Northern Illinois University Fall 2007                                               Instructor: Mazen Nagi

Political Science 375-Middle East Politics                                                                      Phone: TBA

MWF 10-10:50, 459 Dusable Hall                                                                                   E-Mail: mnagi@niu.edu

Office Hrs. MWF 9-9:55, and by appointment if necessary                              Office: 476 Dusable

 

 

Introduction

The Middle East is and important and often deeply misunderstood region of the world. Its significance emanates from a number of sources. For instance, it is the cradle of Western civilization. At various points in ancient times, Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian empires all flourished in this part of the world. Also, the Middle East is the birthplace of three major religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - as well as home to a variety of cultures and peoples including, but certainly not limited to, Arabs, Berbers, Armenians, Jews, Iranians, Turks and Kurds. This diversity has and will continue to serve as a source of conflict. Further, outside intervention has been a constant theme throughout Middle East history. While the region is not in danger of being overrun by Romans, Mongols, or Turks, it will continue to be of vital interest to the United States and other major powers. The Middle East is the world’s largest source of petroleum, a major recipient of foreign aid, and of vital strategic importance. And now in the absence of a major communist threat, many Western states regard militant Islamic fundamentalism and certain Middle Eastern countries among their greatest threats. This perception has only been reinforced by the recent events of September 11, 2001.

 

            Despite its significance, the Middle East is often confusing and, at times, inexplicable to the average American. Much of this mystery or complexity stems from the diversity of the region. Many individuals, for example, are unfamiliar with the various sects of Islam and the divisions within other regional faiths. In addition, the greater Middle East comprises of no less than twenty states, each with its own character and history. Moreover, these countries embrace a variety of political systems: authoritarian regimes, monarchies, parliamentary democracies, presidential democracies, theocracies and so forth. Last, there are significant distinctions among states in terms of wealth, population and territorial size, education levels, minority groups, internal politics, domestic policies and foreign relations.

 

            Employing a comparative approach, the primary purpose of this course is to make sense of this significant but often confusing region of the world. While this investigation cannot ignore religion, culture, and social life, it is important to remember this is a political science course and these topics will not be the major emphasis. Rather, the vast majority of our time will be devoted to studying the politics, governments and foreign relations of several Middle Eastern states. This country-by-country examination will be preceded by background information, including political history since World War I, with a focus on the major conflicts that have shaped the region.

 

            It is important to note that this course is intended for students with little or no knowledge of the Middle East. While it will be taught in a way that corresponds to its 300-level classification, it is not likely to appeal to students who have studied or lived in the region for several years.

 

            This course has three specific objectives, and one more general objective. The first is to facilitate a basic understanding of the leaders, events, and issues that have shaped Middle East history and politics since the First World War. The second aim is to help students develop a sound and realistic familiarity with the government, politics and foreign relations of specific nations and states. While we cannot study the entire region in 15 weeks, we will explore a number of countries at the core of the region. Both the country selection and the lecture format are designed to illustrate the true diversity of the region. Thus, the third objective is to help students truly appreciate this important reality. As the semester develops, the hope is that students will be able to see and draw comparisons between the countries under study. To assist in this effort, we will examine and discuss individual countries through a common framework or set of factors. Finally, while not a formal objective, it is hoped that this course will instill or ignite an intellectual curiosity that will lead students to continue to seek information and knowledge about this most important region.

 

Class Format

As mentioned, the presumption is that students have little or no background in the subject matter. For that reason, each class will have a lecture component. However, questions and comments about the material are encouraged and always welcome. Also, members of the class should be prepared to respond to questions the instructor might ask about a lecture topic, assigned readings, or contemporary events. We will spend a good portion of our time discussing and dissecting Middle East politics as a group. Regular participation is expected. It is very important to remember that all opinions and interpretations are welcome, however they must be presented in a calm and respectful manner. This point is particularly important because certain Middle East issues are closely intertwined with some individuals’ political and religious beliefs.

 

Current Events

To maintain a contemporary focus and facilitate a more interactive class setting, we will track and discuss events throughout the semester. Each Monday, at the beginning of class, students will be asked to introduce new stories related to Middle East politics. Besides briefly summarizing the news report, it will be necessary to do one of two things: offer an opinion on the article being discussed or draw a connection between the facts of the report and the course material (e.g., a theory, concept, reading, previous news article, etc.) Again, all opinions and interpretations are welcome as long as they are presented in a calm and respectful manner. Articles should come from the New York Times. While students will not be required to subscribe to the NYT, you will be required to submit an article and a typed summary of the article in class each Monday beginning the third week of classes (see Graded Requirements section). The New York Times is available at a substantially reduced rate for students if anyone would like to subscribe (please see me for details if you are interested); also, the library carries the NYT. However, the easiest way receive the NYT daily is to subscribe online, it is free.

