EXTERNAL FACTORS THAT CAUSED THE BURAIMI CRISIS
Since the human civilization started relying on fuel for its many needs, there has been conflicts and wars witnessed by humanity for fuel. Fuel has become a very essential resource of the modern human times. UAE along with its neighboring counties has been an affluent source of oil and still continues to be a major source for oils to the world. The Al Buraimi Crisis is an event that occurred in the history regarding the fuel in the Al Buraimi Oasis. Evidently it was a crisis but Arab Gulf States also have a history of peacefully resolving territorial disputes which is am epitome of honor. Especially Saudi Arabia has been at the center of these disputes in a literal and figurative sense.
In the history of Saudi Arabia, all the territorial disputes have been peacefully resolved since the year 1922 which included eight territorial disputes with one exception. After the end of the Ottoman Empire, the era of the European colonization began and also the era of fuel being used as an essential resource began. There have been several internal and more importantly, external factors which caused disputes. Specifically the dispute surrounding the Al Buraimi Oasis had external factors involved which need to be observed and analyzed.
Al Buraimi Crisis
The Al Buraimi Crisis was a gripping account as it included nine villages situated inside the Al Buraimi Oasis. As there were old tribes still persisting in the Al Buraimi Oasis, the concept of geographic boundaries was not existent. As the western idea of territory dividing came into the picture, a crisis was created between the surrounding regions for getting hold of the areas. This crisis became a necessity as the area was oil-rich and the modern world needed fuel as a resource. The oil companies existing in that time recognized as Rub Al-Khali were in search of oil rich territories since 1930s. (Morton, 2013)
The Bedouin tribes were in the ownership of the land at the time but they were not a stationary tribe and moved around the area with the changing patterns of the rain. They did not have any regard for the oil beneath their feet and pledged their allegiance to the strongest leader. They did not have a concept of owning a piece of property in the modern sense. Their trajectory and area of residence relied on the grazing patterns and the rise and fall of the rulers rather than the land area that would be established on the map.
In the year 1952, the matters turned grim when the Saudis laid a claim on the nine villages of the Al Buraimi oasis by occupying one of the nine villages in the oasis. This situation remained the same till the British Forces got rid of the Saudi Foothold in the area in 1974. After that, the nine villages were under the control of Oman and Abu Dhabi. This was after the British people walked out of the Geneva negotiations. This led to the signing of the Jeddah Agreement in which the villages belonged to Oman and UAE (Abu Dhabi at the time). Out of the nine villages in the oasis, 3 went to Oman and six came to Abu Dhabi. (Mabro, 1990)
External Factors that Caused the Crisis
The importance of the Al Buraimi region can be perceived now for the oil that lied beneath it but at the time of the crisis it was unknown for the earlier years that there was an abundance of oil under the oasis. The earlier reason behind the Saudi siege on Al Buraimi Oasis was the strategic location of the area for Saudi Arabia. When Saudi Arabia got the information about the oil, it was supported by AramCo at the time and when Great Britain helped Oman and Abu Dhabi take the Al Buraimi Oasis, Saudi Arabia has already started drilling for Oil.
The taking of Al Buraimi oasis for both oil and the strategic concerns would be a part of the internal factors as it happened with the interest of Middle-Eastern forces which batted heads against each other for the oasis. The role of the external forces was also connected with oil but in a different manner. (Mazrouei, 2014)
The first external factor is connected with the involvement of America in the Saudi Siege of Al Buraimi. It was the Americans involved with Saudi Arabia at the time (along with AramCo.) that found about the oil lying beneath the oasis and led Saudi to occupy the land. This was due to their philosophy of ‘Yankee Colonization’ in which according to international laws, “Possession is nine/tenths of the law” was applicable everywhere. This made occupation the most powerful way of laying claim on a piece of land. External forces which included the role of USA and Great Britain were more interested in Buraimi than the Middle Eastern forces and after the siege of Buraimi by Saudi Arabia, Buraimi had become a very hot topic of discussion in other countries and international councils. (Peterson, 1977)
After the siege when Buraimi was in possession of Saudi Arabia, Consul Daniel van der Meulen went to meet Kind Ibn Saud who had turned weak and was found uninterested in the Buraimi issue which made the British diplomats frustrated. When the talk was conducted with Turki, he refuse to give up Buraimi as he would die before giving up the land of his ancestors. It was later discovered that AramCo (American) money was being used by Saudi Arabia to turn the Middle East into a land of communism in a way. Prime Minister Anthony Eden was a pro-Arab leader but the actions of Saudi Arabia were against western interests. As Britain lost the foothold of India in 1947, Saudi Arabia became a priority as the prestige of Britain was at stake.
It was put forward By Saudi Arabia that there was no quarrel between Saudi Arabia and other Arab Rulers and it was Britain that had caused the dispute to get a foothold on the oil rich region through diplomacy. Even as discussion took a different form between Eden and Winston Churchill, there came no solution related to the oasis which Britain expected. It had been the objective of IPC that Saudi Arabia should not get a hint about the oil that had been found. As the area under Saudi Arabia was usable by AramCo for the Oil, AramCo also wanted that arbitration should happen and boundaries should be drawn. (Toth, 2012)
This need for fuel as a future prospect became a center of attraction and an element of envy between Britain and America (AramCo). This was one of the most important external factor related to the Buraimi Crisis. The end of World War II and the need for industrial development was worldwide which made the rich source of a matter of dispute and led the powers of two big nations (USA and UK) to tackle heads through the involvement of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman to secure the Buraimi Oasis.
