MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS: American Oil Diplomacy in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea

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American Oil Diplomacy in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea, by Gawdat Bahgat. Gainesville, FL: xiii + 173 pages. Gloss, to p. 178. Notes to p. 192. Bibl. to p. 206. Index to p. 213. $39.95.

American Oil Diplomacy by Professor Gawdat Bahgat of Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a thorough and sophisticated analysis of geopolitical events encompassing Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. This book is recommended reading for those desiring a dispassionate history of the region's oil industry without succumbing to personal biases - quite an accomplishment for any writer familiar with the ethnic, religious, and political rivalries in that part of the world. Dr. Bahgat manages to fill 173 pages with vital statistics, but still produces a readable, objective narrative. Diplomats, businessmen, and analysts seeking an in-depth understanding of the regional alliances and rivalries that will directly impact American foreign policy, global oil production, and, as a result, both the future of oil and inflation would do well to read this book.

Particularly helpful is Bahgat's discussion of the long relationship that France and Russia have had with Iraq, involved as both have been in the oil sector and as arms suppliers over the years.

Any treatise on the Middle East becomes dated quickly, and this book is no exception. Written shortly before the invasion of Iraq in April 2003, the book discusses reasons for and against launching the war but not the subsequent chaos. Yet, from a longer term viewpoint, Bahgat does a superb job explaining regional tensions and rivalries - ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the continuing friction between Azerbaijan and Armenia, from pre-war Iraq versus all of its neighbors, Iran's relationships with the United States and with Pakistan - and their implications for the oil industry.

A particularly valuable element of Bahgat's analysis is his use of Energy Information Administration (EIA) projections of potential oil reserves and productive capability for Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. …