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In addition to fighting its perennial enemies, the Ottomans and Uzbeks, as the 17th century

progressed Iran had to contend with the rise of two more neighbors. Russian Muscovy in the
previous century had deposed two western Asian khanates of the Golden Horde and expanded
its influence into the Caucasus Mountains and Central Asia. In the east, the Mughal dynasty
of India had expanded into Afghanistan at the expense of Iranian control, taking Qandahar.

Furthermore by the 17th century, trade routes between the East and West had shifted away
from Iran, causing a loss of commerce and trade. Moreover, Shah Abbas had a conversion to a
ghulam-based military, though expedient in the short term.

Except for Shah Abbas II, the Safavid rulers after Abbas I were ineffectual. The end of his
reign, 1666, marked the beginning of the end of the Safavid dynasty. Despite falling revenues
and military threats, later shahs had lavish lifestyles. Shah Soltan Hosain (1694–1722) in
particular was known for his love of wine and disinterest in governance.[56]

The country was repeatedly raided on its frontiers — Kerman by Baloch tribesmen in 1698,
Khorasan by Afghans in 1717, constantly in Mesopotamia by peninsula Arabs. Shah Sultan
Hosein tried to forcibly convert his Afghan subjects in eastern Iran from Sunni to the Shi'a
sect of Islam. In response, a Ghilzai Pashtun chieftain named Mir Wais Khan began a
rebellion against the Georgian governor, Gurgin Khan, of Kandahar and defeated the Safavid
army. Later, in 1722 an Afghan army led by Mir Wais' son Mahmud marched across eastern
Iran, defeated the Safavid's at The Battle of Gulnabad on March 8th, 1722, then besieged and
sacked Isfahan. Mahmud proclaimed himself 'Shah' of Persia.

The Afghans rode roughshod over their conquered territory for a dozen years but were
prevented from making further gains by Nadir Shah, a former slave who had risen to military
leadership within the Afshar tribe in Khorasan, a vassal state of the Safavids. Nadir Shah
defeated the Afghans in the Battle of Damghan, 1729. He had driven out the Afghans, who
were still occupying Persia, by 1730. In 1738, Nadir Shah reconquered Eastern Persia,
starting with Qandahar; in the same year he occupied Ghazni, Kabul, and Lahore, later
conquering as far as east as Delhi, but not fortifying his Persian base and exhausting his
army's strength. He had effective control under Shah Tahmasp II and then ruled as regent of
the infant Abbas III until 1736 when he had himself crowned shah.

Immediately after Nadir Shah's assassination in 1747, the Safavids were re-appointed as shahs
of Iran in order to lend legitimacy to the nascent Zand dynasty. However the brief puppet
regime of Ismail III ended in 1760 when Karim Khan felt strong enough take nominal power
of the country as well and officially end the Safavid dynasty.
More problematic for the Safavids was the powerful Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire , also known by its contemporaries as the Turkish Empire or
Turkey , was an empire that lasted from 1299?1923. It was Treaty of Lausanne by the
Republic of Turkey, which was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923....
. The Ottomans, a Sunni dynasty, considered the active recruitment of Turkmen tribes of
Anatolia for the Safavid cause as a major threat. To counter the rising Safavid power, in 1502,
Sultan Bayezid II
Bayezid II

Bayezid II was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512....
forcefully deported many Shi'as from Anatolia to other parts of the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire , also known by its contemporaries as the Turkish Empire or
Turkey , was an empire that lasted from 1299?1923. It was Treaty of Lausanne by the
Republic of Turkey, which was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923....
realm. In 1514, Bayezid
Bayezid II

Bayezid II was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512....
's son, Sultan Selim I
Selim I

Selim I also known as "the Grim" or "the Brave", or the best translation "the Stern", Yavuz in
Turkish language, the long name is Yavuz Sultan Selim; October 10 1465/1466/1470
September 22, 1520) was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1512 to 1520....
marched through Anatolia and reached the plain of Chaldiran near the city of Khoy

