Date of Award

Fall 2013

Project Type


Program or Major

Political Science

Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Jeannie L Sowers


The complex political landscape of Iran is often excluded from political discourse, contributing to oversimplified, at times incoherent policy approaches that reflect fundamental misunderstandings and typically undermine rather than complement U.S. nonproliferation objectives. Domestic receptivity to international inducements is conditioned by specific characteristics of the domestic political environment. Economic sanctions have distributional effects that weaken moderate factions needed to pressure the hardline constituencies of the regime. Coercive instruments have strangled Iranian civil society, the private sector and the middle-class, severing crucial state-society networks, leaving reformist forces vulnerable to the new wave of hardline conservatism that has, in spite of U.S. pressure, gained control of the state apparatus since 2005. If external pressure solidifies the radical faction's political hold on power while weakening their moderate competitors, the state will be less likely to embark on a course of denuclearization.