The Taliban: a new proxy for Iran in Afghanistan?

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Niamatullah Ibrahimi: ‘Taliban: A New Proxy for Iran in Afghanistan?’ Third World Quarterly. Published online Dec 2019
Publication year: 2019

Iran has pursued a highly contradictory policy towards Afghanistan. On the one hand, it became a significant beneficiary of the overthrow of the Taliban regime by the US-led military intervention in 2001 in Afghanistan. The new Afghan government established cordial ties with Iran, allowing it to expand its political, economic and cultural influence in the country. Yet Iran has also provided significant support to the Taliban in its campaign to violently upend the political, social and economic processes in the country. This article examines the underlying domestic and regional security dynamics that contribute to this contradictory behaviour. It offers an assessment of how tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic, as well as Tehran’s growing threat perception following the rise of the Islamic State – Khorasan in 2014, impact on Iran’s policy towards the Taliban. The paper argues that Tehran views the Taliban as an instrument to disrupt the influence of other actors in Afghanistan. The instrumentalisation of the Taliban, however, is likely to be counterproductive for Iranian security in the long run as it contributes to Afghanistan’s instability and insecurity and undermines Iran’s own long-term interests.

The Kurds in Iran: balancing national and ethnic identity in a securitised environment

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Costas Laoutides & William Gourlay (2019), Third World Quarterly, 40:6, 1145-1162, DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2019.1592671
Publication year: 2019

The Kurdish population in Iran feels disenfranchised and excluded from the political system. Based on an original survey of Iranian Kurds, it is revealed that Kurds lack trust and confidence in the central government and do not exhibit any emotional connection with Iranian identity or the Islamic Republic of Iran. Overwhelmingly, survey respondents put their Kurdish identity and affiliations as the primary point of reference. This emotional and political disconnect with Iran poses a serious challenge to the incumbent regime. It is an affront to the official rhetoric of ethnic unity and Iranian solidarity that is reinforced by Islamic principles under the Islamic Republic of Iran. This has led the incumbent regime to opt for a security response to a clearly political challenge. However, as the survey data in this research reveals, the securitisation of Iran’s response to its Kurdish population is only widening the gap, and aggravating the situation. The securitised approach to Kurdish aspirations for inclusion and acceptance is a counterproductive strategy with significant risks for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Understanding Pakistan's Relationship with Iran

Refereed Journal articles
Ahmed, Zahid Shahab, and Shahram Akbarzadeh. "Understanding Pakistan’s Relationship with Iran." Middle East Policy 25, no. 4 (2018): 86-100.
Publication year: 2019

Scholarship on Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors predominantly focuses on India, Afghanistan and, most recently, China. Little research is conducted on relations between Pakistan and Iran. This is an obvious gap, given the cultural and religious links between these two neighbors that share a 909-kilometer border.1 Their relationship is often viewed as peripheral to Pakistan’s relations with the United States, Saudi Arabia, India, and Afghanistan.2 A prominent source on Pakistan’s foreign policy, Abdul Sattar’s Pakistan’s Foreign Policy 1947-2016: A Concise History, does not even dedicate a subsection to Iran.3 Furthermore, little attention has been given to the impact of domestic factors on Pakistan’s foreign-policy choices. Although some scholars have explored the role of identity,4 the interplay between domestic considerations and external behavior remains understudied. As will be argued below, this dynamic has a significant bearing on Pakistan’s policy on Iran and sheds light on behind-the-scene dynamics that are often overlooked.

The Iranian Kurds’ transnational links: impacts on mobilization and political ambitions

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Costas Laoutides, William Gourlay & Zahid Shahab Ahmed (2019) The Iranian Kurds’ transnational links: impacts on mobilization and political ambitions, Ethnic and Racial Studies
Publication year: 2019

This paper examines the impact that cross-border contacts and ideals of transnational Kurdish community have on Kurds in Iran. Incorporating survey and interview data from Iranian Kurdish academics, journalists and activists, it analyses how events in the broader Kurdistan region, and the notion of Kurdayetî – pan-Kurdish identity – are perceived by Kurds and how these phenomena affect the Kurdish issue. Within the context of long-standing political grievances, the findings highlight an atmosphere of distrust pervading the relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Kurds, and reveals that as Kurds find it difficult to identify with the Iranian state they turn towards their cross-border ethnic kin. Yet, despite increasing cross-border interaction and recent advances for Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, internal and external dynamics curtail Iranian Kurds’ political ambitions and preclude secessionist impulses.

