Soviet penetration in the Middle East, 1945–1957

Revista ERASMUS, nr. 13/2002, Bucureşti, Editura Ars Docendi, 2002.


The Middle East area represented one of the most sensitive areas in the world and one of the main fronts of the Cold War.The Middle East proved to be one of the most unstable areas in the world, with numerous conflicts, revolutions and spectacular overthrowns.
Great Powers made serious efforts to impose themselves in this area. This region was not exempted from problems before the Cold War, but these conflicts were local conflicts which did not affect the international relationship between the Great Powers.In a few decades, this area became one of the main battlefields of the Great Powers‘ confruntations. Their intervention transformed some local conflicts into major international crises.
The Middle East1 has a geostrategic position, being a real vertebra for three continents and two seas. In 1869 Ferdinand de Lesseps pierced the Suez isthmus with his famous Suez Canal, shortening the comercial lines to India and the Far East area. In 1908 Knox d‘Arcy found oil in Persia, an indinspensable element of the modern civilisation. All these factors, cumulated, represented a major stake for the Great Powers.
One of the first penetrations in this area was made by Great Britain in 1881, when this Great Power imposed its protectorate over Egypt. Its objective2 was to secure its communication lines to India through the Suez Canal. In 1936, this protectorate was transformed into an alliance through the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, signed by London and Cairo.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire3 in 1918, Great Britain spread its influence over the entire Middle East, with a few exceptions. In order to provide the British presence in this area a lasting nature, London exploited at maximum, from the Lawrence era, playing the card of Arab nationalism, making foundings of dynasties from a few tribal rulers. They were integrated in the British establishment, opening for them the universities and their clubs. Through British education, powerfully links and economic interests, the Arab rulers have to declare themselves solidary with the British Empire. One of the most powerful reason which pushed the Arab governments from this era to link their destinies with those of the British Empire was their aim to combat the Zionism. On november 1917, Chaim Weizmann pulled out from the Foreign Office the famous Balfour Declaration which promised the Jewish people a “National Home” in Palestine. Winston Churchill, the Secretary of the Colonial Office, declared in 1922, when Great Britain obtained the Mandate of Palestine from the League of Nations that the British Empire had no intention to make from Palestine a Jewish state. After numerous attempts to limit the number of the Jewish immigrants, in 1939, through The White Chart, the number of the Jewish immigrants was limited and the settlement of the Jewish colonists in Palestine was burdened. The limitation of the number of the Jewish colonists will arouse numerous agitations in Palestine, Hagana, the semi-official army of the Jewish Agency, carring a real war against the British troops stationated in the area.
Further supporting the Arab nationalism, in 1941 Eden declared that the British Governments ”would regard with simpathy any movement rising from the Arab world in the favour of an economic, cultural and politic unity”4 . In 1942 the Egyptian prime-minister Nahas-Pasha, which was imposed on King Farouk by British, took the innitiative to create an Arabs’Nation League. This initiative will be finished in March 1945 by pro-British Arab leaders as King Abdallah of Transjordan or the prime- minister of Irak, Nuri es-Said. They tried to remake their old plan of Great Syria which would transferred the centre of the Arab world from Cairo to Baghdad.
In the prewar era, Great Britain was not the only state interested in this area. The Soviet Union was a powerful competitor for the British. The Russian revolution from October 1917 did not modify in a significant manner the traditional interest of Russia’s foreign policy for the Middle East area5 . Another factor represented the British danger to the new regime. The Soviet Union considered the British Empire to be the main rival on its southern flank, a very vulnerable one6 . In the following month after the revolution, the new masters from Kremlin proclaimed their peacefully intention to the muslim population from Central Asia, a message both addressed to the neighbour muslim countries which still had serious restlessnesses from the Tsarists expansionism in foreign policy. Another factor which increased the suspicion of the islamic countries was Zinoviev’s criticism, as the president of the Congress of Baku, against Islam, considered by him to be a hindrance to the progress and triumph of the revolutionary ideas.
The revolutionary impetus was rapidly temperated by Moscow’s aim to establish good relations with Turkey. For certain, the political events in Turkey encouraged Soviet hopes with the rise of Kemal Atatürk and his strength to resist the British imperialism. In 1920 both countries decided to exchange ambassadors, as a sign of the good relationship between their countries. A shadow passed over the Soviets’ optimism when the new Turkish Communist Party, created in 1920, was not regarded favourable by Kemal Ataturk. Soon after that, a powerful campaign against Turkish communists started. The Turkish Communist Party was official autlawed in 1922, after the execution of its leader, Mustafa Subhi, in January 1921. Although, the relationship between the states did not suffered too much, Moscow cosidered a priority the diplomatic approaches. At the same time, Moscow declared its solidarity and its support for the Turkish communists.
