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Territorial Challenges and Iranian Identity in the Course of History


By: Dr. Davood Hermidas Bavand



Abstract: The Iranian Plateau region and the immigrant Aryans were exposed to two kinds of challenges in the course of history: (A) changes of the environment, (B) encounter with other human societies. The challenges of the second kind occurred in the third century B.C., seventh and thirteenth centuries A.D., firstly through confrontation with the Assyrians and Alexander II; secondly through confrontation with Muslim Arabs; thirdly attacks by the Torkamans (Ghaz), the Moghuls and Teimoor. As a result of all these, their identities were exposed to fundamental challenges. Always stressing on the creed of Syrocism which had remained from the time of Hookhashtar, Iranians were all the time lenient and compatible with other races, creeds, languages and communities.



Identity is the process of conscious accountability of every individual, tribe and nation to the question one sets for oneself, from one's past, that is who he is, where he was, what he (it) was and is.

In other words to what tribe, nation and race he belongs, where his main and permanent origin is, what culture and civilization he had, what role he had in the world civilization, what political, economic and cultural stand he has had in the global system, and finally to what extent the values inspired by his political identity affects the materialization of the social, political and cultural objectives of the society in question.

It is obvious that identity is not a constant and unchangeable phenomenon, rather as human societies are constantly in contact and interaction with conditions and changes of natural environment (interactionism) and on the other hand in constant touch and relation with other societies, so the process due to interactions of these trends in the course of time, relatively determines the ethnic, social and national characteristics of a society; in other words it expresses their common features and what their collective identity is. In the opinion of some researches of social sciences, the first embryo of civilization appeared as a response of some societies to the challenges set by the natural environment, particularly the quick climatic changes. That is to say in this connection, the response and reaction of the societies in question have taken three forms: some completely yielded to, and fully conquered by, quick climatic changes.

Some left their original habitats in search of more tolerable climatic conditions. Finally some groups resisted and tried to bring about changes in the unfavourable conditions to make them suitable for living. These groups succeeded in laying the foundation for the first embryos of civilization. In the view of these researches the Nile, Mesopotamia, Send (Indus River) and Yong Tse have taken shape on that basis.

In this connection, the Aryan (Indo-Iranian) tribes who once lived in fertile lands called Aeryana and Aju in the north of Caspian Sea and probably in more northern regions, as a result of the same severe climatic changes, like the spread of cold weather, frost, etc. were forced to leave their original land, and, like successive waves, moved along three different directions. Numerous groups of them set out for the Plateau of Iran, a name which is derived from their original place. In this plateau, which was mostly arid and had little water, the initial inhabitants could not do anything except resisting and trying to bring about relative changes in the natural situation in order to make it more suitable for living. As a result they succeeded in setting into motion the quanta (aqueduct) industry, dam building and barrage and founded one of the hydraulic civilizations. But the hydraulic civilization in question and other creative acts were not immune to the destructive effects of the trend of inter-organism, or the encounter between human societies, and so this civilization suffered from extensive destruction many times. Of course in this connection the geopolitical situation of societies plays an important role.

Being situated at the crossroads of migrations and invasions of many tribes since the beginning of known history until 16th century, Iran has been faced with two kinds of constant extraterritorial challenges: one the invasion of desert dwelling tribes and Bedouins, described as wind civilization, from the north, northeast and east and sometimes from the southwest, and the other threats and challenges of the organized and civilized societies or the supporters of the earth civilization usually from the west.

Hence the Iranian society, in order to be able to preserve its ethnic and cultural identity, was obliged to organize its social and political structure in such a way to be able to respond to two different challenges. In this time process Iran succeeded in establishing bases for its cultural, and to a certain extent, its ethnic unity. But in three special historical junctures, namely 3 centuries B.C., 7th century A.D. and 13th century A.D. the Iranian identity was exposed to serious threats of the dominant foreign forces, consequently some of the cultural elements got barren and unproductive and some others suffered from a kind of imposed stagnation, and as a result the Iranian society suffered from a kind of identity crisis. But this crisis could not last long because it depended on the degree of the Iranians tolerance with respect to the shocks imposed by invaders, particularly in its spiritual dimension. That is because the essence of the Iranian culture, which was based on rationalism and humanism inspired by the creed of Syrocism, and enjoyed so much strength, dynamism and fluidity that the imposed values of foreigners affected only the superficial layer of the culture and could not affect and harm its genetic basis.

Whenever conditions became favourable, the Iranian culture began its development again, somehow absorbed the outer layer and converted the same into its substance and nature or, so to speak, Iranianised it. That is because the two elements, namely rationalism and humanism inherent in the creed of Syrocism, searches for survival and security of a society in cultural co-existence and compatibility as well as in racial, linguistic and religious leniency and not in negation and extermination of rival societies. It is in the light of such peaceful actions and interactions that dynamic cultures exhibit their creativeness and growth and give a new life to human civilization of their times. As it was said earlier the liberal and humanistic nature of these cultures enables them to withstand the severe blows of foreigners, without, however, losing their culture building characteristics, and after a period of imposed dormancy and idleness, they usually and at the earliest opportunity, will educate and embellish the invaders with their own human and rational values. In this way, the dehiscing? factors continue with their evolution and manifestation. The first outside invasion which brought about the unity of Iranian tribes and, at the same time, solidity of their collective identity was the Assyrian invasion. The invasion of Alexander and the government of his successors, made Iranians suffer from an identity crisis, which necessitated reactions vis-a-vis the dominant challenger, which was materialized through the emergence of the Parthians. Subsequently, a millennium long challenge of Romans, emergence of Islam and the Moghul invasion led to other severe crises which demanded suitable responses.


Challengers of the Medes period


Fig 2. Map of Iran Under Median Dynasty


It is possible to get familiar with the identity of people of Iran from seventh century B.C., and that in relation with the military attacks of the Assyrian empires like, Sargon the Second and Asardon. Of course our information from the first waves of Indo Europeans to the Iranian Plateau is scattered. Without any doubt, the Casites, the Goties, the Lalobites, the Mitanis and the Manans and others spent a period of time in this territory and ruled over the natives. In Iranian satires, these people are referred to as Divan or Khovandegaran. 

The succeeding Aryan (Indo-Iranian) groups who arrived from the first millennium B.C., the same as the two major Iranian groups of Medes and Persians, were involved in some clashes with them, and the major part of the satirical dynasty of Pishdadi was spent on clashes with Divan, and the brilliant victory of Tahmooreth over them was the reason why he was called Divband (Devil catcher).  But the Medes tribes, which constituted the first Iranian dynasty, were faced with three internal and external challenges:  the first threatening power was the powerful militaristic empire of the Assyrians, who, using the internal rifts of the Medes tribes, succeeded in imposing its domination on them. The second challenging force were the western Sakas ([1]), who dominated over Caucasus and the north of Black Sea and by means of successive invasions forced the Medes to pay taxes. Finally the third clashes of the Medes were against Divan who were in control of the southern region of the Caspian Sea. 

In order to remove the internal weak points and create sufficient capability to respond to the challenges in question, the Medes followed three methods.  Firstly, through choosing Diox or Diaco as the arbiter to settle the dispute between the Medes tribes, they succeeded in removing the first and the most important weak points.  Diaco's impartial judgment caused him to be elected as the king and the founder of the Medes Dynasty. Secondly, in order to confront the Assyrian empire, the Medes decided to convert their tribal system into settled system. 

In this connection the advent of Zoroastrian religion expedited these important social, political and economic objectives and paved the way for agricultural and irrigation development ([2]). Finally in order to get rid of the Assyrian domination and its great war machines, it was found necessary to devise a superior military strategy.

Achievement and utilization of the above aim was registered in the name of Siagozares or Hookhashtar, and in order to come out of the domination of the Assyrians and stop paying taxes to western Sakas, he took a military and strategic initiative. That is for the first time, he divided military forces into separate groups of shooters, lancers, riders and carriage drivers, and a special role and status was assigned to each in the war arrangement. As a result of this initiative, Siagros acquired a special strategic superiority in the face of powers of the time particularly the Assyrians. Then being united with Babel, in the course of a fateful war, he managed to destroy the Assyrian war machine and occupy Nainava, the capital of the empire. After his triumph over the frightful military power of the Assyrians, he turned to western Sakas, and following his successes not only did he stop paying taxes, but the others accepted the high status of the Medes in the region. Thus through consolidation of internal unity, development of economic and social structure and exhibition of initiative in conventional military system, Siagros managed to respond to extraterritorial challenges and obtain a superior position among the empires of the time.

Fig 3. Map of Iran Under Achaemenid Dynasty


Siagros or Hooshkhatar (Minoochehr or Manoochehr) should rightly be regarded as the hero of liberation of the people of Iran. This forgotten hero of history not only imparted identity, unity and glory to people of Iran, but also liberated the societies of the time from the cruelties of the Assyrian empire. More importantly, he founded a political, social and military framework which was used by his successors specially Cyrus, the founder of Achaemenid Dynasty.

With the appearance of Emperor Cyrus (Kurosh) the Great and establishment of a global government, new human values and principles were devised for administration of the empire and were put into effect. Following Ziagros' method, Cyrus after the victory over the Medes, and in order to preserve and consolidate the internal unity gave a share in the administration of the country to the Medes noblemen, commanders and princes, just the same as he did to Persian noblemen, and did not grant a higher position to Persians. 

Most important of all is that Cyrus the Great, unlike previous and contemporary empires, did not think that the security of the empire lies in extermination, mass slavery of the vanquished, as was the custom among the Assyrians and others, but he founded the real security on the basis of co-existence, social and cultural compatibility, religious tolerance and respecting the rights and special customs of other tribes and release of enslaved tribes [ please see CYRUS THE GREAT'S CYLINDER; Charter of the Rights of Nations ]

Although after disintegration of the global Achaemenid Empire the human values, criteria and principles lost their universal aspect, in the field of Iranian civilization, the creed of Syrocism maintained its position within the relevant societies, and were sources of inspiration for the Parthians and Sasanians in the administration of the empire and approach toward the vanquished.  Syrocism survived in the course of history and, apart from maintaining the cultural unity, proved very effective for Iranising the foreign invaders, even under the most irrational political and military conditions.


