OUR SCHOLARS | Dr. Michael Axworthy

Axworthy Michael

Michael Axworthy is a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. He became the Director of the University’s new Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies (CPIS) in autumn of 2008 and is also a Fellow of both the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Society of Arts. Axworthy served as the Head of the Iran Section at the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) from 1998-2000, before working in Cornwall and publishing his first book. He received both his MA and PhD from the University of Cambridge.

Axworthy’s first book, The Swords of Persia, covers the topic of the great Iranian conqueror Nader Shah (published in 2006). His second book entitled, Iran: Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran (Hurst Books), appeared in November 2007 and was published by Basic Books and Penguin. However, Penguin published the book as a paperback in November 2008 under the title, Iran: Empire of the Mind. His latest book published in March 2013 conveys the story of Iran since the revolution of the ayatollahs, including a full account of the Iran-Iraq war.

What Dr. Michael Axworthy Said

Iran in the Cold War

But the Russians are encouraging these separatist movements in the hope that once they do withdraw, they will have a sympathetic political system in place in Northwestern Iran through which they can continue to control the situation. And you could say that’s perhaps what they’re trying to do is something analogous to what they eventually achieve in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe at the similar time. And so you have a crisis over the Russian presence in the Northwest of the country in the latter part of 1945, which some people have pointed to as actually the first incident in what becomes the Cold War.


Mohammad Mossdegh

Through the early 50s this man Mohammad Mosaddegh is becoming more important and has set up a coalition of parties supporting his agenda of oil nationalization, but also supporting an agenda which is familiar from the period of the constitutional revolution. Rule of law, proper representative government and a rolling back of monarchal powers setting up something more like a proper constitutional monarchy. And from the point where Mosaddegh really comes into properly into power as prime minister he sets about fulfilling that agenda.


Nuclear Capability

At the time of the Islamic Revolution, Khomeini was very hostile to the idea of a nuclear weapon, well of any nuclear program in fact, not just a military program but also a civil program. So Khomeini, the nuclear capability was another one of the Shah’s grand, expensive, shining projects that had western backing but which were of no benefit to the country and were really just baubles if you like, empty show, vanity. They also, he also took the view that all weapons or mass destruction of whatever kind, nuclear, chemical, biological, whatever were un-Islamic and unacceptable and that was his stated position on that. So, at the beginning of the period of the Islamic republic Khomeini’s line was very clear and it seems that the whole nuclear industry just shut down at that point. It’s also fairly plain however that at some point in the mid 1980’s, that position was revised and again it does seem that it was very much about the Iran-Iraq war.

Dr. Michael Axworthy is Featured in The Third Path