The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East
Andrew Scott Cooper
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“Relying on a rich cache of previously classified notes, transcripts, cables, policy briefs, and memoranda, Andrew Cooper explains how oil drove, even corrupted, American foreign policy during a time when Cold War imperatives still applied,”* and tells why in the 1970s the U.S. switched its Middle East allegiance from the Shah of Iran to the Saudi royal family.
While America struggles with a recess ion, oil prices soar, revolution rocks the Middle East, European nations risk defaulting on their loans, and the world teeters on the brink of a possible global financial crisis. This is not a description of the present, however, but the 1970s. In The Oil Kings, Andrew Cooper tells the story of how oil came to dominate U.S. domestic and foreign policy.
Drawing on newly declassified documents and interviews with some of the key figures of the time, Cooper follows the political posturing and backroom maneuvering that led the U.S. to switch to OPEC as its main supplier of oil from the Shah of Iran, a loyal ally and leading customer for American weapons. The subsequent loss of U.S. income destabilized the Iranian economy, while the U.S. embarked on a long relationship with the autocratic Saudi kingdom that continues to this day.
Brilliantly reported and filled with astonishing revelations—including how close the U.S. came to sending troops into the Persian Gulf to break the Arab oil embargo and how U.S. officials offered to sell nuclear power and nuclear fuel to the Shah—The Oil Kings is the history of an era that we thought we knew, an era whose momentous reverberations still influence events at home and abroad today.
Reporter Helen Thomas predicted that Bill Simon was “expected to leave the Cabinet soon.” Columnist Joseph Kraft, who was close to Kissinger and a staunch admirer of the Shah, dismissed Simon as someone with the temperament and skills “of a Wall Street bond trader. . . . He has been the prisoner of a theology which sees market forces as totally benign and government as evil. In the interests of driving inflation from the market, he has repeatedly fought against government programs designed to
Iranian historian Ervand Abrahamian. The new Pahlavi calendar “allocated 2,500 years for the presumed length of the Iranian monarchy and another 35 years for Mohammad Reza Shah. Thus Iran jumped overnight from the Muslim year 1355 to the imperial year 2535.” Mass confusion ensued. The Shah also announced intrusive new measures designed to increase state control over Shi’a religious institutions, publications, and teachings. I DO NOT BELIEVE EUROPE LOOKS GOOD RIGHT NOW The final and most
Telegram 668, from the Embassy in Tehran to the Department of State, February 24, 1970, 140Z, (FRUS) 1969–76, Vol. E-4. 48 thirty thousand soccer fans: Ibid. 48 the Shah’s 1963 White Revolution: For fuller discussion of the White Revolution, its origins, the reforms, and their impact on Iranian society and the Pahlavi dynasty, the following books are helpful: Afkhami, Chapter 10, 208–37; Ali M. Ansari, Modern Iran Since 1921: The Pahlavis and After (London: Longman, 2003), Chapter 6,
Ibid. 137 a flyover of 150 Phantom jets: Alam, 343. 138 two secret auctions: William D. Smith, “Price Quadruples for Iran Crude Oil,” New York Times, December 12, 1973. 138 less than 4 percent of Iran’s: Bernard Weinraub, “Iran Keeps Oil Flowing Despite Reported Pressure from Arabs,” New York Times, December 18, 1973. 138 43 percent of the petroleum consumed: Bernard Weinraub, “Shah of Iran Urges Arabs to End Their Oil Embargo,” New York Times, December 22, 1973. 138 pulling their
he had phoned Kissinger and told him that once the fighting had ended, “what ought to happen is that even though the Israelis will squeal like stuck pigs—we ought to tell [Soviet Ambassador Anatoly] Dobrynin—we ought to say that the Russians—that Brezhnev and Nixon will settle this damn thing. That ought to be done. You know that.” Nixon told Ambassador Sowayel that his efforts to reach a settlement “are being hampered and will be seriously jeopardized if the embargo is the issue. . . . It makes