عنوان مقاله [English]
In the early 16th century, Shah Ismail I (1501–1524) established the Safavid Empire (1501–1736 BC) and reunited Iran for the first time after the collapse of the Sassanid Empire of the 7th century. He ruled a vast territory from Euphrates and Transcaucasia to Hindukush and Oxus. More significantly, he reconstructed Iran’s national identity by combining the Twelver Shia Islam with the Iranian plateau. It was his crucial decision to combine Shiism with the Iranian plateau that retooled Iran for the modern era. The emergence of a new, powerful Shia state in the region had a huge ramification for other Shia communities in the West Asia, particularly the Shia Turks in Minor Asia, while urged Sunni powers of the Ottoman Empire in the west and Uzbek Khanate in the east to ally against the Shia Safavid. For the next time, Iran was surrounded, though this time it was much more intensified since the geopolitical competition in Western Asia overlapped by geo-cultural forces of the Shia-Sunni dichotomy. Such a harsh encirclement in thong term put the country again in the defensive position, made Safavid kings be constantly preoccupied with fighting Sunni powers in the western and eastern fronts, and ultimately left the country prone to domestic rebels.
The important point is that the Safavid shahs were not able to disentangle Iran from such a destructive military encirclement. Rare opportunities emerged but the Safavid shahs never defended Iran’s national integrity through power projection beyond its territory to deter external threats. One of these opportunities came up when the Shia Turks, led by Shahkulu, launched a widespread insurgency in spring 1510 and threatened the Ottoman power effectively. For the Middle Eastern Shia, Shah Ismail was both their Shah and Morshed-e Kamel (Complete Su Master). Harshly persecuted by the Ottoman Sultans, the Shia Turk welcomed the Safavi Shah’s sequential victories. Shah Ismail was aware of the power of his supporters; however, he was preoccupied with fighting the Sunni Uzbek Khans in Khorasan, north-eastern Iran, at that time.
Furthermore, he did not want to have Iran surrounded by two Sunni powers of the Uzbek and the Ottoman. Therefore, he refrained from inciting Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid II (1481–1512), by siding with the Shia rebellion. Nonetheless, Shahkulu and his 3000 followers were killed in a decisive battle on 2 July 1511. The Ottoman brutally suppressed the Shia Turks. Three years later, Sultan Selim I attacked Iran and defeated Shah Ismail in the Battle of Chaldiran (23 August 1514). Tabriz, the capital of Safavid, was temporarily captured and then destroyed by the Ottoman Jeni Seri forces.
The present article utilizes an intimate historical engagement with the issue through adopting an “analytical process-tracing narrative.” The strength of this narrative lies in its potential to generate a “conceptual framework” organically and incrementally along the unifying theme and guides post of our specific interpretation of Geopolitics. Process tracing allows us to capture the dynamics of change and the causal mechanisms behind these changes within the evolution of the subject under study. Put another way, in analytical process-tracing a theoretical narrative presented in the form of a chronicle that purports to throw light on how an event came about is embedded into an analytical causal explanation couched in explicit theoretical terms.
While much ink has been spilled on the battle of Chaldiran, there has been a theoretical void in the analysis of the explanation of geopolitical, Geo-economic, and Geo-cultural factors behind the outbreak of battle. From this perspective, the present paper is an attempt to explain major forces that shaped the battle of Chaldiran. Heavily based on the first-hand documents, the paper illustrates the Ottoman’s intervention in the middle of Iran’s civil war and against Shah Ismail’s military campaign. It also shows the destructive impact of the Iranian’s lack of modern weapons and wrong military tactics taken by Shah Ismail in the battle. Last but not least, the paper sheds light on the consequences of this battle for the trajectory of the power arrangement in West Asia.
“Which factors were behind the outbreak of the battle of Chaldiran?” This is the central question that guides the analytic narrative in the present paper. The paper shows that, along with major factors, Shah Ismail’s lack of ‘ability’ and ‘intention’ in the support for a non-state entity of the Shia Turk movement ultimately led to the defeat of Iran’s Army. Elaborating the impact of geopolitical factors in the outbreak of the war, the paper argues that it was rooted in Iran’s ‘historical strategic loneliness’. Accordingly, the deployment of Iranian forces to conflict abroad has a notable struggle of Iran’s power projection beyond its territory to compensate its strategic loneliness and to deter external threats. However, Shah Ismail was not able to follow this very logic and, therefore, lost the battle. Phrased differently, Shah Ismail’s lack of ability and intention in the support for a non-state entity of the Shia Turk movement ultimately led to the defeat of Iran’s army and the permanent loss of Western regions of Safavid Empire