Resources have a negative influence on foreign policy in the Middle East
Michael T. Klare argues that competition over natural resources such as oil, natural gas and water has sparked recent conflicts. Growing demand for natural resources and increasing debt in poor countries will lead to more intense conflict over regions with large natural resources in the future. This will have a substantial impact on the Middle East and in particular the Persian Gulf with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UAE, Kuwait, and Iran together holding two thirds of the world’s oil resources.
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Oil = Rentier economies = weak internal cohesion
On a spectrum of socio-political cohesion between civil society and the institutions of government the Middle East is towards the weaker end.[[Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver, Regions and Powers The Structure of International Security (Cambridge, 2003), pp.22, 194.]] Oil and the rentier economies it has helped create are part of the reason for this. These economies rely upon systems of patronage relying upon kinship groups, merchant communities and patron-client relationships, economic considerations become subservient to political considerations.[[Michel Chatelus and Yves Scehmeil, ‘Towards a New Political Economy of State Industrialisation in the Arab Middle East’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2 (May, 1984), pp.251-265, pp.261-262]] This occurred because of the small size of Middle Eastern private sectors forced the creation of state centred development programs.[[Timur Kuran, ‘Why the Middle East is Economically Underdeveloped: Historical Mechanisms of Institutional Stagnation’, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol.18, No.3 (Summer, 2004), pp.71-90, p.87.]] The most obvious example of this patronage-based economy is Saudi Arabia perhaps best exemplified in the use of oil revenues to keep the armed forces loyal through purchases of equipment. The armed forces consequently have more equipment than they can use, with published annual hardware expenditure per person in the services of higher than $113,000. Concern over the Army’s loyalty means the National Guard is relied upon while the Army is stationed far from the cities to prevent any coup attempt.[[Saïd K. Aburish, The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of The House of Saud (London, 1995), pp.187, 185.]]
For these states perpetuating the resources that give their regime its legitimacy, as a provider, is absolutely vital, the regime needs to be able to fulfil its side of the bargain with the people. This forces these regimes into more extreme positions than they would otherwise take, for example they find it very difficult to move towards recognising Israel.[[Gerd Nonneman, ‘Rentiers and Autocrats, Monarchs and Democrats, State and Society: The Middle East between Globalisation, Human “Agency”, and Europe’, International Affairs, Vol.77, No.1 (Jan., 2001), pp.141-162, pp.146-147.]]
Irrespective of political conflicts between governments in the Middle East. OPEC has always remained united. Israel is not a member of the O.P.E.C and its behavior to destabilize the region, has not deterred the cohesive bond between the members.[[http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=KKkQvG1q1hRQyc9M23qC1DnrtYvbBfpZ4CpqwnkFkpCWn7knVwr2!-1700054516!766828861?docId=94295954]]
[[http://www.jstor.org/pss/20039536]] The solidarity between O.P.E.Countries is intact.[[http://www.opec.org/home/]] Besides, most Middle-Eastern Countries use solar,wind and hydro-power, on a very large scale. They would never have the 'need' to fight over fossil fuels.[[http://www.scidev.net/en/news/middle-east-and-north-africa-ideal-for-solar-powe.html]]
As far as the global political dynamic is concerned, IF Countries want oil, they should/will be nicer to O.P.E.C members, not fight wars. President Obama has pioneered a possible positive change in this attitude. It is likely that others in the West will follow suit.
