The United States, Britain and Japan in the Arab-Israeli conflict, 1967-1974
: the competing claims of the Cold War and oil

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


From the 1967 June War through to the 1973 October War and the consequent energy crisis that concluded in 1974, the US, UK and Japan were involved in the Middle East military and political conflicts. Britain and Japan, although facing important domestic issues, effectively supported both America’s Middle East and energy policies, thus putting the United States in the position of leader of the peace process. However, the argument challenges the accepted view that neither Anglo-American nor US-Japanese relations were important factors in the development of the Middle East politics during that period. Using important primary sources, this thesis contends that this view is oversimplified and is because previous research has focused primarily either on the Cold War history or the history of oil, failing to address the important overlap. This thesis focuses on viewing both fields not as distinct, separate areas but as part of the whole. This allows the author to reveal two important historical landscapes. Firstly, Britain considered that working closely with the United States in the field of oil politics provided the only alternative way to preserve the West’s interests in the Middle East. Britain’s policy for ‘harmonisation’ with Europe regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict had to be sacrificed in the short-term in order to favour the bigger, more ambitious interests of the West as a whole in the longer term. Therefore, Britain supported America’s Middle East peace process, by trying to minimise Europe’s individual peace initiatives. Secondly, while the Japanese government had a seemingly ambivalent attitude towards the Arab-Israeli conflict and the on-going conflict between the oil producer countries and oil companies, the Foreign Ministry, in fact preferred to follow the American leadership in the region, for reasons of national security and Cold War imperatives. The Japanese response to the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre, a radicalised Japanese New Left terrorist attack, revealed the Foreign Ministry’s determination to demonstrate the country’s more active support of the US-centred camp in order to gain international credibility. Neither did the 1973 Arab oil embargo undermine their position. Although Japan’s Cabinet eventually issued a public statement to support the Arab cause, in order to satisfy the Japanese people, the pro-American contingent, behind the scenes, succeeded surreptitiously in bringing the Cabinet together to uphold the American-led petroleum order as well as the US leadership in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Date of Award1 Mar 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMichael Kandiah (Supervisor) & Alessio Patalano (Supervisor)

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