Theses defended

The 2003 Bush's rejection of a "Grand Bargain" and the 2009 Obama's openings. The Iran nuclear deal as a US foreign policy case study

Noemi Maria Rocca

Public Defence date
March 24, 2021
Doctoral Programme
International Politics and Conflict Resolution
Maria Raquel Freire
This thesis primarily focuses on US policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran during the G. W. Bush and Obama administrations. In particular, it investigates the decision-making process which led to reject a comprehensive solution to the diplomatic negotiations regarding the Iranian nuclear program - known as "Iran Nuclear Deal" - in 2003, whilst offering an opening to Tehran in 2009. The Deal was accepted by the Iranian regime and was negotiated gradually and bilaterally by Tehran and Washington until November 2012 when it turned into a multilateral diplomatic framework, the so-called "Five plus One", consisting of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus the European Union and the IRI. Such diplomatic negotiations led to the provisional agreement known as "Joint Plan of Action" in March 2013 and, then, to the final signature, the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action", on July 15, 2015. This research has mandatorily handled the history of the Tehran-Washington relationship, whose nature changed during the Carter administration and the transformation of Iran into an Islamic republic ruled by a multilayered religious-secular system of power. Documents reveal that, contrary to the prevailing view, a covert line of communication between Washington and the new Islamic rulers had existed since the 1979 revolution, allowing both countries mutually beneficial short-term cooperation. The core argument of this thesis is that since 2002 the US dealing with Tehran and its nuclear program has been characterized by power politics more than conflict resolution goals. During the Bush Administration, in fact, a number of possible solutions to the nuclear stalemate had been hindered by a faction inside the US executive branch which was convinced that, in order to pursue American supremacy in the Middle East-Persian Gulf region, the US could not allow Tehran to acquire regional player status. Contrarily, during the Obama Administration, that same long-term goal was considered achievable by means of an enhanced, acknowledged Iranian regional role. Thus, the nuclear dispute was central to any of these opposing approaches by the two successive US administrations. Regarding the theoretical apparatus applied to the thesis, middle-range foreign policies theories have been taken into consideration as such a theoretical approach frames foreign policy decisionmaking as a multi-causal process, in a referential context of bureaucratic politics model. Accounts of U.S. policy towards Tehran written by former officials, such as Zbignew vi Brzezinski, Lawrence Wilkerson, Flynt Leverett, and Ben Rhodes, as well as documents made public during the media campaign which in the years 2006-2007 unveiled the "grand bargain" between the U.S. and the IRI proposed in 2003 have provided a wealth of primary sources. This study intends to essentially make two contributions. Firstly, it enhances our knowledge about how actors' strategies, together with other domestic and international structural variables, interact to produce outcomes in the form of foreign policies. Secondly, it provides a better understanding of the influence played by interest groups on the US foreign policy decision-making process, particularly that one regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Keywords: US foreign policy; US-Iran policy; Iran Nuclear Deal; interest groups; bureaucratic politics model