YAMANI: The Inside Story by Jeffrey Robinson

YAMANI: The Inside Story

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Published in Great Britain last year, this extended piece of investigative journalism is not so much a biography of the ex-Saudi Oil Minister as it is an impressionistic review of the man at work. The author, an American expatriate, has previously written The Risk Takers and The Minus Millionaires. If Jack Webb were to write about Yamani, this is probably the sort of book he would offer--so enamored is Robinson of clipped paragraphs, some as short as two words. But, then, Ahmed Zaki Yamani is the sort of global behind-the-scenes character who seems tailor-made for this kind of treatment. Yamani was the leading force behind the growth of the OPEC cartel that catapulted oil from two dollars a barrel in 1962 (when Yamani was named oil minister) to 19 times that amount only 11 years later. Twelve years after that, through more oil crises and an oil glut that saw prices plummet at one point back to 12 dollars a barrel, Yamani was still ensconced in his position (having outstripped the Soviet Union's Gromyko as the longest-serving cabinet minister in the world), although he was soon to be removed (in 1986) by a jealous family regime. Robinson concentrates heavily on such dramatic incidents as Yamani's proximity to King Faisal at the moment of the latter's assassination in 1975, as well as Yamani's own kidnapping by famed terrorist Carlos in the same year (the author points the finger at Qaddafi as the man behind the money for this aborted plan). Robinson follows his subject into his post-ministerial years to get his views on the future of the Middle East. Yamani warns the West against underestimating the Soviet threat to world peace, fearing that by the mid-1990's the Soviets will become so desperate for oil as to try to conquer an oilfield, thus precipitating WW III. Yamani also urges the West and Israel to realize that there is no solution to Arab-Israeli conflicts other than a Palestinian homeland. Despite its melodramatic style, this is thorough, and probably as good a work as we are likely to get on Yamani.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1989
ISBN: 87113-323-7
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
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