With of friends, assuring the security and availability of

With the end of
the Second World War and decline of European dominance, a new power struggle
had emerged in which the United States and the Soviet Union were at loggerheads
as to who could assume the role of global hegemon. Accordingly this rivalry shaped
US foreign policy in the Middle East. It became one hell-bent on containing
communism and did so by advocating nationalism, the protection of resources,
the maintenance of regional stability and the promotion of neoliberalism.. Thus
this essay will argue how the US desire to safeguard these policies and
interests both advertently and inadvertently fuelled authoritarianism and prevented
social justice in the Middle East.

           Before the Second World War,
American involvement in the Middle East was extremely minimal in that the
region in that it was much perceived to be the arena of the French and British
in. As James Gelvin points out that “even when the government looked toward
protecting American Oil interest in the Gulf from the ‘rapacity of the British
and French oilmen, during the interwar period, it was with the idea that
others- the French in particularly the British – had primary responsibility for
the area.”1
However with the onset of the Cold War and the fierce ideological war that
ensued America looked towards promoting a policy that aimed to contain Soviet
expansion while “promoting the security of friends, assuring the security and
availability of resources and protecting vital transportation and communication
networks”2
Although America at the beginning of the Cold War did not depend on Middle
Eastern oil for domestic purposes, a desire help European recovery in the wake of
the Second World War and prevent the spread of socialist revolutions necessitated
an interest therein. This in turn can be seen as having had serious
consequences for social justice in the region because it led the US to support a
number of repressive and authoritarian governments. With this in mind let us
analyze the case of Saudi Arabia and its relationship with the American company
‘Aramco’ who to a large extent can be seen as having dictated US foreign policy
and significantly impacted social justice. At the close of the second World War
Saudi Arabia was not only emerging as one of the worlds leading producers of
oil but it became of particular significance in its ability to operate as a
‘swing producer’ a necessary requirement to maintain the scarcity of oil and promote
profit. Coupled with this was a period of de-colonialism in which oil companies
such as Aramco, who had replaced its British counterparts could no longer force
through oil concessions as had once been the case by imperial edict, instead they
would have to bargain with the Saudi government, which in turn led to the
privatization of oil income whose profits directly supported the autocratic governments
of house of Saud. The capital secured from Aramco then allowed the Saudi
government to strike a deal with the Wahhabi religious establishment, who used
this money to better impose ideas of Islam on the population and in return
pledged their support to the State and looked to prohibit protest movements
wherever possible. Despite this support a number of protests arose in 1956,
which demanded social justice through constitution, the right to form political
parties, the closure of US military bases and limitation of Aramco’s role in
Saudi politics. As Timothy Mitchel points out in his essay ‘McJihad ‘Islam and
the U.S Global Order’ Aramco’s role in helping repress these movements was not by
proxy but was an active one too “Aramco’s security department identified the
leaders to the Saudi security forces…hundreds of protestors were arrested
tortured and sentenced to prison terms or deported from the country. In such
events, American oil executives and the forces of Jihad worked hand in hand to
keep the political economy of oil in place”3.
We can also acknowledge that there was a joint effort to suppress the dissent
outside of Saudi borders. For example in the 50’s when the nationalist
governments of both Iraq and Egypt denounced Saudi Arabia for corruption and
embezzlement of ‘Arab oil’ the state responded by utilizing Aramco’s capital to
finance Islamic political movements, which in turn would export moral authority
and social conservatism to these countries. It should also be noted that the US
government was itself directly involved in a number of coup d’états which
actively throughout the region. For example in 1951 when a democratically
elected socialist leader Mohammed Mossadequ became president of Iran and
promised to nationalize its oil, restrict the power of the shah and affirm his
countries neutrality in the cold war, the US with the help of the British financed
a force capable of overthrowing him and reinstating the Shah as the head of
State for which they won a 40% stake in the future of Iranian oil. Similarly roughly
a decade later, Mitchel points out that “former Aramco employees now working
for the CIA helped hatch plots to kill the Presidents of Egypt and Iraq, whose
governments had introduced land reforms, women’s rights, universal education
and other populist programs”4.
 While Nasser successfully thwarted these
plans the same cannot be said of Iraq, when in 1963 the socialist and
progressive Baathist government was overthrown by a US supported military
coup. 

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In 1961 President Nasser of Egypt produced a speech at Port Said on the
anniversary of the Suez war, which looked toward promoting Egyptian nationalism
while also advocating support for his socialist government and the
redistribution of wealth. By the same he denigrated the forces of imperialism
and capitalism “The proof of this is that today we are living in freedom, We
are neither dominated by open imperialism nor by disguised imperialism….”The
capitalists the five thousand capitalists, took thrice as much as the pay of
one million workers as profits, is this the law of God?” 5.
Yet in the post Nasser period of the 70’s and 80’s it would not take long for
the US government to deem this form of ‘economic nationalism’ as a direct
threat to its foreign policy.  In turn
they collaborated with the IMF and a number of international financial
institutions it had sway over to advocate that economic growth and political
stability would only be realized if MENA countries developed their economies. However
In Egypt for example it soon becomes evident that developmentalist discourse and
the solutions espoused by these institutions have in fact not only failed to
address the real problems of social inequality but have also exacerbated them.
As pointed out by Timothy Mitchel in his essay ‘Americas Egypt’ Institutions
such as USAID have presented Egypt’s economy being stagnant which by extension encouraged
and warranted the intervention for US aid and subsidies “USAID… used this image
of “traditional” agricultural system to justify technological solutions to the
problems of rural Egypt”6
This solution was meant to transfer both technology and expertise to Egypt and
thus be beneficial but instead Mitchel highlights how this only promoted
inequality by providing greater profits to machine owners and foreign
manufacturers. Moreover it also becomes apparent that inequality was also
directly affected by U.S government “USAID
operates as a form of state support to the American private sector, while
working in Egypt to dismantle state supports,” giving America influence from within the
Egyptian state while promoting solutions, such as decentralization, which increased
inequality, and structural adjustment, which subjected Egyptian commodities to
monopoly and oligopoly power. Mitchell’s argument undermines the benevolence of U.S.
aid and funding by proving that it has a more selfish basis and exacerbated
problems while meaning to solve them. We are forced to reflect on the true
nature of the U.S.’s
help in other countries.

1 P.303

2 p.305

3 P. Micthel p.10

4 P.Micthel 11

5 Gelvin p.359

6 Mitchell 25