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The Oil Kings

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The Oil Kings

How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East

Simon & Schuster,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Delve into the intriguing, convoluted mechanics of oil geopolitics

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


If you think the US’s alternative energy policy is forging ahead, think again. It has been stalled for decades, largely because of US reliance on oil from Iran and Saudi Arabia. Andrew Scott Cooper, a historian and NGO activist, offers a dense presentation about the geopolitics of oil from 1969 to 1977. He focuses on the politicians and diplomats of the time, covering their relationships and limitations. Cooper discusses the flawed decision making that shaped American foreign policy and the US’s dependence on foreign oil. He tells a powerful story, much of it revealed for the first time, since he culled research from newly declassified documents. While the book occasionally gets bogged down in minutiae that distract from the more interesting main narrative, getAbstract recommends it to anyone intrigued by the convoluted mechanics of oil geopolitics.


A Pivotal Time

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a pivotal time in strategic world relationships, particularly in the Middle East. At the time, Persian Gulf oil fields produced one-third of the developed world’s oil. Almost all of Japan’s petroleum imports came through the Gulf, as did 55% of the oil “NATO Europe” used. These trade connections made the region’s security crucial, particularly Iran’s, since much of the world’s oil moved by ship through its Strait of Hormuz, a narrow, potentially vulnerable marine passageway. Yet Great Britain recalled its military from the Persian Gulf, and the US, preoccupied with the Vietnam War, had only “a seaplane tender and two destroyers” in the region. Seeing the need to safeguard the flow of oil through the volatile Gulf region, President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, fostered the idea that the US should develop and arm regional surrogate nations to protect American national interests. This policy became known as the “Nixon Doctrine.”

In the Persian Gulf, the US turned to its old ally, the Shah of Iran. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, a staunch anticommunist, became his country’s leader after...

About the Author

Andrew Scott Cooper is a PhD candidate in American history. He has worked with the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.

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    A. 6 years ago
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    D. C. getAbstract 1 decade ago
    A clear, concise history on Iran-US relations: Weren't these two nations once friends? They sure were. For anyone who is too young to remember the '70s or anyone who was too caught up in disco at the time and needs a recap, this is a wonderful explanation of today's tensions.

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