CUP Undergraduate Research

Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2019

Document Type



College of Arts & Sciences



Degree Name

History, BA

First Advisor

Joel Davis, Ph.D.


For the better part of the Twentieth century, the Middle East, and more specifically the Persian Gulf, have been areas of key importance to the United States. As the United States became increasingly reliant on Middle Eastern oil, it became more attuned to events in the Persian Gulf, seeking to create a regional order conducive to US interests. First and foremost among those interests were cheap and easily accessible oil, and a security situation which would not impede the flow of oil to the West. In order to create this situation, the US has sought to exert its influence on all of the states of the Persian Gulf. Among those states was Iraq. With proven oil reserves estimated by OPEC to be the fourth largest in the world, Iraq has always been valued by the US as a geopolitical prize. While certainly not the sole interest in Iraq, oil proved to be the most important and enduring interest. In the course of pursuing its national interests, the US thrust itself into a deeply divided country with a troubled and violent history. In doing so, the US engaged in a series of ill-advised and short-sighted policy decisions, which in turn have provoked conflict, led to the deaths of millions of Iraqis, the destruction of a society, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the destabilization of the Middle East. Underlying this is a paradoxical phenomenon: the more the US attempted to bring Iraq under US sway and control, the more out of control the situation became. The more recent suffering of Iraq, from the US invasion to the scourge of ISIL, is very much a product of almost a century of US-Iraq relations. Then, as now, the relationship was based first and foremost around oil.

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