THE IMPORTANCE OF OIL IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND THE RELATIONS WITH THE MAJOR SUPERPOWERS
Natural resources are another element that has led to major conflicts in the Middle East, oil as the main one. Oil in the Middle East has always largely been requested, major reserves have been found on the border of Kuwait and in other different areas of the region.
When the British invaded Iraq in 2003 they had the realisation of the presence of oil and when they marched to the North, towards Kirkuk, they would increasingly be interested in the region due to the findings of oil resources. The story of oil in the Middle East is another example of how what we study regarding this particular region actually affects the whole world. Oil in the Middle East, as previously mentioned, is of large concentrations; but when did the drive for oil actually begin?
The drive for oil in the Middle East did not actually begin in the region rather it began in the United States, more specifically in Western Pennsylvania. Before the discovery of oil, people would read and create light at night from whale oil, which was basically made from the fat of a whale and was processed and refined into a liquid that would then be put into lamps. This was also very expensive and the problem of using this technique was that whales are obviously not a renewable energy source and this search for oil would have eventually lead them to the brink of extinction. People in those ages therefore had to find a more alternative and renewable source of energy that did not depend on the whale.
In the olden days, oil was used to line boats to keep them from sinking, and a scientist theory which would have soon after be developed was to use that same liquid to fuel lamps. The main discovery was that this black liquid could be used as an energy source known as petroleum, and this discovery actually worked. The first sources of petroleum were found in Pennsylvania and in Azerbaijan, on the coast of Russia. Therefore the first oil wells were dug in both of those areas. Ramifications of this oil discovery was that kerosene would light up the entire world including homes, factories and much more, but it would soon be found that they could also put this liquid into lamps on the streets and roads of major cities. Shortly after, as this progressive development was continue through time, a huge demand for kerosene would rise, leading to an Australian entrepreneur figuring out that there could have potentially been petroleum bases in areas such as in the South of Iran.
This Australian entrepreneur would soon ask the Shah of Iran to give him the right to prospect oil in his region, and the Shah granted it and gave him permission to do so. Nevertheless the Australian businessmen had to get investors for this major oil project, and he would turn to either French injections in his company or British injections in his company, as those two were considered the main sponsors at the time. Around this time, there is another theory that if kerosene can be used to light up lamps, it can also be used as an energy source for ships.
Winston Churchill in 1911 had to make a decision, he had to decided wether to convert his own ships from coal to kerosene power, so his ships could go faster than its competition, which was Germany, or not, and this was a calculated risk. If they converted their navy to run on petroleum they would have had a massive advantage on German ships, although they would have also been dependent on the venture in South Iran. Regardless of this risk, the British made the decision and decided to invest in the Australian businessman, creating the new Anglo- Iranian Oil Company (what is known as BP today), and would from then on be constantly invested and bound to this special relationship with Iran based on oil trade.
Iran would now be the source of fuel for the entire British navy, and this crucial decision was actually made on eve of World War One. The British would soon advance into the Ottoman Empire up to Baghdad, and while doing so would keep realising that there was more and more oil even in the North of Iraq. These would be excellent findings for the Anglo- Iranian Oil Company as it would now have multiple accesses for oil on all sides, therefore being apply to positively supply its navy. The biggest oil field in the world today is in Saudi Arabia, even though no one knew that at the time.
As we previously mentioned, within the United States various areas for oil were discovered, but the companies that were established to exploit those oil fields wanted to expand internationally and looked towards the Middle Eastern region during the inter- war period. The President of the United States at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, after going to meet Stalin and Churchill at Yalta, sailed through the Red Sea and had an important meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia in order to establish the America- Saudi Alliance. This was an alliance to protect American interests in that particular oil field.
By this time, the major oil companies (such as what we know today as BP), had invested in the north of Iran and the south of Iran, so they would now want to move to Saudi oil fields as well, but the Americans wanted to beat them there first. The Americans and Saudi’s would set up a company called the Arabian- American Oil Company, the company known today as ARAMCO. Rockefeller at the time was the biggest oil owner in the United States so the American government had to invent a new legislation to divide it up between different components.
Rockefeller’s company was broken up in three branches: the Standard Oil of California, the Standard Oil Company of New York, and the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, with an additional company called Texaco, which would soon after become a part of the Aramco absorption.
From this brief article we can understand the importance of of oil in the Middle Eastern region and the crucial relationship it needs to have with basically all the other countries of the world. If we have ever asked ourselves why European countries, American states and all the other key players of the world today have a fixed interest in the events that are occurring in all parts of the Middle Eastern region, we should consider the importance of oil and the richness of this resource found in the region; a key focus point for any leading power in need of this special resource known as oil.