Institute for Middle East Studies

Graduate Course Offerings

Core Courses — Offered on a yearly basis:

PSC 6377 - Comparative Politics of the Middle East
PSC 6478 - International Relations of the Middle East
IAFF 6363 - Political Economy of the Middle East
IAFF 6364 - Religion and Society in the Modern Middle East
HIST 6001/HIST 6801- Special Topics: History of Modern Middle East
ANTH 6707.10 - Issues in Middle East Anthropology (specific topics will vary)
GEOG 6262 - Landscapes of the Middle East

Elective Courses — The selection of available elective courses varies each semester. The following is a sample of past elective courses:

Security in the Middle East
Advanced Arabic
U.S. Policy in the Gulf
Religion & Politics in Post Revolutionary Iran
U.S. Security Policy in the Middle East
Politics of North Africa
The Arab/Israeli Conflict
Islam & Social Movements
Modern Iran
Intelligence in the Middle East
Political Islam
Media & Politics in the Islamic World

Core

PSC 6377 - Comparative Politics of the Middle East
This course concentrates on two aspects of the comparative politics of the Middle East:  state formation (with a special focus on political economy) and political ideology (with a special focus on Islam and politics, in theory and practice).

PSC 6478 - International Relations of the Middle East
This course examines the phenomenon of deep-rooted conflict in divided societies, and focuses on different peacebuilding approaches and strategies utilized in different contexts. The course aims to: (1) identify and understand the characteristics of deep-rooted conflicts and the nature of ethnic and other relations in divided societies; (2) examine various theoretical frameworks which underline certain peacebuilding strategies and approaches; (3) understand the complexity and challenges involved in implementing peacebuilding strategies in the context of deep-rooted conflicts.

The course takes as primary case studies the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Lebanon, while exploring additional deep-rooted conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. The course investigates the many challenges faced by peacemakers operating within divided societies, and examines different peacebuilding approaches and strategies, including the initiation of dialogue, educating for democracy and curriculum development, carrying out conflict resolution training, and encouraging intercultural and interreligious encounters. While these will not be the course's main focus, it will also touch upon more formal intervention strategies (such as political/state-level options and formal negotiations), and on the tensions that exist between these options and other forms of peacebuilding work.

IAFF 6378 - Political Economy of the Middle East
This course is designed as a seminar to introduce students to the present day political economy of the Middle East, or the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) as it is generally called, a region stretching from Morocco to Iran. Starting with an overview of the historical and political challenges facing economic development in the MENA, students will apply such insights to present day issues in the region.

IAFF 6364 - Religion and Society in the Middle East
Islam performs many roles for contemporary Middle Easterners: focus of identity, cultural idiom, system of religious belief and practice, guide to politics and public morality. For governments of the Middle East, Islam can serve as a basis of political and ideological legitimation domestically and abroad, a source of legislation, or a driver of friction between state and segments within society. Likewise, "Islam" itself is a contested inheritance for Middle Eastern Muslims, who exhibit a diversity of theological interpretations, ritual practices, and social enactments. In the Middle East today it is appropriate to speak of "Islams," which reflect and influence the social structures and political arrangements of diverse environments from Morocco to Iran.

This course examines the varieties of Islamic expression and contestation among Arabs, Turks, and Iranians, with a particular focus on the past two decades. The emphasis is on the sociocultural and spiritual, as a pathway to the political.

ANTH 6707 - Issues in Middle East Anthropology
This course is an anthropological exploration of formations of government, state, and society in the Middle East. It will introduce students to debates in anthropology (and the social sciences more broadly) about how to analyze these categories and the relations between them. Thinking about different ways of studying government, we will consider whether anthropology - and its method of ethnography - offers a particularly helpful perspective. As we develop a shared understanding of scholarly debates, we will also turn our attention to particular examples from the Middle East.

GEOG 6262 - Landscapes of the Middle East
Why has the Middle East been the site of so much armed conflict, protracted political stalemate, and transnational violence? Why have its problems consumed so much of the energy and attention of global powers? This course examines the broad themes and major theoretical frameworks for understanding the international politics of the contemporary Middle East. Among the major themes covered are the dynamics of inter-Arab alliances and conflicts, the causes of wars (whether Arab-Israeli, Arab-Arab, or Arab-Iranian), great power involvement, and Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. We pay particular attention to the importance of public discourse and opinion, perceptions and misperceptions, and the role of national identity and ideologies. Finally, the course concludes with a look at several factors potentially transforming regional politics, including the American occupation of Iraq, the rise of regional media such as al-Jazeera, and the emergence of al-Qaeda's brand of transnational Islamist radicalism.


