Crystallization and thermal histories of two plutons in the west-central Alborz (also Elburz, Elburs) Mountains, northern Iran, are combined with crosscutting relations and kinematic data from nearby faults to determine the Cenozoic tectonic evolution of this segment of the youthful Euro-Arabian collision zone. U/Pb, 40Ar/39Ar, and (U-Th)/He data were obtained from zircon, biotite, K-feldspar, and apatite. The Akapol pluton intruded at 56 ± 2 Ma, cooled to ∼150 °C by ca. 40 Ma, and stayed near that temperature until at least 25 Ma. The nearby Alam Kuh granite intruded at 6.8 ± 0.1 Ma and cooled rapidly to ∼70 °C by ca. 6 Ma. These results imply tectonic stability of the west-central Alborz from late Eocene to late Miocene time, consistent with Miocene sedimentation patterns in central Iran. Elevation-correlated (U- Th)/He ages from the Akapol suite indicate 0.7 km/m.y. exhumation between 6 and 4 Ma, and imply ∼10 km of Alborz uplift that was nearly synchronous with rapid south Caspian subsidence, suggesting a causal relation. Uplift, south Caspian subsidence and subsequent folding, reversal of Alborz strike-slip (from dextral to sinistral) and(?) eastward extrusion of central Iran, coarse Zagros molasse deposition, Dead Sea transform reorganization, Red Sea oceanic spreading, and(?) North and East Anatolian fault slip all apparently began ca. 5 ± 2 Ma, suggesting a widespread tectonic event that we infer was a response to buoyant Arabian lithosphere choking the Neo-Tethyan subduction zone.