Understanding the “Arab Spring” from the Ground Up: Contemporary Events in the Middle East, their Roots, and Consequences for the United States

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Understanding the “Arab Spring” from the Ground Up: Contemporary Events in the Middle East, their Roots, and Consequences for the United States

Course Assistants:

Erum Jilani, HKS 2012

Effie-Michelle Mettallidis, HKS 2013 (pending)
Faculty Assistant: Leah Knowles, L376A


Description: This course will explore the process of change that began in Tunisia in December 2010 and has since spread to Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories. We will have a dual focus, looking at events in the region and their roots, and also at policy decisions in Washington. The outcome of this turbulent period will be impossible to predict, perhaps for years. But students will explore U.S. policy decisions taken so far, and the implications of different alternative futures. Each 180-minute class will have three segments: A presentation by the lecturer; presentations by personalities involved in these events, both in the region and in Washington; and class presentations by students arguing policy options and critiques, based on that week’s reading.

Class participants will be asked to read approximately 100 to 150 pages per week, with each week’s readings including a mix of historical works, analytical material and current news accounts.

Time: Mondays; 8:40-11:30.

Location: RG-20

Office Hours: Mondays, 2:00-3:30, Room G1, Belfer

Course Objectives:

By studying the Arab revolutions that are unfolding in real time and U.S. policymakers’ responses, students will develop their ability to describe and analyze events whose meaning is unclear and whose consequences are uncertain. The course will explore how activists in the Middle East are in the “fog of revolution,” while officials in Washington are in a similar “fog of policy,” in which they can’t be sure where they’re heading. How do they navigate? The course will look at current materials linked on the course page—including blog posts, Facebook sites, “You Tube” videos—and also at the deeper cultural, historical and political factors that shape events. The goal is for students to understand events better, and also sharpen their skills of analysis and oral and written presentation—putting themselves variously into the roles of activist, policymaker and commentator.

Serious Reading:

  • David Fromkin, “A Peace to End All Peace”

  • Marc Lynch, “The Arab Uprising,” (forthcoming, March 2012)

  • Kenneth M. Pollack and Daniel Byman, eds., “The Arab Awakening,” A Saban Center at the Brookings Institution Book

  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The New Arab Revolt”

  • Crane Brinton, “The Anatomy of Revolution”

  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, David Ignatius, “America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy.”

Fun Reading:

David Ignatius, “Agents of Innocence” (1987); “Siro,” 1991; “The Bank of Fear,” 1993; “Body of Lies,” 2007; “The Increment,” 2009, “Bloodmoney,” 2011.

Assignments and Grading

Assignments will test students’ analytical and communications skills. Writing assignments will include two short 750-word essays (op-ed style or policy memoranda) and a team project for presentation to the class.. The final exam will be a “take home” essay. This is not a course in “How to Write an Op-Ed Piece,” but students will be encouraged to write with clarity and concision.

Class Schedule and Outline:

Jan. 23 -- Overview: A Broken Political Culture--a broad look at the political culture from which the “dignity revolutions” arose.

Speaker – Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief, Al Arabiya

Course Page Reading:

Other Suggested Reading:

  • Fouad Ajami, “The Arab Predicament,” pp. 29-87, “One’s World as It Really Is.”

  • 2002 Arab Human Development Report, Chapter 7: “Liberating Human Capabilities: Governance, Human Development and the Arab World”

  • Hisham Melhem, “Arabs in the Shadows of their Neighbors,” foreignpolicy.com, Jan. 13, 2012.

  • Lisa Anderson, “DeMystifying the Arab Spring,” Foreign Affairs, May-June 2011

  • Gregory Gause, “Why Middle Eastern Studies Missed the Arab Spring,” Foreign Affairs, July-Aug 2011

Class Discussion: Why did the experts miss the “dignity revolution” that was just over the horizon? How should we structure IGA-651’s exploration of the “Arab Spring”?

Jan. 30 -- Overview: The Fog of Arab Revolution--the geo-strategic map on the eve of the uprisings and the role of new media.

