The Trilateral Commission: Effect on the Middle East
Arlene Johnson
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      However, the power to stalemate a conference, even the power to shape the agenda, was not equivalent to the power to affect structural change in the international economic system. The developing countries recognized that innovations in international trade and augmentation of the flow of developmental resources implied negotiated agreements with the north (Mortimer, 1984).
      The Third World had gained the ground it had, namely, a genuine recognition of the existence of a development crisis, through solidarity. By the spring of 1975, the North felt the cutting edge of a solidarity painstakingly honed by Third World conferences and other forms of collective advocacy. The commitment toward the resolution of certain Third World grievances taken at the Seventh Special Session, limited as it was, was the result of the pressure mounted through solidarity (Mortimer, 1984)
      This rise in the bargaining power could not be tolerated by the Trilateral regions, however. The commission's overriding concern is that Trilateral nations remain the vital center of management, finance, and technology, i.e. power and control for the world economy which would embrace and coopt the Third World and gradually reintegrate the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China (Sklar, 1980).
      Additionally, the trilateralists hope that the USSR will join the community of the developed nations in defending the global interests of the industrialized rich countries against those of the Third World. Moreover, the trilateralists are confident that they can win the ideological and economic competition with the Soviet Union. They believe that the Soviet economy is declining and will reach a crisis state in the 1980's.
      The debt dependency4
4 Please refer to Appendix C for debt information on selected nations in the Middle East and North Africa (which some sources consider an integral part of the Middle East.
of the Third World nations is a profound concern to those nations. The international banking community gains billions of dollars in interest payments alone from countries which are caught in a vicious cycle of borrow and borrow again to pay back the interest the following year.
      An analysis of the debt balance among the selected countries shows that during the peak years of OPEC's strength, namely prior to the fall of the Shah, while the debt was substantial, it mushroomed after the Iranian Revolution started. The virtual shutdown of oil production by Iran greatly reduced if not precluded the payment of any grants to non-oil producing countries within the Third World.
      Indeed, the percentage of GNP money given to the developing nations by the OPEC powers starting in 1974 vastly exceeded that of the industrialized nations. With OPEC, the percentages ranged form 3 and 4 percent of their GNP. however, Iran gave 10 per cent of its GNP. The United States on the other hand gave much less than 1 per cent (Mossaver-Rahmani, 1980). Not only is this an embarrassment or the wealthy industrialized nations but the OPEC action dealt a blow to their banking institutions.
      Moreover, if all of this activity was not enough, Iran advanced several huge loans to Britain and France during the 1970's in order to "finance their balance-of-payments deficits, a problem normally regarded as a distinguishing feature of under development" (Girvan, 1980:437).
      These events serve to reinforce the developed countries" desire to revert back to conditions as they stood prior to the rise of OPEC. The events which follow demonstrate how the trilateralists achieved this goal.
      Government officials, influenced by trilateralists (who comprised the majority of Carter's ranking officials) are well aware that to divide and thereby conquer was an extremely useful tool to use in achieving their goals. Kissinger proposed that the United States attach a food and agricultural assistance program to its demands for oil price relief. In this way the United States would secure the leverage it needed to break the OPEC community.
      Another measure the North used was to strengthen an agency of the United Nations known as UNCTAD (United nations Conference on Trade and Development) so as to deem it an international decision maker. The debate on this turned into an all encompassing discussion as to where the responsibility for the global economic problems of the day actually lay according to the trilateralists, and provided an opening for a reconsideration of the ever divisive energy issue (Mortimer, 1984).
      As a result of this action by the United States, Costa Rica and several other Latin American countries supported the North in this issue. They requested that the OPEC pricing policy be placed on the agenda. After an acrimonious intergroup of 77 discussion, Costa Rica withdrew its request. However, the North raised the issue again in its draft resolution. This action demonstrated the fragility of the Group of 77 in the face of oil costs. Moreover, this action occurred just before the June 1979 price meetings.
      Another goal desired by the Third World coalition was the Common Fund. If such a fund could be funded, the Third World countries would definitely benefit. The Group of 77 submitted a draft of provisions for the Fund, calling for a "working capital of $3 billion in borrowing authority) that would be used to finance...anticipated commodity arrangement" (Mortimer, 1984:119).
      However, the industrial states also drafted a proposal the results of which did not at all match the Group of 77's proposal. In November 1978 and in March 1979 two further negotiating sessions were held. The Third World states had to make vast concessions. Two funds were created. The first Common Fund was endowed with $400 million while the second was endowed with $70 million plus a targeted voluntary contribution of $280 million. Clearly, this agreement was attributable to the limited power the Third World nations, including OPEC, had at this time.
      Poor countries cannot afford to ignore their present needs. This creates problems in maintain unity, a weakness that the rich and powerful can exploit by offering slightly better terms in the existing system in exchange for abandoning challenges to the system itself (Mortimer, 1984).
      To reiterate the hypothesis at the beginning of this work, governmental institutions will go to any lengths to maintain the status quo. To this end, this author would like to propose another group of theories for consideration.
      We know that Saudi Arabia was "cool" (Mortimer, 1984:61) to some of the ideas proposed by OPEC. However, no one provides a valid reason why. Some excuses are proposed and this author assumes that the casual reader might accept them. A more valid reason could be that the United States co-opted Saudi Arabia in the early 1970's. King Faisal's nephew assassinated him. This is not unknown. It is also not unknown that the nephew was educated in the United States. What is unknown is that in all probability the nephew was cleverly co-opted by the CIA in one of the numerous schemes they employ. Thereafter, Saudi Arabia succumbed to the pressure of the West to some extent while attempting to maintain an image of unity with the other OPEC nations.
      The West's recognition that Saudi Arabia could be controlled by western interests was an extra gift to the West. Although Saudi Arabia did exert some influence upon OPEC, its influence was minimal to that of Iran. One reason for this is the difference in the two countries' populations. Saudi Arabia, now only has about 10 million people. Iran in 1978 had 36 million people. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia, while a large country, is fairly uninhabitable, being mostly if not a completely arid desert country. Iran, conversely, is a large country in addition to being strategically placed so as to protect the entire Middle East from invasion by the Soviet Union. Should conditions make it possible for Iran to fall to Russia, the entire Middle East and the resulting oil would be lost to the West. Additionally, Iran has the natural resources to become a major power and therefore, could compete with the West for industrial production.
      For all his faults, the Shah was trying to assist the Third World countries to experience a more prosperous existence. This, the Trilateral powers could not accept. Two arguments can be proposed however, against this argument. Why did the oil prices continue to rise after the fall of the Shah? This author imagines that not only do the wheels of government move slowly, but the other radical OPEC nations of Algeria and Libya exerted power over OPEC and the North, but an image had to be maintained as well. If oil prices had plummeted after the fall of the Shah, people all around the world would have understood that the First World nations were responsible for his exile and eventual death. The First World nations seeking to prevent this knowledge, played a waiting game.
      Moreover, the oil industry in the United States was enjoying the increased profits it made on the higher OPEC prices. There was no extreme need to drastically reduce oil prices right away.
      An argument can be proposed as to why President Boumediene of Algeria, who was so radical, was not exiled from Algeria. here again, we are dealing with a country whose population is only half of the size of Iran's and is not strategically situated any more than Saudi Arabia's is.
      The power, therefore, of Iran was substantial. The monetary wealth of the country of Iran, which was either lent or given out in grants, was an extreme embarrassment to the Trilateral powers, not to mention the fact that had it continued, would have seriously undermined the transnational banking industry.
      Therefore, as we have observed with the Iran-Contra scandal, the behind the scene activity which Congress may or may not have aware, was being completed. The writers of Middle Eastern history are very quick to point out that in 1953, the Shah was brought into Iran by the CIA, deposing the existing government of that nation. Evidence exists however, to dispute this statement. However, now no one will admit that the CIA agents could easily have instigated unrest in this proud country in order to save the existing economic system for the North. Many other factors exist to substantiate this claim, however, the economic factor is a strong consideration in and of itself.