The second state which benefited from the same treatment was Iran7 .Moscow’s main objective aimed to encourage this strategic southern neighbour to resist the British imperialism and to use Iran as a base for spreading the communist revolution in the Middle East. In 1918 the Russian troops were withdrawn from the north of Iran where they were stationated since the beginning of The Great War. The Iranian Communist Party was created in 1920 under the name A’Delyat Party , the Party of Justice, made up of a few Iranian workers which rapidly launched into a radical revolutionary action. Its program of radical reforms was criticized by Moscow. This program could destroy the national burgeoisie and the landlords, considered by Moscow as advanced elements of the national struggle against the British presence. The Soviets gave priority to the diplomatic process for consolidating its relationship with Teheran and to help Iranians in order to resist the British. The Soviets’ relationship with Teheran answered to an imperative of security at the Soviet-Iranian border. Moscow adopted the same attitude as in Turkey: encouraging the development of the national burgeoisie in order to oppose the western powers. From 1921 to 1927 the relationship between these two countries unfurled into a peacefully climate, marked by the signing of the Soviet-Iranian Treaty in February 1921, in which Moscow renounced all its grants and ownership in Iran. Reza-Khan’s coup d’etat from 1925 did not affect the Soviet reliance on the Iranian leaders capacities to achieve their economic reforms. In 1927, suddenly, Moscow completly rennounced to their expectations of seing any reforms in Iran. This country was introduced as being among the reactionary states series. At this stage, the only Soviet objective was to encourage Iran to opose the British attempts to gain any influence in this country. In the first decades of its existance, the Soviet Union carried a foreign policy which, in a general manner, was limited to its main purpose: to break their isolation and to anihilate all the threats for Soviet security coming from the west. In the Middle East the same attitude prevailed, confirmed by the Soviets attempts to establish a good relationship with Turkey and Iran. At this stage we assist at a renunciation of all the forms of exactigness ideological character. The Middle East was a rough field for the growth of local communists. The Soviet policy was a dual policy in this area, as in the rest of the world, through normal diplomacy and through its support to the “progressit movements” from the inside of these countries. In 1928 Moscow realized that the regime set up in 1917 was consolidated and the main threats vanished. At the sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928 Moscow changed the way of action and its leaders’ outlook. The Congress adopted a resolution which aimed to strengthen the communists movement and its solidarity with the Soviet Union objectives. Now the national bourgeoisie was regarded as a reactionary element, ally of the imperialists and a bitter enemy of the revolutionary movement. Till 1934, that was the Soviet foreign policy. This year, 1934, could be considered the year of change under the pressure of the economic failure in agriculture and foreign threats, German and Japanese. This was the year when the Soviet Union entered into the League of Nations and made a real approach to France and Great Britain. In the Middle East, the Soviet Union militance marked small steps in front of the local resistance at the communists growth. In the years before World War II, in the area it manifested a powerful current of sympathy for fascism. The Italian and German propaganda will amplify these simpathies, supporting the idea of pan-Arabism. The Arab uprising from 1936 in Palestine, lead by Haj Amin al-Husseini was criticized by Moscow and declared that this uprising were supported by fascists. Haj Amin al-Husseini was declaired by Moscow a German fascist agent. From 1936 Moscow’s relationship with Teheran and Angora degraded after Montreux. Turkey will be the only one responsable for defending the Straits, without Moscow. In fact, the Turkish foreign policy will approach a neutrality, with powerful German sympathies, estimating that the Soviet threats were higher than the German. The Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact from August 1939 did not affect too much the Soviet position in the Middle East. The local Communists Parties, created soon after 1920 in this area, except the Egypyian Communist Party, were too weak and divided, will consolidate. The aliance with the western countries8 will facilitate the establishment of diplomatic missions in Cairo and Beirut, both led by Stalin’s trusted men, Nikolai Novikov and Daniel Solod. Numerous muslims from the Soviet Union were granted permission to go to Mecca in pilgrimage. The Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch was received with much pomp at Jerusalem and in main cities from Middle East. Kremlin, through negotiations, obtained as a recovery a lot of ancient proprieties of the Russian Orthodox Church of Levant: monastries, schools and hospitals. Right after the war, profiting as the ally of Great Britain and France, Soviet Union will supported the Arab demands that the British troops be withdrawn from the Middle East, a demand supported in the Security Council of the United Nations, in 1946 and 1947, at the solicitation of Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. The foreign policy of Soviet Union complied with Stalin wishes. Under Stalin, the Soviet Union’s foreign policy9 remained a continental-regional one, in order to assure the Soviet Union’s security