Sectarianism and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

Refereed Journal articles
Zahid Ahmed and Shahram Akbarzadeh, Territory, Politics, Governance. Published online August 2019
Publication year: 2019

The effectiveness of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was challenged after the suspension of Syria’s membership in 2012. There were already indications of Iranian–Saudi rivalry on the issue of Syria’s membership, but the 2016 summit held in Turkey became the stage for a very public dispute between the two states. This was not the first time that the OIC had been undermined by interstate rivalry. Formed in 1969 to project an image of political unity among Muslim states, it has often been challenged by the identity politics and geopolitical competition of its member states. This paper studies the factors that contribute to interstate tensions within the OIC and its approaches to addressing it. By examining a series of OIC events during the period 2012–18 through the lens of critical discourse analysis, it argues that identity politics in the form of sectarianism have been employed, more overtly since the Arab Spring, by both Iran and Saudi Arabia to promote their geopolitical agendas with direct implications for the coherence of OIC. The rivalry not only threatens to fracture the OIC but also makes the notion of Muslim unity nothing more than a mirage.

Routledge Handbook of International Relations in the Middle East

Edited research books
Akbarzadeh, Shahram, ed. Routledge Handbook of International Relations in the Middle East. Routledge, 2019.
Publication year: 2019

This handbook examines the regional and international dynamics of the Middle East. It challenges the state society dichotomy to make sense of decision-making and behavior by ruling regimes. The 33 chapter authors include the world’s leading scholars of the Middle East and International Relations (IR) in order to make sense of the region. This synthesis of area studies expertise and IR theory provides a unique and rigorous account of the region’s current dynamics, which have reached a crisis point since the beginning of the Arab Spring.

The Middle East has been characterized by volatility for more than a century. Although the region attracts significant scholarly interest, IR theory has rarely been used as a tool to understand events. The constructivist approach in IR highlights the significance of state identity, shaped by history and culture, in making sense of international relations. The authors of this volume consider how IR theory can elucidate the patterns and principles that shape the region, in order to provide a rigorous account of the contemporary challenges of the Middle East.

The Routledge Handbook of International Relations in the Middle East provides comprehensive coverage of International Relations issues in the region. Thus, it offers key resources for researchers and students interested in International Relations and the Middle East.

Great Power-Middle Power Dynamics: The Case of China and Iran

Refereed Journal articles
Conduit, Dara, and Shahram Akbarzadeh. "Great Power-Middle Power Dynamics: The Case of China and Iran." Journal of Contemporary China (2018): 1-14.
Publication year: 2018

Iran is expected to be one of the main beneficiaries of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China and Iran had a track record of cooperation long before the announcement of BRI, developing a highly asymmetric Great Power-Middle Power partnership over the course of three decades. This article asks whether BRI will enable China and Iran to transcend the limitations faced by most Great Power-Middle Power relationships on the basis of Iran’s enhanced strategic economic and geographic value. It is argued that while BRI could benefit from stronger China–Iran ties, Iran’s international posturing has proven a significant hindrance to China, highlighting that entrenched patterns of engagement in Great Power-Middle Power relations are not easily shifted, even in the face of immense economic incentives.

Uzbekistan looks West

Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Uzbekistan looks West,’ Russian and Euro-Asian Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 4 (April 1999). pp. 1-8.
Publication year: 1999

How the elite survives in Uzbekistan

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘How the elite survives in Uzbekistan,’ Political Expressions, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1998). pp. 31-45.
Publication year: 1998

Living Islam in Australia

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Living Islam in Australia’ in Australia and the Arab World (Abu Dhabi: Emirati Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, 2010). pp. 117-132.
Publication year: 2010

Australia’s contribution to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and its subsequent withdrawal in 2009 have made Arab-Australian relations a controversial and complex issue. They are further complicated as each side seeks not only to secure and maintain strategic and diplomatic relations, but also the perennially important trade and energy relations. This book explores and analyses this relationship using a number of approaches, looking at Australia’s diplomatic and economic ties with the Arab states, as well as the cultural exchange that occurs with the Muslims and Arabs who live inside Australia, and their contribution towards a growing multicultural society. This important analysis will be of interest to students, researchers and policymakers in a range of fields, such as International Relations, Middle East studies, multiculturalism and trade relations.

