For writing this article, excerpts from Robert Kaplan's book “Revenge of Geography: What the map tells us about future conflicts and the Battle against Fate”, which was released on September 11, as well as a number of other sources were used.
Most people actually know nothing about Iran besides being told about it by the media. But the liberal media are biased on many issues (if not all), so they display a very one-sided picture.
The most important facts about Iran go unnoticed because they are so obvious. Even a quick glance at the map will tell us what they are. And these facts explain how Tehran can significantly change geopolitics from the Mediterranean to the Indian Peninsula and beyond.
Virtually all Middle Eastern oil and natural gas lies either in the Persian Gulf or in the Caspian Sea region. As the lines of movement of oil tankers diverge from the Persian Gulf, so the pipelines diverge from the Caspian region to the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, China and the Indian Ocean. The only country that is surrounded by both energy-producing regions is Iran, which stretches from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf. In a sense, Iran is the universal unifier of the Middle East.
The Persian Gulf, according to some estimates, owns 55% of world reserves of crude oil, and Iran dominates the Gulf, from Shatt al-Arab on the Iraqi border to the Strait of Hormuz for 990 kilometers (615 nautical miles). Because of its bays, coves, shelters, and islands (great places to shelter high-speed suicidal boats), the Iranian coastline inside the Strait of Hormuz is the perfect place to defend. Its length is 1356 nautical miles, the United Arab Emirates has only 733 miles. Iran also has 480 kilometers of the coast of the Arabian Sea, including the port of Chabahar near the Pakistani border. This makes Iran vital for ensuring the access of the warm waters of the Indian Ocean to the Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union. At the same time, the Iranian coast in the Caspian Sea, far to the north, covered with complex forest mountains, stretched for about 650 kilometers from Astara in the west (on the border of former Soviet Azerbaijan) around Bandar-e Torkaman in the east, to the border of Turkmenistan rich in natural gas.
A glance at the topographic map shows something else. The wide base of the Zagros Mountains runs through Iran from Anatolia in the north-west to Balochistan in the south-east. West of the Zagros Mountains, all roads to Iraq are open. When the British geographer and travel writer Freya Stark studied Lorestan in the Iranian Zagros mountains in the early 1930s, she naturally began the journey from Baghdad, not Tehran. To the east and northeast, open roads to Khorasan, Kara Kum (Black Sand) and Kizil Kum (Red Sand) are deserts of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, respectively. Like Iran, surrounded by the energy rich Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, it is surrounded by the Middle East and Central Asia. No other Arab country can say such a thing (as well as a non-Arab country located between two energy-producing zones). In fact, the Mongol invasion of Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed the existing irrigation system, was so serious precisely because of Iran’s entry into Central Asia.
Iranian influence in the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia is potentially large. At the same time, as in Azerbaijan, on the northwestern border of Iran, there are about 8 of millions of Azerbaijani Turks, there are twice as many in the neighboring Iranian provinces of Azerbaijan and Tehran. Azeris are co-founders of the first Iranian politics, starting with the spread of Islam in the seventh century. The first Shiite khan of Iran (Ishmael in 1501 year) was an Azerbaijani Turk. There are many important Azerbaijani businessmen and ayatollahs in Iran, including the most current Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Based on this, Iranian influence in the west (including Turkey and the Arab world) is well represented in the media; its influence on the north and east is also deep; and in the future, Iran’s influence will deepen, along with the growth of cultural and political contacts.
There is also what the British historian Michael Axworth called the “Idea of Iran”, which, in his opinion, was as much in culture and language as in race and territory. He believed that Iran is a civilizational attractor, like Ancient Greece and China, attracting other peoples and languages into its linguistic orbit: in other words, it is the very essence of soft power. Dari, Tajiks, Urdu, Pashto, Hindi, Bengali and Iraqi Arab are either variations of Persian, or are significantly influenced by it. Therefore, you can travel from Baghdad in Iraq to Dhaka in Bangladesh and stay inside the Persian cultural area.