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Electives

Security in the Middle East
The purpose of this timely graduate seminar is to delve with some depth into security and stability issues that influence the political, economic, military, and informational dynamics of the Middle East and N. Africa with an eye towards analyzing key determinants of insecurity and instability. It is organized thematically and will utilize several learning and discovery methodologies (i.e. case studies, content analysis, conceptual frameworks, threat assessments, etc) to flesh out the roots of conflict inherent in each theme (see below) and to offer carefully crafted solutions leading to either conflict management or conflict resolution. The overall objective of the seminar is to foster critical thinking — thinking about the problems from different perspectives. If insecurity and instability are general features of the post-Cold War world, they are especially acute in the Middle East and N. Africa where the states and societies are weak, and where legitimacy and authoritarian regimes ebb and flow palpably. Moreover, since September 11, 2001, the central theme of political stability, governance, and the rule of law have suddenly become very au courant in policy circles, particularly here in Washington. Although the seminar is focused on the Middle East and N. Africa, it may, on occasions, analyze seminal writings from other regions with a view to testing hypotheses that have proved robust or, at least, intriguing elsewhere.

Advanced Arabic
This six week course is intended for students at the AdvancedMid/High levels of proficiency in Arabic.Students in this class will participate in listening activities requiring note taking skills, in the speaking activities, they are expected to develop debating presentational skills, in their reading they are expected to read between the lines and make inferences. In their writing, they are expected to write coherent multiparagraph essays.

U.S. Policy in the Gulf
This course focuses on the evolution of United States policy in the Gulf from the end of World War II to present, examining both its causes and effects. The Cold War, Arab nationalism, Islam, oil, and regional rivalries will be looked at as factors impacting U.S. decision-making and actions.

Between 1945 and 2004 there were significant changes in the United States' relationship with many of the regional states. Iran under the Shah was an ally; but following the revolution in 1979 the relationship has been tense and hostile. Saudi Arabia has been second to none as a lynchpin of American policy in the Gulf, a long-time ally with common strategic interests but significant social and cultural differences. Events post-9/11 have stressed relations. The U.S. relationship with Iraq has been a roller coaster-from a CENTO ally under the monarchy to enemy number one under Saddam Hussein. The other states in the Gulf became independent nations during this period and all have unique but evolving and deepening relations with the United States. A study of this period of history aims to provide a basis for understanding where U.S. policy may go in the future.

In addition to the course reading material, I will draw extensively on my personal experiences as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and State, my assignments as Ambassador to Kuwait during the first Gulf war and as Ambassador to Jordan during the war with Iraq, as well as my work at the United Nations as Deputy Permanent Representative in the 1990s working on Iraqi sanctions and other Iraq related resolution in the Security Council.

Religion & Politics in Post Revolutionary Iran
It has been three decades since religion has gone "public." The Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Nicaraguan Revolution, and the establishment of the Moral Majority in the United States, all of which occurred in 1979, signified the "return of religion from exile." Political scientists often refer to the Iranian Revolution and its inspiring impact on Islamist movements the world over as the ultimate example of the increasing role of religion in world politics. But the events of the past three decades have also shown that politics can in turn shape religion and religious ideas as well.

For more than a century, Iran has strived to come to terms with modernity while at the same time maintaining its rich Persian and Islamic heritage. Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran leaned heavily towards the West and attempted to revive the glamorous days of the ancient Persian Empire while reducing the role of Islam in the public sphere. The Islamic Revolution swung to the other extreme. It elevated religion to an unprecedented degree, viewing Islam as the best avenue for social, political, economic, cultural, and even scientific development.

Two decades later, a reform movement was born within the heart of the Islamic theocracy. Many of the founders and sympathizers of the Revolution came to the conclusion that religion alone could not overcome all of Iran's challenges. This intellectual movement, culminating in the presidency of Mohammad Khatami in 1997, sought a new balance between Islam and modernity and viewed both with a fresh but critical eye. However, Khatami failed to establish the rule of law and vibrant civil society that he promised his passionate supporters. The surprising ascendancy of hardline populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency in 2005 shifted the political landscape to the far right and coincided with international pressure on Iran's nuclear program. Four years later, the disputed presidential election and its bloody aftermath further polarized Iran's political factions, militarized the polity, and most importantly, plunged the Islamic Republic into an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy.

This course will address the aforementioned political and social dynamics of contemporary Iran. After a brief review of Iran's modern history, we will discuss the roots of the Islamic revolution, the establishment of Islamic theocracy, the Iran-Iraq war and its major consequences, the emergence of a new generation of religious intellectuals, the rise and the decline of the reform movement, and the ascendance of the ultra-conservative politicians. We will also tackle other critical issues such as gender, human rights, the youth bulge, ethnicity, and the media. We then move to an examination of Iran's defense and foreign policies. We will focus on Tehran's stance towards the peace process in the Middle East, its nuclear ambitions, and Iran's love-hate relationship with the United States.

