SOAS University of London

December 2013-January 2014 Edition of The Middle East in London Hits Newsstands

28 November 2013
Middle East in London Cover December 2013-January 2014

As 2013 draws to a close, Iran's tense nuclear negotiations with the group of 5+1 have been totally absorbing. But this year also marks another important stand-off between Iran and the West: that of the 60th anniversary of the US and British backed coup that removed Mohammad Mossadeq, Iran’s popular premier, from office and aborted one of the earliest brushes with democracy in our region. This event has unsurprisingly had a profound impact on Iranians' collective memory, shaping not only the internal politics and external relations of the country but also more widely its contemporary art and

The contentious issue of economic sanctions against Iran has been debated time and again but the indirect fallout of these far-reaching measures is rarely discussed. In his insight piece, Hassan Hakimian sheds light on one such aspect – their effects on academic freedom in general and international academic collaborations and exchanges in particular. 

Three articles in this issue reflect the political reverberations of the 1953 coup, representing a broad spectrum of views of Iranian and non-Iranian historians and political commentators. First, Ervand Abrahamian explores the conflict between imperialism and nationalism placing the nationalisation of Iranian oil in the wider context of the struggle for control of the oil industry globally. Second, Homa Katouzian looks at the intermediation of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) to end the crisis and how Mossadeq could have avoided the coup. In a somewhat sharp contrast to both these views, Oliver Bast argues that the sapling of democracy in Iran was not uprooted in August 1953 with the fall of Mossadeq but rather a decade later in 1963. And what of the position of the media, and in particular the BBC, in those turbulent summer months of 1953? Roger Hardy offers an in-depth assessment of the controversial role of the Persian language service at that time – a topic fiercely debated to this day.

Mossadeq’s forced removal also affected the outlook and dreams of several generations of Iranian poets. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak looks at some of these and examines how the coup has since shaped the poetry landscape in Iran.

Beyond the coup, the ever-increasing concerns about environmental issues in Iran  are discussed by Morad Tahbaz who warns that air pollution in large cities, threats to vanishing forests and drying-up of lakes is reaching crisis point. On a happier note, Haleh Anvari and a short report on a forthcoming exhibition in the Brunei Gallery reflect on dynamic developments in post-revolutionary Iranian art, whether on walls, in the streets or on canvas. Narguess Farzad offers a look at Iran’s particular fondness for Shakespearean drama followed by a mouth-watering account of an evening in the Persian restaurant Kateh from our resident gourmet connoisseurs – Nadje Al-Ali and Mark Douglas.

Finally, it is with profound sadness that we mark the death of our former colleague, an unwavering friend of, and expert on, Iran – Keith McLachlan.