Speaker –Alec Ross, senior adviser for new media, State Department

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/world/12internet.html?_r=1&seid=auto&s. and


Course Page Readings:

Description: As a democratic revolution led by tech-empowered young people sweeps the Arab world, Wadah Khanfar, the head of Al Jazeera, shares a profoundly optimistic view of what's happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and beyond -- at this powerful moment when people realized they could step out of their houses and ask for change.

Description: What impact will Tunisia's popular uprising have on neighboring countries and could social media become the driving force for political reform in the Arab world? Riz Khan talks to Sami Ben Gharbia, the co-founder of the Tunisian website Nawaat.org, Nasser Weddady, the outreach director at the American Islamic Congress, where he promotes civil rights through social media, and Wael Abbas, an Egyptian blogger and activist who regularly reports on corruption.

Description: This year’s poll surveyed 3,000 people in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates in October 2011, assessing attitudes toward the United States and the Obama administration, prospects for Arab-Israeli peace, the impact of the Arab awakening, the outlook for the Egyptian elections, and opinions on where the region is headed politically.

Other Suggested Reading:

  • David Fromkin, “A Peace to End All Peace,” part X, “Storm over Asia” and Part XII, “The Mideast Settlement of 1922”.

  • Itamar Rabinovich, “The Lingering Conflict: Israel, the Arabs and the Middle East, 1948-2011, pp. 1-26, “The Background”

  • James Barr, “A Line in the Sand,” pp. ix-xii, “Prologue” and 3-86, “The Carve Up”

  • Barack Obama, Cairo Speech, June 4, 2009

  • Reuel Marc Gerecht, “The Wave: Man, God and the Ballot Box in the Middle East,” pp, 1-22, “The Crisis of the Autocracies.”

  • Crane Brinton, “The Anatomy of Revolution,” pp. 121-176, “The Rule of the Moderates,” and “The Accession of the Extremists”

  • Michael S. Doran, “The Impact of New Media: The Revolution will be Tweeted,” pp. 39-46 in “The Arab Awakening,” Brookings Press.

  • David Ignatius, “An Arab Future for the Taking,” The Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2011; “Obama’s Story, and Egypt’s,” The Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2011

Class Discussion: Presentation of policy recommendations for the Secretary of State, dated Feb. 10, 2011: Can the United States change its role in the Arab “Narrative”—and if so, how? How far should the US go in “information operations” that affect the Arab Spring?

Feb. 6 –– Egypt I : The Tahrir Revolution--and how Washington responded. The ouster of Mubarak: U.S. policy choices and their outcomes; the role of the Egyptian military in social change and stasis.

Speaker – TBA

Course Page Readings:

  • TED Talk: “Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian Revolution”, March 2011.


Description: Wael Ghonim is the Google executive who helped jumpstart Egypt's democratic revolution... with a Facebook page memorializing a victim of the regime's violence. Speaking at TEDxCairo, he tells the inside story of the past two months, when everyday Egyptians showed that "the power of the people is stronger than the people in power."

  • Youtube VLOG: Asmaa Mahfouz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgjIgMdsEuk

Description: This vlog was recorded on January 18th by Asmaa Mahfouz, the girl who helped start it all. She had shared it on her Facebook, and it had gone viral. It was so powerful and so popular, that it drove Egyptians by the thousands into Tahrir Square, and drove the Egyptian government to block Facebook.

  • Blog Entry: “OF TUNISIA AND EGYPT”. The Arabist, October 27, 2011 http://www.arabist.net/blog/2011/10/27/of-tunisia-and-egypt.html

Description: Commentary comparing the Egyptian and Tunisian election process.

  • Facebook: “We are all Khaled Said” http://www.facebook.com/elshaheeed.co.uk?ref=ts

Description: Memorial for Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian from the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, was tortured to death at the hands of two police officers. Despite his calls for mercy and asking them why they are doing this to him, they continued their torture until he died according to many eyewitnesses. Khaled has become the symbol for many Egyptians who dream to see their country free of brutality, torture and ill treatment.

  • Blog: The Arabist. Please skim the latest stories on the homepage. http://www.arabist.net/

Description: Arabist.net was launched in Cairo in November 2003, by Issandr El Amrani, partly as response to the lack of interest in the domestic politics of Arab countries in much Western media. It focuses on Egypt but tries to follow broader issues in the Arab world, US policy in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian in the Middle East, and cultural developments throughout the region.

