Reagan's Iran

Factions Behind US Policy in the Gulf

by Eric Hooglund
published in MER151

Despite its reputation for having inflexible ideological positions on all foreign policy issues, the Reagan administration actually came to office in January 1981 without a coherent policy for dealing with Iran. At first the new administration was content to let Iran fade from the spotlight of national media attention that it had held during the last 14 months of the Carter administration. The hostage crisis had been resolved, fatefully on the very day Reagan was inaugurated. The administration contributed rhetorically to the Iran-bashing mood of the country, but since Iraq still seemed to have the upper hand in the war that it had begun a few months earlier in September 1980, there was a general perception that Iran was contained and could be ignored.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER266

“The Iraq war is largely about oil,” wrote Alan Greenspan in his memoir The Age of Turbulence (2007). “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows.” It may indeed be self-evident that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, as the former Federal Reserve chairman says, because of oil. But what does this proposition mean? The answer is not so obvious.

The Great Powers and the Middle East

by Fred Halliday
published in MER151

The December 1987 Reagan-Gorbachev summit raised once again the issue of linkage between Third World conflicts and East-West relations. Two broad questions are involved. First, how does the nuclear arms race intersect with social and political upheaval in the Third World? The second question involves the character of the East-West conflict as it affects the Third World, and the degree to which great power involvement can cause, exacerbate or potentially resolve conflicts in Asia, Africa and Latin America. A central maxim of much recent writing on East-West relations holds that the nuclear arms race is a means of regulating Third World conflict and impeding escalation to the point of war between the outside powers.

Nonneman, Iraq, the Gulf States and the War

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER148

Gerd Nonneman, Iraq, the Gulf States and the War (London: Ithaca Press, 1986).

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AWACS in the Gulf

by Joe Stork
published in MER148

The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft that Pakistan wants to get from Washington has played an important part in the US military buildup in the Persian Gulf region. In 1978, the Carter administration sold seven of the planes to the Shah of Iran. One motivation was to reduce the unit cost for the 34 planes ordered by the US Air Force. Iran canceled its order after the revolution, and Washington then pressed NATO to order 18 of them.

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"A Central American Situation in the Gulf"

by Christian Huxley
published in MER148

For residents of the tranquil United Arab Emirates, the sight on June 17 was surreal: the emir’s court in Sharja surrounded by battle-ready soldiers in trenches and jeep-mounted guns, with helicopters buzzing overhead, snipers on the roof and sandbags on its marble balconies. It was the first coup in a Gulf Arab state since the oil boom. For four days, Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Muhammad al-Qasimi held out at the diwan with a few hundred emiri guard mercenaries, claiming he was rightful ruler of Sharja. “I entered with a white dishdasha [man’s robe] and will leave with a red one if I have to,” he is said to have told a visitor.

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Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Gulf

by Ahmed Rashid
published in MER148

After the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark in mid-May 1987, senior State Department officials scurried around the Gulf to drum up political support. Pakistan received a more significant visit. In late June, Gen. George Crist, commander-in-chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) arrived in Islamabad with 15 military experts for a five-day visit. It was Crist’s second visit to Pakistan in eight months, and it underlined the growing importance of Pakistan in Washington’s military plans for the Gulf.

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The Elusive Quest for Gulf Security

by 'Abd al-Hadi Khalaf
published in MER148

Iran’s revolution had a profound impact on the regional balance of forces in the Gulf. Until 1979, the two most powerful and ambitious states in the region, Iran and Iraq, were sufficiently constrained by each other, and by the presence of United States forces and Washington’s friendly relations with most of the Gulf states, that neither seriously attempted to overturn the status quo.

Reagan Reflags the Gulf

by Joe Stork
published in MER148

As the Iran-Iraq war moves into its eighth year, it threatens to explode into a shooting war between Iran and the United States, a war that could involve the Soviet Union as well. Escalation of the US military presence in the Gulf involves more than the 11 Kuwaiti tankers now flying the stars and stripes. What the Reagan administration wants to do is “reflag” the Gulf itself, using the US Navy’s protective service to draw the Arab states there into open and explicit military alliances with Washington against Tehran and Moscow.

US-Arab Economic Trends in the Reagan Period

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER155

US economic relations with the Arab states have entered a new phase in the last two years, one that reproduces many of the features that characterized the end of the Carter administration. US exports to the region rose by about 13 percent from 1986 to 1987 with shipments to Iraq, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates accounting for most of the increase. But this was more than offset as US imports from the region jumped some 35 percent, largely due to greater imports of crude petroleum. As a result, by the end of 1987 the US trade deficit, which had stood at $179 million the previous year, totalled more than $2.1 billion. Only a doubling in the value of American military sales to the region prevented this figure from ending up even higher.