Fig 4. Map of Iran Under Parthian Dynasty


With the appearance of the Parthians, a new move was initiated to restore the shaken unity and identity of Iran, caused by the victory of Alexander and his successors. This aim achieved final success after successive fights against Selucids, during the reign of Mehrdad II the Graet, but at that time ie 30 CE, the Parthian empire confronted new extraterritorial threats and challenges. On the one hand, the newly risen Roman empire, having achieved victory over Carthage and after occupation of North Africa, consolidation of its position in Iberian Peninsula and the conquest of the land of Gaule, turned toward the east in order to establish a universal empire and found itself faced with the Parthians. On the other hand the Sites or eastern Sakas or Tooranians, who were themselves exposed to threats of desert dwelling tribes such as Yuyechis from the east, caused some troubles for the Parthians. Then, Yuyechis or Kashanis or Kooshanis [3] who had succeeded to dominate over Central Asia, Afghanistan and a part of India, emerged as a serious rival of the Parthians in the east. Thus Parthians had to respond to three kinds of challenges at the same time, and discharge of such a responsibility required internal unity more than anything else, particularly in view of the fact that the Parthian empire consisted of 18 kingdoms, headed by Ashkani Emperors (Shāhanshāh; king of kings).

The first encounter between the Parthian and Romans occurred during the reign of the Emperor  Mehrdad the Great II, through exchange of emissaries. Then Lucucus, the Roman commander tried to win the support of Emperor Farhad III for the attack against Mehrdad VI, the king of Pantheus, but the Parthians tried to remain neutral in this case.

Being anxious to establish a universal government, the Romans tried to dominate over all territories that had been conquered by Alexander of Macedonia, hence the conquest of Iran and India constituted one of their objectives to advance toward the Orient. The first move in this direction was taken by Pompe, the Roman commander and one of the three members of the Roman Council. Being under the impression of the Caesar's victories in the Gaule territory, contributed to his dominance and superiority, so Pompe embarked on conquest of territories, and after occupation of the Near East came as far as Parthian empire, conducted negotiations and signed contracts with local kings from Armenia to the Persian Gulf.

At this time, Crasus, the third member of Roman Council, who had no shares in the conquests of Caesar and Pompe, after having suppressed the uprising of servants, led by Spartacus, together with seven Roman legions attacked The Parthian territory without any reason, and in the fateful war of Karahi of 53 BCE, the Roman forces were defeated by Iranians under the able  command of General Surena, the commander of Ashk 13th (Orod II).  Crasus and his son were killed in this combat, and ten thousand remaining members of the legion were taken prisoners. This event blocked the road of extension of Rome toward Iran and India. After Crasius' death, Caesar who had thrown Pompe out of the scene and had himself taken absolute power, sought to attack Iran in order to make up for the defeat and death of Crasus, but he was killed as a consequence of a plot.

After Caesar, Mark Anthony decided to implement Caesar's military plan, and to give a new credit to the damaged military prestige of Rome, so he sped toward Iran at the head of a large force, but was defeated by Emperor Farhad the fourth in the course of two successive fights and had to retreat. At the same time the Parthians succeeded in crushing Kushans' aggression in the east and forced them to accept new obligations. Following these two bitter military experiences, the Romans abandoned the idea of establishing a universal government, including conquest of lands seized by Alexander in the east, and were to accept political and military realities of the time. As a result, Octavius Augustus signed a peace treaty with Iran. Both empires endorsed bipolar systems in the world and undertook to respect each other's realms. Even in the case of Armenia which was one of the regions in dispute, it was decided during Neron and Blash the Parthians, that one of the Parthian princes should be the king of Armenia, but that at the time of accession to the throne, the royal crown should be given by the Roman emperor in the course of a special ceremony.

Thus, the Parthians succeeded in ending the Roman challenges and threats and forced them to accept the bipolar system in the world on the one hand, and also to control the repeated invasions of Sakas or Touranians and to make them settle in Zarang, which was later, called Sistan or Sakestan on the other hand. It should be said that Touranians, under the pressure of Yuyechis, had been driven southward. In the course of repeated clashes against the Kushanis, the Parthians managed to block their advance toward the west, so Kushanis were forced to turn toward new territories in the north of India. Furthermore, in the same connection ie control of the Kushanis, the Parthians opened the door of negotiation with China, and the first emissary of Chinese empire came to Iran during the reign of Mehrdad the Great II.

In short, the Parthian dynasty respected and re-established Iranian unity and identity which had been threatened as a result of conquests of Alexander and his Seleucid successors, and in connection with mixing of the Greek and Iranian culture and notwithstanding the attempts made to give a Greek character to Iranian culture, the Parthians managed to put Iranian culture along the proper course and free from imposed values. As the Parthians, like Achaemenids firmly believed in cultural and social compatibility, and also language and racial tolerance, so they did not have any difficulty with free cultural exchange.

At the beginning they even showed some interests in Greek culture and arts, but when they realized that the Romans pretended to be heirs of Alexander and wanted to put forward the small Greco-Bacteria government in support of their claim, they adopted the policy of eradication of Greek between 162 to 200 CE, and tried to consolidate and reinforce the Iranian culture, including re-collecting Avesta.

Most important of all, the Parthians managed to preserve Iranian unity and identity vis-a-vis the new threats of powerful Roman empire, and in the case of cultural exchanges between the two empires, some cultural elements of Iran penetrated into the culture of Rome; for example the creed of Mithraism was taken by Roman soldiers to that empire and was propagate very fast; and was accepted by Roman emperors and aristocrats, and some emperors like Neron and Karakala firmly believed in it, and Mitraist temples and prayer niches were constructed in many places like London and Vienna. Even after Christianity was accepted as the official religion by Constantine, many of the Mithraist beliefs and creeds, like birth of Mithra from the virgin mother, Anahitā, attribution of Mithra's birthday to Christ (Yalda), decorating pine tree by means of illuminating objects as the symbol of sunlight and finally worshipping on Sunday were transferred to Christianity.

The 450-year rule of Parthians was ended by Emperor Ardeshir Pabakan, and the Sasanian dynasty took the destiny of Iran and the cultural and historical mission of Iran in their own hands. Although the Sasanians greatly valued the dynamic criteria of Syrocism and considered themselves to be the heirs of Achaemenids, they chose Zoroastrians as the official religion, so, while adhering to language, racial and social freedoms, they imposed certain restriction on religious liberty, which consolidated Iranian identity even further, and divided the societies within Sasanians into Iran and Aniran (non-Iranian Lands).  But later on this religious fanaticism caused downfall of Sasanians.

It is surprising that after accepting Christianity at the beginning of the same century, the Roman empire was forced to restrict freedoms which were among the pillars of the empire, and, in the words of Jiboun, the same severe religious fundamentalism paved the way for collapse of the Roman empire.


Fig 5. Map of Iran Under Sasanian Dynasty


The Sasanian dynasty like Parthians, faced many extraterritorial challenges and threats from the west, east, northwestern and southeastern sides, that is to say apart from threats by Romans in the west, they also encountered successive threats by the white Huns [4]. In addition to that, the desert dwelling Arabs of Najd, sometimes, particularly at the time of occurrence of internal crises, invaded Oman and Bahrain and other littoral societies of Persian.

At the end of the 5th century, the Khazars which had occupied extensive pieces of land between Khazar (Caspian) Sea and the Black Sea as far as the Balkan borders rendered the Sasanians border in the north of Caucasus insecure, and eventually the Sasanians encountered Tuce or Turk tribes at the end of the 6th century. Generally speaking, the relations between Iran and Rome continued within the same bipolar system of Parthian period, though at the beginning, the Romans considered the political changes within Iran to be a good opportunity for getting hold of the strategic border areas of Nasibin, Karahi and Odesa, and embarked on successive encroachments and invasions during the reign of Emperor Shapur the First. First the emperor Gourdian launched a large scale attack but was killed during the combat against Emperor Shapur.

Then Philip directed his forces toward the borders of Iran, but was taken as a prisoner during a severe fight and regained his freedom against payment of 500,000 Dinarius. Then Emperor Valerian, together with an extensive force consisting of Goths and Germans launched an invasion but he and many of his commanders were taken captive. After these events, fighting erupted between Iran and Rome over the occupation of border regions and Armenia, where the Sasanians had the upper hand in all cases except one, until a hundred year peace was established between the two empires during the reign of Emperor Bahram V (Gur).  Of course until the period of Constantine the fights between Iran and Rome were over strategic border regions, and before that date the Christians of Iran enjoyed full freedom, but following the choice of Christianity as the official religion of Rome, and more than that, the tendency of Tigran, the Armenian Parthian prince toward Christianity and establishment of close relationship between him and the Roman government, the Christians of Iran were regarded as a kind of Romans' fifth column.

Hence since the fourth century CE, the fights between Iran and Rome assumed an ideological and religious character and the believers in, and adherents to, Christianity and Zoroastrians in the two empires were subjected to certain restrictions.

Even the new sects affiliated to Zoroastrians were not immune, and many Manicheans who were subjected to severe restrictions emigrated to China and Ighoor. In Byzantine, the new Manichean sects, like Polichines, Bogomiles and Cataristes found many followers, and in Balkan and Italy many groups were inclined to them. The new sects were thought to have affinity for Iran and were subjected to torture and even slaughter. The relations between Iran and Rome did not have political and military aspect only but had cultural commercial and economic character as well, and in some cases led to severe rivalries between the two sides. For example while both of them were interested in establishment and security of Silk Road, each had its own expectations and approach. Being the main purchasers of Chinese silk, they wanted to have facile access to silk and low transit charges.

But the Iranians wanted to use this matter as a pressure lever, for example, Emperor Khosrow Anushiravan (justly), being faced with a strong rival such as Emperor Justinian, and in order to weaken their financial standing and to get more gold from them to prevent the rise of their military might, raised the transit charges of silk to a great extent. In order to overcome this situation, Justinian demanded the Abysinian seafarers, who were under Roman control, to transport the Chines silk to Rome through sea routes.

In order to prevent the transfer of silk through sea, Anushiravan, by means of a series of naval operations, conquered Sarandib (the present Sri Lanka) as well Yemen, and hindered the silk trade through sea. Thus he did his best to maintain the traditional Silk Road.

In connection with cultural values, in addition to religious aspects, exchange of philosophical thoughts were also involved, and in this connection the Syriac language played an important role for translation of Greek classical works. When Justinian suspended the Greek school in Byzantine, the philosophers of this school went to Iran and began teaching and doing research in Gondi Emperor Shapur University.

