1950s >> 1955 >> no-616-december-1955

Oil — The Prize in the Middle East

There are two delusions that cloud the minds and paralyse the hands of those who mistakenly believe that Capitalism is evolving into Socialism. One is that the so-called Welfare State has changed the old order at home. The second is that World Capitalism has been humanised into giving up the naked struggle for raw materials, strategic bases and markets. This is supposed to have been brought about by the United Nations organisation. A glance at the Middle East should help to blow away this dangerous self-deception.

Fahoud is the name of the spot in the Arabian desert that is the centre of the drama being played out with repercussions throughout the Eastern Mediterranean lands, and Fahoud spells oil. Mr. Noel Barber, correspondent of the Daily Mail told the story in the issues of 31 October and 7 November.

  “A year ago no white man had ever been there. Today, under the lea of a great escarpment—with the nearest natural water-hole more than 100 miles away—there lies a small cluster of huts and tents, and by the side an airstrip. It is Fahoud, a name you can find on no map. In it live a sturdy band of lonely men, Britain’s advance force in the war for oil that daily gathers momentum in the Middle East. . . . Fahoud pinpoints the struggle for oil being fought by vast concerns in Wall Street and the City, by diplomats in Geneva, and in clashes between troops patrolling the tenuous desert boundaries. It is the battle between the Saudis and the British, between America and Britain for mastery in the world’s richest oilfield.” — (Daily Mail, Till 155).

 

As Noel Barber says of his report: “ It is a story that might have been written 60 years ago, when ‘ outposts of Empire’ were fashionable.”

 

He points out that British and American interests clash. American oil companies are closely connected with the ownership and development of the concession oil fields in Saudi Arabia, while British companies, and the British Government, are associated with the Aden Protectorate, the Sultan of Muscat and the Sheikh Abu Zhabi, “lifelong friend of Britain.” Three years ago, Saudi Arabia sent in troops to occupy the Buraini Oasis, hitherto occupied by the Sultan of Muscat and Sheikh Abu Zhabi. After attempts to settle the dispute by arbitration had broken down. Sir Anthony Eden announced in the House of Commons on 26 October that “native troops, commanded by British officers, had reoccupied the Buraini Oasis after a skirmish with Saudi Arabian forces who marched in three years ago.” (Daily Mail, 31/10/55).

 

The vital importance of the oasis is that it commands Fahoud, centre of the new oil fields.

 

  “For if the Saudis had established themselves in Buraimi they would certainly have controlled a much larger share of the Oman Desert and the eastern end of the Empty Quarter. That would have meant the end of Fahoud for us.”—(Daily Mail, 7/11/55).

 

Here are some of Noel Barber’s observations, written after his visit to Fahoud and neighbouring areas.

 

   “Every move in the tangled drama of the Middle East has its roots in oil. An American geologist is discovered with Saudi troops pottering about in the Aden Protectorate. The British move into the Buraimi Oasis. The Saudis sign up with Egypt. The Czechs supply the Arabs with arms— all are linked with the measureless wealth lying in the black lakes below this inhospitable terrain.” — (Daily Mail, 7/11/55).

 

And he notes that the new, rich oil fields meant not just large quantities of oil, but more profit for the British companies.

 

   “Now the battle for oil takes a new turn—the struggle for oil showing a larger profit. This is the natural reaction since the oil royalties in Arabia were stepped up to 50 per cent. In this new war British interests hold the whip hand. Any oil found from, say, Buraimi down to Aden will yield a far richer profit than oil pumped out of the hinterland. That is the real reason for Britain’s tougher attitude, for sending 1,000 crack troops to Aden, for appointing Air Vice-Marshal Lawrence Sinclair to command the R.A.F. at Aden”—(Daily Mail, 7/11/55).

 

Of the occupation of Buraimi the Mail wrote

 

  “The incident was small in itself, but it can be taken as an earnest of Britain’s determination to protect her oil interests at all costs.”—(Daily Mail, 31/10/55).

 

Thus speaks unregenerate Capitalism; and the workers of all countries who may be called upon to pay the cost with their lives should draw the right conclusion while there is yet time.

 

Edgar Hardcastle