Oil in the Middle East

The topic of oil in the Middle East can be (pardon the pun) sticky. Many discuss Middle Eastern oil as if it is an inherently corrupt and destructive force that gives autocrats a money-fueled mandate to oppress their people, but this is not a fair assessment. It is important to be aware of the bias many Western media outlets have. Oil is indeed a significant part of the Middle Eastern economy and has shaped the region for many years. Given that oil is what powers much of our world and has guided much of American foreign policy in the Middle East, it is important for students to understand oil’s significance and role in the global economy.
This topic is ideal for pairing with other lessons about the Middle East. For example, learning about oil can supplement learning about U.S. interests in the Middle East, the causes of wars, and the economies of the Middle East.
Also, click here for a list of vocabulary terms about the Middle East, which can be helpful to have on hand when teaching this topic.

Recommended Topics to Discuss

  • Where oil comes from (ex. the drilling process and where it is found)
  • Relevant groups such as OPEC, Saudi Aramco, OAPEC, and more
  • How oil affects the economy in the Middle East (explain how some economies are dependent on oil and what they are doing to diversify their economies)
  • U.S. foreign oil policy (teach students how oil affects American foreign policy)

Background Information

Lesson Plans and Teaching Materials

Films & Documentaries

  • CBS: The Oil Kingdom, part one and part two — CBS takes an inside look into the world of Saudi Aramco, the world leader in crude oil production and the country’s sole source of wealth and power; note that documentary is from 2008 and from an American perspective

YouTube Videos

Podcasts

Books

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