The Gulf Bargain

  • AngloArabia: Why Gulf Wealth Matters to Britain by David Wearing
    Polity, 275 pp, £15.99, September 2018, ISBN 978 1 5095 3203 2

It is a cliché that the United States and Britain are obsessed with Middle East oil, but the reason for the obsession is often misdiagnosed. Anglo-American interest in the enormous hydrocarbon reserves of the Persian Gulf does not derive from a need to fuel Western consumption. Britain used to import considerable quantities of Saudi oil, but currently gets most of what it needs from the North Sea and hasn’t imported much from the Gulf since the 1980s; Saudi oil currently represents around 3 per cent of UK imports. The US has never imported more than a token amount from the Gulf and for much of the postwar period has been a net oil exporter. Anglo-American involvement in the Middle East has always been principally about the strategic advantage gained from controlling Persian Gulf hydrocarbons, not Western oil needs. In 1945, Gordon Merriam, the head of the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs division, made this clear: the Saudi oilfields, he said, were first and foremost ‘a stupendous source of strategic power’. The assistant secretary of state, Adolf Berle, sketched out what remains US strategy: the US and Britain would provide Saudi Arabia and other key Gulf monarchies with ‘sufficient military supplies to preserve internal security’ and ensure that they were permanently guarded by Western navies.

May 9 

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n09/tom-stevenson/what-are-we-there-for

About Tom Stevenson
Tom Stevenson is an Independent North Africa reporter

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