needs. Stalin lost his confidence10 in the national burgeoisie leaders from the third world countries. He was very affected by the Turkish experience when he had supported Atatürk to the detriment of the local communists. Later, Turkey gave no support to the Soviet Union in its Straits demands. Turkey even will become a member of N.A.T.O., the supreme sin for Stalin. Another country to which Stalin gave his support to in the detriment of the local communists was Chiang Kai-shek’s China, another great dissapointment to him. After 1945 Stalin focused on India,11 but the national bourgeoisie skidded to the west, became member of the Commonwealth and accepted foreign investitions and British military advisers. Stalin concluded that the national bourgeoisie regimes were in the capitalists’ sphere and so he gave no support to the new radical regime from Guatemala and no such regimes in the future. After 1945 Stalin’s theory of the two antagonists camps begun to emerge, one imperialistic and warrior, and the other one, led by the Soviet Union, anti-imperialistic and peaceful. In 1947, Andrei Jdanov, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, officially formuleted the theory of the two camps, describing the third world in terms of the new conflict East-West: if a country from the third world was not ruled by communists, even if its leaders declared their neutrality, they were in the imperialistic camp. A country which did not subordinate its foreign policy to Moscow was included in the imperialistic camp. Even if a non-communist state from the third world took an anti-western position or nationalized a strategic sector of its economy, for example the oil sector, these gestures were considered by Stalin as simple tricks. Any so-called neutral country was, in fact, an American puppet for Stalin. His main preocupation was the support given to the Communists Parties from the Western Europe and, later, to the Movement for Peace, an action directed by Kremlin, in these countries. At the XIXth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union12 in 1952, Stalin powerfully denounced the bourgeoisie: “…the bourgeoisie itself-the chief enemy of the liberation movement-has become different that it was…Earlier the bourgeoisie allowed itself to take liberal actions. It defended bourgeoisie-democratic freedom and thus created popularity for itself in the people. Now, not a trace of the liberalism remains…Earlier the bourgeoisie was considered the head of the nation. It defended the rights and independence of the nation placing it. Now, not a trace of the remains. Now, the bourgeoisie sells the rights and dependence of the nation for dollars”. For Stalin, however, his strategical neighbours from south, Turkey and Iran 13 could not be excluded from the Soviet sphera of influence, being a very high relevance for the southern flank security of the Soviet Union.
During the war, Stalin considered unacceptable being neighbour with two states who had powerful simpathies for Germany. Stalin requested Turkey a clear commitment for the United Nations. Else, he intended to occupy, as a safe measure, a part of Turkey. This country carried on hesitant policy, giving a few favours to its powerful neighbour, opening the Straits and faciliting the transit of the alied supplies to the Soviets. For Stalin these gestures were insignifiant and in March 1945 he denounced the non-agression treaty from 1925 signed by both countries. In August 1945, at Potsdam, Stalin aimed at an agreement which should allow him to exert a common control over the Straits. United States considered that the Soviet hegemony tendency was unacceptable, the Straits being vital for the security of the entire area and for the United States itself. In October 1946 Washington declared that Turkey was a stategic part for the entire area and its stability. In March 1947 the Truman Doctrine reduced any possibility for the U.S.S.R. to exercise any political or military influence over Turkey in the future .
The Soviets faced the same difficulties in the establishment of their hegemony in Iran, considered by the United States as essential, a regional ally, approached by the western powers. The relationship between Soviet Union and Iran degraded when Hitler gained power in Germany. The Shah’s pro-German policy resulted in August 1941 to a British and Soviet invasion, the British army in the south and the Red Army in the north of Iran. In 1942 the Tudeh Party turned up on the Iranian political stage, powerfully supported by the Soviets. It proclaimed in its program the possibility of some changes in the social and political field, but only by legal actions. However, in 1945, supported by the Kremlin, the Tudeh Party proclaimed in the north of Iran an Autonomus Republic of Azerbaidjan. Stalin hoped that to avoid withdrawing Soviet troops from Iran in this way . United States Adminstration was determined to oppose the Soviets and to bring the entire problem in front of the United Nations. Stalin accepted with difficulty to withdraw his army from Iran. He aimed to avoid a confrontation with a neighbouring country, one totally hostile to Moscow.14
Thus, right after World War II, in the Middle East, the Soviets’ political achievements were almost non-existent. Although Kremlin succeded in the establishment of some diplomatic relationships with almost all the states from this area, the failure in Turkey and Iran were much too important for Stalin’s objectives in the Middle East. Again, the Soviets will establish two channels of their relationship with this area: the classic diplomatic relationship and on the other hand, the infiltration and strenghening of the local communists parties, as in Syria and Irak in 1945.
