soviet move and or influence in Iran. Iran by 1953 had the largest Communist party in the Middle East and possibly the third largest Communist party in all of Asia. The Marxist-Leninist Soviet model of development and its utopian elements appealed to large strata of Iranian intellectuals and nationalists. 6

The Shah began a systematic program of modernization, and by 1965 he had given women and religious minorities ever greater political rights. He thus encountered the venomous opposition of the clerics who had been losing power and influence as Iran became more secular and socially more liberal. The oil boom of the 60’s and 70’s especially after the oil crisis that followed the October war of 1973 between Arab states and Israel, gave the monarch an incredible amount of revenues which he used to increase the rate of structural investments and military modernization. The disruption caused by the incredibly rapid rate of economic growth and subsequent structural disruptions such as urbanization and inflation buttressed the cause of the left and clerical right. The critics of the regime accused the Shah of mostly imaginary crimes against the Iranian masses, Iranian religious values, and last but not least its subservience to the United States and Britain, and that other devil in the Iranian leftist and Islamist Manichean mindset—Israel.

The dynamics of the Islamic revolution in Iran are well known.7 It’s probably the first revolution that was followed by the mass media and received worldwide attention. The destruction of a monarchical order that had lasted for thousands of years in Iran was an epochal moment in Iranian and Middle Eastern history. The charismatic leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini saw a new Shiite theocratic state challenging the United States, the West, Israel, and the Arab world. Soon afterward, Iran was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Iran and Iraq war became the longest and bloodiest conventional war since World War II. Fear of Shiite subversion in Iraq had triggered Baghdad’s invasion in attempting to restore an Iraqi power that earlier had been weakened by the Shah’s foreign policy as Teheran had forced Saddam Hussein to agree to a resolution of border conflicts according to Iranian wishes and interests in 1974. The war saw Iran repelling the Iraqi armed forces and coming ever closer to seizing more and more Iraqi territory and threatening Baghdad. Iran Shiite rhetoric made the world believe that its heroic revolutionary guards had defeated Saddam Hussein’s armies, but this was not the real story. Under the Shah, Iran had built a modern well-armed military establishment that even following the executions of loyalist officers and generals by the clerics, right after the revolution, was able to defeat Iraq.8

Iran today is an aggressive revisionist power bent on the creation of what appears to be a Shiite empire in the Levant and in the Persian Gulf. The genesis of Teheran’s foreign policy has to be located in the clerics’ world view and their immediate political experiences between the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the war against Iraq. In terms of the mindset of the clerics, the Shiite world view and certainly the world view of Ayatollah Khomeini have shaped Iranian foreign policy. Thus the relationship between Teheran and Washington cannot be understood without analyzing the Mullah’s world view that has come to shape Iranian foreign policy above and beyond the normal range of international security concerns that would challenge any decision maker in Iran and its historical security concerns.

The Ayatollah Cometh
At the time of the revolution the global mass media, especially in North America and Europe, gave sympathetic coverage to the claims and grievances of the “revolutionaries.” Ayatollah Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini and Shiite Islam were discovered by the world and then Iran and radical Islam came to dominate many national and international conflicts in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

The Iranian Shiite example was a catalyst for the rise of radical Islamic fundamentalism in the Arab and Sunni world that saw its catastrophic consequence for the United States with the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. This last event came in the wake of the end of the Cold War that saw Samuel P. Huntington challenge the view of a more harmonious world system with his thesis on the clash of civilizations.9 Originally, Huntington’s thesis had been put forward in an article for Foreign Affairs but, in time, it became a larger opus synthesized in a book. Huntington was responding to various hypotheses about the evolution of the international system where some writers thought that with the end of communism the international world was going to evolve more toward a liberal democratic system.10

Huntington was, of course, not the only critic of this liberal perspective. Robert D. Kaplan gave an even bleaker picture of the world that was going to unfold.11 All the same, Huntington’s thesis stood out and became part and parcel of the discourse on the evolution of the international system. His paradigmatic model came to be part of an international narrative. Some of his critics thought that his thesis was dangerous to the extent that it could become a self fulfilling prophecy.12

