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COURSE NAME: "History and Politics of Modern Iran"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Farian Sabahi
EMAIL: fsabahi@johncabot.edu
HOURS: TTH 11:30-12:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Pre-requisites: PL 209, PL 223 or Junior Standing
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This course will examine the history and the domestic and the foreign politics of modern Iran, highlighting its strategic role in the Middle East. It will analyse the institutional structure of the Islamic Republic, emphasizing how this political system can be classified as peculiar hybrid regime, and the role of Iranian civil society, particularly the youth and the women. Through critical analysis of the core texts and common explanatory theories (modernization theory, hybrid regimes theory, neoclassical realist theory), the course aims to examine Iran both before and after the 1979 Revolution to provide students with a multidisciplinary international relations perspective and a domestic political science approach.

This course is divided into four sections:

a) The first part covers the end of the Qajar dynasty, the reasons behind Iran's delay in comparison with the Ottoman Empire and Egypt, the tobacco revolt of 1890-92, the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, up to Reza Khan's coup d’etat in 1921 and the end of the Qajar.

b) The second part analyses the Pahlavi monarchy, and thus the rise of the modern State with Reza Shah (1925-1941) and the reign of his son and successor Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1941-1979).

c) The third part examines the reasons behind the Revolution of 1979, intellectual and religious writings, the hostage crisis, the constitution of the Islamic Republic, its presidents, its complex political system. Some time will be dedicated to civil society, religious minorities, the youth and women, the military, the paramilitary, the opposition inside the country and abroad.

d) The fourth part focuses on Iran's foreign policy and proxy wars currently taking place in Syria and Yemen. Thus, relations with the main regional players in the region - Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Arab Countries of the Persian Gulf – will be tackled, as well as relations with the main global players, meaning the United States, Russia, China and the EU. Articles of newspapers will be discussed in class.



Students will:

- understand the internal nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and its international rivalries and alliances, in order to critically interpret current events;

- grasp the institutions and values of Shi'i Islam, to understand the ways in which it finds expression in the political culture of contemporary Iran.



Attendance and class discussion 10%
Final exam 30%
Final paper (at least 1500 words) 30%
Mid-term paper (at least 1500 words) 30%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Further readings” are for those students who will write a paper on that specific subject (for this reason, there is no indication of the number of pages to be read).

1) Welcome Session. Iran: an ethnic, religious, linguistic puzzle. Why is Iran so different, what is Shi'i Islam. Iran's schizophrenia (Dariush Shayegan). Video by Ahmad Kiarostami - Kiosk: Love for Speed (Eshgh e Sorat) with subtitles.

Slides used in class:

- Andreas Birken, Atlas of Islam, Brill, Leiden, 2010, pp. 20, 21, 86; 25, 26, 27.

Suggested readings:

- Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival. How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future, Norton, NY, 2006, pp. 227-254.

- Daryush Shayegan, Cultural Schizophrenia. Islamic Societies Confronting the West, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1997, pp. Vii-x, 3-15, 22-29.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West. The Tormented Triumph of Nativism, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1996, pp. 147-155 (Daryush Shayegan: The Gypsy Philosopher).

2) Film No One Know's About Persian Cats by Bahman Ghobadi focusing on the music young Iranians want to play (very similar to kids in Europe and the US). This film will make students understand that Tehran is not an exotic place, its youth has the same habits and desires. However, censorship and the religious police don't always allow their dreams to come true. 

Recommended readings:

- https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/no-one-knows-about-persian-cats-bahman-ghobadi-103-mins-12a-1929133.html

- https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/mar/25/no-one-knows-about-persian-cats

3) The reasons behind Iran's delay in modernisation at the end of the XX century in comparison with the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. The tobacco revolt of 1890-92 and the role of women within the Shah's harem. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906.

Required readings:

- M. E. Yapp, The Making of the Modern Near East 1792-1923, Longman, Harlow, 1987, pp. 163-172; 247-260.

- Vanessa Martin, Islam and Modernism. The Iranian Revolution of 1906, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1989, pp. 1-33.