Soon after the events in Turkey and Iran, another crisis in the Middle East will determine Moscow to get involved here. After 1945, in Palestine, the climate was explosive15 . The limitation of the number of the Jewish immigrants through the White Paper in 1939 by the British Cabinet will produce numerous troubles in Palestine, Hagana, the semi-official army of the Jewish Agency was carrying on a real war with the British troops. London16 had a very complicated situation, being split between its interests in the Arab world and the pressure of the public opinion of the entire world after the Holocaust. Truman will search various conciliation formulas, proposing a rise in the number of Jewish immigrants or the creation of a federalist state in Palestine. His plans will fail. The Atlee Cabinet will convene a round table, but the Arabs will refuse to sit at the same table with the Jews. On April 2, 1947 Atlee informed the United Nations about the situation in Palestine. On November 30, 1947 after numerous inquires, the General Assembly of the United Nations favors the creation of two states, one Arab and another Jewish, the holly places, as Bethleem and Jerusalem becoming international places. A special committee composed of from the United States, Soviet Union, Canada and Guatemala recommended this solution. Moscow and Washington had an identical position in a period of maximum confrontation between both states. To the United States the Jewish electorate was very important for the Democrats, and Truman could not risk losing their votes and support. For the Soviet Union this was an oportunity to take the British out of a part of the Middle East, a very important objective for the Kremlin.
The Arab states immediately announced that they will never recognize the United Nations’ resolution. In front of this block, London announced on December 11, 1947 that she will rennounced at her Mandate on May 15, 1948. London thought that the Arab states will defeat the Zionists army soon after this date. For this purpose, London signed a new treaty with Baghdad, supplied armaments to Syria and did not oppose the Arab Liberation Army occupying the British bases which were gradually evacuated by the British army. During the entire war in Palestine, the Arab Legion will be commanded by famous Glubb Pasha, an old British general. The fear of seeing the Arabs and their oil passing over the Soviet camp explains the British attitude17 . The Secretary of Defense of the United States, James Forrestal, and experts from the Departament of State shared the British opinion and fears, being totally hostile, without exception, to the idea of creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Truman was caught between this group and the American Jewish pressure. He will recommend these groups moderation in their actions. The situation in Palestine will rapidly deteriorate. On Christmas Day 1947, hundreads of civilians were killed in the confrontation between Arab and Jewish communities. On March 19, 1948 the Security Council of the United Nations will ascertain that the confrontations between both communities has ampified since December 1947. In the same day, the American ambassador at the United Nation suggested that the administration of Palestine to be given to the United Nations. Gromyko will oppose this sugestion, accusing the United States of intending to transform Palestine into an American base18 .
On May 14, 1948, the executive chief of the Jewish Agency, David Ben Gurion proclaimed the independence of the new state of Israel. On this day, United States will recognize de facto the new state. On May 17, 1948, Soviet Union will recognize de jure, a highest recognition.
On May 15, 1948 the joint armies of Arab states invaded the new state in an attempt to destroy it. The Soviet Union gave discreet support through Czechoslovakia. Moscow made an air-bridge supplying Israel with fighters, artillery and machineguns.
The Soviet support19 will raise the Arab hostility towards Moscow. The Soviets represented themselves as supporters of the new state. The independence of Israel eliminated the British troops from Palestine and weaked the British position in the Middle East. This was a new opportunity for Moscow to affirm its presence there. Moscow’s decision seemed a logical one, because in its views, till the mid ’50s, the Arab world was regarded as a reactionary and a feudal world.
After 1948 the Middle East will enter in a period of crisis in which Moscow will be very interested to intervine, especially since after a short period the relations between Moscow and Israel deteriorated very rapidly20 . The Jewish state was very attractive for the Jews who lived in the Soviet Union and in the communist states of the Europe.
Since the first month, Israel was approached by the United States, a state in which it will always find a great sympathy and the large financial support that it needed. The western powers will supply reasons for Moscow to intervine. On May 25, 1950, after the armistices signed in March 1949 by Israel with the Arab States never became Peace Treaties, United States, Great Britain and France will publish a declaration on the security of the Middle East region21 . In this declaration these states affirmed their intention to act in this area for the maintaining of the present status-quo. These states declared that they will never supply with armaments any state from this region that had aggressive intentions against its neighbours. This declaration was not signed by the Soviet Union, and the western powers did not have the intention of including her. These states thought that choosing the possibility of acting outside the United Nations regulations will avoid a Soviet veto. In fact, through this declaration, the western powers invited Soviet involvement in this area. Any state from the Middle East can request armaments from Moscow if the West refuses to supply them. Five years later, this will be one of the causes of the Suez crisis, Egypt being supplied by Moscow with arms22 .
