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US Foreign Policy in the Middle East: 1979-1990


Background and Proposed Research Focus

Protests by Islamic fundamentalists in Iran erupted into violence in 1978. The government of the Shah declared martial law in 12 major cities in early September of that year, and a military government for the country was appointed two months later. The Shah was forced to flee the country in January 1979, and the opposition leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, returned to Iran in earlyFebruary of that year. Iran was declared an Islamic Republic on 1 April 1979.

The events that occurred in Iran in 1978 and 1979 demanded a complete reappraisal of American foreign policy for the Middle East. Under the Shah, Iran had formed one of the cornerstones of American policy in the region. Open warfare broke out between Iran and Iraq in September 1980, and that conflict caused more shifts in American foreign policy toward the Middle East. The continuing ArabIsraeli dispute, an enduring and deepening American dependence on Middle Eastern energy sources, and a growing concern with international political terrorism, much of which originated in Middle Eastern countries further complicated to development and application of American foreign policy in the Middle East. On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded the State of Kuwait. This date proved to be another watershed in American foreign policy development in the Middle East.

To many observers, American foreign policy toward the Middle East in the period between the proclaiming of an Islamic republic in Iran in 1979 and Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 appears to be reactive in character, as opposed to proactive. A research study is proposed that will examine the question: Was American foreign policy in the Middle East from 1 April 1979 through 2 June 1990 characterized by an underlying consistency, and was that policy ethically evenhanded?

Some observers contend that American ...

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