8 Pages


A glance at a map of the Persian Gulf reveals a patchwork of small and large countries. Dotted along the southern coast lie a series of minor states: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. Towering over them stand Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, the Gulf ’s dominant local powers. None of the maps, however, reveal the two states that have shaped the modern history of the Gulf more than any other outside power: Great Britain and the United States. Sometimes working together, sometimes at odds with one another, and sometimes simply indifferent, leaders of these two Western superpowers have drawn borders in the region, determined issues of war and peace, kept commerce moving and oil flowing, and chosen which leaders will rule. They have bequeathed a language of diplomacy and commerce. Their militaries have maintained order there, kept out other Great Powers, and prevented perpetually squabbling parties from making war on each other. In their absence – from 1971 to 1991 – turmoil beset the Gulf.