Domestic Determinants of the U.S.-Iran Rivalry
February 14, 2018
Recent studies of diversionary theory focus on domestic determinants of conflict between interstate rivals as well as the strategic behavior of potential targets of diversion. This paper addresses both issues by analyzing the tendency of the U.S. and Iran to use their rivalry for diversionary purposes from 1990 to 2004. Throughout the study, I seek to answer the following questions: Do the U.S. and Iran use their rivalry to divert attention away from domestic political and economic problems? Second, does Iran reciprocate hostile actions from the U.S. or act more conciliatory to avoid becoming the target of diversion. My findings demonstrate that U.S. Presidents appear to be more hostile toward Iran as there is a decline in their approval ratings. The same conclusion cannot be drawn for Iran. The findings suggest that Iran neither uses hostility toward the U.S. to divert attention away from domestic problems nor behaves strategically to avoid becoming the target of a potential U.S. diversion.