Turkey and Iran: Rivals in the Middle East

Course details

From £1365.00

Sun 28 Jul 2019 - Sat 03 Aug 2019

Turkey and Iran: Rivals in the Middle East


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

This course will focus on the competition and rivalry between Turkey and Iran in the Middle East given the increasing role of sectarianism in the region. Recent and current political developments in Turkey and Iran and their impact in general on the foreign policies of the two states are first discussed. Attention is then focused on how identification with the Sunni and Shia communities has influenced Turkish and Iranian interests in the Middle East. Recent conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq which have led to international intervention are examined. The rivalry between Turkey and Iran in these disputes is discussed, noting their political and military support for specific Sunni and Shia factions.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.


This session will focus on recent and current political developments in Turkey and their impact on Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East. This will include the significance of previous Ottoman rule in the region, Turkey’s reaction to the Arab Spring, and the foreign policy of Ahmet Davutoglu


We will first examine political developments in Iran following the 1979 Revolution. Noting the key roles of figures such as Ayatollah Khomenei and Hashemi Rafsanjani, tensions between so-called moderates and hardliners will be discussed. To what extent is Iran pursuing a pragmatic foreign policy given its energy concerns and interest in nuclear power?


This section focuses on the growing sectarianism in the Middle East as tensions have escalated between Sunni and Shia communities in the region. The origins and development of these tensions are traced. Particular attention is given to the conflict in Yemen given the involvement of Saudi Arabia and its allies. The interests of Turkey and Iran in this conflict are examined.


We will look in depth at how the conflict in Syria spiralled into a civil war which led to the intervention of many outside powers. What role has Turkey played given its support of Sunni groups and hostility towards the Kurds? How has Iran sought to influence developments given its close ties to Assad and support for Shia militias?


This session first discusses recent events in Iraq with the rise of so-called Islamic State and internal policies increasingly based on sectarianism. What role has Turkey played in Iraq given its traditional support to the Sunni Turkmen minority and its improving ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government? How has Iran attempted to exploit the Shia majority in Iraq to further its strategic interests?

Recommended reading

Axworthy, Michael. Iran: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Fuller, Graham E. Turkey and the Arab Spring: Leadership in the Middle East. New York: Bozorg Press, 2014.

Hashemi, Nader, and Postel, Danny (eds.). Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East. London: Hurst, 2017.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The fee £1545 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct ipoxex@conted.ox.ac.uk, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form.  Early application for these rooms is essential.

Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct ipoxex@conted.ox.ac.uk, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


Programme fee (with single en-suite accommodation and meals): £1545.00
Programme fee (with single standard accommodation and meals): £1365.00


Dr Gareth Winrow


Independent researcher, OUDCE part-time tutor

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Wednesday 1 May 2019 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.