Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Public Affairs/International Relations

First Advisor

Leila Farsakh

Second Advisor

Michael Keating

Third Advisor

Robert Weiner


The roots of tension between Iran and the United States can be traced back to 1951, when Muhammad Mossadegh was named prime minister of Iran. In August 1953, a coup orchestrated by the British and U.S. removed Mossadegh from power, and though there have been periods of cooperation between these two states, there is a mutual lack of trust which continues to this day. This thesis seeks to prove that since U.S. foreign policy toward Iran has served to embolden the conservatives in Iran's government and ruling elite. The period from the early 1950's to the present is addressed, with more emphasis on events that have occurred since the onset of the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979. Chapter 2 will examine how the coup of August 1953 and U.S. support for the shah contributed to Iranian resentment of the U.S. and ultimately brought about the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79. Chapter 3 will show how Khomeini exploited the Revolution of 1978-79 to take control of Iran and turn it into an Islamic Republic, while confronting and eliminating nearly all opposition to his rule, and how the U.S. embassy hostage crisis in 1979 created mutual distrust between the U.S. and Iran. Chapter 4 will address how Iranian presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami tried to rebuild and reform Iran, and create a more open society, which included improving relations with the U.S. It will also discuss the shift in U.S. policy toward Iran from the Clinton era to the George W. Bush administration, and how this adversely affected Khatami's reform movement in Iran. Finally, Chapter 5 will analyze how the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greatly strengthened the growing power of the conservatives in Iran's government, and how, in contrast to George W. Bush, current U.S. president Barack Obama has made some efforts to repair U.S.-Iranian relations, while remaining cautious of the potential threat of Iran's nuclear program.


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