State Department Memo: Saudi Oil Constitutes a “Stupendous Source of Strategic Power”


In my spare time, I like to skim U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian site and you should too. Our leaders have always been very open about their intentions. There’s not need for conspiracy theories when there’s a written record for all to read.

I do find it very strange that the U.S. has such a vast and public archive of records which detail the thinking at the highest levels of government, yet most of the population is completely unaware of this. It’s yet more proof that the propaganda system in the U.S. is very effective and the envy of the world.

Here’s one my favorite memos:

Draft Memorandum to President Truman. Prepared by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, Gordon Merriam, and submitted to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson) early in August 1945:

From the various memoranda which have reached you from this Department, and from other sources, I feel sure you are aware that the Near East is a highly dangerous trouble-spot. We feel in the Department that this Government is inadequately provided with the means for exerting its influence for peace and security in that area. Among recent developments indicative of the unstable situation in the Near East, the following may be mentioned:

In Saudi Arabia, where the oil resources constitute a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history, a concession covering this oil is nominally in American control. It will undoubtedly be lost to the United States unless this Government is able to demonstrate in a practical way its recognition of this concession as of national interest by acceding to the reasonable requests of King Ibn Saud that he be assisted temporarily in his economic and financial difficulties until the exploitation of the concession, on a practical commercial basis, begins to bring substantial royalties to Saudi Arabia.

For nearly a year we have known that some money—about ten million a year for the next five years—would be necessary to obtain an economic stability in that country sufficient to give a reasonable security to American interest in the vast Arabian oil fields. This project, together with subsidiary projects, has been shunted around month after month in the Government departments while the interested officers were trying to determine whether the Export-Import Bank could safely make a loan, or whether legislation should be sought, involving the risk that it might become a football for special, short-sighted interests. We have attempted to work through the Army, but the King of Saudi Arabia has now stated flatly that he wants us to work through the civilian agencies.

This is an outstanding example of the fact that we lack money for long-range, general political and strategic use for the purpose of winning the peace in that crucial part of the world. The official in the Department directly responsible for Saudi Arabia has just resigned after fourteen years service abroad and in Washington, because of his feeling that he is unable to do anything constructive and of his unwillingness longer to assume responsibility for the protection of American interests in that country.

On May 11, 1951, Adolf A. Berle, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s closest advisors, remarked that controlling Middle East oil reserves meant obtaining “substantial control of the world.”

Wars have been won with both the Far East and the Continent of Europe pretty well dominated by hostile force; but the control of the Middle East has usually meant substantial control of the world. This is not merely sentimental: cutting of the oil supply from the Persian Gulf cripples, if is does not prevent, naval forces in the Indian Ocean and isolates India. It also gives an absolute free run to the east coast of Africa and, of course, make it possible to close the Strait of Aden.

Thanks for reading,


Chomsky’s Hopes and Prospects

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