The Huntingtonian thesis, in some respects, had seen its theoretical genesis when even before the end of the Cold War Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution had come to shatter the autocratic regime of the Shah in Iran and began a confrontation with the United States, Europe, and the Islamic world at large that was to last for decades. Khomeini had a glimpse of a new world that challenged Western liberal democracy, Marxism, and even the Sunni heritage of Islam. He had a Platonic and deific vision of the world yet to come that can be gleaned from his own works and certainly the many volumes written on his political thought and his leadership during and after the Revolution.13

Contrary to the appearances and the wishful thinking of many Iranians who believed and continue to believe that Khomeini was a mere puppet of dark malevolent, conspiratorial forces, the Ayatollah, an astute and consummate leader, endeavored very successfully to establish his vision of an ideal Islamic state. He did so by adroitly using his enormous popularity and charisma in manipulating factions, parties, and personalities, while simultaneously appearing as above politics and blameless for the enormous problems and dislocations generated by the creation of the Islamic republic. He was a very good example of the Weberian model of charismatic leadership.

The ideology which shaped his quest and the fervent aspirations of his followers for a new societal order was characterized by a superficial and simplistic tendency that presented the recent past as outright and undeserved decadence and the future as a promised renewal that sooner or later would be fulfilled in an Islamic utopian state. Secondly, it had an obsessive and pathological anti-liberal, anti-Marxist, anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish strain, elaborated as a mark of separation from an evil decadent West, personified by the “Great Satan,” the United States, malevolently disposed toward Islam. In this demonology, Zionists and Jews occupied a preeminent position. Thirdly, it was streaked with a state driven symbolic egalitarianism that came to shape the demotic appeal to the Islamic community and in turn a basic premise for an incoming renaissance in the Islamic world. Finally, there was an inchoate utopianism grounded in the mythical belief that the rule of the Prophet and his successor, Ali, were the epitome of a just and perfect society and that it was incumbent on all righteous Moslems to build the infrastructure that would facilitate the return to such a divine experiment.

Shiite Islam, the pre-eminent school of Islamic theology in Iran, has always had an active millenarian component with a concomitant expectation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Politically significant millenarian movements are not a new phenomenon in Iranian history. Even relatively recent developments underscore the strength of millenarianism. For example, the Bahais, so much harassed and persecuted in Iran, trace their religious genesis to the claims of one man in the 19 century to represent the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam, who is to return and deliver the oppressed. The belief in a coming Messiah, central to Judaism and Christianity, is even more relevant in Shiite Islam, and it is perhaps this core concept that gives salience to its dogmatic differences with Sunni Islam. “Mainstream” Islam has a very vague and not very well developed concept of a Messiah.

Iranian Shiism in the last five centuries has come to be characterized by a variety of schools and strains ranging from quietism to activism, and latent hostility to a notion of a monarchical state. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Shiite clergy (the term used here in a rather loose sense) attempted to cope with the two related phenomena, modernization and westernization, which in the eyes and minds of Iranians at large became almost synonymous. It was the beginning of a long process, where the clerics attempted to stop modernization as it became apparent that it precipitated secularism.

It is not the purpose of this paper to delve into the intricacies of Shiite metaphysics, mysticism and mythology. There will be, however, some inevitable references to salient aspects of Shiite thought as it has shaped and justified social and political behavior in Iran and in turn clerical rule and Teheran’s foreign policy.

From an ideological standpoint it is the class between Khomeini’s vision and inspirations and ideologies of the other political fractions that set the pattern of conflict after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1979. Hand in hand with an astute clerical class fired by the opportunity for the first time in Iranian history to seize total power, Khomeini began building his Shiite utopia. He had initially the frenzied support of the lower orders in Iran, whose chiliastic yearnings fused with expectations of material gain provided the bedrock of his social support. Days before his coming millions of people claimed in unison to see Khomeini’s face on the moon. The promise of free transportation, electricity, housing and other services cemented the hold that the Ayatollah had on the imagination of the masses.

