Wald has written a competent history of the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) and of how the House of Saud came to dominate the Arabian Peninsula in the 1920s. The book is built on interviews, U.S. government records, and the work of other historians, but not Saudi Aramco’s archives. Its most original parts deal with the Saudi government’s “long game” to gain full control of Aramco while avoiding outright nationalization. That project was completed in 1980, when, after decades of gradually increasing its influence over the company, the government acquired the entire firm. In the resulting arrangement, Aramco owned the expertise, but the kingdom owned the oil it produced. Throughout Aramco’s history, Saudi Arabia has always found a way to make money selling oil, shape world petroleum prices, and avoid lasting confrontation with the United States. Even the 1973 embargo of oil exports to the United States, imposed by the Arab members of OPEC in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War, did not do long-term damage to the U.S.-Saudi alliance.
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