In one way, since the end of the Second World War, when the U.S. assumed its role as the leading global hegemon, American policy towards the Middle East has resembled a damaged pinball machine gone tilt. There was the CIA led 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, whose sin was nationalizing the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, that resulted in the reinstallation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. When the ghastly Shah regime finally fell decades later and Iran was soon after at war and Washington’s tilt away from Iran was towards Iraq, of course ruled by none other than Saddam Hussein (his Baath Party’s coup in 1963 also was helped along by the CIA), this tilt coinciding with the worst of Hussein’s atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers (U.S. intelligence provided imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements) and the Kurds. A few years later Hussein overstepped his bounds by seizing Kuwait, perhaps due to misreading shady diplomatic signals -then American ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie was quoted as telling Hussein ‘We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait’, thus ending Hussein’s days as an American client. Even the ‘Special Relationship’ with Israel wasn’t without such mechanics. Though the United States was the first state to formally recognize Israel in 1948, President Eisenhower didn’t tolerate the Israeli-British-French seizure of the Suez Canal in 1956. The tilt towards Israel didn’t truly occur until after the 1967 war – probably when Washington awoke to Israel’s usefulness as a bulwark against Pan-Arabism.
Still in perhaps a greater way, American policy, in the midst of all that, has displayed a certain consistency: an inherently reactionary arraignment built off the promises of stability and the free flow of oil to the global economy, the main pillars of which for decades, and most especially after the loss of the Shah in Iran, have been the Israeli government, the Egyptian military, and the House of Saud. The practical result was not only the flow of oil but also the enabling of a divided region full of dictatorships and economic stagnation. It all made Wahhabism, often funded by the House of Saud, and other strains of radical Islam, in the case of Hamas and Hezbollah, covertly funded early on by Israel, an appealing ideology to the masses trapped under the system.