Iranian Foreign Policy Today
It is the utopian vision of Khomeini, who incidentally was a teacher of Islamic philosophy and government, and his success in overthrowing the Shah, defeating Saddam Hussein, humiliating the United States, and subverting the Arab world through his example for Shiite minorities in the Sunni world that has shaped the foreign policy of the clerical rulers in Teheran. From the standpoint of the Mullahs, certainly the present supreme ruler Ayatollah Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini after 1989, and who constitutionally is the final arbiter of Iranian politics, and not the president as people in the West are led to believe, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a success story. God favored the Mullahs, and certainly all of the conflicts that have shaped the Middle East since 1980 have demonstrated the ever expanding power of Iran and its Shiite vision. By 2014 Iran was on its way to make satellites of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and components of the Palestinian movement—notably Hamas and Islamic jihad. It was bent on building a nuclear capability and all internal opposition, whether secular or even religious had been crushed. Thus Khomeini’s vision in terms of the power and legitimacy of the clerical establishment had been confirmed by how history had unfolded in Iran and in the area. The rise of Al Qaida and later on ISIS, and certainly the so called Arab Spring nearly confirmed Khomeini’s statements at the beginning of his revolution that the United States, Israel, and the West’s power in the Islamic world were on their way out, and the rise of Islamic communities in the West were accelerating the progress of the spread of Islam in the world.

As chaos and instability followed America’s wars in the Gulf, and as Iraq and Syria disintegrated, by 2014 Iran stood to take advantage of the political instability in the Sunni Arab world. The Gaza wars accentuated even more Iran’s preeminent role in opposing the existence of the state of Israel. Constant Iranian threats against the Zionist state merely added even more legitimacy to Iran’s role in the Islamic World as a defender of Islamic rights, regardless of the Sunni rulers’ fears of Iranian expansion in the Gulf and in the Levant.14

The rise of the so called Islamic State in the Sunni-Arab Levant, and the sympathies in the Islamic world for another utopia again favored the Mullahs of Iran who now could even bargain with the United States over Teheran’s help in crushing the rise of ISIS. Again this event confirmed the deific vision of Khomeini in envisioning the success of the Shiite state in Iran. Iran had managed by this time in building up its nuclear capabilities, regardless of American sanctions, Israeli sabotage, and potential Israeli preemptive strikes on its nuclear installations. The Mullahs internationally had the support of both Russia and China. Khomeini’s vision of an Iran free of all religious minorities had been fulfilled. Most Christians, Jews, and Bahais had left Iran, and many strata of Iranian society for economic or ideological reasons supported the regime. A sophisticated quasi-Orwellian propaganda machine imbedded in the mass media promoted the virtues of a Shiite state preparing the path for utopia.

From 1979 onward, regional events in the Middle East had favored Teheran. Relatively large amounts of oil revenues allowed the clerics to avoid dependence on any fiscal intake from the population, thus the security apparatus of the regime did not depend on extracting revenues from the population and thus being beholden to the masses. Iranian foreign policy was thus in the eyes of the Mullahs another chapter in the long and successful history of modern Shiite revolutionary Iran and the stability that marked it as opposed to many of its neighbors, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan for example. The oil Sheikdoms and monarchies of the Gulf could not make any political moves without taking into consideration Iranian power and its ability to subvert Shiite Arab minorities as it was the case in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and farther on in Yemen. Teheran was controlling the appointment of Shiite ministers in Baghdad while saving President Assad’s Syria from a radical Sunni revolt. One of the most successful tools of Iranian foreign policy came to be the Hezbollah party and militia in Lebanon paid and officered by Iranians. Teheran was also shaping Lebanese domestic politics.

An intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and profound Arab and Islamic hostility toward the existence of Israel buttressed Iranian power in the area as Iran’s continuing threats against Jerusalem gave Iran more credibility on the Islamic stage. For the Mullahs of Iran Khomeini’s vision was being fulfilled every day. He had successfully fused together Iranian nationalism and Shiite millenarianism just as much as the Soviet Union had integrated Russian history and nationalism with Marxism-Leninism, and Communist utopia. Perhaps the rulers of Iran should have been mindful of what had happened to the Soviet Union.

