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Nested Institutions, Political Opportunity, and the Decline of the Iranian Reform Movement Post 9/11

Poulson, Stephen C.
TheAmerican behavioral scientist 2009 v.53 no.1 pp. 27-43
activists, collective action, issues and policy, politics, Middle East, United States
Using the recent Iranian reform movement (1997-2003) as an example, this article demonstrates how social movement activism in the Middle East is often constrained by U.S. foreign policy and rhetoric. Directly after the 9/11 attacks, there was a remarkable confluence of shared interests between Iranian reformers and U.S. policy makers. Despite common goals and interests—and an explicit desire by many in the Iranian reform movement to normalize relations with the United States—Iranian reformers were forced to abandon the possibility of cooperating with U.S. policy makers in 2002. Moreover, hostile American policies and rhetoric during 2002 contributed to the decline of the Iranian reform movement and strengthened conservative factions in the Iranian government. The Iranian case demonstrates the degree to which social movement opportunities in the Middle East are “nested” within the context of international relations.