Apart from confronting the East Roman challenges, the Sasanians (as was mentioned earlier) faced the white Huns' invasions and threats for a period of two centuries, and the eastern provinces were often exposed to plunders, so they were forced to keep forces to counter the invasions. Although the Sasanians were often victorious in these clashes, Piruz, the Sasanians Emperor, was defeated twice by Akhshun Navaz or Khashnavaz twice; the second time he was taken captive and killed, and as a result of these military defeats the Sasanians were obliged to pay damages and compensation until the time of Anushiravan.  In 560 CE, Tuches or Turks, the eastern neighbors of the Huns, entered the political scene of the region. Through establishing union with Sin Jiboo, the Turkish Khaghan, Anushiravan triumphed over the white Huns, and in this way their political life was ended. But following these events, Tuches who has occupied major part of the Huns' territory, posed a serious threat to the Sasanians empire. At the same time, the Sasanians confronted a new power in the north of Caucasus and the Black Sea, ie the Khazars.

As the Khazars, like the Huns, were a branch of Ural Altay tribe, so they surrounded the Sasanians region in question. In order to hinder their invasion, Anushiravan created Caucasus Canyon. The invasions and inroads of nomad Arabs were also among the difficulties which had to be faced, because their styles, which were based on murder and plunder, were somewhat different from those of the Romans. To hamper and suppress the invasion of desert dwelling Arabs, effective steps were taken by Emperor Ardeshir I and Emperor Shapur II by Arabs known as "Zolaktaf" and Emperor Khosrow Anushiravan; but the Sasanians through confirming and supporting the Emir of Hireh in Khvārvarān province (what is today Iraq), in practice charged him with the task of blocking the invasion of the desert dwelling Arabs.

In short, the Sasanians, through creation of a regular and at the same time advanced administrative, political, economic, military and cultural structure succeeded in resisting and withstanding all the extraterritorial threats during a period of more than four hundred years and in maintaining solidarity and identity of Iran. By means of adhering to a logic which was superior to the logic of foreign challengers, they managed to preserve the grandeur and glory of civilization and culture of Iran in the world of that time. In spite of all these, as the time passed they gradually brought the means of their collapse and decline. They succumbed to, and were easily disintegrated by a not so fatal blow. The factors and reasons that led to the collapse of the great Sasanians civilization can be summarized as follows:

1- During the Achaemenids, the Parthians and the Sasanians periods, the ruling system was based on collective participation of princes, frontier guards, nobles, high ranking military commanders, bureaucrats and Zoroastrian priests. As long as this solidarity and coherence, together with the rights and status of each of the above elements were observed and respected, the above system was successful in fulfilling its mission and discharging its responsibilities, but since the reign of Empeor Hormoz IV when the above principles were ignored the situation changed. The assassination of Grand Vezir Bozorgmehr, inflicted damage on the prestige and dignity of bureaucrats.

On the other hand Emperor Hormoz' ingratitude for sacrifices and pronounced victories of commanders like Bahram Choobineh, Yellasiteh, Siavosh, etc over the Turkish Khaghan and their rise against Hormoz, and finally refusal of the Parthian kings of Armenia to continue their cooperation with the system, all shook the solidarity of the ruling system from within, and created a kind of suspicion, anxiety and pessimism among the authorities. Similar treatment of Empeor Khosrow Aparviz accorded to Gostahm and the latter's captivity, brought about the situation where he, in the course of combat against the Romans, and his victories leading to occupation of Syria, Palestine and Egypt, was badly defeated in the end as a result of suspicion and treason of his commanders like General Shāhin, General Shahrborāz, etc.

The same situation caused frontier guards and commanders to put the local interests above national ones, so that the behaviour of some frontier guards such as Mahavo Souri vis-a-vis Emperor Yazdegerd III and that at a time when cooperation was necessary to thwart foreign invasion, and when a large part of the country was under the occupation of the aggressors, pointed to a rift and uncertainty among the ruling system.

2- Fundamentalism and religious dogmatism together with the increasing role of Zoroastrian priests restricted freedom of thought and expression and social views to a large extent. In addition to that the government's commitment to support the official religion intensified the said restrictions.  This fact caused the government to adopt a harsh stand with respect to new religious movements such as the Manichaeism, Mazdakism and the Kheradan, etc. Above all, the uprising of Mazdak and his supporters following the shameful defeat and captivity of Pirooz by the white Huns, and commitment of Emperor Blash and Emperor Ghobad to pay taxes to them, as well the continued draught and famine, not only induced the Sasanian Ghobad to accept the new religion, but the philosophy of communistic and collective system shook the class frontiers, without, however putting a new order instead. As a result of social confusions and disorganization, Mazdak lost control of the situation as well. Although Anushiravan, through suppression of Mazdakis, apparently ended the confusions, and revived the power and consolidated the position of the Zoroastrian priests, these were merely cosmetics, because the return to the former class system was unacceptable for the low classes of the society, and that is why people welcome any movement which called for a kind of equality.

3- Emperor Khosrow Aparviz's long and unsuccessful wars, which imposed heavy taxes on the shoulder of the society, together with casualties and other destructive consequences of war, cast doubt on the wisdom of the responsible officials of the system. Successive draught intensified the public discontent.

4- Weakening of border emirs and kings who were charged with the duty of thwarting foreign assaults, like the Hireh frontier government, which was responsible for preventing the attack of desert dwelling tribes of the peninsula, paved the way for invasion of other invaders.

5- The mass slaughter of Sasanian princes by Ghobad II or Shirooyeh, vacated the society of Iran from valuable Sasanian personalities. Furthermore, similar treatment with respect to some of the heads of ancient families such as Suren, Gharen, Mehran, Hormozan, etc had created a kind of enmity and revengeful feeling, which prevented them from cooperating at the time of hard times and occurrence of foreign dangers.

In short, damaging of the bases for participation of ruling elites over the empire, onset of instability at class borders due to social and economic movement of Mazdakism, return to, and imposition of, the religious fundamentalism accompanied by its negative social and economic consequences, and finally successive political crises due to the problem of succession, all of which pointed to the existence of deep crises in the Sasanian society, required that fundamental changes should take place in the social and political system of the time. It is clear that under these conditions only a foreign physical blow or movement could take the internal dialectical changes to the explosion point. This possibility appeared with the advent of Islam and its sacrificial mobility, particularly, the announcement and propagation of the values of the new creed in connection with the negation of class system, and the provision of a kind of equality as manifested in the equality of co-fighters and crusaders, all of the above encouraged some strata of the Iranian society to accept the new creed.

Fig 6. The remains of the Shahigan-i Spid (White Palace) / Cteiphone Palace of Sasanian Emperors 

in Khvârvarân Province (today Iraq)


The first signs of the voluntary acceptance of the new creed appeared among the Iranian societies living in territories close to the centre of Islam.

The Iranians ruling over Yemen, who were mostly Mazdaki exiles, led by Bāzān, the Iranian frontier guard of Yemen, were converted into Islam from the very beginning, and chose to cooperate with Muslims [5]. On the other hand, Mishamāhigānis (Bahraini) people, as required by the commercial nature of the society mainly Zoroastrians, where Christian, Buddhist and Jewish traders lived and worked in tolerance, did not see any impediment to accept new religion.

Moreover they predicted some possibilities to use Mecca-Sham highway, hence they were converted into Islam voluntarily. Clearly similar incentives were conceivable among lower classes of the Iranian society under Sasanian dynasty. Apart from that the declared values of Islam in connection with negation of class system and equality among Muslims were compatible with the wishes of the lower classes in the Iranian society under the Sasanian dynasty. In short, the confusion and diversity among the ruling elites of the society and the wide spread discontent of the lower classes hindered the necessary social solidarity to respond to the outside sacrificial challenge. Despite their full superiority from the point of personnel and equipment, they failed to fulfil their duties, and so the defence gates of the country were opened to the invaders one after another.

In the same way, the local frontier guards and emirs, instead of helping the desperate king, focused their attention fully on local matters and interests or got ready to come in terms with the invaders. Thus the elites ruling over the Sasanian Empire must confess in the court of history to have sealed their own doom and contributed to the failure of the great Iranian civilization.

Alas the expectations which in view of the declared values were created for people, particularly the promoters of the new creed, were quite far from the behaviour of the invaders. This conflict was caused by two factors:

One of the promises given to fighters, apart from achievement of the blessing of martyrdom and entry into paradise, was the war spoils taken from the infidels that is why the first tangible experience obtained from the contact with invaders was the widespread plundering of assets and properties of the people of conquered cities which was nothing unusual.  But the more important point was the massive sole of prisoners, as slaves. 

In view of Iranians who never approved of slavery and sale of slaves, and where a class by the name of salves was never incorporated in the structure of their social structure, this custom was regarded as very obscene and inhuman.  For example, one of the items of the spoils of Khaled ibn Valid, the famous Arab commander was the fund received from the sale of 36,000 prisoners as slaves.

More than slavery, racial discrimination of the invaders particularly the Umayyads and to a certain extent Abbasids, is worthy of attention. In this connection, even the newly converted Muslims (Mavali) were not excepted from this rule; these people were used as scapegoats in any encounter between emirs and Arab aristocrats.

The Umayyads caliphs and their commanders did not spare any kind of tyranny and violence. The crimes committed by Hajjaj ben Yousef and the brutality shown by Ghotaibeh ibn Muslim Baheli support this claim fully well. It is said that during the military operations in Eastern Provinces of Iran. Khvārvarān and Asuristān (what is today Iraq), Ghotaibeh bin Muslim Belali swore that he would slay so many Iranians that their blood would flow in a stream to turn the wheels of the mill, and produce flour and with which to bake bread. It was done accordingly, except that the blood clots so much that it would not flow. So Ghotaibeh ordered that the blood should be mixed with water so that the mills would be able to turn and baking bread could be effected!

The Iranians expected to witness new values governing the negation of class system and a kind of brotherly approach among Muslims, but not only did not see the invaders' behaviour to correspond with this expectation, but were faced with another kind of class system together with severe social discrimination, tribal arrogance and despairing the non-Arab peoples. The initial equality and simple life which, to a certain extent were originated from the equality of crusaders and Jihadi fighters, were merely an ephemeral phenomenon, and all manifestations of hegemony and domination appeared very soon.

On the other hand, since religions usually possess uni-dimensional culture and at the some time pretend to be self-sufficient, so when they get in touch with multidimensional cultures a kind of fundamental conflict arises. The societies endowed with multidimensional culture, when faced with such a situation are constrained to shelve some of their cultural elements, leave some in barren state, and adorn others with religious values and somehow maintain in active condition. The Iranians who, during the pre-Islamic period, enjoyed all elements of culture such as religion, science, philosophy and assets such as architecture, music, dancing, etching, sculpture, painting, etc., were forced to negate or eliminate many of the above elements. For example, engravings and statues in structures such as the Persepolis were purely for description and completion of historical events contained in inscriptions. But as the above phenomenon invoked idolatry for Arab invaders they had to be eliminated.

