Clements Center
Clements Center
The History Behind the Hustle: Petrodollars, Abscam, and Arab-American Political Activism, 1973-1981

The History Behind the Hustle: Petrodollars, Abscam, and Arab-American Political Activism, 1973-1981

Co-sponsored by the Clements Center and Middle Eastern Studies
Thursday, Mar 20, 2014   |   4:00 pm   |  History Department, First Floor

The sharp spike in the price of oil in the early 1970s provided petroleum-producing countries with enormous revenues--petrodollars--to invest in the global economy. By the second half of the decade, there was widespread fear in the United States that Arab governments, companies, and individuals were using their vast wealth the "buy up America." 


The Abscam affair of 1978-1980, in which FBI agents posing as rich Arabs induced several members of Congress to take bribes, reflected this anxiety about the potentially harmful influence of petrodollars. In the dominant American narrative, Abscam suggested that U.S. democracy itself was vulnerable to foreign corruption. To many Americans of Arab descent, however, the affair demonstrated that anti-Arab prejudice had reached alarming proportions and that concerted political action was necessary to combat it.

Dr. Salim Yaqub is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Director of UCSB's Center for Cold War Studies and International History. He earned his B.A. from the Academy of Art College and his M.A. at San Francisco State University, continuing on to Yale University, where he earned an M. Phil and a Ph.D. in American History.

Dr. Yaqub specializes in the History of American Foreign Relations, 20th-Century American Political History, and Modern Middle Eastern History since 1945.

Professor Yaqub is the author of Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East. His dissertation of this work earned him the John Addison Porter Prize and the George Washington Egleston Prize from Yale University.

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