Moreover, Iran is not some kind of invention of the 20 century with the use of family and religious ideology, like Saudi Arabia, designated as the State of Saudi by arbitration boundaries. Iran is almost completely consistent with the Iranian plateau ("Castile of the Middle East," as Prince Brown historian Peter Brown called it), even if the dynamism of its civilization has already gone far beyond its limits. The Persian empire, even in those times when it besieged Greece, "is deployed like a dragon's tail ... stretches across Oxus, Afghanistan and the Indian valley," writes Brown. Barthold, the great Russian geographer of the early 20 century, agrees with him, describing Great Iran between the Euphrates and the Indus, and identifying the Kurds and Afghans as part of the Iranian people.
Of the ancient peoples of the Middle East, only Jews and Iranians "have texts and a cultural tradition that has survived to this day," writes linguist Nicholas Ostler. Persian (Farsi) was not replaced by Arabic, like many other languages, and it has the same form as in the 11 century, even if it adopted the Arabic spelling. Iran has a much more respectable history as a country and urban civilization than most places in the Arab world (and in the world as a whole), and indeed of all places in the “fertile crescent”, including Mesopotamia and Palestine. Therefore, it is not surprising that Iran has several competing centers within its clerical form of government, which shows a high level of institutionalization, more than in almost the entire region, including Israel, Egypt and Turkey.
The great Iran begins its history in 700 BC with the Medes, the ancient Iranian people, who established an independent state in northwestern Iran with the help of the Scythians. By 600, BC, the empire extended from central Anatolia to Hindu Kush (from Turkey to Afghanistan), and south to the Persian Gulf. In 549 BC, Cyrus the Great, a prince from the Persian home of Ahiemenes, captured the Median capital Ekatabanu (Hamadan) in western Iran and set off to make further conquests.
A map of the Achaemenid empire, ruled from Persepolis (near Shiraz) in southern Iran, shows ancient Persia at its apex, from the sixth to the fourth century BC. It stretched from Trace and Macedonia in the north-west, and from Libya and Egypt in the south-west to Punjab in the east; and from the Caucasus and the Caspian and Aral Seas in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea in the south. No other empire in world history could compare with it until that time. Persia was the first superpower of the world, and the Iranian leaders in our era (both the late shahs and ayatollahs) absorbed this story into their bones. Despite the pan-Islamism, the ruling elite is partially to the Iranian nationalism.
The Parthians showed the best of Iranian genius - it is tolerance towards all the cultures they ruled, which allowed them to exercise soft suzerainty. Having located its capital in the north-eastern Iranian region of Khorasan and adjoining Kara Kume, and speaking Iranian, the Parthians ruled between the third century BC and the third century AD, mainly from Syria and Iraq to central Afghanistan and Pakistan, including Armenia and Turkmenistan. Thus, not only in the boundaries from the Bosphorus to the Nile or from the Nile to the Oxus, like Achenis Persia, the Parthian Empire presents a more realistic vision of Greater Iran for the 21 century.
The Parthian empire was extremely decentralized, it was more a zone of strong influence than direct control, which significantly reflected on the art, architecture and administrative practices adopted from the Greeks. As for today's Iran, it is no secret that the clerical form of government is very impressive and stable, regardless of the significant demographic, economic and political dynamics of Iran.
Medieval records are cartographically and linguistically derived from the ancient, albeit in a more subtle way. In the eighth century, the political locus of the Arab world shifted east from Syria to Mesopotamia (from the Umayyad caliphs to the Abbasids), denoting the growth of Iran. The second caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab, in whose kingdom the Islamic armies seized the Sassanid Empire, adopted the Persian administration system, called Divan.
The Abbasid Caliphate ruled from Tunis in the east to Pakistan, and from the Caucasus and Central Asia to the Persian Gulf, at its zenith in the middle of the ninth century. Its capital was the new city of Baghdad, close to the old Sassanian Persian capital Ctesiphon; and the Persian bureaucratic practices, which added whole layers of hierarchy, girded this new empire. The Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad became a greater symbol of Iranian despotism than the Arab sheiks.
