SEST-578 Security Issues in the Middle East
Spring for 2017-2018
Natali, D
Regime change and reform movements in the Middle East pose new dilemmas to regional security. The attempt to overthrow dictators and authoritarian regimes has not created more representative and effective governance, but rather, it has led to weak and failed states that are unable to adequately provide services, security, jobs, and political freedoms to their citizenry. These destabilizing dynamics have reconstituted the nature of Middle East states and regional politics. Although external state borders are unlikely to dissipate - no powerful regional state wants to see states break up - internal boundaries are being re-ordered by opportunistic state and non-state actors seeking to create spheres of influence. State breakdown has left political vacuums in which sectarian tensions, trans-border nationalisms, terrorist networks, and regional conflict breeds. It has also fueled geopolitical disorder and increased pressures to assure energy security and domestic stability for consumer and producing countries.

This course will examine these contemporary security issues and the implications for regional stability. The issues are framed and examined within the context of externally and internally driven regime change that commenced in 2003 with the overthrow of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and continues with the ongoing Syrian civil war. They also include reform and opposition movements that commenced in 2010 - often referred to as the “Arab Spring” - and the fallout of these efforts on domestic and regional politics. The consequences of regime change and reform movements vary according to the strength and durability of state institutions and the influence and personality of ruling leaders. Most significant are states that have significantly weakened or failed outright; Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. In these cases, externally-driven regime change and/or civil war has destroyed existing state institutions without replacing them with viable alternatives. Other countries have maintained key state institutions - Egypt, Turkey, Gulf States – but are pressured from within to engage in political and fiscal reforms.

The first three weeks of the course will examine different types of Middle Eastern states and security concerns across the entire region. The middle portion of the course will examine specific countries or sub-regions in greater detail as they have been influenced by regime change, reform movements, or unresolved issues of state authority and legitimacy. The purpose is not to constitute an exhaustive tour d’horizon but instead to impart understanding of the most important contemporary issues in each country or groups of countries and on a comparative basis. The final section will focus on the regional implications caused by regime change and reform movements, and policy agendas of outside powers. A final section will examine the implications of the Middle East reform movements and regime change on U.S. national security interests and policy in the region.


“The course aims to provide students with an understanding of the nature and causes of leading security-related problems in the Middle East, the major contemporary issues involving important states in the region, and the security challenges that the Middle East poses for outside powers, especially the United States."

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
More information
Look for this course in the schedule of classes.

The academic department web site for this program may provide other details about this course.