Iran History

By | January 9, 2023

Iran – national flag

Iran National Flag

The flag was adopted in 1980 after the revolution the year before. The green-white-red flag has been known in Iran since the 1700’s, and the tricolor pattern dates back to the Constitution of 1907. The Arabic inscription around the white stripe reads “God is great”, a total of 22 times. In the middle is the new state emblem, the basic element of which is a strongly stylized rendering of the word Allah.

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The former national flag was the same color combinations, with a lion with a sword in the middle with a sunrise in the background, hence the name “shir-e khorshid”. The present flag stands in stark contrast to the former, as the present has an Islamic meaning, whereas in the past it was Persian.

Iran (Prehistory)

According to a2zgov, Iran is rich in archaeological remains, not least due to the monumental construction activities of the Achaemenid great kings in e.g. Persepolis and Pasargadae. While these monuments have always attracted the interest of travelers and researchers, the earlier periods, Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, are only in the 1900’s. have been the subject of systematic investigations. Until the fall of the shah in 1979, Iran was one of the countries in the Middle East that attracted the most archaeologists from abroad. In particular, expeditions in the 1960’s and 1970’s helped to map Iran’s earliest periods. Danish archeology has also been involved in the exploration of the Stone and Bronze Ages in Iran, for example through the expeditions to Tepe Guran and the Cave Island Valley in Luristan.

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The high mountain ranges of Zagros and Elburz are intersected by several valleys, which more or less cut off from the outside world have given people good living conditions. Remains from the oldest Stone Age with an age of several hundred thousand years have been found in these areas.

The oldest peasant cultures date to 7000 BC. and are found as small villages in valley areas, eg Genj Dareh. In the southwestern province of Khuzistan, bordering the Mesopotamian river plain, systematic studies of relics from 8300-3500 BC. gained great importance for the understanding of the development of the first villages and urban communities. The areas of Deh Luran and Susiana lie outside the so-called fertile crescent, but nevertheless appear to have been important for the breeding of cereals and the breeding of animals. A selection of suitable cereals was a prerequisite for a successful outcome of agriculture in the area.

During the 5th and 4th millennium BC. Iran became more and more involved in the Mesopotamian cultural circle, due to an increasing need for trade in commodities over long distances. Iran could supply the budding Sumerian community with metals and wood as well as several attractive rocks, such as steatite. The development of the east-west-going trade route, later known as the Silk Road, can probably be traced back to this time.

The significance of the metals is seen through the development of the art of casting, well known in the Luristan bronzes. In the Bronze Age, approximately 3000-1200 BC, large urban communities in Iran often emerged as a result of the trade network that eventually also connected Mesopotamia with the Indus culture. The main explored cities are Hasanlu, Godin Tepe, Tepe Yahye, Tell Malyan and Tepe Sarab. Cemeteries in the mountain areas have been the subject of great archaeological attention due to the beautiful bronzes. In the region up to the Caspian Sea, a special ceramic tradition arose at one time, where vases were made in the form of animal and human figures, the so-called Amlash terracotta.

Iran’s pre – Islamic history

From around 1000 BC. Iranian tribes gradually populated Iran, where the highly developed Elamite civilization already existed in Khuzistan. The two Iranian tribes that came to possess the western territories, the Medes and the Persians, are mentioned in the annals of the Assyrian king Salmanassar III in 835/834 BC.

The Medical Empire

The Medes already controlled from around 900 BC. the eastern part of the Zagros Mountains and expanded to the west, bringing them into constant conflict with the Assyrians. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, who in addition to the Assyrian annals is the only surviving source for the history of the Medes, the Medes were gathered under one kingdom by Deiokes (approximately 700-647 BC); however, since several medical chiefs appear as tributaries in Assyrian annals from this period, most scholars consider it more likely that Fraortes (647-625 BC) united the medical tribes into one kingdom. He died during an attack on Assyria, after which his son, Kyaxares, became king. During the reign of Fraortes, the kingdom was ravaged by violent attacks from Scythian tribes, but Kyaxares managed to liberate the country from this equestrian people, and he created peace and stability.

Historical overview
7000-tfKr. Earliest urban cultures.
600-tfKr. Medical tribes are united into one kingdom.
612 BC The Medes conquer Nineveh and thus Assyria.
558-529 BC Cyrus II the Great. The Persians under the Achaemenids subjugated the Medical Empire, Asia Minor, and Babylon.
525 BC The Persians conquer Egypt.
522-486 BC Dareios 1. the Great. The kingdom is consolidated. War against the Greeks.
331 BC The Achaemenids are defeated by Alexander the Great.
323 BC Alexander dies. The Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty rules in the eastern part of the kingdom.
100-tfKr. The Parthians conquer almost all of Iran and Mesopotamia. Wars against the Romans.
224-241 AD Ardashir 1. The Sasanian Empire is founded.
636 The Persians suffer defeat to the Arabs at Qadisyya.
1055 The Seljuks take over the secular power of the caliphate.
1256-1353 The Ilkhanids conquer Baghdad in 1256 and control Iranian territory.
closed of 1300-t. Timur Lenk rules over Iran. The Timurids ruled in the eastern parts of the country until the 1500’s.
1501-1736 The Safavids control Iran; Shia Islam becomes state religion. Repeated wars with the Ottoman Empire.
1588-1629 Abbas 1. the Great; the power of the safavids culminates.
1736-47 Nadir Shah. Extensive looting expeditions, including to Delhi 1739.
1800-t. Interference from Russia and the United Kingdom.
1914-19 Iran declares itself neutral in World War I; the southern parts are occupied by Great Britain.
1925-79 Pahlavidynastiet. Iran is being modernized.
1941-46 Iran occupied by the Allies.
1951 The oil industry is nationalized; Mossadeq was overthrown in a coup two years later.
1979 The Shah was ruled. Iran becomes an Islamic republic under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini.
1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.
1989 Khomeini dies. Rafsanjani seeks to improve Iran’s relations with the outside world.
1990’s Iran partially isolated after accusations of being behind international terrorism.
2006 Iran announces that it is in the process of enriching uranium.

In coalition with Babylon, the Medes destroyed the Assyrian Empire and conquered Nineveh in 612 BC. The conquerors divided the Assyrian empire, and the Kyaxares gained the real Assyria and northern Mesopotamia; in advance he had annexed the area of ​​Fars. Later, he subdued the kingdom of Urartu in present-day Armenia and attempted to penetrate Asia Minor, where he clashed with the expanded Sound Empire. At the conclusion of a peace, the river Halys was recognized as a border, and the alliance was sealed by marriage between Kyaxares’ son Astyages and the daughter of the sound king. To the east, the kingdom was extended to the borders of Bacteria either under Kyaxares or under Astyages.

