British Association for American Studies


Summer Scholars: Presidents and the Middle East (British Library)

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Summer Scholars: Presidents and the Middle East (British Library)

July 20, 2015 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

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  • Presidential Power Meets Today’s Middle East

Andrew Rudalevige asks what do the Obama administration’s policies and actions in the Middle East tell us about the scope and scale of contemporary presidential power?

  • US Presidents and Iran during the Cold War

Ben Offiler (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow) explores the importance of personal relationships between heads of state in influencing US policy towards Iran.


‘Presidential Power Meets Today’s Middle East’

Andrew Rudalevige, Bowdoin College

From ongoing military action, to high-stakes nuclear negotiations, to stuttering relations with longtime allies, the Middle East has provided an important canvas for the Obama administration’s interpretation of presidential power. Following the Bush administration’s broad claims about unilateral executive authority, many expected Barack Obama to be far more cautious in word and deed. But the administration pursued war in Libya without congressional authorization; has rejected the need for a new authorization for the US war against ISIS; and has conducted repeated drone strikes against militants in Yemen and elsewhere that have also targeted and killed American citizens. The president has faced off against Congress in its dealings with Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, and even with the Supreme Court in an important case concerning diplomatic recognition. As the Obama years wind down, then, what is the ‘state of the presidency’? Have presidential powers been reined in, or expanded further?

Andrew Rudalevige is the Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He received his BA from the University of Chicago and his MA and PhD from Harvard University; before coming to Bowdoin he worked in state and local government in Massachusetts and taught at Harvard, Dickinson College, the University of East Anglia, and Sciences-Po Lyon. His research centers on the American presidency, presidential power, and interbranch relations – especially on presidential management of the executive branch. He is the author of The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power after Watergate and the prize-winning Managing the President’s Program, and editor ofThe George W. Bush Legacy and The Obama Presidency: Appraisals and Prospects.

‘US Presidents and Iran during the Cold War’

Ben Offiler, University of Nottingham (Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow)

During the thirty eight year reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, eight different American presidents occupied the White House. Thanks to its enormous oil reserves and strategic location, successive US governments recognised the value of a close relationship with Tehran. Following the CIA-orchestrated coup in 1953 that restored the Shah to power, American policymakers argued that maintaining friendly relations with the Shah was the key to incorporating Iran into their strategy of containing Soviet expansionism in the Middle East. The Shah, however, was a temperamental character prone to bouts of mistrust in his dealings with some occupants of the Oval Office. Famously, there was mutual antipathy between him and John F. Kennedy, while he got on extremely well with Richard Nixon. The question is, how important were these high-level personal relationships in formulating US foreign policy? Does ‘friendship’ between heads of state lead to stronger ties between countries?

Ben Offiler is the author of US Foreign Policy and the Modernization of Iran: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and the Shah (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). He received his BA from the University of Leeds and his MA and PhD from the University of Nottingham, where he teaches American history and foreign policy. His research examines US relations with Iran and the Middle East, focusing on the influence of development, philanthropic NGOs, and strategic considerations in American policymaking. Ben is the Early Career Representative for the British Association for American Studies and Co-Editor of U.S. Studies Online (www.usstudiesonline.com).


July 20, 2015
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Event Category:


Eccles Centre for American Studies
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British Library Conference Centre
96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB United Kingdom
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0843 208 1144
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