Iran is one of the ancient and enduring civilizations that have abundant intellectual variety and depth. It has had significant political impact on its neighbours and the world in general. Its history is rich and has a lot to tell from the times of Prophet Zoroaster to the period of ancient Persian Empires, and Iran’s nuclear standoff.
Iran shares a common culture, a series of dynasties and ethnic diversity. Iran was known as Persia until 1935 when it adopted its current name. Iran is also an Islamic state that sits on an area of 1.648 million square kilometres.
It is mostly a desert with a theocratic government and more than 60 million people. The early Persian Empire was an intimidating terrain with plateaus and mountain ranges. Arabs, Mongols and Turks also constantly invaded it.
The major interest with Iran arose when they discovered oil in the 20th century and those who were interested were countries like Russia and Great Britain. The United States also expresses interest in Iran’s oil reserves and largely influenced the governance of the state. United States and Britain organised a coup d’état in 1953 to oust Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and subsequently Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi took power.
Iran become close to Washington who provided military and economic aid until the 1960s. Iran then developed a strong army with the help of the British and American defense programs.
Although Iran is an Islamic state, it has experienced increased Westernization despite criticism from the clergy on secularization.
It started with disharmony among the hereditary monarch-Shah- in the 1960s. In 1970s, Shah Reza Pahlavi had to deal with strong opposition orchestrated by an exiled spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Pahlavi had to leave power in 1970 due to this and Khomeini succeeded him.
Khomeini was mostly anti-American and did not support the West. This is the time when Iran became an Islamic republic.
Iran inaugurated a new constitution that required the president to be elected and serve as the head of government. However, the supreme authority came from the clergy who could appoint the commanders of the armed forces, chief judge and other high ranking position holders.
Ties With America
The overthrown Shah went to the United States for medical treatment but this also led to protests from Islamic students to return him for trial in Iran. The United States did not act on this. Subsequently the students and military attached the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 50 people hostage.
The hostages were held for 444 days and plans to rescue them failed. This situation stressed the relationship between America and Iran. The hostage situation ended when Ronald Reagan became the U.S. president and saw to their release.
The War With Iraq
In the 1980s, Iran fought Iraq for eight years. The war began due to rising tension with its neighbor. It was Iraq who invaded Iran in 1980 over a border dispute in the Shatt-al-Arab waterway area.This war largely affected Iran, and there were so many casualties. The estimated number is 300,000 to two million but the exact number is unknown.
Leadership After the War
Since the takeover by the clergy, the leadership mostly remained conservative. There were small attempts by moderates to Westernise some of the institutions but this did not achieve much. The conservatives had already advanced their agenda due to being in power.
Iran and Nuclear Installations
Iran was also been mentioned in negative light when they set-up nuclear operations and failed to disclose the same during international inspections. There werefears that Iran is developing nuclear weapons but they strongly denied this. They insisted that their drive towards nuclear was peaceful and aimed to build an atomic power station.
The United States consequently suspended trade with Iran in 1995 over this and over claims that it supports terrorist groups. The tension with the United States built over time especially due to its plans to pursue nuclear weapons. This was further heightened when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.
In 2005, a hardline mayor of Tehran became president and continued the nuclear project. The president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repudiated the Holocaust and made anti-Israel comments. He constantly gave controversial remarks.
In 2006, Iran made enriched uranium. The world called for the cease but that did not happen and sanctions were hence imposed. Iran greatly suffered because of this and because of declining oil prices. As a result, the support for Ahmadinejad weakened.
In 2009, Ahmadinejad still took office with a landslide victory. He beat a reform candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was the former prime minister. Mousavi cried foul and the supports of both candidates took to the streets to protest.Some of the protesters lost their lives, including innocent bystanders.
In the 2013 presidential election, Hassan Rouhani won, and he promised to restore Iran’s relationship with the world.
In 2015, Iran held talks with six world powers on its nuclear strategy, and they came to an understanding to limit Iran’s programs. After the talks, the European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, was happy about the decision with Iran and sanctions were lifted.
The deal was a provisional agreement that had facts and figures and was a great leap.