Almost nothing is known about the organization of the kingdom, but it must have been divided into provinces as administrative units, as the title satrap, provincial governor, was taken over medically by the subsequent Persian dynasty. Some of the chiefs probably also had the title of king, as the fellow kings were called “the king of kings”.


With Astyages, the Middle Kingdom collapsed when another Iranian tribe, the Persians, led by Cyrus II the Great defeated them. The Persians first appear in history in 834 BC, when Salmanassar III received tribute from kings of Parsua, which is located on the plateau north of Kermanshah. In 692 BC. King Sennacherib made a campaign to the southeast against Parsumash, a Persian-dominated area that must have been the present Fars. This area was the starting point for Cyrus’ expansion. He was of the Achaemenidsgenealogy, but there is no historical evidence of the founder of the dynasty, Achaimenes. Tradition (Herodotus and the Bisutun inscription) tells of three rulers between Achaimene and Cyrus: Teispes, Cyrus I and Cambyses I. In Cyrus’ cylinder inscription found in Babylon, Cyrus II mentions his predecessors as great kings of Anshan. This was the Elamite name for Fars, so it is likely that the Achaemenids had power there from around 700 BC. approximately 640 BC defeated the Assyrian king Assurbanipal Elam, and Cyrus I became vassal of the Assyrian Empire until it fell to the medical advance, and the father became a medical vassal state.

When Cyrus II had succeeded his father, Cambyses I, he defeated in 550 BC. with the concurrence of the other Persian tribes his grandfather, Astyages. Thus, Cyrus had united several Iranian tribes under his authority. This was the beginning of the Achaemenid dynasty approximately 200-year dominance of the Near Orient. In 547 BC. King Croesus of Lydia attempted an attack on the new great power, but was defeated by Cyrus, who thus became lord of Asia Minor, including the Greek states here. In 539 BC. the Babylonian Empire fell and Cyrus kept his entrance into Babylon, greeted as a deliverer by the priests of Marduk, because the last Babylonian king, Nabu-naid, had wrecked Marduk in favor of the moon-god Sin. To the east, Cyrus had expanded its territory to include Bacteria, Gandhara, and the highlands west of the Indus. To the northeast, Jaxartes (Syr Darja) formed the border, but here the country was ravaged by attacks from the Saks, who were a Scythian nomadic people. In the battle against one of these tribes, the Massage Therapists, Cyrus fell after creating the first superpower the world has ever seen.

The administration of the empire continued largely according to the medical principles of statehood of the provinces, but Cyrus added a new dimension to his rule by pursuing an extensive policy of tolerance towards the subjugated peoples who could retain their own customs, including the religious ones, provided they paid their taxes and on demand provided military assistance. Thus, he won the gratitude of the Jews by allowing them to move home from the Babylonian exile and by contributing financially to the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. It is therefore understandable that Cyrus as the only non-Jew is called the Messiah in the Old Testament. Cyrus’ son, Cambyses 2., completed in 525 BC. his father’s planned conquest of Egypt, which was the last independent superpower in the Near East. In 522 BC. revolt broke out in Fars, but on the way home to fight the dead Kambyses by accident. According to the Bisutun inscription and Herodotus, Cambyses had secretly had his brother Bardiya (Gr. Smerdis) killed before the voyage to Egypt, but a medical priest, the skinny Gaumata, knew the secret, and acting as Bardiya, he seized power on Cambyses’ death. Seven Persian princes, including Darius, killed the usurper, and Darius seized the kingdom. Recent research, however, has pointed out the improbability of the tradition of the fake Bardiya. Most scholars today believe that Dareios with this story obscured the fact that he himself was the usurper and had come to power by the assassination of Cambyses’ brother, the rightful heir to the throne.

Darius became king in 522 BC. and spent a year fighting the revolts that followed his accession to the throne throughout the kingdom. Thereafter, Darius used his powers to consolidate the kingdom inwardly and secure the borders to the east. He was an excellent organizer and politician, but his success suffered a scorching defeat during the Revenge and Conquest of Greece at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC (see Persian Wars). Under Darius ‘rule, Zarathustra became a state religion, although he continued Cyrus’ policy of tolerance of the occupied territories. Xerxes, Darius ‘son with Cyrus’ daughter Atossa, succeeded in 486 BC. his father and successfully defeated Egyptian and Babylonian revolts; the planned uplift of honor by a campaign against Greece, on the other hand, turned into a catastrophic defeat, after which the Persian ambitions to rule Greece ceased. Xerxes spent the rest of his reign in the capitals of Ekbatana, Susa, and Persepolis, until he was murdered as a result of harem intrigue. The following three kings, Artaxerxes I, Xerxes II, and Darius II, were all rather weak, and it was only because of the prior efforts of Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius that the kingdom was resilient enough to survive. During this period, the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta fell, and the Persian kings intervened by supporting soon one party, soon the other financially.

Artaxerxes II had many difficulties to contend with. His brother, Cyrus, revolted and led Greek mercenaries right into the heart of the Persian Empire, but himself fell in the Battle of Kunaxa in 401 BC. The Greek writer Xenophon participated in Cyrus’ campaign and has described it in Anasasis. Egypt revolted and seceded. The conflict with the Greeks flared up again, but the Persians consolidated their power in Asia Minor and in Cyprus at the Peace of Antalkidas in 387 BC. Artaxerxes’ son, Artaxerxes 3. Ochos, took power after a brief succession, after which he assassinated all possible rivals. He succeeded in suppressing revolts in Asia Minor and Phenicia and re-establishing rule over Egypt, but in relation to Philip II, the expanding king of Macedonia, he made the mistake of not supporting Athens’ resistance. Artaxerxes was assassinated by the eunuch Bagoas, who put Arses (338-336 BC) on the throne in hopes of becoming the power behind him. But Arses became too independent and therefore also murdered. Bagoas then made Darius III king, and he immediately cleared Bagoas of the way. Darius fought a new revolt in Egypt, but the beginning to the end came when he lost to Alexander at the Battle of Granikos in 334 BC. Persepolis fell to Alexander in 331 BC, whereupon Darius fled, but was killed by the Bactrian satrap Bessos.

Community building

The Achaemenid community was a mixture of many peoples and tribes, each retaining their religious, cultural, and linguistic distinctiveness. The Persians’ own language, the so-called Old Persian, had no written form until Darius I had a cuneiform developed for the account in Bisutun of his actions as regent. As a working language in the administrative centers of Fars, it was mainly used in Elamite, while Aramaic was probably used in the rest of the bureaucratic system and as a letter language.