  • Interview: Ahmed Saleh, co-founder of the April 6th movement. Nonviolent-conflict.org. http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/on-the-ground/1547-ahmed-salahv

Description: In this interview, ICNC speaks with Egyptian activist, Ahmed Salah - one of the co-founders of the 6th of April Youth Movement, a key organizer of nonviolent action. Salah talks about the various strategies that were learned, developed, and implemented by activists and civil society groups in the years leading up to the Jan 25 protests, which after 18 days of nonviolent mass action, led to the ouster of Egypt's former President, Hosni Mubarak.

  • Twitter: Results for #Jan25: http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23Jan25

Description: Compilation of tweets with the hashtag #Jan25

Other Suggested Reading:

  • Wael Ghonim, “Revolution 2.0” (published Jan 17, 2012)

  • Fouad Ajami, “The Arab Predicament,” pp. 89-167, “Egypt as State, as Arab Mirror”

  • Samuel Huntington, “The Soldier and the State,”pp. 59-79, “The Military Mind”

  • Shadi Hamid, “Egypt: The Prize,” and “Tunisia: Birthplace of the Revolution, pp. 102-116 in “The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East,” Brookings Institution Press

  • David Ignatius, “Can the Spirit of Tahrir Survive?” The Washington Post, Feb. 17, 2011

  • Nicholas D. Kristof, “Exhilarated by the Hope in Cairo,” Jan. 31, 2011; “We are All Egyptians,” Feb. 3, 2011; “Obama and Egypt’s Future,” Feb. 9. 2011f

  • Dina Shehata, “The Fall of the Pharoah: How Hosni Muubarak’s Regime Came to an End,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2011

Class Discussion: The fog of policy: Student Presentations: a) Memo to Frank Wisner, Feb. 2, 2011: What you should tell Hosni Mubarak; b) Memo to Adm. Mullen, Jan. 27, 2011: What you should tell Field Marshall Tantawi.

Feb. 13 – Egypt II: Post-Tahrir: Democracy and Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Speaker – Frank Wisner

Course Page Readings:

  • Michelle Dunn, “Egypt's Imperiled Transition: Pakistan on the Nile?” Atlantic Council Issue Brief, November 14, 2011. http://www.acus.org/publication/egypts-imperiled-transition-pakistan-nile

Description: As Egypt prepares to hold its first post-Tahrir elections, the transitional military government is trying to turn de facto influence into de jure powers written into the new constitution, such as freedom from civilian control over senior appointments and budgetary oversight. While most political parties have agreed not to challenge the extensive influence and economic perquisites of the military for now—understanding that full civilian oversight might take years to achieve—allowing the military to formalize such powers would create enormous new obstacles to eventual democratization. Egypt is now in danger of producing a post-revolutionary system similar to that of Pakistan, where elected civilian institutions are relatively powerless while unelected and unaccountable military and intelligence services actually run the country, fanning the flames of sectarianism and terrorism.

  • Interview: Shibley Telhami, “Egypt's Military-Rule Dilemma” Council for Foreign Relations November 21, 2011 http://www.cfr.org/egypt/egypts-military-rule-dilemma/p26565

Description: Only a week before the start of parliamentary elections in Egypt, Cairo has been hit by massive demonstrations calling for an end to military rule, in place since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February. Telhami says 43 percent of Egyptians believe the military is working to reverse the gains of the revolution.

  • Live Blog: Al Jazeera Daily updates of on the ground happenings in Egypt: http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/Egypt

  • Blog: Ahmed Tharwat “In the Middle: Nobody has a Monopoly on Stupidity”. Please skim the latest stories on the homepage. http://ahmediatv.wordpress.com/

  • Blog: The Arabist Egypt political parties map


Description: Updated guide to candidates, parties running in the Egyptian election along with their ideological stances.

  • Blog: Council on Foreign Relations Blog, The Arab Street “No Women, Christians, or Music: What Next?” Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Description: Salafists are a rising force in Egypt: a country that is increasingly torn between the false political choice of secularism and Islam. Ed Husain explores the meaning of Hizb al-Noor latest commercial in this brief blog entry.

