Superpower Intervention in the Persian Gulf


92 pages
ISBN 0-919769-11-X




Edited by R.B. Byers and David Leyton-Brown
Reviewed by James Peters

James Peters was a professor of Languages at the Ryerson Polytechnical


The Persian Gulf — known as the Arabian Gulf to 80 million Arabs — was a relatively quiet corner of the world while pearl diving was the main activity of the area. But with the discovery and exploration of abundant supplies of oil needed in the West, this body of water became the “jugular vein of the West,” a crucial theatre for the Realpolitik of the two superpowers, the USA and the USSR — the former well-entrenched and the latter on the alert for any opportunity to gain entry.

This monograph comprises four presentations made at a conference held by the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies at York University in November 1981. Published in July 1982, it is still pertinent, and its assessments and conjectures seem still valid.

This short but meaty work begins with a useful account by Baghat Koramy of the history, demography, and sociology of the Arabs and Iranians, the two peoples who inhabit its shores, as well as the myriad of foreign workers.

David Chodikoff spells out in his presentation the vicissitudes of the transfer of power from ex-superpower Britain into the seemingly reluctant hands of the Americans under a succession of presidents in the ‘70s. The policy of the United States was to keep the USSR out, maintain the status quo, and prevent and overcome any intervention with a Rapid Deployment Force.

The declared policy of the USSR in the Gulf was to support liberation movements, to cultivate peace and co-operation among its peoples, to frustrate imperialists, and to protect the southern borders of the Soviet state. The USSR has made varyingly successful entries into Iraq, Afghanistan, South Yemen, and Ethiopia.

For the layman, the paper of Brad Meslin is of limited interest because of its think-tank technicalities. Nevertheless, the marshalling of all these technical details about the military capabilities of the superpowers is very impressive. And where else will the lay reader learn that C3I means “command, control, communication and intelligence”?

Albert Legault of Laval deals with the role of the middle powers and reminds us that Canada would be hard pressed to justify a significant presence in the Gulf.

Lost in oral presentations, abundant end-notes and foot-notes enrich the work, reminding us of the scholarly labour that lies behind each thesis. A summary of the conference is made by the editors.


“Superpower Intervention in the Persian Gulf,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,