A tribal fighter in Marib, Yemen, June 26, 2012.
Khaled Abdullah / Courtesy Reuters

Since the middle of the twentieth century, the Middle East has seen regional hegemons come and go. The 1950s and 1960s were Egypt’s era: Cairo was the Arab World’s capital and the home of its charismatic postcolonial leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. But Israel’s victory over Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the 1967 war; Nasser’s death, in 1970; and the spike in oil prices after the 1973 war brought that era to an end. As millions of Egyptians and other Arabs left home for the oil-wealthy Gulf, the gravity of Arab politics went with them. As the Gulf’s fortunes rose, especially in Saudi Arabia, so too did Riyadh’s political clout. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, however, and the subsequent U.S.-led war, which was launched from Saudi soil, made clear that oil could buy Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, a lot of influence,

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

  • TAREK OSMAN is the author of Egypt on the Brink. Follow him on Twitter @TarekmOsman.
  • More By Tarek Osman