An Introduction to Security Studies in the Arab World

Module de rattachement : géopolitique.

  • Cours en 9 sessions de deux heures.
  • Période bloquée de trois jours dans le courant du second semestre.
  • Langue d`enseignement : anglais.
  • Intervenant: Dr. Sihem TLEMSANI, Foreign Visiting Scholar.
  • Contact :


National security was and is still a fundamental matter to nations and governments regardless of their actual force and kind (power). The degree of security assurance refers to the success of the state’s foreign policy and to the capacity of its competent bodies to achieve the expected goals, since the foreign political goals are set according to the considerations of national security.

Arab political thought is still away from the specific wording of the concept of national security, whereas many security concepts are definitely clear and defined in many countries such as American and French national security. There were different points of view in this scope, notably three contrastive currents. The first ignores the idea of Arab political thought; the second standardizes the idea according to what should be; however, the third current defines it as a synonym for the concept of regional security.

In the political sphere: Arab countries are suffering from aspects of tension and home instability resulting from regional, political, social, human and economic divisions imposed by foreign forces in addition to Arabic conflicts, becoming an inherent feature of the actual Arab situation.

Arab monarchies are somewhat stable in this sphere, however, other countries are moving towards the unknown, as far as politics are concerned. We could examine the political situation from three standpoints:

  1. Firstly, the domestic political standpoint; Here we can realize a general lack of political freedom, and lack of democracy, of political pluralism and the freedom of party adherence;
  2. Secondly; the political influence of foreign forces are affecting Arab politics, determining their local, regional and national itineraries and sometime dominating them. Arab systems are strongly under pressure of the United States of America, committed since September 11th, 2001 in the long “war on terrorism” and imposing its by-effects on governments.
  3. Thirdly; the Arab political situation features a regionalism captured within an artificial political framework imposed from outside. This is the most dangerous aspect along the nation’s history, which most likely meets tribalism at many points for key Arabic countries. Local allegiances, based on tribal groupings, exert tremendous strain on central governmental authorities which are not recognized as fully sovereign by these organizations. The consequence is that a strife turning into a national armed conflict could easily spill over in the neighboring states as demonstrated by the Saudi Arabia – Yemen or the Iraqi examples. In these cases, sectarianism dominates and guides local authorities. What then is the reality of this confrontation?

Finally, a security outlook could not neglect the interrelations between the “Partial situation” and the “Global situation”. The Partial situation is characterized by internal conditions, made of blocks and local groupings acting in accordance with their proper agenda, which are most of the time in conflict; whereas the “global situation” relates to internal, national and regional situation.  The “global situation” and the “partial situation” are related via complex conflict rules, notably “war on terrorism”.


 Presentation of a clear vision of the political Arabic security;

  • Display the students to ethnic Islamic Arabic conflicts;
  • Staging the role of the new local securities;
  • Introduce the students to al-Qaida role in the Arab world.

 The course plan:

Session 1-The Islamic Arab National Security (Historical global view):

  1. Definition of the national Arab security;
  2. The culture of the Arab national completeness;
  3. The controversy of the Arab regional and the national concept;
  4. Arab vs. Islamic national security.

Session 2- Facts of the Arab Nation: Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Sudan:

  1. The current political crisis in Egypt;
  2. Iraq before and after 2003 the new challenges;
  3. Saudi Arabia and the disagreement with Iran and the Gulf States, the American Saudi relationship and the new strategic approach;
  4. Syria and Iran besides Hezbollah the obscure triangle;
  5. Sudan (North and South) from defiance to the new roadmap.

Session 3- The collapse of the Arab political system:

  1. Violent demonstration;
  2. Pinpointing the Arab revolution;
  3. The new democratic view after the Arab upheaval;
  4. New regional relationships after the Arab revolution;
  5. The Arab uprising, between the rejection of foreign interposition (Tunisia, Egypt) and  acceptance (Bahrain, Libya).

Session 4 – The Emergence of the Local Security with the Presence of Foreign Force (Afghanistan, Iraq):

  1. The phenomenon of the local security councils and the creation of the new local Traditional State in the Region of Al Anbar in 2006 (Iraq);
  2. The US in Iraq, and their Policy of Enrolling the local tribes in the army (Iraq);
  3. The local communities (awakening in Afghanistan the Son`s of the Shura) and the ideology of Afghan Public Protection Program to fight the Taliban terrorism (comparison to the iraqi case).