Another crisis in the Middle East was the Iranian crisis23 . On March 7, 1951 Ali Razm Ara, the Iranian primeminister was killed. He was close to Mohammad Reza and he had a program of moderate reforms in order to eliminate misery and corruption and, to avoid and eliminate any communist influence. Washington approved this policy24 . One of the most sensitive problems in this country was Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (A.I.O.C.), the British oil company spoiled Iran by much profits. Under huge pressure, on March 15, 1951 the Majlis nationalized the oil sector. On April 28, 1951 Mossadiq, the leader of the National Front, supported by Tudeh and the radical muslims of Ayatollah Kachani, was appointed by the Shah as Prime Minister. A wave of anti-British actions will spread across the entire region. On July 20, 1951, King Abdallah of Jordan was assasinated in Jerusalem and in October 8, 1951 Nahas Pasha, the Egyptian Prime Minister denounced the Treaty from 193625 . London decided to intervine in Iran, preparing military action. Truman opposed this British attitude, because the failure of the nationalists could facillitate the path to power for Tudeh26 . Between Mossadiq and Shah a powerfully rift will grow. On July 19, 1953 the Majilis rejected the appointment of Mossadiq as the supreme comander of the Iranian army. On August 8, 1953 Malenkov, the Soviet Prime Minister announced the opening of the negotiations with Iran. This was too much for the United States and CIA, through General Schwartzkopf provoked a coup d’etat27 . During this entire crisis, the Soviet Union avoided involvement in Iran. Moscow not only did not offer any aid to Mossadiq, but also temperated Tudeh in order to avoid its gain in the power. After Stalin’s death, Moscow aimed to establishing good relations with the West and had enough oil for itself in Baku28 . Moscow had no reason to get involved in Iran and to transform a local crisis into an international crisis in which to implicate itself. 1953 was the year when the Soviet foreign policy was radically changed29 . The communist interest in the Middle East in the mid ‘50s had three main targets: the expansion of communism into the Third World, the establish of good relations with the Arab States and the penetration of a strategical area occupied up till then only by the western powers. In 1953 not only the leadership of the Soviet Union had changed but also its entire foreign policy. Kruschev launched into an unprecedent foreign policy, very militant in the economic and diplomatic fields thus the Soviet Union not having western economic and military potential30 . Soviet Union cooperated and supported any country which resisted having western bases on its territory31 . This new concept of foreign policy was developed by a Soviet scholar, Ghiorghi Mirsky. Kruschev had a dual foreign policy: cooperation in direct relationship with the west and confrontation with the west in the Third World.
The third world was not no longer regarded as a reactionary area. Malenkov begun to speak in warm terms about the Third World and its leaders such as Jawaharal Nehru from India. The official view concerning the national bourgeoisie changed and it was no longer regarded as the chief reactionary class32 .
The Soviet participation at the highest level at the Bandung Conference from April – May 1955 confirmed the highest Soviet interests for the Third World33 . The Soviets found in Nasser, the new leader of Egypt a very conveniant interlocutor. The Arab defeat in 1948 caused a wave of nationalism and anti-British actions34 . On July 23, 1952, a group of so-called “Free Officiers” led by Lieutenant-Colonel Gamal Abd al Nasser gained the power in Egypt through a coup d’etat, King Farouk being sent into exile. For a brief period of time, General Mohammad Naguib, the hero from the Palestinian war, was appointed by the “Free Officiers” as their leader. Soon after that, Nasser will replace him. Nasser was not a revolutionary communist, his political ideas were in contradiction with the Marxism. He destroyed the Egyptian Communist Party. His Arab-nationalism so-called Nasserism was a rival of the communism in the political and ideological field35 .
The “Free Officers” coup d’etat was regarded by Moscow in July 1952, with suspicions. Pravda wrote that behind the “Free Officers” was the American imperialism36 . Nasser destroyed all the parties and arrested almost 3000 political prisoniers37 . Egypt was a very poor country with 40 milions inhabitants, with no industry and no more arable terrain then Belgium. To draw the attention of his people from the seriously internal problems, he needed a foreign enemy. The first enemy was Great Britain, but after the withdrawl of its troops from Egypt, Israel became this enemy, being responsable for the unfavorable internal situation. His participation at Bandung raised the radical nationalism ideas. Nasser aimed to lead the Arab World and the non-aligniament movement38 . Nasser now realized to be an Arab for the Arabs, an Asian for the Asians, an anti-communist for the United States and an anticolonialist for the Soviets and a neutralist for the Third World39 .
