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Arab nationalism and the issue of oil distribution

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The Arab world accounts for approximately 300 million inhabitants. Ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the region had grown by leaps and bounds and was way ahead in its progress when compared to Europe in many fields. However, in the 19th century, Europe, and in particular France and Great Britain, placed North Africa and the Middle East under its colonial domination. This domination paved the way for the Arabs to aspire for nationalism, independence and unity. This nationalism was polymorphic, but, as a whole, it was based on a history, a language, common material interests, as well as a more marked evocation of the Islamic religion that was both fundamentalist and modernized. During the 20th century, nationalism was politicized and radicalized.

This phenomenon, which was also called pan Arabism, combines Arab nationalism and economic interests. The Arab world has been a vast repository of oil. In 1993, the Middle East produced 36% of the world's oil and had 67% of its reserves in about 1029 billion barrels. Between 1980 and 2000, approximately 2500 billion dollars were realized as income from oil. Nationalism and oil were thus two major stakes in the Arab world. However, their bonds and their mutual influences are not obvious at first sight. This is why it is necessary to wonder which articulations and interactions exist between oil and Arab nationalism. Did oil support Arab nationalism or obstruct it?

In the Arab world after the First World War under the domination of France (Maghreb, Syria, Lebanon) and Britain (Egypt, Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq), oil is discovered, especially in the Gulf: in 1908 in Iran, in 1927 in Iraq, in 1932 in Bahrain in 1938, in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and in Qatar in 1939.

Although the oil reserves are in Arab land, mainly in the Middle East, it was Western companies that will benefit. For example, in 1928, during the Red Line Agreement, all British, Dutch, American and French partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company consortium agreed that no exploration or exploitation oil will be made without the unanimous consent of the partners. Consortia agreed to divide the country (Aramco in Saudi Arabia, Iraq Petroleum Company in Iraq and Qatar etc..) Countries are therefore (almost) not even the choice of companies that will exploit within their borders although outside the Arab world, Iran is paradigmatic of what takes place. Initially, the country receives only 16% of the profits generated by its oil resources. Iran, though independent, is completely subject to what the Anglo-Persian Oil Company pays, because of the importance of oil revenues in the total resources of the country and the very large variations in the dividends paid.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, created by Ibn Saud on September 24, 1932, is also constrained by lack of resources, to grant the exploitation of its oil to Aramco, a U.S. company. Oil plays an increasingly important role in the Arab world, especially in the Middle East. Turkish rule is followed by the Anglo-French colonialism and, especially, the imperialism of the great British and American oil companies.

Tags: Oil resources, Middle Eastern oil politics, Arab nationalism

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