Regarding Iran, post World War II US administrations were concerned with two issues: strategically, they desired an internally strong Iran that would counter any communist threat; economically, they wanted to ensure American control over the country’s oil fields and they wanted to obtain contracts for America’s defense manufacturers. These objectives overshadowed other, more lofty, ideals.
Isfahan’s development differs from many other cities in the developing world in that midway through the Cold War period the city’s close relationship with the US was severed and its position in the world capitalist system was definitively altered.
Some interpret the revolution which spurred this radical change as an anti-American event. It is more appropriate, however, to consider the anti-Western component of the revolution as evidence of Iran’s longstanding inability to find its place in the world marketplace on advantageous terms.
Still, it is clear that the revolution reoriented the city’s economy which was subsequently damaged again by the Iran-Iraq War and an on-going brain drain.
As a result, despite articulated revolutionary intentions, Isfahan has achieved neither the social and redistributional gains of Havana nor the strong economic growth of Taipei. In fact, since the revolution the city has taken on a subordinate position relative to other secondary cities in the country–Mashhad being the best example.
Nevertheless, Isfahan has continued to be shaped by militarism. It is the primary location of the Iranian nuclear weapons program and is reportedly the site of a ballistic missile production facility as well as a major chemical weapons facility.
In the end, Isfahan’s Cold War significance was remarkably transitory.
While American cliency was an accepted fact as late as 1978, Iranians have been willing to sustain substantial sacrifice to avoid post revolutionary entanglement with the United States. Instead, the Islamic regime has diligently explored opportunities for regional affiliations and alliances.
Isfahan serves as a test case for those who argue that military spending adversely impacted urban economies and spatial patterns throughout the developing world during the Cold War period. It also raises interesting questions regarding the globalization of cities that is argued to have occurred during the Cold War timeframe since it provides a prime example of an urban economy impacted by the internationalization of goods and services rooted in strategic calculations.
Given its revolutionary choices, questions emerge regarding the permanent impact of the global flows embedded in Cold War superpower competition.
Certainly, it seems as if the ethnoscapes, technoscapes, finanscapes, mediascapes, ideoscapes, and commodityscapes associated with the American presence–and touted in the urban literature–were rapidly replaced after the revolution by more local thrusts.
If so, what does this have to tell us about the permanence of today’s neoliberal project? Relatedly, what does Isfahan tell us regarding the current perception that the popularity of Western values and culture are effecting a process of convergence which is sweeping the world?