by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe on December 2, 2014

American Embassy Tehran Former American Embassy in Tehran


Throughout the 1970s, Iran was concerned with dangers that emanated from both the region and the Soviet Union.

Engaged in a strategic, economic, and political alliance with the West, Iran was trapped in its image as a US surrogate. This impression served to thwart Iran’s championship of Third World goals and objectives. At the same time, there was growing criticism in the United States of the shah’s military build-up and human rights abuses. Overall:

by the time of the revolution, Iran’s foreign policy orientation and its over-activism were resented at home and created serious tensions in its relationship with both its allies and its enemies.

The Islamic revolution changed this situation. The spread of revolutionary Islam became the stated goal of Iran’s foreign policy. This entailed focusing on the interests of the Islamic community rather than nationalistic concerns. From the outset this led to disagreement.

Two groups emerged.

  • One group, influenced by a Third World variant of socialist ideas was intensely anti-Western, especially anti-American. it wanted better ties with the Soviet Union, the Eastern bloc, and Third World countries and favored the export of revolution.
  • A second group was more concerned about the Soviet/communist threat. This faction wanted to maintain some relationship with the West to preclude Soviet aggression. It favored the export of revolution by example rather than force.

Both factions believed that the export of revolution would ensure Iran’s security through a process of surrounding the territory by a cohort of like minded states.

These themes were played out in the transitional government of Prime Minister Bazargan when the competition was among three principal forces: Islamic nationalists, secular nationalists, and a variety of leftist groups.

After the consolidation of Islamic rule, these conflicts occurred within the Islamic leadership itself. While Bazargan, himself, pursued a nonaligned policy based on avoiding dependence on any one great power and maintaining good relations with neighboring states, after the occupation of the US embassy and the hostage taking, it became impossible to maintain reasonable relations with the United States.

From the November 4, 1979, hostage taking until the September 1980 outbreak of the war with Iraq, Iran’s foreign policy was dominated by three issues:

  • the hostage taking
  • the internal power struggle
  • and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The hostage crisis dictated that

foreign policy consisted of extreme anti-Americanism and an all-out call for Islamic revolution on the Iranian model throughout the Muslim world.

While mainly driven by rhetoric and rarely by action, it was clear that Iran’s geopolitical position could no longer be useful to the United States.

The period of cliency had ended.

Photo by Orlygur Hnefill



by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe on October 27, 2014


Cold War Studies is proud to announce the publication of our new e-book titled COLD WAR UNVEILED: ARMS RACE TO ZDANOV DOCTRINE. The book is now for sale on Amazon and I hope you’ll check it out.

COLD WAR UNVEILED: ARMS RACE to ZDANOV DOCTRINE is meant to provide a quick, easy to read, introduction to the complex Cold War concepts dominating the last half of the 20th century.

From the end of World War II in 1945 until the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the world was polarized by a global rivalry between two wartime allies, the Soviet Union and the United States. The Cold War’s impact was global in scope and created divisions based on free world orientation, socialist orientation, or nonalignment. The legacy of this conflict continues to shape the geopolitics at work in our world today.

The legacy of the Cold War is still with us as we confront the problems of today’s world:

  • the complex relationship between Russia and the United States;
  • the residue from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq;
  • the continuing American embargo and travel restrictions in place regarding Cuba;
  • the nuclear stalemate with Iran;
  • the drain of military expenditures on strained economies;
  • the sway of the defense establishment on public policy decision-making.

Whether you want to shine at a cocktail party or pass an exam, Cold War Unveiled is the illustrated primer you need to achieve your goal! Why not go over to Amazon and take a look right now?



September 17, 2014

1970: Hafiz al-Asad seizes power. He represents the rise of a new rural elite who claim power at the expense of the established urban politicians and merchants. His regime is authoritarian, based on the military and the Ba’ ath Party. Holding absolute power, al-Asad becomes the object of a personality cult. He adopts socialist economic policies and stands […]

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September 10, 2014

Syria is in the news. But how much do you really know about that country and its Twentieth Century history? Here’s the first part of a Syria Timeline to help you out. 1915-1918: Over 600,000 inhabitants of greater Syria lose their lives during World War I, roughly 18% of the prewar population. September 1918: An […]

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September 3, 2014

January 2, 1959: Fidel Castro and his rebel forces, having overthrown Batista’s corrupt but US friendly regime, take control of Cuba. July 1959: Vice President Richard Nixon flies into Moscow and spends the night at Premier Khruschev’s dacha. The next day they engage in their impromptu “kitchen debate” at the US National Exhibition in Moscow. September 1959: A major Cold […]

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Cold War Havana: Havana’s Ruralization, Militarization, and the 10 Million Ton Sugar Crop

July 19, 2014

Cuba’s Population Mobilizes for Agricultural Work Cuba’s effort to harvest 10 million  tons of sugar required a full-fledged military campaign, necessitating  the mobilization of Cuba’s entire population for agricultural work. Since the harvest was considered vital to the island’s “civil defense,” factory workers from the city volunteered to go to the countryside for a period […]

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June 11, 2014

GROUP A: THROUGH A COLD WAR LENS World Cup Fever is here!! Since you can’t get away from it, I thought it might be fun to look at the Brazil World Cup Qualifiers through a Cold War lens. Who are the teams and what role did they play in the half century Cold War conflict? Let’s […]

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June 4, 2014

Iran and the US Split: Americans and Iranians Leave Isfahan and Other Iranian Cities As strikes, protests, and demonstrations became more frenzied, Isfahan began to change. Most Americans left the city by November 1978, and an estimated $2 billion in scheduled military servicing and production contracts left with them. The Western corporate presence and the […]

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