Nasser launched a nationalistic pan-Arab policy and anti-Israeli policy. One of the main problems was the Gulf of Aqaba and the Tiran Straits. Egypt claimed that Israel had not any territorial waters in this Gulf and acces in the Red Sea because Eilat were occupied after the armistice of March 1949. Egypt locked up the Tiran Straits and the Suez Canal for Israel as a form of an economic warfare. Both interpreted international law differently. The Constantinopol Convention of 1888 decided that the Suez Canal be always open all the time, in peace or war for every veassels. The Canal could not be a subject for a blockade. Egypt violated this Act40 .
The Bagdad Pact which included his rival, Nuri es-Said supplied a new opportunity for Nasser to act. On March 2, 1955 he established with Damascus a Joint military Staff41 . An Israeli attack on March 16, 1955 in Gaza, a base for the fedayins proved the weakness of the Egyptian Army. Nasser started to seek armaments for the Egypt. He requested first in Washington but United States agreed only if Nasser accepted an American military mission in Egypt. He refused this proposal.
At Bandung, Cho En-Lai offered a good deal to Nasser: to buy armament from the communist camp, paying in products, especially in cotton42 . The armament will be supplied by Czechoslovakia: 230 tanks, 200 armoured troop carriers, 100 self propelled guns, 500 artillery pieces and up to 200 fighters plus naval ships (destroyers, submarines, torpedo-boats)43 . The approach between the Soviets and Egypt was not an accident. It followed the new policy line of Moscow in the Third World44 . The first steps of Moscow were in 1954. In January Moscow and Cairo signed a petroleum agreement and in March they exchanged ambassadors. Moscow opposed its veto in the Security Council concerning the opening of the Suez Canal to the Israeli veassels45 . The position of the United States in this region was a very fragile one, between Israel and Arab States. The Washington role was very complex, pendulating between each side in the conflict, following its policy and national interests in this area. The main objective was to lock the access of the communists in this strategical region. Americans aimed to balance the Israeli power with Arab friendship. The pro-Israeli policy adopted by many presidents of USA, including Eisenhower, was followed by major supplies, economic and military to the Arab States, thus an “impartial policy”46 . In the Middle East the Secretary of State, John F. Dulles aimed to build a solid defensive area which included Arab States in order to oppose the Soviet Union by a real “dam”47 . This plan would become soon the Bagdad Pact. Nasser oposed fiercely this plan, and, later this Pact. Dulles never understood the concept of the non–alignament. For him, the non-alignament was similar with the communism.48
Another state which was deeply involved in the Arab world was France. France, right after the war, had numerous problems, economics, politics and especially morale49 . The major problem was the colonial problem. France was defeated in Indochina. Soon after this disaster, in 1954 in Algeria began a new war for France. Algeria, part of Metropolitan France, with a mixed population, represented a major stake. France aimed at hitting the Arab nationalism, especially because Nasser supported the Algerians rebels50 . For Guy Mollet, the French Prime Minister, Nasser was a fascist dictator and aimed to hit him very hard. For France, the Suez Canal was less important then Algeria. France had a large sympathy for Israel after the Holocaust and was prepared to give all its support, including a military one, for the new state51 .
In a few years, from 1948 to 1955, in Israel were killed more than 3000 civillians in terrorists attacks of the fedayins, supported by Egypt. Egypt also carried on economic warfare against Israel. In April 1956 Nasser signed a military pact with Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In October 25, 1956 he signed with Syria and Jordan an agreement for a joint military staff against Israel52 . Israel decided on a preemptive action into a short powerful attack53 . For David Ben Gurion, the Israeli Prime Minister, the objectives were limited: freedom of the Tiran Straits, the destruction of the fedayins’ bases in Gaza and the security of Israeli borders. When Dayan invaded the Sinai Peninsula, he followed these objectives, not the Anglo French objectives54 . Great Britain had a very flexible policy. When it abandoned a colony, it moved its bases. London could not withdrawn from the Middle East, because for of British Empire, Arab oil were vital for the economy55 . In 1955, Anthony Eden replaced Winston Churchill. For him, a British withdrawl from the Arab world was unacceptable56 . For him, Nasser was another dictator like Hitler. He was one of the main actors at the creation of the Bagdad Pact on February 24, 1955, which included Great Britain, Turkey, Pakistan and Iraq. The young King of Jordan, Hussein, who was a pro-British, carried although an anti-British policy forced by his country’s internal problems, having numerous Palestinian refugees which was an anti-British minority. He refused to sign the Bagdad Pact and more than that, he removed General Glubb Pasha, considered as the second man in Jordan after the King Hussein. For Eden, this humiliation made him wait for a favourable moment to counter-attack.57 A very sensitive problem in the relationship with Egypt was the Suez Canal base. In 1953, as Secretary of the Foreign Office, he had a conversation with Eisenhower regarding this problem58 .
Eden aimed to propose to Egypt a plan in five points:
1. The maintanence of the Suez Canal Base in time of peace with a view to its immediate reactivation in the event of war.
