The first book in the In Brief” Books for Busy People series was From the Medes to the Mullahs: a history of Iran.  It was published in 2013.  Since that time there have been many changes not only in Iran, but also in the region generally. Furthermore, the election of Donald Trump as President Elect of the United States will undoubtedly affect relations between Iran and the West.

The book has therefore been updated and includes a revised Epilogue which follows:


On the 15th June 2013 Hassan Rouhani was democratically elected President of Iran, so replacing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani, who is considered to be a ‘moderate’ compared to his predecessor, is a cleric who studied at the prestigious seminary at Qom in Iran and later at Glasgow Caledonian University. He was previously Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament and also led the Iranian team in negotiations with the UK, France and Germany on Iran’s nuclear programme.

During the election campaign Rouhani declared that if elected his priorities would be to restore the economy and improve relations with the West. In many ways these are two sides of the same coin because hopefully if he can open up a dialogue with the West that may result in the removal of sanctions, which in turn would benefit the economy.

Since his election his domestic policy has been reformist despite some resistance from the conservative clerical body.  He has promoted greater personal freedom and improved access to information. He has also supported the rights of women and appointed women to ministerial posts.

When Rouhani took up his position as President on Saturday 3rd August 2013 the Syrian Civil War had already been raging for two years. The United States was on the brink of attacking Syria in response to alleged chemical attacks by President Assad’s regime against his own people. Other Western powers, including Britain were showing far more caution, with the British Parliament eventually voting not to intervene militarily.

At the same Syria’s ally Russia was calling for a diplomatic solution through dialogue. President Rouhani publicly endorsed Iran’s position calling for dialogue alongside that of Russia. Iran was speaking out but having been ostracised by the West since 1979 her voice was hardly heard.

Since that time the situation in Syria has gone from bad to worse. Hundreds of thousands of innocent men women and children have fled the conflict creating a sea of refugees seeking asylum in surrounding countries and beyond. Many have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Thousands have suffered untold hardship trekking through mud and snow across Europe only to find barbed wire and walls blocking their way.

Thousands more are still trapped in ‘camps’ in countries such as Greece, Turkey and France. And millions more in Syria are either displaced or held captive at the brutal hands of Daesh. At the time of writing (December 2016) the ancient city of Aleppo is about to be annihilated by the Government forces of Syria and her ally Russia.

Throughout the Syrian crisis Iran has supported President Assad and his Government forces. While the majority of Syrians are Sunni, President Assad together with many of his Government officials and supporters are Alawite Shi’a. Although Syria is not a theocracy as is Iran, the Alawites and Iranians share a common religious identity in Shi’a Islam. For the same reason the Lebanese Hezbollah are also supportive of the Syrian Regime.

Initially Iran offered President Assad advisory, technical and financial support. That has now been extended to include the training of Syrian combat troops and provision of Iranian troops to fight on Syrian soil. Both Russia and Iran claim to be supporting President Assad in his fight again Daesh and other Islamist groups.  However, both Russia and Iran are also open about their desire to keep the current Syrian regime in power. This policy automatically puts Russia and Iran on a collision course with the West and Turkey who openly seek the collapse of the Assad regime.

While the Syrian crisis rumbled on there were efforts behind the scenes to improve relations between the United States and Iran. For example, both President Obama and President Rouhani were supportive of the Iran Deal that was approved on the 14th July 2015. Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Deal was an international agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (five members of the United Nations Security Council  – France, China, United Kingdom, United States and Russia – plus Germany) and the European Union.

Under the terms of the Agreement Iran agreed to restrict her nuclear programme for a period of 13 years. In exchange, and provided that she abided by the Agreement, Iran would have certain economic sanctions lifted. It would appear that President Rouhani’s commitment at his election to both improve relations with the West and restore the Iranian economy were about to be fulfilled.

However, since the signing of the Iran Deal in July 2015, there have been major changes to the political scene across Europe and in the United States. With the election of Donald Trump as President Elect in the United States future relations with Iran are questionable and the Iran Deal with its long hoped for loosening of economic sanctions looks extremely fragile.

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One Response
  • Dedicated server

    Little is known about them, but they were possibly a significant power in the Middle East for several decades thereafter. After extending his empire from the Mediterranean to Central Asia, Cyrus turned his attention to Babylonia.

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