America has many untapped oil reserves and again, since they won't need oil , they won't be compelled to fight over it(many say that they fought the Iraq War for oil, but it didn't get them oil and it got them a worse economy)May the Iraq War, be set as an example that keeps Countries from fighting over resources. [[http://www.alternet.org/world/79988/]]
Obviously countries that are poor in natural resources still need to consume them. This is particularly true with water, which is needed for life, and in a modern economy oil is similarly essential, needed for fertilizer, food, plastics and chemicals.[[Daniel Yergin, The Prize The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (New York, N.Y., 1993), p.15.]] Where access to water is denied to a group of people there is likely to be domestic instability with attendant affects on foreign policy. An example of a civilian population forced to accept an unfairly small portion of water supplies is in Palestine. Although the West Bank “is endowed with an abundance of renewable water resources compared with most areas in the Middle East” the “water resources of the occupied Palestinian territory are being diverted and used at an alarming rate by Israel, the occupying Power, at the expense of the Palestinian people.” This means, “a "man-made" water crisis has been brought about which undermines the living conditions and endangers the health situation of the Palestinian people.” Israel has imposed restrictions for example “Israel, the occupying Power, has severely restricted the planting of trees and crops by Palestinian farmers to reduce their water consumption.”[[UNISPAL Division for Palestinian Rights, Water Resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (New York, N.Y., 1992), p.55, http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/0/296ee705038ac9fc852561170067e05f?OpenDocument%5D%5D In relation to foreign policy this inequity of water became part of the Oslo peace process. Oslo II in 1995 created the Joint Water Committee and Joint Supervision and Enforcement Teams as well as providing an extra 23.6 million cubic meters per year for the West Bank of Palestine. However Jan Selby argues the agreements have had little noticeable effect, just creating a new layer of bureaucracy.[[Jan Selby, ‘Dressing up domination as ‘cooperation’: the case of Israeli-Palestinian water relations’, Review of International Studies, Vol.29, No.1 (2003), pp.121-138, pp.124-125.]] Palestine is an unusual case in that its foreign policy is very much constrained. Domestic pressure would likely have a bigger impact on a state with a normal foreign policy creating pressure to go to war if necessary to gain what is perceived as a fair share of water supplies.
On the other hand domestic resource constraints can be a primary reason for an alliance[[Michael N. Barnett and Jack S. Levy, ‘Domestic Sources of Alliances and Alignments: The Case of Egypt 1962-73’, International Organisation, Vol.45, No.3 (Summer, 1991), pp.369-395, pp.372-373.]] as with Egypt’s change from a conflictual (having previously invaded Yemen) to a cooperative relationship with Saudi Arabia in the 1970s.
During Sadat’s surprise attack upon Israel in the Yom Kippur war oil was used as a weapon to put pressure on the US not to support Israel. Sadat had persuaded King Fisal to unilaterally increase oil prices. Previously the western oil majors had had control of the oil price through their oil concessions such as Aramco, although this control had already been reduced before 1973 to prices being set by negotiation between OPEC governments and the oil companies.[[Daniel Yergin, The Prize The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (New York, N.Y., 1993), pp. 595, 606.]] In response to the US sending arms to Israel the Arab members of OPEC “decided to reduce their oil production forthwith by not less that 5% of the September level” each month while “reductions in output should not affect any friendly state which has extended effective concrete assistance to the Arabs”, thereby severely hitting states not considered friendly.[[Communique Conference of Arab Oil Ministers Kuwait, October 17, 1973, Jordan J. Paust and Albert P. Blaustein (eds.), The Arab Oil Weapon (New York, N.Y., 1977), p.42]] This would create uncertainty, tension and rivalry over oil among industrialised consuming countries. This was followed a few days later, on October 20th by a complete embargo of all oil shipments to the USA. A communiqué of 5th November stated, “the halt in oil supplies… will continue until such a time as Israeli forces are fully withdrawn from all occupied Arab territories.”[[Communique Conference of Arab Oil Ministers Kuwait, November 4-5, 1973, Paust, Oil Weapon, p.46.]] The embargo was ended after 5 months having caused immense damage to the world economy by forcing up oil prices, although the wealth created by this did eventually have the knock on effect of inflation in oil producing countries of between 15-35%.[[Jahangir Amuzegar ‘Oil Wealth: A very mixed blessing’, Foreign Affairs, Vol.60, No.4 (Spring, 1982), pp.814-835, p.823.]] Oil can therefore be used as a weapon, particularly by the swing producer Saudi Arabia and when supply is tight. However it is more likely to be used as a threat or a deterrent. The US has to support the Saudi regime to support itself.