2. The air defence of Egypt by the British R.A.F.
3. The gradual withdrawl of the British troops
4. The Egyptian contribution to defend the Middle East
5. The British military and economic aid.
In their negotiations, London had three graded proposals: Case A, B, and C. In January 1954 Egypt agreed that the British could occupy again the Suez Canal Base if an aggressor attacked Egypt. The final agreement was signed in October 19, 1954. At Bandung Nasser learned that non-alignament and the game between East and West is very profitable. He also learned that in order to resist to West he must develop his industry. After Bandung, Nasser reactivated the old plan of a Dam at Asswan, a huge one. It could supply more energy for the industry and more arable terrain for Egyptian agriculture. The Dam was too expensive for Egypt, 200 milions US$. Only the United States could supply these funds. The loan requested at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development met resistance, because the Dam was not financial viable59 . The United States and Great Britain commited themselves to build the Dam. On december 24, 1955 they made an offer in two stages, supplying all the funds. Nasser felt that he can lose his independence by accepting this loan, and to counter-attack, he recognized on May 16, 1956 the Communist China. In June 1956, Dmitri Shepilov, the Soviet foreign minister, launched a Soviet offer to build the Dam. Dulles decided to hit Nasser. He thought that the Soviets were bluffing and their offer was not a seriously one. When the Egyptian ambassador in the United States arrived from Cairo with instructions to accept the United States and British proposal, Dulles answered him that the dam was too expensive a project for a country poor as Egypt which could not support such an investement. The French ambassador in the United States upon, hearing that, said:”he will make something with the Suez Canal. This is the only way to touch the West”60 .
On July 26, 1956, into a speech at Alexandria, Nasser announced in front of a mass meeting, the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, an British-French properety. The same day he signed the Act nationalizing this Company61 .
On July 29, 1956, in the British Parliament, Eden announced that Britain will oppose Naser’s action. The same day, the French ambassador in London told Eden that France is prepared to intervine manu militari under British command62 . France was not the only state requesting a military intervention against Nasser. On July 26, Nuri es-Said, Iraq’s prime minister requested the same of Eden. Nasser’s action was perfectly legal, even Great Britain and France nationalized, soon after the war, the strategic sectors of their economies. Eden’s tactic was to negotiate with Nasser till the re-election of Eisenhower in the United States in November 1956. Neither Eden, neither Mollet aimed at a coup d’detat. They aimed to restore their national prestige after a series of humiliations63.
The initial plan, Operation Musketeer, completed on September 8, foresaw an Anglo-French attack on Alexandria. Eden opposed this plan and chose the Canal Zone where there was legal reason for intervening. A viable alternative was to draw Israel which was at war with Egypt. Israel had strong reasons to intervene and this was a good opportunity. France was the link between Great Britain and Israel. On 22-24 Octomber 1956 a secret Confrence took place at Sevres64 , where these three states adopted the intervention plan. The Israeli attack in October 29 would be the pretext for the Anglo-French intervention. The British issued an ultimatum in which they requested the withdrawl of the both sides along the Canal.
The plot was obvious. Eden was fiercely attacked in Parliament. Some of the members of the British Cabinet were not informed about this operations in all its details, a fact which provoked consternation65 .
In the United States it was a few days before elections. Eisenhower was very furious. He ordered to Secretary of Treasury to sell Sterlings on the financial market, attacking the fragile British economy. Eisenhower threatened London with oil sanctions on November 6. Bulganin threatened Israel and the Anglo-French with nuclear attaks, but only after he knew the United States position and its oposition at this intervention66 .
The crisis will finish only through negotiations. On February 11, 1957 Dulles promised Israel to support United Nations troops at Sharm el Sheik in order to secure the Israeli borders. Golda Meir accepted this proposal on March 1, 1957, but only with the assurance that the Gulf of Aqaba will remain open.
The United States’ answer67 to this crisis was the Eisenhower Doctrine, a prolongation of the Truman Doctrine in the Middle East. United States would supply military and economic aid to any country in the Middle East which is threatened by another country ruled by a communist or a pro-Soviet regime. United States could intervene even militarily into the limits of the U.S. Constitution and international treaties signed by the United States. U.S.A. could act only in the frame of the United Nations regulations. The Eisenhower Doctrine also had an economic side; 200 million US$ in order to aid the states of the Middle East.
Nobody knows what London and Paris wanted to do and what were their objectives. The Canal anyway should be evacuated, and Egypt was a member of the United Nations. Their intervention saved Nasser, consolidating his position. The Soviet prestige rose in the Third World, and their own intervention in Hungary was a quiet one. The only state which accomplished all of its objectives, although very limited, was Israel.

