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Preface.

The history of relations between the Middle East and the United States goes back to the very inception of the American republic at the end of the eighteenth century. Yet American involvement in the region as a superpower began in the years following the Second World War when the politics of the Cold War, oil, and the Arab-Israeli conflict persuaded the United States to employ diplomacy, economic development, military aids and covert operations as means of supremacy. In the last third of the twentieth century the Middle East turned into one of the most significant concerns of American foreign policy with few rewards and many OBSTACLES. Yet OVER the long term, American interests in the region were relatively well served and with few exceptions, most notably the Iranian revolution, suffered few major setbacks. AT the outset of the new century, for better or for worse, the Middle East arena promises to be as engaging and as troubling as it has been in the past half century.

For the peoples and governments of the Middle East, the United States' involvement in the region varied dramatically from one of a benevolent anti-imperialist in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuriES to an intrusive superpower in the late twentieth. As a Western construct, the Middle East region obviously could not have had only one voice. The Egyptians and the Iranians naturally looked up to America as a potential ally and benign supporter of their struggles against European hegemony only to be disappointed in the end. Even when the Wilsonian principles of self determination were applied to the Mandate regimes of Syria and Palestine alter the First World War, American goodwill brought about, perhaps inadvertently, a greater European colonial presence, and later one of the most enduring and destructive territorial disputes in modern times. For the newly emerging Saudi Arabia, which was grappling with bankruptcy and political instability, the United States' oil venture in the kingdom was a relief and a source of confidence. In later decades radical Islamic trends in the region were often geared to an anti-American rhetoric motivated in the main by the United States' position in the Arab-Israeli conflict, its support for pro-Western dictatorial regimes, and more recently, its cultural lure.

For many decades United States' foreign policy toward countries of the Middle East, and more frequently toward specific political crises, has been the subject of numerous studies. Similarly, THE diplomatic relations of the Middle Eastern countries with the United States have received some attention though often relying less on archival and other Middle Eastern primary sources. Though valuable and timely, these studies, both from American and Middle Eastern points of view, did not aim at providing a comparative perspective nor pay much attention to the political culture pervasive in foreign relations and the perceptions and attitudes behind the seemingly rational decisions and actions on both sides. A historical approach, such as the one aimed at IN this volume, may demonstrate comparable strains and strictures as well as motives for action and reaction in the relations between the United States and various countries of the Middle East.

These considerations: a comparative perspective, the political culture of foreign relations, and a longer historical outlook, have been the guiding principles for the colloquium the proceedings of which appear in this collection of essays. The colloquium on The United States and the Middle East: Diplomatic and Economic Relations in Historical Perspective was organized by the Council on Middle East Studies and was held at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies in June 1999. With one exception all papers presented in the four panels are included in this collection. Though nearly all the papers are revised for publication, the contributors treated them as "works in progress."

The colloquium on diplomacy and economic relations was the first of three colloquia the Council of Middle East Studies is organizing on different dimensions of the relations between the United States and the Middle East. The papers presented cover a long historical span but mostly deal with the twentieth century. Robert Allison's paper looks back at the early American engagements in North Africa and the images it transpired. Two papers, by Mansour Bonakdarian and Erez Manela, look at the evolution of United States' relations with Iran and Egypt before the Second World War. Marcie Patton's paper discusses the American role in the shaping of Turkish centralized economic policies under Ataturk. Lawrence Davidson's examines the State Department's early stand on Zionism and Israel. Mary Ann Heiss explores United States' motives for controversial involvement in Iran in a crucial episode in the early 1950's. Two papers, by Douglas Little and Matthew Jacobs, examine views of the American political elite toward the Islamic Middle East and Arab nationalism in the post-Second World War period. Salim Yaqub examines the successes and failures of the Eisenhower Doctrine toward the Arab Middle East in the late 1950's. Finally Robert Vitalis explores the cultural dimension of the Arab American Oil Company's operation in Saudi Arabia.

I would like to express my gratitude to all panelists including Bruce Kuniholm (whose paper is not included), and moderators of the panels: Lee Blackwood, Nancy Ruther and Gaddis Smith. Salim Yaqub was instrumental in the organization of the colloquium and Haynie Wheeler and Malini Saith-Doddamani greatly helped with the production of this volume. Barbara Papacoda provided the crucial administrative support. The Council on Middle East Studies would also like to acknowledge the funding it received for the colloquium from the Coca Cola World Fund and the Yale Center for International and Area Studies.

Abbas Amanat

Professor of History

Chair, Council on Middle East Studies
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Author:Amanat, Abbas
Publication:United States & the Middle East
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:936
Next Article:The United States and the specter of Islam: the early nineteenth century.
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