Belfer Center Home > Publications > Academic Papers & Reports > Journal Articles > Iran and the Shiite Crescent: Myths and Realities

EmailEmail   PrintPrint Bookmark and Share

"Iran and the Shiite Crescent: Myths and Realities"

Shiite Bahraini demonstrators hold posters of top cleric, Sheik Isa Qassim, June 19, 2008, in Bahrain. About 10,000 Shiite Bahrainis peacefully protested published remarks scornful of Qassim & claiming he wants to turn Bahrain into a satellite of Iran.
AP Photo

"Iran and the Shiite Crescent: Myths and Realities"

Journal Article, Brown Journal of World Affairs, volume XV, issue 1, pages 87-99

Fall/Winter 2008

Author: Kayhan Barzegar, Former Associate, Project on Managing the Atom/International Security Program, 2010–2011; Former Research Fellow, Project on Managing the Atom/international Security Program, 2007–2010

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


"In 2004, King Abdullah of Jordan warned about the emergence of an ideological Shiite crescent from Beirut to the Persian Gulf. Ever since then, the debate on Iran's intentions to create a Shiite crescent has been a significant topic of debate for the panels and conferences held on the region's issues. Three presumptions center on Iran's role and intentions. A Shiite crescent is seen by the Arab Sunni elites as an attempt by Iran firstly to engage the masses in the region; secondly, to build an ideological belt of sympathetic Shiite governments and political factions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf region; and, thirdly, to expand its regional role and power. These explanations are inadequate and unrealistic; none of them are compatible with Iran's real aims and strategies. In this article, I aim to analyze this issue from an Iranian perspective. Is Iran trying to engage the Arab Shiite masses? Is Iran attempting to expand its regional influence by building an ideological Shiite crescent? What are Iran's aims in establishing friendly relations with the Shiite factions in the region? With the new political developments in post-invasion Iraq, one should not dispute that there is an ongoing conflict between the Shiites and the Sunnis in the region. Yet my argument is that this rivalry is a pure inter-Arab world power-sharing conflict rather than an ideological Iranian-Arab rivalry. To examine this idea, I argue firstly that, given Iran's political dynamics and the existing cultural-societal and historical distinctions between the Persian...."


For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

Full text of this publication is available at:

For Academic Citation:

Barzegar, Kayhan. "Iran and the Shiite Crescent: Myths and Realities." Brown Journal of World Affairs XV, no. 1 (Fall/Winter 2008): 87-99.

Bookmark and Share

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.