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Conflict in the Middle East – World History – Free PDF Download

The Suez Crisis:

  • On July 26, 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that nationalization of the Suez Canal company, the joint British French enterprise which had owned and operated the Swiss canal since its construction in 1869.
  • Nasser’s announcement came about following months of mounting political tensions between Egypt, Britain, and France.
  • Although Nasser offered full economic compensation for the company, The British and the French governments, long suspicious of Nasser’s opposition to the continuation of their political influence in the region, were outraged by the nationalization.
  • The Egyptian leader, in turn, resented what he saw as European efforts to perpetuate their colonial domination.
  • The Eisenhower administration, worried by the prospect of the outbreak of hostilities between its NATO allies and an emergent, influential Middle Eastern power( and the possible intervention of the Soviet Union in such a conflict), attempted to broker a diplomatic settlement of the British-French-Egyptian dispute.
  • On September 9, US Secretary of State John foster Dulles proposed the creation of a Suez Canal Users’ Association(SCUA), an international consortium of 18 of the world’s leading maritime nations, to operate the canal.
  • Although SCUA would have given Britain, France, and Egypt an equal stake in the canal, this, and various other US and international mediation efforts failed to win the full support of any of the contending powers.
  • In discussions with the United States between August and October, The British government repeatedly hinted that it might resort to force in dealing with Nasser.
  • At the same time, The British and the French held secret military consultations with Israel, who regarded Nasser as a threat to its security, resulting in the creation of a joint plan to invade Egypt and overthrow its president.
  • In keeping with these plans, Israeli forces attacked across Egypt Senai Peninsula on October 29, 1956 advancing to within 10 miles of the Swiss canal.
  • Under the pretext of protecting the canal from 2 belligerents(Egypt and Israel),Britain and France landed troops of their own a few days later.
  • In response, the Eisenhower administration, concerned about the possibility that the Soviets would intervene to assist Nasser, threatened all three nations with economic sanctions if they continued their attack.
  • As a consequence of US’s aggressive stand, The British and the French forces withdrew by December; Israel finally bowed to US pressure on March 1957.

The Oil Crisis of 1970:

  • During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war(Yom Kippur War), Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC) imposed an embargo against the United States in retaliation for the US decision to resupply the Israeli military and to gain leverage in the post war peace negotiations.
  • Arab OPEC members also extended the embargo to other countries that supported Israel, including the Netherlands, Portugal, and South Africa.
  • The embargo both banned petroleum exports to the targeted nations and introduced cuts in oil production.
  • Several years of negotiations between oil producing nations and oil companies had already destabilized a decade old pricing system, which exacerbated the embargo’s effects.
  • While the oil producing nations were demanding that the oil companies may increase prices and dole out a greater share for them, the oil companies were reluctant to price increases as it would affect their parent countries and an increase in the shares of oil producing nations without increasing the price would result in shielding of their profits.
  • In 1973 oil embargo acutely strained the US economy that had grown increasingly dependent on foreign oil.
  • The price of oil per barrel first doubled, and then quadrupled, imposing skyrocketing costs on consumers and structural challenges to the stability of whole national economy.
  • Since the embargo coincided with the devaluation of the dollar, a global recession seemed imminent.
  • US allies in Europe and Japan had stockpiled oil supplies, and thereby secured for themselves a short term cushion, but the long term possibility of high oil prices and recession precipitated a rift within the Atlantic alliance.
  • European nations and Japan found themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing US assistance to secure energy sources, even as they sought to disassociate themselves from US Middle East policy.
  • The United States, which faced the growing dependence on oil consumption and dwindling domestic reserves, found itself more reliant on imported oil than ever before, having to negotiate an end to the embargo under harsh domestic economic circumstances that served to diminish its international leverage.
  • To complicate matters, the embargo’s organizers linked its end to successful US efforts to bring about peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
  • Partly in response to these developments, the Nixon administration announced Project Independence to promote domestic energy independence, which included exploring sources of oil within the country and also exploring the possibilities of renewable sources of energy.
  • It also engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts among its allies, promoting a consumers union that would provide strategic depth to a consumers cartel to control oil pricing.
  • Both of these efforts were only partially successful.
  • The embargo laid bare one of the foremost challenges confronting US policy in the Middle East, that of balancing and contradictory demands of unflinching support for Israel and the preservation of close ties to the Arab oil producing monarchies.
  • The strains on US bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia revealed the difficulty of reconciling those demands.
  • The US response to the events of 1973- 1974 also clarified the need to reconcile US support for Israel to counterbalance Soviet influence in Arab world with both foreign and domestic economic policies.
  • The full impact of the embargo, including high inflation and stagnation in oil importers, resulted from a complex set of factors which went well beyond the approximate actions taken by the Arab members of OPEC.
  • The declining leverage of the US and European oil companies( the “Seven Sisters”) that had hitherto stabilize the global oil market, the erosion of excess capacity of East Texas oil fields, and the recent decision to allow the US dollar to float freely in the international exchange, all played a role in exacerbating the crisis.

Iranian Revolution of 1979:

  • For much of the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, Iran’s autonomy was challenged by Russia and Great Britain.
  • In 1905, a widespread protest was organized against the corrupt practices of the Qajar dynasty, allied regional nobles and against a series of other concessions granted to the Russians and other foreign vested interests.
  • This uprising was initially led by the groups, which included clergy, land owners, intellectuals, and merchants, who came together to lead a revolution which came to be known as Constitutional Revolution of 1905- 1911.
  • Thousands of Iranians engaged themselves in nonviolent actions such as peaceful protests, boycotts and mass sit-ins; this resulted in significant political and social reforms, including the establishment of an elected parliament to share power with the Shah and implementation of anti-corruption measures.
  • A British backed coup in 1925 led to the establishment off an authoritarian dynasty, initially under Reza Shah Pahlavi which turned the Majlis( parliament) into a rubber stamp for his decrease.
  • In 1941, concerned with the Shah’s Pro-Axis power sympathies, British and Soviet troops occupied the country, forcing the Shah to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
  • In the more liberal climate, following the allied victory in the World War two, the democratically elected Majlis reasserted its power, electing the nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1950.
  • Soon thereafter, the Mossadegh government nationalized the Anglo-Iranian oil company, a British monopoly, which led to an international boycott of Iran’s primary export.
  • As the economic situation deteriorated and political unrest grew, a power struggle ensued between the young Shah and the elected Prime Minister, with the Shah fleeing into exile in 1953.
  • A CIA sponsored coup, soon thereafter, ousted Mossadegh and his nationalist supporters and returned the shadow power as an absolute monarch.
  • The oil companies were returned to their foreign owners, the Mejlis was largely stripped of its power, and leftist, nationalist, Islamist and all other opponents of the regime were ruthlessly suppressed.
  • Through mass arms supply by United States, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi built one of the most powerful armed forces ever seen in the Middle East.
  • His American trained secret police, the SAVAK, had been thought to have successfully terrorized the population into submission during the next two decades through widespread killings, torture and mass detentions.
  • By the mid 1970s, most of the leftist, liberal, nationalist, and other secular opposition leadership had been successfully repressed through murder, imprisonment or exile, and most of their organizations banned.
  • It was however, impossible to suppress the Islamist opposition as thoroughly, thus it was out of mosques and among the mullahs who held the organized leadership of the movement against the Shah’s dictatorship.
  • Open resistance began in 1977, when exiled opposition leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for strikes, boycotts, tax refusal another form of non-cooperation with the shah’s regime.
  • That resistance was met with brutal repression by the government.
  • The pace of the resistance accelerated as massacres of civilians were answered by larger demonstrations following the Islamic 40 day mourning period.
  • In October and November of 1978, a series of strikes by civil servants and workers in the government industries crippled the country.
  • The crisis deepened when oil workers struck at the end of October and demanded the release of political prisoners, costing the government $60 million a day.
  • An ensuing general strike on November 6 paralyzed the country.
  • Even as some workers returned to their jobs, disruption of fuel oil supplies and freight transit, combined with shortages of raw materials resulting from a customs strike, largely kept economic life in the country at a standstill.
  • Despite providing rhetorical support for an improvement in the human rights situation in Iran, The Carter administration continued military and economic support for the Shah’s increasingly repressive regime, even providing fuel for the armed forces and other security services facing shortages due to the strikes.
  • Despite thousands of unarmed protesters being killed by the Shah’s forces, the protesters numbers increased, with as many as nine million Iranians taking to the streets in cities across the country in largely non-violent protests.
  • The Shah suffering from cancer at that time fled on January 16, 1979, and Ayatollah Khomeini return from exile 2 weeks later.
  • He appointed Mehdi Bazargan as Prime Minister, this establishing a parallel government to challenge the Shah’s appointed Prime Minister Shapur Bakhtiar.
  • With the loyalty of the vast majority clearly with the new Islamic government, Bakhtiar resigned on February 11th.
  • While the revolution had the support of a broad cross section of society( including Islamists, secularists, nationalists, labourers, and ethnic minorities), Khomeini and other leading Shia’s clerics– strengthened by a pre-existing network of social service and other parallel institutions-  consolidated their hold and established an Islamic theocracy.
  • The regime shifted far to the right by spring of 1981, purging moderate Islamists including the elected president Abolhassan Bani-Sadr– and imposing a totalitarian system.

 

 

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