Full Circle: Saudi Arabia's Yamani in Accord with Emerging US Energy Policy

By Bird, Eugene | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January 31, 1990 | Go to article overview
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Full Circle: Saudi Arabia's Yamani in Accord with Emerging US Energy Policy

Bird, Eugene, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Deja vu. Only 5 days after Yitzhak Shamir completed the most difficult visit to the US national capital by an Israeli prime minister in the checkered history of US-Israeli relations, former Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ahmad Zaki Yamani told an audience at Washington, DC's Georgetown University that a solution to the Arab-Israeli problem "will remove" forever the "remote possibility" of an Arab oil embargo. Yamani, who held the most important job in international petroleum affairs for 25 years, called for closer US-Arab ties.

"Let us capitalize on the fact that the Arabs need America as much as America needs them," Yamani said. "America has an interest in creating stability in the Gulf and bringing about a peaceful settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, not only because of oil but also because it is the leader of the Free World, a role which dictates that it pursue its time-honored policy of striving to uphold right, justice and peace."

It was the same message, in different words, that Yamani delivered in the 1970s, when he was Saudi Minister of Petroleum. At that time the US ignored the pledge, and the 1973 Middle East war and oil embargo followed.

In his Nov. 20 Georgetown talk Yamani touched on the Israel-Palestine question at several points, saying: "One need not be concerned about an oil embargo. Solving the Arab-Israeli problem will remove that remote possibility forever." In answer to questions from the audience, Yamani expressed his hope and belief that the US is moving to a new policy there.

Yamani joined a growing chorus of voices in Washington warning of a mid-'90s petroleum supply crisis that will force up prices and increase imports from the Arab countries to above 50 percent of US imports. He expressed his own belief that the Gulf oil producers, with almost seven-tenths of the world's total oil reserves, are locked into a mutual relationship with the US. They are the lowest cost producers, and the US is likely to continue to consume one-third of the non-Communist world's oil. In exchange for providing a relatively low-cost source of oil for the US, the Gulf needs American imports and technology.

Yamani, who was invited to speak by Professor Hisham Sharabi and introduced by Georgetown Dean Peter Krogh, received a standing ovation after answering almost half an hour of questions from the floor of the auditorium. The close to standing-room-only audience included students from the School of Foreign Service and Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, a sprinkling of oil consultants and more than one US Department of Energy specialist. C-SPAN covered the Georgetown Yamani lecture in full, and it was shown across the US, Europe and on the US Information Agency's Worldnet.

The Yamani speech came just one week before the US Department of Energy announced a major reversal of Reagan era policies: Conservation and alternative fuels will be at the center of a more active US government energy policy involving almost every major department of government, and "innovative" energy policies will be encouraged at both the federal and state levels.

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Full Circle: Saudi Arabia's Yamani in Accord with Emerging US Energy Policy


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