History 101: Primary Document Analysis 7 March 2012
The Utility of the Oil Weapon:
Can Punitive Sanctions that Devastate Economies Force Countries to Alter their Policies?
Historically, during eras when military tensions are on the rise, nations have manipulated trade of vital commodities as a means of control or punishment of nations they perceive as having adversarial interests or hostile intent. Quite recently, the European Union (EU) has imposed an oil ban in their efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, which they believe is a forum for Iran’s construction of nuclear arms. Tracing the outcome of similar tactics employed nearly 40 years ago sparks inquiry as to the eventual impact of this ban -- whether it will one day be considered a futile effort to control Iran, whether it will prove to have been a grave mistake and/or whether the overall effect will be the devastation of various economies that had neither culpability nor interest in disempowering Iran.
Specifically, Mana Saeed al-Otaiba’s account of the oil crisis starting in late 1973, “The Arab Oil Weapon”, demonstrates the absence of equitable logic in resorting to such punitive measures. Briefly, Dr. Saeed al-Otaiba, then the 27 yr. old Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources of the United Arab Emirates, served as spokesperson for the Arab oil-producing states during the period where oil prices quadrupled in some advanced nations. Aspects of the Middle East oil crisis originating in October 1973 can be paralleled to the present day situation in Iran. The 1973 oil crisis began when members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declared an oil embargo against the United States in response to their alliance with Israel. The embargo had a domino effect, eventually restricting oil trade with nations such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, Japan, and Canada.
“The Arab Oil Weapon” was primarily directed at the nations whom intervened with a coalition of Arab states during the fourth Arab-Israeli War, and the purpose of the document was to address the origins and core issues. Saeed al-Otaiba pointed out that the economic measures of oil-producing Arab states, specifically the regulation of oil trade, were not the source of international economic deficiency. Rather, Mana Saeed al-Otaiba blamed the crisis on the vast socioeconomic divide among cultures, holding nations worldwide responsible. In his document, he defined the economic crisis as being resultant of a world economically divided in two: first, a world of luxury and plundering at any cost to establish advanced civilizations, and second, in direct opposition, a world deprived of basic needs, forcibly oppressed by the first. In his document, Mana Saeed al-Otaiba refers to Sheikh Shakbut ibn Sultan al Nahyan, the ruler of the Ermirate of Abu Dhabi, due to the fact that he was partially responsible for the creation of the concept of oil as a “weapon.” Although the Abu Dhabi delegation had a separate view on the decision for production cuts in oil produced by Arabic nations, they agreed to the embargos because they believed it necessary to sanction the United States for their support of Israel and hostility toward Arab nations, clearly demonstrated when the United States opened its war arsenal to Israel during the Holy Rammadan war and provided Israelis with weaponry and military volunteers. Mana Saeed al-Otaiba wrote this document with the expectation that other nations would