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

Felix Martin

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Thomas Breslin

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Iqbal Akhtar

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


International Relations

Date of Defense



The sweeping changes in the Middle East, so-called the “Arab Spring”, necessitate revisiting constitutionalism in the region. This task entails a fresh look at the idea of rule of law and constitutionalism amongst the people of the Middle East. One of the widely misconceived and yet understudied constitutional movements in the Middle East belongs to Iran. A new perspective on the trajectory of constitutionalism in Iran would better equip us to comprehend rule of law in the Middle East. From the 1905 Constitutional movement to the 1979 Revolution, Iran has undergone major changes. Each transformation created a rupture with the preceding order fostering a fresh look at rule of law in Iran. The current studies have mainly concentrated on the political and social aspects of these groundbreaking events. The legal aspect of each of event has remained largely unnoticed and under-researched.

It is important to fill the gap by focusing on the role of constitutions, despite its shortcomings, and international commitments of states using Iran as an example. The objective is to bring to the fore the role constitutionalism plays in incentivizing states to enter into international commitments and to comply with their international commitments. More than before, the mutual relationship between constitutionalism and international relations is intertwined because of two main developments: a. for better or worse, international relations have become increasingly judicialized, meaning all aspects of inter-state interactions are now subject to some normative regimes; b. more than ever, states feel the need to structure their domestic and inter-state relationship by resorting to a normative structure which is best materialized in constitutions.

Using Iran as an example, this dissertation aims to fulfill the following: First, it is critical to understand whether a state is a constitutional state and whether its domestic power relations are subject to any checks and balances (broadly speaking). By reviewing Iran’s recent history through this lens, the dissertation shows that Iranian’s legal culture presents (a version of) constitutionalism.

Second, it is critical to understand whether constitutionalism leads to any differences in the international behavior of such a state. Based on its constitutionalism, Iran’s international behavior has been premised on legalistic and juridical grounds.





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