Iran and the US after the nuclear agreement
By the end of the summer of 2015, the Security Council members and Germany had ostensibly convinced Iran through laborious negotiations between Geneva and Vienna to restrain the Iranian nuclear development program. One of the more contentious issues surrounding the nuclear deal with Iran was the criticism that U.S. diplomats should have asked for a pronounced change in Iranian foreign policy in the Middle East before signing the agreement. Critics of the deal argued that by removing sanctions against Iran, the U.S. and by extension the powers, missed an opportunity to pressure the Mullahs to curtail Teheran’s support for Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Bashar al-Assad. The removal of sanctions against Iran, according to critics, gave the Mullahs more funds to bankroll their subversive activities in the area. In response to critics at all levels in the American political landscape, let alone the criticisms from Netanyahu’s government in Israel, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry argued that the deal prevented Iran from building nuclear weapons and reduced the chances of violent conflict between the United States and Iran. In fact, according to Obama and his supporters the only other alternative was war.15

One of the most salient criticisms was the fear that Arab states, principally Saudi Arabia would be tempted to build their own nuclear capabilities in response to Iran’s retention of the ability to start again a military atomic program within a generation as the agreement allowed Iran, in the eyes of the critics this possibility within 15 years. The close relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was a reason to believe that Riyadh would have approached Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons. As it was by September 2015 there were fears that Turkey under the ambitious and autocratic rule of President Erdogan would also engage in acquiring a nuclear capability as a response to a potential future Iranian atomic military.16

By the end of September 2015, the Middle East saw an expanded war in Yemen, a direct Russian intervention in Syria, widespread violence between the PKK Kurdish independence movement and the Turkish government, and an ostensible coalition between Turkey, Iran, Syria, and even Israel against ISIS. Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Putin in Moscow with his Chief of Staff and his intelligence advisors, in order to avoid a potential military confrontation between Israeli military intervention in Lebanon and Syria with Russian forces.17 Meanwhile, the various Palestinian organizations ranging from the PLO, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad were confronting evermore Israel through violent popular demonstrations and rocket fire. To cap it off, Islamists were fighting Egyptian troops in the Sinai. If the deal with Iran was supposed to be an attempt at engaging Iran in some form of cooperative behavior with Europe and the United States in resolving Middle Eastern conflicts, that did not seem to be the case.

Meanwhile, from Teheran’s standpoint, the agreement was understood to be only strictly a deal of mutual interest between the United States and Teheran in very narrow terms. On July 18th, 2015 Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme ruler of Iran stated that Iran’s policies in the Middle East when it came to confronting the United States and Israel, were not going to change.18 In fact, Teheran’s regime criticized Saudi rule over the holy places, Mecca and Medina, and asked the world wide Islamic community to remove Saudi rule over those two cities after a construction accident in Mecca that killed over 100 pilgrims.19 About a week later, an even worse accident occurred, where almost 800 pilgrims died in Mecca in a stampede. This gave even more ammunition for the Mullahs criticism of the Wahhabi control of the Holy Islamic sites.20

Some Conclusive Remarks
In retrospect, it is too early by the time the agreement had been negotiated to give a more objective evaluation of the deal between Teheran and Washington, however, in hindsight an observer could point out that very simply, Iran’s influence in the Middle East had not been and is not being curtailed. In fact, the stabilization of the Middle East could not be achieved without the cooperation of the Mullahs of Iran. Whether in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Yemen, negotiating conflict resolution did not seem to be forthcoming. If anything, the deal showed the relative weakness of the United States, and Obama’s diplomatic efforts, as well as the other European powers in confronting the seemingly intractable violent conflicts that range from Libya all the way to the Persian Gulf.

During the same period, hundreds of thousands of alleged migrants and refugees fleeing war and socioeconomic dislocation were invading a Europe that seemed incapable of resolving the root causes of the problem. These can be traced back to the failure of Arab States and Islamic societies in creating responsible and representative governments. Iran had astutely taken advantage of the contextual dynamic of conflict in the Middle East. Teheran’s relationship with Washington was still confrontational, the spirit of Khomeini still haunted the region.End.


1. There is voluminous literature on the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Some of the better books are:
Bakhash, Shaul. The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution. New York: Basic Books, 1984.
Taheri, Amir. The Spirit of Allas: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution. Bethesda, MD: Adler and Adler, 1986.
For a comprehensive insight into the mindset of Iranian decision makers who were involved in the revolutionary dynamics, the best source is: The Harvard University Iranian Oral History Project.

2. For a good historical introduction to the struggle between Russia and Britain, see for example:
Kazemzadeh, Firuz. Russia and Britain in Persia, 1864-1914: A Study in Imperialism. Yale: Russian and East European studies. Volume 6. Yale University Press, 1968. Avery, Peter. Modern Iran. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishing, 1965. Cottam, Richard. Nationalism in Iran, Rev. ed. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 1974.
Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. New York: Kodansha International, 1992.

