Special Edition Iran – Timeline Part IV

By Jay Holmes

As an intelligence operative, I need a good foundation in history to do my job. After all, if we don’t understand what happened in the past, we can’t understand what is happening today or why. This series outlines Iran’s past as we move toward an analysis of that country’s current nuclear capability and what it means to the West. (See Part IPart II, and Part III.)

Today, we look at the political and social dynamics of Iran from 1650 A.D. until the time the British drilled the first oil well in the Middle East.

Great Britain drills first oil well in Middle East, image from insideofiran.com.

1650 A.D.

While a new age of art, literature, architecture, and engineering flourished in Iran, the question of dynastic successions left it in a weakened condition politically. In the last half of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, many of Iran’s political elite looked inward too much toward internal rivalries and failed to deal effectively with foreign relations.

It reminds me of Washington D.C. and London today.

1722 A.D.

A charismatic Afghan chieftain by the name of Mahmoud Khan revolted against his Iranian overlords and overcame tribal enmities to form a united army. He invaded and captured Isfahan and was able to rule much of eastern Iran.

1725 A.D.

Mahmoud Khan confidant and cousin murdered him.

1729 A.D.

Persian General Nadir Kuli defeated and evicted the Afghan invaders from eastern Iran.

1735 A.D.

Yet another foreign force invaded Iran. This time, a well equipped Turkish army entered western Iran, but Nadir Shah solidified his political position by defeating and evicting them.

1739 A.D.

A ruthless but skillful Persian general, Nadir Shah invaded and defeated Afghanistan. He then invaded India and sacked Delhi. Fortunes in jewels, including the famous Koh-i-noor diamond, were shipped to Iran along with the famous Golden Peacock Throne.

The Golden Peacock Throne, image from public domain.

1740 A.D.

The Astrakhan-id dynasty of Uzbekistan and Turkestan collapsed. Nadir Shah quickly conquered the region and incorporated it into Iran.

1747 A.D.

Nadir Shah’s bodyguards assassinated him and the vast Iranian empire fell into disarray. Many of the strongest leaders that could have risen to rule a united empire were long since dead thanks to the cruel hand of Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah’s bodyguard commander, Ahmad Shah, declared himself ruler of the Iranian Empire. Iran fell into civil war along predominantly ethnic divisions.

1750 A.D.

Karim Khan managed to rise through the mayhem of the civil war and establish the Zand Dynasty. Karim attempted to solidify control by destroying and killing off various ethnic and political groups. His genocidal campaign was not completely successful.

1794 A.D.

Agha Muhammad Khan, a survivor of Karim’s brutality in his youth, led an army against Karim and decisively defeated the Zand Dynasty. He was able to reunite much of the Iranian Empire.

1796 A.D.

Agha Muhammad’s servants assassinated him.

1798 A.D.

Fath Ali Shah rose to the top of the Iranian political heap. He reinvigorated East-West trade, and Iran entered a new age of prosperity.

1813 A.D.

Not all Azerbaijanis liked being Iranian. In the northern reaches of Azerbaijan, they joined the Russians and Armenians to invade Azerbaijan. They defeated the Iranian garrisons, and a treaty was signed ceding territory to Russia.

1823 A.D.

Iran wisely signed a peace treaty with the Turks that defined their mutual border.

1828 A.D.

Iran lost another war with Russia and ceded control of the Caucasus and the north Caspian shore to that country.

1879 A.D.

Great Britain invaded Afghanistan from British India, and at a high cost in men and material, it defeated the Afghan tribes. Within weeks, the British troops started wondering why they came to Afghanistan. The invasion indirectly pitted Russia against Great Britain. The Iranians laughed.

1881 A.D.

Russia ignored Great Britain long enough to invade and capture Turkmenistan from Iran. The Russians laughed, and the British remained silent on the point, as they were busy in India and elsewhere. The sentiments of the Turkmenistan peasants were not recorded.

1890 A.D.

The Persian Empire embraced comic political opera, and within 120 years, they elevated it to new heights. Iranian leader Naser od Dinh Shah infuriated Iranians by selling tobacco growing concessions to European companies. Those concessions required no capital investment by the Shah, and they seemed like easy money.

1891 A.D.

Iranian mullahs issued a “Fatua” (a holy war declaration) against anyone cooperating with the European tobacco concessions.

1896 A.D.

The Shah was murdered in a mosque. It seemed like easy money to the mullahs and required no capital investment by them.

1900 A.D.

Iran granted mineral rights to Great Britain. It seemed like easy money to the Iranian monarchy and required no capital investment by Iran.

1906 A.D.

The mullahs instigated anti-European riots. About 15,000 Brits took refuge in the British Embassy property. The tea schedule was disrupted. It seemed like easy money to the mullahs. It cost them no capital investment.

