Narratives of grievance and victimisation in Iranian foreign policy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and President Manhood Ahmadinejad

  • Nazee Moinian

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis investigates one of Iran’s grand narratives, the myth of victimisation, as a tool of the Iranian political elite to achieve foreign policy goals. It studies the leadership of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979), Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq (1951-1953), Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1979-1989), and President Mahmood Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) to argue that the sense of grievance of justice denied has had a cultural provenance, rooted in historical, literary and religious references spanning centuries. Accordingly Iranian leaders have been able to pursue and perpetuate narratives that have served to cast Iranians as victims of foreign intrigue, thus relieving themselves from accountability and inaction.

The narrative of grievance has had a resurgence with the rise of populism around the world, but as an ideational catalyst in Iranian politics, where it has been at play for decades, it has received scant attention. The leaders studied in this thesis have each employed this narrative to varying degrees and effects, to cast the world as a battleground between victim and victimizer. This process was most evident in the lead up to and in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, when Ayatollah Khomeini and President Ahmadinejad repurposed the myth of victimisation to launch and export the revolution. While the Shah and Prime Minister Mosaddeq disseminated such myths to extract favourable concessions from foreign powers, mainly the United States and Great Britain.

As a result, the grounding of Iran’s most exigent foreign policy issues in myths and populist narratives has led to an incongruity between its potential and its current standing in the community of nations.
Date of Award15 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAli Massoud Ansari (Supervisor)


  • Myth
  • Mythmaker
  • Narrative
  • Victimisation
  • Grievance
  • Foreign policy
  • Moralism
  • Cynicism
  • Thucydides
  • Sa'adi
  • Poet
  • Culture
  • Realism
  • Constructivism
  • Communism
  • Imperialism
  • Marxism
  • Oppressor
  • Oppressed
  • Concession
  • Confrontation
  • Injustice
  • Shia
  • Soroush
  • Mirrors
  • Harmony
  • Balance
  • Mithra
  • Zoroastrian
  • Farr
  • Kinship
  • Persianate
  • Equipoise
  • Islam
  • Nationalism
  • Freemasonry
  • Redress
  • Avenge
  • Humanist
  • Martyrdom
  • Tragedy
  • Saviour
  • Hero
  • Double-standard
  • Worldview

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 8 February 2028

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