Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2012

Document Type

Thesis

Department

International Affairs

First Advisor

Prof. Lakshaman Guruswamy

Abstract

The United States and Iran are on a crash course for conflict with one another because of the state actions associated with Iran’s pursuit of regional hegemony in the Persian Gulf. These provocative policies, i.e. the state’s nuclear program, support of international terrorism, and human rights violations may align with the regional aspirations, but elements of each are inconsistent with international law. While condemnation of Iranian breaches of its international legal obligations is sometimes present in American political discourse, discussion of the applicability of international law in crafting foreign policy responses has been irresponsibly minimal. In order to make informed policy choices, the international legal responsibilities of the United States must play a larger role in debate on the “Iran Question” moving forward. Once these obligations are considered, potential American responses are significantly limited. Currently, I argue, that only American sanctions and cyber attacks on Iranian nuclear infrastructure are legal under international law, but other responses, including the uses of force, (e.g. preemptive military strikes) are not.

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