 

Assigned Readings

The textbook and readings used for this course were selected to provide the most up-to-date material as possible as well as maintain a high quality of academic intellectualism. For those students faced with limited budgets, a copy all materials will be placed on two-hour reserve in the library. Please return any library materials in a timely fashion so that everyone is guaranteed reasonable access. If possible, however, I would encourage students to have a personal copy of the book not only for use during the semester, but for future reference as well.

 

1. Monte Palmer. 2007. The Politics of the Middle East, 2nd Edition. Itasca, IL: Thompson-Wadsworth.

 

Grade Requirements

There are five basic requirements. The first is written examinations. The midterm exam will be given on Friday October 12. The final exam will be administered on Monday 10 from 10pm-11:50am (please note that this is not the normal meeting time for the class). The midterm will comprise 20% of the grade, while the final will account for 30%. In order to pass this class, all exams and tests must be completed.

 

            The second requirement is the submission of 10 neatly clipped or photocopied articles with an accompanying well-written, seven to eight sentence paragraph that reacts thoughtfully to a news story that bears a clear relationship with Middle East politics. For instance, the type paragraph can tie a selected article to a course reading, draw a connection to a theory or concept discussed in class, relate its significance to present or future policy, or convey how a policy-maker should address the issue. Regardless of the approach, the paragraph must be well constructed and thought out. Beginning on Monday of the third week of classes, one submission will be required each Monday after our current events discussion in class; no late submissions will be accepted. This component of the grade is worth 10% of the final grade. Each submission will be worth one point.

 

            The third requirement involves short but important test. The test, which will be given Friday October 26, will examine students’ basic understanding of Middle East geography. More details will be provided in class. The quiz will account for 10% of the final grade.

 

The fourth requirement is an 8-10 page research paper. Each student will submit a topic abstract, which is due on October 5. The requirements will be more thoroughly laid out in class, however, in general, you will select a topic related to the class material and explore it greater in depth. Please begin thinking about topics early on during the semester. The paper is due November 19. This requirement is worth 20% of your final grade.

 

Lastly, class participation will contribute 10% to the final course grade. Components of this grade include: (a) regular attendance (no more than three absences to secure full marks in this category; more than seven unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of this class without exception), (b) regular and thoughtful participation during lectures and discussions, (c) introducing and discussing materials from the New York Times, and (d) completing any additional tasks that may be assigned.

 

            In general, relevant class participation will be evaluated according to the following scale:

 

A = regular and thoughtful participation

B = occasional and thoughtful participation

C = regular attendance (no more than three absences)

D = less than regular attendance

F = little or no attendance

 

            Attendance will generally be taken at the beginning of each class session. Moreover, being tardy will be treated the same as being absent. This is done in order to keep classroom disruptions to a minimum and provide a better teaching and learning environment. At the end of the semester, the total number of class meetings is divided by the number of times that the student was present. The resulting percentage will then be converted into a letter grade. Missing no more than two or three classes will result in an “A” for this portion of the participation grade. As previously mentioned above, more than seven unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of this class without exception.

 

 

Components of the Final Grade

a. Midterm Exam         =20%

b. Final Exam              =30%

c. Current Events         =10%

d. Geography Test       =10%

e. Research Paper        =20%

f. Participation             =10%

 

 

Odds & Ends

1) Make-up Exams: Make-up exams will only be given in extraordinary circumstances. If such circumstances arise, please contact the instructor as soon as possible and before the scheduled exam. To keep the process fair for everyone in the course, students may be asked to support requests for make-up exams with documentation. A missed examination without prior notification and a documented excuse will result in a zero and a grade of “F” for the course, as opposed to an incomplete.

 

2) Students with Disabilities: The instructor recognizes that some students require special testing environments because of documented physical and learning disabilities. If such arrangements are necessary, the instructor should be informed early in the semester. Please do not wait until exam time.

 

3) Late Assignments: The only out-of-class assignments other than readings are the current events requirements, which, as mentioned, must be turned in at the time due; there will be no exceptions unless the student has an excused absence.

