U.S. Public Diplomacy toward Iran: Structures, Actors, and Policy Communities



This dissertation is an in-depth study of the structures, actors, and policy communities associated with U.S. public diplomacy toward Iran.  Since 2006, the U.S. government has spent more than $200 million for its Iran-related public diplomacy via State Department “democracy promotion” programs, National Endowment for Democracy, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.  These initiatives promoted regime change in Iran, ignoring a substantial majority of Iran’s population opposed to U.S.-sponsored interventions.  The study finds U.S. public diplomacy as it relates to Iran fits with the two-way asymmetrical model of public relations.

The dissertation identifies 182 individuals who participated in the Iran policy debate between January 2008 and January 2009.  Based on the policy recommendations these members of the Iran issue network propose, the study uncovers the existence of the following four policy communities: Punitive Nonengagement, Hawkish Engagement, Strategic Engagement, and Fundamental Change.  While regime change is the ultimate objective of both the Punitive Nonengagement and the Hawkish Engagement policy communities, only the latter believes that negotiation is a useful tactic in gaining compliance from Iran.  Both, however, view Iran as a major threat to U.S. and Israeli interests and see no role for Iran in solving regional challenges.

The Strategic Engagement policy community does not share this abysmal appraisal of Iran; rather, its members see meaningful cooperation between the United States and Iran on key regional issues as viable if their relationship is based on mutual respect.  The Fundamental Change policy community finds the underlying assumptions of U.S. Iran policy vitally flawed and believes that all policy options short of an overhaul of U.S. international behavior lack ethical and legal legitimacy.  Both the Strategic Engagement and Fundamental Change policy communities argue America should cease its pursuit of regime change in Iran and abide by its obligations under the Algiers Accord.

Public diplomacy recommendations proposed by the Punitive Nonengagement and the Hawkish Engagement communities correlate with policies adopted by the Bush administration, with those of the former doing so more readily.  The Obama administration is expected to adopt policies resembling the recommendations of the Hawkish Engagement policy community.

Excerpt from p. 78:

As Figure 2 shows, while none of these categories command the support of the majority of the overall issue network, a large plurality of the experts give recommendations denoting Hawkish Engagement (83 individuals — or about 46 percent) and Strategic Engagement (56 individuals – or about 31 percent) categories.  Another 33 individuals in the Iran issue network (about 18 percent) believe that punitive nonengagement is the best strategy, while only 10 (about 5 percent) think that there is a need for a fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy, in general, and U.S. policy toward Iran, in particular.

The Composition of the Iran Issue Network

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Foad Izadi received his doctoral degree from the Manship School of Mass Communication at the Louisiana State University.  The above is the abstract of and an excerpt from his dissertation U.S. Public Diplomacy toward Iran: Structures, Actors, and Policy Communities.  He defended this dissertation on 27 March 2009.

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