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INTERNATIONAL POLITICS OF THE MIDDLE EAST

POLS 157A
Online Course: July 2 – August 10, 2012

Instructor: Email:

Gordon Robison grobison@uvm.edu

Office Hours: Skype - By Appointment Throughout our class I will be in the Middle East. I will be happy to discuss issues with students by email or, at a mutually agreeable time, by Skype. Please note that my location (Doha) is seven hours ahead of ET, so some flexibility in scheduling may be required.

The last 18 months have been, to put it mildly, a time of upheaval throughout the Middle East. Regimes that had been in power for decades have fallen. Countries long considered models of stability have seen popular uprisings, revolutions, even civil war. These upheavals, in turn, have presented American policymakers with unprecedented challenges. This class will look at the region’s history and politics with a particular emphasis on the last 20 years in an attempt to understand the regional, their motivations and the challenges confronting both Middle Easterners themselves and American policymakers who must deal with the region.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS & GRADING: Discussion Board 40% Two Short Papers (15% each) Final Paper 30%

30%

The two short papers will be due at the end of the second and fourth weeks of the course respectively (NOTE: by end of the week I mean 10pm Eastern Time on Friday). These papers should be 800-1000 words in length, not including any necessary citations. The final paper is due by 11am Eastern Time on Saturday, June 30. It should be no more than 2500 words in length, not including citations. All three of these papers are analytical in nature. What I am looking for is evidence that you have thought carefully about the issues raised in the assignment and reached a conclusion that you can support with facts by means of a thoughtful argument. Such an argument should also address potential weaknesses in your own position or possible objections to it. An analytical paper requires research, but it is not a research paper. Background reading and research should be an important element in formulating your argument, but the purpose of the research is to

demonstrate that you know what you are talking about and have thought about it thoroughly. A good paper builds its argument, analysis and conclusions on a framework of research and avoids the trap of using the research as a crutch. If, in reading your final draft, you have a paper that begins with a thesis statement, lays out several pages of facts and ends with one or two paragraphs along the lines of "Therefore, in conclusion, it is clear that..." stop right there and start again. What you have written is a research paper, and you need to give this another shot before turning in the assignment. Put another way, in these papers I want to know what you think – but I also need to see that you have reached your conclusions in a thoughtful manner and that you can marshal facts and evidence to support them. In writing these papers you may wish to use sources beyond those assigned for the class, but you are not required to do so. In selecting outside sources it is important that you cite only reliable, authoritative material. Avoid sources that are polemical in nature. Avoid anything that comes from a content farm or an aggregator. Never cite Wikipedia (note, however, that while individual Wikipedia entries cannot be considered reliable at any given point in time, the sourcing found at the bottom of the site's better entries can be a useful guide to sources which are authoritative). The Additional Resources tab in the course menu lists a number of websites and books that may be useful either in researching these papers, or simply if you wish to read further on a particular topic. Please note that all sources – whether class materials or not – must be acknowledged with proper citations. That means footnotes or endnotes or a 'Works Cited' page that is referenced through in-text citations which include page numbers. A bibliography alone is not sufficient. When citing material gathered over the internet you must include the full url (not just "nytimes.com") and include both the original publication date and the date the material was accessed for the purposes of your research. Any of the standard citation formats are acceptable, though I do ask that you pick one and stick to it. Also please note that grammar, spelling, sentence structure and punctuation all count. Inattention to any of these will result in a significant reduction in your grade. All papers must be submitted in the form of an MS Word document via the assignment dropbox in blackboard. If you typically work in Pages or Open Office please convert your paper to a .doc or .docx format before uploading it to blackboard. About the Discussion Board: The discussion board represents the largest single portion of your grade. Beyond that, however, those of you who have taken an online course before will already know that the discussion board is likely to be the key element of your learning experience. The discussion board is designed to replace the face-to-face interaction