Even books were subjected to the same fate. Abdul Rahman ben Khaldoon in his introduction (Moghaddameh) writes:  When Sa'ad abi Vagghas conquered Iran, he informed Umar ibn Khattab that there were many books in that country and asked what he should do with those books? 

Umar sent the message to get the books washed in water and to burn them because, he said: if their contents were like those of the Quran, then the God's book is sufficient, and if they were contrary to Quran, then it would be that God Almighty should protect us from their deviation effects.   As regards the Alexandria library, Umar replied that everything is in the Holy Book and there is no need for a library.

Another point is that all musical instruments, like harp, organ, chemic (carillon), tar, tambourine windpipe, lyre, and other Iranian musical instruments. played an important role in the social life of Iran, and were played in popular festivities. So these cultural elements and all their dimensions had to be shelved and forgotten. Philosophy was doomed to the same fate too.

In short, subjugation of the national multidimensional culture to the unidimensional culture, together with the negation of specifics and values of the past civilization and the imposed ignorance of its own history, all caused the Iranian society not only to get plunged in, and doomed to two centuries of silence, but to get a more or less obscure identity; that is to say who it was, where it was, what it was and is. In spite of all these, the blossoming elements of the Iranian culture that was in a forced dormant state following sustaining various blows, resumed the path of dynamism and creativeness as soon as the first signs of breathing space appeared. Through translation of various philosophical and literary works, Iranians, little by little penetrated into the world directed by caliphs.

The newly converted heretic like people, managed to take up the helm of the ideological life of the society within a short span of time. Even during the Umayyads, pure Islamic science, like jurisprudence, was monopolized by Iranians, and the intellectual dominance of Iranians roused social hostility, and created so many amazing scenes between Iranian and Arab Shoubieh. The Iranians were founders of the movement of rationalism as opposed to Arab religious dogmatism. The rationalism took up many forms, and implied that one cannot be contented with mere appearance of verses and hadiths, but one should go after one's wisdom, verdict and judgment, and must interpret the verses and deluge in them. The debate and fights between the advocates of hadiths (narrations) and the advocates of verdict commenced from the first few centuries of Islam. Motazeleh and Ashaereh plunged in arguments against each other; Ghadrieh and Jabrieh were at loggerheads, and Gheshriyoons and Bateneyoons emerged. Philosophy and logic entered the scene. Most important of all, with literary and historical renaissance, new horizons to the past history of Iran suddenly opened up, and the past glory shed its full light with complete transparency.

Iranian people realized who they were, what they were and what they should be; kings, commanders and governors sought their legitimacy and genuineness in relations with the past. The Safaris attributed themselves to a satirical personality such as Kaveh, the blacksmith, the Samanids to Bahram Choobineh and the Parthians, Abu Muslim Khorassani to Bouzarjomehr, Ale Buyeh, Ale Ziar, Bavandies, Badouspanies and Shervanshahies attributed themselves to the Sasanian and even Mahmud Ghaznavi to Yazdegerd. 

To put it briefly, the regained identity under the title of Iran, instead of Ajam (non-Arab), was stabilized and consolidated, and through revival of blossoming elements of Iranian culture, Islamic civilization was enriched too. In this connection the role of some personalities are worthy of mention: such as Ibn-e Moghaffa, Vasel ben Ata, Ibn-e Safvan, Abu Nasre Farabi, Zakariyaye Razi, Iranshahri, Abu Rayhane Birooni, Abu Ali Sina, Daghighi, Roodaki, Ferdowsi, Naser Khosrow, Omar Khayyam, etc. In this regard Ferdowsi holds a especially high status. Not only was he effective in restoration of Iranian identity, but played an essential role in creation of cultural unity through compilation of a kind of history for scholars and laymen, so much so that different commanders and emirs with different realms considered themselves to be servants of the unified culture of Iran.

Faced with this literary, artistic, social and political rebirth, which, in its turn, enriched and reinvigorated the Islamic civilization, the Arab caliphs adopted a totally hostile attitude. In fact the Abbasi caliphate, which was on the verge of decline since CE 9th to 11th centuries, relied on Turkish emirs who were prejudiced in defending the official religion and the caliphate, and by this means succeeded in maintaining itself in power, and through Ghaznavi and Saljuqa, in showing a bloody reaction vis-a-vis free thinking, tolerance as was manifest during the Samanis, Ale Ziar, Ale Buyeh, Ale Mamoon as well as other Iranian emirs.

Since the 11th century, religious fundamentalism, dogmatism and severity blocked the path of wisdom and rationalism more than ever before, and forced philosophy to come to terms with theology, and theology to make further compromise with religious commandments and also force Gnosticism to follow religious verdicts. This trend which also illustrated the weakening position of Islamic civilization, made the Iranian culture to suffer from more fatal challenge after the emergence of Moguls.

Mogul's destructive aggression, changed the bases and the framework of Iranian culture and civilization fundamentally. If we take civilization to be the relation of two fundamental concepts namely interactionism and inter-organism, in other words if we take it to be due reactions between man and the environment, as devised and prepared by him on the one hand, and take it to be the effect of the above relations on the manner of relations between man and man or social relations, obviously the systematic extermination of the bases of the first relations would lead to the loss of content of the second relation.

That is to say the Mogul aggression not only brought about destruction of all material and cultural aspects such as libraries, schools, cities, dams and dikes, and in short "all made and prepared things," but it led to elimination of people, such as craftsmen, scholars, literary figures, thinkers and the wise. Many cities and towns were turned into villages. Instead of civil societies, tribal structures extended widely and subdued the declined social texture.

Even many villagers left the rural life in order to liberate themselves from unbounded cruelties of the Moguls and settled at foothills. The Moguls did not bring a religion with themselves and their efforts to impart a Chinese and Christian character to Iran proved in vain. Instead they carried the Persian language and Islam to China, and in the appearance and nature they assumed an Iranian aspect. Some individuals such as Ghazan Khan Eljaytoo and Abu Said Bahadur Khan got dressed as Iranian kings, and through efforts of Iranian dignitaries and ministers, trodden along the path of development and search for justices. In spite of all these, apart from extensive destructions, the Moguls left their style of statesmanship which was based on violence and its various forms such as massacre, and fearful collective punishments, that is an evil heritage the effects of which weighs heavily on our society for centuries.

The Moguls' religious leniency and tolerance caused Christian and Jewish religions as well as some sects of Islam, which had been subjected to restrictions to obtain more freedom of action. Particularly, Shiism, which was faced with an open space, developed extensively. This point is borne out by the emergence of the local Shi'a governments, such as Sarbedari in Sabzevar, Marashi Sadat (plural of Seyed or descendants of the prophet) in Tabarestan, Ali Kia Sadat in Gilan, Moshasheh Sadat in Khuzestan and other regions of Iran.

In addition to that some khaneghahi (dervish) sects and creeds, as a result of newly arisen conditions, gradually abandoned Gnostic humanism and leniency and adopted plundering and militaristic attitude, so that the mixture of these two trends led to emergence of an ideological and religious Safavids dynasty. The Safavids are the first dynasty whose identity is not based on tribal power, but is inspired by special religion and ideology of the time, and that was why, after centuries of political disruption, it succeeded in bestowing political and national identity and unity to Iran. It is amazing that about the same time, thanks to some developments such as renaissance, discovery of sea routes as well as commercial and religious revolutions, founded national governments and launched colonialistic assaults. In this regard, the Portuguese and Spaniards took the first steps. That is why, at that time juncture, Iran of the Safavid period, was faced, apart from the traditional challenges by the Ottomans and Uzbeks, with another kind of threat which demanded a different response, that is it was faced with some pretenders who were equipped with scientific knowledge, creative thinking, mercantile incentives and fleets equipped with firearms. Although at this time juncture, the society of Iran enjoyed political and social solidarity and unity as well as special economic growth, but for certain reasons, particularly the fundamentalist attitude of some people such as Shah-Tahmaseb, it was forced to tolerate the negative unequal effects vis-a-vis the invaders, and adopt a defensive strategy, and even to put up with the occupation of some parts of the territory at certain time juncture.

This state of affairs continued until the beginning of the 17th century when, thanks to wisdom and realism of an intelligent leader, Iran succeeded in putting an end to internal trouble, and in removing the existing inequalities vis-a-vis foreign aggressors, by means of economic development, establishment of modern military industries as well as the extension of land and sea communication routes. It also succeeded in recapturing the lost territories and restoring Iran's sovereignty over the Persian Gulf.

Alas the ways and methods of this leader was not followed up as it should have been, and instead of progressive developments in the field in question, the society of Iran witnessed extension of fundamentalism together with superstition, as a result of which it suffered from gradual stagnation and historical dormancy, which was manifested in the Afghan rebellion. At the same time, foreign powers, taking advantage of the new critical situation, launched aggression. The new empire of Peter the Great was trying its best to convert the Caspian Sea into a Russian sea, and to capture the Caucasus region, which was a connecting link between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, in order to quickly move southward.

Availing itself of every opportunity to invade Iran, the Ottoman empire occupied a large part of the western part of Iran again, and as the caliph and the protector of Muslims, it did not see any objection to sign a contract with Peter the Great by virtue of which to divide a part of the territory of a Muslim country with him.

Sultan Salim, who had obtained the position of caliphate after having defeated and suppressed the Sunni governments and the exile of Abbasi caliph from Cairo to Constantinople, he and his successors used that position for extension of the power of the empire and not for protection of Muslims. The rulers of Egypt were the only Islamic rulers who crushed the Mogul invasion in the course of Eljaloot war, from then on Cairo was regarded as the base and protector of the world of Islam, but none of these records had any significance for Selim and his successors except accumulation of power. On the basis on this logic, the repeated Ottoman aggression against Iran, under the pretext of sectarian differences, was nothing but the struggle for power, and signing of a treaty with Peter the Great to divide a part of Iranian territory was based on the same kind of logic.

Apart from the Russians and the Ottomans, the new occupants of Mazun (Uman) too in the south, taking advantage of the internal crisis of the country, resorted to plundering and occupation of Iranian coasts and islands, and created insecurity in the Persian Gulf and Mazun (Uman) Sea.  Under these conditions when the political unity of the country was broken down and the Iranian identity was challenged on several sides, the appearance of a military genius, who is usually called the last oriental conqueror, caused the political solidarity and the territorial integrity of the country to be restored more than before and the essence and nature of Iranian identity, with its special dynamism, to re-emerge in this liberation combat. In order to ensure the internal stability and the foundation of a long term foreign strategy, particularly vis-a-vis the extending Western danger, the above great personality proposed the union between Iran and the Ottomans, which, however, were not accepted.

