A useful prequel to the author’s The Long Road to Baghdad: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy from the 1970s to the Present (2008, etc.).
Gardner (History/Rutgers Univ.) delves into presidents Roosevelt and Truman’s first forays into Saudi Arabia and Iran, as Britain relinquished the imperial reins. At the end of World War II, Roosevelt was already advancing American interests in the Middle East by arranging meetings with some of the key players, such as Egypt’s King Farouk and Saudi Arabia’s King Ibn Saud, regarding the extension of wartime Lend-Lease aid and the establishment of air bases in the region. Oil was key, as was keeping the Black Sea Straits out of Soviet hands. It was the Truman Doctrine—“the charter under which conservatives and liberals alike waged the good fight for world leadership against successive ‘evil empires’ ”—that articulated what would become presidential prerogative from Truman to George W. Bush. Gardner systematically demonstrates how Truman’s edict became “a doctrine for all seasons.” In various ways during the next few decades, the United States aided the shaky regimes in Greece and Turkey; justified the building of the Dhahran Air Field; protected the interests of the fledging Zionist state with the bowing-out of the British; bolstered Shah Reza Pahlavi on Iran’s Peacock Throne after the oil nationalization crisis of 1951-53; initiated behind-the-scenes maneuvering to rid Egypt of the intractable General Nasser during the Suez Crisis; and allowed “CIA hireling” Saddam Hussein to take control in Iraq by coup in 1963.
Uncovering valuable new factual evidence, Gardner ably guides the reader through the perilous chess game that has played out in the region since WWII.