Cadet Senior Theses in History

Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2018

Document Type

Bachelor's Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science

Degree Granting Institution

United States Military Academy

Department

History

Keywords

Saudi Arabia, 1973 Oil Embargo, Saudi-American bilateral relationship

Abstract

Located in Western Asia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a country with a deep rooted cultural background and a tremendous appreciation for individual and communal privacy. Little is really understood about the intrinsic kingdom. It was only until the end of the twentieth century that the Saudi kingdom gained the perception as a dominant power in the Arab world and one of the few Arab countries that the average American is likely to be aware of, as Saudi Arabia was involved in multiple interstate conflicts and incidences throughout its short history. In October 1973, Saudi Arabia placed an oil embargo on countries that were deemed as supporters of Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

The lack of historical or academic focus by Middle East historians on the incident may imply a belief that the incident was insignificant. This, however is far from the truth. The 1973 Oil embargo changed the perceptions of the United States Government on the capabilities and willingness of Saudi Arabia to achieve its political and economic interest as a sovereign state. The 1973 Oil Embargo changed the United States Government’s perceptions of the Saudi monarchy from viewing it as an economically dependent country that could only guarantee a steady supply of cheap oil for the United States, to be perceived as a sovereign state that was willing to enforce its own economic and regional interest.

The focus of this paper is on the bilateral relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Other Arab states and Israel are not primary factors in this relationship during the events of the oil embargo, hence the focus on the Saudi-American relationship.

This essay will analyze the Saudi-American relationship chronologically. To better understand the impact of the oil embargo on how it changed the perceptions of US policy makers towards Saudi Arabia. American perceptions of Saudi Arabia before the embargo will be first be outlined. The focus will be in the period after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the transition from the Lyndon B. Johnson administration to the Nixon administration in 1969. The perceptions and changes in perceptions of Saudi Arabia by US policy makers will then be described during the oil embargo from October 1973 to March 1974. Finally, the impact of the oil embargo and the changes of perceptions that resulted from it will then be described. The time period will be from the end of the embargo until 1979, before the second oil crisis.

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