Tuesday, August 24, 2004

From Arab Nationalism to OPEC, by Nathan J. Citino

A fascinating book on the beginnings of America's interests in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in general. It's a quite complicated story, covering the late 1950s, and I didn't grasp all of it.

Basically, it shows how the US stepped into the shoes of the British Empire. Due to the fact that the West's economy is so dependent on oil, we have developed this strange relationship with the autocratic royal family of Saudi Arabia.

The book shows how US business interests had an impact on the Saudi State, how Arab Nationalist movements were inimical to it, plus the political maneuverings to keep the Soviet Union out of the Middle East. It really shows how much we have to do with Saudi Arabia, propping up a corrupt regime, and actually militarizing it - weapons to be used against its own people.

See, it's so complex I can barely summarise it properly. Here's a more cogent quote.

"The crescendo of Arab nationalism and decline of British prestige in the Middle East confronted Eisenhower with a fateful choice. American hopes that the oil corporations themselves could palliate Arab nationalism met with disappointment during the Suez crisis. The U.S would either have to adjust its policies to the reality of Arab nationalism and get behind development plans proposed by the Arabs and non-Arabs for sharing the region's oil wealth, or assume the British mantle as enforcer of the post war petroleum order. Eisenhower opted for the second alternative, and this decision proved much more important for defining the future U.S role in he Middle East than his earlier one to halt the aggressors at Suez."

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