Kayal.Control [ID]

[Footnotes are not copied here]


Today [1972, as OPEC (ID) rose to prominence in global energy politics], the United States stands at the helm of the Middle East. Her control of the Persian Gulf oil is masterful and firm. The world's sole superpower's control of this area is a factor in the exercise of her world leadership.

Oil is of strategic significance. It is almost unique in this respect. Its significance lies in its permeating nearly every aspect of the economic life of present-day nations. It consumes governments and precipitates wars. The world's developed economies are heavily dependent on oil, and no reasonable substitute for it is anticipated in the foreseeable future.

The bulk of the earth's known oil reserves, more than 70 percent, is concentrated in the Persian Gulf area. And although alternative energy sources have been vigorously pursued, the United States continues, since 1970, to import from the Persian Gulf 24 percent of needed oil for her own consumption. Japan and Europe, of course, are in varying degrees totally dependent on oil imported from this area. The region, therefore, will continue to be the scene of a control challenge amongst the powers of the world. For the control of this area and its individual states presses the oil-consuming countries into accommodation to the directives of the controller.

With such magnitude of dependence on oil from the Gulf area, and with the 1973 oil shock vivid in the minds of the US security planners, the Iranian uprising of 1979 and its repercussions alerted President Jimmy Carter in January 1980 to reassert the United States policy in the Gulf in what came to be known as the Carter Doctrine:

Let our position be absolutely clear. An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force. (Emphasis added.)

The vital interests of the United States cannot, therefore, be left to the complexities of Arab politics and Arab-Israeli conflicts. Consequently, the United States, a military and economic might, has embarked upon a path of finding opportunities in crises in the Middle East to strengthen her influence and affirm her presence there. Piece-by-piece she has worked out ways to formulate policies aimed at insulating oil from Middle East politics - and world politics for that matter.

Since this study was completed thirty years ago there have been several major events related to the control of the flow of Gulf oil: the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the ensuing oil embargo; the Iranian revolution and the fall of the Shah; the Iran-Iraq war; the participation in and nationalization of the ownership of oil, and the attendant cancellation of the concession agreements; the diminution of the powers of the major oil companies; the increased strength of OPEC and the sustained hike in the price of oil; the break-up of the Soviet Union which altered Russia's strategic position as a superpower;.the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq; the Gulf war; the sanctions imposed on Iraq and Iraq's subsequent isolation. Casting a long shadow over all these events is the Palestinian plight with its resultant continuing Arab-Israeli conflict.

Oil in the Middle East is very much intertwined with the Arab-Israeli struggle. The path followed by the United States in formulating her policies is of seemingly contradictory aims. It ranges from making use of Arab fragmentation, through beefing up Israel's military capabilities and guaranteeing its arms supremacy, to the direct presence of United States military forces in the area.

In the process of these policies Egypt, the heart of the Arab nation, was alienated at Camp David in 1979. Soon she found herself expelled from the Arab League, with the effect of segregating her from the Arab-Israeli conflict and Arab politics, and thereby the politics of oil. Egypt's expulsion carved a deep wound in the Arab heart. When she finally returned she had been away for so long that the wound remains wide open and bleeding in what we see of the Arab disarray, and in what is happening to the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause.

The Palestinian tragedy is the core of the Arab rage. One needs to remember that the creation of Israel called for the establishment of an exclusively Jewish state in a country that was predominantly Arab. An entire society of Palestinian Arabs has been uprooted from its homeland and thrown into refugee camps in order for its land to house people brought in from all over the world - from Eastern Europe, from Argentina, from South Africa, from all comers of the earth. The name of a country called 'Palestine' was removed from the world's atlases and the name of a country called Israel was substituted. It was that simple. And what was left of Old Palestine - the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - is now in siege under the most repressive measures and humiliations.

Myth and sophistry aside, all of the Palestinian sufferings were committed under United States auspices and with her full support. Since 1972 the United Nations Security Council has voted on more than 30 resolutions condemning the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians. All 30 of these resolutions were vetoed by the United States, causing them to fail. In most of these cases, the United States stands out as the sole dissenter against the other 14 members of the Security Council, who voted in support of the resolutions.3 Too, America's ability to arbitrarily decide which United Nations resolutions she will press for adherence (Iraqi sanctions) and which she will flagrantly disregard (Israel's withdrawal from the territories occupied as a result of the 1967 war), is causing deep anger and bitterness among the Arab people. People everywhere can neither accept nor tolerate the innate injustice of this double standard, especially when it is practiced by a country which is in the position of leadership of this world, with the responsibility of adjudicating the rule of law and the declared principles of democracy and human rights.



The cheapest and most abundant oil supplies are concentrated in the Persian Gulf area. Corollary to this concentration is European and Japanese heavy dependence on these oil resources. Also, it is estimated that by the end of the 1970s the United States will be importing oil from the Gulf region and North Africa on the order of one-half of her petroleum needs, and that the Soviet bloc will be experiencing a 'fuel deficit' of more than 100 million tons per year which will be filled by imports from the developing countries.'