  • Blog: New York Times The Lede “Tahrir Square, Walled In” December 23, 2011


Description: Tahrir Square has taken on the feeling of a jail pen. After a series of clashes with protesters during which about 60 have died in the past five weeks, the military has erected four walls composed of large cement blocks bisecting streets that connect the square with the centers of government. This blog entry links to video footage and photographs of the events that lead the military to shut down the square.

  • Youtube: The BlueBra incident that sparked thousands of Egyptian women to take to the streets against the Egyptian military and police. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iboFV-yeTE&feature=youtu.be&skipcontrinter=1

Description: As thousands returned again to Tahrir Square on Friday (12/22/11) to protest the military’s continued hold on power, they carried pictures of a woman known only by her undergarment — a blue bra. The image was captured in video and photographs of soldiers beating and stripping her in a crackdown on demonstrations the weekend before.

  • Blog: Ahram online. Please skim the latest stories on the homepage http://english.ahram.org.eg/Index.aspx

  • Youtube: Four Days of Death in December. December 21, 2011. (Warning: Graphic Content. This video has English subtitles (click CC button for translation) http://www.youtube.com/verify_controversy?next_url=/watch%3Fv%3DGkz7Mv8DF_8

Description: The video summarizes 4 days (16-20 Dec) of attacks that have caused deaths by the Army against Egyptian protesters. The video clearly shows officers firing live ammunition on protesters. Those on top of buildings are army & police forces throwing rocks and firebombs on protesters. Speakers in the video are some of the 928 wounded in those 4 days including young field doctor who was attacked in the makeshift hospital in Tahrir.

Other Suggested Reading:

  • Nathan Brown, “Americans, Put Away Your Quills,” in Foreign Policy Online, Nov. 8, 2011, and “Constitutional Rebirth: Tunisia and Egypt Reconstruct Themselves,” UNDP, Aug. 12, 2011

  • Muslim Brotherhood Readings from “2011 Essential Readings to the Muslim Brotherhood,” (U.S. Government documents; Kindle edition)

  • Eric Trager, “The Unbreakable Muslim Brotherhood,” Foreign Affairs, Sept.-Oct 2011.

  • Jeff Martini and Julie Taylor, “Commanding Democracy in Egypt: The Militray’s Attempt to manage the Future,” pp. 127-137, Foreign Affairs, Sept.-Oct. 2011.

  • David Ignatius, “A Brotherhood of Shadows,” Feb. 20, 2011, “A Mideast Challenge: Tolerance,” March 13, 2011; “Fears of Egyptians Great and Small,” Nov. 4, 2011; “Cairo’s Christians Worry about Egypt’s Next Clash,” Nov. 8, 2011; The Washington Post

Class Discussion: Dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood. Student presentations: Memo to National Security Adviser Tom Donilon: a) What policy should the U.S. adopt toward the Muslim Brotherhood? b) How to Hedge against Policy Risks in Egypt. Memo to Israeli National Security Adviser Dan Meridor: How to Protect Israel’s Role in the Future Middle East.

Feb. 27 -- Libya: Democracy and “Tribalism.” Libya as a case study of “the power of the weak:--that is, of the history of rebel groups to start fights they cannot finish, in the expectation that foreign powers will intervene.

Speaker, Jacob Sullivan, director of policy planning, State Department

Course Page Readings:

  • UN Resolution 1973, full-text. The Guardian, March 17, 2011


  • Robert F. Worth, “On Libya’s Revolutionary Road” New York Times Magazine March 30, 2011


Description: Robert Worth follows activists and rebels in Libya who are making the revolution a reality.

  • Joby Warrick, “Clinton credited with key role in success of NATO airstrikes, Libyan rebels,” The Washington Post, October 31, 2011


  • Libya Live Blog: http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/Libya

  • Blog: Jadaliyya. Please skim the latest stories on the homepage


  • Documentary: Al Jazeera Fault Lines - The US and the new Middle East: Libya, July 19,2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5EeuEg349o

Description: In the first of a two-part series, Fault Lines examines how the Obama administration is reacting to the enormous changes taking place across the Middle East. Part one examines the decision to intervene in Libya and what it reveals about US priorities in the region. Depicts how members of Obama’s team were divided on the intervention. Features interviews with US policymakers including Anne Marie Slaughter, Nick Burns, Leslie Gelb etc. Duration: 25 mins.

