American Ascendance and British Retreat in the Persian Gulf by W. Taylor Fain (auth.)

By W. Taylor Fain (auth.)

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76 Further, the Americans had no intention of playing second fiddle politically to the British in the Middle East, and would actively avoid being manipulated into propping up Britain’s privileged position there. 77 British strategists joined their American counterparts in planning the defense of the Persian Gulf and Middle East from Soviet attack. Like the Americans, British policymakers understood that the region’s oil reserves did not constitute its most important military assets. The air bases of the region, they agreed, were crucial to waging an offensive air campaign against the Soviet Union.

At the same time, they recognized that breaking openly with the United States over the matter could damage their position in the Middle East and diminish their influence in Washington. Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden wrote in August 1952 that “Mr. ”97 Clearly, British officials felt the Iranian nationalist government presented a much more immediate danger to their interests in the Persian Gulf region than did Soviet communism. Yet, they recognized that they must not antagonize the Americans over Iran and, thus, jeopardize their ability to exert what influence they could over American foreign policy.

Army and the Army Air Forces were engaged in designing a joint war plan that relied heavily on the atomic bomb and that would defeat the Soviet Union within six months. Access to Persian Gulf oil would be unnecessary in such a war. Between late 1946 and 1949, the JWPC formulated a number of strategies to incorporate Western assets in the Middle East into the larger plans of the United States to defeat the Soviet Union. The most important of these assets were the key air facilities at Abu Sueir, in the British-controlled Suez Canal Zone, and, secondarily, the American airfield at Dhahran, in Saudi Arabia.

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