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International Relations of the Middle East


Please note: Information below is subject to change in the course of the semester to accommodate a switch to online teaching, including a greater element of asynchronous learning.

Admission requirements

This class is intended (in order of preference) for

  • (1) students of the BA Middle Eastern Studies who have successfully completed the propedeutic exam of the BA Middle Eastern Studies;

  • (2) premaster students for the MA Middle Eastern Studies and

  • (3) students from other relevant bachelors programmes (e.g. International Studies, Political Science, History). Please contact the coordinator of studies, Eli van Duijnen, to find out whether you can be admitted to this class.


The course offers an introduction to key dynamics in the international relations of the modern Middle East. It highlights inter-state relations, as well as interactions that take place above and below the state level (intra-state, transnational, supra-national, and regional). Discussions cover the Arab states, Iran, Israel, and Turkey, focusing on the period from 1945 to present. The approach taken is analytic-thematic (rather than chronological). Discussions are driven by critical engagement with conceptual frameworks, interpretative approaches, and empirical evidence. Themes of international relations that will be explored in the context of the Middle East include: states, non-state actors, and external intervention; politics of identity and transnational ideologies; regionalism and regionalisation; alliance formation, regional powers and hegemony; security, armed conflict and conflict resolution.

Course objectives

  • To familiarize students with select themes, events, actors, and processes that characterise the international relations of the modern Middle East

  • To develop advanced understanding and critical awareness of the key concepts, research debates, and theoretical frameworks relevant to study of the region’s international relations.

  • To guide students through the process of writing a research paper, drawing on instructor and peer feedback.

  • To develop students’ capacity for analytical thinking by writing a paper that demonstrates reasoned argumentation that is empirically founded.

  • To develop students’ capacity to express ideas, orally and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of humanities scholarship.

  • To develop students’ general academic skills: to collect and select specialist literature using traditional and electronic methods and techniques; to analyse and evaluate this in terms of quality and reliability; formulate a well-defined research problem based on this; to set up, under supervision, a study of a limited size taking into consideration the traditional and electronic methods and techniques relevant to the discipline; formulate a reasoned conclusion on the basis of this; and to make use of the acquired research skills outside one’s own discipline.

  • To develop students’ written presentation skills: to explain research findings in a clear and well-argued way; to formulate an answer to questions concerning the discipline or topic within it in the form of a clear and well-structured written presentation, in accordance with the criteria set by the discipline, using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques, and aimed at a specific target group.

  • To develop students’ oral presentation skills: to explain research results in a clear and well-argued way; formulate an answer to questions relating to the discipline or topic within it in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation, in accordance with the criteria set by the discipline, making use of modern presentation techniques, aimed at a specific target group; participate actively in a specialist discussion.

  • To develop students’ learning skills: give and receive feedback to and from fellow students in a constructive fashion and use reasoned criticism to revise one’s own point of view or argumentation; take on board the instructions and criticism of supervisors, and take previous instructions and criticism into account in new situations; be able to make a realistic schedule and to keep to the agreed schedule and prioritisation.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

The course format is a combination of seminar discussions based on weekly reading assignments, and student presentations followed by group feedback.

Course Load

5 EC x 28 hrs = 140 hrs
Participating in seminars - 2 hours/week x 13 weeks 26
Preparing for seminars - 4 hours/week x 12 weeks 48
Preparing presentation (one-page paper abstract) 10
Writing final assignment (2,500-word paper, including notes and appendixes, excluding bibliography) 56

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
In-class engagement (active participation in seminar discussions, weekly reading notes, mid-term presentations of research proposal and literature review) 50%
Final written assignment (2,500-word paper, including notes, appendices, and bibliography) 50%

The final mark for this course is determined by the weighted average. An additional requirement is that students must pass their final Paper assignment. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.
Late submissions will result in a deduction of marks for the written assignment as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Submissions more than 96 hs late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade of 1,0 for the written assignment.
Deadline extensions should be formally requested at least ten business days before the submission deadline, unless the student can demonstrate that there are serious and unexpected circumstances that prevents her/him from filing the request within that timeframes.

The written assignment is developed in two stages:

  • A one-page paper proposal will be submitted and presented in class mid-semester.

  • The final paper will be submitted at the end of the semester.


A re-sit is available only to students whose mark on the Final Written Assignment was insufficient (5.49 or lower). In such cases, the lecturer can assign the student a new topic for the final paper, and will set the re-sit deadline at least 10 working days after the fail grade has been issued.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.


  • Posting course materials (syllabus, assignment guidelines)

  • All written assignments must be submitted digitally on Blackboard via turnitin. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure their submission has gone through. You are advised to upload assignments well ahead of the deadline in order to avoid last minute technical problems, and to keep a receipt of your submission.

Reading list

The syllabus will be posted on Blackboard before the start of the course.


Registration through uSis is mandatory.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. N. Schonmann


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the above-mentioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic intregity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).
It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for, on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.