What values should shape U.S. policy in the Middle East?
First edition. November 2017.

The term “Middle East” can create a mental 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: Questions for U.S. Policy equips students to consider the role of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Part I of the reading introduces the political history of the Middle East prior to U.S. involvement as well as the history of U.S. policy in the region through World War II. Parts II and III examine major events in the Middle East that shaped the region’s relationship with the United States through the present. Part IV includes six case studies that examine the factors that have influenced U.S. policy.

Preview this unit. Preview includes the Table of Contents for the Student Text and the Teacher Resource Book as well as a student reading excerpt and one lesson plan.


The Geography of the Middle East

Students familiarize themselves with the Middle East, its significant cities, and its landmarks on a map. They then work together to explore images of the region and identify issues and themes for inquiry.

Precolonial Poetry of the Middle East

Students analyze poetry written by women in pre-Islamic and early Islamic societies and consider the benefits and limitations of poetry as a source for historical learning.

Primary Source Analysis: The Creation of Israel

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

Students use primary source documents to identify the motivations and interests of the Iranian and U.S. governments in regard to oil nationalization in Iran and the coup of 1953.

Graffiti and Social Media in the Egyptian Revolution

Students compare and contrast the Arab Spring protests in different countries and then assess the role of graffiti and social media posts as forms of political expression in Egypt.

Analyzing Six Case Studies of U.S. Policy

Working together, students compare and contrast the history of U.S. policy in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Syria, and Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Students read stories of Syrian refugees to learn more about the ongoing civil war and consider how the experiences of individuals can inform understanding of a larger political context.

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 recommendations for U.S. policy and apply their policy guidelines to specific cases in the Middle East.


Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


The Modern Middle East: General History

Cleveland, William L. and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East, Fifth Edition. Boulder: Westview, 2012.

Gelvin, James L. The Modern Middle East: A History, Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Burke, Edmund III, and Yaghoubian, David N. eds. Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

The Late Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey

Hanioğlu, M. Şükrü. A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Zurcher, Erik. Turkey: A Modern History. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2004.


Gardner, Lloyd C. The Road to Tahrir Square: Egypt and the United States from the Rise of Nasser to the Fall of Mubarak. New York: New Press, 2011.

Ghosh, Amitav. In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale. New York: Vintage, 1994.


Keddie, Nikki. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Abrahamian, Ervand. The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations. New York: New Press, 2013.

Limbert, John W. Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History. U.S. Institute of Peace, 2009.


Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Kukis, Mark, ed. Voices from Iraq: A People's History, 2003–2009. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Gelvin, James. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Sacco, Joe. Palestine. Seattle: Fantagraphic Books, 2001.

Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012.

Meirsheimer, John J., and Walt, Stephen M. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007.


McHugo, John. Syria: A History of the Last Hundred Years. New Press, 2015.

Sattouf, Riad. The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978–1984. Metropolitan Books, 2015.

Miscellaneous Topics: Orientalism; Islamism; Women in the Middle East; Arab Spring

Feldman, Noah. The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Lockman, Zachary. Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Abu-Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.

Thompson, Elizabeth F. Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

An excellent source of internet resources on the Middle East.
The Perry-Casteñada Map Collection at the University of Texas.
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