History 43.9
The United States and the Middle East
KC Johnson

This course examines relations between the United States and the Middle East from the 18th century until today.



All journal articles will be posted on the course website or supplied electronically.

All primary documents will be posted on the course website.

Lecture notes will be posted on the website (under the date of the class) immediately following the class session.


  • Examinations (50%)

  • Group presentation (30%)

  • Quizzes (10%)

  • Participation (10%)


January 30: Introduction

February 1: 18th and 19th Century Contacts

  • Michael Kitzen, “Money Bags or Cannon Balls: The Origins of the Tripolitan War, 1795-1801,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 16, pp. 601-624. 

February 6: World War I and Its Aftermath

  • Erez Manela, “The Wilsonian Moment and the Rise of Anticolonial Nationalism: The Case of Egypt,” Diplomacy & Statecraft, Vol. 12, pp. 99-122.
  • Robert Vitalis, “The ‘New Deal’ in Egypt: The Rise of Anglo-American Rivalry,” Diplomatic History. Vol. 20, pp. 211-239.


February 8: World War II and Its Immediate Aftermath

  • Peter Hahn, Caught in the Middle East, pp. 9-19.


  • “The Roosevelt Administration and Jewish Refugees”
  • Truman and Iran; Foreign Relations of the United States:
    --The Soviet position: page 1 (bottom); 2; 3

    --The United States responds: 1; 2; 3; 4
    --Soviet/American discussion of matter: 1; 2; 3

February 13: The United States and the Formation of Israel--QUIZ #1 (just on documents from 1947 and 1948)

  • Hahn, Caught in the Middle East, pp. 20-66.


  • Documents Related to the Recognition of Israel”  

February 15: No class--TRANSITION DAY

February 20: The Cold War and the Search for Stability in the Middle East--QUIZ #2

  • Hahn, Caught in the Middle East, pp. 67-157.


“The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup”:

February 22: The Middle East and Water Diplomacy (Special Guest Lecture: Prof. Reguer)

February 27: The Suez and Algerian Crises and U.S. Foreign Policy

  • Hahn, Caught in the Middle East, pp. 194-222.
  • Irwin Wall, “The United States, Algeria, and the Fall of the Fourth French Republic,” Diplomatic History. Vol. 18, pp. 489-510.
  • Matthew Connelly, “Rethinking the Cold War and Decolonization: The Grand Strategy of the Algerian War for Independence, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 221-245.

March 1:
John Kennedy and Israel

  • Avner Cohen, “Israel and the Origins of U.S. Nonproliferation Policy: The Crucial Decade, 1958-1968,” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 1988, pp. 1-19.


March 6: LBJ and the Middle East

  • Galia Golan, “The Soviet Union and the Outbreak of the June 1967 Six-Day War,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 8, pp. 3-19.
  • Zach Levey, “The United States’ Skyhawk Sale to Israel, 1966: Strategic Exigencies of an Arms Deal,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 28, pp. 255-276.
  • LBJ transcripts (please print out and bring to class)


March 8: The United States and Middle East Wars--QUIZ #3

  • Timothy Naftali, Blind Spot, pp. 1-77.



March 13: Crisis Diplomacy


  • Memorandum of Conversation [Memcon] between Muhammad Hafez Ismail and Henry Kissinger, 20 May 1973
  • Henry Kissinger, Memorandum for the President's Files, "President's Meeting with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev on Saturday, June 23, 1973"
  • Brezhnev to Nixon, 24 October 1973
  • Nixon to Brezhnev, 25 October 1973
  • Memcon, "Meeting with Oil Company Executives," 5:30 p.m., 26 October 1973
  • Kissinger memorandum for the President's File, "Meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin on Tuesday, October 30, 1973"
  • Memcon between Meir, Nixon, and Kissinger, 1 November 1973

March 15: The United States from Camp David through the Iranian Revolution

  • Naftali, Blind Spot, pp. 99-149.


March 20: Midterm

March 22: Ronald Reagan and Middle East Terrorism

  • Naftali, Blind Spot, pp. 150-226.
  • Theodore Draper, “The Iran-Contra Affair: An Autopsy,” New York Review of Books, December 17, 1987, pp. 67-77.


March 27: Afghanistan and the Soviet-American Rivalry

  • Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, pp. 19-185.


March 29: Group meetings


April 3: No class--spring break

April 5: No class--spring break

April 10: No class--spring break

April 12: Gulf War, I--QUIZ #4

  • Zachary Karabell, “Prelude to War: US Policy Toward Iraq 1988-1990,” Kennedy School of Government Case Program, C16-94-1245.0. Download with following link.
  • Gulf War chronology; at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/gulf/cron/. For the quiz, you only need to know the chronology, not the material from the links.


April 17: The Clinton Years

  • Coll, Ghost Wars, pp. 314-396.
  • Benny Morris and Ehud Barak, “Camp David: An Exchange,” New York Review of Books, 13 June 2001
  • Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, “Camp David: Tragedy of Errors,” New York Review of Books, 9 Aug. 2001
  • Dennis Ross, “Camp David: An Exchange,” New York Review of Books, 20 Sept. 2001


  • U.S. vetoes of UN resolutions relating to Israel


6.15: Lebanon and Syria


April 19: 9/11 and Its Aftermath--QUIZ #5

Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States:


April 24: U.S. Military Involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq

  • Naftali, Blind Spot, pp. 286-326.
  • Seymour Hersh, “The Coming Wars,” New Yorker, 24 Jan. 2005
  • Seymour Hersh, “Stovepipe,” New Yorker, 27 Oct. 2003
  • Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray, “Saddam’s Delusions: The View from the Inside,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2006


April 26: The Bush Administration, Israel, and Lebanon

  • George Gavrilis, “The Forgotten West Bank,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2006.

  • Shibley Telhami, “The Ties That Bind: Americans, Arabs, and Israelis After September 11,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2004.

Documents--International Court of Justice and Israeli security fence:

Group Presentations

Students will be divided into groups of 4-5 at the beginning of the course. Each group will be asked to prepare a one-class briefing, on an issue of contemporary relevance, for a hypothetical National Security Adviser and his/her staff. Presentations will be expected to draw on the themes and lessons of the previous weeks, and will include 25 minutes of questioning from both the instructor and classmates. Topics include U.S. policy toward:

May 1: Iran

Briefing Book:

May 3: Regional terrorism

May 8: Israel

May 10: Promotion of democracy

May 15: Syria and Lebanon

May 17: Turkey


Course Bibliography