Cause of conflicts
Due to the uneven distribution of water, with the Middle East in particular as a region that has very little, water is likely to be a major cause of disputes and conflict. With water supplies scarce securing sufficient water is likely to be seen as a matter of national security.[[Peter H. Gleick, ‘Water and Conflict: Fresh Water Resources and International Security’, International Security, Vol.18, No.1 (Summer, 1993), pp.79-112, p.79.]] Unlike with oil there is little cooperation and no international organisations to provide benefits for all and reduce tensions over water resources. As water cannot be easily transported there can be no single solution throughout the region. Syria and Iraq for example fear that Turkey might use its reservoirs on the Euphrates as a weapon by depriving them enough water; this could also be used as a threat much as oil can be. However there are various factors that make Turkish control over the flow of the Euphrates and Tigris an unreliable weapon; it relies upon the water level in Turkey’s dams being low, preventing the flow of the Euphrates automatically affects both Iraq and Syria, it would not bring a quick result, and would be seen by the international community as targeting the civilian population.[[Greg Shapland, Rivers of Discord International Water Disputes in the Middle East (London, 1997), pp.134-136.]] Nonetheless this did not stop Turkish President Özal from threatening to cut off the flow of the Euphrates if Syria continued supporting the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group. Water resources have become perhaps the most significant foreign policy issue for countries that are reliant upon individual water systems such as the Jordan, Tigris-Euphrates and Nile.[[Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars the new landscape of global conflict (New York, N.Y., 2002), pp.176-9.]] The literature is not particularly positive about the influence water has: “the prospects for cooperation remain limited”, “it is likely to be a source of discord” and “future conflicts over water are increasingly likely”.[[Natasha Beschorner, ‘Water and Instability in the Middle East’, Adelphi Paper, No.273 (Winter, 92/93), p.60, Shapland, Discord, p.167, Gleik, ‘Conflict’, p.111.]]
However there are some potentially positive impacts on foreign policy making. If countries that are involved in water disputes can effectively build security regimes then cooperation over such a basic commodity as water could well be a spur to further integration just as the European Coal and Steel community was. In order to get maximum benefit the states in disputes will have to agree to divide the water resources equitably, only then will they be able to gain external funds for the development of hydrological infrastructure.[[Natasha Beschorner, ‘Water and Instability in the Middle East’, Adelphi Paper, No.273 (Winter, 92/93), p.64.]]
The Middle East has immense strategic value both throughout history and today. It was vital to Britain for its routes to India, and for the US as part of the containment of the USSR.[[L. Carl Brown, ‘Introduction’, in Brown (ed.), Diplomacy, pp.xiii-xxix, p.xviii.]] This importance is because of its position where Asia, Europe and Africa meet. In relation to natural resources and foreign policy making this means that there are many important trade routes passing through the region. As “Oil transported by sea generally follows a fixed set of maritime routes. Along the way, tankers encounter several geographic "chokepoints"” [[EIA, World Oil Transit Chokepoints, http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/World_Oil_Transit_Chokepoints/Full.html accessed 20/4/07]] that allow states to control this trade. Four of the six world oil-transit chokepoints that the Department of Energy considers particularly important are within the Middle East: the Strait of Hormuz, Bab el Mandeb, the Suez Canal and the Bosporus. This gives countries that control or are contiguous with these choke points the possibly of threatening to close them. For Iran this provides a kind of deterrence to any US action against them as they could mine the Strait of Hormuz, considered to be “by far the world's most important oil chokepoint”, although this would almost certainly create a US military response.[[Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars the new landscape of global conflict (New York, N.Y., 2002), pp.47-48, 73.]] This deterrence can equally apply to other Persian Gulf countries acting as a threat over them as preventing oil exports would stop the export earnings their economies rely on. An example of these routes being used in foreign policy is the Suez crisis. Prime Minister Eden considered it “an obvious truth that safety of transit through the canal…[is] a matter of survival”[[Sir Anthony Eden, Full Circle: The Memoirs (Cambridge, 1960), p.533.]] however “world opinion seemed to be that Nasser was within his rights in nationalising the Canal Company.” As Nasser promised “freedom of navigation would not be affected by nationalisation” reducing the matter in the view of the US Secretary of Defence to “a ripple”.[[Dwight D. Eisenhower, Waging Peace 1956-1961 (New York, N.Y., 1965), pp.39, 41-3.]] However Britain was still willing to fight for this vital route. Pipelines create a similar situation as world trade routes. This has been shown by the difficulties in transporting Caspian oil to the outside world although sending the oil through Iran or Russia are the shorter and more obvious routes the US did not wish the situation of dependence this would place them in with potentially hostile regimes so creating the much longer Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline.[[Lutz Kleveman, The New Great Game Blood and Oil in Central Asia (London, 2004), p.25.]]