Some historians call the Abbasid Caliphate "cultural Reconquista" of the Middle East Persians under the guise of Arab rulers. The Abbasids succumbed to the Persian influence just as the Umayyads, who lived closer to Asia Minor, succumbed to the Byzantine. “Persian titles, Persian wines and wives, Persian ladies, Persian songs, as well as Persian ideas and thoughts, won,” writes historian Philip K. Hitti. “In the Western imagination,” writes Peter Brown, “the Islamic (Abbasid) empire is the quintessence of Eastern power. Islam owes this crucial orientation not to Muhammad or the adaptive conquerors of the seventh century, but to the massive revival of the Eastern, Persian tradition in the eighth and ninth centuries. ”
As for Shiism, it is an important component of Iranian cultural dynamism. Although the arrival of Mahdi in the form of the latent Twelfth Imam means the end of injustice, and this acts as a stimulus for radical activity, the rest in Shiism does not incline the clergy to an open political role; Shiism is even considered the most humble branch of Islam, obedient to the authorities, and developed under the strong influence of Sufism.
An example is the former leader of the Iraqi clergy, Ayatollah Ali Sistani (Iranian by birth), who made political judgments and advice from behind the scenes only at critical moments.
French scientist Olivier Roy tells us that Shiism is historically an Arab phenomenon that came to Iran later, but over time led to the establishment of a spiritual hierarchy. Shiism intensified due to the tradition of a stronger and bureaucratic state, which Iran was from antiquity, relatively similar structures of the Arab world, and this is partly a gift of the spatial coherence of the Iranian plateau.
Safavid brought Shi'ism to Iran in the 16 century. Their name comes from the militant Sufi order, Safaviyeh, which was originally Sunni. The Safavids were one of the many equestrian brotherhoods of mixed Turkic, Azeri, Georgian, and Persian origin at the end of the 15 century that captured the mountain plateau between the Black and Caspian seas, where eastern Anatolia, the Caucasus and northwestern Iran come together. To build a stable Farsi-speaking Iranian plateau, these new hosts, highly eclectic in linguistic and geographical origin, adopted Twelfth Shiism as the state religion, which awaits the return of the Twelfth Imam, a direct descendant of Mohammed, who did not die, but fell into a lethargic sleep.
The Safavid Empire, at its zenith, stretched from Anatolia and Syria-Mesapotamia to central Afghanistan and Pakistan - another version of Greater Iran in history. Shiism acted as an agent of the Iranian formation as a modern national state, although the Iranianization of non-Persian Shiite and Sunni minorities throughout the 16 century also helped in this process. Iran was a great country and people, beginning with antiquity, but it was the Safavids who by their intervention and the introduction of Shiism on the Iranian plateau prepared Iran for modernity.
Indeed, the revolutionary Iran of the end of 20 and the beginning of 21 century is a worthy expression of this strong and unique heritage. "Persia - the land of poets and roses!", So begins the introduction of the book by James Morier "The Adventures of Haji Bab from Ispahan."
But the comparison, as we know, is the beginning of any serious research. And compared with the upheavals and revolutions in the Arab world during the initial and middle phases of the Cold War, which arose as a result of the Iranian Revolution 1978-79, the new system was incredibly advanced and modern.
The truth is (and it comes directly from the Ahaemenids of antiquity) that in the Iranian past and present everything is of extremely high quality, be it the dynamism of its empires from Cyrus the Great to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who can deny his apparent Iranian talent for supporting military networks in Lebanon , Gaza and Iraq, which is an integral aspect of imperial rule!); or the political thoughts and writings of his Shiite clergy; or the complex effectiveness of bureaucracy and security services.
The Tehran revolutionary order consists of a highly developed government structure with diffusion of power centers; This is not a rude individual gangster, like the one that Saddam Hussein carried out in neighboring Arab Iraq.
Again, what makes Iran’s clerical regime so effective in pursuing its interests, from Lebanon to Afghanistan, is its unity with the Iranian state, which is a product of history and geography.
The Green Movement, which was created to hold anti-government demonstrations after the 2009 elections of the year, is very dull and contradictory by the standards of the region, and this is another demonstration of Iranian genius. “Greens” are a “democratic” movement that has mastered all the latest communication technologies (Twitter, Facebook, SMS) in order to strengthen its organizational weight and adopt a mixture of nationalism and Western moral values to promote their business.