Other Suggested Reading:

  • Ronald Bruce St. John, “Libya: From Colony to Independence,” pp. 56-83, “Italian Colonial Era”

  • Lisa Anderson, “Scores to Settle” and Ronald Bruce St. John. “Why Tribes Matter,” “Libya After Qaddafi, New York Times Online, Aug 22, 2011

  • Elliott Abrams, “Our Bargain with the New Gadhafi,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25, 2011

  • Robert E. Hunter: What Intervention Can Look Like,” foreignaffairs.com, March 16, 2011.

  • Meghan O’Sullivan, “Will Libya Become Obama’s Iraq?” The Washington Post, April 1, 2011

  • Anthony Shadid, “Qaddafi’s Bloody End Points to Difficulties Ahead,” New York Times, Oct. 21, 2011

  • Clifford Krause, “Libya’s Toughest Test may be Building an Army,” New York Times, Nov. 22, 2011

  • International Crisis Group, “Holding Libya Together: Security Challenges After Gadhafi, pp1-35

Optional Reading:

  • Hisham Mattar, “The Anatomy of a Disappearance”

  • Muammar Gadhafi, “The Green Book”

Class Discussion: Student presentations: What if? a) NATO had not intervened militarily in Libya? b) Intervention in Libya had been conducted as a paramilitary “covert action”; c) Libyan chemical weapons or shoulder-fired missiles are used in a terrorist attack; and generally: d) Did the intervention “succeed”? What are options for future policy?

March 5 – Yemen: A study of a failing state and U.S. responses. The growth of Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, the Internet postings of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, the tribal and ethnic conflicts in Yemen, and the role played by Saudi Arabia.

Speaker: TBA

Course Page Readings:

  • Robert F. Worth “Yemen on the Brink of Hell” New York Times, July 20, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/magazine/yemen-on-the-brink-of-hell.html?pagewanted=all

Description: Robert Worth lays out the seeds of the revolution in Yemen and follows those who have made it their mission to take down the Saleh regime.

  • Robert F. Worth “Is Yemen the Next Afghanistan?” New York Times, July 6, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/magazine/11Yemen-t.html?pagewanted=all

Description: Robert Worth explores the War on Terror against Al Qaeda in Yemen. Also depicts the constant “civil war” between the North and the South.

  • Yemen Live Blog: http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/Yemen

Description: Timeline of daily events in Yemen

  • Blog: Jadaliyya. Please skim the latest stories on the homepage


  • Blog: Woman From Yemen. Please skim the latest stories on the homepage


  • Blog: The Lede, New York Times. “Doctor’s Video Blog Offers a Window on Yemen’s Revolution” http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/01/doctors-video-blog-offers-a-window-on-yemens-revolution/

Description: For outsiders accustomed to seeing Yemen’s protests mainly through brief clips of demonstrations and clashes, Dr. Shargabi’s video blog updates — which he posts on his YouTube channel and his blog, Late Night Surgery — offers a fascinating window into the protest movement.

  • Blog: Arabiya Muslimah. Please skim the latest stories on the homepage


  • Webpage: http://lifemarch.net/

Description: The official webpage for the historic Life March from Taiz to Sanaa

  • Blog: Late Night Surgery. Please skim the latest stories on the homepage


Other Suggested Reading:

  • Abdullah al-Qubati, “Letter from Sana’a: Saleh on the Edge,” in “The New Arab Revolt”

  • Sarah Phillips, “Yemen and the Politics of Permanent Crisis,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, pp 11-74, 123-146

  • International Crisis Group: “Yemen’s Southern Breaking Point,” pp 1-45

  • David Kilcullen, “The Accidental Guerrilla,” pp. xii-xix, 262-301

Class Discussion: Student presentations: Write a memo outlining a policy recommendation for 2012 in Yemen that addresses the following issues: Yemen is a case study in U.S. attempts to steer events without military intervention. How well has past U.S. strategy in Yemen worked? What are Saudi aims? Can a counter-terrorism strategy be successful in conditions of prolonged political uncertainty? What role should targeted killings and SOF training play in U.S. policy?

