chapter  3
Superpower conflict in the Middle East: War by proxy
Pages 13

The rivalry between the United States and the former Soviet Union has made a major contribution to the dynamics of politics and conflicts in the Middle East. From the end of the Second World War to the present day the influence of American interests and, until 1990, Soviet interests and ambitions in the Middle East was easily discernible. The turning point in this superpower competition was the Gulf crisis in 1990, when an economically debilitated and politically weakened Soviet Union bowed out of the race with the United States and Soviet President Gorbachev gave US President George Bush his backing in the Allies’ effort to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Until that point both had competed for influence in the region in an attempt to safeguard oil interests and strategic routes. Throughout this period neither side was willing to let the other steal an ideological march in a part of the world that was regarded as so vital to both superpowers and, in particular, to the oil-dependent industrialized nations of the West.