POLS 429: Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy

Professor Şahane Sultan Bedenlier

This course is a comprehensive introduction to the political affairs in the Middle East. The module covers various social (e.g. identities), economic (e.g. role of natural resources) and religious (e.g. role of Islam) themes, and thus provides students with a wide-ranging perspective from which to analyse the political life of the region. It seeks to shed a light on the events that have shaped the region since the 7th century, starting with the arrival of Islam during the time of Prophet Muhammad. Professor Ozturk’s explicit definitions of the two existing Islams; “fabricated/traditional Islam” vs “Real/Quran’s Islam” serves as the base of our study on the role of Islam in the region with its relevance to laicism.

The Western political views of the Islamic world in the late Medieval Europe i.e. Christendom and the impact of the fall of the Ottoman Empire followed by the rise of the European imperialism and colonialism in the region in the post-WWI is analysed as a way of helping students to understand (a) the nature and causes of the contemporary political situation in the Middle East, (b) the reasons behind the rise of Zionism and the de facto state of Palestine (c) the nature and causes of conflict and political violence.

Country case studies provide an understanding of the divergences between the countries in the region, with a focus on the significance of Ataturk’s construction of the only secular, independent and democratic country in the region in the post WW1 period.

The rivalry between Russia and the USA for domination during in the post-WW2 period is explored.

A critical evaluation of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis is undertaken in respect to the current affairs. Edward Said’s “Orientalism” provides a remarkable perspective on the East-West relations. The Muslim stereotyping in American popular culture is assessed with a focus on the Muslim image in Hollywood in order to determine how entertainment can act as propaganda by hardwiring certain images into our psyche.

The aim of this course is to understand how the distortion of Islam combined with Western imperialist interests in the region led to the contemporary climate in the Islamic world and how the study of Ataturk’s political theory of progress and peace is of vital importance a) to set an example for the political, social and economic development of the region b) to reconstruct the relations of the Middle East with the rest of the world. 

Learning Objectives:

The objective of this course is to promote critical analysis of the existing explanations and interpretations of the International Relations of the Middle East more broadly. This analysis is achieved through 1. an academic study of Islam in order to enable the student to identify the difference between real/Quran’s Islam and the traditional/fabricated Islam 2. a focused study on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s political theory of progress and peace and between-country comparisons to allow the student to reflect on the contemporary issues in the Middle East.

A detailed knowledge of the historical background to contemporary Middle East politics, key peoples, ideologies, geography, intellectual, and religious facets of the region is gained by studying the individual history and politics of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine/Israel and Ataturk’s secular Turkiye. By exploring the role of imperialism and colonialism in the region, students will be able to assess the relevance of mainstream approaches of the international relations of these countries and challenge commonly held views about major political issues related to the Middle East, including the student’s own previous assumptions. By the end of the course, students should have acquired a sound knowledge of key issues in the International Relations of the Middle East.

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