There has been American and Western interests in the Middle East involving
military, political and economic issues for at least 100 years from The United
States, Great Britain and France. It was 95 years ago when United States Congress
passed a bill called “The Mineral leasing act of 1920.” The bill was designed to
coerce Great Britain to let American companies into the Middle Eastern oil fields
with them when the initial drilling and excavation of the region’s oil reserves
Today’s posited US interests in the Middle East can be broken down into five
areas: ensuring the free flow of oil; preventing nuclear proliferation; fighting
terrorism; maintaining the security of Israel; and promoting democratization.
In 1928, American interest in stabilizing the region came when Standard Oil
Company’s CEO, Walter Teagle, signed the negotiation for American interest in oil
excavation in the Middle East. The deal that was negotiated by a Turkish citizen
named Gulbenkien, who gave 23.75 percent to Great Britain, Denmark, France and
America that desired the oil assets of the Near East Development Company
(American oil interests), and the key negotiator of the deal was to receive five
percent. There were no profits left for the people who actually live on the land and
have lived there for many generations. This sort of agreement with the Indigenous
people should only be possible when a nation has been defeated by war, such as,
when the British and French took control of the Ottoman Empire and at the end of
WW1 the Central Powers had been defeated.
The defeated Ottoman Empire was broken up and separated into many countries by
the newly formed League of Nations; most of the responsibility fell on Great
Britain, being the greatest power in the world at the time. The British had actually
used the war with the Ottoman Empire to invade and seize the oil rich land. They
were so sure of the potential that Great Britain risked by alienating France through
capturing Mosel from French control in order to seize the land for potential oil
fields. This was the beginning of what would be three decades of exploitation of
the oil fields of the Middle East.
ORIGIN AND NATURE
The American interests in the Middle East took a blow in the 60’s and 70’s in Iraq;
when through the progression of steps, Saddam Hussein nationalized the oil
industry of Iraq. The nationalization of the oil industry encompassed all of the
assets that were in Iraq; that is, the entire infrastructure that was for oil exploration
and transportation of oil were lost.
Israel is another central U.S. interest, often linked to a desire to promote peace
between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian-Israel conflict originated after
World War I as a result of the promise of independence to Middle-East after the
war which later turned into Palestine and other territories becoming “mandates”.
The peace process, moreover, is dead for now. Palestinians and Israelis seem more
skeptical than ever—a skepticism shared by U.S. officials. Thus, for the
foreseeable future, high-level diplomacy to bring peace seems unlikely.
The first official involvement of the European Community (EC) in the PalestinianIsraeli
conflict dates back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the resulting global oil
crisis. One month after the war, the EC issued a declaration recognizing the
“legitimate rights” of the Palestinians and calling for an Israeli withdrawal from all
territories occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Simultaneously, the EC
initiated the “Euro-Arab Dialogue” to foster better understanding with the Arab
world. These actions marked a historic change in European attitudes toward Israel,
with unflinching support being much less likely after 1973.
At the 1977 London summit, EC member states declared that a solution to the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict could not be achieved without recognition of the
national identity of the Palestinian people and their right to “a homeland”. Issued
in the wake of the US-sponsored Camp David Accords, the Venice Declaration
proclaimed that “traditional ties and common interests” with the Middle East
obliged EC member states to play “a special role” in the pursuit of a peace
settlement. In a radical diversion from the US position, the EC also called for the
participation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in peace
negotiations and branded Israeli settlements as “illegal” under international law.
While the 1970s therefore witnessed the emergence of a more consolidated
European position on the Palestinian problem, the EC’s influence on the conflict
throughout the following decades remained minimal. Indeed, it was only with the
onset of the 1993 Oslo Peace Process – aimed at preparing the ground for a final
settlement – that Europe started to assume a greater role in regional affairs. Ceding
the high-diplomacy of the peace process to the United States, Europe sought to
back a final settlement through the provision of greater economic aid and by
bankrolling the emerging Palestinian Authority (PA). The launching of the 1995
Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) was supposed to provide Europe with
another tool to influence regional developments.
The government of the United States was at the time run by President Jimmy
Carter; his plan was to begin national oil independence, thus freeing the U.S. from
the grip of Middle Eastern control over the flow of oil. Some laws were passed to
push companies to build more fuel-efficient cars, and some government regulations
were created, like the 55 mph speed limit. The problem was that in the next few
years many of the conservation measures were abandoned with the return of cheap
oil, the Arab countries of Organizations of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC) realized that they could lose their largest customer so they cut the U.S.
some slack, allowing foreign countries to continue to obtain their oil at a reduced
This chain of events that took place in the seventies was all that some politicians
needed to connect the security of our nation to the stability of the Middle East. The
importation of oil suddenly took on national importance when politicians thought
about the potential for disaster with the country’s economy to be so dependent on
the importation of cheap oil from the Middle East. The statement now is that the
nation’s security is not dependent on stability in the Middle East.
The interests of the American oil industry have been protected by government
through the use of force and the loss of American servicemen and women, and this
is reprehensible. The fact is, if the United States as a nation had spent as much
effort and money on finding energy alternatives, they would not be worried about
Iraq, Iran, Syria or ISIS. The American interests in the Middle East are a direct
result of the country’s policies, not the other way around, and these policies are a
direct result of supporting the oil company’s exploitation of the natural resources
of the Middle East.
In recent years, the European Union has sought a larger role in the Middle East
peace process through developing a unique set of instruments and policies. The EU
has at its disposal several distinctive diplomatic instruments that it can draw on in
its search for multilateral solutions and crisis management, most notably: the
EuroMediterranean Partnership (EMP), the EU Special Envoy (EUSR), and the
EU’s participation in the Quartet. To these has recently been added the new
European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The EC has channeled humanitarian aid to
the Palestinian territories since 1971 through the UN Relief Works Agency
(UNRWA). Subsequently, this was complemented by direct assistance to
Palestinian civil society and the financing of large infrastructure projects within the
framework of the Oslo Process. Indeed, EU aid has been instrumental in
establishing public services in the occupied territories and has bankrolled some
prestigious projects, such as the Gaza air and sea ports. Preferential trade access
has been granted to some Palestinian products since 1986. Israel has enjoyed
limited preferential trade access with the EC since 1964, which has been broadened
over the years. An EC-Israel Association Agreement entered into force in 2000.
This agreement includes provision for free trade in industrial products, a gradual
liberalization in agricultural products, political dialogue, free movement of capital,
freedom of establishment, and many more.
Although Europe has been able to develop an increasingly united stance on the
peace process, the real extent of its internal cohesion remains questionable. Indeed
there are several countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK,
which have been prone to veto any European attempt to criticize Israel’s behavior
or sanction its actions.
The Middle East peace process has been a priority of the European Union since
1973 and its solution remains one of Europe’s prime foreign policy goals. While
over the last forty years Europe has been successful in carving out a more
influential role for itself, the limits of its influence are a good representation of the
problems haunting Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
Contrary to popular opinion, the EU has at its disposal a unique set of instruments
that it could potentially use to play a more assertive role in the peace process. It has
important political and economic ties with the two conflicting parties, and in many
ways has followed a more even-handed approach toward the conflict than America
INTRODUCTION to invade and seize the oil rich