One of the main weak points of the country for defence against sea-faring colonial powers, was lack of a regular and permanent naval fleet. So at that time, utilizing internal and external facilities, including foreign experts, a strong fleet was established using international standards of the time and Iran by itself maintained the security of the Persian Gulf and Makrān (Oman) Sea area.

The military and political victories of this great commander, were only ephemeral because after his death and eruption of civil war among his commanders, the society was plunged in crisis and destruction once again. The economic structure and commercial life was completely disintegrated and eroded.

Although after the long and back-breaking internal and external fights, and their devastating consequences, the political and social peace established during the Zand period, albeit in a small and limited Iran, was taken as an opportunity for rest and reinvigorating of Iranian society, lack of constant efforts to exercise an effective sovereignty over large parts of Iranian territory situated in Caucasus, trans-Atrak, Afghanistan and even Khorāsān (as the exclusive realm of Afsharieh) created many political, economic and military problems in years to follow, so much that the foreign policy of Iran during nineteenth century was focused on the solution of this complicated problem, and the efforts of the government of the time in all regions proved unsuccessful and in vain, except in Khorāsān which was restored to Iran.


Fig 7. Map of Iran in 1808

(Before Torkamanchay, Golestan & Herat pacts With Russia & Britain)




Fig 8. Map of Modern Iran after 19th Century imposed treaties

For larger and more detailed map please [ click Here ]


At the beginning of the 19th century, Iran found itself somehow within the political and military spectrum of Europe, and found itself faced with some challenges which were quite different from the previous extraterritorial threats. That is because the pretenders, with scientific and technical achievements, imposed unequal conditions on Iran. Under these conditions, wisdom and logic dictated that a long term and calculated strategy be adopted, and necessary efforts be made to reform the military, bureaucratic and administrative structure of the country so that, firstly the existing inequalities be overcome and secondly sufficient capability be obtained to respond to the existing threats.

Russian military threats against Caucasus and the initial clashes as well as realization of inequalities put Iran at a dilemma: either bringing about structural and fundamental changes or continuation of the status quo, and consequently acceptance of the conditions of foreign pretenders.

In this connection, the initial and limited efforts in Iran to bring about reform in military structure through winning the cooperation of France and Britain did not lead to the intended results, and Iran was forced to accept the tragic consequences of two unequal wars against Tzarist Russia.

Without any doubt, the Torkamanchay pact with its harmful and heavy territorial, financial and political conditions resulting from there, were other warnings for us to make extensive efforts to make up for the past and to prevent further territorial burdens. But the lack of national conscience among the ruling circle of the time; differences and dispassions among princes, countries and elites; vulnerability of the authorities; accumulation of wealth and meanness of the Shah and finally corruption governing over the government agency were all considered among the deterrent factors. That is why efforts made by some well wishing reformers, such as Abbas Mirza and Amir Kabir and others, to initiate military and bureaucratic renovation of the country were thwarted and proved in vein as a result of internal factors.

As a consequence of the inability to respond to extraterritorial challenges, Iran was practically converted into an arena of rivalry for the two neighbors during the 19th century. In this connection not only certain lands (in the north of Aras, north of Atrak, Herat and a part of Baluchestan and Sulaimanieh) were seceded from Iranian territory, and also exercise of sovereignty over Mishmahigan Islands (Bahrain) was thwarted, and some other islands were renamed and occupied, but various other contracts were imposed on Iran and some concessions were obtained. 

Thus national unity was restricted and the Iranian identity was despaired and looked down upon. Under these unfavorable conditions, the only way open was to resort to the diplomacy of play-off, and to intensify the background of competition between the two rivals in order to maintain the status quo and the independence of the country.  This course was followed and acted upon. At the same time constant efforts were made to take advantage of the Third Power in order to reduce the pressure of the two neighbors. This, however, never come to fruition.

More important than all, the Shah and the court that should have been the protectors of national unity and identity and should have fulfilled the mission of the defense of solidarity, were themselves turned into instruments and centers of influence of relevant alien forces. The evil relation between despotism and colonialism caused some reformist circles to come to the conclusion that the only way to get rid of colonialism was to change the political structure of the time. Particularly, telegraph and the press played an important role in the transfer of news and raising the general public awareness, therefore the ground was prepared for the society to take position vis-a-vis the foreign domination. People's negative resistance vis-a-vis the Regie concession was a prelude to their legitimate presence in political and social process, that is a trend which found real manifestation in the Constitutional Movement.

The Constitutional Movement not only provided a political place for monarchy, the powers and responsibilities of the three forces, the necessary rights and freedoms for development of a civil society as well as the necessary instruments for development of a political society, but also the election laws, with due regard to the social and class structure of the society, were drawn up in such a way to guarantee the interests of the relevant classes in a more reasonable manner. But in achievement of its set objectives and principles, the Constitutional Movement came across many obstacles, which follows:

1- Some of the social phenomena which had been rejected and negated in the liberal revaluations of the West were the constituent factors of the Constitutional Movement, owing to the social structure of the society. That was why, as far as the interpretation and implementation of the principles of the Constitution were concerned, there was always a constant serious conflict between the adherents of democratic principles and the traditionalists.

2- The two neighboring powers were never in agreement with real materialization of the principles of the Constitution and their growth. That is because Britain, that Ostensibly encouraged and supported the constitutionalists, in fact sought two objectives: One was taking the court out of sphere of influence of Russia; second using the Constitutional Movement as a means of pressure to force the government to agree to its proposal to divide Iran into two spheres of influence.

More important than that, Britain was well aware that the victory and real implementation of the Constitutional Movement system in Iran would be like lighting a match which would start configuration in Iran. Hence from the point of view of this government, the Constitutional Movement should be like a political framework with barren principles to be used at a certain time junctures.

On the other hand, the Russian government, which in 1905 (one year before the Constitutional Movement) had suppressed and left behind a liberal revolution, knew fully well that the real implementation of the principles of the Constitution would propagate the revolutionary values in the neighboring societies, including Caucasus, so it could not tolerate the real progress of the Constitutional Movement. Hence one of the reasons for the acceptance of the plan proposed by Britain regarding division of Iran into two spheres of influence was to weaken the Constitutional system and sterilize it.

3- Division of Iran into spheres of influence which was carried out one year after the Constitutional Movement, in effect, rendered the implementation of the CM ineffective and in some cases impossible. Even some internal political events which took place after the 1907 agreement, and which was apparently related to the turmoil and sanctity of the CM, was designed purely to deviate the public opinion from pondering on the agreement for division of Iran and its evil effects on the Iranian society. In spite of all these, in view of the fact that the CM had originated from the people's wishes and aspirations, and awareness to achieve political and economic independence and freedom to make decisions regarding its destiny, so its principles and values have always been effective in subsequent political life of Iran. This point is proved and borne out by the positions taken by the first to the fourth Majlis, in the most difficult political times, in order to protect the national interests vis-a-vis the Russian and British policies.

Upon the termination of the First World War and the occurrence of fundamental changes in the structure of the international order, a new horizon opened up on the Iranian front to realize the objectives set forth in the Constitutional Movement. On one hand the principles contained in the covenant of the League of Nations, such as the freedom of people to determine their own destiny, equality of sovereignty of countries and defense of member states on the basis of the collective security system vis-a-vis threat and aggression, apparently denoted negation and prohibition of domineering policies by colonial powers.

On the other hand, the United States, which had practically abandoned the policy of isolationism since the beginning of the century and which had played a key role in the victory of the access of the allied powers to global markets and resources, in this connection challenged the regional monopoly of European powers as the right to use war spoils sought to participate in exploitation of oil resources of the Middle East, including Iranian resources. Some of the Iranian nationalists were strongly in favor of using the U.S. as the Third Power, and viewed the entry of this power in the political scene of the country favorably.

More important than all, the Russian October Revolution, declaration of the new principles by the government about relations with Oriental Muslim countries particularly Iran, including disclosure of secret war time contracts, changes in 1907 treaty in favor of England, rendering null and void all the contracts contrary to the interests of Iran that had been imposed by Tzarist government, particularly cancellation of the 1907 Treaty. The government of Iran which had a different interpretation of the revolutionary government's declarations, by virtue of the decree of council of ministers, demanded all the territories it had by the virtue of the Golestan and Torkamanchay pacts.

The idea was even conceived that the mission sent by Iran to the peace conference in Versaille to put forward such a demand. But the British government disagreed to the participation of the Iranian mission in the conference, under the pretext that it had remained neutral in the course of war, and no opportunity was afforded to set forth the claim. In short all the above events denoted the existence of international conditions favorable for Iran, that is the conditions which promised achievement of political and economic independence, and would allow Iran to play a constructive role in the international scene.

In this very hopeful situation the British government, ignoring the new principles and criteria of new world order, particularly the people's freedom to determine their own destiny, sought to take advantage of the existing political vacuum and to impose its exclusive domination on Iran through the 1919 accord. Of course, this action, which was contrary to the logic of the time, met with internal and external reactions.

In this connection, not only the nationalists and liberal minded people in and out of the Majlis opposed the agreement in question, but also the frontier guards of the country like Amir Moayed Savad Kouhi, Mirza Kouchak Khan and Sheikh Mohammad Khiabani resorted to armed violence against it and its protector government.

On the other hand, the French and the Americans, each for its own reasons, opposed the agreement protesting against the envisaged violation of commitments by the British government in relation with the Middle East, particularly Mosul and Syria. The French regarded this act to be unprincipled hegemony. In the U.S. the Republicans, led by Henry Cobot Lodge, who were adamantly opposed to the principles of Versailles agreement and the American presence at the League of Nations, in the course of 1919 elections, introduced the purport of 1919 as a flagrant violation of one of the principles of the covenant of the League of Nations, and cast doubt on its need. In addition to that they regarded the above agreement to indicate the monopolistic policy of Britain in exploitation of the Middle East oil resources, particularly Iran, and demanded a serious position be taken in this regard.

The Russian revolutionary government regarded the agreement to be a colonial plot against the people of Iran and the fights of the opponents to be an anti-colonial movement. So all the opposing internal and external reactions caused Britain to find other ways and means to protect the interests it had in mind, particularly in the matter of oil. It is interesting to note that the fundamental changes in the foreign policy of the Soviet revolutionary government paved the way for selection of a new method. That is to say, the Bolshevik government, which thought its political survival to depend on the occurrence of labor revolutions, particularly Germany, founded its foreign policy during 1917-20 period on the basis of revolutionary strategy, including the export of values of the revolution. However, the expected revolutions did not materialize and as some revolutions were suppressed, such as Spartacust's uprising in Germany in 1919 and Blocan movement in Hungary as well as others, the Soviet Union replaced revolutionary strategy by defensive strategy and through adoption of a New Economic Policy (NEP) to consolidate its internal position. That is why in the course of negotiations conducted between Chicherin and Lord Curzon, the Soviets undertook not to export revolution to the Indian subcontinent, and to stop their support of some liberation movements such as Barkat-ullah Rao.

