on September 24, 2012
Author Andrew Scott Cooper's first book "Oil Kings" is surprising well written and entertaining. The book is primary about the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and his dealings with President Richard Nixon and the duplicitous Henry Kissinger. The book centers around a secret deal between the Shah, Nixon, and Kissinger which allowed Iran to purchase best of class U.S. weapons systems, advance jet fighters, smart bombs, etc. in any quantity desired. Basically anything weapons short of nukes were available for purchase by the Shah. In return, the President would allow the Shah to raise oil prices through OPEC to cover the costs of the weapons. The U.S. was reeling from its involvement in Vietnam. The mood of the country was against any military action abroad. The country was being torn apart by protest and incidents such as the Kent State shootings still fresh in the minds of Americans. The Shah was ambitious and saw himself as the heir to the great Persian Kings of the ancient world. The Shah would use his newly acquired weaponry to protect the Persian Gulf and Israel from Soviet influence.
The first series of oil price increases implemented by OPEC shocked the economies of the west. The Shah waved aside any suggestion that the price increases were endangering the oil consuming nations especially the Europeans. The Shah was blinded by his grand vision of a modern westernized Iran. No one realized the Shah was racing against time after being diagnosed with cancer.
Watergate was a disaster for the U.S. - Iran relations. With the resignation of Nixon, the Shah lost his most powerful supporter in Washington. Kissinger was still Secretary of State but more and more Kissinger was finding himself on the losing side of the debate on U.S. - Iranian policy discussions in Washington. Slowly members of the Ford Administration were realizing that additional price increases would crush Europe and possibly lead to communist takeovers of the European countries. Secretary of the Treasury Simon and others were pushing for a closer relationship with the Saudis. The Saudis were opposed to rapid increases in the price of oil. As the Shah would soon learn concerning oil revenues, too much too fast was not desirable. Inflationary surges and lack of resources would lead to domestic unrest.
Secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger, was one of the first cabinet members to raise concerns about the ambitions of the Shah. As the Shah became more independent of Washington and more friendly with Sadat of Egypt, Israeli interests were being threatened. Israel was being pushed to give back territory captured from Egypt in the war so it was necessary to secure their supply of oil from Iran. Egypt was also a soviet satellite, so the friendship between Iran and Egypt was causing policy makers in Washington to realize that no one had throughly thought thru the consequences of Nixon's policy towards Iran.
Some Arab OPEC members were trying to link the Israel - Palestine question to the oil embargo. The Shah had pledged to protect the flow of oil and to kept Israel supplied with oil. There was even a joint U.S. and Iranian plan to invade Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to protect the flow of oil. As this plan was leaked to the press Saudi Arabia was outraged and had to move to protect their interest.
Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney would enter the Ford Administration and work to neutralize Kissinger's influence and together with Secretary of Treasury Simon and Alan Greenspan finally convince President Ford to initiate closer relations with the Saudis in an successful attempt to call the Shah's bluff on oil prices. Saudi is the swing producer in OPEC, meaning that the Saudi oil production can be used to meet demand. The Saudis refused to back the Shah's push for another price increase at the OPEC meeting, which meant that the Shah was financially ruined as he committed Iran to a massive spending program that was no longer affordable for Iran.
The Shah had heated up the Iranian economy to a point beyond its capacity to absorb the cash coming in. There were cargo ships that were waiting to be unloaded for over 200 days, resulting in capital equipment rusting on the docks. Saudi Arabia was eager to avoid this in their country; in fact, petro-dollar recycling became a major issue for the international banking system. For example, if a bank did accept large petro-dollars deposits they could be susceptible to collapse if the funds were suddenly withdrawn.
The book continues into the Carter Administration and moves quickly up to the revolution; although, the book doesn't cover the revolution itself other than the lead up and it is quickly glazed over to the end.
I've summarized the story above but I didn't do the story justice as Mr. Cooper does. I've had many insights while reading this book that explained other books I'ver read on related topics. In "A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order" by F. William Engdahl, the 1973 Bilderberg meeting minutes were published that discussed increasing the price of oil. Kissinger attended this meeting so it makes sense that Kissinger was working against the best interest of the U.S. in secrectly supporting the increase in the price of oil. The oil price was increased to make the investments by the major oil companies in the north sea profitable and to cause economic problems for the Europeans to help cover the financial problems the U.S. was having after closing the gold window.
Another insight that left me wondering was how the U.S. seemed to have toppled the Shah after they lost control over him. Although Mr. Cooper never suggested that the U.S. was involved in the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, he does layout a sense of dissatisfaction with the Shah. I also got a feeling that certain insiders seem to be looking after Israel's interest once the Shah started asking for Nuclear reactors. The book will definitely provide an interesting view into the machinery of foreign policy in action. It feels like you are getting an insiders look.