Suggested reading:

- Janet Afary, The Iranian Constitutional Revolution 1906-1911. Grassroots Democracy, Social democracy, and the Origins of Feminism, Columbia University Press, NY, 1996, pp. 116-144 (chapter on “Journalism, Satire, and Revolution: Exposing the Conservative Clerics, Denouncing the Western Powers”).

4) Reza Khan's coup d’etat in 1921. The rise of the modern State with Reza Shah Pahlavi (1925-1941). Persia becomes “Iran”. The Allies' invasion of Iran in 1941

Required reading:

- Abrahamian Ervand, Iran between Two Revolutions, Princeton University Press, 1982, pp. 135-165.

Suggested readings:

- Cyrus Ghani, Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power, I.B. Tauris, London, 1998, pp. 395-407 (epilogue).

- Stephanie Cronin, “Conscription and Popular Resistance in Iran (1925-1941)” in Eric J. Zürcher (ed.), Arming the State. Military Conscription in the Middle East and Central Asia 1775-1925, I.B. Tauris, London, 1999, pp. 145-168.

- Simin Daneshvar, Savushun. A Novel about Modern Iran, Mage, Washington D.C., 1990 (novel).

- Michael Zirinsky, “The Rise of Reza Khan”, in John Foran (ed.), Social Movements in Iran: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1994, pp. 44-77.

5) Iran's role during WW2. The so-called “Children of Tehran” (documentary film, 33').

Required reading:

- Houman Sarshar (ed.), Ester's Children. A Portrait of Iranian Jews, The Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History, The Graduate Society Foundation, Beverly Hills, 2005, p. 246.

Further readings:

-Dorit Bader Whiteman, Lonek's Journey. The True Story of a Boy's Escape to Freedom, Star Bright Books, 2005 (memoir).

- Fariborz Mokhtari, In the Lion's Shadow. The Iranian Schindler and his Homeland in the Second World War, The History Press, 2011.

6) The reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1941-1979). Mohammad Mosaddeq’s government and the coup d’etat of 1953. A different story.

Required reading:

- Axworthy, op. cit., pp. 47-59.

Further readings:

- Abbas Milani, The Shah, Palgrave, NY, 2012.

- Ervand Abrahamian, The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and The Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations, The New York Press, New York, 2013.

- Darioush Bayandor, Iran and the CIA. The Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited, Palgrave, NY, 2010.

- S. Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Hoboken, John Wiley Sons, 2003.

7) The White Revolution of 1963. The Literacy Corps and its implications.

Required readings:

- The White Revolution of Iran by His Imperial Majesty Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi Aryamehr Shahanshah of Iran, The Imperial Pahlavi Library, Kayhan Press, Tehran, 1967, pp. 1-24.

- I.G. Edmonds, The Shah of Iran. The Man and His Lands, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1976, chapter “Iran Today”, pp. 165-176.

Further readings:

- Ann Lambton, Landlord and Peasant in Persia, I.B. Tauris, London, 1991.

- Eric Hooglund, Land and Revolution in Iran 1960-1980, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1982.

- Farian Sabahi, The Literacy Corps in Pahlavi Iran (1963-79). Political, Social and Literary Implications, Sapiens Ed., Lugano, 2002.

8) Iran in the 1960s and 1970 and the economic reasons behind the Revolution of 1979. Kamran Shirdel's documentaries (on poverty and prostitution in Tehran).

Required reading:

- Axworthy, op. cit., pp. 59-75.

Further reading:

- Nikki Keddie, Roots of Revolution: An interpretive History of Modern Iran, Yale University Press, 1981.

9) Khomeini's biography, writings and political views. Intervention (in English) by Alberto Zanconato, ANSA (Italian News Agency) correspondent in Tehran 1994-1997 and 2001-2011, author of Khomeini, Il rivoluzionario di Dio, Castelvecchi, Roma, 2018)

Required reading:

- Hamid Dabashi, Theology of Discontent. The Ideological Foundation of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, NY University Press, NY, 1993, pp. 409-484 (Khomeini: The Theologian of Discontent).

Further reading:

- Baqer Moin, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

10) Iranian intellectuals (Ali Shariati, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, etc.).