In return, the British undertook not to support anti-Revolutionary groups such as white Russians, Dashnaks, Mosavet and others, and not to allow the territories of neighboring countries of the Soviet Union be used for this purpose. Both came to the conclusion that their joint security demanded that strong control governments be established in buffer countries. As a result the coup d'etat government which came to power in Feb. 1921 was also endured by the Soviet Union, and that the government, which was based on individual dictatorial system ruled over the country for twenty years.

Although the developments arising from the First World War created suitable opportunities for furtherance of the constitutional system, the interests of the powers concerned imposed other things. Admittedly during the twenty years after the coup d'etat, the principles of constitutional movement was left in abeyance, but certain actions were taken regarding renovation of administrative, bureaucratic, military, and legal systems and the establishment of communication lines. The measures taken about education, and military service were also effective in providing relative national unity. But if the post-coup d'etat period up to the occupation of Iran by the allied powers is appraised with due consideration of all positive and negative aspects, it will be seen that the disadvantages of the dictatorial system outweigh its advantages for the following reasons:

1- Under such systems, the civil society and the political society do not have their status and significance, and people's lack of participation in public affairs would lead to their lack of awareness with respect to the criteria and principles of democracy and their misconception of the above matters. That is why if at certain time junctures a certain degree of freedom is given, a kind of political and social disorder will often ensue.

2- The rule of law is embodied only in the will of the head of state, that is to say they manifest themselves in his orders and decrees. As the principles of separation of powers and the system of balance and control are not observed so the three institutions merely take up the role of justification and confirmation of the unprincipled views of the leader. It often happens that fateful state decisions are taken apart from the predetermined strategy and regardless of the views, recommendations of experts, authorities and lower echelons officials. An example is the prolongation of oil contract of 1933, which was decided without due consideration of previous stands and legal and financial criteria and arguments of Iranian negotiators, and was accepted by the king of the time amid surprise of all.

3- As the decisions related to the foreign policy are considered to be within jurisdiction of the head of the state, so the principles of compartmentalization and the separate approach with each is not taken by virtue of their importance and, consequently displeasure of one small event penetrates into other fields and will be turned into a kind of political crisis with the country concerned. For example the criticism of two French newspapers against the Shah of Iran in 1937 led to severance of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

In short, superficial criticism of the strong man of the state or of some values cherished by him might easily prejudice the fundamental interests of the state. On the other hand, although dictators apparently enjoy so much knowledge, wisdom, and farsightedness in political, economic, military, religious and other fields that they do not have to consult others, they are incapable of understanding developments in international situation and their repercussions on the trend of internal decision making and public interests. This very fact caused great political disasters for the society.

For example when the non-aggression and cooperation pact was signed between Hitlerite Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, Britain and other powers, being worried lest Stalin, instigated by Hitler, might resort to military operations in the oil fields in the south of Iran, respected and confirmed Iran's declaration of neutrality. In other words a kind of coordination had been set up between the foreign policy of Iran and that of the allied powers. But when Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, the question of cooperation and assistance to the Soviet Union was deemed necessary. As the Iranian railway was the only usable and accessible road at that time so it was inevitable to control it. But there were two ways to achieve this aim:

Either signing an agreement with Iran or its occupation. As the responsible officials of the country at the time did not fully comprehend the developments of the international situation between 1939 and 1941 and their repercussions on the destiny of the country, so they considered the presence of German experts to be the bone of contention, and failed to adopt a correct policy on the basis of the situation that had arisen, as a result the society suffered from the military occupation and its disastrous consequences.

4- In the system in question, the national interests are summarized and defined in the preservation and survival of the government, and any comment about change of the structure of the system on the basis of exigencies of the day, is construed as treason. Taking advantage of historical glories or religious and cultural values are usually distorted so as to correspond with the same purpose.

As the personalities in question usually enjoy historical, religious, supernatural or ideological sanctity and importance, so their words are publicized as axioms and proverbs. Obviously under these conditions, flattery, idolatry, which are themselves the offsprings of opportunism will get widespread, and will become a part of political and social culture of the regime.

5- In connection with the public treasury it should be said that one of the special features of the dictatorial system is to provide for the wishes and needs of protectors of the system. That is why financial corruption, like a chronic disease, will plague the whole system. It is surprising that this chronic disease that pained and overshadowed the country since the beginning of Qajar dynasty, is manifested today in a more pronounced way in the form of requisitioning of the properties for the benefit of the person of the Shah as well as to meet the financial needs and ambitions of military and civilian dignitaries.

6- From the point of view of renovation, the qualitative life of some of the institutions are closely related to the destiny of the head of state. In the dictatorial systems in question the army lacks an independent personality and status and does not depend on itself, but is often active in the form of royal camp, etc, and if by any chance its relations with its commander is cut off, the existing military structure with all relevant organizations will appear helpless in the scene, and will be easily exposed to purge.

7- Finally as far as the growth and development of political society is concerned, as was stated above, the dictatorial system has no affinity at all with the institutions of political society such as parties, groups etc, and regards them as a challenge for itself, unless they are used as puppets and defend the interests of the system. On this basis, the political and military personalities enjoying social standing have no secure room in a dictatorial system, particularly the personalities who have acquired a heroic status as well as social popularity and acceptance and who are not tolerated at all and must be eliminated from the scene. So dictatorial regimes must be considered as a kind of salt desert in which personalities cannot grow and blossom forth.

Thus the 20 years reign of Reza Khan, not withstanding the rise in the number of educated people, was politically helpless, so much that at the time of events of Iran, it stretched its hands to those who had been educated in the Qajar school such as Ghavam-ul-Saltaneh and Dr. Mohammad Mosadeq in order to overcome great political difficulties in the face of the challenges of foreign powers.

In short, the mission of the 20 year dictatorial system, from the point of view of its capability to respond to the challenges of foreign powers, must be judged and appraised in the light of its final episode, namely military occupation of the country. As we know the military occupation of a country is usually regarded as a political and military disaster. Under these conditions, national and human duties necessitate that all factions and groups set their internal differences aside, and tread along the path of unity in the face of foreign aggression, as has been done by many small nations such as Finns and the Greeks who displayed epic bravery and resistance when faced with attacks launched by the Soviet Union and Italy.

But at the military invasion of the allied powers in Sept. 1941, no spontaneous movement was seen and no declaration of jihad or cry of resistance was heard. Even some people, considering that the military occupation has brought the downfall of the dictatorial power, sought to present this national and historical disaster as a blessing.

In short, during the time interval between the two world wars when a dictatorial regime reigned over the Iranian society, thanks to the favorable international conditions, relative scope was brought about for consolidation of the relative power of the central government and implementation of renovation plans in certain fields. Furthermore, some elements of renovation programs, such as ratification of new education system, compulsory military service, compilation of civil, penal and trade laws, together with extensive training to make people acquainted with their past history were put into effect.

Although the above actions were used, to a certain extent, to legitimize the dictatorial system, they did not have any effects on or recognition of historical identity. On the contrary, practical cessation of the constitutional movement, failure of the civil society to be realized, and the most harmful of all, the individualistic government resulted in the decrease of the government's ability to confront the extraterritorial challenges in the economic fields, particularly the manner of granting concessions in relation to the national interests, and in the matter of confrontation with foreign aggression we came across a bitter experience which was not at all compatible with the historical identity of Iran and which cast a kind of tragic humility on the glorious past of Iranians.

The military occupation of Iran, in the way it was done, proved this fact that a government which has not risen from, and does not depend on people and which has dictatorial nature, when faced with fateful events such as extraterritorial challenges, will often be incapable and helpless to withstand foreign aggression. Particularly when people's freedom and participation to determine their own destiny, which were regarded as the logical outcome of the constitutional movement, were under the pretext of necessary efficiency to renovate the society, suspended and stopped, and when one of the most important pillars of renovation programs ie the new army had the lowest degree of capability and military value to defend the country, so the philosophy of existence of dictatorial system even under these circumstances is ponderable and its historical mission to elevate the national identity will be very doubtful. Its collapse may even be considered a blessing, even if this event results from a national and historical catastrophe such as foreign aggression and occupation of the territory. The public expectation from such events was enjoyment of usual freedoms. With due regard to these public wishes, the occupying powers decided to meet this need and at the same time guarantee their own interests in the occupied lands. In other words, as their own interests required that everything should be quiet behind the front, and in this regard for people to enjoy an order different from the previous dictatorial system so they found it necessary to grant certain degrees of freedom.

As a result, the exchange of views about the problems of the state which was itself the outcome of the relative freedom of the press, parties, groups and, to a certain extent, elections, enabled deputies including minorities to make decisions in favor of the people, not withstanding all restrictions and bottlenecks. When the trend of the war proceeded in favor of the allied powers some of them decided to obtain new concessions in their sphere of influence. For example the Soviet Union believed that it had borne the burden of war more than others, so it should have a dominant and effective presence in east Europe. Furthermore its real political interests in the Far East be secured, and finally in the neighboring countries in the northern parts of the Middle East, such as Turkey and Iran, it should enjoy some economic and strategic privileges; that is to say, the Turkish government should, apart from restoring Ghares and Ardahan Provinces through revision of Lusanne agreement, accept effective Soviet participation in Bosphorus and Dardanelle. In addition to that, the Soviet Union should benefit from the oil resources of the Middle East, particularly that of Iran.

The Soviet demand for exploitation of the oil resources of the north of Iran, as against the British oil interests in the south of Iran, was regarded as an implicit division of Iran into two economic spheres of influence. Obviously the Soviet demands in relation to Iran and Turkey for various reasons, particularly strategic ones, could not be accepted by the Western allied powers. Furthermore, the national interests of Iran under those conditions prevented it from having a favorable view toward the Soviet demand.

So the government, taking advantage of the relatively free atmosphere governing the legislative power, and resorting to political maneuvers managed to get a bill ratified by virtue of which the government was forbidden to grant any concessions to companies and governments until termination of the war.

