Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Mohiaddin Messbahi

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Benjamin Smith

Third Advisor's Name

Thomas Breslin

Fourth Advisor's Name

Nicholas Onuf

Date of Defense



What actors and processes at what levels of analysis and through what mechanisms have pushed Iran’s nuclear program (INP) towards being designated as a proliferation threat (securitization)? What actors and processes at what levels of analysis and through what mechanisms have pushed Iran’s nuclear program away from being designated as an existential threat (de-securitization)? What has been the overall balance of power and interaction dynamics of these opposing forces over the last half-century and what is their most likely future trajectory?

Iran’s nuclear story can be told as the unfolding of constant interaction between state and non-state forces of “nuclear securitization” and “nuclear de-securitization.” Tracking the crisscrossing interaction between these different securitizing and de-securitizing actors in a historical context constitutes the central task of this project.

A careful tracing of “security events” on different analytical levels reveals the broad contours of the evolutionary trajectory of INP and its possible future path(s). Out of this theoretically conscious historical narrative, one can make informed observations about the overall thrust of INP along the securitization -- de-securitization continuum.

The main contributions of this work are three fold: First, it brings a fresh theoretical perspective on Iran’s proliferation behavior by utilizing the “securitization” theory tracing the initial indications of the threat designation of INP all the way back to the mid 1970s. Second, it gives a solid and thematically grounded historical texture to INP by providing an intimate engagement with the persons, processes, and events of Tehran’s nuclear pursuit over half a century. Third, it demonstrates how INP has interacted with and even at times transformed the NPT as the keystone of the non-proliferation regime, and how it has affected and injected urgency to the international discourse on nuclear proliferation specifically in the Middle East.





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