US policy in Iran 1979-80: the Cold War dynamics of engagement and strategic alliance

Emery, Christian (2011). US policy in Iran 1979-80: the Cold War dynamics of engagement and strategic alliance. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis examines the context, conception and execution of US engagement strategies towards the Islamic Republic of Iran from 1979 to 1980. Utilising a wealth of primary sources and interviews with former officials, it charts the assessments that guided US policy and considers the internal and geo-political dynamics that shaped it. It focuses in particular on attempts to establish a strategic alliance based on an assumed mutual interest in containing communist encroachment. To support this, it examines US perceptions and assessments of the Soviet threat in Iran and the Iranian left. It highlights severe deficiencies in the approach and findings of both. This thesis then examines how the hostage crisis and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan re-fashioned US objectives in Iran. It demonstrates that the Soviet intervention reinforced many of the original premises that had underpinned US engagement.

This thesis concludes that, whilst Washington went to significant efforts to restore working relations with Iran, America’s presentation of the communist threat as a starting point for rapprochement sat incongruously with its claim to have accepted the Revolution. More importantly, a Soviet-centric mindset obstructed a deeper understanding of Iran’s complex internal affairs. This approach does not dispute the major, possibly even insurmountable, obstacles facing the normalisation of bi-lateral relations. However, this does not obviate its analysis of some underlying flaws in how Washington approached engagement.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations


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