Khoy , also spelt Khoi, Khuy, Khvoy and Xoy, is a city in West Azarbaijan Province, Iran. It
is located north of the state capital, Urmia, and 807 km north-west to Tehran....
, and a decisive war was fought there. Most sources agree that the Ottoman army was at least
double the size of that of Ismail, however, what gave the Ottomans the advantage was the
artillery which the Safavid army lacked. According to R. M. Savory, "Salim's plan was to
winter at Tabriz and complete the conquest of Persia the following spring. However, a mutiny
among his officers who refused to spend the winter at Tabriz forced him to withdraw across
territory laid waste by the Safavid forces, eight days later". Although Ismail was defeated and
his capital was captured, the Safavid empire survived. The war between the two powers
continued under Ismail's son, Shah Tahmasp I
Tahmasp I

Tahmasp I was an influential Shah of Persian Empire of the Safavids Dynasty.Tahmasp was
born in Shah Abad and came to power at the age of 10, when he succeeded to the throne of
Persia in 1524 after the death of Ismail I....
(q.v.), and the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I, until Shah Abbas (q.v.) retook the area lost to the
Ottomans by 1602.
The consequences of the defeat at Chaldiran were also psychological for Ismail: the defeat
destroyed Ismail's belief in his invincibility, based on his claimed divine status. His
relationships with his Qizilbash followers were also fundamentally altered. The tribal rivalries
between the Qizilbash, which temporarily ceased before the defeat at Chaldiran, resurfaced in
intense form immediately after the death of Ismail, and led to ten years of civil war (930-
40/1524-33) until Shah Tahmasp regained control of the affairs of the state.

Early Safavid power in Iran was based on the military power of the Qizilbash. Ismail
exploited the first element to seize power in Iran. But eschewing politics after his defeat in
Chaldiran, he left the affairs of the government to the office of the Wakil (q.v.). Ismail's
successors, and most ostensibly Shah Abbas I successfully diminished the Qizilbash's
influence on the affairs of the state.
The Ottoman–Safavid War of 1623–1639 was the last of a series of conflicts
fought between the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia, then the two major
powers of the Near East, over control of Mesopotamia. After initial Persian
success in capturing Baghdad and most of modern Iraq, the war became a
stalemate, as the Persians were unable to press further into the Ottoman Empire,
and the Ottomans themselves were distracted by wars in Europe and weakened
by internal turmoil. Eventually, the Ottomans were able to recover Baghdad, and
the signing of the Treaty of Zuhab ended the war in an Ottoman victory, with
Mesopotamia remaining henceforth in Ottoman hands, until lost in the aftermath
of World War I.

Starting in 1514, for over a century the Ottoman Empire and Savafid Persia were engaged in
almost constant warfare over control of the Caucasus and Mesopotamia. The two states were
the greatest powers of the Middle East, and the rivalry was further fueled by dogmatic
differences: the Ottomans were Sunnis, while the Safavids were staunchly Shia Muslims of
the Qizilbash sect, and seen as heretics by the Ottomans.[1]

After the Battle of Chaldiran eliminated Safavid influence in Anatolia, during the war of
1532–1555 the Ottomans conquered Arab Iraq, taking Baghdad in 1534 and securing
recognition of their gains by the Treaty of Amasya in 1555.[2] Peace lasted for two decades
before another war began in 1578. It ended with the Treaty of Constantinople in 1590, with a
clear Ottoman victory: the Ottomans occupied Georgia, Yerevan, and even the former Safavid
capital, Tabriz. The Persians were hard pressed, as the Ottoman advances were combined with
an attack by the Shaybanids into Persian Khorasan.[3]

The new Persian Shah, Abbas I, reorganized his army, raising the new ghulam infantry in
imitation of the Janissaries,[4] and bided his time. In 1603, he launched an offensive that
retook Tabriz, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The Ottomans, distracted by wars with the Habsburg
Monarchy in Europe, failed to offer effective resistance.[5] Emboldened by this success, and
exploiting the internal turmoil within the Ottoman Empire following the murder of Sultan
Osman II, Abbas resolved to attack the Ottoman possessions in Iraq.[5]

