Iran is a large country populated by over 70 million people. The ancestors of the modern Iranians entered the territory of the country in nearly 900 BC. Currently, its population includes diverse cultural and ethnic groups – Persians constitute the majority population that dominates in multiple spheres of performance, while Kurds and some other ethnicities do not play a significant role in the government and economy.
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The Persian Empire achieved the peak of its development during 553-640 BC, and when it was captured by the Arabs in the 5th century BC, the Persians were far more civilized than its conquerors. For a long time, they largely influenced regional politics, but the domination of Persian culture started to decline in the middle of the 13th century when Mongols destroyed Baghdad. After this, the lands were invaded by Safavids who converted Iran into Shi’a Islam, one of the non-mainstream Islamic branches, and it marked the beginning of Iran’s separation from the Arabic world.
Nowadays, Iran remains one of the most powerful countries in the region and largely influences other Middle Eastern states. It managed to gain an influential position through oil production and development of nuclear weapons, “a process that the United States believes is well underway” (Palmer 262). Moreover, the export of the Islamic revolution remains one of the central elements of Iranian foreign politics, and it nurtures the tension between Iran and the USA.
The development of Iranian nationalism commenced with the advent of the colonial era. The unsuccessful attempts to modernize the government and economy, as well as the excess involvement of the West, triggered the development of opposition movements. White Revolution was one of the biggest reforms in shah’s Iran. It aimed to increase industrialization, improve economic, and social structure.
Although the middle class, supported the changes and westernization, a lot of Iranians, especially those who respected traditions and religion, we’re against them. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the initiator of the anti-religious reforms, was the ally of the west but, at the same time, he tried to attain greater national independence. In this way, he contributed to the discontent of both his foreign allies and the Iranian conservative population groups including clergy.
The internal conflicts achieved their peak in 1979 when the new constitution was approved, and the clergy was endowed with political power. Prior to the revolution, religion was not integrated into the country’s politics until Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic revolution, obtained power – he turned Iran into “the first Islamic theocracy of the modern era” (Palmer 264). The USA did not approve of the new constitution. Moreover, the new Iranian government “vowed revenge against the United States” (Palmer 272). As a result, the relationships between the two countries deteriorated even more.
The Iran-Iraq war which had started in the 1980s aggravated the controversies between different political forces especially regarding the issues of the direct involvement of clergy into governance. During this period, Islamization of the society and deliverance from the Western influence was Iran’s primary political goals. Islamic norms were integrated into various aspects of social life. Moreover, Iran “inspired attacks on Western targets,” and, through encouraging extremist activities, provoked multiple conflicts in the region (Palmer 274).
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Although Iran condemned the September 11 attacks and actively participated in the regulation of the situation in Afghanistan, the USA continues to regard the country as a potential threat due to the existing evidence of Iran’s supporting terrorism.
Palmer, Monte. The Politics of the Middle East. Belmont, CA: Thomson, Wadsworth, 2007. Print.