Structure varies along strike in the Zagros fold-and-thrust belt of Iran, which is a principal element in the Arabia–Eurasia continental collision. Pre-collision, Late Cretaceous ophiolite nappes (Kermanshah, Neyriz) and related nappes of deep marine sediments (Radiolarite Series) were emplaced next to two regions (Pusht-e Kuh arc, Fars) which later developed a consistent structural style across the range from the High Zagros Fault to the foreland limit of deformation. The intervening area has a zone of highly imbricated Arabian plate strata (the Bakhtyari Culmination) thrust southwest towards and over a low relief, low elevation region (the Dezful Embayment). There are no ophiolite nappes northeast of the Bakhtyari Culmination. Isopachs reflect these different structural patterns from Late Cretaceous time but not earlier. In Late Cretaceous time the Dezful Embayment recorded less deposition than adjacent areas to the northwest and southeast. In the Palaeogene there was little net difference between the Dezful Embayment and its margins. The Dezful Embayment has been a depocentre since roughly 35 Ma, which is the likely time of initial collision between Arabia and Eurasia. We propose that the syn-collision structure and stratigraphy of the Zagros is therefore strongly influenced by the variation in Late Cretaceous ophiolite emplacement, but the original cause of this variation is not clear.