1 October 2018
Iran has rarely been absent from the headlines in the past forty years but its recent prominence in the media is beginning to break previous records. It is appropriate, therefore, that this issue of The Middle East in London be devoted to Iran and the challenges it faces, while not losing sight of what is going on in other spheres such as arts and culture.
The US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and the re-imposition of extensive sanctions against Iran has assumed centre stage in Donald Trump’s strategy to increase the country’s political isolation and bring about economic destabilisation. In Insight, Hassan Hakimian evaluates the return of the sanctions regime and assesses its chance of ‘success’ in this round. He warns that the Trump doctrine of pushing one’s foes to the brink – hoping they will blink first – has entered uncharted territory in Iran.
The concept of legality as seen in the eyes of the law is explored in Hadi Enayat’s article on the obstacles to the reform of Iran’s judicial system and the curtailment of the independence of the Bar Association. Protection of the environment, considered a ‘public duty’ under article 50 of the Iranian constitution, cannot be addressed in isolation from the country’s economic strategies. In her article, Shirin Hakim weighs the options that policymakers face.
An issue of immense importance in today’s Iran is the problem of drug abuse and its frightening impact on society. While recounting the history of the consumption of narcotics in Iran, Maziyar Ghiabi looks at current attitudes to the use of cannabis and the ongoing debates around changing the legal status of this drug in Iran.
Away from the hardships caused by sanctions, competing conceptions of legality, environmental sustainability and intoxication, Vali Mahlouji, Mohammad Emami and Sarah Stewart introduce us to three pertinent initiatives strengthening Iranian studies: a curatorial and educational platform that investigates the hidden, banned or destroyed artistic and cultural material that plays a significant role in Iran’s social history; a thriving library of Persian and Iranian studies at Wadham College, Oxford; and the establishment of a newly endowed Institute of Zoroastrian Studies at SOAS.
For those who love poetry, and as preparations are made to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s West-Östlicher Divan, I introduce one of the forthcoming publications aimed at looking anew at the lyrical conversation between the renowned 19th-century German poet and the 14th century Hafiz of Shiraz.
It is always a joy to see one’s homeland and its idiosyncrasies through the curious and fresh eyes of the young who visit the country for the first time. Thomas Helm’s ‘Postcard from Iran’ captures nuisances that hardened travellers may take for granted.
And finally, to paraphrase TS Eliot, August and September were ‘the cruellest months’. Late this summer we mourned the loss of several highly esteemed scholars and friends of Persian studies. Alan Williams’ ‘In Memoriam’ piece bids a poignant farewell to two of the most respected amongst them: Leonard Lewisohn and Ehsan Yarshater.