The traditional Indo-Iranian caste system consisted of three classes: warriors, priests, and peasants or shepherds, but the system was crossed by clan and tribal affiliations. The kingdom’s noblest posts, including the governorships, were occupied by members of the highest nobility, while less important satrapies were led by native chiefs. The organization of the kingdom was pyramidal. The common people enjoyed personal freedom, as the labor force was largely free, although slaves also existed. The women participated in working life and could even be chairmen of chess with male workers.

The individual territories also largely retained their own laws, although the Grand King’s decrees had precedence in the event of contradictions. The main duty of the satrapies was to pay the taxes levied by the central government. But these were more reasonable than in the Assyrian or Babylonian period, as Darius I had instituted an assessment of farm performance as a basis for calculating taxes. All except the Persians themselves paid taxes to the administrative centers, where wealth piled up, even though there were large expenditures on administration, army, court, road system, etc., and further significant funds were used to support irrigation projects and agricultural expansions. The latter was entirely in Zarathustrianismspirit. This religion was also of the Achaemenids, at least from the time of Darius. The Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda is mentioned as the only god in the inscriptions of Darius and stands as the one who endowed Darius with power, that is, as a legitimation of royal power.

Alexander the Great and the Seleucids

In 330 BC. Alexander had completed the conquest of the entire Achaemenid kingdom, but he did not change the organization of the kingdom. In the Persian tradition, the tradition of the Achaemenids was falsified or disappeared due to the great upheavals and destruction, so that only Darius I and Darius III appear here. In the Pahlavil literature, Alexander was nicknamed “the cursed” because of the mischief he caused. His ideas of a fusion of Greek and Persian culture led to large settlements of Greek and Macedonian soldiers, especially in Iran and Mesopotamia, the creation of Greek cities and mixed marriages. A new age, the Hellenistic, began. Alexander died in 323 BC, and the vast empire he had amassed quickly split in the power struggle between his generals.

Seleucus I gained power over the entire eastern part of the kingdom, but as early as 304 BC. he lost control of the eastern provinces of the Indus to Chandragupta Maurya. From then on, Seleucus concentrated his attention on the western parts of his empire, which at his death included Iran, Mesopotamia, northern Syria, and western and southern Asia Minor. The Seleucids pursued a distinctly Hellenistic policy, but despite numerous urban foundations and large-scale allocations of crown estates, the immigration of Greeks and Macedonians remained meager and even declined significantly from about 200 BC. Growing discontent among the indigenous peoples led to uprisings; thus the Parthia seceded approximately 245 BC, and in Bacteria was established in 239 BC. an independent kingdom under a Greek king. With Rome’s beginning expansion to the east, the Asia Minor possessions were also lost in 190 BC.


The Parthian Empire was created when the Iranian tribe the Parnians under the leadership of Arsakes invaded the Parthian satrapi. The Parnassians assimilated into the population and took over the Parthian language, a Northwest Iranian dialect, and Zarathustraism as religion. During the first kings of the Arsacid dynasty, the struggle against the Seleucid Empire was waged with varying degrees of success, but during Mithradate’s I succeeded in bringing together almost all of Iran and Mesopotamia under Parthian rule. During the reign of Mithradate II (124-87 BC), Parthia experienced its heyday with economic and power stability and peaceful diplomatic relations with the two world powers, Rome and the Han Dynasty in China. An attack from the Saks to the east was averted, and the Saks instead settled in Sistan (Sakastene).

The Parthians retained the Iranian traditions of state administration, but were more loosely organized, with the individual vassal kings and princes having greater independence and the central government correspondingly less power. The religion of the Arsacids was Zarathustraism, but like the Achaemenids they showed great tolerance for other faiths and were very open to Greek culture, which exercised considerable influence until 10 AD, when a sideline from the Atropaths (Azarbaidjan) replaced the ancient Arsacid mainline, and an Iranian reaction to Philhellenism ensued.

After the Roman victory in 190 BC. over the Seleucid Antiochus 3. Megas became Asia Minor’s area of ​​interest, resulting in a conflict with Parthia. It lasted as long as the Parthian Empire lasted, and was mainly about the supremacy of Armenia. One of the great successes of the Parthians in the wars that flared up from time to time was when in 53 BC. under Orodes (56-37 BC) defeated the Roman army at Carrhaeunder the leadership of Crassus, who himself was killed. In 20 BC. a peace was established in which the Euphrates was recognized as a border, but the Armenian question was not resolved, and the wars were renewed under the emperors Tiberius, Nero, Trajan, and Septimius Severus, with a weakening of the empire as a result. At the same time, there was a slow dissolution of the already not very powerful central government. The last Parthian king, Artabanos V, admittedly had a not insignificant success in the battle against the hereditary enemy Rome, but was defeated and killed in 224 when the Persian great king Ardashir rose up against him.

The Sasanids

With Ardashir replaced the Sasanidsthe Arsakid dynasty, whereby the Persians, after almost 500 years of Parthian domination, again became the ruling Iranian tribe. The new empire was expanded to include the land from the Tigris in the west to the former Kushana Empire to the east. The Romans attacked the state, but they were defeated, and Emperor Valerian captured in 260 by Ardashir’s son, Shapur. A description of these events can be found in a contemporary inscription on an Achaemenid building, Kabe-i Zardusht. The same source describes the extent of the Sasanid Empire and provides an overview of the Zarathustrian fire temples that Shapur had built. Zarathustraism was now the state religion; Orthodoxy was formed under the great theologian Kartir, who also built a well-organized ecclesiastical system that was closely associated with the state. The loosely organized Parthian state apparatus was replaced by a centralized regime in which the main governorships were occupied by members of the Sasanid dynasty who were directly accountable to the king, who assumed the title “king of kings of Iran and non-Iran”. The first two Sasanian kings built many cities and supported irrigation and agricultural projects, and the cultivated land thus had an extent that has not been surpassed either before or since. Mht. the social structure the people were divided into four classes: priests, warriors, scribes and the common people, and this structure was supported by the church. The first two Sasanian kings built many cities and supported irrigation and agricultural projects, and the cultivated land thus had an extent that has not been surpassed either before or since. Mht. the social structure the people were divided into four classes: priests, warriors, scribes and the common people, and this structure was supported by the church. The first two Sasanian kings built many cities and supported irrigation and agricultural projects, and the cultivated land thus had an extent that has not been surpassed either before or since. Mht. the social structure the people were divided into four classes: priests, warriors, scribes and the common people, and this structure was supported by the church.

