The Top-Secret Cold War Plan to Keep Soviet Hands Off Middle Eastern Oil

This article discusses how, following the Second World War and advent of the Cold War, the United States and British governments worked with oil companies to plan ‘denial’ operations should the USSR invade the Middle East. Core to the plan was for combined CIA and military, along with corporate employees, efforts to strategically blow up parts of the refineries such that the Soviets would be unable to take advantage of the oil reserves and thus empower the West to invade and ideally retake the strategic resource.

The efforts were developed and iterated on for almost a decade, though towards the end the focus shifted from the USSR and towards nationalist governments in the region. Moreover, what started as a denial approach transformed into one where oil production would be maintained: the thirst for oil on the part of the United States and Britain meant that turning off the taps could be a serious blow to their economic and military efforts.

These were contingency operations but they were taken seriously. Explosives were moved and put in place and the British even established plans for nuclear assaults to prevent the fields from falling into non-Western hands. It raises the question of whether similar kinds of activities are planned, today, or whether cooler heads now are responsible for establishing contingency plans when it comes to core resources that contemporary Western economies rely upon. And would nuclear or other explosives be used, now, or is this where we would see a first and genuinely far-reaching aspect of hard ‘cyber’ power?