U.S. Security Policy in the Middle East
This course is intended to give you information and insight into the formulation of U.S. foreign policy and security strategy toward the region known as the Middle East. It will examine the factors that have shaped and will continue to influence the making of American foreign and security policies in a region important for its geo-strategic location, energy resources, and propensity for weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and autocratic governance. Moreover, it is a region that houses the epicenters of 3 of the world's great religions-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All of these issues are flashpoints for U.S. foreign and security policy interests. This course is meant to enhance your ability to analyze these issues; understand them in their geographic, cultural, and historical context; and consider how to formulate policy. In the process, you will be asked to defend or criticize topics and countries, some of which may be familiar and important to you, and others that may be unfamiliar and even unpopular with your customary perceptions of a political system, a religion, and some important themes in modern history, politics, and culture. The focus will be on security issues, the nature of governance and civil society, and issues that are significant for U.S. policy planning. If you have strong biases or views on any of these issues, please leave them at the door and come to class with an open mind.

Politics of North Africa
The goal of this course is to examine the post-colonial government and politics of the Maghreb - Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia - and other select states of the North African region, including, Libya and Mauritania. The course will consider the role that history and geography have played in shaping contemporary North Africa, and critically, the influence of nationalism and state-building in the aftermath of colonialism. Also central is the development and impact of domestic actors (e.g. the military, political parties, and civil society), political and economic liberalization, and how North African states have managed broader international relations and regional conflicts. The course will also explore the development of political Islam across the Maghreb and the emergence of other competing ideologies and identities, such as Berberism. As this course will adopt a comparative perspective, we will assess political change across states, change in traditional structures, and the governmental and non-governmental sources of change. These themes will also be compared with processes in the Middle East and developing world.

Intelligence in the Middle East
This course will provide students with an understanding of intelligence activities in the Middle East. Specifically, the course will focus on the different intelligence services in the region, including Israel, Jordan, Syria, Hezbollah, Palestinian Authority/Hamas, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Additionally, we will examine the activities of foreign intelligence services in peacemaking efforts in the Middle East and discuss the primary intelligence issues in the region including nonproliferation and counterterrorism

Political Islam
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the world's attention has been focused on the religious and political aspects of Islamic extremism as never before. In the intervening nearly nine years, we have witnessed further such outbreaks of crises and violence in many parts of the world. At the same time, national and international conflicts within the Muslim world as well as crises in their relations with the West have multiplied and grown in severity. As a result, a better understanding of the historical, societal, religious and political dimensions driving these underlying and critical events has become essential.

Political Islam covers the interaction between politics and religion driving the domestic and foreign policies of Muslim countries as well as the ideology of Islamic extremism and global terrorism. This course will examine the four historical, religious and political factors that define Political Islam, namely the search for identity and the political confrontations between nationalism and Islamism within and among Muslim countries, Islamic terrorism against the West, the present day political and sectarian manifestations of the Sunni-Shia schism and the quest for a new role for Islam among Western Europe's minority Muslim populations.

Elements of Middle East and South Asian history pertinent to Political Islam, the legacy of colonialism, the emergence of the conflict between nationalism and Islamism as well as the origins of terrorism will be the starting points for the course. A discussion of key events such as the rise of Islamist movements, post-World War II Arab nationalism, the formation of the Muslim World League, the Iranian revolution, the Shia Revival in the Muslim world, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah will follow. This will bring us to the analysis of current developments in the Middle East and South Asia from a Political Islam perspective, the crucial present day events in Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia among others, as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, currently the epicenter of insurgency and global terrorism.

Media & Politics in the Islamic World
The Arab media have emerged as a major political force over the last decade. From the satellite television revolution and the rise of al-Jazeera to the more recent explosion of internet activism, new media forms seem to be transforming the politics of the region. This increased importance has been mirrored in an outpouring of academic research on this long-neglected field. This course surveys the academic and policy literature on the new Arab media and its political effects, with an eye towards understanding the possibilities and limits of the new media's transformative effects. We will examine critically the claims made for the new Arab media, drawing on theoretical literature from political science and communications, on case studies from the region, and from comparisons to other regions. This summer course will focus tightly on the Arab electronic media, which unfortunately means shortchanging a wide variety of important topics, including non-Arab countries such as Iran and Turkey, the historical evolution of the Arab press, or the global realm.

 

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Upcoming Events

POMEPS Book Launch
"Official Stories: Politics and National Narratives in Egypt and Algeria"
With Dr. Laurie Brand
Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
12:00 PM
Lindner Family Commons (Room 602), Elliott School of International Affairs
» RSVP here

IMES Title VI Journalism Initiative
"Reporting from Yemen"
With Laura Kasinof
Thursday, October 16th, 2014
12:00 PM
Room 505, Elliott School of International Affairs
» RSVP here

Middle East Policy Forum
"No End in Sight"
With Paul Hughes, Barbara Bodine, and Lawrence Wilkerson

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
5:00 PM
Lindner Family Commons (Room 602), Elliott School of International Affairs
» RSVP here

Middle East Policy Forum
"Iranian Policy toward the Iraqi and Syrian Crises"
With Dr. Jubin Goodarzi

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
5:30 PM
Room 505, Elliott School of International Affairs
» RSVP here

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Phone: 202.994.9249
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Institute for Middle East Studies
1957 E Street, N.W., Suite 512
Washington, D.C. 20052