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The Petrodollar Era and Relations between the United States and the Middle East and North Africa, 1969-1980

  • Author(s): Wight, David M.
  • Advisor(s): Rosenberg, Emily S
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation is the first study, based on newly available governmental and nongovernmental sources, to comprehensively explain how the surge in petrodollar profits of oil exporting states in the 1970s dramatically changed logics of power and relationships between the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This research makes several interpretive contributions. First, it argues that monetary and financial considerations (distinct from the resource of petroleum) achieved sudden and unparalleled importance in diplomatic and transnational exchanges between the United States and the MENA during the 1970s, and that rapidly rising commercial ties between the two regions contributed to an unprecedented level of economic and cultural exchange. Second, by employing a regional framework that looks at both oil-rich and oil-poor countries, while also disaggregating the impact of petrodollars upon specific countries and groups, it examines how various American, Arab, and Iranian efforts to structure petrodollar flows reshaped relationships within the region. In particular, it explains how petrodollar flows contributed to the rising importance of Saudi Arabia to the United States, Egypt's diplomatic shift toward America, the deterioration of relations between the United States and Iran, and the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Third, it analyzes how petrodollars brought the Treasury Department and US banking and corporate interests to a new level of significance in US relations with the MENA and suggests the varied consequences of this complex policy environment. Finally, using both English and Arab language sources, it demonstrates how petrodollars became important in structuring popular cultural narratives about globalization, interdependence, sovereignty, and identity in both the United States and the MENA. The goal of this dissertation, in short, is to establish that many of the foundational transformations in US-MENA relations during the 1970s cannot be properly understood without an analysis of the role of petrodollars.

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