Shapur was known for its religious tolerance, but during Vahram I (273-276) religious persecutions began, promoted by Kartir, during which Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was killed along with many of his followers. His religion, however, secretly gained many proselytes, mainly in northeastern Iran. Christianity, especially in the form of Nestorianism, also gained ground in the empire and gained considerable influence, especially when Shapur II settled Roman prisoners around the country after defeating the Romans and regaining northern Mesopotamia and Armenia, which were temporarily lost by Narseh (293-303). Shapur II resumed the persecution of Christians, presumably for political reasons, as the Roman Empire had adopted Christianity as a religion under Constantine the Great. After Shapur II, the power of the nobility and the churches increased at the expense of the monarchy, and kings were installed and deposed on the initiative of the nobility. At the same time, the kingdom was plagued by nomadic attacks from the north. Shapur 2. had stopped the Kidarites, but in the 400-t. pushed forth a new powerful tribe, the Heftalites. Only during Kavad (488-531) were they stopped. During his reign, Mazdak appeared, preaching a religious-revolutionary system. The king first favored Mazdak and was therefore deposed by the nobility, but regained his throne with the help of the Heftalites. However, the Mazdak movement became dangerous to him as well, and so he had Mazdak and numerous of his followers killed. who preached a religious-revolutionary system. The king first favored Mazdak and was therefore deposed by the nobility, but regained his throne with the help of the Heftalites. However, the Mazdak movement became dangerous to him as well, and so he had Mazdak and numerous of his followers killed. who preached a religious-revolutionary system. The king first favored Mazdak and was therefore deposed by the nobility, but regained his throne with the help of the Heftalites. However, the Mazdak movement became dangerous to him as well, and so he had Mazdak and numerous of his followers killed.

Kavad’s son, Khusrau 1. Anoshirvan, fought with varying degrees of success with the Byzantine Empire, but a peace treaty set him free to finally destroy the aggression of the Heftalites. Inwardly, the country experienced a cultural renaissance; the spiritual life flourished and was open to influences from both the Byzantine Empire and India. Khusrau also reformed the tax and military system, strengthening infrastructure by building roads and building bridges, and supporting agriculture. His son Hormizd IV (579-590) was overthrown by the army commander Vahram Chobin because he was in conflict with both the nobility and the church, but Chobin was overthrown on his side by Khusrau 2. Abarvez with the help of the Byzantine emperor Mauritios.

After him followed four years with 12 rulers and a tangle of palace revolutions. It was not until Yazdgard III in 632 that there was calm about the succession to the throne, but he could not resist the advancing Arabs, and in 636 the Persian army surrendered at Qadisiyya, where the famous general Rustam fell. The empire came piece by piece into the power of the Arabs, the Sasanian army was annihilated in 642, and Yazdgard, still trying to gather forces for resistance, was assassinated in 651. Under Arab occupation, the Islamization of the empire began, but for centuries Zarathustra congregations remained. To pass. However, people converted en masse to Islam partly to avoid special taxation and partly to be freed from the constricting caste system.

Iran – history after Islamization

The decades after the fall of the Sasanian Empire were marked by unrest and the absence of central control. Persian nobles and former governors fought back and made agreements with Arab warlords who led raids into Iran.

At the end of 600-t., Ie. after the end of the muslim civil wars, the umayyads managed to establish effective control of iraq from their capital in damascus. A large number of stubborn and unruly Arab warriors from here were sent east to Merv and Sistan, where they could engage in war against the Gentiles of Transoxania and the Afghan highlands.

Dissatisfaction with the deportation policy, the reluctance to carry out dangerous expeditions and persistent strife between veterans, newcomers, mawlawers, ie. Persian converts, and Persian landowners in particular made the Merv oasis the center of resistance against the Umayyads. From here emanated in 749 the Abbasid rebellion, which overthrew the Umayyad dynasty.

The Abbasid Empire

The fact that the Abbasids then moved the capital of the Muslim Empire to Mesopotamia (Baghdad) showed that the new rulers considered themselves the heirs of the Sasanian Empire.

The Iranian countries consequently attracted more attention. A number of existing settlements, such as Qazvin, Isfahan, Merv and Shiraz, were expanded and fortified as administrative and military bases for the empire. These cities seem to have attracted Persian converts, so that a marked urbanization came to characterize the time under Abbasid rule.

However, the ambition for more centralized control was difficult to realize. The distances were great, and in a time without mechanized transportation and communication, deserts and mountains set limits to the degree of centralization. In addition, the suppression of a number of uprisings, notably the Khorramiyeh uprising in Azarbaidjan (816-837) and the Zanj uprising in Khuzistan and southern Iraq (868-883), cost the Abbasid caliphate many resources.

Like former Persian empires, the Abbasid Empire had its economic base in Iraq. Already in Sassanid times, Iraq had been hit by population and production declines as a result of repeated plague epidemics (541-750) and the ecological damage that large-scale irrigation inevitably caused. Until the beginning of the 800-t. the Abbasids managed to maintain real control over most of Iran, but dwindling resources and consequent political instability in the center of the empire loosened the grip. Governors and warlords, who admittedly formally recognized Abbasid supremacy, took power over major areas as autonomous rulers. It first happened in Khorasan and to the east, where a Persian general, Abdullah ibn Tahir, and his successors, the Tahirids, ruled 821-873 with Nishapur as its capital. Between 867 and 901 conqueredthe Sappharians from Sistan most of Iran, but were themselves defeated by the Samanids (892-999), a princely family from Bukhara in Transoxania. One of the Turkish generals of the Samanids established around 975 an independent principality in the city of Ghazna in Afghanistan; hence the name of the dynasty Ghaznavids. This general’s son, Mahmud of Ghazna (998-1030), conquered much of eastern Iran and led a series of large-scale raids into northern India. In Muslim historiography he is therefore remembered as the great fighter of faith. In contemporary Iran, he was hated because of the tax burden of his military adventures.

On the western plateau, the Abbasid caliphate maintained some control until the first half of the 900’s, when power struggles between various generals as well as ever-shrinking resource base led to political disintegration in the Abbasid core country, Iraq. In 945, the Buyids, a family federation of mercenaries from the Daylam Mountains south of the Caspian Sea, managed to make themselves masters of both Iraq and western Iran.