March 19 – Bahrain: Sunni Rulers and the Shiite Majority. Ethnic minorities in the Arab world and their plight, from Shia, Maronite, Druze and Copt to Kurd.

Speaker: Gen. John Abizaid (ret.)

Course Page Readings:

  • Documentary: Al Jazeera Fault Lines – The US and the New Middle East: The Gulf http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5EeuEg349o

Description: Fault Lines' Seb Walker travels to the Gulf to look at US policy in the region, and to explore why the United States has taken an interventionist policy in Libya, but not in Bahrain, where there has been a brutal crackdown on protesters. Why does the White House strongly back democracy in one Arab country, but not another? Features US policymakers including Nick Burns, Leslie Gelb etc. Duration: 25 mins

  • Bahrain Live Blog: http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/Bahrain

  • Blog: Lamees Dhaif’s Bahrain Perceptions. “”Message no. 1: Day of biggest treason.” March 6, 2011 http://lameesbahrainperceptions.blogspot.com/

  • Blog: Two very different Bahrain’s, 10 km apart. Please read the latest stories on the homepage http://blogs.aljazeera.net/middle-east/2011/11/23/two-very-different-bahrains-10km-apart

  • Blog: Silly Bahraini Girl. Please read the latest stories on the homepage http://sillybahrainigirl.blogspot.com/

  • VLOG: Mahmood’s Den “Police Brutality as an Art Form in Bahrain” http://mahmood.tv/2011/12/18/police-brutality-as-an-art-form-in-bahrain/

  • Blog: Chan’ad Bahraini 2.0. Please read the latest stories on the homepage http://chanad.posterous.com/

  • Blog: Chan’ad Bahraini. On the importance of the Bassiouni report: http://chanad.posterous.com/turning-a-blind-eye

  • Highlighted excerpts from the Bassiouni report: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/3252/report-of-the-bahrain-independent-commission-of-in

  • Al Wefaq Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Al-* Wefaq/132219646817214

  • Bahrain FM Khalid al Khalifa's Twitter Account -- https://twitter.com/#!/khalidalkhalifa

  • Official Bahrain Twitter Account for Implementing BICI (Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry): https://twitter.com/#!/GovActionsBH

  • Saudi Military Convoy Enters Bahrain -- Stratfor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwpJXpKVFwE

  • Bahrain's Army Kills Protesters Chanting "Peace": (scroll to 3:27) -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qgo5yasr1-8&feature=fvst

Other Suggested Reading:

  • Nicholas D. Kristof, “Blood Runs Through the Streets of Bahrain,” Feb. 17, 2011; “In Bahrain, the Bullets Fly,” Feb. 18. 2011; “Watching Protestors Risk It All,” Feb. 20, 2011”

  • Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, “Report,” pdf, selected readings.

  • Vali Nasr, “The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam will Shape the Future,” pp. 227-254, “The Battle For the Middle East”

  • Vali Nasr, “If the Arab Spring Turns Ugly,” The New York Times, Aug. 27, 2011

Class Discussion: Student presentations: Bahrain as a case study in transition in Arab states with sectarian tensions. Write a memo or “op-ed” piece assessing U/S. policy choices on the eve of the March 14 Saudi military crackdown, or a memo for Tom Donilon dated March 14, 2012. Issues to address: What should U.S. have done before the Pearl Roundabout events? How should it engage Saudi Arabia? What role is Iran playing in Bahrain? How do officials manage the “fog of policy” when sectarian tensions are so rife? How should policymakers address situation such as Bahrain where U.S. values and interests are in conflict?

March 26 – Syria I: Rule and Misrule – a brief history of Baathist rule in Syria and the rise of the “gangster state.”

Speakers: Radwan Ziadeh (invited)

Course Page Readings:

  • James Hendereson “Spoiler Alert, What Syria’s President Really Wants” World Affairs, January/February 2011. http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/spoiler-alert-what-syrias-president-really-wants

  • Al Jazeera “The Assads: An iron-fisted dynasty” December 9, 2011. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/10/201110279954762656.html

Other Suggested Reading:

  • David Ignatius, “Bulldozers Ply Ruins of a City that Once Held Foes of Syria’s Chief,” Wall Street Journal,

  • Tom Friedman, “Hama Rules,” pp. 76-105 in “From Beirut to Jerusalem”

  • Patrick Seale, “Asad’s State,” pp 169-184 in “Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East”

  • Henry Kissinger, “First Visit to Damascus,” pp. 777-789 in “Years of Upheaval.”

