~e; UK feared Americans would invade Gulf during 1973 oil crisis
human being <email@example.com>
Thu, 1 Jan 2004 14:23:12 -0600
this article is being sent to the list as it has many EM-related
dimensions, such as current events, oil, economics, war,
its role in politics, social dynamics, governance, and culture.
had listened to an energy conference on cassette tape from
the 1980s on the .US energy crisis, and a noted speaker said
that there was little doubt that the .US would invade sooner
or later, given the way the dynamics were. their view was that
the Texas oilfields should be invaded first, to deal with it... hope
all had and are having a good holiday season, bell's are ringing...
(note: watergate era plans, same administrators back in house...)
UK feared Americans would invade Gulf during 1973 oil crisis
Heath feared US planned to invade Gulf
Owen Bowcott Thursday January 1, 2004
Ted Heath's government feared - at the
height of the 1973 oil crisis - that the White House was planning to
invade Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to secure fuel supplies, according to
Downing Street files released today.
Suspicions about Richard Nixon's administration as it struggled to
shake free from the Watergate scandal, the documents show, were
reinforced when the prime minister was only belatedly informed of a
worldwide nuclear alert declared by the US.
The files, handed over to the National Archive in Kew under the 30-year
rule, expose a disturbing and acrimonious episode in "the special
relationship" between London and Washington.
In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur war, America blamed Britain for
failing to open its military bases. The defeated Arab nations then
imposed an oil embargo on the west.
The US defence secretary, James Schlesinger, told Britain's ambassador
in Washington, Lord Cromer, "it was no longer obvious to him that the
US could not use force".
Schlesinger had already clashed with Lord Carrington, the British
defence secretary. The ambassador's interview was no more amicable.
"Couthness is not Schlesinger's strong point," he said in a cable to
London. "One or two of his remarks bordered on the offensive."
But it was the substance of Schlesinger's remarks which set alarm bells
ringing. "[One] outcome of the Middle East crisis," he told Lord
Cromer, "was the [sight] of industrialised nations being continuously
submitted to [the] whims of under-populated, under-developed countries,
particularly [those in the] Middle East.
"Schlesinger did not draw any specific conclusion from this but the
unspoken assumption came through ... that it might not ... be possible
to rule out a more direct application of military force".
A week later, in mid-November, Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of
state, warned that if the Arab oil embargo continued unreasonably and
in definitely, America would have to decide what counter-measures were
In the grip of an international security crisis, Heath commissioned a
report - titled Middle East: Possible Use of Force by the United States
- from Percy Cradock of the joint intelligence committee.
The 22-page survey, delivered to the prime minister in December, warned
that the most likely US military action was the seizure of
oil-producing areas. Such a move might be triggered by a resumption of
the Arab/Israeli war and protracted oil sanctions.
"The United States might consider it could not tolerate a situation in
which the US and its allies were at the mercy of a small group of
unreasonable countries. We believe the American preference would be for
a rapid operation conducted by themselves to seize oilfields ... The
force required for the initial operation would be of the order of two
brigades, one for Saudi operation, one for Kuwait and possibly a third
for Abu Dhabi.
"The build-up would require the presence of a substantial US naval
force in the Indian Ocean, considerably more than the present force.
After the initial assaults ... two [extra] divisions could be flown in
from the USA."
British bases such as that at Diego Garcia would probably have to be
used, Cradock observed. The Russians might well fly troops into the
region to defend the Arabs. US/Soviet confrontations were unlikely but
could not be ruled out.
"The greatest risk of such confrontations in the Gulf would probably
arise in Kuwait where the Iraqis, with Soviet backing, might be
tempted to intervene." Nato allies, including Britain, would be pressed
to provide political and military support.
During the Yom Kippur war, in October 1973, Schlesinger had told
Carrington that: "The Americans had paid £14m for facilities in Diego
Garcia and might be expected to be allowed to use them."
But it was the full-scale nuclear alert - declared on October 25 that
year, supposedly in response to Soviet fleet movements in the eastern
Mediterranean - which most infuriated Ted Heath.
The prime minister, the documents reveal, only learnt about it from
news agency reports while in the Commons.
"Personally," he told his private secretary Lord Bridges, "I fail to
see how any initiative, threatened or real, by the Soviet leadership
required such a worldwide nuclear alert.
"We have to face the fact that the American action has done immense
harm, both to this country and worldwide."
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