Middle East Studies

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Anglo-American Policy toward the Persian Gulf, 1978–1985

Power, Influence and Restraint

Tore T. Petersen is 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, 1952–7, The Decline of the Anglo-American Middle East, 1961–1969, and Richard Nixon, Great Britain and the Anglo-American Alignment in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula: Making Allies out of Clients.

For many commentators and historians the announcement of the Carter Doctrine signaled the end of the British presence and the final transfer of power to the United States in the Persian Gulf. But on the ground the reality was different, after the announcement of the British leaving the Persian Gulf in 1971, formal positions were replaced by informal ones. Britain still ran much of the political, economic and military life in the lower Gulf and in the Arabian Peninsula. The transition from formal to informal empire was seamless: British influence remained large and almost paramount in the region. Margaret Thatcher's premiership saw a sharp increase in British influence not only in the traditional British enclaves of the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, but surprisingly even in Saudi Arabia. The historic Al-Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia in 1985, selling advanced fighter aircraft, was Britain's largest ever arms deal. While British influence in the Gulf increased, the Americans floundered culminating in the ignominy of the Iran/Contra scandal, and the Reagan administration meekly accepting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's apology for attacking the USS Stark killing 34 American sailors in May 1987 – payback for the Irani-American rapprochement.

Tore T. Petersen sets out the policy objectives of Great Britain and the United States as they confronted the initial emergence of fundamentalist Islam, with the occupation of the Holy Mosque in Mecca and Khomenei's revolution in Iran. Research by the author in the Nixon, Carter and Reagan presidential libraries provides strong evidence for US strategy based on Nixonian foreign policy objectives, supported all the way through to the Reagan administration.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-371-3
Hardback Price: £60.00 / $74.95
Release Date: February 2015
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-750-6
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: September 2015
Page Extent / Format: 192 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes


Cast of Characters
List of Abbreviations
List of Illustrations
Maps of the Gulf Region and the Arab Peninsula


I The Nixonian Foundations of American Foreign Policy
II Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office
III Margaret Thatcher takes Charge
IV Ronald Reagan: Leadership Style and Foreign Policy
V Iran: The Pillar Crumbles
VI Iran: Getting Stuck in the Rubble
VII Saudi Arabia: The Myth of Independence
VIII Saudi Arabia: What Foreign Policy?
IX Oman: Discretion Required



Tore Petersen has succeeded in producing a stimulating analysis which is replete with thought-provoking and controversial assertions. His use of material from the US presidential archives provides the analysis with recognizable richness and originality.
Simon C. Smith, University of Hull, reviewing in Diplomacy & Statecraft 27:1 (2016)

Petersen presents readers with a examination of British and American foreign policy and its impacts in the Persian Gulf region from the Carter Administration through the Reagan Administration. The author has organized the main body of his text in nine chapters focused on the Nixonian foundations of American foreign policy, Jimmy Carter’s tenure in the Oval Office, Margaret Thatcher’s impact on the Persian Gulf, Ronald Reagan’s leadership style and foreign policy, and the rise and impact of fundamentalist Islam in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The author is a faculty member of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

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