New states in world politics often emerge as the result of a change in government. However, the term ‘new state’ also applies to countries that have recently acquired power and are consequently able to enter into international relations to previously unobtainable lengths. One of these countries is the Republic of Iran. Iran’s relatively abrupt shift from an inconsequential state that portrayed steady dependency upon foreign actors to an independent, rogue state has caused politicians and historians alike to question Iran’s ability to come out of isolation and assert its claim as a permanent world power.
Within the last 100 years, Iran has experienced two changes in government. The first occurred in 1921 when Reza Khan seized the government and declared himself the shah. The second change arose during the 1979 revolution. This revolution called for the removal of western influence on the Iranian culture. The idea of this intrusion goes back to 1941 when Russia and Great Britain invaded in order to prevent Nazi Germany from gaining access to oil in Iran and because the west needed a secure transportation route to Russia for military supplies. Soon, they realized they needed a shah they could control and encouraged Reza Khan to abdicate to his son, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. Pahlavi improved relations with the west and even implemented a number of reforms at the encouragement of the Kennedy administration. These reforms, known as the White Revolution, helped the economy to flourish but also saw a decline in civil liberties. Many Iranians began believing that their own government valued Americans over its citizens, and ideology fuelled by Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1979, Khomeini became Supreme Ruler of the Republic of Iran and ended the royalist government. When Pahlavi fled the country and went to the United States, a group of Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehan and did not release the hostages until the first day of Reagan’s presidency in 1981.
This new government was soon invaded by Iraq in 1980 which started a war that would not end for another eight years. During this time, Iran’s insistence on remaining an independent country caused it to withdraw from interactions with many powerful countries. By the end of the Cold War, Iran had isolated itself to the point that the collapse of the USSR barely affected it. Furthermore, the Iran-Iraq War had left Iran economically and socially wounded. Iran’s position in world politics was little more than the extent to which its role as a state sponsor of terrorism concerned other states. While it was still able to supply oil, Iran’s economy quickly began showing the impact of the economic tariffs on its already meagre economy.
Today, Iran benefits from the 20th highest GDP in the world. That sounds very impressive for a previously economically inconsequential state, but its GDP per capita is very low. The citizens of Iran are still plagued by a high rate of unemployment and an even greater...