EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 27 Apr 2022 | 17:00–18:30

The Human Factor: U.S. Intelligence in the Arab Middle East during the Cold War

Jeffrey G. Karam (Lebanese American University / EUME Fellow of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and Freie Universität Berlin 2021-22), Chair: Hanan Toukan (Bard College Berlin / EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2019-23)

AL.Berlin, Skalitzer Str. 114, 10999 Berlin

Declassified intelligence reports and diplomatic cables on the Middle East at the National Archives (NARA II), College Park, Maryland, USA.
Declassified intelligence reports and diplomatic cables on the Middle East at the National Archives (NARA II), College Park, Maryland, USA.

This seminar looks through the lens of U.S. intelligence organizations, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, and other offices, including the National Security Council, the White House, Embassies, and Consulates, to provide a novel and under-explored feature of the foundations of U.S. foreign relations and intervention in the Middle East. Specifically, it draws on hundreds of declassified and untapped intelligence records, diplomatic cables, and memoranda of conversations from archives in the United States and the United Kingdom, primary and secondary sources in Arabic and French, and extensive fieldwork in the Middle East to locate the role of intelligence in U.S. decision-making processes during times of crisis and immense political change. Importantly, the seminar explains how some actors in various Arab states influenced how U.S. officials observed and analyzed transformational episodes of political change at the time.


By focusing on the human factor and tracing street-level interactions between Arab and American officials, the seminar explains how these individuals observed and analyzed various transformational events, including revolutions, military coups, civil wars, and social uprisings, in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria. Bearing in mind the expected confusion that characterizes important moments of political change, this seminar explains how the use of declassified records from archives, oral histories, and interviews allows for a novel understanding of the ‘mindset of the moment.’ The focus on the relationship between intelligence, foreign policymaking, and transformational episodes of political change provides an alternative understanding of US-Arab relations from the Cold War to the present day. This seminar is based on a book monograph that Karam is revising and preparing for publication.

Jeffrey G. Karam is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Lebanese American University and a non-resident research associate at Harvard University’s Middle East Initiative. Karam is currently a visiting research fellow with the Global Scholarly Dialogue Programme of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, a EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien, and a research affiliate at the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics and the Otto-Suhr Institute of Political Sciences at Freie Universität Berlin. He received his MA in Politics from the American University of Beirut and his PhD in Politics from Brandeis University. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Christopher Andrew-Michael Handel Prize and the Hussein Oueini Memorial Award. He has held postdoctoral fellowships and visiting professorships at Harvard University and Boston University.  Karam is the editor of The Middle East in 1958: Reimagining a Revolutionary Year (London and New York: I.B. Tauris and Bloomsbury, 2020) and is currently finishing his first book on American intelligence and foreign policy in the Middle East during revolutionary times and political change. His research has been published in academic and public outlets, including Intelligence and National Security, the Arab Studies Journal, The Washington Post, H-Diplo/ISSF, the Daily Star Lebanon, Megaphone, Jadaliyya, TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, OpenDemocracy, among others. Karam is also the co-editor of The Lebanon Uprising of 2019: Voices from the Revolution, which I.B. Tauris and Bloomsbury will publish in October 2022. He tweets @JGKaram.

This Berliner Seminar will take place on-site at AL.Berlin. Please register in advance via eume(at) Depending on approval by the speakers, the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available via Soundcloud.

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