Behind the Headlines Resisting Arab Oil Blackmail

President Nixon’s crash four-point legislative program to make the United States self-reliant in energy within five years was seen by some Western diplomats today as irrevocable determination by his administration to resist Arab blackmail with oil.

“The President has now told the Arabs twice in four days, ‘don’t try to bully us,’” according to a leading diplomatic authority on the Middle East. “The President seems to be making it as plain as possible that as America approaches its bicentennial it is not going to become a satellite of oil rich tyrants.”

There was some feeling that the President’s program, however, is only the beginning of a U.S. grand strategy towards reaching a Middle East settlement. The crux of the design is certainly to insure America’s energy requirements in the future and not be utterly dependent on foreign sources, Arab or other.

(In Jerusalem today Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the Cabinet that he considered U.S. plans to develop its own sources of energy to insure independence in that sphere as a move of global importance. He also stressed that the latest statements by Nixon and Dr. Kissinger indicate that there has been no essential change in U.S. policy toward Israel and the Arab states.)

However, involved in it are political elements Should the petroleum producing Arab states recognize the Administration will not be economically pressured into altering its position of support for Israel and therefore relax their oil offensive, the Administration will then turn openly towards Israel for some matching political concessions to reach an accommodation with its Arab neighbors.

Secretary of State-designate Dr. Henry Kissinger’s intention to consult with Arabs and Israelis at the UN General Assembly opening in New York Sept. 18 may be the opening gambit of the Nixon design.

NOT A CRISIS, BUT A PROBLEM

In asking Congress yesterday to enact his program by the end of this year, the President said that he wants the U.S. to avoid being at “the mercy of any other nation by having its energy supplies suddenly cut off,” or “basically more important, cut off our energy.” The President did not name any country which might terminate its petroleum flow.

“We are going to do the very best we can to work out problems with the Mideastern countries or any other countries that may develop so that we can continue to have a flow of imports into the United States of oil products particularly,” Nixon said.

The President’s legislative proposals concern advancement of the Alaska pipeline, development of deep water ports to have the capacity to bring in products from abroad, de-regulation of gas, new construction, drilling and refining, and “step up” U.S. development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy without resort to new legislation.

Nixon specifically downgraded “crisis” as a term for describing the U.S. energy situation. “We have heard a lot about a crisis” he said. “I don’t use that term because we do not face a crisis in that sense of the word.” He said that heating this winter might be “a problem” just as we “thought we faced a problem of gasoline this summer and the possibility of brownouts.” For the long term, he said, “the prospects for adequate energy for the United States are excellent.,, because of our enormous research capabilities.”

Nixon’s announcement followed a two-hour meeting with 16 major administration officials including Secretary of Treasury George Shultz, former Colorado Gov. John A. Love, the director for U.S. Energy Policy, and Dr. Kissinger. While Nixon said he would not put a timetable on the development of U.S. resources, Love told newsmen that he is thinking in terms of 3-5 years.

“Certainly we will even then be importing some oil,” from the Western hemisphere and “maybe certainly some still from the Middle East,” he said. But he expressed belief that “we can get to the point of self-sufficiency maybe in five years.” The thrust of the Administration’s program, particularly regarding the Middle East oil producing states, is according to Love “to make sure that we move beyond reliance.”

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