3. For history of the struggle for strategic control of oil, see for example:
Yergin, Daniel. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power. New York: Touchstone, 1991.

4. See for example: Khadduri, Majid. Independent Iraq, Nineteen Thirty-Two to Nineteen Fifty-Eight: A Study in Iraqi Politics. New York: AMS Press, 1980.  Binder, Leonard. Islamic Liberalism: A Critique of Development Ideologies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939. Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 1983. Batatu, Hanna. The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements in Iraq. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978.

5. For a study of the beginning of the Soviet-American confrontation in Iran, see for example: Kuniholm, Bruce R. The Origins of the Cold War in the Near East: Great Power Conflict and Diplomacy in Iran, Turkey, and Greece. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.

6. For a study of the left in Iran, see for example: Zabih, Sepher. The Left in Contemporary Iran: Ideology, Organisation and the Soviet Connection. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1986. Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran Between Two Revolutions. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982. For primary sources on United States concerns on the Soviet Union in Iran, see for example: United States Department of State—Office of the Historian. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954 Volume X, Iran, 1951–1954, Document 13. Accessed September 30, 2014.

7. There is an enormous amount of material and academic studies on the Iranian revolution, for an Iranian perspective, perhaps the best documents are the interviews with preeminent Iranians who were involved in the revolution and its aftermath. See for example: The Harvard University Iranian Oral History Project.
See also for example: Hoveyda, Fereydoun. The Shah and the Ayatollah: Iranian Mythology and Islamic Revolution. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishing, 2003. Compare also: Taheri, Amir. The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution. Bethesda, MD: Adler and Adler, 1986. Dabashi, Hamid. Theology of Discontent. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

8. For the Iran-Iraq war, see for example: Hiro, Dilip. The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict. London: Routledge, 1990. Karsh, Efraim. The Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2002. Cordesman, Anthony and Abraham Wagner. The Lessons of Modern War, Vol. 2: The Iran-Iraq War. Boulder: Westview Press, 1991.

9. Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

10. See also: Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press, 1992.

11. Kaplan, Robert. The Ends of the Earth: From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy. Newyork: Vintage Books, 1997. Kaplan, Robert. The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.

12. Robert Hunter, American ambassador to NATO and an old Cold Warior, made this point forcefully to me at Franklin College Switzerland during a commencement ceremony in 1995.

13. For an understanding of Khomeini’s thought: Algar, Hamid and Imam Khomeini. Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini (1941-1980). Mizan Press, 1981.

14. For an insight into Teheran’s perception of Israel, see Dr. Morris M. Mottale: Iran’s Clerical Regime’s “Jewish Problem.” Democracy and Security volume 7. PP 258-270, 2011.

15. Gerzhoy, Gene:The Nuclear Deal with Iran Isn’t Enough. The National Interest, August 20, 2015. For the full text of the agreement see Iran’s Nuclear Deal Text:
For a defense of the agreement by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry Cf Edwards, Julia: Obama defends Iran nuclear deal as diplomacy winning over war. Reuters, August 6, 2015.
Weisman, Jonathan: Kerry Defends Iran Nuclear Deal Before Skeptical Senate. The New York Times, July 23, 2015.

16. Rühle, Hans: Is Turkey Secretly Working on Nuclear Weapons? The National Interest, September 22, 2015.

17. “Russia to coordinate Syria military actions with Israel,” Al Jazeera, September 22, 2015.

18. “Khamenei: Opposition to US persists after nuclear deal.” Al Jazeera, July 18, 2015.

19. “Saudis probe deadly Mecca crane collapse, “Al Jazeera, September 13, 2015.

20. “Iran supreme leader slams Saudi Arabia over stampede,” Al Jazeera, September 24, 2015.

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.


Author Morris Mottale is professor of international relations and comparative politics and chair of the Department of Political Science at Franklin College Switzerland.  His main teaching and research interests lie in international affairs, comparative politics, Middle Eastern politics, international political economy, strategic studies, energy, and mass communications.
He has taught in the United States, Canada, and England and has been a research scholar at universities across North America, Europe, and the Middle East, including the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies.  His publications include articles and reviews on international and Middle Eastern politics, as well as several books and monographs.
He is a commentator for the Swiss-Italian language television and radio network on American and international relations.


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