  • David Ignatius, “Syria’s Cautious Son,” Feb. 11, 2003; “A New Syria?” June 10, 2005, and “What Would Syria Say?” Dec. 16, 2006, in The Washington Post

Class Discussion: Student Presentations: Argue for/against: a) Bashar Al-Assad was never serious about reform; Syria has been a reliable partner for Israel; In the Syria-Hezbollah partnership, Hezbollah is dominant.

April 2 – Syria II – the bloodiest revolution? The rise of the “dignity revolution” in Syria and the paradox of Bashar al-Assad: The “reformer” who could not reform.

Speaker: Amb. Robert Ford (invited);

Course Page Readings:

  • Elias Muhanna. “Syria’s Defecting Bloggers,” International Herald Tribune December 28, 2011


  • Interview. ABC NEWS, Barbara Walters interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad December 7, 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7GIuKalnAo

  • Blog: Al Jazeera: Live updated daily from Syria: http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/Syria

  • Facebook: US Embassy Syria. Watch the U.S. Ambassador to Syria engage with the Syrian people amidst the oppression and violence from their government http://www.facebook.com/syria.usembassy

  • Blog: The Lede New York Times. “Damascus on the Edge”. December 12, 2011 http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/damascus-on-the-edge/

Description: A young writer living in Syria’s capital city has agreed to share some observations of the uprisings and subsequent crackdowns happening across the country. Damascus so far has avoided much of the conflict, but hints of the ongoing instability taunt its citizens. We have withheld the writer’s name for security reasons.

Other Suggested Reading:

  • David Ignatius, “Syria Tries to Keep the Lid on Revolution,” Feb. 27, 2011, and “Hezbollah’s Play in the Shadows,” Feb. 28, 2011, in The Washington Post

  • Nir Rosen, “A Tale Of Two Villages (two parts),” “Assad’s Alawites (two parts); “Ghosts in the Mosques,” “Armed Opposition,” all on AlJazeera.com

  • David Ignatius, “The Envoy Leads,” Oct. 9, 2011, The Washington Post

  • Burhan Ghalioun, Radwan Ziadeh and other Syrian opposition leaders; speeches, articles and documents.

Class Discussion: Student presentations: Argue for/against: a) Exploiting the Sunni-Shia fault line in Syria is wise policy for the U.S; b) If Syria goes, Iran is next; and a general question: In the “fog of policy” over Syria, what’s the wisest course for the U.S.?

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Understanding the “Arab Spring” from the Ground Up: Contemporary Events in the Middle East, their Roots, and Consequences for the United States iconAustralia • Canada ■ Mexico ■ Singapore ■ Spain • United Kingdom • United States

Understanding the “Arab Spring” from the Ground Up: Contemporary Events in the Middle East, their Roots, and Consequences for the United States iconAustralia • Brazil • Japan • Korea • Mexico • Singapore • Spain • United Kingdom • United States

Understanding the “Arab Spring” from the Ground Up: Contemporary Events in the Middle East, their Roots, and Consequences for the United States iconDemystifying the Arab Spring

Understanding the “Arab Spring” from the Ground Up: Contemporary Events in the Middle East, their Roots, and Consequences for the United States iconCrime as a Cultural Problem. The Relevance of Perceptions of Corruption to Crime Prevention. A comparative Cultural Study in the eu-accession States Bulgaria and Romania, the eu-candidate States Turkey and Croatia and the eu-states Germany, Greece and United Kingdom

Understanding the “Arab Spring” from the Ground Up: Contemporary Events in the Middle East, their Roots, and Consequences for the United States iconThe Arab (and European) Spring and Occupy Wall Street

Understanding the “Arab Spring” from the Ground Up: Contemporary Events in the Middle East, their Roots, and Consequences for the United States iconMiddle East Instability Link 10

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