Ensuring the flow of oil and providing security for oil producers like Saudi Arabia has long been central to American interests in the Persian Gulf. The security-for-oil argument is a formulation that obscures more than it reveals, however. The division of energy and security misses the important ways in which the two have become physically and technologically built into one another over the last three decades. While Washington leaders and oil company officials sought to secure strategic and energy interests in the Middle East throughout much of the twentieth century, the period of the 1980s and the decision by the United States to intervene directly in the closing stages of the Iran-Iraq war marked a new era in which energy and conflict have become permanently entangled.

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