Required reading:

- Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West. The Tormented Triumph of Nativism, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1996, pp. 65-76 (Jalal Al-e Ahmad: The Bohemian Belletrist), 105-109 (Ali Shariati: The Aspiring Luther), 116-119 (Mojahedin-e Khalq: The Religious Militants).

Suggested reading:

- Hamid Dabashi, Theology of Discontent. The Ideological Foundation of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, NY University Press, NY, 1993, pp. 147-215 (Motahhari: The Chief Ideologue of the Islamic Revolution), 216-272 (Talegani: The Father of the Revolution), 324-366 (Bazargan: The Devout Engineer), 367-408 (Bani Sadr: The Monotheist Economist), 409-484 (Khomeini: The Theologian of Discontent).

11) The main events leading to the Revolution of 1979 and the Islamic Republic. The seizure of the US hostages.

Required reading:

- Axworthy, op. cit., chapter 2 “The 1970 and the Slide to the Revolution”, pp. 76-132.

Suggested reading:

- Axworthy, op. cit., chapter 3 “Like the Person He Ought to Be: Islamic Republic, 1979-80”, pp. 133-186.

12) Mid-term papers

13) The political institutions of the Islamic Republic.

Required reading:

- Asghar Schirazi, The Constitution of Iran: Politics and the State in the Islamic Republic, I. B. Tauris, London, 1997, 1-21, 291-308.

Further reading:

- Wilfried Buchta, Who Rules Iran? The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Washington, 2000.

14) The Iran-Iraq war and its legacy. Part of the film Marriage of the Blessed by Makhmalbaf (1989) will be shown.

Required reading:

- Axworthy, op. cit., chapter 4 “Jang-e Tahmili: The Imposed War, 1980-88”, pp. 187-267.

- Saeed Zaydabadi-Nejad, The Politics of Iranian Cinema. Film and society in the Islamic Republic, Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 56-69.

Further readings:

- Farhang Rajaee (ed.), The Iran-Iraq War. The Politics of Aggression, University Press of Florida, Gainesville, 1993.

15) Khomeini's death. Khamenei Rahbar, Rafsanjani President (1989–97). Reconstruction and economic growth.

Required reading:

- Axworthy, op. cit., chapter 5 “The End of the War, the Death of the Emam, and Reconstruction: Khamenei and Rafsanjani, 1988-97”, pp. 268-323.

Suggested reading:

- Ali Ansari, Iran, Islam and Democracy. The Politics of Managing Change, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, chapters 4 and 5, pp. 52-109.

16) Khatami, the reformist president (1997–2005): expectations and political mobilisation. Part of the film The Lizard by Tabrizi (2004) will be shown.

Required reading:

- Axworthy, op. cit., chapter 6 “Bim-e Mowj (Fear of the Wave): Khatami and Reform, 1997-2005”, pp. 324-369.

Suggested reading:

- Saeed Zaydabadi-Nejad, The Politics of Iranian Cinema. Film and society in the Islamic Republic, Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 90-100.

17) President Ahmadinejad's first term (2005–2009). The confrontation with Israel. The quest for nuclear power. Part of the film Letters to the President by Petr Lom will be shown.

Required reading:

- Kasra Naji, Ahmadinejad. The Secret History of Iran's Radical Leader, I.B. Tauris, London, 2008, pp. xi-xiv (introduction), 1-56 (chapter 1, “From the Desert to the Palace”).

Further reading:

- Anoushirvan Ehteshami and Mahjoob Zweiri, Iran and the Rise of its Neoconservatives. The Politics of Tehran's Silent Revolution, I.B. Tauris, 2007.

18) Religious minorities in Iran. The Sunnis. The Jews. Documentary film Jews of Iran by Ramin Farahani.

Required readings:

Houman Sarshar (ed.), Ester's Children. A Portrait of Iranian Jews, The Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History, The Graduate Society Foundation, Beverly Hills, 2005, pp. 104-105.

Farian Sabahi, “Iran, Iranian Media and Sunnite Islam”, in Brigitte Maréchal and Sami Zemni (eds.) The Dynamics of Sunni-Shia Relationships, Hurst, London, 2013, pp. 163-177.

19) Papers presentation

20) The Green Movement and repression.