To the mullahs’ dismay, a constitutional movement led by educated Iranians took over the riots. The Shah agreed to a constitution that limited his power.

While their ancestors were fierce warriors who ruled with iron fists, the Iranian throne now seemed to be at the mercy of multiple factions, both foreign and domestic. Alliances that keep the throne intact depended on the wind of the day.

To the dismay of the mullahs, Iran held elections for a democratic parliament. If the monarchy was something they hated, democracy was something they loathed and feared.

1907 A.D.

Russia’s beleaguered monarchy and the far-stretched British conferred with their respective accountants and divided up Iran between them into spheres of influence.

1908 A.D.

Russian troops put down a rebellion directed by the mullahs.

Great Britain drilled the first Middle Eastern oil well. Let the fun begin.

Next time, we’ll look at how oil supplanted East-West trade as the great driver of Iran’s international relations.


20 comments on “Special Edition Iran – Timeline Part IV

  1. Wow – love reading history in a nutshell while sipping my morning coffee. Thanks, Holmes, for the education!

  2. Gene Lempp says:

    “It seemed like easy money and required no capital investment” which seems to be a trend that has carried forward into the modern day where the resource grabbing squabbles of wealthy foreign powers are used to cover the initial investment and infrastructure costs. Yet where is the standard of living for the people of Iran? Interesting material, Holmes.

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Gene. You are right Gene. The ignored concerns of the masses kept Iran vulnerable to political manipulation in the twentieth century.

      From your article that I read today:”Peter Abelard (1079 – April 21, 1142) was a master philosopher, theologian and logistical mind that challenged the thinking of French society.” Yea like that was ever hard to do. There was a bit of the Casanova in him.

  3. Are you going to tell us how to save the world in one of these posts? The anticipation is killing me!;-)

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Renee. I will tell you my opinions concerning what Iran might do and how the West might react but I make no claim as to knowing how to save mankind. I see much, know less, and am certain of very little but I’ll give you my best shot.

  4. tomwisk says:

    I see a theme here “Leader is assassinated” . It only gets better. Today the way things are going we’re going to be mired in Afghanistan for awhile. Same deal a Southeast Asia. Except instead of the British it was the French.

    • J Holmes says:

      HI Tomwisk. I think we will leave Afghanistan for reasons of domestic politics here. In my view there is no legitimate government there now and there will be an even less legitimate rule there when we leave.

  5. Donna Newton says:

    I’ve just read a post on Nigel’s blog about planes, and most of it went over my head. However, my husband would have loved to read it. Then I come and here and think the same thing. My hubby would love to read this. He flew out to Denver today, but when he returns I will pass this post over to him.

    Thanks, Holmes. xxxx

    • J Holmes says:

      Thank You Donna. I have learned a lot from reading Nigel’s blogs. Piper has cancelled all final exams for my series so feel free to read with curiosity and no effort.

      I hope your love bug has a nice trip to Denver and that he misses you.

  6. You’re as smart as you are witty and bright, Piper. Thanks for another informative post!

  7. Hi Holmes. I think the moral of this period is, to use (not just carry) a big stick and most importantly, don’t trust the hired help.

    You write about the internal rivalries. It seems saying the other guy is wrong is more important than thinking of something right to do these days.


    • Good grief, I can’t believe I just wrote that stuff. Sorry about the english!

    • J Holmes says:

      Hi Nigel. “It seems saying the other guy is wrong is more important than thinking of something right to do these days.” I think you are right. For most politicians it’s about gaining power and status and not about serving their nation or their people.

  8. […] Holmes continues his dissection of Iran’s history in Special Edition Iran – Timeline III and Timeline IV. […]

  9. […] past. See Special Edition Iran – Timeline Part I, Timeline Part II, Timeline Part III, and Timeline Part IV. Today, Holmes brings us up to the ascension of Muhammad  Reza Pahlavi, the fellow most Westerners […]

  10. […] past. See Special Edition Iran – Timeline Part I, Timeline Part II, Timeline Part III, Timeline Part IV, and Timeline Part V. Today, Holmes reveals the rise of the Ayatollahs, the attempted US hostage […]

  11. […] past. See Special Edition Iran – Timeline Part I, Timeline Part II, Timeline Part III, Timeline Part IV, Timeline Part V, and The Rise of the Ayatollahs. Today, Holmes takes us behind the intelligence […]

  12. […] past. See Special Edition Iran – Timeline Part I, Timeline Part II, Timeline Part III, Timeline Part IV, Timeline Part V, The Rise of the Ayatollahs, and Iran Crosses the Nuclear Rubicon. Today, […]

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