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Abdallah al-Tariqi, 'The Nationalization of the Arab Oil Industry: A National Necessity' (Excerpts)

The full version of the text excerpts included here was reprinted in a collection of the works of its author, Abdallah al-Tariqi (1919-1997), who had first published it in its Arabic original in the journal Dirasat ‘Arabiyya and before held it as a speech, in 1965 at the Fifth Arab Oil Conference in Cairo.

Al-Tariqi was born in what would become Saudi Arabia. He was educated at Fuad I (now Cairo) University Egypt (B.S.) and the University of Texas (M.A. in petroleum engineering and geology), and trained for another year in the US oil industry before returning to Saudi Arabia in 1953. The next year, he became Director-General of Petroleum and Mineral Affairs in the Ministry of Finance and National Economy. As such, he was inter alia responsible for relations with the then only oil company in Saudi Arabia, a conglomerate of four US firms called the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), which had received a concession in 1933, first found oil in 1938, and began extraction from the end of World War II. While taken by the anti-imperialist stance and policies of Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970), al-Tariqi in the 1950s was a reformist modernizer. He accepted the royal Saudi political system and the kingdom’s relationship with the United States. But he was determined to greatly improve Saudi oil income and negotiation position vis-à-vis the US company, often upholding as a model Venezuela’s Creole Petroleum Company.

In parallel, he worked for more coordination between oil producing countries, to improve their position vis-à-vis Western companies. In 1957, he helped bring about a Saudi-Iranian oil information exchange agreement. In 1959, he was a driving force behind the First Arab Oil Conference, in Cairo. And there, he, the Venezuelan Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo (1903-1979), and a Kuwaiti, Iraqi, and Iranian delegate concluded a momentous agreement. Though informal, it “marked the first real steps toward creating a common front against the oil companies,” as Daniel Yergin put it in his classic work The Prize (1991). The agreement laid the foundation for the birth of the Organization of Oil Producing Countries (OPEC) in 1960 in Baghdad, analyzed by Giuliano Garavini in The Rise and Fall of OPEC in the 20th Century (2019).

In 1960, too, al-Tariqi became Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Affairs. But in 1962, a clash within the Saudi ruling elite cost him both his post and his ARAMCO board membership. He left Saudi Arabia; co-founded an independent oil consultancy in Beirut; and accentuated his view that oil is a global rather than country-by-country issue that needs a united Arab solution vis-à-vis the West. In parallel, his language became more pointed: he now talked about colonialism. And he embraced the nationalization of oil. This had worked in Latin America in the late 1930s when the US government needed its neighbors’ goodwill as clouds of war were gathering over Europe—but it had failed in Iran where a CIA-led coup removed Prime Minister Muhammad Musaddiq (1882-1967) in 1953, scaring Middle Eastern oil officials until the early 1960s

November 1930

Shakib Arslan, 'Why Muslims Lagged Behind and Others Progressed' (Excerpts)

The author of the text from which the below excerpts are taken, Amir Shakib Arslan (1869-1946), was born into a high-standing Druze family in the Ottoman (now Lebanese) village of Shoueifat, near Beirut. He was a prolific writer known as Amir al-Bayan, Prince of Eloquence, as well as a political activist, who “brought to the age of emerging national states the organizing principle of universal Islamic empire,” as William Cleveland put it in Islam against the West: Shakib Arslan and the Campaign for Islamic Nationalism (1985). As long as the Ottoman Empire existed, Arslan believed in, politically worked for, and even fought for that polity, e.g. in the 1914 wartime campaign to capture the Suez Canal in British-occupied Egypt. He supported the pan-Islamic policies, also outside the empire, of the government of Sultan Abdul Hamid II (r. 1876-1909). That is, he believed that strengthening the empire vis-à-vis European powers was crucial for its own survival and for the defense of Islam as a religion and a political force. Vice versa, he believed that a defense of Islam—or, to be more precise, an Islam reformed along the lines outlined by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897) and Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), whom he knew—would strengthen the Ottoman Empire.After World War I, Arslan made Geneva his base of operations, leading the Syro-Palestinian delegation, which inter alia lobbied the League of Nations. More broadly, he reacted to the shock of the Ottoman Empire’s demise and of the Caliphate’s abolition by becoming, until his death, the world’s perhaps most central post-Ottoman Muslim nationalist activist.

A point in case is the book from which the below excerpts are taken, Li-madha ta’akhkhara al-Muslimun wa-li-madha taqaddama ghairuhum, which he published in Arabic in 1930. Moreover, Arslan not only published prolifically and edited the French-language journal La Nation Arabe. He also corresponded with scores of people and got involved in anti-colonial thinking and activities in many Muslim countries, from Morocco via Syria to Indonesia; thus, he wrote the below text as a long response to a question sent to him by a Muslim living in the Dutch East Indies, present-day Indonesia. To this anti-colonial end, he also worked with Fascist Italy in the 1930s and with Nazi Germany in World War II, causing leftist Arabs like Salim Khayyata—excerpts from whose Al-Habasha al-mazluma [Oppressed Ethiopia] are included in this collection—to bitterly condemn him.

Nadeem M. Qureshi is thanked for permitting us to use excerpts from his English translation of Shakib Arslan’s Arabic book Li-madha ta’akhkhara al-Muslimun wa-li-madha taqaddama ghairuhum (Cairo, 1930), titled Why Muslims Lagged Behind and Others Progressed, published in 2021 by Austin Macauley Publishers (London).

Used by permission of Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd (

February 19, 1956

Political Parties in Jordan

A summary of the unlicensed parties operating in Jordan as of 1956, including the Ba'athists, the Democratic Party, the Communists, the Freedom Party and the Arab nationalists.


The Committee for the Liberation of the Arab Maghreb in Cairo

Description of the new office of the Committee for the Liberation of the Arab Maghreb in Cairo, as well as activity in the Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria offices, consideration of opening a Tunisian main office in Lebanon, and progress of the Tunisian and Moroccan independence movements.

June 24, 1949

The Phalangists and the Parti Populaire Syrien

Report regarding propaganda accusing the Phalangists of being nationalists cooperating with Israel, Sheikh Pierre Jamīl's meeting with the Arab Union delegation at the Hotel Saint George, and the retraction of an article on the PPS in the newspaper 'Al-Ḥayah''.

April 2, 1956

France's Policy in the Middle East

French influence could be useful for the Arab cause, especially against Jews, based on its record of aid and nonintervention.

July 25, 1956

Report No. 7, 'Development of Arab Political Activities in Lebanon in relation to the Opposition to, and Support of the Turkish Alliance'

Account of Lebanese perspectives toward the Turkish Alliance, controversy over a Saudi Ambassador, US intervention, and several other matters of urgency.


The Issue of Syria and Its Union with Iraq

Syria and Iraq reach an agreement, and elections loom in one week related to the establishment of a new Party. Chehab lists the objectives behind this Party.

November 26, 1956

Untitled report about the Baath Party

The Baath Party gains strength in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon in its objective to fight colonialism, preserve the current Syrian regime, oppose the Baghdad Pact, and achieve other goals.

February 1, 1950

Ongoing Activities to Cement the Syrian-Iraqi Union

Movement toward a Syrian-Iraqi union surge, including convening a secret conference in Baghdad and other private meetings.