Although the decision of the Majlis corresponded with views of the Western allied powers, it pointed to the fact that the Majlis with minimum degree of freedom and even under the conditions when the country was under occupation of foreigners, could make such an important decision which was beneficial for the country. This could not be the result of anything except the existence of a civil society and a limited political society. Of course, the Russians, which regarded the Iranian government's reaction to be dictated by imperial powers, sought to achieve their aims through other kinds of pressure, and caused certain secessionist movements in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. In this case too, the relatively free political climate enabled some political figures of the time to appraise the international situation and the stands of the powers concerned correctly and to take appropriate decisions with respect to extraterritorial challenges. The question of Azerbaijan as the first item on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council attracted the attention of the entire world. In addition to that, the initial respect, dignity and sanctity of this world organization warranted due attention to decisions of the world body. Furthermore, the conclusive stand taken by some of the permanent members of the Security Council in this regard, which heralded a cold war and a special message to the other side, could not have been ineffective. In this connection the active, effective and successful diplomacy of Ghavam-ul-Saltaneh, led to the solution of the problem in such a way that the Soviet forces evacuated Iran, and the problem of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan was solved and also the Soviet Union could save face; that is to say an agreement was signed about oil the rejection of which by the Majlis was a foregone conclusion.

Furthermore in connection with the rejection of the said agreement, the Majlis charged the government to take new actions to vindicate the legitimate rights of the Iranian nation from the former Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This decision of the Majlis caused a minority within the Majlis itself to organize campaign to achieve political and economic independence through nationalization of the oil industry. This sudden move which was taken by means of relative internal political freedom, and more than that, the political, economic and legal changes arising from World War II, succeeded in taking advantage of favorable international situation and achieve the following results:

1- Crystallization of the new imperative principles in the U.N. charter, including stress on materialization of the principle of people's freedom to determine their own destiny, promotion of international cooperation along the economic and social developments of the members of the world community, particularly the developing countries and their legitimate rights to utilize their internal resources in an optimum manner through any legal way, including nationalization of resources, a trend which had been resorted to in some European countries, including England to provide for their national interests.

2- Eruption of the Cold War and division of the world into two political and economic blocs with conflicting ideologies, which created suitable opportunities for those governments which wished to follow the negative balance policy or the policy of non-alignment in its later sense. In addition it was thought that their anti-colonial fights were, in principle, confirmed by the Soviet Union, and at the same time restricted the military retaliation of the colonial powers concerned.

3- Differences of opinion between the British and American governments regarding unrestricted access to global resources and in this connection putting an end to monopolistic exploitation of oil resources in some parts of the world. This problem had been raised up and discussed in two international conferences on oil but had not reached a mutually agreed result. At this time it resurfaced as a kind of conflict in some parts of the world.

4- Emphasis and propaganda in some political circles in the U.S., including some groups in the State Department, for support of nationalism against communism, and in this regard confirmation and support of national and popular governments, particularly in the neighboring countries of the Soviet Union.

5- Revision of legal and economic bases of the oil concession contract on the basis of equal share: This question began at first between American oil companies and the government of Venezuela, then was incorporated in the oil contract with Saudi Arabia and others. But the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company refused to include it in the negotiations.

While focussing on exploitation of possibilities in question, Iran was trying its best to put its political strategies on the international principles, norms and methods, because it firmly believed that it could more easily achieve the objectives it had in mind through recognition of the international criteria and standards to be able to correctly exploit them, which amounted to neutralization of the legal basis relied upon by the other side, rather than through challenging the standards and norms governing the international relations. Without any doubt the legal and political successes of Iran in the international fora were due to the fact that from the very beginning the National Front discussed its legitimacy and rightfulness according to the Charter of the U.N. and the international custom. That was why not only in the International Court of Justice, and in the local courts of Venice, Rome and Tokyo it proved its point, but also substantiated the propriety of its action in the Security Council as well.

Although the National Front, supported by people and taking advantage of international opportunities, succeeded to a certain extent in achieving relative legal and political victories, due to diversion and contention within the internal elites, as well as plots and measures of challenging foreign powers, its efforts were rather fruitless. Of course the moves of internal opposition factors (the court, part of clericalism and the left faction), which played an essential role in the Front's failure, was not an isolated phenomenon and were connected with international reaction.

That is to say that some of the relevant foreign powers which were, apparently at two ideological poles, from the point of view of adoption of realistic policies were moving toward a mutually agreed target, and these common interests were also reflected in the political stand and directions of the affiliated internal groups. In this connection the position of the Soviet Union could not be summarized as a clash between a colonial power against an anti-colonial movement, which was expected by nationalists. Rather the problems were appraised and decided upon on the basis of choice between two rival imperialistic governments on the one hand, and the manner of effects of the victory of nationalists on the creditability of the Soviet Union on the other. That is why in the opinion of the Soviet Union maintenance of the status quo in Iran, including the dominant presence of Britain in the Persian Gulf and monopoly of exploitation of Iranian oil, was preferable to America, as an imperialist, powerful and challenging government, to succeed Britain.

Furthermore at this time juncture, the U.S. had taken up the mission of containing the Soviet Union and was trying to consolidate this policy. In addition to that, the Stalinistic system of the time, regarded suspiciously the national and popular movements which were out of the control of Moscow, because it thought that the destiny of these movements to be ultimately determined within the framework of interactions of the capitalist powers of the West. More important than that victory of these movements were in fact tantamount to weakening and elimination of social and political status of the local communist parties, and finally the correct implementation of the law of nationalization of oil industry would rule out the possibility of renewal of the request to obtain oil concession in the northern region of Iran. Stalin's death not only did not bring about any change in the Soviet stand, on the contrary, Malenkov's declaration of the policy of peaceful co-existence with the West reinforced the previous policy. As is seen the Soviet and British policies in relation with oil and the National Front were directed toward the same aim, that is maintenance of status quo in favor of Britain, and this conformity between the two governments were more transparent among their internal agents, which in the political jargon of the time was called Tudeh-Oil Union. That was why both the British and the Soviet governments were active and jointly involved in the overthrow of Dr. Mosaddeq government and the coup d'etat of Aug. 19, 1963. But taking advantage of other international possibilities of the time ie rivalry between the U.S. and UK, and its impact of the positions taken by internal factions had their own special reasons.

In any case through the changes made in favor of the U.S., the three governments cooperated to make the movement fail and to bring about the collapse of the national government of the time. Of course, at the beginning, the stand of the U.S. was close to that of the nationalists because both wanted to change the status quo in connection with the oil industry, and that was why they agreed, in principle with nationalization of that industry. But as regards the limit of changes to be made within the nationalization, differences of opinion and even conflicts occurred.

The changes the Americans had in mind were not expropriation of the UK and the rejection of its interests; they were, rather, termination of the monopolistic exploitation of oil resources of Iran and accepting participation of the U.S., as it had been done earlier in the case of oil producing countries situated on the red line such as Iraq, Kuwait and others. Hence when Britain accepted the principle of participation and equal sharing in relation with Iran, there was not any difference of opinion. But the Iranian nationalists who had an exaggerated view about rivalry between the U.S. and the UK did not think the American support of Iran to be of short duration, and expected different results from oil industry nationalization, while in the opinion of the Americans the logical result of the principle of nationalization could not be anything except incorporation of the rule of equal sharing in the future oil agreement. That is because acceptance of the criteria favored by Iran would mean ignoring the principles and rules governing over the relations between oil companies and the oil producing countries, in other words disruption of the international system governing over activities of oil companies. As the new situation, changes made in the previous situation, were not, as was said earlier, confirmed by the nationalists of Iran, and as they still insisted on their views regarding vindication of national rights, so they as troublesome political phenomenon had to be eliminated from the scene.

This purpose could be achieved within the country and through internal agents. Apart from the unity of the traditional right and left, the secessionists of the National Front also joined the unholy alliance and staged the coup d'etat of Aug. 19.

In any case the national oil movement was another political and social surge toward revival of the sterilized social and political values of the Constitutional Movement in order to change the political, social, economic and cultural structure of the Iranian society, consistent with the progressive logic of the time, and achievement of a kind of life accompanied by unity, creativeness, honor, acquisition of identity, and a worthy place in the international scene commensurate with the past history, civilization and glory, and the geopolitical importance of Iran.

But this time, this constructive and dynamic move had also failed as a consequence of the fundamental effects of the political culture of the ruling elites (weakness of national conscience, absence of political unity) and also foreign plots.

Aug. 19, had its own special consequences:

The short period of manifestations of civil society and the political society, including freedom of opinion, freedom of expression and activities of political parties and groups came to an end and were put under control.

The principles of constitutionalism which were going to manifest themselves in the political life of the society were changed to the dictatorial system. Patrimonial system with all its ramifications appeared with full force, and as demanded by its very nature, paved the way for extension of the culture of idolatry, together with historical and metaphysical sanctities prevalent in the traditional societies. With special stress on following up the realistic economic and political policy under the title of "positive nationalism", it inculcated a kind of regime of neo-patrimonialism, and that was why it declared renovation of the society to be its main objective.

The psudo-modernistic policy which was prescribed and controlled by above caused social classes to be somehow influenced by the power fabric and social and economic plans of the government, so that during the renovation process some social groups appeared and some other social groups which were attached to the traditional production methods were either weakened or disintegrated. Some parts of the capitalists, being closely related to the center of power, enjoyed a considerable growth together with a great deal of influence which was above the law. But this attachment did not mean that they had a share in political power.

In other words, the above classes, though by nature attached to the government and court, enjoyed minimum political power. Along a long term pseudo modernistic strategy, the Shah decided to reduce his reliance on the traditional pillars of the society, such as landowners, land feudals, clerics, bureaucrats, that is the factors that had played a part in the Aug. 19 coup, and to find new fulcrums among farmers, workers, technocrats, the military, women and the middle class. The programs presented within the framework of the White Revolution, particularly the land reform programs reinforced this view. In connection with this purpose, implementation of the policy of movement of the elites, for the purpose of elimination of class borders and participation of competent persons from the middle class within the elites was emphasized and publicized. Although the Shah succeeded, to a certain extent, in changing the traditional bases of the system, he achieved little success in creating new power bases, because without a balanced development of political society, the policy of movement of elites not only cannot favor the regime but may be turned into a challenging force after a while, particularly in view of the fact that among the preconditions of developments, attention should be paid to basic elements in social structure specially the middle class which seeks to participate in renovation and removal of restrictions from the political structure. In any case the social conditions of the regime did not possess this point at that time. This matter caused a rift between the government and social classes and strata, including the new middle class, and disharmony in social classes and strata, which should have directed the real path of renovation.

As a result, a large spectrum of members of the new middle class were not satisfied with the lack of democratic institutions of the suppressive regime, the increasing inequality and the financial corruption governing the elites all of which originated from the dictatorial nature of the government; they regarded them to be inconsistent with the logic of development and always acted against it.

