Historians of the 20th century Middle East have to reckon with the impact of not one, but two cold wars. The main one was of course the Cold War, in which the United States and Soviet Union jockeyed for power and influence all over the world and particularly in the oil-rich Greater Middle East. The second was a more insular affair, often called the “Arab Cold War.” It pitted the forces of republicanism, led by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, against the forces of traditional monarchy, led by the Saudis. The Arab Cold War mapped on to the wider Cold War to some degree, as Nasser gravitated toward the Soviets and Washington’s devotion to the Saudis is, like death and taxes, a timeless certainty. But it also had its own causes and dynamics independent of the big superpower stare-down.
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