Middle East Studies

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The Decline of the Anglo-American Middle East, 1961–1969

A Willing Retreat

Tore T. Petersen Associate Professor of International and American Diplomatic History at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He is the author of The Middle East between the Great Powers: Anglo-American Conflict and Cooperation, 1952–1957. His current research interest includes the project Richard Nixon, Great Britain, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, 1969–1974.

Discusses Anglo-American policy in the Middle East under Kennedy and Johnson, as well as under British Conservative and Labour governments

Provides a historical background on the Anglo-American Middle East for the 1950s

Analyzes Western policy toward Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, and toward the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf

The author provides an extensive study of the common British and American interest in the Middle East (hence the term Anglo-American Middle East) under Kennedy and Johnson. Contrary to recent scholarly opinion, the author argues that the loss of influence to the Soviet Union and Arab radicalism in the Middle East was not the result of lack of power but lack of will. Britain, during the period of Harold Wilson’s Labour government (1964–1970) withdrew from its Middle Eastern bases for ideological reasons, namely a distaste for imperialism and colonialism. The United States, while placing great store in a continued British presence east of Suez, was unable or unwilling to prevent the British withdrawal. And as the British withdrawal gathered momentum, American disinterest toward the Middle East increased.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-118-4
Hardback Price: £45.00 / $65.00
Release Date: December 2005
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-679-0
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.94
Release Date: January 2015
Page Extent / Format: 172 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


Cast of Characters
List of Abbreviations

Introduction The Anglo-American Middle East, 1961–1969

Prologue The Great Powers and the Middle East, 1952–1961

1 John F. Kennedy Confronts the Middle East: A New Beginning?
2 Kennedy, Nasser, Macmillan and the War in Yemen, 1962–1963
3 The Flickering Embers of Empire: Douglas-Home, Lyndon Johnson and the Middle East
4 Trying to Hold the Line: Lyndon Johnson and the British Role East of Suez
5 Leaving Aden, October 1964 to November 1967
6 Doctrinaire Socialists as Feudal Overlords: Saudi Arabia, 1964–1967
7 The Withdrawal from the Persian Gulf
8 The End of the Anglo-American Middle East?


In this well-written book, Petersen, a noted expert in the region, explains and analyzes the delicate Anglo-American relations and their common interest in the Middle East between 1961 and 1969. Despite short turbulent relations during the Suez Crisis of 1956, a far more harmonious relationship developed under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and the two major powers complemented each other’s role and policies in the region. From the British perspective, their presence in the area prevented communist expansion, ensured the availability of cheap oil for the West, and contributed to Middle East peace and stability. Realizing Britain’s importance and contributions to assisting the US, the parties never allowed disagreements to disturb an essential Anglo-American harmony and cooperation in the Middle East at all levels of policymaking. During the Cold War, the British ensured the Americans could remain in the Middle East for the indefinite future. However, the British spent much time and energy in tailoring American actions to their own specifications to serve their own long-term interest, while simultaneously preparing to withdraw their forces. Highly recommended.

A most timely and lively book, illuminating and relevant. Petersen, a Norwegian historian of the United States, argues from research into both British and U.S. archives that in the 'sixties the USA's purpose in the Middle East was little more than to buy time for an eventual Arab–Israeli accommodation, while Britain's was to continue to reduce its imperial burden. The Anglo-American Middle East was thus, he argues, a fruitless low-level alliance falling well short of a condominium and devoid of common policies other than finding a way out. In so far as there was some measure of cooperation, most readers, given the present situation, would have little difficulty, but will find much interest, in adding up the cost of its fruitlessness.
Alan Milward, Professor Emeritus, London School of Economics and European University Institute

This book is a detailed account of policy decisions, which led to the British military withdrawal from Aden and the Persian Gulf between 1961 and 1969. The main focus is on British policy and particularly on the Wilson Administrations of 1964-69. The main theme of the account is that the Middle East policy of Harold Wilson’s Labour Government was “one-dimensionally ideologically committed to the end of empire” … For specialists in British foreign policy in the Middle East, this is a book worthy of attention.
Middle East Journal

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