How 1973’s Spike in Oil Prices Transformed the Middle East

Feb. 16 2018

The year 1979 saw the fall of the shah, Saddam Hussein’s ascent to power in Iraq, the treaty between Israel and Egypt, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; thus, there is good reason to see it as a great turning point in Middle Eastern history. Simon Henderson, however, argues that the real shift took place in 1973:

The current fixation with 1979 results from the fact that Saudi Arabia’s new de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman . . . sees it as the date when Saudi Islam became extremist. . . . [But] I think 1973 is more significant, not because of the October war when Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria but because of one of its consequences: a fourfold increase in oil prices.

The flood of revenues was used in part by Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter in the world, to burnish its Islamic credentials—as well as to finance multimillion-dollar arms deals and some grand palaces. The Saudi royal family used some of the dollars to placate the kingdom’s religious establishment, which historically has legitimized its rule. Abroad, mosques were built by the dozens, and copies of the Quran distributed by the tens of thousands. But these Islamic endeavors were often not good works, [but a largely successful attempt to export the most radical and intolerant forms of Islam and support the Muslim Brotherhood]. . . .

[Furthermore], the cold war was still raging. Moscow’s influence rivaled Washington’s across great swaths of the Middle East—Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Algeria. Saudi Arabia wanted to replace godless Communism with [radical] Islam. The United States found that useful.

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Read more at The Hill

More about: Cold War, History & Ideas, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Oil, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, Yom Kippur War

A Lesson from Moshe Dayan for Israel’s Syria Policy

Dec. 11 2019

In the 1950s, Jerusalem tasked Moshe Dayan with combating the Palestinian guerrillas—known as fedayeen—who infiltrated Israel’s borders from Sinai, Gaza, and Jordan to attack soldiers or civilians and destroy crops. When simple retaliation, although tactically effective, proved insufficient to deter further attacks, Dayan developed a more sophisticated long-term strategy of using attrition to Israel’s advantage. Gershon Hacohen argues that the Jewish state can learn much from Dayan’s approach in combating the Iranian presence in Syria—especially since the IDF cannot simply launch an all-out offensive to clear Syria of Iranian forces:

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Moshe Dayan, Palestinian terror, Syria