The US creeping involvement in the Middle East began much later during the Truman administration, and continued through the 21st century
In late 1914, the British soldiers landed at Basra – a city in the southern region of Iraq – to protect the oil supplies in the Middle-Eastern country from its neighbouring Persia, which is present-day Iran.
However, back then the United States had little interest in the oil or in any political designs of the region. Its overseas ambitions were rather focused on Latin America and the Caribbean, and on East Asia and the Pacific, reports ThoughtCo.
Britain offered to share the spoils of the defunct Ottoman Empire after World War I, but US President Woodrow Wilson declined.
The US creeping involvement in the Middle East began much later during the Truman administration, and continued through the 21st century.
Truman Administration: 1945–1952
American soldiers were stationed in Iran during the World War II to help transfer military supplies to the Soviet Union and protect the Iranian oil supplies.
The British and Soviet troops were also stationed on the Iranian soil. After the war, Russian leader Joseph Stalin withdrew his troops after President Harry Truman protested their continued presence and threatened to boot them out.
Truman solidified America's relationship with Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, and brought Turkey into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), making it clear to the Soviet Union that the Middle East would be a Cold War hot zone.
Truman was strongly opposing the Soviet influence in Iran.
He accepted the 1947 United Nations partition plan of Palestine, granting 57 percent of the land to Israel and 43 percent to Palestine, and personally lobbied for its success.
The plan lost support from UN member nations, especially as hostilities between Jews and Palestinians multiplied in 1948, and Arabs lost more land or fled. Meanwhile on May 14, 1948, the US recognised the State of Israel 11 minutes after its creation.
Eisenhower Administration: 1953–1960
This remained a significant tenure of the US policy in the Middle East. In 1953, the CIA deposed Mohammed Mossadegh, the popular elected leader of the Iranian parliament and an ardent nationalist who opposed British and American influence in Iran in a bloody coup.
It was ordered by President Dwight D Eisenhower. His decision tarnished America's reputation among Iranians, who lost trust in American claims of protecting democracy.
Three years later, when Israel, Britain, and France attacked Egypt in 1956, after the country nationalised the Suez Canal, Eisenhower not only refused to join the hostilities, but also ended the war.
In 1958, Eisenhower's troops first landed in Beirut to protect the regime after nationalist forces roiled the Middle East and threatened to topple Lebanon's Christian-led government.
The deployment lasted just three months and ended a brief civil war in Lebanon.
Kennedy Administration: 1961–1963
According to some historians, President John F Kennedy was not very involved in the Middle East.
But as Warren Bass points out in "Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the US-Israel Alliance," Kennedy tried to develop a special relationship with Israel while diffusing the effects of his predecessors' cold war policies toward the Arab regimes.
Kennedy increased economic aid for the region and worked to reduce the polarisation between Soviet and American spheres. While the US alliance with Israel was solidified during his tenure, Kennedy's abbreviated administration – while briefly inspiring the Arab public – largely failed to mollify Arab leaders.
Johnson Administration: 1963–1968
Unlike his predecessor, President Lyndon Johnson invested most of his energies on Great Society programmes at home and the Vietnam War abroad.
The Middle East burst back onto the American foreign policy radar with the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel, pre-empted an impending attack from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan following the rising tension and threats from all sides.
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and Syria's Golan Heights – and threatened to go further. The Soviet Union threatened an armed attack if it did.
Johnson put the US Navy's Mediterranean Sixth Fleet on alert, but also compelled Israel to agree to a cease-fire on June 10, 1967.
Nixon-Ford Administrations: 1969–1976
Following the humiliation of the Six-Day War, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan attempted to regain the lost territory by attacking Israel during the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur in 1973. Egypt regained some ground, but its Third Army was eventually surrounded by an Israeli army led by Ariel Sharon (who would later become prime minister).
The Soviets proposed a ceasefire, failing which they threatened to act "unilaterally." For the second time in six years, US faced another major and potential nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union over the Middle East.
Journalist Elizabeth Drew described the day as "Strangelove Day," when President Richard Nixon put his troops on highest alert and persuaded Israel to accept a cease-fire.
America felt the effects of that war through the 1973 Arab oil embargo, during which oil prices rocketed upward, contributing to a recession a year later.
In 1974 and 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated the disengagement agreements between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Egypt, formally ending the hostilities that began in 1973.
US also returned some land that Israel had seized from the two countries. These were not peace agreements, however, they left the Palestinian situation unresolved. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein was rising through the ranks in Iraq.
Carter Administration: 1977–1981
President Jimmy Carter is remembered for America's greatest victory and greatest loss in the Mid-East policies since World War II. On the victorious side, Carter led to the 1978 Camp David Accords and the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which included a huge increase in US aid to the two countries.
The treaty led Israel to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. The accords took place, remarkably, months after Israel invaded Lebanon for the first time, ostensibly to repel chronic attacks from Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in south Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the Iranian Islamic Revolution began in 1978 with demonstrations against the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The revolution led to the establishment of an Islamic Republic, under the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on April 1, 1979.
On November 4, 1979, Iranian students backed by the new regime took 63 Americans hostage at the US Embassy in Tehran. They held on to 52 of them for 444 days, releasing them the day Ronald Reagan became President of the US.
