The motion of Arabia was stable with respect to Eurasia over the past 22 Ma. Deformation and exhumation in the Zagros is seen to initiate at the same time as argued by new detrital thermochronologic constraints and increasing accumulation rates in synorogenic sediments. A recent magnetostratigraphic dating of the Bakhtyari conglomerates in the northern Fars region of the Zagros further suggests that shortening and uplift in the Zagros Folded Belt accelerated after 12.4 Ma. Available temporal constraints from surrounding collision belts indicate that shortening and uplift focused in regions bordering the Iranian plateau to the south between 15 and 5 Ma. As boundary velocity was kept constant this requires concomitant decreasing strain rates in the Iranian plateau. Slab detachment has been proposed to explain the observed changes as well as mantle delamination, but the insignificant change in the Arabian slab motion and lack of unambiguous constraints make both hypotheses difficult to account for. It is proposed based on a review of shortening estimates provided throughout the Arabia–Eurasia collision that the total 440 km of convergence predicted by geodesy and plate reconstruction over the past 22 Ma can be accounted for by distributed shortening. I suggest that the topography and expansion of the Iranian plateau over Late Miocene–Pliocene time can be reproduced by the progressive thickening of the originally thin Iranian continental lithosphere presumably thermally weakened during the Eocene extensional and magmatic event.

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