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Unformatted text preview: $rom $ree Oil to $reedom Oil: Terrorism, War and US Geopolitics in the Persian Gulf PHILIPPE LE BILLON and R OUAD EL KHATIB Persian oil ... is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, its ours. President Roosevelt to British Ambassador (1944) 1 Storming the Arabian Peninsula ... plundering its riches ... here come the crusader armies ... to annihilate what is left of the Iraqi people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors ... despite the huge number of those [already] killed ... as thought they come not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious [Gulf] war ... Ratwa by Bin Laden (1998) 2 The war in Iraq has nothing to do with oil, not for us, not for the U.K., not for the United States ... we dont touch it, and the U.S. dont touch it. We cannot say fairer than that. Prime Minister Tony Blair to MTV audience (2003) 3 Introduction The vast oil wealth of the Persian Gulf is a key dimension of geopolitics in the Middle East and an emblematic prize of so-called resource wars. 4 After black gold was discovered in Persia in 1908, this resource drastically exacerbated the stakes in the struggle over the spoils of the Ottoman empire and the Western security imperative to prevent the (re)emergence of a powerful regional rival. Rollowing their victory over the German-Ottoman Axis in the Rirst World War, Rrance and Britain extended their colonial control, drawing borders and occasionally selecting rulers, before the Second World War enabled the United States to assert a predominant role in the region, notably through the oil for security swap defining its special relationship with the Saudi ruling family. 5 Western diplomatic and military support of friendly local regimes in the Persian Gulf was closely linked to the protection of western oil interests. Domestic threats to western oil interests were faced by military interference and destabilization efforts by British intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), notably in Iran to topple Mossadeghs government in 1953 and reinstate the Shah or in Iraq to avoid the communists from taking power after the 1958 coup détat or to retaliate against Baghdads nationalization of the oil industry in 1972. 6 Beyond domestic threats, the fear of losing Middle East oil to the Soviet bloc, through a local left-leaning regime or an outright invasion, sustained a pro-active western policy maintained successively through British military forces, a surrogate strategy based on Saudi and Iranian alliance, and since the 1980s, a permanent and increasingly pro-active military presence of the United States (see Rigure 1). The end of the Cold War did not significantly shift this strategic stance, as government or opposition movements deemed hostile to western security interests such as Iran, Iraq, or Al Qaeda continued to be perceived, or portrayed, as a threat justifying the continuation of such military doctrine. Yet beyond the threat to western and regional security that these may represent, what remains at...
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- Spring '08
- The Land