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US involvement in the Middle East has spanned the breadth of this country’s existence, beginning most dramatically with the administration of President Thomas Jefferson, which tried to stop pirating by the North African (or Barbary) provinces of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1800s. This was a war to ensure freedom of navigation on the high seas, which was essential for US trade, as the new republic no longer enjoyed the benefits of British naval protection. Aside from this early encounter, US interaction with and interest in the Middle East during the nineteenth century was limited to the private activities of missionaries and merchants. In the following century, however, World War I propelled the United States onto the world stage-and into European politics-in a role it had neither sought nor experienced before. As the war was winding down, the United States quickly developed an interest in the disposition of the Middle East provinces of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The result was the first significant official foray by Washington into the region in the twentieth century: the King-Crane Commission was sent to Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Anatolia to inform American policy on the future of the region. Nonetheless, no US administration gave the region a high priority during the interwar years (1918-1939), although there was some interest in the growing involvement of multinational oil companies in the Middle East.

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Taylor and Francis

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The Middle East and the United States: History, Politics, and Ideologies

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