By Barry M. Rubin
A background of America's tangled position within the heart East lines the roots of the Persian Gulf conflict again to the oil growth days of the Seventies. by way of the writer of Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics.
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Extra info for Cauldron of Turmoil: America in the Middle East
The Kurds of the northern mountains, about 20 percent of Iraq's people, were not even Arabs. They spoke their own Indo-European language, and still followed their own tribal chieftains. They were fierce warriors yet were so unintegrated into Iraqi society that they were not drafted into the army. In the 1960s, before the Ba'th came to power, they had frequently rebelled under the leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Party to demand autonomy. But while troublesome, the Kurds were only a secondary threat since they did not want to take over the country but merely to kick the central government out of their home territory.
In addition to Kuwait, Britain had also become the protector of other small states on the Gulf's Arab coast: Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the half-dozen tiny sheikdoms that would band together as the United Arab Emirates. London's administrators and soldiers had fended off the covetous ambitions of Iran, Iraq, and Nasser's Egypt. But in 1971 this era came to an end when Britain called home its 10,000 soldiers in the Gulf as an economy measure. Britain's departure had some advantage for the Gulf monarchs since the local Iraq- 54 sponsored radicals could no longer demand that the area be liberated from the British military 43 presence.
But petrodollars also unleashed a tidal wave of modernity threatening to unglue the traditional Gulf Arab way of life based on merchants, caravans, and nomadic livestock-raising, with its strict adherence to Islam, family and tribal loyalties, and suspicion of change. In a single generation, the Gulf's peoples were catapulted from camels to jets, 53 from tents to skyscrapers, from being poor herders to becoming cosmopolitan businessmen dwelling amidst luxury. Alongside these internal changes was a red-hot political ferment.