On January 16, 1968, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced the British withdrawal from the East of Suez and also the Persian Gulf region:
We have decided to accelerate the withdrawal of our forces from their stations in the Far East … by the end of 1971. We have also decided to withdrawal our forces from the Persian Gulf by the same date… on the [Persian] Gulf; we have indicated to the governments concerned that our basic interest in the prosperity of the area remains: and as I have said, the capability we shall be maintaining here will be available.
The effects of British withdrawal can be categorized in three main folds and six sub-folds. The three main reasons are: Firstly, a huge loss of reservoir of historical knowledge, political expertise and analytic ability on events in the Persian Gulf (Prior to the withdrawal, U.K. sources and analysts had contributed about 80percent of the political intelligence on the Persian Gulf) (Palmer, 1999). Secondly, the withdrawal of British Royal Navy ships and the British Royal Air Force removed the only available assets for maritime investigation in the Persian Gulf. Thirdly, the vacuum of power in the region left by the British withdrawal raised the specter of Soviet threat in the region by a nation set on expanding its circle of influence to the warm waters and rich oil fields of the Persian Gulf.
The effective sub-folds involve the following six reasons: First, the immediate reason for the decision to pull out from East of Suez and the Persian Gulf was largely financial or economic, although the political and strategic factors were at least as compelling. The annual expenses to Britain to keep its military forces in the Persian Gulf region was 12 million pounds (Jeffrey R. Macris, 2007, p. 259). Second, the independence of India from Britain’s domination in 1949; With the loss of India, it was widely believed that the rationale for Britain to be in the Persian Gulf was gone (Siman, p. 39). Third, nationalism in the Persian Gulf: World War II found Britain grappling with nationalism in the area, culminating in the Iraqi revolt and Reza Shah’s hostility. Also, there was increasing anti-British feelings in late 1950 following agreement between Americans and Saudis to a 50percent-50percent split in oil profits that was much more generous than the British 30percent concession of 1949 with Iran (Jeffrey R. Macris, 2007). Fourth, Britain’s response to the changed conditions of an entirely new world situation and her realization that sustaining a “world role” was becoming difficult, if not burdensome; Fifth, the Eurocentric trend was becoming more visible and vocal, because cabinet ministers were exerting pressure on the government to shift towards Europe. Sixth, the fact that there were no aircraft carriers or bases available to support or relieve the Persian Gulf after March 1971.
In the late 1950s and 1960s London leaders attempted to reconcile their enduring political and military commitments with their shrinking financial and military resources. During the Israeli-Arabs six-day war in June 1967, when Israel attacked Egypt and Syria, radical Persian Gulf Arab states imposed oil sanctions against Britain and the United States because London and Washington had supported Israel during the war. Therefore, another reason for Britain’s departure from east of Suez and also the Persian Gulf was anti-British feelings among Arab nations of the Persian Gulf region.
In short, in the decades following World War II the ability of Britain to safeguard the Persian Gulf region had been weakened for financial, military and political reasons.
۳.۵.۱ The American reactions to British withdrawal
The United States reacted to the British decision by announcing that it would not take the British position in the Persian Gulf and would instead depend on regional states. In this regard, one day after the British announcement, Mike Mansfield, the Senate Majority Leader described the American policy: “I am sorry the British felt they were forced to take this step because I am certain we will be asked to fill the vacuum east of Suez. I don’t know how we are going to do it because I don’t think we have the men or resources for it” (The-New-York-Times, 1968). At first the American leaders had no clear idea about the structure of the new security arrangement in the Persian gulf region as Undersecretary of State, Eugene Rostow on January 19 said that the United States would establish a security grouping of countries of the region which would include Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (T. Economist, January 31, 1968), but immediately after, Rostow’s suggestion was contradicted by the Soviet Union, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq.
۳.۵.۲ Regional states reactions regarding British withdrawal
Britain’s announcement of its departure from the Persian Gulf region in 1971 caused claims to disputed borders of parts of states of the Persian Gulf area, because virtually each state in this area had territorial disagreements with its neighbors. For example, the dispute between Iran and the sheikhdom of Sharjeh related to the three islands in the Persian Gulf (Abu Mousa – lesser Tunb and greater Tunb islands).
The other side rulers of the nine sheikhdoms on the southern borders of the Persian Gulf met in Dubai in the month following Britain’s announcement of withdrawal and declared an impending union among their states. The proposed Union of the Arab emirates was confronted with different receptions by two important countries of the Persian Gulf region (Iran and Saudi Arabia). Iran criticized the plan because they feared that a strong rival power would be the challenge to their rightful role as the leader of the Persian Gulf region and Iran’s king, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, concluded that the Union of the Arab Emirates was harmful to Iran’s interests (Darby, 1968). On the other hand, the Saudis were satisfied with the proposed union on their southern shores because of two reasons: 1) the benefit that they would realize vis-à-vis Iran. 2) Saudi concern over the threat of the radical Arab nationalism that was an anti-monarchial movement which had begun in Egypt, Iraq and Yemen and some other Arab countries in the Arab world. As such, King Faisal, King of Saudi Arabia, tried to stop the roots of the revolutionary movements in the region and saw unification of the Emirates as the best way (British-National-Archives, 1968).
Another effect was that many Persian Gulf leaders – especially of the smaller states – began to bolster their defensive positions. For example, Kuwaitis asked the Americans to purchase advanced weaponry (Jeffrey R. Macris, 2007, p. 265).
The British before withdrawal from the Persian Gulf region had encouraged the local southern states to build up their own military forces and also encouraged the southern Arab states to address the question of collective security: how would the new states defend themselves? But Britain avoided getting involved in any type of international security organization in the Persian Gulf region.
۳.۶ American arrival in the Persian Gulf
Besides American missionaries who had arrived in to this region in the last decades of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th century, America began to exert an influence on the Persian Gulf region. The first American involvement in the Persian Gulf region was private individuals related to financial challenges of the Iranian government in 1911. In the early 20th century, several Americans came to Iran for assistance in fiscally and administratively running its affairs.
In the first half of the 20th century, a growing involvement in the petroleum industry in the Persian Gulf brought Americans into this region. In the 1920s, Britain allowed American oil development in the Persian Gulf region. American agreement with Ibn Saud, kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1933, gave rise to American presence in the Persian Gulf region to match the British kingdom’s unsurpassed oil resources. In World War II, Americans transported logistics to Russia and Iran was named “Victory Bridge”.
After World War II, the policy of U.S. government focused on Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf region, the first (Iran), because of its position to the Soviet Union and the containment of the former Soviet Union, and the second (Saudi Arabia), because of America’s growing oil interests and need for the free flow of the Persian Gulf oil to the western economy. The third was the vital role and continued existence of Israel for whom the U.S. acted as a godfather.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. increased both amounts of financial and military assistance with a growing number of military advisors. After World War II, according to Iranian wishes, Iran kept many American advisors in the country. In the