Symbiosis International University Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

Crisis in the Middle East


The Middle East today remains one of the most contentious and hotly disputed regions on the planet. The roots of these modern day conflicts go back millennia, to different religions and faith traditions as well as tribal and ethnic identities. This course attempts to explore these early rivalries and trace back the roots of the conflicts to their sources. While doing so, we will explore the origins of the different Abrahamic religions; different tribal customs and modern day Geo political issues that mar this region today. This course also traces the path that the conflict has taken over the centuries and the influences that it has come under. We take an in-depth look at how 20th century imperialism and an unquenchable thirst for resources have led to a state of perpetual conflict that centers on oil and natural gas. We shall study the role of Cold war politics and tyrannical dictatorships and their influences on civilian populations living in the area. Lastly, we shall also study the rise of radical groups, primarily as a result of Proxy wars that were a subset of superpower confrontation and secondly as a result of power vacuums created in the region. 

 Course Objectives 

  • To understand the origins of the 3 great Abrahamic religions, which emerged out of the region and study the social, cultural and political milieu that they emerged from.
  • To analyze the impact of Tribal loyalties on modern day societies in the region and get a holistic view of the societies that inhabit these regions.
  • To understand the impacts of World War II, the Holocaust and the displacement of the Jewish people on the region.
  • To study the role of the Oil Producing regions in the Middle East and understand their strategic and economic impacts on the crisis.
  • To look at the role played by the U. S. and the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War Period to foster a succession of Proxy wars in the regions and understand their long term significance.

 Teaching Methodology 

  • The interactive and discussion mode of teaching is aimed at a thorough comprehension and application of the concepts within the course
  • Audio-visual aids are incorporated to reinforce concepts
  • Reading and discussion of research papers / book chapters are incorporated within the class structure so as to reinforce and ensure that students are abreast with literature n the subject
  • Self study forms a part of the teaching pedagogy.



 Course Outline 

S.No. Topic Hours
1. Precursors to Monotheism
o The Origins of Monotheism from amongst the Polytheistic traditions of Sumeria.
o The Birth of Judaism and the emergence of the land of Canaan (Israel) as the Promised Land.
2. Origins of Monotheism

o The origin of Christianity and the radical role early Christian Traditions played especially in Europe.
o The Birth of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula and the first sectarian spilt between the Sunnis and the Shias.
3. Origins of Conflict for the Promised land o The first disputes along religious lines for the Promised Land – the Crusades.
o The Ottoman Empire and the fall of Constantinople.
4. The Impact of World War II
o The Holocaust
o The Mass Displacement of the Jewish People from Europe to the land of Palestine.
o British role in the integration of the refugees from Europe into Palestine.
o The Birth of the Nation of Israel and its catastrophic impacts on the Arabs in Palestine.
5. The Arab Israel Conflict Post the formation of Israel

o The United Nations Partition Plan
o The 1967 six day War.
o The Karameh and the Palestinian Revolt
o The 1972-73 war with Egypt the disputes over the Suez Canal.
6. The conflict becomes brutal

o The Munich Massacre and Operation “Wrath of God”
o 1978 Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt.
o The 1982 disputes with Lebanon and the eventual formation of Hezbollah.
o Israel’s current ongoing disputes in the Gaza Strip.
7. The Crisis during the Cold War

o The U.S and the Soviet Spheres of Influences in the Middle East.
o The role of the Muslim Brotherhood.
o U.S relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran
8. U.S and Soviet Involvement in the Crisis

o The Iranian Revolution and the exile of the Last Shah of Persia.
o Russia’s reasons for Invading Afghanistan and the Subsequent U.S backed Proxy war in Afghanistan.
o The Birth of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda and Pakistan’s role in the rise of extremism.
9. Crisis in the New Millennium

o The Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Centers and the subsequent U.S War in Afghanistan.
o The U.S War in Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussain and his Bahaath Party.
o The Sunni Awakening and the war against Al Qaeda.
10. The Arab Spring

o The Arab Spring Revolutions and their impacts in the Region, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
o The Nuri Al Malaki regime and their attacks on the Sunni community in Iraq.

The emergence of ISIS

o The Emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and their self-proclaimed Caliphate.
o The attacks against minority communities including Christians and Yezidis.
o The Mass Migration from Syria into Europe of refugees and the potential problems for the future.