The Shah's opportunity came with a series of rebellions in the Ottoman Empire: Abaza
Mehmed Pasha, the governor of Erzurum, rose in rebellion, while Baghdad, had been, since
1621, in the hands of an officer of the Janissaries, the Shibashi Bakr, and his followers.[6][7]
Bakr had sought his recognition as the local pasha from the Porte, but the Sultan had ordered
Hafız Ahmed Pasha, the governor of Diyarbakir, to intervene.[7] Bakr then turned to Abbas,
who sent troops to Bakr's aid. To forestall a Persian capture of Baghdad, Hafız Ahmed
quickly restored relations with Bakr, who in turn returned to the Ottoman allegiance. In
response, the Persians besieged Baghdad, and took it on 14 January 1624, with the aid of
Bakr's son, Muhammad.[7][8] The fall of the city was followed by the massacre of a large part
of its Sunni inhabitants, as the Shah endeavored to transform Baghdad into a purely Shiite

The fall of Baghdad was a major blow to Ottoman prestige. Ottoman garrisons and the local
tribes began to defect, and the Persians soon captured most of Iraq, including the cities of
Kirkuk and Mosul and the Shia holy shrines of Najaf and Karbala, which the Shah visited.[9][5]
In 1625, Hafız Ahmed Pasha, now Grand Vizier, marched to retake Baghdad. Despite a
"scorched earth" policy ordered by the Shah, the Ottoman army reached Baghdad and
invested it in November on three sides.[9] The Ottoman assaults on the city managed to
penetrate the outer fortifications, but failed to take the city before the arrival of a relief army
under Shah Abbas. The Ottomans then withdrew within their strongly fortified camp, and
continued to prosecute the siege.[9] In response, Abbas decided to intercept Ottoman supply
convoys. This strategy bore fruit: the Ottomans were forced to risk an attack on the Persian
army, which was repulsed with heavy losses, and on 4 July 1626, the Ottoman army lifted the
siege and withdrew to Mosul.[10][7]

In 1629, the Ottomans, under the new and capable Grand Vizier Gazi Ekrem Khüsrev Pasha,
and having secured peace with the Habsburgs, mustered their forces for another offensive.[11]
A severe winter, including floods, made operations in central Iraq impossible, however, and
Khüsrev turned his army east, invading Persia proper. On 4 May 1630, he routed the Persians
under Zainal Khan Begdeli Shamlu in battle at Mahidasht near Kermanshah and proceeded to
sack the city of Hamadan.[7][12] Khüsrev Pasha then turned back towards Baghdad and
besieged it in November. However the siege had to be lifted soon, as the onset of another
heavy winter threatened his lines of communication.[12][13] In the wake of his withdrawal, the
Persians re-established their control of Iraq, and subdued the rebellious Kurdish populations.
The next few years saw constant raiding and skirmishes, without either side claiming any
decisive advantage. Shah Safi sent a peace delegation to the Ottoman court, but the new
Grand Vizier, Tabanıyassi Mehmed Pasha rejected its demands.[12] The Caucasian front of the
Persians flared up again in 1633, when the restless Georgian kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti,
which, under the rule of King Teimuraz, defied Safavid sovereignty. In 1634, Rustam Khan, a
Georgian convert, was sent by the Shah to subdue them. Teimuraz was defeated, but managed
to escape to safety in Imereti. He would however manage to restore himself on the throne of
Kakheti in 1638, and even win Persian recognition of this fact.[14]

In 1635, in a conscious effort to emulate his warrior predecessors, Sultan Murad IV himself
took up the leadership of the army. The Ottomans took Yerevan (on 8 August) and plundered
Tabriz.[15][12] The victorious Sultan returned in triumph to Constantinople, but his victories
were short-lived: in the spring of the next year, Shah Safi retook Yerevan and defeated an
Ottoman army.[16][17] Renewed Persian peace proposals failed, and in 1638, Murad IV himself
led an army against Baghdad. The city fell in December after a siege of 39 days, effectively
restoring Ottoman control over Iraq, and peace negotiations began soon after.[16][17]