Required reading:

- Asef Bayat, Why did Iran's Green Wave not feel the Arab Spring?, Sadighi Annual Lectures, Amsterdam, 2012.

Further reading:

- Hamid Dabashi, Iran, the Green Movement and the USA, Zed Books, London, 2010.

21) Rohani's presidency (2003-), the broad coalition government, the revival of the expectations for change, the religious foundations (bonyad) and their economic power, the nuclear deal.

Required reading:

- Michael Axworthy's contributions: https://www.newstatesman.com/writers/321261

Suggested reading:

- Ali M. Ansari, Iran's Eleventh Presidential Election Revisited: The Politics of Managing Change, LSE – MEC Paper series, December 2016.

22) The main actors in the political arena. The support of segments of the society to President Ahmadinejad. Documentary Basidji by Mehran Tamadon.

Required reading:

- online report on the Revolutionary Corps by Counter Extremism Project: https://www.counterextremism.com/sites/default/files/threat_pdf/Islamic%20Revolutionary%20Guard%20Corps%20%28IRGC%29-10302018.pdf

Further reading:

- Nader Uskowi, Temperature Rising. Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Wars in the Middle East, Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.

23) The role of women in Iran. Part I – Film Khadije Saghafi (Khomeini's wife)

Required readings:

- https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/grand-lady-iran-1115665

- Farian Sabahi, We, the Women of Tehran (PDF available).

Further readings:

- Parvin Paidar, Women and the political process in twentieth-century Iran, Cambridge Unviersity Press, Cambridge, 1995.

- Farah Azari, Women of Iran: The Conflict with Fundamentalist Islam, Ithaca Press, London, 1983.

24) The role of women in Iran. Part II. The film Divorce Iranian Style by Ziba Mir-Hosseini.

Required readings:

- Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari, “Rethinking Men's Authority over Women: Qiwama, Wilaya and their Underlying Assumptions”, in Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Kari Vogt, Lena Larsen and Christian Moe (eds.), Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law, I.B. Tauris, London, 2013, pp. 191-212.

- Mohsen Kadivar, “Revisiting Women's Rights in Islam: 'Egalitarian Justice” in Lieu od 'Deserts-based Justice'”, in Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Kari Vogt, Lena Larsen and Christian Moe (eds.), Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law, I.B. Tauris, London, 2013, pp. 213-236.

Further reading:

- Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Islam and Gender. The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran, I.B. Tauris, London, 1999.

25) Iran's foreign policy – part I: the U.S., Europe, Russia and China. Intervention (in English) by Luciana Borsatti, ANSA (Italian News Agency) correspondent in Tehran and author of L'Iran al tempo di Trump, Castelvecchi 2018.

Required reading:

- Mahmood Sariolghalam and Sanam Vakil, Iranian foreign policy: prospects for change, Chatham House, Royal Institute of International Affairs, May, 2018 (15 pages, you can download them).

Further readings:

- R.K. Ramazani, Revolutionary Iran: Challenge and Response in the Middle East, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1988.

- Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Mahjoob Zweiri (eds.), Iran's Foreigh Policy. From Khatami to Ahmadinejad, Ithaca Press, London, 2011.

- Brenda Shaffer, Partners in Need. The Strategic Relationship of Russia and Iran, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001.

26) Iran's foreign policy – part II: Israel. Ahmadinejad's cartoons contesting the Holocaust (slides).

A few articles will be provided a week before (depending on current events).

Suggested reading:

- Anthony H. Cordesman, Iran's Military Forces in Transition. Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Praeger, Westport, 1999, chapter 12: “Iranian reasons for pursuing weapons of mass destruction”, pp. 265-270.

Further reading:

- Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance. The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S., Yale University Press, New Haven-London, 2007.

27) Iran's foreign policy – part III: the GCC countries, the case of Nimr al-Nimr with Saudi Arabia in 2016, and the geopolitics of the Persian Gulf.

A few articles will be provided a week before (depending on current events).

Further readings:

- Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, Political Geography of the Strait of Hormuz, SOAS Department of Geography Occasional Paper, London, 1990.

- Ali Rastbeen (ed.), The Three Iranian Islands of the Persian Gulf, Institut International d'Etudes Stratégiques, Paris, 2008.

28) Final papers.