1 Fontaine, Andre Istoria Razboiului Rece vol III (Editura Militara, Bucureşti: 1993), p. 1993
2 Spanier, John W. American foreign policy since world war II (Praeger Publishing, New York: 1960), p. 118
3 Fontaine, op. cit., pp . 195 ff
4 Fontaine, op. cit. p.196
5 Kaminsky, Catherine & Kruk, Simon La Strategie Sovietique au Moyen-Orient, (Presses Universitaires de France, Paris: 1988), pp. 9 ff
6 Fontaine, p. 197
7 Kaminsky, op. cit., p. 10
8 Fontaine, op. cit., p.197
9 Confino, Michael & Shamir, Shimon The USSR and the Middle East (Israel Universities Press, Jerusalem: 1973), pp. 77 ff
10 Hough, Jerry F. The Struggle for the Third World. Soviet Debates and American Options,(The Brookings Institution, Washington D.C.: 1986)
11 Ibidem, pp. 227 ff
12 Ibidem, p.191
13 Hough,op.cit.,191
14 Kaminsky, op.cit, pp.14 ff
15 Fontaine, op.cit, p.196
16 Kaminsky, op.cit, , p. 17
17 Fontaine, op.cit, p.198
18 bidem,p.200
19 Kaminsky,op. cit.,p. 15
20 Fontaine,op.cit.,p. 203
21 Ibidem,p. 204
22 ibidem,p. 205
23 Hough,op.cit.,p. 227
24 Fontaine,op.cit.,pp. 205 ff
25 Buşe, Constantin & Vianu, Alexandru, Relaţii internaţionale în acte şi documente, vol. III,(Ed. didactică şi pedagogică, Bucuresti:1983), p. 85
26 Fontaine,op.cit,p. 207
27 ibidem,p.213
28 ibidem, p215
29 Soulet, Jean Francoise, Istoria comparată a statelor comuniste din 1945 până în zilele noastre,(Ed. Polirom, Iasi: 1998), pp. 194 ff
30 Confino & Shamir, op.cit., p. 78
31 Hough,op.cit., p.228
32 ibidem,p.230
33 Rubinstein, Alvin Z., The foreign policy of the Soviet Union, (Random House, New York:1960), p. 386
34 Herzog, Chaim The Arab-Israeli wars,(Steimatzky,Tel Aviv: 1984), pp.111 ff
35 Soulet, op.cit.,p.195
36 Confino & Shamir, op.cit.,p. 148
37 Johnson, Paul, A history of the modern world, from 1917 to the 1980s,(Wendenfeld& Nicholson, London: 1983), p. 489
38 Herzog, op.cit., p.113
39 Confino & Shamir op.cit., p. 149
40 Soffer, Ovadia Les Nations Unies au Moyene-Orient. Proces verbal d’une faillite, (Presses Universitaires de France, Paris: 1985), pp. 72 ff
41 Kaminsky, op.cit., p. 17
42 Confino & Shamir, op.cit.,p.149
43 Herzog, op.cit.,p.112
44 Soffer,op.cit.,p. 23
45 Kamisky,op.cit.,p.27
46 Soffer,op.cit.,p.23
47 Kaminsky,op.cit.,p. 17
48 Cross, Colin The fall of the British Empire.1918-1968,(Coward-McCann, New York), 1969,p. 317
49 Milza, Pierre & Berstain, Serge Istoria Europei, vol V(Institutul European, Iasi: 1998), pp.254 ff
50 Hobsbawm, Eric Secolul Extremelor,(Ed. All, Bucuresti: 1998), pp. 260 ff
51 Herzog,op.cit.,p.114
52 Johnson, Paul Une histoire des Juifes,(Jean Claude Lettes,Paris: 1980), pp.574 ff
53 Cross,op.cit,p 321
54 Eban, Abba My country.The story of the modern Israel,(random House, New York), 1972, p. 141
55 Kennedy, Paul The rise and fall of the great Powers,(Random House, New York: 1987), pp.368 ff
56 Johnson, A history of the modern world…, pp. 490 ff
57 Cross,op.cit., pp. 314 ff
58 Eisenhower, Dwight D.,The White House years.Mandate for Change.1953-1956.(Double Day,New York: 1963), pp. 149 ff
59 Johnson, A history…,p. 492
60 Kissinger, Henry Diplomaţia, (All. Bucuresti:1998), p. 479
61 Buşe & Vianu, op.cit.,p. 92
62 Kissinger, op.cit.,p.482
63 Johnson, A history…,pp. 491 ff
64 Herzog,op.cit., p117
65 Johnson, A history…, p.494
66 Confino & Shamir, op.cit., p. 150
67 Buşe & Vianu, op.cit., p. 123


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