The superlative fold and thrust belt
The main High Zagros thrust front near Yasuj.
Geological explorers have always been drawn to Iran, and the Zagros in particular. It is the archetypal fold and thrust belt for detachment folding above a salt decollement. Many generations of geologist, both native Iranian, and international visitor, have flocked to this natural wonder, which includes the highest elevation OWC on the planet.
My involvement with the Zagros began in its use as a key analogue for application in Greek-Albanian studies. It is the best global analogue in many ways for contractional salt tectonics. Later I became involved directly in Iran through Enterprise Oil's sponsoring of an Imperial College Ph.D. student looking at the Kazerun line structure - Mohammed Sepehr. A magnificent field trip courtesy of NIOC and Imperial College experts left no doubt in my mind as to the superlative nature of this fold and thrust belt.
Understanding of the Zagros has been continually advancing, and with that, the added complexities of the Zagros have come more to the fore. The ability of seismic to image such complexities onshore in such terrain is of course limited. The deep structure is therefore often uncertain, and the best applications of structural geology and non-seismic geophysical techniques are required to progress understanding. Confronted with such complexity, one solution can be elusive, but end member models are always a great tool for differentiating and discerning likely geometries.
More than just hydrocarbons
Understandably, domestic and world attention in the 20th century focussed on Iran's stupendous hydrocarbon resource. To focus only on that now however is to miss the much wider potential that exists in all of Iran's subsurface resources. As the world clamours for more precious metals, and for the industrial and REE elements that supply an increasing focus on renewable energy, Iran's globally strategic mineral and renewable resources remain very underexplored. Recently Iran has begun to exploit its geothermal resource. Iran has more than one percent of the world's population, and hence a healthy domestic energy market, even ignoring the proximity of energy hungry Pakistan, India, Turkey, China, and other economies of Central Asia. Strategic energy commitments with neighbouring countries are increasing daily.