Challenges of Regional Foreign Policy in the Age of Globalization: The Republic of Turkey, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran as Regional Powers in the MENA Area

Credits: Prof. Dr. Maurus Reinkowski
Credits: Prof. Dr. Maurus Reinkowski

Fall term 2017 / winter term 2017-8

The seminar Challenges of Regional Foreign Policy in the Age of Globalization that had been awarded a label as a EUCOR course was taught by Professor Tim Epkenhans (Middle Eastern Studies, University of Freiburg i. Br.) and Professor Maurus Reinkowski (Middle Eastern Studies, University of Basel). Owed to a generous financial support in the framework of the program European Campus - GRACE Innovation Grant: Internationalization at Home an ambitious schedule was set up – and implemented.

The course addressed the specific dynamics of foreign policy in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region on the basis of the analysis of three major states in the region: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In the beginning, students were expected to acquire a theoretical knowledge of the fundamental concepts and categories of International Relations. In the following we developed a deeper understanding of the specific traits and conditions that has determined regional foreign policy in the MENA area since the 1990s. Based on these acquired skills the participating students (in three groups representing each of the three countries discussed) acted out situations of ‘political consulting’ in front of a virtual audience of diplomats and politicians handing out advice for the foreign policy of Switzerland, Germany or the European Union concerning the MENA region.

The course took place in the months October to December (Friday / Saturday), alternating between Basel and Freiburg. Embedded into the course were additional activities:

  • A training by two members (Dr. David Lanz, Julia Pickhardt) of the Swiss peace foundation Swisspeace. In the scenario an adjustment (by the way of deliberations between major states and Iran) of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concerning the nuclear program of Iran was played out (10 November).
  • A visit of the European Parliament at Strasbourg, in connection with a roundtable discussion with a member of the EP, Jacob von Weizsäcker (13 December) .
  • Lectures by three prominent experts on each of the three examined countries:

-        Professor Oliver Bast (Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris): Historical Perspectives of Iranian Foreign Policy (17 November)

-        Dr Stéphane Lacroix (Sciences Po, Paris): Saudi Arabia: Domestic Transformation and Foreign Policy Trajectories (28 November)

-        Günter Seufert (German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin): A Critical Summary of Turkish Middle East and Kurdish Policy  (1 December)

Given the high level of requirements for taking part in the seminar, amongst other by an exam at the beginning on theories in the field of International Relations, the number of students was rather limited. The smaller number of only 14 students, however, made it possible to work and interact in a most intensive and productive way. The participating students were extraordinarily motivated and highly focussed. The complex and rich structure and contents of the course (training unit by Swisspeace, acting-out of policy consulting, lectures by external experts, visit of the European Parliament) led to a a very substantial learning outcome with the participants (including the instructors!).

Tim Epkenhans and Maurus Reinkowski teach since the year 2013 every fall / winter term a joint seminar on issues of the politics and history of the modern Middle East. Given the very productive and positive experiences they have made – in fall 2017 even more than in the preceding years – they will continue with their teaching cooperation in the years to come.


Thursday, 7 December, 2017 - 11:30