SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

International politics of the Middle East

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

Since the age of European colonial rule in the Middle East came to an end around the Second World War, nominally independent nation-states in the region have tried to negotiate the opportunities and challenges of the Cold War, regional conflict and co-operation, underdevelopment, and more recently, globalisation. This module takes up the study of this rich politics through two different approaches, the first thematic, the second through the study of inter-state politics. After examining the methodological issues involved in the study of the Middle East and becoming familiar with the regions role during the Cold War and thereafter, we will examine important themes and debates in international politics of the Middle East, including war and militarism, ethnicity, development and globalisation, migration and ideological movements. In the latter part of the module, through a more conventional examination of inter-state politics of the Middle East, we will focus on conflict and cooperation between the Arab states in the region and their non-Arab neighbours, Israel, Iran and Turkey.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On completion of this module you will be able to

  • apply theoretical approaches and critical comparative paradigms to the international politics of West Asia;
  • compare several case studies, inter- and intra-state wars in the region and between regional actors and outside forces
  • describe the relevance of political cultural parameters, historical context and social construction of states to their foreign policy behaviour;
  • identify the interplay of domestic, regional and global factors in the international relations of regional systems;
  • discover the preconditions for communitarian policies among states;
  • evaluate the cultural and ideological fabric of regional systems.

More specifically the module enables you to

  • analyse the state formation process in modern western Asia;
  • explore meta-theoretical frameworks for the analysis of regional conflicts;
  • examine the role of political cultures and transnational loyalties, especially in its pan-Arab and Islamic manifestations;
  • evaluate historical dynamics, including colonialism and its impact on the politics in- and discourse about the region.
  • investigate the preconditions for regional integration and communitarian interaction between states;
  • compare regional politics and global processes with a particular emphasis on the impact of superpower politics on the region.
  • analyse the historical, strategic and international dynamics of the major inter-state wars amongst regional actors including the three Persian Gulf wars and the conflict in Israel/Palestine.
  • Critically evaluate the impact of globalisation on economic and political liberalisation.
  • Appreciate the transnational dynamics of civil societies in the region including NGOs, women’s rights movements and human rights organisations.


  • 1 hour lecture per week
  • 1 hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. What is the "Middle East"
  2. Transnational loyalties: Islamism / Pan-Arabism
  3. From the Cold War to the New World Order
  4. War and Peace in Israel/Palestine
  5. War and Peace in the Persian Gulf
  6. Iran
  7. Turkey
  8. Iraq
  9. Syria
  10. Conclusion: The region after the Arab Spring

Method of assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework, comprised of one 4,000 word essay. All coursework is resubmissable.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules