FURTHER PROOF that the need to secure cheap oil by any means necessary is the key determining factor in driving US imperialism has just come to light.

1973 Middle East US invasion?

Under the 30-year rule, which sees the release of previously confidential state documents, we learn that in 1973 the British government believed that the US was planning a military invasion of the Middle East to secure oil fields.

The background to the threat of war was an oil embargo on the West pursued by the main producers in the Middle East in the wake of the Yom Kippur war Egypt and Syria fought against Israel.

Israel's victory and seizure of Sinai and Gaza from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria spurred the region's oil producing regimes to use economic pressure to get the West to force Israel to make concessions. Petrol shortages and in the West followed and prices spiralled, provoking the greatest economic crises since the Second World War.

Uncertain of how long the embargo would last the US concocted an invasion plan. British Prime Minister Edward Health commissioned a report from intelligence staff, which went into some detail about how the US plan would be executed. One paragraph read:

"The United States might consider it could not tolerate a situation in which the US and its allies were at the mercy of a small group of unreasonable countries. We believe the American preference would be for a rapid operation conducted by themselves to seize oilfields...The force required for the initial operation would be of the order of two brigades, one for Saudi operation, one for Kuwait and possibly a third for Abu Dhabi [today one of the United Arab Emirates]."

As with Vietnam and present day Iraq and Afghanistan the US establishment didn't factor in the prospect of local resistance. The British were more circumspect, fearing an escalation of Cold War proportions. Their report said:

"The greatest risk of such confrontations in the Gulf would probably arise in Kuwait where the Iraqis, with Soviet backing, might be tempted to intervene." In this scenario the US would have called for backing from its NATO allies.

This was taking place at a time that coincided with the tail end of the Vietnam War by which stage the anti war movement in the US went beyond the campuses and embraced veterans and sections of organised labour. Mindful of all that, the fact that the US establishment led by mass murderers Nixon and Kissinger countenanced opening up a series of fronts in the Middle East was a reflection of a pressure felt from the oil crises so deep that they couldn't employ a longer term policy of "diplomatic pressure" or destabilization along the lines of what they did in Chile in the same year.

As it turned out the embargo only lasted a few months and oil prices came down and a deal was struck between Egypt and Israel, which saw the return of Sinai but not Gaza. George Bush senior was a key official in the Nixon administration at the time. Eighteen years later he told us with a straight face that US troops were being sent to the Middle East to liberate Kuwait and protect Saudi sovereignty!



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This article is from the January 2004 edition of Socialist Voice. Back issues are available here.