Political Islam & Human Security

Edited research books
Fethi Mansouri and Shahram Akbarzadeh (eds): Political Islam and Human Security (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006).
Publication year: 2006

In the wake of the September 11 and subsequent terrorist attacks, the academic and media commentaries on Islam the religion and Islam the basis for political ideology haves received an unprecedented high level of exposure and attention. The acts of political violence by extremist groups and the omnipresent war on terror have added fresh uncertainties to an already complex global order. Just as terrorism and counter-terrorism are locked in a mutually re-enforcing symbiosis, the sense of insecurity felt by Muslims and non-Muslims alike is mutually dependent and has the potential to escalate. This general assessment holds true for Muslims living in the Muslim world and beyond. The pervasive sense of being under attack physically and culturally by the United States and its allies has contributed to a growing unease among Muslims and re-enforced deep-seated mistrust of the ‘West’. Public articulation of such misgivings has in turn, lent credence to Western observers who posit an inherent antipathy between the West and the Muslim world. The subsequent policies that have emerged in this context of fear and mutual distrust have contributed to the vicious cycle of insecurity.The present volume is anchored in the current debates on the uneasy and potentially mutually destructive relationship between the Muslim world and certain West countries. It brings together leading international scholars in this interdisciplinary field to deal with such inter-related questions as the nature of Islamism, the impact of the ‘war on terror’ on the spread of militancy, the growing sense of being under siege by Muslim Diasporas and the many unintended ramifications of a security-minded world order. This volume deliberately focuses on these issues both at a broad theoretical level but more importantly in the form of a number of prominent case studies including Indonesia, Algeria and Turkey.

Searching for identity: Muslims in Australia

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Abdullah Saeed: ‘Searching for identity: Muslims in Australia’, in Abdullah Saeed and Shahram Akbarzadeh (eds), Muslim Communities in Australia (UNSWPress, 2001). pp. 1-11.
Publication year: 2001

This book brings together the foremost scholars of Islam and Muslim politics in Australia to consider the relationship between Australian politics and society and Muslim Communities in Australia. – The book responds to such questions as: – Is there a Muslim community in Australia? – How do national differences affect the assumed ‘Muslim community’? – How do Muslim residents in Australia identify themselves? – How has the experience of migration affected their sense of identity? – Does the establishment of Islamic schooling and finance amount to the separation of Muslims from the mainstream of Australian society? – How has the Australian mainstream media portrayed Muslims in Australia and how has this portrayal changed over the last 30 years? – By addressing such critical issues, the book will present a well-rounded picture of the Muslim experience in Australia and highlight key issues of concern for the Muslim community.

Unity or Fragmentation?

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Unity or Fragmentation?’, in Abdullah Saeed and Shahram Akbarzadeh (eds), Muslim Communities in Australia (Sydney: UNSWPress, 2001). pp. 228-234.
Publication year: 2001

Islam and Politics

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Abdullah Saeed: ‘Islam and Politics’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh and Abdullah Saeed (eds), Islam and Political Legitimacy (New York: RoutledgeCurzon Press, 2003). pp. 1-13.
Publication year: 2003

Islam and Political Legitimacy

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Abdullah Saeed
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘The Islamic Dilemma in Uzbekistan’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh and Abdullah Saeed (eds), Islam and Political Legitimacy (New York: RoutledgeCurzon Press, 2003). pp. 88-101.
Publication year: 2003

Akbarzadeh and Saeed explore one of the most challenging issues facing the Muslim world: the Islamisation of political power. They present a comparative analysis of Muslim societies in West, South, Central and South East Asia and highlight the immediacy of the challenge for the political leadership in those societies. Islam and Political Legitimacy contends that the growing reliance on Islamic symbolism across the Muslim world, even in states that have had a strained relationship with Islam, has contributed to the evolution of Islam as a social and cultural factor to an entrenched political force. The geographic breadth of this book offers readers a nuanced appraisal of political Islam that transcends parochial eccentricities. Contributors to this volume examine the evolving relationship between Islam and political power in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

Researchers and students of political Islam and radicalism in the Muslim world will find Islam and Political Legitimacy of special interest. This is a welcome addition to the rich literature on the politics of the contemporary Muslim world.

