Eastern State Identity against Western Influence

Essay, 2008

5 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Eastern State Identity against Western Influence

With the struggle for independence many states in the modern Middle East found themselves confronted with the challenge of the establishment of an own identity based on a long history, unifying events and shared values. Therefore, influence which was understood to be suppressive and foreign was fought. Especially western attributes were neglected since Great Britain, France, and the United States, but also Russia had dominated or even occupied many Middle Eastern territories. An extreme reaction to western norms could be witnessed in Iran with the raise of the Islamic Republic. Egypt on the other hand, which had always played an important economic rule, denied western powers in its country under the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser by relying on Pan-Arabic ideas. The following essay will have a closer look at the strategies and ideologies Iran and Egypt used in particular to resist foreign powers in order to establish a stable state.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Iran had welcomed western expertise in order to modernize the military and the economy.[1] Because of Iran’s richness on oil, western companies, such as the British dominated Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), settled down.[2] Reza Shah tried to free Iran economically from foreign bondage, but did not succeed in driving the AIOC out, since it had developed to the largest industrial employer in country and achieved through negotiations with the government an extension of the concession from the due date in 1962 to 1993.[3] But, the AIOC, not willing to raise the income any more for it’s over 30,000 employees, was nationalized in 1951, which caused a global isolation by world wide boycott regarding Iranian oil. This was accompanied by the threat of Great Britain to invade the Iranian oil territory, while Iran was abandoned by its ally, the United States. With the following economic crisis the opposition blamed the politics of western style modernization and secularism for the misfortune and propagated the return to traditional Islamic culture instead.[4] The Shah was seen as a western tool, and as not being able to stand up effectually for the countries interest.[5] With the Islamic revolution in 1978-1979 Ajatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini came to power to establish the Islamic Republic as a Shiite leader.[6] This governmental system was declared to be based “one hundred percent on Islam”[7]. It followed the Muslim Shiite beliefs of the return of the 12th Imam, while the country was mainly ruled by his religious representative, the supreme Imam, who Khomeini asserted to be.[8] The Council of the Islamic Republic, mainly composed by the religious party, the Ulema, reached domination over the administrative and legislative state departments to spread religious norms and values of traditional Islam among the citizens.[9] The Islamic Republican Party (IRP) was founded and opposite groups, such as minorities, were suppressed.[10] Through propaganda in the mosques, the Ulema achieved mass acceptance of the IRP and mobilized the urban and rural Muslim population political for the new Republic with religion as a vehicle. All secularized laws were replaced again by the religious law shari’ah and carried out by religious authorities. The new religion based ideology was spread in the media, through out educational institutions such as schools and universities, and through governmental actions by stressing the danger of “westtoxication”. Iran actually was exploited by the US and the Soviet Union in the politics of the Cold War; The US tried to control the domestic and foreign policy of Iran as an immediate neighbour of the SU, wherefore American aids for the Iranian military were passed in 1953 and 1963.[11] In order to break free from foreign control and Iran’s dependency on the US and the influence of the SU Khomeini announced that his politics would favor “neither East nor West”.[12] Against the overflow of the market with foreign products and media the Iranian government nationalized among others media stations, banks, and industrial complexes to ensure a state controlled economy and culture.[13] By announcing the raise of the universal Islamic order and propagating the ideas of Pan-Islam, in opposition to the Christian ties withthe West, Iran hoped to receive the broad support of other countries in the Middle East.


[1] Mainly advisors from the United States were invited, but British and Russian influence limited since these powers were seen as territorial aggressive. In 1941, the British invaded Iran in the course of World War II and remained an influential power in the country for years with the support of and by abetting Reza Shah.

[2] Great Britain managed to manipulate and dominate the Iranian state for their own interest in the Iranian oil even though Iran was never announced as a colony or a protectorate. Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 185.

[3] Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 190.

[4] When the government gave economic concessions to US to get financial support, religious groups proclaimed that the Shah would ignore the country’s Islamic believes and made an affront to Iran’s cultural and national identity and integrity. Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 449f.

[5] Since the 1940s Iran was used by the British, France, the SU, and the US for their economic interests, so Iran itself never had the power over its oil fields itself. The citizens, not experiencing wealth by their natural resources, felt tricked by the foreign powers and longed for a self controlled Iranian oil industry.

[6] Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 432.

[7] Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 432.

[8] “The position was to be held by “an honest, virtuous, well- informed, courageous, efficient administrator and religious jurist” who would serve as a leader of the people in the absence of the Hidden Twelfth Imam.” Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 433.

[9] Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 431.

[10] Minorities in Iran are Christians, Bahais, and Jews.

[11] Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 275, 293.

[12] Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 437.

[13] Cleveland. William L.: A History, p. 436, 442.

Excerpt out of 5 pages


Eastern State Identity against Western Influence
Muhlenberg College
The Modern Middle East
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
337 KB
modern middle east, Iran, Islamic Republic, Egypt, Pan Arabic, Russia, Great Britain, France, US, Gamal Nasser, Reza Shah, AIOC, Khomeini, Ajatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini
Quote paper
Kati Neubauer (Author), 2008, Eastern State Identity against Western Influence, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/133394


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