Tag Archives: Imperialism

The Establishment of the Qajar Dynasty in Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 February 2019

Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, founder of the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925) in Iran [source]

Gavin R.G. Hambly, a Middle East scholar and historian, wrote a paper in 1963 about the establishment of the Qajar dynasty, the second-to-last ruling House in Iran, and particularly about its first monarch, Agha Mohammad Khan. The paper is slightly revisionist about Agha Mohammad, countering the long-standing reputation of him as solely a ruthless despot. The Qajars, for all their faults, prevented the outright colonisation of Iran in the nineteenth century, and imposed an order that held the country together, albeit while losing tracts of territory on the periphery—the Caucasus and Turkmenistan to the Russians in the north, and areas in the east to the British, notably Herat, which was annexed to Afghanistan, and parts of Baluchistan and Sistan to what would later become Pakistan. This resilience of the Iranian state is largely ascribable to Agha Mohammad, argues Hambly, who showed a sense of public spirit he is rarely credited with in consciously making the lives of ordinary Iranians better. Continue reading

The Fall of the Shah and the Rise of Islamism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 January 2019

Forty years ago yesterday, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah (King) of Iran, left his country for the last time as a year-long revolution crested. A month later, the remnants of the Imperial Government collapsed and Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was swept to power after his long exile, establishing the first Islamist regime. Andrew Scott Cooper’s 2016 book, The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran, charts how this happened. Continue reading

The Consequences of American Withdrawal from Syria

A version of this article was published at CapX

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 December 2018

President Trump in a Twitter video saying fallen soldiers agree with his plan to withdraw from Syria, 19 December 2018 [image source]

“We have won against ISIS”, declared President Donald Trump in a Twitter video on Wednesday night. “We’ve taken back the land. And now it’s time for our troops to come back home.” After a day of reporting that the United States has decided on a rapid, total withdrawal from Syria, here was the confirmation. It is a policy course fraught with danger and very likely to lead to outcomes unfavourable to Western interests, whether defined in humanitarian or strategic terms.
Continue reading

Focused on North Africa, Al-Qaeda’s Leader Condemns the “Compromising” Revolutionaries

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 March 2018

Ayman al-Zawahiri during speech on 6 March 2018 (screen grab)

Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, gave a nine-minute speech on 6 March 2018, entitled, “France Has Returned Oh Descendants of the Lions”. The essential message is that European “invaders” are back in the Maghreb, the Muslim-majority states west of Egypt (those states to the east are referred to as the Mashriq), either directly or through local regimes that adhere to the foreigners’ program, political and economic. Al-Zawahiri condemns the post-“Arab Spring” governments that have sought stability by compromise between the revolutionary movements that ousted the dictatorships and the old elites. For al-Zawahiri, the only just solution one achieved by a violent, jihadist campaign that sweeps the old order out entirely. An English transcript of the speech was released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab Media, and is reproduced below. Continue reading

A Year In, Trump’s Syria Policy Looks A Lot Like Obama’s

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 December 2017

Nearly a year into Donald Trump’s administration, the president has followed the track laid down by his predecessors in Syria, accelerating it in some cases, and reinforcing the negative trends of Barack Obama’s defective policy that will undo even apparent successes, like the destruction of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) “caliphate”. Continue reading

The Price of the Iran Deal

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 26, 2016

Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at a mosque in Tehran, Iran, (March 2015)

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported on the “free fall” of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy. While the President had “inherited a messy situation in the region with the war in Iraq … by the time he took office, [President George W.] Bush’s troop surge and Gen. David H. Petraeus’s strategy change had helped turn the war around”. This relative stability has given way:

Today there is no single overarching issue but multiple ones. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are caught up in war. Turkey and Jordan are inundated by refugees. Russia has reasserted itself as a major player in the region. Libya is searching for stability after the fall of its longtime dictator. The Kurds are on the march. Egypt is fighting off a terrorist threat at home. And Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging a profound struggle for the future of the region.

Many of America’s allies disagreed with Bush’s focus on Iraq, considering Iran to be the larger threat, but if they had considered Bush too assertive, they find Obama too timorous, stepping back as the situation spins out of control. Continue reading

Book Review: The Muslim Discovery of Europe (1982) by Bernard Lewis

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 7, 2015

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With the triumph of relativism and the current economic woes of the West, the sense that Western civilization is unique and in some respects—to use an old-fashioned word—better than the alternatives, and worth defending and exporting, is waning. But Bernard Lewis’ The Muslim Discovery of Europe suggests a longer view in which Europe, while containing all the faults of previous civilizations, has been one of the few to begin the process of correcting those faults, and has corrected many more than any other civilization.

One feature of European civilization that stands out as unique is curiosity. Continue reading