The hostage crisis, which included one failed military rescue attempt, cost the lives of eight American servicemen. It turned down the Carter presidency and set back American policy in the region for years: The rise of Shiite power in the Middle East had begun.
Reagan Administration: 1981–1989
Whatever progress the Carter administration achieved on the Israeli-Palestinian front was stalled over the next decade. In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon for the second time amid the raging Lebanese civil war. They advanced as far as Beirut, before Reagan intervened to demand a cease-fire.
American, Italian, and French troops landed in Beirut to mediate the exit of 6,000 PLO militants.
The troops then withdrew, only to return following the assassination of Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel and the retaliatory massacre, by Israeli-backed Christian militias, of up to 3,000 Palestinians in refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, south of Beirut.
On April 18, 1983, a truck bomb demolished the US Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. Six months later bombings killed 241 American soldiers and 57 French paratroopers in their Beirut barracks.
American forces withdrew shortly after. President Reagan faced several crises as the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite organisation that became known as Hezbollah took several Americans hostage in Lebanon.
The 1986 Iran-Contra Affair revealed that President Reagan's administration had secretly negotiated arms-for-hostages deals with Iran. Reagan dismissed the accusation claiming he will not negotiate with terrorists. It was not until December 1991 that the last hostage, journalist Terry Anderson, was released.
Throughout the 1980s, Reagan supported Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied territories and Saddam Hussein in the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War by providing logistical and intelligence support, and believing wrongly that Saddam could destabilise the Iranian regime and defeat the Islamic Revolution.
George HW Bush Administration: 1989–1993
On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait after benefiting from a decade of support from the US and receiving conflicting signals. Soon after the invasion, President George HW Bush launched Operation Desert Shield and immediately deployed troops in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to defend against a possible invasion by Iraq.
Desert Shield later became Operation Desert Storm, when Bush shifted his strategy from defending Saudi Arabia to repelling Iraq from Kuwait, ostensibly because Saddam might, as Bush claimed, be developing nuclear weapons.
A coalition of 30 nations joined American forces in a military operation that numbered more than half a million troops. An additional 18 countries supplied economic and humanitarian aid.
After a 38-day air campaign and a 100-hour ground war, Kuwait was liberated.
President Bush stopped the assault short of an invasion of Iraq, fearing what Dick Cheney, his defense secretary, would call a "quagmire." Bush instead established no-fly zones in the south and north of the country, but these did not keep Saddam from massacring Shiites following an attempted revolt in the south, which Bush had encouraged.
In Israel and the Palestinian territories, Bush was largely ineffective and uninvolved as the first Palestinian intifada roiled on for four years.
In the last year of his presidency, Bush launched a military operation in Somalia in conjunction with a humanitarian operation by the United Nations. The Operation Restore Hope, involving 25,000 US troops, was designed to help stem the spread of famine caused by the Somali civil war.
The operation had limited success. A 1993 attempt to catch Mohamed Farah Aidid, the leader of a brutal Somali militia, ended in disaster, with 18 American soldiers and up to 1,500 Somali militia soldiers and civilians killed. Aidid was not captured.
Among the architects of the attacks on Americans in Somalia was a Saudi exile then living in Sudan and largely unknown in the United States – Osama bin Laden.
Clinton Administration: 1993–2001
Besides mediating the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, President Bill Clinton's involvement in the Middle East was bracketed by the short-lived success of the Oslo Accords in August 1993 and the collapse of the Camp David summit in December 2000.
The accords ended the first intifada, established Palestinians' right to self-determination in Gaza and the West Bank, and established the Palestinian Authority. The accords also called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
But Oslo did not address such fundamental issues as the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, the fate of East Jerusalem, or what to do about continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the territories.
Those issues, still unresolved in 2000, led Clinton to convene a summit with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli leader Ehud Barak at Camp David in December of that year. The summit failed, and the second intifada exploded.
George W Bush Administration: 2001–2008
President George W Bush – after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – turned into the most ambitious nation-builder since the days of Secretary of State George Marshall, who helped rebuild Europe after World War II.
But Bush's efforts – focused on the Middle East – were not very successful.
Bush had the world's backing when he led an attack on Afghanistan in October 2001 to topple the Taliban regime, which had given sanctuary to al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Bush's expansion of the "war on terror" to Iraq in March 2003, however, had far less international support. Bush saw the toppling of Saddam Hussein as the first step in a domino-like birth of democracy in the Middle East.
But while Bush talked democracy in regards to Iraq and Afghanistan, he continued to support repressive, undemocratic regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and several countries in North Africa.
The credibility of his democracy campaign was short-lived. By 2006, with Iraq plunging into civil war, Hamas winning elections in the Gaza Strip, and Hezbollah winning immense popularity following its summer war with Israel, Bush's democracy campaign was dead.
The US military surged troops into Iraq in 2007, but by then the majority of the American people and many government officials were widely skeptical of the motivations for the invasion.
In an interview with The New York Times Magazine in 2008 – toward the end of his presidency – Bush touched upon what he hoped his Middle East legacy would be, saying, "I think history will say George Bush clearly saw the threats that keep the Middle East in turmoil and was willing to do something about it, was willing to lead and had this great faith in the capacity of democracies and great faith in the capacity of people to decide the fate of their countries and that the democracy movement gained impetus and gained movement in the Middle East."