In the early 1000-t. Iran was thus divided between two major and conflicting states, the Buyids in the west and the Ghaznaids in the east. In the middle of 1000-t. they were both crushed in connection with barbarian incursions from the east. The Turkish nomads the Seljukswas on the run from the Karakhanids, a Turkish dynasty in Transoxania that had followed the Samanids, and they invaded Ghaznavid territory, where they successfully managed to defeat the professional Ghaznavid field army. The unpopular Ghaznaids then withdrew to their possessions in India, while the Seljuks Toghril Bey and Alp Arslan, at the urging of the Abbasid caliph, continued west, expelling the Buyids in 1055. The Seljuks thus reunited Iraq with the Iranian lands; unruly nomads were sent west, where Alp Arslan’s victory over the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071 had opened Anatolia to immigration, and under Malik Shah (1072-92) and his famous vizier, Nizam al-Mulk, a fairly effective control and administration was established.

Alongside the outlined political upheavals, there was a gradual conversion of the entire population to Islam. Around the year 1000, the process seems complete. At the same time, sectarian strife began in most Iranian oases, partly between Sunnis and Shiites, partly between the supporters of the various Sunni law schools. The strife is believed to reflect social contradictions between early and later converts. In several major cities such as Nishapur, Rayy and Isfahan, the strife sometimes assumed the character of a direct civil war with extensive destruction as a result.

In the 900’s and 1000’s. found a Shiite sect, the Ismailis, many followers in Iran. The social background for this is not known. Despite energetic persecution by the Seljuks, the Ismailis managed to establish a number of independent small states in rugged desert and mountainous regions, from which they waged an ongoing petty war against the surrounding community (see also Assassins). Together with the succession wars after Malik Shah’s death, this contributed to the weakening of Seljuk rule.

The Ilkhanid Dynasty

In 1153, new Turkish nomadic groups invaded eastern Iran, defeating the Seljuk sultan. In the following decades, they exploited the chaotic political situation to plunder far and wide, until they were eventually defeated by local rulers or absorbed by the nomadic economy on the plateau. After the fall of the Seljuks, the rulers of Khwarezm (the land at the delta and lower reaches of the Amu Darja) made an attempt to extend their dominion over Iran, but were still exposed to increasing pressure in the east from the new Mongol Empire. In 1220-21, two of Genghis Khan’s generals carried out a lightning campaign through Iran, which was followed up the following year with the conquest of Khorasan. In 1256-68 Hulagu completedthen the conquest of the rest of Iran as well as Iraq. The strongholds of the Ismailites were systematically defeated, while Fars and Kerman, to which the local princes submitted in time, remained untouched by the invasion. The Ilkhanids, i.e. Hulagu’s successors, ruled Iran until 1353. There is a tradition of seeing the Mongol conquest as a disaster for Iran, because medieval sources report systematic massacres and extensive destruction of cities, especially in Khorasan and the east. However, the reports are exaggerated. Cities like Rayy and Nishapur were in decline even before the Mongol invasion, probably due to earthquakes and persistent sectarian strife.

During the invasions of 1000-1200-t. however, there had been a significant immigration of nomads from Central Asia. Some seeped further west to Anatolia, others established themselves in northwestern Iran, where the best grazing areas were found. After irrigation using underground canals, with qanates, in Sasanian times had become widespread on the Iranian plateau, technological innovations in agriculture do not seem to have taken place since. The resources were therefore constant and unable to carry a large administrative apparatus or professional armies. In return, the growing nomadic population could be easily mobilized. They were cheap because they themselves largely brought horses and equipment and in peacetime provided their own maintenance. They therefore increasingly formed the military basis of Iranian state formation, shifting Iran’s political and economic center of gravity northwest of Azarbaidjan during the Middle Ages, where the main grazing areas were located. The development can be seen of the fact that Tabriz from the Ilkhanid era became the capital and attracted international trade. Conversely, those in power lost interest in the ancient but small oases of the south. The lack of public investment as well as the reorganization of trade routes was the reason why the cities in the south stagnated during the Middle Ages. Predecessors and ambitious tribal leaders generally had no difficulty in finding disgruntled warriors, and thus the military potential of the nomads intensified the political instability in Iran.

After the dissolution of the Ilkhanid Empire, Iran was ruled by various local princes, until another conqueror from Transoxania, Timur Lenk, attacked Khorasan in 1380. On incessant campaigns over the following decades, he ravaged and burned not only Iran but most of the Middle East. The majority of the Iranian plateau, with the exception of Azarbaidjan, in turn, escaped the plague epidemic, the black death that spread across the Middle East to Europe in the late 1340’s. Nor do the subsequent plague epidemics, which continued to rage in the Middle East until the 1830’s, seem to have gained a foothold on the plateau.

The Safavids

After Timur’s death in 1405, his son consolidated his rule over Khorasan and Transoxania. Despite several campaigns, he could not maintain western Iran, which was conquered by Turkmen nomadic leaders from eastern Anatolia and northern Syria, first the short-lived Kara Qoyunlu dynasty (1436-67), then Ak Qoyunlu (1467-1501), who under Uzun Hasan took the struggle with the Ottomans for control of Anatolia and therefore made diplomatic contact with Venice for joint action. Uzun Hasan was decisively defeated by the Ottomans at Bashkent (1473), and after his death in 1478, the Ak Qoyunlu dynasty was challenged by a messianic movement among the Turkmen nomads, called kızılbaş’redheads’ after their red headgear. The spiritual leaders of the movement were a family of Sufisheiks, the Safavids, in Ardabil, who increasingly had political and military ambitions. In 1501, the charismatic leader of the movement, Ismail I, defeated Ak Qoyunlu and then proclaimed himself the Shah of Tabriz. In the following decade, he conquered Iran, expelled the Uzbek Shaybanids from Khorasan, and sought to gain control of the Turkmen lands in Anatolia. Here he was defeated at Chaldiran (1514) by the Ottomans, and the Safavid expansion ceased. Ismail’s successors then concentrated on stabilizing their dominance over the Iranian countries.

One consequence of the victory of the Kızılbaş movement was that Shia Islam was spread at the expense of Sunni Islam in the areas conquered by Ismail I. Shiite ulamas, i.e. theologians and jurists, were favored and generally worked closely with both the Safavids and their Shiite successors and took part in the staffing of the central administration. That there should have been a centuries-old antagonism between the Ulamas and the state in Iran is a myth that has sprung from the political upheavals of the 1900’s.

After the death of Ismail I in 1524, his successor, Tahmasp, successfully defended the borders of the new kingdom against the Ottomans in the west and the Uzbeks in the east, and under Shah Abbas I.energetic government (1588-1629) the Safavids sought to free themselves from the powerful Turkmen nomadic leaders who had brought the dynasty to the throne. The capital was moved from the Turkmen-dominated Tabriz first to Qazvin and later to the Persian Isfahan (1598), and after the Ottoman model, a standing army of musket-armed infantry was built. In periods when trade routes were not closed due to wars, exports of textiles and raw silk from the Caspian provinces (Gilan and Mazandaran) to Europe gave the Safavids increased income, but in the long run centralization exceeded the resources of the dynasty. The tradition of allowing the heirs to the throne to grow up in isolation in the harem (as in the Ottoman Empire) did not help to produce competent rulers who could counter the fierce opposition of the tribal leaders to centralization.