The area of Buraimi and the Middle East particularly was an important location for the British for 3 reasons from which one distinctively was for the oil that was available there. The second reason was that they were in need of allies after their loss of foothold in India and the third reason was that they did not want Russia to get hold of the region.
During the Crisis, the loyalty of Shiekh Zayed Al-Nahyan was tested. The Saudis offered Shiekh Zayed a bribe of 30 million pounds at the time for possession of land in favor of Standard Oil for exploration and he refused the offer.
Another external cause for the Buraimi crisis was also as a reason of Western purposes but of a different nature. The objective of the west was to form a blockade formed of some Middle East states against the lower part of Soviet Union. Even USA expressed their fear of Middle East getting influenced by communism of the Soviet Union. This became even more serious as in 1955, Saudi Arabia threatened to break ties with Britain and join hands with the Soviet Union. As Saudi Arabia rebelled against Britain Uniting with Egypt during the invasion of Suez Canal, UK realized that their influence over the Middle East was slipping and they slowly left the territory they had captured back to the people in Kuwait and Aden. (Seddiq, 2001)
Even in the ongoing stages of the Crisis, the British people were in constant need for the completion of arbitration. Even in the event where the Sultan sent 8,000 tribesmen, Major Chauncey (a British Spokesperson) ordered the army to stand down suggesting Arbitration as an ideal option. It was unnatural that Britain kept meddling in the affairs of the Middle East and it led every other nation believe that it was because they had a secret agenda behind all the efforts to maintain peace.
The likely opinion was to get a hold of the oil resources as they needed it for development in the time of rapid industrialization. The other factors were also important but optimizing the future of Britain was a reason enough to participate in the state affairs of the Middle East states and forcing an arbitration. The arbitration was the most peaceful way out of the situation but the actual situation could not be resolved until 1974 in the Jeddah agreement.
There was also another external factor which was inevitable in a manner of speaking and was going to happen some way or another. The drawing of borderlines between nations was a necessity rather than a trend which was spreading rapidly as civilization was progressing after the second world was and the rulers of nations had to coordinate with the neighboring countries and form boundary lines. This involved dividing resources and draw geographical lines on a map to divide the property between countries. This separation would have caused a dispute while dividing the area of the Buraimi Crisis on way or the other and would have caused a situation of war. (Wiegand, 2014)
The divisive factor was the early participation of America in the oil business through AramCo. It was found that due to the time AramCo spent in the Middle-East digging for oil, it got the knowledge of the area more than the British and even Saudi Arabia themselves. This gave them the upper hand when it came to negotiations. The first step in the crisis was only taken because of the US participation with AramCo. If not for them, Saudi Arabia would not have taken such a step even for a different reason of gaining territory with a strategic advantage.
This shows that the ideology imprinted in the ruler of Saudi Arabia by the Americans regarding the oil and possession (colonization) which led the crisis that piqued the interest of people over the world and led to the disputes that happened later due to the claim laid by the ruler of Saudi Arabia on the Al Buraimi Oasis. (Leatherdale, 1983)
The tale of the Al Buraimi Crisis is one of honor, greed, war and at the same time, about how the modernization of the world led to the event of crisis. But the only problem with that theory is that it is too generalized and there are several specific factors that led to the Buraimi Dispute specially the involvement of USA through AramCo which initiated the sequence of events and the UK which made use of the relations with the middle east rulers to do what would highly benefit England in the future.
The root causes of Buraimi Crisis were termed as oil, power and influence over the region but the external factor responsible for the crisis were mainly linked to oil and the selfish benefits of the respective countries that were involved in the crisis in any way. The external factors have proven to be a greater cause behind the event of crisis rather than the internal causes and problems.
Leatherdale, C. (1983). Britain and Saudi Arabia. Taylor & Francis.
Mabro, R. (1990). Political Dimensions of the Gulf Crisis. Oxford: Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
Mazrouei, N. S. (2014). The Ownership of Khor al-Udaid and Al-Ain/ Buraimi Region in the 19. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 77-89.
Morton, M. Q. (2013). Buraimi The Struggle for Power, Influence and Oil in Arabia. London: I.B. TAURUS.
Peterson, J. E. (1977). Tribes and Politics in Eastern Arabia. Middle East Journal, 297-312.
Seddiq, R. (2001, March 15). Border Disputes on the Arabian Peninsula. Retrieved from www.washingtoninstitute.org: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/border-disputes-on-the-arabian-peninsula
Toth, A. B. (2012). Control and Allegiance at the Dawn of the Oil Age: Bedouin, Zakat and Struggles for Sovereignty in Arabia. Middle East Critique, 1916–1955.
Wiegand, K. E. (2014). Resolution of Border Disputes in the Arabian Gulf. The Journal of Territorial and Maritime Studies, 33-48.