If a country has the resources it requires then it gains economic security from this, it can’t be threatened with having oil cut off, its people won’t go hungry etc. Even if a country does not have all the necessary resources to gain economic security from its resources control of a key resource means it can be traded for other necessary resources. However a lack of resources is not necessarily an impediment if economic and security policy are integrated. Brand argues that the drive for economic security can be successfully integrated into foreign policy, as has been the case for Jordan. Economic decision-making was highly centralised, the same people who made economic policy were involved in foreign policy. Jordan’s strategic position allowed it to build a foreign policy based upon external sources of support. For example from 1974-77 close relations with Syria allowed Jordan to approach the oil states as a united front allowing both to get as much as they needed to prevent budget crises. Jordan was not interested in the political integration the Syrians wished for; rather they preferred greater economic integration. Similarly with Iraq, as aid from the other gulf seemed to be decreasing Iraq stepped up its support for “confrontation states” from 1978 causing a shift to cooperation with Iraq despite the negative impact this had on relations with Syria.[[Laurie A. Brand, ‘In Search of Budget Security: A Reexamination of Jordanian Foreign Policy’, in Brown, Diplomacy, pp.139-158, pp.141, 145, 147, 150.]]
Economic security is difficult to create, either a country has a resource or it does not. In a region where many states do not have all the resources they need economic security becomes much more difficult to obtain.
Allows economic aid
At the heart of foreign relations between Egypt and the Gulf states from 1974-77 was the issue of the scale and conditions of economic aid.[[Gad G. Gilbar, ‘One Arab state, Many Arab States: The Impact of Population Growth and Oil Revenues’, in Elie Kedourie and Sylvia G. Haim (eds.), Essays on the Economic History of the Middle East (London, 1988), pp.196-211, p.201.]] The total aid to Egypt form Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE between 1973-8 accounted for 4.7% of their total oil revenues some $11billion. Oil revenues can effectively be used to buy friendly relations. Oil money has allowed the Gulf States to expand their influence and can be used for their own interests. For example Saudi Arabia paid Siad Barre of Somalia $200 million to eject the USSR from the port of Barbera advancing both Saudi and US interests.[[Saïd K. Aburish, The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of The House of Saud (London, 1995), p.167.]] Oil wealth for Saudi Arabia has gone hand in hand with its assertion of leadership in the Islamic world allowing it to provide for the millions who attend the haj as well as establishing funds such as the Islamic Solidarity Fund.[[Hermann Frederick Eilts, ‘Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Policy’, in Brown, Diplomacy, pp.219-244, pp.231-32.]] Saudi Arabia bankrolled Islamic groups, what Huntington calls kin rallying for which he gives the example of Bosnia in the mid 1990’s. In Bosnia Iran and Saudi Arabia competed with each other to provide most support to the Bosnian Muslims with Saudi Arabia giving $650 million in humanitarian aid and $300 million for arms from 1992-95 as well as providing training, men and equipment.[[Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order (London, 2002), pp.285, 288.]]
