What values should shape U.S. policy in the Middle East?
3rd edition. February 2015.

The term “Middle East” can create an image of a group of similar countries and peoples with shared politics and histories, but this is deceptive. The people of this part of the world have diverse ethnicities, religions, languages, and understandings of their histories. They experience a variety of different ways of life. This diverse and complex region plays an important role in U.S. foreign policy.

The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy draws students into the policy debate on the issues that shape U.S. ties to the Middle East. The United States’ need for oil, its relationship with Israel, worries about ISIS, and Iran’s nuclear program make the Middle East an important region. A civil war rages in Syria and threatens to spill over borders. The long-term effects of these events remain to be seen, as does the U.S. relationship to evolving Middle East politics.


The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy provides students with the knowledge needed to take part in the debate on the U.S. role in the Middle East. Parts I and II of the student text offer a historical overview of U.S. relations with the region through the end of the Cold War. Part III focuses on the challenges facing U.S. policy makers today regarding the Middle East.


Looking at the Middle East

Students analyze photographs of the Middle East as an introduction to the region. Students consider the benefits and limitations of using photographs as a source for learning about the Middle East.

The Creation of Israel

Students use primary source documents to identify different views on the creation of Israel.

The Iranian Revolution

Students form hypotheses about the causes of the Iranian Revolution by exploring significant events in Iranian history.

Political Geography of the Middle East

Using historical maps that show border changes, students analyze the geographic conflicts between Israel and its neighbors.

Middle East Leaders' Summit

In small groups, students role-play a summit in which Middle East leaders analyze the U.S. role in the region, sharing their goals and concerns.

Graffiti in Egypt's Revolution

Students assess the role of graffiti in Egypt's revolution and develop views on political protest and censorship.

The Options Role Play

Working cooperatively to present different policy options to an undecided group of senators, students clarify and evaluate alternative U.S. policies toward the region.

Weighing Recommendations for U.S. Policy

Armed with historical knowledge and a sense of their own values, students deliberate the options presented. They articulate their own coherent recommendations for U.S. policy and defend their views in a letter to a newspaper or a member of Congress. Finally, students test their recommendations in hypothetical crises.

Middle Eastern Literature

Students read excerpts from four short stories and assess the interplay between literature, politics, and culture in the Middle East.
What are some common misunderstandings about the Middle East?
How did the Syrian Civil War begin?
What is political Islam?

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Bowen, Donna Lee, Evelyn A. Early, and Becky Schulthies, eds. Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2014). 504 pages.

Cleveland, William L., and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East, Fourth Edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2008). 640 pages.

Dodge, Toby and Emile Hokayem, eds. Middle East Security, the US Pivot and the Rise of ISIS (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2014). 216 pages.

Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock. Remembering Childhood in the Middle East (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2002). 365 pages.

Lacquer, Walter and Barry Rubin. The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, Seventh Edition (New York: Penguin Books, 2008). 626 pages.

Lynch, Marc, ed. The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). 352 pages.

Wright, Lawrence. Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat At Camp David (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014). 245 pages.

Wright, Robin B. Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011). 307 pages.

An excellent source of internet resources on the Arab Spring.
Provides up-to-date articles, reports, and analyses of events in the region.
The Perry-Casteñada Map Collection at the University of Texas.
Information on official U.S. policy on the Middle East.
Statistics about U.S. energy consumption, imports, production, etc.
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