Get the book you won't be disappointed
For example I suggest reading the following books along with this book.
A Century of War: : Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order
Oil, God, and Gold: The Story of Aramco and the Saudi Kings
The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony: Petrodollar Recycling and International Markets (Cornell Studies in Political Economy)
Myths, Lies and Oil Wars
on September 20, 2011
In this well-written, well-researched book about the Shah of Iran's attempts to make himself the new Cyrus, mixed with Richard Nixon's post-Vietnam search for agents of empire by extension and mixed with the Shah and King Faisal squaring off for oil hegemony, the "captain of the USS Titanic," steering the American economy for the iceberg of doing anything to help Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ... was Henry Kissinger.
This included him and Nixon writing a blank check to the Shah for unlimited arms deals, a blank check that Kissinger refused to tell either Ford or Carter about. (Kissinger refused interview requests for this book.)
Others were at fault, too. Nixon himself for writing that blank check, even if on Kissinger's advice. William Simon, for leaning too far the Saudis' way. Don Rumsfeld, whose arrogance 25 years ago under Ford was no less than under Bush.
But at the heart of it all was Henry Kissinger, enabling the Shah's every wrong-sized dream, while being ignorant of the inflation the Shah was inflicting on himself, and the wreckage he was inflicting on the United States, Western Europe and Japan, even while Henry claimed he knew more economics than most of Nixon's economics team.
The Shah might still be in power, or his son, rather, if we had reined him in. (Kissinger also missed the mullahs as the possible source of a revolution, seeing only Commies.) Energy shortages were happening before the first embargo of 1973, but might have been better managed to the benefit of the Shah, Faisal and other Arab oil states and the West, all alike. And, the Israel situation might have been better handled, too.
The book ends soon after Carter's accession, with Faisal dead and the Shah on his way. A sequel would be wonderful.
I learned a fair amount about pre-embargo 1972 energy shortages, which only increased realizing Kissinger was not only a megalomaniac and immoral (see Chile/Allende), but also grossly incompetent.
Faisal comes off well, overall. The Shah? A figure of tragedy, but a self-isolated one, as dictators tend to be.
on May 22, 2012
What can I say? An absolutely riveting book that is hard to put down!!! The author does an amazing job of meticulously walking the reader step by step through history and highlighting how the power in the Middle East oil producing countries shifted from Iran to Saudi Arabia. The book is extremely well researched and the author's efforts and time are very obvious!
The book uses two primary focal points throughout the entire book to explain the events and they are the Shah of Iran and the American Government and uses Saudi Arabia as somewhat of a secondary focal point. As someone from the region I found the book greatly informative, despite the slightly westernized perspective on some issues such as King Faisal's stance on the oil embargo and his fears of other Arab leaders, these points are somewhat contestable. The Author states that it was Gadafi, Sadam, and others who forced King Faisal into the embargo, however i find this contradictory to the reseach of local writiers in the region where is more commonly accepted that King Faisal was at the forefront of the embargo. This aside, still a great book!
One point I have to raise that the author misstated, is the point that the Shah did in fact claim that Bahrain (an Arab state) was once part of Iran, and this did happen. However, there was a UN resolution that Bahrain is an Arab state and rejected Iran's claims. Iran's claims on Bahrain have been and are based on a document signed by a representative of the British crown centuries ago who was relieved from his post for signing that document without having the authority to do so on behalf of the corwn. This matter is clearly documented in another book entitled `The Pirate Coast' by Sir Charles Belgrave.
Other than that, the book is a truly fascinating and capturing read and is a must for anyone wishing to get a firm grip on the events of that period and some understanding of the effect of oil on economies and politics.
on September 19, 2011
This concise, comprehensive, objective, documented (100 pages of notes) petropolitical economic and diplomatic military history answers that question; and it probaly isn't what you think. The story of the "largest transfer of wealth in history" has been 'slicked' over by the participants, most recently by Dick Cheney and most blantantly by Henry Kissinger. And let's not forget Mr. Nixon and the Rockerfellers (Nelson and Dave). Where did all those billions go? Military hardware and logistics got its fair share. And whose banks did the money flow through? Go back to the last name for one. These gentlemen made secret backdoor diplomacy an art form: The Shah being the protagonist (was he the first to urge us to 'go green'?). And then there's the Mexican banks, the CIA, SAVAK, CREEP, OPEC, CENCOM, IBEX and Watergate(!). This book, due in part to recently declassified documents, fills an important gap in American historical non-fiction. I'll emphasise that last word, because you couldn't make this stuff up; unfortunately for us watching those digits fly on the gas pumps.