Aid was however used for wars against Israel. Egypt never considered it enough to compensate it for doing most of the fighting against the Zionist enemies. Israel was considered the enemy of all the Arab states so the ‘conflict’ states that took the lead paid the costs of war in terms of manpower but were compensated in terms of the monetary costs by the oil states that could afford the cost. Oil was seen as a resource to be used for the good of all the Arabs rather than the few who lived around the Persian Gulf. However as aid was scaled down considerably in 1976-77 Egypt was forced to look elsewhere.[[Gad G. Gilbar, ‘One Arab state, Many Arab States: The Impact of Population Growth and Oil Revenues’, in Elie Kedourie and Sylvia G. Haim (eds.), Essays on the Economic History of the Middle East (London, 1988), pp.196-211, pp.203-204.]] Sadat’s response was to make an appeal for peace allowing a reduction in military costs and in time a move to being subsidised by the US.[[ Michael Doran, ‘Egypt: Pan-Arabism in Historical Context’, in L. Carl Brown (ed.), Diplomacy in the Middle East The International Relations of Regional and Outside Powers (New York, N.Y., 2004), pp.97-120, p.116.]] Domestic pressure and the fear of a lack of resources forced Sadat into launching the Yom Kippur war against Israel. Sadat needed to launch a war against Israel before aid from the oil rich states ran out, the only way he could increase his legitimacy at home and in the wider Arab world thus gaining more funding was through war.[[Michael N. Barnett and Jack S. Levy, ‘Domestic Sources of Alliances and Alignments: The Case of Egypt 1962-73’, International Organisation, Vol.45, No.3 (Summer, 1991), pp.369-395, pp.392-393.]] Declining revenues from oil, or in aid due to oil, can therefore create domestic pressure for war even if the war itself is not to be fought over oil.
Brings in external powers
There has been extensive penetration of the Middle East by external actors with both the USSR and the USA drawn into the region as a major front in the cold war.[[Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver, Regions and Powers The Structure of International Security (Cambridge, 2003), p.198.]] Some resources such as water have little impact on foreign policy making at the global level, oil on the other hand is very important. Oil is the main reason for external penetration; some of the strongest alliances in the Middle East are built with oil as their foundations.[[Eric Watkins, ‘The Unfolding US Policy in the Middle East’, International Affairs, Vol.73, No.1 (Jan., 1997), pp.1-14, p.1]] This in turn affects foreign policy decision-making. The producers of oil are as constrained by their relationship as consumers. The US creation of CENTCOM and the basing of the fifth fleet in Bahrain give the US the capability to enforce the Carter doctrine: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”[[Jimmy Carter, State of the Union Address, 23rd January 1980]] This allowed the US to protect its allies; The Gulf There is a fine line in the Middle eastern states foreign policy as their foreign policy cannot be seen to follow the US line too closely for fear of provoking attacks by Islamic militants, possibly on oil installations.
Although having oil has allowed the gulf states to have alliances with the most powerful state in the world this is not necessarily a good thing as this draws them into the US’ global conflicts such as the Cold War and the War on Terror. Having an alliance also constrains the actions of the Gulf states, they cannot afford to be too critical of the United States or stop the supply of oil for fear of being dubbed a member of the ‘axis of evil’ and put on the list for regime change.[[Eric Watkins, ‘The Unfolding US Policy in the Middle East’, International Affairs, Vol.73, No.1 (Jan., 1997), pp.1-14, p.6]]
Oil creates interdependence between the producing states in the Middle East and the consumers in Asia and the West. Although rising prices are good for producers they can also threaten the world economy and create inflation that in turn will damage the producers by reducing demand.[[Daniel Yergin, The Prize The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (New York, N.Y., 1993), p.703.]] Higher prices can also can also cost oil producers, as in the case of Iran currently facing the possibility of “petrol rationing…it can only satisfy about 60%” of demand meaning imports of expensive petrol.[[All hands to the pump’, The Economist (March 24th 2007), pp.64-65, p.64.]] This forces cooperation from both sides; the consumers have to listen to Saudi Arabia and the gulf states whereas they often don’t for poor countries in Africa who would otherwise be no different. Interdependence helps to prevent wars as each side cant do without the other meaning that if they fight then both sides will suffer resource shortages.
In the past interdependence has not helped to keep the peace. Germany and Britain were each other’s main trading partners in the run up to the first world war but trade had no impact upon the thinking of the politicians who brought the countries into war against each other.
What do you think?