But the Iranian state subtly drove the "green" into the underground. In fact, the Iranian “tyrannical” government was much more surgical and mild in neutralizing the “greens” than the neighboring “democratic” regimes in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, which often simply use forceful suppression and execution of dissidents.
Iran, because of its strong state and dynamic ideology, can influence the entire Middle East, providing political expression for the interests of the broadest sections of the Persian, Turkic, Kurdish, Azerbaijani and Arab populations, with the most diverse trends in both Shiites and Sunnis.
Speaking in terms of fate is dangerous because it includes the acceptance of rock and determinism, but given Iranian geography, history and human capital, the entire Middle East and even Eurasia as a whole are under the critical influence of Iranian politics.
According to the vision of the country's leadership, Iran has a high purpose, and it is preparing to fulfill it. Iranian geography, as already noted, gives access to Central Asia, as well as to Mesopotamia and the Middle East. And the disintegration of the Soviet Union gave Iran certain advantages, if we take into account the history of the Greater Iran in the region.
The suffix “istan” itself, used in Central and South Asian countries (which means “place”), is Persian. The channels for Islamization and civilization in Central Asia were the Persian language and culture. The languages of the intelligentsia and other elites in Central Asia until the beginning of the 20 century were various forms of the Persian language. But after 1991, the Shiite Azerbaijan to the northwest took the Latin alphabet and turned to Turkey for custody. As for the republics to the northeast of Iran, Sunni Uzbekistan is focused more on the nationalist rather than the Islamist base, fearing its home-grown fundamentalists - which makes it apprehensive of Iran.
Tajikistan, Sunni but speaking Persian, is seeking Iran’s protection, but Iran is limited by the fear of receiving new enemies among many Turkish-speaking Muslims of Central Asia. In addition, being nomads or semi-nomads, Central Asians are rarely sincere Muslims, and seventy years of communism only strengthened their secularist tendencies.
Of course, there is also a positive development from the point of view of Tehran. Iran, as evidenced by its nuclear program, is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the Middle East (together with its culture and politics). And since he built many hydroelectric power stations, roads and railways in these Central Asian countries, then one day he will attach all of them to himself, either directly or through Afghanistan.
Moreover, gas pipelines are now connecting southeastern Turkmenistan with northeastern Iran, delivering Turkmen natural gas to the Iranian Caspian region, which frees Iran’s own gas production in southern Iran for export through the Persian Gulf (these two countries also connect the railway in 1990's). Turkmenistan owns the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world and is tied to Iran, China and Russia in its exports.
Hence the possibility of creating the Eurasian energy axis, a united key geography of three continental forces opposing Western democracy. Iran and Kazakhstan built an oil pipeline connecting the two countries, and Kazakh oil is pumped to the north of Iran, while the equivalent amount of oil is exported from southern Iran through the Persian Gulf. Kazakhstan and Iran will also soon be connected by rail, providing Kazakhstan with direct access to the Strait. The railway should also connect uphill Tajikistan with Iran, via Afghanistan. Iran is building the shortest routes for all these resource-rich countries so that they can have access to the international market.
Now imagine how, in the event of an invasion of the Western coalition, Iran cuts the pipelines of Central Asia, along with its “junior countries,” creating something like a partisan empire in the Middle East. Given the prestige that Shiite Iran has in certain sectors of the Sunni Arab world, not to mention Shiite southern Lebanon and Shiite Iraq (due to uncompromising support for the Palestinian cause and its inherent anti-Semitism), even in Central Asia its influence is weaker, but the ability of Iranians to acquire massive support beyond its borders is very large.
As for the former Soviet republics, they maintain diplomatic relations with Israel and do not have enough hatred towards it, as is common in the Arab world. But Iran has a huge linguistic and cosmopolitan appeal acquired throughout its history in a cultural sense.
