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Gain an in-depth understanding of the historical background of the Middle East including states and regimes, Islamic history, and how it has shaped the region.


Develop expertise on the political and economic system of the Middle East, including its Islamic history, and how it has shaped the region.

The Politics of Disaster in the Middle East and Beyond

This course examines the politics of natural and man-made disasters, including war, forced migration, drought, famine, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, and epidemics.

Focusing on the Middle East, it also presents comparative cases from Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and North America. In doing so, the class will examine the unique ways that different types of disasters interact with governance structures; social and economic inequalities; medical infrastructure; gender; race and ethnicity; and political cleavages. Throughout the course, students will learn basic elements of research design and methods in addition to welcoming experienced disaster response and analysis practitioners to class. Finally, the Politics of Disaster in the Middle East and Beyond addresses some of the philosophical aspects of working in and studying disaster-affected contexts, bringing an ethical sensibility to policy-relevant analysis.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: History, Politics, Narratives

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is among the most protracted and seemingly irresolvable conflicts of modern times. It is also a conflict that attracts much international attention while standing at the center of heated political debates.

The objective of this course is to provide an in-depth understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from its origin to the present, starting with the clash between Zionism and Arab-Palestinian nationalism during the British Mandate, the period of interstate rivalry between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the watershed event of the 1967 war, and the return to a struggle between Israel and the Palestinians in the last decades. While the course is structured chronologically, special attention will be paid to the different interpretations of history and the contrasting narratives of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Of central importance are the questions of why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not been solved yet, and whether peace is possible.

The Iranian Revolution

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 marked a watershed moment in world politics. Coined “the last great revolution,” the mass movements of the late 1970s led to the toppling of the United States’ greatest ally in the region, Mohammad Reza Shah, and the birth of the first modern Islamic Republic.

In essence, the events of 1979 Iran shifted the global geo-political terrain that has had profound repercussions to this day. In this course, students will delve into theories of revolutionary movements and post-revolutionary politics from political science, sociology, and political anthropology; and they will examine the rich and complex history of 40 years of the Islamic Republic of Iran, studying the dynamic political formations of the state, as well as social and cultural movements in the country. The course will cover the women’s movement, the labor movement, the teacher’s movement, and the student movement, in an effort to more fully understand state-society relations in contemporary Iran.

Military Organizations in the Middle East and North Africa

This course familiarizes students with politics, economics, strategies, and cultures of military organizations in the MENA region.

Each week has a thematic and a geographic focus. Students will be asked to evaluate theories of military behavior through deep readings of individual or paired cases. Topics include military cohesion and fragmentation, coup proofing, political economy, and state-building, gender based and sexual violence, military discipline, civilian targeting, militias, and rebel governance.


Study with world-class experts who are renowned for their scholarship, influence, and networks.

Vali Nasr

Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle East Studies and International Affairs

In the News

Don’t Hype the Disinformation Threat

Foreign Affairs, May, 5, 2024


In the Small Wars Journal, Professor Albert J. Marckwardt writes about the authorization for the use of force against Mexican cartels was introduced in Congress. 04/29/24

Q&A with SAIS’ Jonas Nahm, Co-Author of 2024 U.S. Presidential Economic Report

The breadth and depth of the Economic Report of the President…reflects the deep bench of expertise at the Council of Economic Advisers, and the federal government more broadly.

A Closer Look at the Gaza Casualty Data

Good Authority (blog), December 14, 2023. With Marc Lynch.

The Ghosts of Lebanon

Foreign Affairs, November 14, 2023.

The Political Dynamics of Disasters

Arts & Sciences Magazine, November, 2023.

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