L’Observatoire des religions

Ibn Saud : “The Arabs have the religion, but the Allies have the money”.

mercredi 15 octobre 2008 par Daniel Yergin

The British government has long been actively involved in politics and oil production in the Middle East. The United States had largely ignored the area. The gingerly approach reflected the fact that, when all was said and done, oil production in the Middle East did not as yet amount to much. In 1940, the area including Iran, Irak, and the entire Arabian Peninsula produced less than 5% of world oil, compared to 63% for the United States.


Even so, the American orientation toward Saudi Arabia and the Middle East was about to change. The trigger was much as it had been a decade earlier, at the beginning of the 1930s : another collapse in the pilgrinages to Mecca and a new financial crisis in Saudi Arabia. This time it was not an economic depression but the war that interrupted the flow of pilgrims. Things were made worse by a drought and the resulting crop failure. The traditional industries – sword and knife making, leather working – sere hardly going to generate enough to make up for the losses. By I1951, Ibn Saud was once more confronting a stark financial crisis. As he explained to an American in 1942, “The Arabs have the religion, but the Allies have the money”.

So Ibn Saud once again had to appeal for help [...]

The British did come forward, providing, among other things, about $2 million worth of newly minted coins, and British subsidies would continue to grow substantially. But the American oil men worked hard to convince King Ibn Saud that this British aid was really American – since Britain, in its turn, was a recipient of American assistance. That meant, explained the oil men, that the aid actually came from the United States. It just came indirectly.

Source : The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, Free Press, p. 393-394.

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