Panel 2b The Persian Gulf and the Cold War

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Chair: Dr Roham Alvandi, Lecturer in International History, LSE

Paper 1: The Twin Pillars and Unintended Consequences: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Post-war Petroleum Order
Christopher R. W. Dietrich, PhD candidate, The University of Texas at Austin

“For God’s sake act like Britain!” the U.S. Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, roared at the British Foreign Secretary, George Brown, upon hearing the plan to remove British forces from their positions in the Trucial States and Bahrain.  Beneath Rusk’s frustration lay concern over the future of the region, for which the United States had long relied on British power to defend Western interests. Both administrations ultimately decided on the “twin pillars” policy, by which the United States would build up Iran and Saudi Arabia as regional policemen.  However, as officials worked assiduously to improve Saudi-Iranian relations, the monarchies used their newly-important strategic positions to change their basic relationship with the multinational oil companies.  In an understudied event of great import, the Nixon administration overtly supported the sovereign producers in their long-term dispute with the multinationals. >> download the paper

Paper 2: The Cold War and US Relations with the Gulf, 1977-1981
Victor McFarland, PhD candidate, Yale University

The international politics of the Gulf were transformed during the late 1970s. The fall of the Shah removed the leading U.S. military ally in the region, while the U.S.S.R.’s invasion of Afghanistan threatened to expand Soviet influence in the Middle East. These developments were especially troubling to U.S. officials because they came after the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, demonstrating the importance of Gulf oil to the global economy. This paper will examine how the Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia in particular, pursued their own foreign policy aims during the late 1970s. Saudi Arabia used its financial resources and international influence to support anti-communist forces in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and elsewhere. This policy was driven by Cold War concerns, and in turn, significantly affected the course of the Cold War during its last decade.

Paper 3: Exiles in the Iran-Iraq War
Naysan Rafati,
PhD candidate, University of Oxford

The inception of the Iran-Iraq conflict came at a time when Iran was still deeply mired in dealing with the effects of its revolution. This paper proposes to examine the creation of new groups of political exiles, and the dynamics that resulted from the links developed between some of these exiles and the neighbouring Baathist regime in the period leading up to, and during, the war. Drawing on a range of sources in English, Persian, and Arabic, the paper consider the triangular relationship between the host state, the home state, and the exiles until 1988.

Paper 4: The Gulf States and South-South Cooperation, 1961-1990: Contradictions and Commonalities
Dr Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen, Deputy Director of the Kuwait Programme, LSE

This paper will examine the diverging position of the Gulf States in South-South relations in the period following full independence. Enmeshment in Western political and security spheres of influence and their conservative post-traditional systems of government limited initial integration into emerging South-South frameworks and insulated Gulf polities from many of the socio-political forces sweeping the post-colonial world in the 1960s. Nevertheless, this period witnessed the beginnings of trans-national interconnections binding the Gulf States to other developing nations, initially through the provision of overseas development assistance and the patronage of international Islamic organisations. The paper concludes with a case-study of how Kuwait sought to balance a foreign policy based on neutrality with an activist development programme in the Arab and Islamic worlds. It will demonstrate how these apparently diverging policies were underpinned by a desire for internal and external security. Yet paradoxically, it was their breakdown in the 1980s that led to the internationalisation of Gulf Security and, ultimately, to the restoration of Kuwaiti sovereignty in 1991. >> download the paper

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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