University of Leicester
2022CumminsNPhD.pdf (1.35 MB)

The Reagan Administration, Iranian-backed Terrorism and the Cold War

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posted on 2022-05-23, 12:05 authored by Nicholas Cummins

Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981 as the president who had promised to confront the foreign enemies of the United States. Whilst the Soviet Union remained the single greatest threat to the United States, the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran had dramatically raised concerns over international terrorism. Reagan’s approach to this threat was unequivocal - those responsible would be subject to “swift and effective retribution.” Despite this pledge, Iran, and its surrogates, were not confronted for their involvement in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1984 bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex building and the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. This thesis argues that the Reagan administration did not retaliate for these acts of terrorism because of Iran’s strategic significance to the Cold War and the administration’s wider priorities in the strategically vital Persian Gulf region. Using extensive archival and primary source material, this thesis provides a unique new addition to the literatures on the Reagan administration, U.S.-Iran relations and U.S. policy toward international terrorism.



Andrew Johnstone; Andrew Futter

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of History, Politics and International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD