INR 586 Politics of the Middle East

Course Description

This is an online course in the Graduate Program in International Relations. Specific topics include Islam, nationalism, the foreign relations of Middle Eastern states, the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and prospects for democratization.

Here is a sample of how the course is organized:

Week 5  The Middle East in the International System

  • Cleveland & Bunton, Modern Middle East, Ch. 22 and 25, p. 441-462 and 505-521.
  • Haleh Anvarijune, “The Fetish of Staring at Iran’s Women,” The New York Times, 16 June 2014 (Evernote).
  • Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005, Ch. 7, “Blood for Oil,” p. 175-204 (library e-reserve).
  • Mona Eltahawy, “Why Do They Hate Us? The Real War on Women Is In the Middle East,” Foreign Policy, 23 April 2012
  • Rashid Khalidi, Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East, Beacon Press, Boston, 2009, Ch. 3, “The Middle East and the International System,” p. 70-100 (library e-reserve).
  • Jodi Rudoren, “Standoff at Western Wall Over Praying by Women,” The New York Times, 10 May 2013 (Evernote).
  • “Head to Head: Do Arab Men Hate Women?” Al Jazeera English, 21 February 2014,
  • “Zainab Al-Khawaja: On the Front Line in Bahrain,” Front Line Defenders, 12 December 2011,

Reading response questions:

  • Are Middle Eastern states now trapped in a “World War IV” being fought by the USA? Why? If so, how should they respond to this entrapment, and why? (Bacevich; Cleveland & Bunton)
  • Of Khalidi’s four main points about the place of the Middle East in the international system, which is most correct? Why? Which is least correct? Why? (Khalidi; Cleveland & Bunton)

Discussion question:

  • How are the bodies of women used (or abused) as tools of politics? What are the effects of this? (Anvarijune; Eltahawy; Rudoren; “Head to Head” and “Zainab Al-Khawaja” videos)

Week 6  The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

  • Cleveland & Bunton, Modern Middle East, Ch. 17 and 23, p. 322-343 and 463-486.
  • Avraham Burg, “Israel’s Fading Democracy,” The New York Times, 5 August 2012 (Evernote).
  • Ben Ehrenreich, “Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?” The New York Times, 15 March 2013 (Evernote).
  • Charles D. Freilich, “National Security Decision-Making in Israel: Processes, Pathologies, and Strengths,” Middle East Journal 60, 4 (Autumn 2006), p. 635-663.
  • Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, Beacon Press, Boston, 2006, Ch. 5, “Fateh, the PLO, and the PA: The Palestinian Para-State,” p. 140- 181 (library e-reserve).
  • Zeev Maoz, Defending the Holy Land, U of Michigan Press, 2006, Ch. 13, “If So Bad, Why So Good? Explaining the Paradox of the Israeli Success Story,” p. 564-597 (library e-reserve).

Reading response questions:

  • Why has Israeli Zionism, and not pan-Arabism or Palestinian nationalism, been victorious in Palestine? (Cleveland & Bunton; Khalidi; Maoz)
  • Will the PLO, Hamas, or some other force be the dominant player in Palestinian politics over the next two decades? Why? (Cleveland & Bunton; Ehrenreich; Khalidi; Maoz)

Discussion question:

  • Is a “two-state solution” actually a solution for Israel and the Palestinians? Why? (Burg; Ehrenreich; Freilich; Khalidi; Maoz)