 

4) Submitting Materials: Assignments should be handed in to me personally, or given to a department secretary to be time-stamped. Assignments placed under my office door or sent with a friend tend to disappear at times. If a student selects one of these modes of delivery, he or she does so at their own risk.

 

5) Extra Credit: Extra credit assignments will not be given on an individual basis to raise final course grades. Like make-up exams, such assignments raise major questions of equity. If the need arises to provide some sort of extra-credit assignment, the entire class will be given the opportunity to complete it.

 

6) Handouts: Handouts, including study guides, are a privilege for those students who attend class on a regular basis. No student is entitled to supplemental materials simply because they are registered for the course.

 

7) Incomplete Requests: Such petitions will be granted in extraordinary circumstances. The instructor reserves the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing completion of the course by the normal deadlines. If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to the instructor’s discretion.

 

8) Academic Dishonesty: Please refer to the NIU Undergraduate Catalog (p. 47) section entitled “Academic Integrity” for details. In general the point is that students should do their own work and learn the proper rules of citation and paraphrasing.

 

9) Class Participation: It is recognized that class discussion comes more easily for some than others. By temperament or habit some people are “talkers” and others “listeners.” While the preference is that students volunteer to participate, I may at times call upon individuals if that is the only way to bring them into the discussion. If you are particularly uneasy about speaking in class, please see me. There are some things I can suggest that may help to make participation easier.

 

10) Unannounced Quizzes: The instructor reserves the right to conduct “pop quizzes” if during the course of the semester it becomes apparent that students are not completing the reading assignments in time for discussion in class.

 

Course Schedule and Reading Assignments

 

Important Dates

News Article Submissions:      Mondays

Paper Topic Abstract Due        October 5

Midterm Examination:             October 12

Geography Test:                      October 26

Paper Due:                               November 19

Final Examination:                   December 10

 

Class Readings

Week 1

August 27, 29, 31: Course Introduction

Bias in the Media, Video-“Islam-Empire of Faith”

 

Week 2

September 3, 5, 7: Regional Definition & Background

            Regional Characteristics

                        Readings: Palmer-Chapter 1

            The Rise of Islam

                        Readings: Palmer-Chapter 1

            Colonialism thru Independence

 

Week 3

September 10, 12: Regional Background-continued

Regional Background-continued

            Colonialism thru Independence-continued

                        Readings: Palmer-Chapter 1

The Middle East and Terrorism-Chapter 1

September 14: Egypt

Readings: Palmer-Chapter 2

 

Week 4

September 17, 19, 21: Egypt-contnued

Readings: Palmer-Chapter 2

 

 

Week 5

September 24: Egypt-continued

                        Readings: Palmer Chapter 2

September 26, 28: Israel

                        Readings: Palmer-Chapter 3

 

Week 6

October 1, 3, 5: Israel-continued

Readings: Palmer-Chapter 3

October 5 *** ONE PARAGRAPH ABSTRACT ON PAPER TOPIC DUE

 

 Week 7

October 8: The Palestinians

Readings: Palmer-Chapter 3

October 12: **Midterm Exam---Readings: No assigned readings

 

Week 8

October 15: The Palestinians-continued

                        Readings: Palmer-Chapter 3

October 17: **Midterm will be returned

October 19: The Palestinians-continued

Readings: Palmer-Chapter 3

 

Week 9

October 22 24, 26: Syria

                        Readings: Palmer-Chapter 4

October 26-**Geography Test

 

Week 10

October 29: Syria-continued

                        Readings: Palmer, Chapter 4

October 31, November 2: Saudi Arabia

                        Readings: Palmer Chapter 5

 

Week 11

November 5, 7, 9: Saudi Arabia-continued

                        Readings: Palmer Chapter 5

 

Week 12

November 12,14, 16: Iraq

                        Readings: Palmer Chapter 6

 

Week 13

November 19: Iraq-continued

                        Readings: Palmer Chapter 6

NOVEMBER 19: PAPERS DUE

 

 

 

Week 14

November 26: Iraq-continued

                        Readings: Palmer Chapter 6

November 28, 30: Iran

                        Readings: Palmer-Chapter 7

 

Week 15

December 3, 5: Iran-continued

                        Readings: Palmer-Chapter 7

 

Final Exam : December 10, 10:00am-11:50am