      It appears that the First World powers have won through the auspices of the Trilateral Commission. The successful co-optation of some leaders of Third World nations and expulsion and or deaths of others has led these nations into either being subdued to the stronger force of aligning with it. This procedure by the First World powers has made it possible to maintain the status quo for the present.
      However, five variables exist to alleviate conditions as they stand now: (1) continued struggle by the people of the poor nations with the resulting media attention; (2) economic pressure against the international banking community; (3) democratic pressures against government leadership; (4) continued education for democratic societies; and (5) time. Nothing remains deadlocked and static in terms of political determinants. The seeds of destruction lie with the organism itself.
      The First World would be wise to truly heed the needs of the Third World because it probably will experience a reversal at some time. When that happens, it will be the First World which will suffer.

Author's note: On July 3, 1987, three weeks after turning in this research paper to the professor of political science at UCLA, the U.S. deliberately blew up a passenger plane flying from Iran to Kuwait with vacationers. Over 300 people were killed. The U.S. didn't apologize for their action and deliberately deceived the American people saying that they "thought it was a military plane which was going to attack." Every other press in every country reported the truth, though possibly not the reason. This author knows that the U.S. blew up that plane because the U.S. wanted to stop the Iran-Iraq War, a war that was instigated by the U.S. On December 20, 1988, Iran blew up the Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in retaliation for the July 3, 1987 incident. The CIA knew that this explosion was going to happen and didn't board the plane as a result.

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