The Gulf States, therefore, continue to increase in importance and be the scene of a renewed East-West rivalry; for the control of these states and their resources brings with it an important leverage in the bidding for world leadership. Inevitably, the control of these oil resources will force upon the oil-consuming countries in Europe and Japan an accommodation to the directives of the controller.

Today, the United States is in control of the larger portion of the oil in the Gulf. In addition to its being an impressive source of financing the United States' balance of payments deficits, oil in the Gulf, controlled by the Americans, is a factor in the exercise of world leadership.

The American position, however, has been challenged by the rising power of the Soviet Union. After the British military departure from the Gulf area, the United States appeared reluctant to beef up its token naval detachment on the island of Bahrain. She preferred to watch a Soviet drive towards the Gulf from a communication base on the island of Diego Garcia, out in the wide reaches of the Indian Ocean, rather than be involved in the Gulf politics, and, hence, be charged with pursuing an imperialist policy.

This military stand did save the United States from a renewal of the imperialist charge, but it could not make up for the deteriorating position the United States now suffers in the Arab world.

In their bidding for the Jewish vote (the strength of which is questionable since both Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon assumed the presidency without its support), American leaders fell into the dilemma of pursuing two opposing objectives: nurturing the United States' interest in the Arab world and supporting the state of Israel. Needless to say, the United States opted for the latter objective.

This stand has facilitated the task of the Soviet Union in her drive towards the Gulf. This Soviet move, however, should be viewed as its being a link in a long chain of Soviet global strategy aiming to control oil for its significance in affecting a change in the political orientation of Europe and Japan.

Taking advantage of America's foreign policy which resulted in strained Arab-American relations, the Soviet Union leaped over Turkey, Iran and Palsistan -- the northern tier -- and cocentrated its efforts on Egypt first, and then Syria, Yemen, South Yemen, and Iraq. The countries of the northern tier, [??]essing the Soviets outflank them, saw no advantage in holding to their alliance with the West -- in anticipation of a Soviet drive m the north -- while the Soviets were already in their backyards. It became ridiculous for Iran and Turkey to continue their refusal of cooperation with the Soviet Union. Hence the extensive Iran-Russian cooperations and the normalization of Soviet-Turkish relations, the latest sign of which was the visit made by President Nikolai Podgorny to the Turkish capital on April 11-18, 1972.

With their task nearly completed with success in the northern tier, the Russians found the Persian Gulf amenable to providing them with their age-long need for warm water, and the instrument necessary for influencing the political behavior of the NATO members and Japan. In one leap, the Russians had most of the Arab world, the northern tier, and now Europe and Japan, in an open quarrel with the United States or breaking away from American influence.


Specifically, four steps had been taken by the Russians in pursuing their objectives in the Gulf area. First, they embarked on a policy of presenting new options to the oil-producing countries through the conclusion of oil and gas agreements, thus enabling them to break away from western influence.

Second, the Russians resorted to making overt commitments to the countries in the areas of their activities. Thus, after the signing of treaties with Egypt and India, the Soviet Union signed on April 10, 1972, a 15-year treaty with Iraq, a treaty which marked the inauguration of the North Rumaila oilfields, developed with Soviet aid. Premier Alexei N. Kosygin attended the ceremony and in his speech he did not forget to promise the Arab people to 'free their wealth' from 'Western monopolies.' 3

Third, in support of this policy, the Russians opted for a policy of expanding their Indian Ocean fleet. Soviet naval vessels are becoming the instrument for the extension of Soviet political influence through their periodic calls on ports in the Persian Gulf.

Finally, in their attempts to weaken Western influence, the Soviets are rivaling the Chinese in support of guerrilla warfare by the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arab Gulf. The front, based in the province of Dhufar of the Sultanate of Oman, provided the ammunition and training from across the border of the People's Republic of Yemen. The intention of the front is the liquidation of Western presence in the Gulf area.

Ironically, these impressive Soviet achievements are often belittled in some American quarters as being important but not necessarily detrimental to American interests. Those Americans should be reminded, however, of the Soviets' precedents in the Mediterranean, on the Suez Canal, at Aden, and in Iraq. They should be reminded that it was a Soviet commitment to India which reduced Pakistan from a country of 120 million people to a middle-sized state.

This, then, is the rivalry which is now dominating the scene in the Persian Gulf. But while this rivalry is taking place between the superpowers, there emerges a power center from the oil­ producing countries which makes use of this superpower struggle. The oil-producing countries gathered together in the formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Recognition of a common interest among these countries has made it possible for them to have a say in determining the price at which oil gets sold, in effectuating a change in the tax rate, and in acquiring minority participation in the ownership of the industry. It will not be very long before these countries receive a majority ownership of their resources.

Ownership, however, is different from controllership. Who gets what, especially in an emergency, will be decided by political orientation and political expediency. American foreign policy has made it possible for the Soviets to dig into the Arab world. The trend indicates that the Soviets are drilling deep in the Persian Gulf. Very soon they will help in the development of certain political orientation in the oil-producing countries of the area which they will then use as vehicles to promote Soviet political expediency. At the same time Europe and Japan will continue to receive oil, but through a Russian pipe. And no other states will be powerful enough or aware enough to attempt reverse the trend.