The fall of the Safavids was followed by a long period of political instability. The Afghan conquerors were already defeated and driven out in 1730 by a Turkmen coalition led by Nadir Shah (1736-47), who also recaptured areas of western Iran that the Ottomans had occupied during the Afghan invasion. Nadir Shah was a warlord in the classical tradition, who built his position on lucrative raids, among other things. in India, where Delhi was ravaged in 1739, but he failed to create a lasting political system. After his death, various warlords fought again for dominance in the Iranian countries. One of them, Karim Khan Zand (1750-79), secured southern and central Iran and managed to create quite peaceful and stable conditions. After his death, succession wars broke out, which weakened the Sand Dynasty,


After defeating the Zand family in 1791, Aga Muhammad systematically and harshly began to subjugate all the territories that had been part of the Safavid Empire. He moved the capital to Tehran near the ancient city of Rayy and was crowned shah in 1795, but was assassinated on a campaign in Transcaucasia in 1797. Under his successor, Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834), the Qajars clashed with the Russians, who expanded from the north. Faced with disciplined European infantry, the nomadic army showed its limitations, and the Qajars therefore began, with the help of French and British advisers, to build a modern army following the European model. It was defeated by the Russians in 1812, and after a new war 1826-28, the Qajars had to give up all land north of the river Araks. The new army, however, especially by virtue of its artillery, was strong enough to defeat the tribes and various semi-independent local rulers. In the 1830’s, Khorasan and Kuhistan were subdued, and the turn then came to the Khan of Khuzistan. Only the sheikh of Muhammerah (Khorramshahr) could, by virtue of British protection, retain some independence. Fath Ali Shah’s successor, Muhammad Shah (1834-48), then attacked Herat and the Afghan lowlands, but had to withdraw after strong pressure from Britain, which for the sake of the defense of India wanted an independent Afghanistan. A new attack on Herat in 1856 led to a British attack on the Gulf Coast and new Iranian withdrawal. By a series of border conventions (1871-72, 1881), the European powers established Iran’s borders, allowing the Qajars to give up territory,

Greater luck had the Qajars consolidating their power inwardly. As the military importance of the nomadic armies waned, tribal leaders were displaced by prominent urban families. The state’s areas of competence were expanded, e.g. in the field of justice, which went beyond the traditional functions of the ulama in society. The introduction of the telegraph in 1865 made it easier for the central administration to control local officials. However, like their predecessors, the Qajars lacked the resources to finance centralization. They increased the tax burden through the 1800’s, but large sums never reached the state treasury, and in the cities, dissatisfaction with taxes and foreign economic influence grew. During the 1800’s. more and more cheap European industrial goods came to Iran and inflicted fierce competition on craft production. The hardest hit was textile production, which for centuries had been one of the cities’ economic foundations. Influence from the Russian market led in the northern provinces (Azarbaidjan and Gilan) to a shift in agriculture from subsistence crops to export crops such as silk, cotton and opium, which exposed farmers to world price fluctuations but also provided greater earning potential. The divide between the economically strong north and the stagnant south was deepened. whereby the farmers were exposed to price fluctuations on the world market, but at the same time also had greater earning opportunities. The divide between the economically strong north and the stagnant south was deepened. whereby the farmers were exposed to price fluctuations on the world market, but at the same time also had greater earning opportunities. The divide between the economically strong north and the stagnant south was deepened.

During the long reign of Nasir al-Din (1848-96), the Qajar sought to supplement tax revenues by selling concessions to European enterprises. In 1891-92, it triggered an extensive wave of protests in the cities with the participation of prominent ulamas. The opposition between the dynasty and its former supporters in the cities was now obvious.

The Qajars began taking out loans in Russia and Britain. The amounts were small and not comparable to the large loans taken out by the Ottoman Empire and Egypt, but they were accompanied by strict political conditions. Iran was formally independent, but actually had to add the great powers.

Anger over foreign influence and new tariffs triggered a new widespread wave of protests in 1905, and again a number of prominent ulamas gave support and thus legitimacy to the protests. In 1906, the Shah, Muzaffar al-Din (1896-1907), met the demands of the protesters and signed a constitution that made Iran a constitutional monarchy. In future, the real power should lie with a parliament, Majlis. This demand had been formulated by Western-oriented intellectuals, and when the Ulamas realized that Iran should be modeled on the European model, they withdrew their support. Parliament never came to function, and in 1908-09 the Shah, Muhammad Ali (1907-11), tried with Russian support to regain power. In the ensuing civil war he was defeated. The Russians took the opportunity to occupy Tabriz, and in the years leading up to World War I, the country went into political disintegration.

During World War I, the British intervened in southern Iran, German agents helped establish a nationalist counter-government in Western Iran (Kermanshah), and in the last phase of the war, the Ottomans occupied Azarbaidjan. By the end of the war, separatist movements had seized power in Azarbaidjan and Gilan. In Azarbaidjan, the control of the central government was re-established without much difficulty in 1920, but in Gilan, the rebel movement had considerable support. In 1920, with the unofficial support of Soviet troops, the Soviet Republic of Gilan was proclaimed.


In Tehran, younger politicians with the support of Reza Khan (see Reza Shah Pahlavi) seized power in a regular coup, and Reza Khan vomited into a military dictator. He defeated the rebels in Gilan and re-established control of Khuzistan. After considering making Iran a republic, Reza Khan deposed the last qajarshah in 1925 and allowed himself to be crowned shah. At the same time, he adopted the surname Pahlavi (the Iranian language that preceded modern Persian), referring to Iran’s glorious pre-Islamic history.

The basis of Reza Shah’s power was the military, which he consistently strengthened with new revenues from the oil industry in Khuzistan. Political opponents were severely suppressed and the influence of the Ulamas limited, legislation further secularized and religious courts abolished. Reza Shah expanded the school system, founded Tehran University, banned women from wearing veils, and legislated for appropriate clothing for men. Finally, he began the construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway.

Due to its many initiatives, Reza Shah is considered the founder of modern Iran, but the reforms were characterized by superficiality and arbitrariness and did not change the population majority, ie. the conditions of the peasants, notably.

