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Fateful Consequences: U.S.-Iran Relations during the Nixon and Ford Administrations, 1969-77

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posted on 2021-11-12, 14:28 authored by Cooper, Andrew Scott

This thesis analyzes the trajectory of U.S.-Iran relations from 1969, when Richard Nixon came to office, through the early and mid-1970s when the Nixon Doctrine embraced Iran as the cornerstone of its national security architecture in the Persian Gulf and West Asia, to 1977 when Ford left office with U.S.-Iran relations in a state of disrepair. It discusses the factors—geopolitics, economics, Iranian nationalism, domestic politics, the rise of transnational entities like Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), rivalries between the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury and personal ambitions—which damaged the relationship and contributed to the collapse of the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran. It lays particular stress on the difficulties in resolving national security and conflicting economic interests in regards to Iran’s oil resources at time when U.S. dependency on oil from the Middle East increased. It places these conflicts in the context of a series of crises in the form of the 1973 energy crisis, the October War, Watergate, the OPEC oil embargo and oil shock. It explains that the inability or unwillingness of either side to resolve their policy differences resulted from the economic forces unleashed by the oil shock, the difficulties of reconciling strategic, geopolitical and economic goals, and the domestic political vulnerabilities of chief architects of the relationship—Presidents Nixon and Ford, Henry Kissinger, and the Shah Reza Pahlavi—at a time when Vietnam, Watergate and recession weakened the U.S. and the Shah faced the dangers of incipient rebellion, revolution and coup which he tried to suppress through the use of SAVAK, the secret police, and one-party rule. The thesis thus examines how the intrusion of economic concerns into cold war geopolitical calculations had fateful consequences, not only for U.S.-Iran relations, but for U.S. national security strategy, the survival of the Pahlavi regime, and stability in the Persian Gulf which resulted in a new U.S. reliance upon Saudi Arabia to ensure access to oil.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Janiewski, Dolores; Rabel, Roberto