The Treaty of Zuhab, concluded on 17 May 1639, finally settled the Ottoman–
Persian frontier, with Yerevan remaining Persian, and Iraq ceded to the
Ottomans. Mesopotamia, which had traditionally formed an important part of
various Persian empires from the time of the Achaemenids, was irrevocably lost.
The peace established a permanent equilibrium of power in the region, and
despite future conflicts and minor adjustments, the frontier postulated by the
treaty remains to this day the western border of Iran with Iraq and Turkey

The Safavids and War between Shia and Sunni Muslims

While under the rule of the Mongols, in the 1200s, the Persians had given up on politics and
militarism and had submerged themselves in Islamic devotion, Sufism and religious
eclecticism. During these times, Iran had Mongol and Turkish immigrants who adopted the
Persian language and Persian customs. In the 1300s, a dynasty founded by a grandson of
Genghis Khan, Hulagu, ruled in Iran. It wavered between Christianity and Islam and chose
Islam. Meanwhile a militant Islamic Sufi order, the Safavids, appeared among Turkish
speaking people, their home base at Ardebil, west of the Caspian Sea. And the Safavid order
survived the coming of Timur (Tamerlane) in the 1300s.

By 1500 the Safavids had adopted the Shia branch of Islam. Safavid males wore red headgear
for identification, and they were eager to advance Shi'ism by military means. They viewed
their religious leader as a perfect guide as well as an able military chieftain, and they viewed
their leader's position as rightly passed from father to son - in the Shia tradition.

In the year 1500, the thirteen-year-old son of a recently deceased Safavid leader set out to
conquer territory. In 1501 the Safavids seized Tabriz and made it their capital. And they
conquered in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Khurasan. The Safavids became the strongest force in
Iran, and their leader, Isma'il, now fifteen, was declared Shah (king).

The area of the world thought of as Iran was mountainous and it had a variety of nomadic
tribes with egalitarian traditions not yet completely erased. In addition to Persians, Iran had
Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans and Baluchis to name a few. At Isma'il's court a Turkish language
was spoken, but having adopted much of Persian culture the Safavids were thought by
outsiders to be Persian. To help organize the state the Safavids used Persian bureaucrats with
a tradition in administration and tax collecting, and they tried to create religious unity. Isma'il
described himself as a descendant, on their father's side, of the Prophet Muhammad. Shi'ism
became the state religion, Isma'il denigrating the Sunni branch of Islam and trying to force
people to become Shia - a difficult task as his authority with a variety of tribes had been little

The Ottoman sultan, Bayezid II (ruled 1481-1512), a Sunni Muslim, congratulated Isma'il on
his military victories and suggested that he and his Shia followers stop destroying the graves
and mosques of Sunni Muslims. Convinced of the righteousness of their cause and the evil of
the Sunni branch of Islam, the Safavids ignored Bayezid.

In 1512 the aged Bayezid was ill. His three sons fought each other for his throne at the
Ottoman capital, Constantinople. Those special warriors, the Janissaries, were a power behind
the throne and chose as the new sultan the son that was most warlike: Selim. Bayezid was
dethroned, and Selim secured his rule by having his two brothers and their sons executed by
strangulation, Selim becoming Selim I.

Selim embarked on a war against what he saw as the heresy of Shi'ism. He is reported to have
exterminated thousands of Shia Muslims in Asia Minor. Then he launched a war against the
Shia king of Persia: Isma'il. Selim's armies advanced through northern Mesopotamia, and in
August 1514, just west of Tabriz, Selim's army defeated the Safavid army, which had cavalry
with only spears, bows and swords against Ottoman artillery and muskets.