In 1941, Reza Shah was overthrown by the Allies, who did not unreasonably suspect him of being pro-German. He was succeeded by his son Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, but during the rest of World War II, Iran remained under Allied control. Under the guise of relative freedom, parliament regained power, and after the war there was broad political agreement that a new Pahlavi dictatorship should be prevented. Opponents of the Shah (and the army) gathered in the National Front, led by one of Reza Shah’s opponents, Muhammad Mossadeq.

A British company had begun oil extraction in Khuzistan in 1908, and in 1914 the British state bought the majority stake to secure the fleet’s supplies. The nationalists had long agitated for Iran itself to take over production, so in 1951 Mossadeq nationalized the oil industry and triggered a crisis in relations with both the United States and Britain. When the Iranians themselves were unable to produce and market the oil, state revenues fell drastically and Mossadeq’s political foundations crumbled. He allied himself with Tudeh, the Iranian Communist Party, but thus also got the Ulamas against him. The army could therefore, with the active support of the CIAtrap him in a coup in 1953 and reinstate the shah. Nationalization was abolished, new taxes were negotiated, and American companies gained a share in Iranian production.

The White Revolution

The United States considered the shah a guarantor against communism and therefore provided him with significant financial and military assistance, for example in building the infamous secret police, SAVAK. A condition for further loans, however, was social reforms, and hard pressure proclaimed the Shah in 1962 the White Revolution. Its most important point was a land reform, which, however, favored the affluent part of the rural population at the expense of the many millions of small farmers and farm workers. They applied to the cities, but there was neither housing nor the need for unskilled labor. Urbanization was further exacerbated by strong population growth, and in 1956-76 Tehran grew from 1.5 million. residents to 5 million, some of whom lived in deep poverty in the vast rural areas south of the city.

The White Revolution also gave women the right to vote, and it openly led religious scholars to criticize the Shah for undermining Islam. Clashes between police and protesters in the holy city of Qom triggered in 1963 the so-called Muharram uprising in Tehran, Shiraz and other cities. The military took action against the protesters, and several thousand must have lost their lives during the street fights. One of the shah’s harshest critics, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was arrested and sent into exile in al-Najaf, Iraq. From here he directed a stubborn and ever harsher critique of the Shah and demanded that the secular authorities be subject to a supreme religious authority (the velayat-i faqih doctrine). His popularity in Iran grew, and his radicalism appealed not only to the traditional followers of the Ulamas among the bazaar traders and artisans, but also to the subproletariat of the slums, who until then had had little contact with the institutionalized Islamic faith. Non-religious opposition groups began to see him as a possible ally.

Ironically, the Shah’s grip was weakened by the so-called oil crisis in the early 1970’s, when Iran’s oil revenues in 1972-75 nearly doubled. The industry was nationalized, this time without any problems, and huge sums were invested in the military and unrealistic development projects. Imports increased, because the better-off in the cities had changed their eating habits. The result was galloping inflation, which particularly affected the lower proletariat.

The Islamic Revolution

In 1978, clashes between police and students in Qom triggered an ever-growing wave of protests and demonstrations in all major cities. Under pressure from the United States, which wanted to see human rights improved in Iran, the shah wavered between repression and compromise, but when oil workers and government employees also went on strike, it turned out that his regime had no social basis. Even in the army, there were signs of disloyalty. In 1979, the Shah fled and Khomeini returned home as Iran’s leader.

The years immediately following the revolution were marked both by the fierce power struggle between the groups that had been in opposition to the Shah and by the resource – intensive Iran-Iraq War.1980-88. Khomeini sought to stay above the internal strife, but his sympathies lay with the younger radical religious scholars who wanted to bring state and society into line with Muslim law. Their opponents were the Western-oriented technocrats and intellectuals who had liberal views, and the Leninist guerrilla organizations such as the Mujahedin-i khalq, who recruited their members among middle-class students and youth. The radical ulamas, who especially enjoyed the support of the urban poor and the bazaar merchants, first outmaneuvered their older, more conservative counterparts, after which they gained control of the Revolutionary Guard, set up as a counterweight to the regular army.

Selected dynasties, kings and presidents
Meder (approximately 700-549 BC) Sort
approx. 700-647 BC Deiokes
647-625 Fraortes
625-approx. 585 Kyaxares
approx. 585-549 Astyages
Achaemenids (approximately 705-331 BC)
approx. 645-602 BC Cyrus 1.
558-529 Cyrus II the Great
529-522 Kambyses 2.
522-486 Dareios 1. the Great
486-465 Xerxes 1.
404-359 Artaxerxes 2.
336-331 Dareios 3.
331-323 BC Alexander the Great
Seleucids (312-64 BC)
321-281 BC Seleucus 1.
280-262/61 Antiochus 1.
223-187 Antiochus 3.
Arsacids (Parthian Empire) (approximately 150 BC-224 AD)
124-87 BC Mithradates 2.
Arsacids (Parthian Empire) (approximately 150 BC-224 AD)
224-41 AD Ardashir 1.
241-72 Shapur 1.
309-79 Shapur 2.
531-79 Khusrau 1.
590-628 Khusrau 2.
632-651 Yazdgard 3.
Abbasider (749-900-t. (1258))
754-75 al-Mansur
786-809 Harun al-Rashid
Saffarides (approximately 860-approx. 900)
Samanids (864-999)
Buyider (932-1062)
977-983 Adud al-Dawlah
Rare (1055-1153)
1055-63 Toghril Bey
1063-72 Alp Arslan
1072-92 Malik Shah
Ilkhanids (1258-1353)
1258-65 Hulagu
1295-1304 Ghazan Khan
Timurider (approximately 1380- ca.1450)
approx. 1380-1405 Timur Lenk
1405-47 Shah Rukh
Kara Qoyunlu (1436-67)
Ak Qoyunlu (1467-1501)
1453-78 Uzun Hasan
Safavider (1501-1722)
1501-24 Ismail 1.
1588-1629 Abbas 1. the Great
1629-42 Safi
1642-66 Abbas 2.
1666-94 Sulaiman
1694-1722 Husayn
1736-47 Nadir Shah Afshar
Sand Dynasty (1750-94)
1750-79 Karim Khan Zand
1779-81 Sadeq
1779-85 Ali Morad
1785-89 Jafar
1789-94 Lotf Ali
Qajard Dynasty (1795-1925)
1795-97 Aga Muhammad
1797-1834 Fath Ali Shah
1834-48 Muhammad
1848-96 Nasir al-Din
1896-1907 Muzaffar al-Din
1907-11 Muhammad Ali
1911-25 Ahmad
Pahlavi Dynasty (1925-79)
1925-41 Reza Shah Pahlavi
1941-79 Muhammad Reza Pahlavi
Republic, Presidents (since 1980)
1980-81 Abu Hassan Bani-Sadr
1981 Muhammad Ali Rajai
1981-89 Ali Khamenei
1989-97 Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
1997-2005 Muhammad Khatami
2005-13 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
2013- Hassan Rohani

In December 1979, Iran adopted in a referendum a new constitution enshrining the velayat-i faqih doctrine, according to which the country’s supreme authority is the most recognized by jurists. After the constitutional amendment, the Ulamas began to eliminate their other opponents. Thus, the dramatic occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran (Nov. 1979-Jan. 1981) was not only intended to humiliate the hated Americans, but also to discredit the liberal politicians. The war against Iraq was used to purge the corps of officers and to ban a number of political organizations accused of disloyalty. In 1980, the universities were closed for two years for to weaken the guerrilla organizations. These responded again with a series of bombings and other terrorist acts, but during 1981 the resistance was defeated by the Revolutionary Guards.

