The Trilateral Commission: Effect on the Middle East
Arlene Johnson
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      Moreover, the range of industry is unlimited with "mining, petrochemicals, agriculture, garments, paper, rubber, plastics, and many others" (Sklar, 1980:99).
      The organizational hierarchy (in addition to the general membership) consists of thirty people who form an executive council with proportional representation from the three regions. They meet several times per year to coordinate their work and prepare the agenda.
      Additionally, the Council of Foreign Relations which holds considerable influence on American foreign policy makers (Kegley and Wittkoff, 1982) assisted in the formation of the Trilateral Commission. The Trilateral Commission has been called the "multi-national arm" (Oye, 1979:217)) of the Council because several of its members such as U.S. Congressman John Anderson, Senator Alan Cranston, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Bill Brock, and Anne Armstrong, a former Co-Chairperson of Ronald Reagan's campaign organization have been active political power holders.
      With so much interest in controlling national politics by multinational corporations, it is a very logical move to translate this philosophy to international politics as well. To be able to prevent competition internationally as well as nationally, the large multinational corporations can secure the huge profits they desire.
      Interlocking directorates and world market shares provide the greatest political power because individual transnational corporations participate not as individual or autonomous companies but as parts of a whole network or integrated systems. The Trilateral Commission is the further extension of this network.


2 Some texts appropriately term the "West" the North. These authors identify a "North/South conflict" because they rightly include the Soviet Union as an industrialized power which, furthermore, seeks to make profits using the resources of the Third World just as Western nations do.
      The Middle East represents world energy sources. Oil, and to a lesser extent, natural gas are resources which the region can use to bargain for an equal position with the West.2
      However, from the end of the Second World War until 1960, the major Western oil companies controlled the international oil market due to their capital, their technological expertise, and their distribution activities. The formation of the Organization of Oil Producing Exporting Countries (OPEC) which was founded in 1960 by Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait, was due to the major oil companies' decreasing the price of oil twice within an 18 month period. this move infuriated the oil producing countries and prompted them to defend their interests. Thereafter, during the 1960's, the organization provided a forum for the exchange of ideas and the general coordination of the national policies of the states toward the companies.
      During this decade, the states of Libya, Indonesia, Algeria, Nigeria, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi joined the organization. This resulted in 90 per cent of the world's oil exports emanating from the OPEC members. This growing organizational strength provided the means by which the region could attempt to create an equal status with the industrial nations.
      In September, 1969, Muammar Khadafi leading a group of radical military officers successfully deposed the Libyan monarchy. This action was the catalyst for a process of rapid change during 1970 to 1973. It permitted the consolidation of a radical front within OPEC composed of Iraq, Algeria (which only had joined the organization in 1969), and Libya, and it set in motion a process of negotiation that produced the first general increase in oil prices in 13 years (Mortimer, 1984).
      Fortunately for Khadafi, Libya held a secure enough financial position to allow a substantial momentary cutback in oil production so they could demand from Occidental Oil (an independent oil company) a price hike from $2.34 to $2.53 per barrel thereby increasing their revenues by 30 per cent. The Persian Gulf states thereafter, agreed to demand of the consortium of 23 oil corporations that their prices also rise by the same approximate percentage.
3 Please refer to Appendix B for Middle Eastern members' crude oil prices extending from 1950 through 1983 as available.
      This joint negotiation, the first of its kind, was held in Tehran, Iran during January and February 1971. In mid-February the companies accepted the OPEC propositions and a 20 per cent increase was instituted, roughly equal to the increase for Libyan oil.3
      This negotiation which was lead by Iran was the major turning point in the international oil economy. For the first time the producer states acting together had significantly increased their revenues (Mortimer, 1984). The spectacular price hikes of Fall 1973 were the culmination of a series of political and economic developments that transformed OPEC in the early 1970's.

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