Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Mohiaddin Mesbahi

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Thomas Breslin

Third Advisor's Name

Mira Wilkins

Fourth Advisor's Name

Ronald Cox


OPEC, oil, energy security, Middle East, foreign policy, geopolitics, political economy, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela

Date of Defense



The conventional understanding behind how the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has formulated its decisions and subsequently behaved in the international system has consistently centered on the role of market forces. Either proactively or reactively, it has been assumed that OPEC’s actions were merely engaging and responding to the supply and demand dynamics in the global economy. Though space was always given to the political considerations of certain OPEC Member States, and how that impacts the behavior of the Organization, inquiry into OPEC decision-making and behavior has generally centered on economic considerations, with politics playing an intermittent supporting role.

This work challenges the assumptions behind the conventional narrative of OPEC’s behavior in the international system. By utilizing a historically-based process tracing method, relying heavily on archival data from OPEC’s headquarters and declassified American national security documents from the late 1940s to the present, a more sophisticated model of decision-making and behavior is developed. Accordingly, OPEC’s decisions and behavior are more accurately a product of four inter-related determinants: the role of market forces, the influence of outside actors (usually great powers) upon the Organization, interstate relations and politics among Member States, and the pressure of the internal state dynamics within OPEC Member States. It is at the intersection of these four variables where OPEC’s behavior is more readily understood. Thus, with a sophisticated understanding of the interplay of these determinants, OPEC’s decision-making process and behavior can be more accurately understood and possibly forecasted to a limited degree.





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