Since 1982, religious scholars have been in power. Opposition activities are poorly tolerated and political discussions take place mainly among the Ulamas. The so-called pragmatists disagree with the radicals about relations with foreign countries and about land reforms, the degree of state control of the economy, etc. In comparison with the political triumphs, the result of the economic and social policy of the religious regime is poor. Until 1988, the war against Iraq devoured enormous resources, but also disagreement over how long-term economic reforms, including a land reform, can be brought into line with Muslim law, has led to the practice of policies that required resources and were characterized by short-term solutions and strong government control. Iran has remained highly dependent on oil exports and is therefore vulnerable to fluctuating world market prices. The revolution, which was originally driven by a strong social commitment, has not led to significantly improved living conditions due to the failed economic policy.

After the revolution, Iran was isolated both regionally and internationally for fear that the new rulers would actively work to export the Islamic revolution. Distrust of the new regime increased when a group of students occupied the US Embassy in November 1979 and took 53 hostages (see Iran hostage affair). They were first released in January 1981. Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Iran helped form Hezbollah, a militia inspired by the Iranian revolution. Militant Islamist groups in the Arab world also felt inspired by developments in Iran and established links with the new regime. This applied to Islamist groups in Egypt, Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. But only in Lebanon did Iran really succeed in securing some influence. When Khomeini in 1989 issued a death sentence on the British author Salman Rushdie, as in the novel The Satanic Verses had allegedly written blasphemously about Islam and the Prophet, it led to international condemnation and further isolation as well as the weakening of the religious scholars and politicians who wanted to normalize relations with the outside world.

In 1980-88, Iran was involved in a very bloody war with Iraq, which in September 1980 had invaded Iran (see The Iran -Iraq War). However, neither party was able to enforce a military decision, and in the summer of 1988 a ceasefire was concluded with subsequent negotiations on a peace agreement. The long war caused large sections of the Iranian population to support the new leaders, but the ceasefire in 1988 was soon to show that there were new and unresolved conflicts in Iranian society.

The Islamic Republic after Khomeini

Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989 and was succeeded as spiritual leader by Ali Khamenei. That same year, Rafsanjani was elected president, a position he held until 1997; under his leadership, a policy of reconciliation with Europe was launched. A privatization and a liberalization of the industry were initiated, which has since been maintained. In other areas as well, the development through the 1990’s was characterized by more liberal tendencies, partly in the public debate, partly in the rules for the interaction between the two sexes in public space and partly in cultural life. However, the greater freedom was in many cases counteracted by violent abuses, e.g. murder, of journalists and intellectuals. The 1997 presidential election was surprisingly won by Muhammad Khatami, who had gone to the polls on a promise of adjustments to the political system. Khatami received widespread support from the young section of the population who had not experienced the time of the Shah themselves and who increasingly felt locked in by conservative religious forces. The new president tried to realize his reform promises, but even though the first local elections were held in 1999, he did not have the strength to decisively crack the power gathered at Khamenei. Khatami had to give up passing bills aimed at reducing the constitutional power of the religious leader and strengthening the executive functions of the elected president. Khatami’s election in 1997 and re-election in 2001 were interpreted by the outside world as a showdown with Khamenei’s more conservative line, but Khatami never advocated a fundamental change in the political system.

In relation to the outside world, Khatami launched the so-called “dialogue of civilizations” in order to ensure that Iran rejoined international cooperation. It succeeded in part in relation to Europe, but repeated attacks on the press and intellectuals made it seriously difficult to promote dialogue. After September 11, 2001, Khatami turned against international terror, but the growing U.S. military presence in the region made it difficult to get on well with the United States. The US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq is perceived by those in power in Tehran as a real threat to the country. In a speech in early 2002, US President George W. Bush referred to Iran as part of the “axis of evil”. This view was strengthened in the United States after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejadin June 2005 to Iran’s new president. Ahmadinejad maintained a rhetorically harsh course in relation to the West in general and Israel and the United States in particular, as well as emphasizing Iran’s right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. In early 2006, he announced in a speech to the outside world that Iran had begun enriching uranium in order to build nuclear power. The announcement was met with demands for international sanctions against Iran in an effort to ensure that the plan does not materialize.

Ahmadinejad became increasingly unpopular among reformist circles in Iran, and in the run – up to the June 2009 presidential election, opinion polls spoke of a very close race between Ahamdinejad and the leading reform politician, Mir Hossein Mousavi. However, according to official counts, Ahmadinejad won big, leading to persistent rumors of widespread electoral fraud. Supporters of the reform took to the streets in the largest demonstrations in Iran since the revolution in 1979. During clashes with police and security forces, several were killed. The unrest demonstrated the growing dissatisfaction with the regime of the middle class, the educated and among many women. Many opposition supporters took to the streets again in large demonstrations after Hussein Ali Montazerisdied in December 2009. This led to serious clashes with many killed and to Mousavi being threatened with the death penalty. Ahmadinejad and the religious leadership under Ali Khamenei tried to regain the initiative, by convening large counter-demonstrations and by threatening serious reprisals against the opposition.

During Ahmadinejad’s second term, diplomatic crisis and isolation, a consequence of the country’s nuclear program, continued, and economic sanctions gradually led to crisis and severe inflation. The growing problems for the Iranian people certainly contributed to the fact that the moderate candidate for the presidential election in 2013, Hassan Rohani, won and was installed in August 2013. Rohani immediately embarked on a more conciliatory foreign policy line. In November 2013, Iran entered into an agreement to limit uranium reprocessing in return for easing economic sanctions against the country. The radical Sunni Muslim movement ISIS ‘progress in neighboring Iraq in 2014 led Iran to become more directly involved in supporting the Iraqi government.