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Iran's Influence

Iran's Influence

Elaheh Rostami-Povey


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There is a saying in Arabic, me and my brother against my cousin, and me and my cousin against the outsider. Iran's Influence is the first comprehensive analysis of the role that Iran plays both in Middle Eastern and global politics. Expert Iranian author Elaheh Rostami Povey provides a much-needed account of one of the Middle East's most controversial and misunderstood countries. Based on several years of original research carried out in Iran and across the Middle East, this insightful guide presents not only a fascinating introduction to the country, but also essential new ideas to help the reader understand the Middle East.
'This is a sharp, judicious, caring, and competent scholar activist who has consistently crossed borders to carve new territories of perception and responsibility.' Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University 'As the crisis between Iran and the USA intensifies, Elaheh Rostami Povey's new book makes essential reading.' Stephanie Cronin, University of Oxford 'This work challenges much of the current discourse on the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Western media. It places evolving Iranian foreign and regional policies since 1979 in their proper historical and intellectual context. It combines new scholarship on the popular perception in the Arab street of Iran’s foreign policies with an engaging style and makes an important contribution to our knowledge on regional dimensions of the Palestine-Israel conflict.' Nur Masalha 'This book provides a clear-eyed, fascinating, and politically committed rebuttal to so much of the vacuous mainstream punditry about Iran's position and actions in the region.' Laleh Khalili, SOAS 'This book provides a clear and concise overview of the recent history of Iran in terms of religion, national and international politics and internal alliances, divisions and oppositional movements.' Baroness Afshar OBE, University of York 'A fascinating contribution to the debate. Rostami-Povey's extensive interviews in the region sheds valuable light on the continuing appeal of Iran on the Arab street, its causes, consequences and implications.' Ali M Ansari, St. Andrew's University 'A fascinating study of the evolution of the Islamic Republican regime in Iran, of its complex and increasingly conflictual relationship with popular and social movements, and of its impact on the wider Middle East. This fine product of Elaheh Rostami-Povey's critical scholarship is essential reading for anyone who refuses to settle for mythological and demonizing representations of post-revolutionary Iran.' Alex Callinicos, King's College London
Elaheh Rostami-Povey is a writer and researcher. She is affiliated to the London Middle East Institute and Centre for Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She is the author of Afghan Women (Zed 2013) and Women, Work and Islamism (Zed 2011) published under her pen name, Maryam Poya.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
About the Author i
Preface and acknowledgements vi
Glossary ix
Introduction 1
The internal dynamics of Iran 2
Grassroots democracy in Iran 3
Perception of Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East 5
The rise of Islamisms in the region 7
Change in political Islam 10
The organisation of this book 18
1 The legacy of a revolution 22
Tensions within the revolutionary movement 27
The revolutionary period, 1979–80 34
The Iran–Iraq war, 1980–88 38
The nature of the Islamic state 41
2 The reformers, the conservatives and the struggle for democracy 46
The reform movement 51
The democracy movement 57
The 2009–10 uprisings and the Green Movement 75
3 Islamist modernists 80
The Sunni–Shi’a divide 80
Iran and the Islamic empire 86
The Shi’a rise to power 88
The marginalisation of Shi’a clergy in the twentieth century 91
‘Religious new thinkers’ and the challenge to the rule of clergy 93
4 The relationship between Iran, Lebanon and Hezbollah 101
The emergence of Hezbollah 105
Hezbollah’s participation in electoral politics 108
The provision of resources by Hezbollah 112
Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah 114
Israel’s wars on Lebanon strengthen Iran’s position 120
5 The relationship between Iran and Iraq 128
The war with Iran, the invasion of Kuwait, sanctions and the fall of Saddam Hussein 133
Changes in the Shi’a–Sunni balance of state power 137
The US occupation of Iraq strengthens Iran’s position 140
Criticisms of the role of Iran 144
6 The relationship between Iran, Palestine and Hamas 154
The emergence of Hamas 159
Hamas participation in electoral politics 169
The provision of resources by Hamas 171
Israeli wars unite Palestinians against Israel 174
Israel’s policies strengthen Iran and Hamas 176
Iran’s relationship with Hamas 179
Hamas in power 183
7 The relationship between Iran and Egypt 186
Iran and Egypt 190
The rise of the Islamists 195
Islamist women’s rights activism 196
The provision of resources by Islamists 197
The Muslim Brotherhood and electoral politics 199
The client state of the West strengthens Islamists 204
Iran’s popularity in Egypt 207
8 The global context of Iranian state and society 212
‘You are either with us or with the terrorists’ 214
War on Iran 215
The decline of American hegemony 225
Notes 229
References 237
Index 251