on March 6, 2016
First rate - Cooper has done a great job assembling this story (one most of the senior U.S. officials involved seem to have conveniently forgotten in their biographies) of how the United States gave the Shah carte blanch to buy any-and-all U.S. weapons (save nukes) to act as a U.S. surrogate in the Persian Gulf area: With things going rapidly down hill in Vietnam around 1970 and the Brits having announced they were pulling out "East of Suez" in 1971, the U.S. found itself with a Navy consisting of two destroyers and a sea plane tender to take care of business in the Persian Gulf and the whole Indian Ocean. Seeing, even after the fiasco in Vietnam, commies lurking behind every rock in the Mid East but with Americans less-than-eager to ramp up our military, Nixon adopted the Twin Pillars strategy - sell lots of armaments to the Saudis and Iran and they would become our friends. The Shah's appetite for ever more money (by attempting to raise the price of crude) and ever more military spending resulted in rampant inflation in Iran, a wealthy elite feeding off the billions being thrown around, and a growingly restive lower class who arguably ended up worse off under the Shah's massive development schemes, the seeds of a revolution. Kissinger is roundly pounded in this book (for good reason), but Cooper leaves out on-background another of Henry's geopolitical screw-ups: Nasser died in 1970; Sadat - like his predecessor - wanted the Sinai back, lost by Egypt in the '67 War. Sadat - unlike his predecessor - was willing to negotiate with the Israelis. Not only were the Israelis feeling invulnerable after their smashing victory in the '67 War (one general said he could hold the Bar-Lev Line on the Suez with 500 men), but Kissinger encouraged Golda Meir not to give an inch, perhaps fostering her quote "We have never had it so good." Endlessly rebuffed by the Israelis, Sadat began to make military threats to take back the Sinai, laughed off as a joke by the Israelis. When the hammer fell in the '73 War, the U.S. instigated the largest military airlift yet seen to aid the Israelis, the proximate cause of the Arab oil embargo against America (and the Dutch). Had Kissinger pushed Meir toward compromise with Sadat, perhaps no '73 War, oil embargo and its attendant price spike that caused the Shah's coffers to explode, money he continually overspent buying even more military toys. Absent this tidal wave of money, the Shah wouldn't have been able to totally screw up Iran's economy; perhaps no '79 Revolution? Quien sabe. After the '73 War, Kissinger met with Sadat and gave him a high five: The Egyptians did know how to fight after all, and they had a lot of cool weapons, most notably Soviet anti-aircraft systems that tore up a good chunk of the IAF. Kissinger welcomed Sadat to the club - we will now sell you a lot of weapons. The Saudis now have the third largest military budget on the planet, are excellent customers of the U.S. military-industrial complex, and ISIS, Al Nusra or whomever all seem well-equipped with heavy weapons. How this insanity all got started with the Shah makes most interesting reading. A real page turner, and congrats to Cooper on his first book; hope there will be many more.
on November 13, 2015
Historical details of the handshake deals Nixon made with the Shah of Iran that are, in part, responsible for the terrible situation we now have in the Middle East. Henry Kissinger a leading character and secret deals abound. Interesting background information, a good read!
on October 11, 2015
This book is definitely worth the read. As someone who heard the rumbling and grumblings of the 1970s energy crisis from his parents and popular media, I knew strangely little about it and its origins. Cooper writes an engaging book documenting a decade-plus of U.S.-Iranian diplomacy and how personalities can cause massive rifts through backdoor diplomacy, secret dealings, economic strangle holding, etc. Through all of these, an American political ally fades (Iran) as a new ally emerges (Saudi Arabia).
Cooper mentions other OPEC nations, but notes that Iran and Saudi Arabia are the big players in the cartel, so minimal information regarding their involvement in OPEC policy decisions. This shouldn't be a surprise if one takes into consideration the title and subtitle of the book.
My only pause was the nature in which some people, particularly Kissinger, were portrayed. I don't know enough about Kissinger to know if his portrayal was accurate (the author notes that Kissinger failed to respond to a request for an interview and also attempted to block the publication of official telephone transcripts), so I will withhold a judgement bias on the author's part for this. Not a fault of Cooper if he is accurate, but that will be on me to find out with further reading.
on October 24, 2015
It is interesting to see just how incapable our elected officials really are. Hving lived through this time period it is interesting to see how things really worked. With such lousy leaders it is amazing that the US still exists for the time being.
on March 1, 2015
.This book amazed me. I learned so much more about how crooked and untrustworthy elected officials are. I actually fact checked several things in this book. The author did his homework and wrote a wonderful book. I will buy more from him.
on May 21, 2016
A must read to understand the current world events, players, and how oil is a major influence in it. I found it very informative even though I thought I was well read and knowledgeable. Like it or not oil is a controlling factor in the world economy as we see currently. It was interesting to understand how the US change from Iran to Saudi Arabia in the world of oil.
Well written and researched.
Lest we forget, Semper Fi!!