What role did Great Britain play in “creating” Israel? Why can’t Israel and Palestine make peace? Why does Iran resent the United States? How did the Cold War affect geopolitics in the Middle East? Why did the Arab Spring fail? What role is Russia playing in Syria today? In this class, we survey great power politics in the Middle East from the First World War to today in order to better understand this complex region.

Emnekode:                    INT6070
Tittel:                              War and Peace in the Middle East
Type:                               Valgfritt emne
Plassering:                     Tredje og femte semester
Studiepoeng:                10 studiepoeng


About the Course

This course examines the international relations of the Middle East through a historical and theoretical lens. What are the contemporary legacies of colonial involvement in the Middle East? How did the Cold War shape the modern Middle East? How has U.S. unipolarity affected contemporary Middle Eastern politics? What explains the United States’ current policies toward the Middle East: is it security? Is it to secure natural resources such as oil? Is it the influence of domestic groups? Is it ideology and culture?

This course will mainly focus on a few big players in the region – Iran, Egypt and Israel. In doing so, the course will examine the historic and current clash – or not – of interests, cultures and ideologies taking place between the great powers of international politics (such as Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States) and the Middle East. The class will begin by looking at the colonial history of the region, and end by looking at the Arab Spring, the development of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the Syrian civil war. The course will incorporate topics such as great power politics in the Middle East, focusing particularly on the United States and its bilateral relationships with Egypt, Israel, and Iran; “orientalism;” the Cold War; the importance of oil; the “war on terror;” the Arab-Israeli peace process; and the significance of history, religion, and culture in understanding the politics of the region.

The course will provide students with the tools necessary to understand one of the most conflict ridden regions in the world by illuminating the role played by various great powers intervening and withdrawing from the Middle East.

Learning outcomes

The candidate shall be able to…


  • Understand the general political history of the Middle East since the First World War.
  • Assess the role that great powers such as Great Britain, the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States have played and continue to play in regional politics.
  • Understand and analyze core concepts of the class as defined by the syllabus
  • Understand the general history of the bilateral relationships between the United States and Egypt; the United States and Iran; and the United States and Israel.
  • Analyze the role the United States has played in the Middle East since the Second World War.


  • Critically evaluate current research on the international relations of the Middle East
  • Critically evaluate current research on U.S.-Middle East relations.
  • Compare and contrast various causal explanations for U.S. policy in the Middle East.
  • Understand the impact of colonialization on Middle Eastern political development.
  • Discuss and present key topics.
  • Argue for and against explanations of key topics in written form.


  • Identify and discuss academic issues related to research on the Middle East and U.S. policy.
  • Have a general understanding of Mideast political development in the context of great power involvement.
  • Define and evaluate the main theoretical concepts introduced in class, such as “orientalism,” “imperialism” and others.




  • Seminar participation (pass/fail)


  • Take home exam (individual essay); memo: 3500 words (+/- 10 % excluding front page and reference list) (60 % of the grade, grading system A – F)
  • 3 hour written exam (40 % of the grade, grading system A – F)