Persia under Iskandar the Younger:
The year 1658 marked the fifteenth year since Iskandar the Younger took the throne of the Ottoman Empire. It was a reign that could’ve started out very badly, with unflattering references to the beginning of Khusrau II’s reign. His brother Ibrahim had been defeated in large part due to Roman arms, and Mesopotamia had been lost. (The shared vassalage and tribute were a far cry from pre-existing Ottoman control.)
Two factors ensured that his rule did not begin under such a potential black cloud of illegitimacy. The first were the provisions for the protection of the hajj under Persian auspices. Due to geography the pilgrims had to move through Roman territory, since sustaining large pilgrim caravans deep in the desert was impossible. But the pilgrims were organized and guarded by Persian soldiers, even while transiting Roman territory. Roman-allied tribesmen were paid to also provide protection against desert raiders, who viewed the slow-moving and often heavily-endowed caravans as lucrative prey. However, the Persian soldiery were the main defense, with the caravan guard always commanded by a senior Ottoman official.
Some Romans had protested at allowing a substantial Persian military force repeated and regular access to Roman border territories, viewing it as a security risk. Political and diplomatic concerns won out though. To have Muslim pilgrimages participating in the hajj being escorted primarily by Christians was an unacceptable humiliation and would’ve been a massive, potentially destabilizing, blow to the Shah’s prestige. Sustaining and protecting the hajj pilgrims, on the other hand, was a massive boon to the Shah’s prestige. For the Romans to threaten or undermine that would’ve been an incredible insult demanding a violent and forceful response. That Iskandar had secured such concessions for the hajj redounded greatly to his credit.
The second was the Panipat campaign. There had been no long-term political benefits such as reestablishing control over the Punjab districts that had been held under Iskandar the Elder and early in Ibrahim’s reign, but Iskandar the Younger had accrued immense amounts of gold and glory. The invasion of northern India had clearly been a joint Persian-Roman affair (although chauvinistic historians on both sides have a long tradition of emphasizing their own and minimizing the other). Iskandar had asserted his own authority as an independent agent on the battlefield and won the loyalty of many military elements in the Ottoman state.
Iskandar, when he took the throne, had many plans for Persia, and due to his high prestige after Panipat is in a good position to implement them. Drawing inspiration from models he had seen in Rhomania, he encourages and subsidizes (in some cases) improved agricultural and industrial projects. Several swamps are drained to provide more cultivable land, roads are built, and the harbor facilities at Gamrun are enlarged. Said harbor facilities and roads help facilitate more commerce and thereby production, with an increase in raw silk, carpet, ceramic, and glass production. None of the increases are noteworthy by modern standards, but by those of the pre-industrial era they are significant.
Another area of growth is in iron production, although here the focus was on military and not economic implications. By 1660 all Persian musketeers had iron ramrods for loading, replacing wooden ramrods that broke more easily. Given that a broken ramrod makes a muzzle-loading firearm useless as a firearm, this is a noticeable improvement. Increased iron production also meant greater provision of iron tools to Persian troops, particularly spades and picks. The Ottoman military tradition, in response to Roman firepower, had emphasized field fortifications (and in siege tended to rely more on tunneling than cannonading) and this strengthened that already formidable ability.
That is not to say all was smooth sailing. Persia, like the rest of the world, is suffering from the effects of the Little Ice Age, with more erratic and extreme weather patterns. Given the lack of water transport options and Persia’s rugged terrain, maintaining control over such vast areas and funneling resources from where they are available to where they are needed is difficult at best. Grain riots and disputes between settled folk and the many pastoralists interspersed throughout the Ottoman domains are common, a constant low-level expression of discontentment and suffering.
However, the low-level rumbling, while insistent and draining, never coalesces into something more destabilizing and explosive, as is the case elsewhere. The same elements that make it difficult for the government to send troops and grain to places also make it hard for disparate dissatisfied elements to cohere. The average Persian, in contrast to her contemporary Roman, is much less informed about and interacts with others less outside her immediate regional sphere. Angry peasants and angry tribal nomads are both angry with the Ottoman government, but also angry with each other, and so cooperation between the two is hard to arrange.
Under a weaker and less responsive monarch, it is quite possible these factors could’ve been overcome. But Iskandar was not such a monarch and was able, through a mixture of carrot and stick policies, to keep the many and inevitable brushfires from flaring into anything larger. The call of Islam might’ve been the one thing that could have overpowered even this constraint, in much the same way the defense of Catholicism was what really rallied most of the German participants in the Glorious Uprising, but for several reasons to be discussed shortly, that never got off the ground, despite the efforts of some to launch it.
Another innovation Iskandar introduces is the printing press which sets up in Hamadan in 1649. Muslims were aware of printing, but up to that point the only presses in the Dar al-Islam had been set up, managed, and patronized by local Jews and Christians.  Even though the technology was over two hundred years old after its development in Trebizond in the early 1400s, its adoption in the Muslim world had been delayed by two major factors.
The first was the resistance to using the printing press for producing religious works. In Christendom, religious texts of all kinds, from the Bible to pamphlets to transcribed sermons, made up the bulk of printed material, even if historically these are largely forgotten. Any sort of restriction of this type in Christendom would’ve certainly starved the industry in its cradle, and had done so until now in the Dar al-Islam. The second was cultural. Arabic and Persian writing were prized for their elegant calligraphy, and printed work lacked the class of a beautiful handwritten calligraphy.
Iskandar had no patience for either of these concerns. He had greatly enjoyed the relative cheapness and wide selection of reading material in Rhomania, where the phrase ‘two-book man’ was an insult. The availability of educational material was an obvious benefit for developing the large and often technical infrastructure investment projects Iskandar desired to improve the Ottoman economy.