we all would have in a traditional classroom. In some ways, obviously, it is a pale substitute for a genuine conversation among people sitting in the same room. Many people find, however, that the opportunity to think through their comments and see them in print before distributing them to the rest of the class makes them more willing to participate, and to do so in a more substantive way, than might otherwise be the case. At its best, online discussion can result in better, more thoughtful, dialogue involving everyone in the class. Each week I will begin by posting one or two questions on the class discussion board. These should be considered conversation starters. You must post a response/answer to each of my initial queries during the week in which they are posted. You should also feel free to begin threads of your own, to react to the postings of other students, and to continue discussions from previous weeks. There must, however, be a direct response to each of my new questions each week. In addition, you must make two or three additional postings per week (depending on whether I put out one or two questions), so that you reach a minimum of four (note that the first and last week of the course each require fewer posts). The board's 'week' runs from Monday to Sunday. Posting more often than the minimum is encouraged (and will benefit your grade) but is not mandatory. As noted above, I encourage you to keep individual threads going beyond the week in which they are introduced (this is a good way to build up a record of extra posts). The discussion board is supposed to be a real conversation carried out among everyone in the class. It can only become that if people are accessing it regularly over the course of the week. For that reason, how you space your posts out over the course of the week will be a significant element of the grade you receive for those posts. You are free to go in and post four items at 11:58pm on Sunday night, but do not expect these to be graded as highly as four items of comparable quality spaced out over the course of the entire week. To get the best grades your posts should indicate that you have been on the site and engaging with the material, with me and with your fellow students three to five times over the course of the week. You cannot make up missed posts once the week has ended. You may continue to post to any thread for the duration of the course, and I encourage everyone to do so, but posts made after midnight on Sunday will be counted toward the new week, not the one just concluded. I intend to be an active participant in all discussion threads – both those which I initiate and those launched by students. I do, however, reserve the right to shut off any thread which becomes uncivil, veers off-topic or otherwise becomes a distraction. Keep the following requirements in mind:

Posts need not be lengthy, but they must be substantive and should be carefully considered. As a rule of thumb, aim for one or two paragraphs, each of reasonable length (i.e. several sentences). Feel free to post a one-sentence reply to someone else’s comments, but do not expect to receive credit for this as a ‘post’. All posts must be written in complete, grammatically correct, sentences using standard English. Maintain a civil and respectful tone at all times. You need to challenge each other – but it is important to do so in an intelligent manner. Personal attacks are not acceptable. While it is possible to write posts directly in blackboard I strongly urge you not to do this. Blackboard’s editing tools are far from ideal and it can crash at inopportune moments. You are much better off composing your thoughts as a word document, saving them and then cutting-and-pasting the final product into blackboard. This prevents you from losing your hard work due to blackboard’s many, many quirks. To respond to someone else’s post always use the “Reply” function, do not use the attachment tool to ‘attach’ your responses in a separate file. This just makes them difficult for everyone to read and makes the individual threads harder to follow. Adding links to your blackboard posts is easy. Adding attachments can quickly turn into a mess, so please do not do so. Grading and the Discussion Board At the end of each week I will email you a grade for that week’s postings. Here are the criteria I will use in determining those grades: A Your week’s posts are exceptionally thoughtful, clear and well-written, demonstrating a careful consideration of the issues being discussed. You back up your statements and opinions with facts drawn from (and properly attributed to) the course materials or other reputable sources. Your posts are distributed over the course of the week, indicating regular, on-going interaction with the course. It is likely (though not essential) that you went beyond the minimum number of posts required. B Your met the minimum for the number of posts and made some effort to space them out through the week. Your posts are of good technical quality and demonstrate an understanding of the material but they fail to go beyond the surface of the topics being discussed. C Though technically meeting the minimum requirements of the course, the quality, length and/or frequency of your posts indicates that you either have not engaged substantively with the material and with your peers or have not understood the topics being discussed (or both).

D You failed to make the required number of posts for the week and/or submitted posts that were inadequate. Examples of this include (but are not limited to) demonstrating little or no grasp of the material, wandering off topic, using inappropriate or uncivil language and writing so poorly that your ideas are difficult to follow. F Failure to participate, or participation only in a token manner.

COURSE MATERIALS & TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS: The sole textbook for this course is: A History of the Modern Middle East (Fourth Edition) by William L. Cleveland & Martin Bunton For those of you in the Burlington area, this book is available for purchase at the UVM bookstore and has also been placed on two-hour reserve at the Bailey-Howe library. It is also available at Amazon.com. Amazon sells a Kindle edition of the book. In addition to the text there are a number of articles required for the class. The weekly course modules contain relevant links and, in some cases, pdf files. This course also includes a number of videos – some of which are the length of a movie. Again, the links can be found in the course modules. If you do not have broadband, DSL or some other fast internet connection you are going to find it very difficult to view these materials. If you anticipate such a problem, please make appropriate arrangements in advance rather than leaving matters until the last minute and, as a result, falling behind.

CONTACTING ME / CONTACTING YOU The best way to reach me is via my UVM email: grobison@uvm.edu. You can also use the messaging function within blackboard, though I am likely to respond to email more promptly. I will make every effort to respond to questions or concerns within 24 hours but, as noted earlier, I am running this class from the Middle East. Please keep the seven hour time change in mind when expecting responses from me. I expect to be able to contact you both via the blackboard messaging function and via your UVM email account. If you have set up your UVM email to forward to an external address it is critically important that you ensure that you are not at or near your capacity limits. Once you reach these limits – which can happen quickly if you are automatically forwarding everything – emails sent to you kick back to the

sender. It is your responsibility to manage your UVM account in a way that ensures that you remain reachable throughout the course.

RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS Students have the right to practice the religion of their choice. Each semester students should submit in writing to their instructors by the end of the second full week of classes their documented religious holiday schedule for the semester. Faculty must permit students who miss work for the purpose of religious observance to make up this work.

Finally, please note that this syllabus is intended as a guide only. I reserve the right to alter it as necessary at any time during the semester.

COURSE OUTLINE
More details for each week of the course will be found in the relevant course modules. This is also where you will find links to each week’s articles and videos, assignment topics and links to the dropbox through which assignments can be submitted. The information here is provided for background purposes. Each module also contains not only the relevant links, but an essay by me to frame the material (replacing the lecture element of a face-to-face course). It is essential that you navigate the course via the modules, especially since I may ask that you read/watch the material in a particular order, which is not necessarily the order in which the material is presented here.

NOTE: For the Cleveland & Bunton textbook I give the page numbers first followed, in parentheses, by the location numbers for the book’s Kindle edition. Those of you with Kindles will already know that the location numbers are approximate and can vary a bit depending on what device and font size you are using. In virtually every case the

assigned text starts and ends at a section, chapter or sub-head break. In general, if you use the location number provided it ought to be reasonably clear where I want you to start and stop reading.

Basic History & The Israeli Palestinian Conflict Week 1: **The topic for Paper #1 will be posted early in the first week** READING: Cleveland & Bunton Chapter 13 (4941-5572) (The Birth of Israel) 301-315 (6164-6450) (Nasser & Suez) 337-344 (6925-7065) & 359-366 (7363-7508) (Six Day War & Aftermath) 373-382 (7615-7805) (73 War & Camp David) 473-478 (9657-9765) (Intifadah) 500-525 (10,199-10,730) (The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict since 1991) In addition to the required pages, you may also wish to read pages 1-18 (338-683) & 24-33 (770-963). These provide excellent background information on the faith of Islam and its early history. If you are not well versed in these subjects already I strongly urge you to do this extra reading. Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors by Rob Malley & Hussein Agha Israel & Palestine: Can they start over? By Rob Malley & Hussein Agha Deliverables: One post introducing yourself & 3 discussion posts

Week 2 Terrorism, Al-Qaeda & Afghanistan READING: Cleveland & Bunton 478-494 (9765-10,115) (Gulf War) 557-563 (11,382-11523) (Afghanistan & 9/11) 122-128 (2721-2835), 199-201 (4177-4225), 440-449 (89859195) (foundations of political Islam) The way out of Afghanistan by Ahmed Rashid The Double Game by Lawrence Wright (optional) VIDEO: Fresh Air: Interview with Lawrence Wright (approximately 40 minutes) Frontline: Bush’s War (Part 1 – first 49 minutes) Deliverables: 4 discussion posts Paper #1 (Due by 10pm ET, Friday, June 1)

Week 3 The Iraq War **The topic for Paper #2 will be posted early this week** READING: Cleveland & Bunton 563-573 (11,523-11,725) Machiavelli in Mesopotamia by Ned Parker Iraq: The Impasse by Joost Hiltermann VIDEO: Frontline: Bush’s War (Remainder of Part 1 & all of Part 2) – Approx 3:25 total Deliverables: 4 discussion posts

Week 4 The Challenge of Iran READING: Cleveland & Bunton 185-193 (3897-4063) 288-299 (5888-6132) 423-440 (8621-8985) 573-576 (11,726-11,812) Reform, repression in Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s Iran by Jon Lee Anderson Deliverables: 4 discussion posts Paper #2 (Due by 10pm ET, Friday, June 15)

Week 5 The Arab Revolutions of 2011 **The topic for the Final Paper will be posted early this week** READING: ‘Volcano of Rage’ by Max Rodenbeck After the Uprising by Dexter Filkins The Implosion by Jon Lee Anderson Vengeance in Libya by Joshua Hammer VIDEO: Frontline: Revolution in Cairo (approximately 1:00) Deliverables: 4 discussion posts

Week 6 Wrapping up – Where do we go from here? READING: The New Cold War by Bill Spindle and Margaret Coker The Consequentialist by Ryan Lizza Further readings TBA Deliverables: 2 discussion posts Final Paper (Due by 11am ET, Saturday June 30)

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