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A constructivist analysis of religion’s role in foreign policy: the cases of Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia under the leaderships of Menachem Begin, Ayatollah Khomeini and Fahd bin Abdulaziz

Delgado, Magdalena (2015) A constructivist analysis of religion’s role in foreign policy: the cases of Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia under the leaderships of Menachem Begin, Ayatollah Khomeini and Fahd bin Abdulaziz. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

The 1648 landmark signing of the Westphalian Treaties which famously implemented the principle of cuius regio, eius religio has, for International Relations (IR), meant that relatively little attention has been paid to religion as an influential force in international relations. A “turn to religion” amongst a growing body of IR scholars, fueled by post-Cold War studies and empirical events, has sought to change this by placing religion within the study of IR. With a view of adding to this debate, this thesis examines the role of religion in Israeli, Iranian and Saudi Arabian foreign policy during the respective leaderships of Menachem Begin (1977-84), Ayatollah Khomeini (1979-89) and Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (1975-1995). It does so by drawing on extensive primary material, including private and public discourse of the leaders in question, as well as existing literature from, primarily, Middle East Studies and Religious Studies. The thesis argues, and shows with reference to its empirical findings, that the leaders’religious beliefs shaped their respective world-views and, by extension, their foreign policy doctrines and foreign policy outcomes. Moreover, it shows that religion played an important role in legitimizing the leaders themselves as well as their respective foreign policies. In this context, the thesis furthermore shows that, for the foreign policy leaders, religion assumed distinct meanings which were seemingly shaped according the context in which they operated. Importantly, the thesis argues, this does not uncritically support the long-standing assumption in IR scholarship that religion is epiphenomal, and/or a tool of instrumentalisation. With reference to Constructivist literature and a dynamic definition of religion developed for this project, the thesis rather explains that the malleable nature of religion can and does interact with variables like material security to shape, and sometimes drive, conceptualisations of national interest and foreign policy outcomes. The project concludes that religion’s role is multi-faceted, and, more to it, that the foreign policies of Khomeini’s Iran, Begin’s Israel and Fahd’s Saudi Arabia cannot be fully understood without it.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Magdalena Charlotte Delgado
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Dalacoura, Katerina
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3379

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