Session 5- The disagreement of the Local Security and the Central National Security (Yemen):

  1. Yemen and the political roots of the volatility;
  2. The local power strategy in Yemen;
  3. From the unity to division and civil war;
  4. The clannishness and the petty tribal state become focal point for terrorism;
  5. Sa`da war and the Iranian and Saudi interference.

Session 6 – Al-Qaida Strategy and Doctrine Between the Apprehension and Practicing in the Arab Region:

  1. Al-Qaida ideology and their drawback interpretation to the Arab reality;
  2. Al-Qaida local implantation, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan;
  3. Al-Qaida religious speech from acceptance to inactivity and rejection;
  4. Al-Qaida and the local security in Yemen reject the central power;
  5. Al- Qaida and the new Arab popular uprising continuity or disunion.

Session 7 – Al-Qaida Presence in Iraq:

  1. The political alterations of al-Qaida in Iraq;
  2. The Iraqi national resistance and al-Qaida war and Jihad;
  3. The Sunni Tribal Councils ‘Al Sahawat’ (Awaking Councils) Facing Iran and al Qaida alike;
  4. The local Clans Demand that the ‘Islamic Party’ be Ousted from their Regions.

Session 8 – The Shi`i local security concept out of Iran:

  1. The new policy of the local Shi`i clan in the Arab Gulf states after the Iranian revolution;
  2. The Shi`i doctrine demand for local security to emerge to a new military force in the Iraqi scene;
  3. The continuous ethnic uprising Sunni Shi`i.

Session 9 – Post-revolution: Building a real civil society:

  1. Developing new state institutions;
  2. Arabs refuse the new US doctrine (Islam in a civil democratic way);
  3. Arab Marshall plan to save their spring uprising;
  4. The discrete new approach between Turkey as regional power and the Muslim brotherhood;
  5. Can America switch the Arab uprising to its own benefits?
  6. The new Arab technocrat and their needs for a real intellectual tendency;
  7. How can the advance countries offer a neutral support out of any foreign     interference?
  8. Is there any Islamic universal project coming up or a new division plan?

 Key books and links:

  •  Todd, ‘Iraq Tribal Study,’ ch. 4, pp. 19, 32; Bing West, ‘Will the Petraeus Strategy Be the Last,’, September 17, 2007.
  • ‘Total War on Iraqi Shi’ites Exposes a Divide Among Sunni Jihadists,’ Policy Watch #1049 (Washington D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, November 15, 2005),
  • Neill, Bard O’, Insurgency and Terrorism, (Dulles, Virginia: Brassey’s Inc) 1990.
  • Rohan, Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaida: Global Network of Terror. The story behind the rise of the global Islamo fascist insurgency. Berkeley, CA: (University of Berkeley Press), 2003.
  • Ramesh, Randeep, The War We Could Not Stop: the real story of the battle of Iraq. (London: Faber &Faber) 2003.
  • Joes, Anthony James, Resisting Rebellion: the History and Politics of Counterinsurgency, (Lexington, KY, the University Press of Kentucky), 2004.
  • Kamel Mosbah, Intervention on Renewing Research on Insurance and its history in The Arab World, (London, August, 2008; not yet published; expected to be released in late 2008, on ‘Arab Insurance’,  ‘The United Arab Insurance’, Cairo.
  • egypt-and-tunisia-and-iraq-afghanistan-and-pakistan
  • Hoffman Bruce, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq, Washington, DC, RAND, 2004. Analysis of America’s efforts in Iraq in 2003 informed by good history and theory.
  • McFarland, Sean Col. and Maj. Neil Smith, ‘Anbar’ Awakening: The Tipping Point,  Military Review (March/April 2008)
  • Mar Apr 08/ Smith_AnbarEngMarApr08.pdf.
  • “the crisis in Afghanistan” a statement by Anthony h. Cordesman. Iran’s Strategic Aspirations and the Future of the Middle East.
  • Ralph M. Coury The Making of an Egyptian Arab Nationalist: The Early Years of Azzam Pasha, 1893-1936 Publisher: Ithaca Press (September 1998).
  • the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan.
  • Bruno Teissier Géopolitique-Arabie Saoudite- Relations extérieures-20e siècle Bruxelles : Ed. COMPLEXE, 1996.
  • Jessica Mathews, getting to pluralism: political actors in the Arab world transcript by federal news service Washington, dc 2009.
  • Michael N. Barnett Dialogues in Arab politics: negotiations in Regional Order Columbia university press fall 1998.
  • 1-18/10/2005
  • Jenkins Brain, International Terrorism. A New Kind of Warfare, Rand publication 1974.