Explores the major political, economic, social, and security challenges facing - and emanating from - the Middle East. Particular attention paid to the causes of the so-called Arab Spring and the prospects for genuine democratization. Explores the role of colonial legacies, Islam, peculiarities of the physical environment, demographic patterns, cultures of patriarchy, the distortions of foreign aid and oil wealth, and the machinations of great powers in generating the region's particular pattern of political development. Embraces a variety of theoretical and empirical literatures, including translated works by Middle Eastern commentators, politicians, and social theorists. Students will emerge from the course with both an understanding of a changing region whose geopolitical importance - to the United States and the world - shows no sign of waning, and a grounding in some of the principal analytic approaches in the study of comparative political systems.