Archive for the ‘Tapline’ Category

One day, George Habbash, who was as radical a person as there was, who was aggrieved as a Palestinian leader can be, got up and said, “Mr. Jungers, you are head of the largest oil company in the world. You have all kinds of money, you have all kinds of power”- –everybody knew Aramco– -“you should be doing more. We all think that. We’ve heard all of your stories about American public opinion and all of this. With all of this money, there are only one hundred senators, why don’t you just buy them off?” [laughter]

My answer was- -I had learned a lot of these answers in the course of my career- –the way you deal with them is to say, “Well, I thought of that, but it’s a very difficult thing to do in the United States. You probably don’t know that. But if we are going to go that route, my conclusion is that it might be quicker, easier, and cheaper to buy all of you guys off.”

So recalled Frank Jungers, former CEO of Aramco (italics are mine).

Jungers, an Oregon native, spent time in Lebanon during and after the construction of Tapline, the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, which travelled over 1,000 miles from Saudi Arabia to Sidon, Lebanon. When it became operational in the early 1950s, it was the largest oil pipeline in the world, with all the geo-strategic and geo-political implications such would entail.

I culled the above-quote from an oral history project at UC-Berkeley. I stumbled across it because I am re-reading Irene Gendzier’s 1997 book, Notes from the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon, 1945-58. The book is treasure-trove of original documents (diplomatic cables, and the like), but the author’s use of them is often problematic.

Still, that book and the oral histories do provide a fascinating glimpse into a lost world:

Americans play golf at the Zahrani Country Club near Sidon.

Can you imagine Hassan Nasrallah meeting with the head of Halliburton, and sharing a laugh? Me neither. Actually, the imperfections of such a contemporary analogy had me recalling the late Malcolm Kerr’s comment that after 1967, Arab politics were no longer fun.

Colonial nostalgics aside, something there is.


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