Isma'il had been accustomed to victory, and he and his Safavid followers had believed that
Allah was on their side. They were bewildered by their defeat. Isma'il found relief from
psychological depression in wine. He died ten years later at the age of thirty-seven.

The Ottoman Empire Expands

Next, Selim moved against the Mameluk rulers who had allied themselves with the Persians.
In 1516 his troops moved southward and captured Damascus, Beirut, Gaza and Jerusalem. In
1517 the Ottomans defeated the Mameluk Sultan Tuman outside Cairo. In Egypt, Selim's
forces confronted the last of Abbasid authority, the Abbasid caliph having moved to Egypt
after the conquest of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. Under the Mameluks, the Abbasids
had been making only a feeble show of authority in religious matters. Now the head of the
Abbasid family was taken to Constantinople as prisoner. The Abbasids surrendered the title of
caliph and the sword and mantle of Muhammad the Prophet, to Selim, who declared himself
caliph. The Ottoman Empire now included all of Mesopotamia, Armenia, lands to the Caspian
Sea, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. In nine years, Selim had almost doubled the size of the
Ottoman Empire. He became known as a great conqueror. He was also an accomplished poet
in three languages, but for the world it was his conquests, his use of violence, that was most

Selim became ill in 1520. He died and was succeeded by his only son, Suleiman (Sulayman),
who was twenty-six. Suleiman inherited a well organized nation, a treasury filled with taxes
drawn from far and wide, and a disciplined army. In Europe he was to be called Suleiman the
Magnificent because of wealth and grandeur, although amid his wealth he was thought to be a
man of discipline and simplicity - in the tradition of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn-al-Khattab -
aside from the harem that he had inherited, filled with 300 women under the age of twenty-
five, almost all of them Christians, guarded by eunuchs. Suleiman was commander of the
faithful, a man of sincere religious convictions, with more kindness and tolerance than his
father. But he believed that he should conquer as had his father. He believed that he should
unite the peoples of the East and West as had Alexander the Great.

During Suleiman's first year as sultan he moved against Belgrade. Europeans were too
distracted by conflict amongst themselves to rally to Belgrade's defense. Suleiman surrounded
the city and bombarded it with heavy cannon, and Belgrade fell to the Ottomans in August,

Next, Suleiman aimed at conquest of the Christian island of Rhodes. The Ottomans viewed
the knights there as cutthroats and pirates and were annoyed with their attacks on Ottoman
ships taking goods to Egypt and pilgrims to Mecca. The conquest over Rhodes was to
eliminate all threats to Ottoman naval power in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean seas.

The assault on Rhodes began in 1522, Suleiman sending an armada of 400 ships to Rhodes
and leading 100,000 men over land to a point just opposite the island. The Ottomans
employed their artillery again - known to be the best in the world - and they reinforced their
bombardments with sappers and explosives. And after a siege of 145 days, Rhodes
capitulated. The island's inhabitants were allowed to depart if they wished, and those who
stayed were promised freedom of worship and freedom from taxation for five years.

Four years after his victory over Rhodes, Suleiman aimed against at conquest in Europe. In
1526 he overran Buda and Pest on the Danube River in Hungary. He moved against Vienna,
but lacking enough soldiers he returned to Constantinople and tried again in May,1529. His
troops had to endure much rain. At Vienna's walls the Ottomans applied their light cannon,
musketry and skilled archery. Suleiman's army made a gap 150 feet wide in Vienna's wall, but
with ferocious resistance the Christians stopped the Ottomans from pouring through.
Ottomans losses were heavy. Suleiman's army was essentially a summer force, and with
winter approaching Suleiman lifted his siege against Vienna. The Ottomans set fire to their
camps, massacred their prisoners except for those young enough to qualify for their slave
markets and returned home, to be harassed by Christian cavalry and bad weather along the
way. In Vienna, the sight of the Ottoman withdrawal was followed by the ringing of bells and
great celebration. Suleiman had suffered his first defeat. Christian Europe saw itself as having
been delivered from Islam and the Ottomans.