But he also recognized his limitations. He did not insist that the presses produce religious material; they would only be used to produce secular writings. This was a much smaller market, but with dedicated state support Iskandar was able to get the industry going. This did nothing to resolve the calligraphy issue, but since the goal was to produce educational and technical materials, the lack of elegance here was, if not desirable, at least excusable.
There is the matter of how Iskandar funded all of this. Part of it was from the confiscation of property from Ibrahim loyalists and the injection of loot from India. While much of the former ended up going out again as rewards to Iskandar loyalists or to turn people into said loyalists, much of the latter was invested in these various projects.
Another was an increased availability of credit, in contrast to the contraction in Rhomania. The Persian army in India had partially depended on Indian moneylenders to provision itself, but after returning Iskandar maintained contact. These Indian moneylenders provided one source of financing and were particularly important in funding the expanded facilities at Gamrun. Persian exports of horses to India nearly doubled between 1640 and 1660.
More credit came from Armenians and Jews, with Iskandar encouraging emigration of both groups from Rhomania to Persia during his reign. Relations between Armenians and the Romans had cooled because of disputes over religious landholdings in the Holy Land and over rights at the Holy Sepulcher in recent years, which was some inducement for Armenians to look elsewhere.
However, that factor should not be exaggerated. It did not apply at all to the Jews, for starters. As people of the Book, their rights in Persian society were roughly comparable to their status as “noble heresies” in Rhomania (unsurprisingly, since the Islamic concept had been the inspiration for the Roman), with only some details varying. So, emigration did not result in an improvement in social status. But it did, usually, result in an improvement in economic status. In Rhomania, Armenian and Jewish artisans, merchants, and moneylenders were competing in a large and diverse environment, with many competitors who did not have their social disadvantages. The Ottoman Empire was simply a much more open environment for them.
Armenian and Jewish emigres maintained contact with friends, family, and business partners that remained in Rhomania, which facilitated increased trade between Rhomania and Persia. Commerce flow increases went both ways, with the amount of custom duties for both parties slightly more than doubling between 1645 and 1660, even with a small reduction in the rates negotiated in 1655.
One increased Persian export to Rhomania was alcoholic drinks. The Muslim prohibition against wine is one that is often honored in the breach, with early modern Persia being an exceptional example. Wine was produced in large quantities by both Christians and Muslims, and taxes on its production and sale paid for much of the Ottoman army. Iskandar in 1657 said that if he abolished wine consumption in his realm, he’d lose forty thousand infantry.
Much as in Serbia, Bulgaria, and northern Macedonia, the effects of the Little Ice Age had a serious effect on wine production, with many previously marginal producers unable to sustain vines. Persian producers developed the same solution, although almost certainly independently, growing other types of fruits that would still grow such as plums and turning them into brandies. In the Aegean basin, plum brandy from Serbia and Bulgaria becomes quite popular, while plum brandy from Persia fills a similar niche in Roman Syria and Egypt.
This Persian connection is partially responsible for why Greek-speakers usually call this specific type of plum brandy raki, which is not Greek but Turkish in origin. The most successful brandy producers in Persia were of Turkish origin, and their term ‘raki’ stuck to their product. Its export to Rhomania popularized the term. Furthermore, while raki was made across a large spread throughout the Haemic Peninsula, the best raki was said to come from certain districts in Upper Macedonia. These areas had been heavily settled by Turks transported from Anatolia during the late 1200s by the Laskarid Emperors, and even in the 1600s these districts maintained a strong Turkish flair. Thus, their product was also styled raki, as a mark of quality to distinguish it from other brandies produced elsewhere. (The exotic term also made for a good marketing ploy, even though it might’ve been made just a few dozen kilometers away.) Gradually, the term raki overpowered all other competitors in the Roman lexicon, to the point where today it refers to all plum brandies and not just specific brands as was the case in the mid-1600s.
Iskandar faced opposition in these reforms and changes. Conservative ulema were highly critical of the alcohol production and consumption, were suspicious of the printing press with its Christian origins, and resented the arrival of heathen Armenians and Jews. Iskandar was able to parry this threat for several reasons.
The Shah had strong Islamic credentials for his patronage and protection of the hajj. It was done in cooperation with the Romans, but for most Muslims the key factor was being able to undertake the pilgrimage, and Iskandar had ensured that. Furthermore, with his revenues Iskandar had also endowed many waqfs, Islamic charitable endowments, that provided soup kitchens, hospitals, and madrasas.
With these, Iskandar had won the support of other ulema. They approved of the charitable endowments (and were willing to overlook the wine, largely because they liked to imbibe themselves) and were not against innovations simply because Christians had originated them. They argued that while a Christian was wrong on religious grounds, that didn’t mean a hammer they’d made was a bad hammer.
Opponents of Iskandar were painted as puritan killjoys who were also greedy, resenting the waqf endowments going to the poor and needy rather than themselves. (The latter accusation is true in some cases, and false in others.) With the ulema divided and the counter-message not having deep resonance outside of small circles, there was no broader unifying narrative that might have bound up the localized discontent and turned it into something broader and deeper.
As a result, Persia avoided the level of social upheaval that rocked many other states across the world in the mid-1600s. That is not to say it was good times in Persia. Historians estimate that between five hundred thousand and eight hundred thousand Persians (5 to 8%) of the population died from famine or disease during this period, beyond what would be considered the usual demographic rates. It is a chilling testament to the age, of this “world of shaking”, that this constituted a brilliant success.
 This is following OTL. The earliest Muslim printing presses, in the Ottoman Empire, were nearly three centuries after their development in Germany.