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International Relations of the Middle East and Asia (IRMEA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, the MA Asian Studies or the MA International Studies. Students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies have priority. Please, contact the student advisor, Dr. Nicole van Os, prior to registration for permission if you are interested in taking this course but NOT a student of the MA Middle Eastern Studies. See also below, under “registration”.


This course investigates the position and role of the Middle East in the context of the major geopolitical and geo-economic shifts that are unfolding at the global level in our times. These tectonic geo-economic and geopolitical shifts are occurring due to the retreat of the West and the rise of the rest, especially China. The US is self-obsessed (through Trump), war-weary, energy-independent, and pivoting to Asia (four reasons for less kinetic presence in the ME). The EU is busy giving tactical responses to tactical problems within the EU (e.g. terrorism, the refugee crisis, Brexit, and the rise of nationalism). The Middle East is looking eastward.

China is becoming increasingly active in the ME and elsewhere and rolling out global geo-econonomic initiatives. One such multifaceted and globally game-changing initiative by China is the New Silk Road (NSR), otherwise called Belt and Road (B&R). It has been described as the present day iteration of the ancient Silk Road or the 21st century Marshall Plan. It involves more than 65 countries including the major actors in the ME. In this course, we will pay particular attention to the Middle East’s involvement in NSR and the ways in which the Middle Eastern (f)actors both affect and are affected by the NSR.

Course objectives

  • Understanding the broad theoretical and methodological debates within the field of -- International Relations with (especially with a focus on how geopolitics and geo-economics intersect)

  • Get a deeper understanding of theories of geopolitics (e.g. classical and critical) especially as applied to the Middle Eastern cases

  • Getting familiar with the historical backgrounds that affect current geopolitical issues in the region

  • Understanding the general issues in and contours of Asian-Middle Eastern relations

  • Getting a general understanding of the main contours of New Silk Roads

  • Getting a deep understanding of the role The Middle Eastern (f)actors in NSR and their international political economy

  • Analyzing the impact of domestic issues (in the ME and China) on global and regional developments

  • Analyzing and interpret the perils and promises of The Middle East looking eastward (to China)

  • Sharpening students abilities to analyze the policies at stake in this topic

  • Understand the ME-China-US dynamics in the Middle East

  • Developing the ability to make use of the knowledge acquired in the course for students’ future career in terms of various possibilities: policy making, problem-solving, public relations, teaching, research, consulting, and so forth

  • Developing original research questions, thus contributing to the scholarly literature with regard to the various topics at stake in the course (Middle Eastern studies and International Relations).

  • Critical evaluation of the scholarly literature at stake in the course

  • Developing presentation skills for both a scholarly and general public

  • In-depth knowledge of the current issues (in terms both of domestic and foreign policies) in the Middle Eastern countries involved



Mode of instruction


Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 13 x 2 hours = 26 hours

  • Reading / studying material: 127 hours

  • Completing assignments: 127 hours

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to the blackboard through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Presence, active participation in the class, review of course literature (3 times during the course), and discussing fellow students’ presentations 15%
Presentation 15%
Take-home exam 30%
Research paper of 2,500-3,000 words, excluding bibliography 40%

Take-home exam:
Students will receive 3 essay questions, out of which they can choose one question. This one question should be answered with a well-evidenced/referenced and well-argued answer within 2 days (min: 1000 words – max: 1500 words, excluding bibliography). (Date of the exam to be determined in the first session together with students and taking into consideration their preferences)

The research paper must be relevant to the themes, theories, and/or actors discussed in the course.

Final Paper
The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.

The actual deadlines for submission of the first and final versions of the paper will be communicated by the convenor of the course through Blackboard (after consulting with students in the first session. (The deadline(s) mentioned in uSis is/are fictional for administrative purposes only.)

Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hrs late = -0.5; 24-48 hrs late = -1.0; 48-72 hrs late = -1.5; 72-96 hrs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (40%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Exam review

Review of the exam and research paper results:
If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized. To request a review the student should send an email to the instructor of the course.


Reading material and assignments will be distributed through Blackboard.

Reading list

The book titles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where they can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand will be posted on Blackboard.


Students of the MA program Middle Eastern Studies are required to register through uSis before August 15. Students from this programme who cannot register in uSis, and interested students from other MA programmes are requested to send an email to the student advisor, Dr. Nicole van Os, including their name, student ID number, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the student advisor will register these students after August 15. By September 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.

To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English. You can also have a look at the FAQ.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Students are also required to enroll on Blackboard as soon as the course is available there.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M. Forough


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.