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International politics: peace and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
1 year, 3, 4 module


Course Syllabus


The proposed course has a number of features that distinguish it from other academic disciplines. First of all, it focuses the attention of the students on the realities of the region, the peculiarities of decision-making process on conflict and crisis situations management in MENA states. The course in many cases is based on the personal experience of the author-Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary A. G. Baklanov, his acquaintance with political figures and diplomats involved in the drafting and implementation of the international affairs policy in these countries. Professor A. G. Baklanov, who organized the first in our country student situational seminar-game (MGIMO, 1976), will conduct a number of additional classes with students in the form of imitation games and other forms of additional practice - oriented activities. He will also conduct practical classes to train students in the preparation of reference materials according to the criteria adopted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The course combines competencies in international relations and regional studies. The aim of the course is to provide the students with a thorough understanding of the nature, causes, history of the conflict and crisis situations in the Near and Middle East and North Africa (MENA region), the current state of affairs, the most probable modalities of the future developments and the impact of these situations on the overall international climate. The course is of exclusive character. It will be largely based on the personal political and diplomatic experience of the author of the course who has been working in the Middle East for more than 50 years, his assessments, impressions of politicians, representatives of the expert community and the business elite of the countries of the region, which will surpass significantly by the number of population the whole Europe. The lecturer will share with the audience unique photos and documents allowing better understanding the atmosphere, «the spirit» of events.
  • To develop a nuanced understanding of the peculiarities of the formation of national states of the MENA region, the establishment of borders between them, the existence of a contradiction of an ethno-confessional nature between these countries.
  • To give insights into the nature of the states of the region, the characteristic features of the formation and implementation of the course in international and regional affairs, the influence of the personal factor on the developments of interstate relations, the conduct of the leaders in case of exacerbation of the conflict and crisis situations.
  • To give for the students the opportunity to obtain practically-oriented competences in understanding the way the of representatives of countries of the region are preparing and conducting negotiations, how they work out and come to compromise solutions, how interaction and balances between various state structures, centers of power and influence within the Middle East states are being carried out.
  • To present in a concise form the key issues of the Arab-Israeli confrontation, the achievements of the Madrid peace process, as well as the reasons for the stagnation of the talks on the Israeli-Palestinian track.
  • To give the students the opportunity to get a real understanding of the «battle» for water and other resources unfolding in the region, to present possible formats of negotiation efforts aimed at preventing the emergence of a "new generation" of conflict and crisis situations in MENA.
  • To explain to the students the causes of the rise of activity of radical, terrorist elements in the region. The real history of the emergence and elimination of ISIL will be described, as well as personal considerations on possible options of the anti-terrorist struggle in period to come will also be presented.
  • To provide the students with balanced and " tied " to the realities of the region information about the conflicts in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, to show the dynamics and interaction of factors of regional and international scale, their impact on the conflicts in the particular countries of the region.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Actively master the methods of imitation games, situational analysis to understand the dynamics of events in conflict situations in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Good debate, writing of the practical-orientated analytical papers, presentation skills.
  • The ability to analyze independently the development of events in the MENA region, including the cases of deterioration of the of conflict and crisis situations.
  • The competence to understand complex conflict situations in the Middle East, to assess the impact of this factor on the possibility of expanding Moscow relations with the countries of the region located in the close territorial proximity to the RF.
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • The concept of the Middle East and North Africa region
  • Economic and resource potential of MENA countries
  • Energy problems of the region
  • Water scarcity in the region, zoning of water sources
  • MENA countries and the new international economic and political order
  • Transport arteries of the region
  • Ethno-confessional features of the region, the origins of conflicts on national and religious grounds
  • Armies of the countries of the region – a factor of mutual deterrence or destabilization of the regional situation?
  • Irregular formations in the MENA countries, their origin, dynamics of development, role in the power confrontation and political life of the states of the region
  • The arms race in the MENA region
  • "The Arab-Israeli confrontation: the main "rift" in the region
  • Camp David – was it a separate deal or the beginning of a regional peace process?
  • Changes in the world and the region at the turn of the 1990s
  • The Gulf War in 1991, political efforts to resolve the situation around Kuwait
  • The Madrid peace process is an attempt to form sustainable mechanisms for peaceful solutions to the problems of the region
  • American strategy for the "democratization" of the Greater Middle East
  • "The Arab Spring"
  • The Syrian conflict
  • The phenomenon of the "Islamic State" - the reasons for the emergence of a terrorist regime in the lands of Iraq and Syria
  • New trends in the regional situation in the Middle East
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Class attendance and discussion
  • non-blocking Participation in imitation games activities
  • non-blocking The grade for the essay
  • non-blocking The grade for the final exam
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2021/2022 3rd module
  • 2021/2022 4th module
    0.3 * Class attendance and discussion + 0.15 * Participation in imitation games activities + 0.25 * The grade for the essay + 0.3 * The grade for the final exam


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Aoudé, I. G. (2019). Conflict over Oil and Gas in the Mediterranean: Israeli Expansionism in Lebanon. Arab Studies Quarterly, 41(1), 95–110. https://doi.org/10.13169/arabstudquar.41.1.0095
  • Černý, K., & Jones, P. (2017). Instability in the Middle East : Structural Changes and Uneven Modernisation 1950-2015. Charles University in Prague, Karolinum Press.
  • Charles R. Lister. (2015). The Syrian Jihad : Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency. Oxford University Press.
  • Ganguly, S. (2018). The Future of ISIS : Regional and International Implications. Brookings Institution Press.
  • Hashim, J. (2019). To Be or Not To Be: Sudan at Crossroads : A Pan-African Perspective. Mkuki Na Nyota Publishers.
  • Mustapha Kamel El-Sayed, & Rasha Soheil Mansour. (2017). Water Scarcity as a Non-traditional Threat to Security in the Middle East. India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, 2, 227.
  • Water Security in the Middle East : Essays in Scientific and Social Cooperation. (2017). Anthem Press.
  • Zeinab Abul-Magd. (2017). Militarizing the Nation : The Army, Business, and Revolution in Egypt. Columbia University Press.

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Assaf Moghadam. (2017). Nexus of Global Jihad : Understanding Cooperation Among Terrorist Actors. Columbia University Press.
  • Cahan, J. (2017). Water Security in the Middle East : Essays in Scientific and Social Cooperation. Anthem Press.
  • Gurses, M. (2018). Anatomy of a Civil War : Sociopolitical Impacts of the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey. University of Michigan Press.
  • Hill, C. (2011). Trial of a Thousand Years : World Order and Islamism. Hoover Press.
  • Makdisi, S. (2017). Reflections on the Arab Uprisings. International Development Policy. https://doi.org/10.4000/poldev.2280
  • Mehran Kamrava. (2018). Troubled Waters : Insecurity in the Persian Gulf. Cornell University Press.
  • Peter Krause. (2017). Rebel Power : Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win. Cornell University Press.
  • Robin Yassin-Kassab, & Leila Al-Shami. (2018). Burning Country : Syrians in Revolution and War: Vol. New edition. Pluto Press.