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The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle Eastby Andrew Scott Cooper
Synopses & Reviews
andlt;bandgt;andlt;iandgt;Increasing oil prices . . . America struggling with a recession . . . European nations at risk of defaulting on their loans . . . A possible global financial crisis. It happened before, in the 1970sandlt;/iandgt;andlt;/bandgt;andlt;iandgt;.andlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;Oil Kings andlt;/iandgt;is the story of how oil came to dominate U.S. domestic and international affairs. As Richard Nixon fought off Watergate inquiries in 1973, the U.S. economy reacted to an oil shortage initiated by Arab nations in retaliation for American support of Israel in the Arab- Israeli war. The price of oil skyrocketed, causing serious inflation. One man the U.S. could rely on in the Middle East was the Shah of Iran, a loyal ally whose grand ambitions had made him a leading customer for American weapons. Iran sold the U.S. oil; the U.S. sold Iran missiles and fighter jets. But the Shahand#8217;s economy depended almost entirely on oil, and the U.S. economy could not tolerate annual double-digit increases in the price of this essential commodity. European economies were hit even harder by the soaring oil prices, and several NATO allies were at risk of default on their debt. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;In 1976, with the U.S. economy in peril, President Gerald Ford, locked in a tight election race, decided he had to find a country that would sell oil to the U.S. more cheaply and break the OPEC monopoly, which the Shah refused to do. On the advice of Treasury Secretary William Simon and against the advice of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Ford made a deal to sell advanced weaponry to the Saudis in exchange for a modest price hike on oil. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Ford lost the election, but the deal had lasting consequences. The Shahand#8217;s economy was destabilized, and disaffected elements in Iran mobilized to overthrow him. The U.S. had embarked on a long relationship with the autocratic Saudi kingdom that continues to this day. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Andrew Scott Cooper draws on newly declassified documents and interviews with some key figures of the time to show how Nixon, Ford, Kissinger, the CIA, and the State and Treasury departmentsand#8212;as well as the Shah and the Saudi royal familyand#8212; maneuvered to control events in the Middle East. He details the secret U.S.-Saudi plan to circumvent OPEC that destabilized the Shah. He reveals how close the U.S. came to sending troops into the Persian Gulf to break the Arab oil embargo. andlt;iandgt;The Oil Kings andlt;/iandgt;provides solid evidence that U.S. officials ignored warning signs of a potential hostage crisis in Iran. It discloses that U.S. officials offered to sell nuclear power and nuclear fuel to the Shah. And it shows how the Ford Administration barely averted a European debt crisis that could have triggered a financial catastrophe in the U.S. Brilliantly reported and filled with astonishing details about some of the key figures of the time, andlt;iandgt;The Oil Kings andlt;/iandgt;is the history of an era that we thought we knew, an era whose momentous reverberations still influence events at home and abroad today.
"The petro-politics of the 1970s caused world-historical upheavals — and an international melodrama of statecraft — in this scintillating diplomatic history. Historian Cooper untangles the foreign policy conundrum arising from America's support for the reliably anticommunist Shah of Iran, whom Richard Nixon encouraged to raise oil prices so he could afford to buy U.S. weapons. This dynamic, the author contends, created a monster: to support his wild overspending on arms and pharaonic development projects, the Shah demanded huge OPEC price hikes that crippled the world economy — and provoked an American rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, whose flooding of markets with cheap oil ruined Iran's finances and sped the Shah's downfall. Cooper gives a lucid analysis of shifting oil markets and unearths revelations — including American-Iranian planning for invasions of Arab countries — from meticulous research. But this is a saga of not-so-great men and their wranglings. Its centerpiece is Cooper's superb, lacerating portrait of Henry Kissinger. As the super-diplomat's obsession with great-power rivalries founders in a new world of global economics that he can't fathom, Cooper gives us both a vivid study in sycophancy and backstabbing and a shrewd critique of Kissingerian geo-strategy. Photos. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
This work reconstructs the history of US oil diplomacy in the Middle East in the 1970s, structuring the narrative around the triangular relations between the US, Saudi Arabia, and pre-revolutionary Iran. The author describes how much concern to keep the price of oil low drove American policy makers in their approach to the region, leading first to arms deals with the Shah in exchange for Iranian oil and later to closer relations with the Saudis, who ramped up production in order to break the OPEC monopoly at American bequest, which had the inadvertent effect of undermining the Iranian regime of the Shah. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The news-making story of the backroom deals behind America’s decision to switch allegiance from Iran to Saudi Arabia as the dominant oil supplier in the Middle East—and how this action helped to create the conditions for the Islamic revolution in Iran.
• Pivotal moment in U.S. history: In the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab countries discovered the power of oil. Skyrocketing prices and fuel shortages rocked the U.S. economy, driving up inflation and sinking the stock market. President Nixon was preoccupied with Watergate so Henry Kissinger stepped into the breach, cutting deals with the Shah of Iran: the U.S. got oil; the Shah got advanced weapons. But as Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, struggled with stagflation, the price of oil became critical. The Shah refused to hold down prices. Desperate to win election and listening more to Treasury Secretary William Simon than to Kissinger, President Ford cut a deal with Saudi Arabia: advanced weapons in exchange for price relief on oil. The switch in allegiance left the Shah with a multi-billion-dollar hole in his budget, so he began draconian economic cutbacks, creating a huge unemployment problem in Iran. These actions helped to cause his downfall, and the Islamic revolution ensued, the repercussions of which are still being felt thirty years later.
• Revelatory reportage: No other history of the period or of the oil industry includes the startling revelations in The Oil Kings . Cooper draws on recently declassified documents, new interviews with key figures, and the diary of a top aide of the Shah to show how Nixon, Ford, Kissinger, the CIA, and the State, Defense, and Treasury departments—as well as the Shah and the Saudi royal family—all maneuvered to try to control events in the Middle East. Now, for the first time, the full story of what lay behind these momentous, world-changing decisions can be told.
How the US decision in the mid-'70s to choose Saudi Arabia as the dominant oil power in the Mideast ultimately led to the Islamic revolution in Iran.
About the Author
Andrew Cooper is a citizen of the U.S., U.K., and New Zealand. He has a B.A. from Victoria University in New Zealand, M.S. from Columbia University's Journalism School, M.S. from Aberdeen University in Scotland, and is finishing a Ph.D. at Victoria University in New Zealand.
He has worked for the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Working Assets, and other nonprofit organizations.
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