The Impact of U.S. Policy in the Middle East

VOL. 17


No. 2
P. 15
The Impact of U.S. Policy in the Middle East

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a superpower is that its perspective, policy, and impact are global rather than merely regional. But there are four basic interests that make the Middle East an area of special importance and special responsibility for American policymakers. First and foremost is the need to contain Soviet influence, check Soviet expansion, and limit the number of Soviet clients in the area. Second, and of growing significance since 1973, has been the need to preserve Western access to the oil of the Gulf, an area containing two-thirds of the world's known petroleum reserves. A third American interest is to limit Arab radicalism and sustain the moderate and pro-Western regimes in the Middle East and the Gulf. Last, but not least, is the long-standing and deeply felt commitment to Israel's security and well-being.

Avi Shlaim is Alastair Buchan Reader in Race Relations, St. Antony's College, Oxford.This paper was prepared for the conference on "The Superpowers, Central America, and the Middle East," University of Essex, 23-25 May 1986. The author would like to thank the Economic and Social Research Council and the Ford Foundation for research support.