For example, in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, Tehran and Mashad have always been perceived as cosmopolitan centers of commerce and pilgrimage, in contrast to their own Turkmen sparsely populated and nomadic landscape. Iranian influence is extensive, in all its cultural glory, and in recent years, thanks to active anti-American policies, it has only increased. Americans in many Arab countries are rightly perceived as invaders and imperialists responsible for the death of millions of Muslims. And Iran is one of the few countries that are not afraid to have their position in international politics, even if it contradicts the imperial desires of the decrepit world hegemon. Iran, due to the geographical advantages of its state, has the opportunity to inspire hundreds of millions of Muslims in the Arab world and Central Asia.
With its rich culture, vast territory and abundant and spreading cities, Iran, like China and India, is a civilization in itself, whose future will be largely determined by internal politics and the state of society. Like the Ahiemenis, the Sassanids, the Safavids and other Iranian empires of the past, good or truly inspiring in a moral and cultural sense, the current Iranian empire of reason rules with the help of poets and scholars, actively developing science and acts as an island of truth in the ocean of neoliberal lies.
And the main factor in the fate of Iran will be Iraq. Iraq, whose history and geography is woven with Iranian politics as much as with any other country. Imam Ali’s Shiite radiance (the Prophet’s cousin and his adopted son) in An Najaf and Imam Hussein (the Prophet’s grandson) in Karbala, both in southern Iraq, gave rise to Shiite theological societies that are similar to those in Iranian Cuome. When American influence in Iraq will inevitably decrease (which is already happening), instability in Iraq, left by the conquerors, will be fertile ground for the gradual deep impact of Iranian policy on the holy cities of Iraq.
In a broader sense, a free Iran can serve as an attractor with which Iraqi rebels can gain an advantage in the near future. When Iranians become more deeply involved in Iraqi politics, the very proximity of two peoples with a long common border can work to overthrow the pro-American puppet government (which, by the way, in many respects wants to get rid of the obsessive tutelage of the United States itself). No wonder in the Arab countries, the phrase “ugly Americans” became widespread. Using this, Iran today already actively influences Iraqi politics through an ethnically Arab Shiite community.
Iran not only uses the Iraqi Shiite parties against the Sunni parties, which the Americans hoped for, trying to push the representatives of various faiths. Iranians are actively promoting the ideas of radical Islamic universalism, to which Iran seeks in the pan-Sunni world, which makes it attractive outside the Shiite community.
And despite the ineffective economic sanctions, the Iranian economy largely continues to function normally, since the wise Iranian leadership has been diligently creating autarky for many years, having achieved that now Iran itself provides its economy with everything needed by 96%, practically independent of external influence.
The US 2003 invasion of Iraq, as well as the many years of occupation, on which trillions of dollars were spent, and as a result of which more than a million and a half lives lost in a war were destroyed, will ultimately prove ineffectual. The Americans, in fact, removed the anti-Iranian regime of Saddam Hussein created by them, thereby creating the conditions for the growth of Iranian influence in the region. Geography actually conditions the inevitable Iranian colonization of Iraqi politics.
The Americans, and the liberal media echoing them, hypocritically call Iran “tyranny”, while not noticing the real tyranny that prevail among their allies in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. For some reason, the legitimately elected President Ahmadinejad is “illegitimate,” and the hereditary kings and sheikhs of the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula (whom no one has ever chosen at all) are “democratic.” The hypocrisy of the US State Department knows no bounds.
The Americans openly plan that “given the large Kurdish, Azerbaijani, Turkmen and other minorities in the north and elsewhere, Iran will also be a much less centralized country, with ethnic periphery drifting from Tehran’s orbit.” That is, in their official documents, they are going to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, violating the UN Charter (they are no strangers to it, they constantly do it), in every possible way strengthening separatist sentiments in this country. And this is called "liberation of Iran from tyranny."
The US regime has already “liberated” several countries, plunging them into chaos, destruction, murder and terrorism. The list of countries in which the "democratic" United States has invaded over the past 70 years, in dozens. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran did not attack anyone after the overthrow of the shah. On the contrary, it was attacked by an American protege Saddam Hussein in 1980 (whom they also hanged later).
And now the US government plans that the Arab world, actually destroyed by numerous invasions, will be immersed in internal conflicts, and will no longer show independence and aggression towards Israel. And Iran is the last obstacle to the implementation of this plan.
