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What Ruined the Middle East? The question of control over oil

What Ruined the Middle East

Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower described the Middle East as “the most strategically important area in the world” as oil from this part of the world was, in the eyes of the US policymakers, “the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment” and “a stupendous source of strategic power”. The US State Department also declared this region a cherished prize that the US intended to “keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding new world order of the day.” Hence, loss of control would threaten America and its world domination remained at the core of the US policies towards the Middle East and it hasn’t seen any change since 1945 when the World War II ended.

Oil was the centre of the whole power dynamics in the world: the Middle East had the oil; the world needed it and powerful countries were willing to do anything to get it. For strategic reasons, the USSR would not leave the West alone in the Middle East. Since increased oil prices rocked the western world’s economy, these countries needed to check the influence of the USSR, while also rebuilding their economies.

For this, both the West and the USSR did all they could to keep their respective influence in the Middle East, while checkmating each other. Whenever the Middle Eastern countries wanted any arms, they got easily. From Atoll and Styx missiles to MIG planes; all forms of weaponry were sold to them.

The Middle East, at that time, was characterised by an unimpeded, unprecedented inflow of cash. During the 1970s, Iran’s oil revenue rose eight-fold; Iraq’s revenues rose 50-fold and soared up to $575 billion from a mere $26 billion within a decade. The more money flowed into the Middle East, the more ‘Islamic’ it became. (In 1973, Egypt launched a military operation code-named Badr against Israel. The Egyptian military crossed into the Suez Canal and seized the Bar-Lev Line of Israeli fortifications on October 6, 1973. The operation was launched in conjunction with a Syrian assault on the Golan Heights, and it marked the start of the Yom Kippur War.)

Not only did they become more Islamic, they also became dynastic. The year 1973 was in some ways seminal for the United States as the Yom Kippur war that year fundamentally changed US’ attitude toward the whole of the Middle East as it felt that the Middle Eastern countries used oil supplies as a weapon of war. With restricted output, the oil prices rose by at least 400 percent. This war also showed a major weak point of Europe and America. President Nixon’s in his address to Americans, on November 27, 1973, said:

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