Twin Pillars Policy

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U.S. policy to promote Iran and Saudi Arabia as local guardians of U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf region.

The decision by Great Britain in the late 1960s to withdraw its military forces from the Persian Gulf and to grant independence to its ten protectorates along the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula confronted the United States with a strategic dilemma. It was the height of Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union, and the United States was deeply involved in Vietnam. Consequently, the United States decided instead of direct intervention to build up its two regional allies, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as local powers that could protect the region from the spread of Soviet influence. As the "twin pillars" of U.S. policy, both countries were encouraged to acquire billions of dollars of the most advanced arms during the 1970s. Iran embraced the twin pillars policy more enthusiastically than Saudi Arabia and intervened militarily, with U.S. approbation, in Iraq and Oman. The policy collapsed suddenly in 1979, when the shah (king) of Iran was overthrown in a revolution that brought to power a republican regime opposed to U.S. influence in the region.

see alsounited states of america and the middle east.


Hooglund, Eric. "The Persian Gulf." In Intervention into the 1990s: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Third World, edited by Peter Schraeder. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1992.

zachary karabell
updated by eric hooglund