The news-making story of the backroom deals behind America’s decision to switch allegiance from Iran to Saudi Arabia as the dominant oil supplier in the Middle East—and how this action helped to create the conditions for the Islamic revolution in Iran.

Pivotal moment in U.S. history: In the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab countries discovered the power of oil. Skyrocketing prices and fuel shortages rocked the U.S. economy, driving up inflation and sinking the stock market. President Nixon was preoccupied with Watergate so Henry Kissinger stepped into the breach, cutting deals with the Shah of Iran: the U.S. got oil; the Shah got advanced weapons. But as Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, struggled with stagflation, the price of oil became critical. The Shah refused to hold down prices. Desperate to win election and listening more to Treasury Secretary William Simon than to Kissinger, President Ford cut a deal with Saudi Arabia: advanced weapons in exchange for price relief on oil. The switch in allegiance left the Shah with a multi-billion-dollar hole in his budget, so he began draconian economic cutbacks, creating a huge unemployment problem in Iran. These actions helped to cause his downfall, and the Islamic revolution ensued, the repercussions of which are still being felt thirty years later.

Revelatory reportage: No other history of the period or of the oil industry includes the startling revelations in The Oil Kings . Cooper draws on recently declassified documents, new interviews with key figures, and the diary of a top aide of the Shah to show how Nixon, Ford, Kissinger, the CIA, and the State, Defense, and Treasury departments—as well as the Shah and the Saudi royal family—all maneuvered to try to control events in the Middle East. Now, for the first time, the full story of what lay behind these momentous, world-changing decisions can be told.