By preparing public opinion for possible American aggression against Iran, they are trying to show us that Iranians are a bunch of unwashed bearded fanatics leading a nomadic way of life. In fact, Iran (Media, Parthia, Persia) is the most ancient civilization, in its greatness not inferior to Ancient Greece and significantly superior to Ancient Egypt.
Iran has always been not a national state, but a multinational empire. An empire in the best sense of the word - a country in which they always looked for ways of peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups and cultures. Its real size has always been larger than officially shown on the maps. The northwest of modern Iran consists of Kurds and Azerbaijani Turks, parts of western Afghanistan and Tajikistan are culturally and linguistically close to the Iranian state. Iran is always much more than just a place on the map.
The ayatollahs are not the gloomy obscurantists who paint them (rather, it can be said about the Pope, who only thirty years ago admitted that the Earth is round), but actively promote science and technology. Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei personally oversees the development of several branches of science at once - not only promising nuclear energy, but also the search for drugs against cancer (which the Iranians have achieved significant success), and even experiments in the field of cloning and using stem cells.
The whole life of modern Iran is based on deep moral principles. Moreover, these moral principles are not just declared, as in most "Christian" countries (when the words "love of neighbor", but in fact "man is a man wolf"), but really are the basis of all branches of life, including features of the economy and banking.
For example, Islamic banking does not use loan interest. By the way, according to the Christian canons it was also banned for a long time, because it is a trade in time, and time belongs to God. But the Christians succumbed to the golden calf and lifted their own prohibitions, while the Muslims remained true to their teachings.
Islamic banking is based on trust. And the honest word of the banker is more important than complex contracts and legal subtleties. We had this too, but “lost our way” in the process of liberalization.
The system of government of the Ayatollahs is reasonable, carefully thought out and moral. This moral may be different from “Western values”, but this is only for the better - too much of all abominations has stuck to these Western values.
The ayatollahs correspond to their high rank of moral authority. For them, unthinkable scandals similar to those that constantly occur with the Orthodox Patriarch Cyril. You will not see any expensive watches, limousines, luxury apartments, or even more blatant lies. And, of course, there are no evil clowns like Vsevolod Chaplin.
No, the Ayatollahs are not perfect. In recent years, there have been thirteen known cases in which someone from the Ayatollah was “suddenly” found an unrecorded apartment in a prestigious district, or an account in a western bank, or a child received a grant to study at Oxford. But all of them were either excluded from the number of ayatollahs in disgrace, or in general there were “sudden” accidents with them.
Moral authority (namely, on him, and not on the strength weapons or money builds the power of the ayatollah) is very hard to win and very easy to lose. And they cherish them, and in every way they protect and comply with it. Against the background of the western (and, yes, there is no secret, ours) unbridledness and lawlessness, this evokes special respect.
The basis of Iran’s state system is the doctrine of “wilat al-fakih” - “the patronage of the just (worthy)” until the Mahdi comes. And for several decades it has been strictly observed, and the Supreme Ayatollah undoubtedly correspond to their rank.
Moreover, the Supreme Ayatollah is not the chief executive of the country, but only carries out an assessment of the actions of the elected president, as far as they correspond to the Koran and the doctrine of the twelfth imam. Conceptual power is such a thing that can hardly be called tyranny. And for some reason no one calls Pope of Rome to bomb for being undemocratic, although his power is built in much the same way. It’s just that the Iranians are a different culture with their values, and the West is climbing into all the monasteries with its (very primitive) statute.
And also in Iran, picturesque nature, rich bowels, ornate speech, original architecture, exquisite poetry, rich and ancient culture, and very beautiful people. And, if we remember about the Indo-Iranian migration of peoples, it turns out that our ancestors are also from those places. Things are always more complicated than they seem, and how they are shown in the newsand Iran is no exception - rather, it is much more complex than I wrote.
East is a delicate matter, and there is no finer country in the east than Persia / Iran. And the attempts of the Americans and their allies to invade a strange monastery with its charter, imposing their will and conditions, are doomed to failure, because they do not know and do not understand Iran.
- Kaplan Robert