Struggling with a recession... European nations at risk of defaulting on their loans... A possible global financial crisis. It happened before, in the 1970s.
The Oil Kings is the story of how oil came to dominate U.S. domestic and international affairs. As Richard Nixon fought off Watergate inquiries in 1973, the U.S. economy reacted to an oil shortage initiated by Arab nations in retaliation for American support of Israel in the Arab-Israeli war. The price of oil skyrocketed, causing serious inflation.
One man the U.S. could rely on in the Middle East was the Shah of Iran, a loyal ally whose grand ambitions had made him a leading customer for American weapons. Iran sold the U.S. oil; the U.S. sold Iran missiles and fighter jets. But the Shah's economy depended almost entirely on oil, and the U.S. economy could not tolerate annual double-digit increases in the price of this essential commodity. European economies were hit even harder by the soaring oil prices, and several NATO allies were at risk of default on their debt.
In 1976, with the U.S. economy in peril, President Gerald Ford, locked in a tight election race, decided he had to find a country that would sell oil to the U.S. more cheaply and break the OPEC monopoly, which the Shah refused to do. On the advice of Treasury Secretary William Simon and against the advice of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Ford made a deal to sell advanced weaponry to the Saudis in exchange for a modest price hike on oil.
Ford lost the election, but the deal had lasting consequences. The Shah's economy was destabilized, and disaffected elements in Iran mobilized to overthrow him. The U.S. had embarked on a long relationship with the autocratic Saudi kingdom that continues to this day.
Andrew Scott Cooper draws on newly declassified documents and interviews with some key figures of the time to show how Nixon, Ford, Kissinger, the CIA, and the State and Treasury departments - as well as the Shah and the Saudi royal family maneuvered to control events in the Middle East. He details the secret U.S.-Saudi plan to circumvent OPEC that destabilized the Shah. He reveals how close the U.S. came to sending troops into the Persian Gulf to break the Arab oil embargo. The Oil Kings provides solid evidence that U.S. officials ignored warning signs of a potential hostage crisis in Iran. It discloses that U.S. officials offered to sell nuclear power and nuclear fuel to the Shah. And it shows how the Ford Administration barely averted a European debt crisis that could have triggered a financial catastrophe in the U.S. Brilliantly reported and filled with astonishing details about some of the key figures of the time, The Oil Kings is the history of an era that we thought we knew, an era whose momentous reverberations still influence events at home and abroad today.
©2011 Andrew Scott Cooper (P)2011 Random House
The Oil Kings is definitely a worthwhile read. I would recommend it to anybody interested to know what happened in the 1970s oil shock. The author has a deep understanding of the internal politics that drove the US-Iran relationship during that era and for that this book is absolutely wonderful. The one gripe I have with the book is that it oversimplifies the price setting mechanism for oil. If the author could have done more work on the supply demand and long term supply shortages that had developed over time, the book would have been more credible as a complete explanation of the oil story of the era. However, this is more of a story about the Kings and less about Oil. It's great for what it is, but could have been a great book with a little more balance about how oil prices actually come about. Even during the oil shock, politicians can only raise the price if the market warrants it.
In The Oil Kings, Andrew Scott Cooper tells the story of how the US, Iran, and the Saudi family changed the political balance of power in the Middle East. This story takes us back to the Nixon White House and the Watergate fiasco. Political decisions made seemingly so long ago started us down a dangerous path Cooper contends. At the center of the book is Cooper’s contention that secret agreements were negotiated by Dr. Kissinger with the Shah of Iran with far reaching results. The book alleges that those agreements were largely unknown before Carter’s election and kept secret from the Carter team. This book is well written, informative, and a page turner in places. It will disturb the reader. Just think of what might have been or could have been. The reading of Rob Shapiro is excellent.
This book was interesting and very detailed. What amazed me most is that governments continued to pursue oil as a primary means of energy when such disputes and turmoil was taking place. The Shar did a remarkable job of luring Europe and the USG (Nixon, Ford) into continued reliance on oil.
The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones - Sheik Yamani
I can stop myself from remembering where I was while all this was going on. And none of us had any idea. Interesting history and its probably not the history you remember...
I lived through the 1970s as a middle class American teen and young adult. I had a passing awareness of the headlines and globally known personalities in politics and world affairs. I recall the oil shocks, Nixon's resignation, Ford's and Carter's presidencies in general, and the Iranian revolution. Some of my classmates in law school in the late 70s were Iranian expats -- "Persian" as they would self-identify. But I have always known my knowledge was superficial. This book was my opportunity to dig into the details behind the headlines. I was not disappointed, for a single moment.
This is a fantastic tour through the global energy-politics-economics underpinning those times. Particularly well-etched, riveting, and unforgettable characters are Henry Kissinger and the Shah. These guys were, in their own spheres, frenetically pulling strings like you cannot believe, moving around vast chess pieces. Their hyper-ambitious projects (in their own national spheres and shared, entangled) spiral into this book's gripping climax, in the ascendancy of the US-Saudi connection, and the dreadful scenes in Iran preceding its revolution. The portrait of these times for Iranians (and all of us) is vivid and unforgettable.
Very detailed information and intriguing history. Rather long but still interesting. Sometimes a bit confusing without a background in economics but you come out learning a lot and finding new ways of thinking about Iran, Henry Kissinger, and other players at the time. A good read! Would recommend.
If you're the type of person who is interested in the role oil has played and continues to play in society, this book is highly recommended. Having read the Prize and its update I would put this book right after those in a must reading list for oil.
It is also a book for people interested in the politics of the middle east. To try and understand the history of the region without understanding who the true oil kings are is impossible. This book is not among the first five to understand middle east politics, but it is required reading.
The last aspect of the book that is incredibly interesting is in the machinations of the executive branch generally and the Nixon administration specifically, what they were almost able to pull off, and what that implies about the true balance of power among the branches.
You'll have to read the book ... its another one of these books that lend credence to the adage "you can't make this stuff up". History is indeed more interesting than fiction. Highly recommended book!
Great subject, well written, excellent narrator. Very interesting read on the relationship between the US, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, and the large oil producers of the 70's.
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