On the other hand, although the land reform program was rather successful as regards commercialization of agriculture, extension of capitalist relations in the society and elimination of the power of the landholders, it failed in creating a social basis in villages through reinforcement of a rural middle class, considering that the rural middle class in the political participation, mainly is influenced by and follows the urban classes. This vulnerability was intensified particularly upon the onset of the wave of migration from villages to towns, which began after the land reform.

In addition to that, the method of land reform and the inability of rural cooperative societies were among the factors that contributed to the failure of the plan.

On the other hand, increase of oil income and intensification of nature of collectorship of the regime, led to further independence of the government from the social classes in the matter of renovation. At the same time, it widened the gap between the government and the society and weakened the elements that were considered key factors in the growth and development of the society. Apart from that the increase of revenue led to large scale purchases at different levels particularly the army, which in itself brought about the means of financial corruption. Finally increase of revenue in question led to decrease or cutting off the financial dependency on foreign powers.

At the same time, payment of large financial aids to some industrial and developing countries such as Egypt, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and UK as well as to some international institutions, accompanied by promotion of the OPEC as the "fourth power," all caused the government of the day to feel a kind of independence, to adjust its previous dependencies, and even in some cases, to criticize its supporting powers and to demand a more active role in regional and international scenes, little realizing that the systems that have the record of severe dependency and who owe their survival to the support of foreign elements, and at the same time lack popular support, are very vulnerable and lack sure and reliable instruments for challenge. That is because the defensive and security institutions of the system suffer from the same nature of dependency and vulnerability. In this connection even the Imperial (Shahanshahi) ideology which sought help from historical glory, was unable to incite the sense of sacrifice in people, and so could not appear as a strong, dynamic and progressive ideology, and win people's and society's support in emergency cases and at the time of occurrence of internal crises.

When the system ties itself with past glory, then people will take it as an incorrect exploitation of the past to consolidate the personal government, and the legitimacy of the regime would be prejudiced. That was why people wished to evaluate the authenticity of this claim not only in relation with historical glory but in the lights of the Aug. 19 episode as well. As a result, not only legitimacy could not be obtained through establishment of relations with the past, but it reduced the popularity of the historical glory in the eyes of people as well. In other words the coup d'etat of Aug. 19, like the Democles Sword, weighed heavily on the fate of the regime, and many of its decisions, even when they were mixed with independent nature, were viewed with special pessimism and with due regard to unpleasant memories of Aug. 19.

Even those foreign powers which were involved in such political events, when they do not consider the behavior of the regime to conform with their interests, they would take advantage of the same weak internal and political legitimacy as a means to change the behavior of the regime or to overthrow it altogether. Historical experiences have revealed that when dictatorial systems which take advantage of historical, national and metaphysical sanctities to perpetuate their political existence, when they fail in their declared economic and political objectives, then the public dissatisfaction would not only be directed to the political nature of the ruling system but also would severely impair the traditional beliefs of the society and little by little a kind of crisis of identity will be created in the society. It is interesting to note that the more dictatorial governments fail in their internal and external programs, the more they will resort to historical and metaphysical sanctity in order to make up for their weakness of legitimacy, and as a result the behavior and methods of the system will take up a violent form. They ignore the fact that in a world which is based on increasing solidarity of human societies, such political and social attitudes cannot last long and sooner or later will be exposed to fundamental transformations. It is clear that if systems of neo-patrimonial kind achieve success in economic and social fields, not only they would feel less need to resort to historical and metaphysical sanctity, but they would declare the victories achieved to be the legitimate basis for continuation and consolidation of individual dictatorship. Even as a comparison they would consider the victories achieved to be higher than historical glories, and a great deal of propaganda is launched for them.

Of course in this regard, the alleged objectives will be achieved with success if the current dictatorial method is adjusted in proportion to the logic arising from the new social and economic development and renovation, and ground is prepared for public participation, particularly of the middle class in administration of public affairs. If the government uses the successes achieved for intensification of the individual government rather than for participation of the public, then without any doubt the inconsistency of political structure with the economic and social logic, would expedite the downfall of the regime, particularly when the interests of the foreign power concerned accord with such a change.

As was said earlier, increase in the oil revenue and its economic, social and to certain extent political consequences caused a widening gap between the Shah and the middle class of the society. Not only the achievements were put above the past glories but the hegemonic strategy of the regime was taken as a historical necessity to achieve the national objectives. But the claim in question, which was inconsistent with the political and social values of the civil society, caused the middle class to be influenced by other identities which were derived from views other than hegemony. These attitudes which were derived from liberal, national, anti-imperialistic, religious and irreligious views, led to a fundamental revision of the political and social structure of the time, without getting engaged in a serious debate as to the establishment of a successor regime. The bitter experience of Aug. 19 coup d'etat induced everybody to concentrate on the overthrow of the regime, a trend which led to the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution.

Without any doubt the Islamic Revolution of Iran which was victorious, thanks to peoples' efforts and participation of political groups of the time, whether the supporters of traditional Islam, modern Islam and national and leftist groups, had one common objective, that is the overthrow of the Shah and creation of a new atmosphere for establishment of a system arisen from people in the direction of achievement of real political and economic freedom and independence; ie materialization of aspirations which had been followed since the constitutional movement but had been aborted due to the foreign interference and their internal agents.
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The first decade after the Islamic Revolution was full of turmoil. During this period the nation of Iran, in addition to difficulties and some internal problems, was faced with extraterritorial challenges, the climax of which was the eight-year Iraqi imposed war. Being under the impression that owing to deficiencies and internal crises in Iran, the weak defense due to the extensive purges in the army together with the economic sanctions and the political isolation imposed from abroad, the opportunist enemy thought that it would be able to achieve the greatest military, political and psychological victories in the shortest possible time and with the lowest costs, and then to obtain leadership of Persian Gulf states. But in spite of inequalities in the matters of arms, finance and politics, the young people of this land, thanks to sacrifices and martyrdom, succeeded in driving back the enemy as far as the internationally recognized borders, and in achieving great victories, forcing him to accept defeat and ask for peace.

The memories of the fighting of Iranian youths are eternal and the Iranian nation, under any condition, owe them a great deal.

Since the end of the eight-year imposed war new developments have taken place which have had global repercussions and left an impact on all countries of the world, particularly Iran. After disintegration of the Soviet Union and end of the bipolar system, the geopolitical importance of Iran has doubled, and consequently valuable opportunities from strategic, political, economic and cultural points of views have been created. On the other hand, challenges have appeared which demand logical, measured and realistic responses.

In a general view, three trends, namely globalization, regional conversion on the basis of common historical and cultural points, and tribal differences each contains promises and warnings. From a more limited point of view, regional problems require other appraisals. On the one hand the markets of the newly independent countries of Central Asia require their special attention, and in this regard neighboring countries have their special privileges. Urgent need of these countries to attract foreign capital and technology has intensified rivalry. The question of transfer of oil and gas of this region to the world markets has sharpened the competition of the countries along the route. Finally the Caspian Sea has been suddenly changed from a quiet and isolated sea into a new center of energy vis-a-vis the Persian Gulf and its legal regime has been found to be necessary.

On the other hand the war stricken Afghanistan has been found to be the center and arena of its neighbors and far away powers. Some countries seek establishment of a safe transit road to Central Asia, access to the gas sources of this country, its political control in relation with their security including the problem of Pashtunestan, and that is why they regard it as their own backyard.

Some try to propagate their own religious and ideological values there and benefit from the results. Finally some people are interested in security and tranquillity of this country and in its constructive co-existence with its neighbors, and are worried lest a fundamentalist, divisionist and troublesome government may be imposed on it. The problem of the future of northern Iraq has led to some expectations and doubts. Owing to its special strategic importance and rich energy sources, the Persian Gulf has been the focus of attention and the center of vital interests of many states.

Access of some of the countries in the region to nuclear arms and means of their transportation including inter-continental missiles have created serious security concerns. The stands of big powers vis-a-vis the above problems have set forth certain challenges which require measured and realistic responses. Without any doubt, the quality and the manner of the responses in question would depend on the degree of development, unity and solidarity of the responding countries.




[1] Western Sekas were one of the Indo-European (Hindu-Iran) tribes, who dominated a large area at the west of the Caspian Sea, and created a powerful empire stretching from sixth century BCE. to the second century CE. But at this date they were defeated by Sarmats, another branch of Indo-European tribe. Eastern Sekas resided in the north and east of the Caspian Sea, and are referred to in Shahnameh as Touranians.

 [2] Regarding the date of advent of prophet Zoroaster, there are differences of opinion.  Some regard his advent to coincide with the reign of Dariush the Great.  But as his edicts and commands, particularly his emphasis on agriculture denotes a transitional social and economic period, so without any doubt he appeared at the beginning of establishment in about 1700BCE.  

[3] Kushanis or Keshanis were one of the Indo-European (Hindu-European) tribes who established a great empire during the first three centuries CE The realm of this empire comprised a large part of Central Asia, Afghanistan, and north of India. During the reign of Kanishka I, in the first century CE  this empire reached its climax, and was one of the four great empires of the time, along with Parthians, Roman and Chinese empires. Until the end of their rule, the Parthians were sometimes at war and sometimes at peace with them. Kushanis were instrumental in dissemination of Bhudism in Central Asia. Kushan empire was deposed by Emperor Shahpur I, the Sasanian king.

[4] The white Huns set out from the north of the Great Wall of China to Central Asia and then Afghanistan in the fifth century CE, and after exterminating the remnants of Kushanis dominated over the entire Afghanistan and a part of India, and created some trouble for the Sasanid, and even triumphed over Piruz, the Sasanid king in the course of two wars. But toward the end of the sixth century, Khosrow Anushiravan, made use of entry of Tuces or Turks into the eastern region of Hun territory, and by means of a military alliance and joint attack put an end to the political life of Huns.

[5] After the victory of Abyssinians over Seif Ben Ziyazan and the occupation of Yemen, Seif Ben Ziyazan came to the Iranian court and asked for help from Anushiravan. Anushiravan dispatched a force composed of released prisoners and under the command of Vahraz to Yemen. After disembarkation on the coast, Vahraz the Dailami commander, ordered that all ships be burnt. Then he declared that there was no way to return, so the only way was to fight and achieve victory. In the course of a bloody fight they defeated the Abyssinians and expelled them from Yemen. But as Yemen was strategically important for Iranians, particularly for control of Bab-ul-Mandab, so they stayed in Yemen, and some frontier guards were appointed by Sasanians to control that land. At the time of advent of Islam, Bazan was the Iranian guard of Yemen. In the opinion of some people, Salman Farsi was among the Mazdaki Iranians residing in Yemen.



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