Courtesy Reuters

Order in Oil

ONLY a short time ago the atmosphere in which international petroleum affairs were being discussed was highly charged. The violent thunderstorm which centered about the proposed trans-Arabian pipeline cast an eerie darkness over the whole panorama of our foreign relations. Now, happily, the weather has improved to a gentle drizzle, and a ruminative walk among the issues will not be unpleasant.

The pipeline project itself appears to be in suspense. While the military branches of the Government still favor a line from the Arabian peninsula to the Mediterranean as of use in case the war in Europe should be prolonged, they do not appear to be insisting that it is immediately essential. The fact that we would have to establish a new refinery on the Mediterranean if we were to use the crude oil products of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in battle has set farther forward the date at which the pipeline could make a military contribution. The companies which have agreed in principle to construct it have promised a Senate Committee not to proceed with the undertaking until the Committee has had the chance to pronounce its views. The conversations between the Petroleum Reserves Corporation and the companies looking toward the signature of a formal agreement are at a halt.

The mission sent here by the British Government has come and gone without having changed a comma in the commercial or diplomatic arrangements that obstruct the undertaking. The conferees unrolled a larger map, on which the Middle East was but a single point of interest at which their attention did not pause for long. The only press release thus far issued reports merely that the two groups reviewed specific matters of mutual interest, including "the proposed trans-Arabian pipeline," and that "the group shared the view that the peacetime intergovernmental aspects of such matters should be resolved as between the two Governments, and within the framework of the broad principles which had been discussed." Still, it would be an error to

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