Conflict Prevention from Rhetoric to Reality: Organizations and Institutions

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Rafis Abazov: ‘The Politics of Status Quo in Central Asia’, in Albrecht Schnabel and David Carment (eds), Conflict Prevention from Rhetoric to Reality: Organizations and Institutions (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, June 2004). pp. 81-102.
Publication year: 2004

Books on Google Play Regional Security in the Asia Pacific: 9/11 and After

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Calculating the Risk in Central Asia – the case of Uzbekistan’, in Marika Vicziany, David Wright-Neville and Pete Lentini (eds), Regional Security in the Asia Pacific: 9/11 and After (Edward Elgar, 2004). pp. 112-127.
Publication year: 2004

Political Islam and Human Security

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Fethi Mansouri
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Fethi Mansouri: ‘Islamism and Political Violence in the New World Order’, in Fethi Mansouri and Shahram Akbarzadeh (eds), Political Islam and Human Security (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006). pp. 3-14.
Publication year: 2006

Islam and Globalization

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘General Introduction’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed). Islam and Globalization, Volume 1, (London: Routledge, 2006). pp. 1-14.
Publication year: 2006

Globalization has opened up non-Western societies to forces of economic, political and cultural liberalism for the first time, and this process has had a profound effect upon Islamic societies, causing unease and concern among many Muslims. Moreover, this apprehension has been exacerbated by the fact that globalization as a concept and as a process seems to originate from the West, and because many Muslims equate globalization with colonization. The conflict between Islam and globalization and the West is perhaps the most pressing issue in the post-September 11th era, and this set seeks to represent the shape of international relations – conciliatory and otherwise – between the two `civilizations’ in the late-twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
With a general introduction by the editor, the volumes include articles by leading scholars that will initially examine the various ways in which Islam has tried to protect itself against the encroachment of the West, before investigating a more outward-looking Islam that encourages religious reformism and evolution in order to contend with the new challenges and priorities of a global community.

An Introduction to International Relations

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Globalization of Islam’, in Richard Devetak, Anthony Burke and Jim George (eds), Introduction to International Relations: Australian Perspectives (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2007). pp. 307-317.
Publication year: 2007

There are in excess of 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. The great bulk of this population lives in South and Southeast Asia, where Muslims constitute the largest religious group. States with Muslim population majorities are often called Muslim states, regardless of the system of government and political system. But there are also significant Muslim populations in other states. Population movement in the second half of the twentieth century has led to the growth of Muslim communities in Europe, the US and Australia. Muslim migration to Europe seems to have closely reflected colonial links, so that the biggest Muslim community in the UK is from South Asia where the British Empire held sway, while Muslims from Algeria constitute a significant community in France. This picture, however, is fast evolving and Muslim minority groups in non-Muslim states are becoming increasingly heterogeneous in ethnic background and creed.

The demographic spread of Muslims has led to some key questions about identity, community and citizenship. Islam emerged in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, but was not tied to that geography.

The Rise of Anti-Americanism

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Kylie Baxter
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Kylie Baxter: ‘The rise of anti-Americanism in the Middle East’, in Brendon O'Connor (ed), The Global Rise of Anti-Americanism Volume 3 (London: Greenwood Press, 2007). pp. 281-302.
Publication year: 2007

Narrative of independence in Central Asia. A case study: Turkmenistan

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Narrative of independence in Central Asia. A case study: Turkmenistan,’ Journal of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1995). pp. 91-100.
Publication year: 1995

Tajikistan: Striving for unity over regional and ethnic division

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Tajikistan: Striving for unity over regional and ethnic division,’ Transition, Vol. 1, No. 8 (26 May 1995). pp.53-6.
Publication year: 1995

Nation-building in Uzbekistan

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Nation-building in Uzbekistan,’ Central Asian Survey, Vol.15, No.1 (1996). pp. 23-32.
Publication year: 1996

Why Did Nationalism Fail in Tajikistan?

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Why did nationalism fail in Tajikistan?,’ Europe-Asia Studies formerly Soviet Studies, Vol. 48, No. 7 (November 1996). pp. 1105-29.
Publication year: 1996

A note on shifting identities in the Ferghana valley

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘A note on shifting identities in the Ferghana Valley’, Central Asian Survey, Vol. 16, No. 1 (1997). pp. 65-8.
Publication year: 1997

The political shape of Central Asia

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘The political shape of Central Asia’, Central Asian Survey, Vol. 16, No. 4 (1997). pp. 517-42.
Publication year: 1997

Islamic clerical establishment in Central Asia

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Islamic clerical establishment in Central Asia,’ South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2 (December 1997). pp. 73-102.
Publication year: 1997

National identity and political legitimacy in Turkmenistan

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘National identity and political legitimacy in Turkmenistan,’ Nationalities Papers, Vol. 27, No. 2 (1999). pp.271-290.
Publication year: 1999

Political Islam in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Political Islam in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan,’ Central Asian Survey, Vol. 20, No. 4 (2001). pp. 449-463.
Publication year: 2001