Under Suleiman, the Ottomans made further gains in empire along the coast of North Africa
west of Egypt. In the early 1500s, Islamic pirates there, the most famous of which the
Christians called Barbarossa, a Turk from Lesbos, had been in conflict with the Portuguese
and Spanish. The pirates held territory along the coast of North Africa. Barbarossa's brother,
Arüj, the ruling pirate, was killed by the Spanish in 1518. Barbarossa took over, assuming
title of Khayr ad-Din, and fearing loss of territory to the Spanish he offered homage to
Suleiman. That same year, Suleiman sent Khayr ad-Din reinforcements. In 1529, Khayr ad-
Din took control of Algiers and made it the base for piracy. Suleiman made Khaya ad-Din
admiral-in-chief of his navy, and in 1534 Khayr ad-Din captured Tunis. Charles V, the
Habsburg emperor of Spain, sent a force that retook Tunis. Then in 1538 Khayr ad-Din
defeated Charles' navy at the Battle of Préveza. Twice - in 1533 and 1544 - Khayr ad-Din
defeated the Italian admiral Andrea Doria, giving the Ottomans control over the
Mediterranean Sea. Khayr enjoyed a great presence at court until his death in 1546. Suleiman
lived until 1566.

In 1570, the Ottoman Turks captured Cyprus from the Venetians. Christian communities
along the eastern Mediterranean coast shook with fear. Pope Pius V allied the Church with
Venice, and Philip II of Spain entered the alliance. In 1571, a force of more than 300 ships,
supplied by Venice, Spain and a small squadron from the Papal states, met the Turks inside
the Gulf of Lepanto - the last great battle with oar propelled vessels. The Christian alliance
lost 12 galleys and around 8,000 men killed. The Ottomans lost an estimated 25,000 killed
and 117 galleys. From the Ottoman ships the Christians seized 15,000 Christians said to have
been slaves. It was the first defeat of an Ottoman force - a victory that Pope Pius V attributed
to the intercession of Saint Mary. But it was not a totally effective intercession: the Ottomans
immediately began to rebuild their navy. Ottoman naval superiority in the Mediterranean was
soon restored, and Cyprus was not recovered.

The Safavids, Bloodletting and Shia Politics to the End of

the Century
Safavid confidence returned. Safavid shahs, Tahmasp, Isma'il II and Muhammad
Khadabandeh, ruling in succession to 1587, expanded in the direction opposite from the
Ottomans, as far as Transoxiana. And the Safavids turned again against Ottoman power and
fought for control over Tabriz, Baghdad and Armenia.

These shahs tightened controls over their subjects, each district having its own Safavid leader,
a Qizilbash chief, answerable to the Shah. In time of war the Qizilbash chiefs were
responsible for providing soldiers for the shah's army and for collecting revenues to pay for
war. And the local Qizilbash chiefs grew wealthy - Shia society not immune from the same
temptations that had plagued their enemy, centuries before - the Umayyads.

The shahs created an ideological and judicial order as a part of their theocracy. Members of
the order were scholar-priests known as ulama. The most learned of the Ulama achieved the
rank of mujtahid, similar to the position to be known as ayatollah. In Safavid times, few
reached this highest rank level, and those who did were allowed to give authoritative
interpretations to questions of religious law.

With their self-esteem and power derived from their increased wealth, some local Qizilbash
chiefs wished to have more freedom from the Shah's authority. They tried to convince Shah
Khadabandeh that he should select a successor amenable to them. Some of these chiefs tried
to reduced the chances of another choice by executing the heir, his mother and some other
possible heirs within the royal family. As often happens, politics by murder was less than
efficient. The younger brother of the murdered heir was secretly whisked away to Khurasan,
and Qizilbash chiefs loyal to the royal family fought and defeated Qizilbash chiefs who were
not, and full power was returned to the old dynasty of shahs. The younger brother of the
murdered heir, Abbas, succeeded Khadabandeh in 1587, and he was to rule until 1629.