Diplomatic relations between Middle Eastern states and foreign powers revolved around attempts not only to secure

their own political interests in the region, but also to halt the advance of their adversaries. For instance, when looking at the 1955 Baghdad Pact, such intent towards the region on the part of Western states is made apparent. While it was Turkey which initially proposed the pact during February 1955, the stated aim of solidifying the Middle East in face of the Soviet Union proved enough to prompt the British to join the pact on April 5th, 1955. The old British tactics of indirect rule and base agreements were becoming obsolete due to the rise in Arab nationalism which, coupled with British inability to meet the tactical demands of counter-acting Soviet influence alone, made the pact a most politically expedient move. Furthermore, there was the additional benefit of limiting Russian influence in the region, an issue of key importance. Of course from the Soviet perspective, not to mention of other Arab states Such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, such a pact was simply a means by which Western influence could be extended in the region, and thus opinion in the region became polarized as a result. The Soviets also viewed such alliances as a part of the Cold War struggle, and regarded the pact simply as means of establishing Western military bases close to their somewhat vulnerable south-western border with the region.1 The Americans viewed the potential effectiveness of the pact with a certain degree of suspicion, though at the same time they considered it as a one of the possible ways of countering the Soviet Union, which made them adopt at least a nominal interest in it.2 Whilst in the end it very quickly dissolved, the Baghdad Pact does set the tone for the period in question, in that it demonstrates Western commitment to intervening in Middle Eastern politics so that countries would not capitulate to Communism, or even to indirect Soviet influence. It also establishes the Arab distrust held towards not only foreign powers, but also towards other Arabs, setting the apparatus for the so-called “Arab Cold War” against the backdrop of the more substantial conflict.. Whilst foreign powers worked to achieve their coveted objectives, Arab leaders also worked to achieve theirs. The Middle East during the Cold War saw
1 Behcet Kemal Yesilbursa, The Baghdad Pact: Anglo-American Defense Policies in the Middle East, 1950-1959 (New York: Frank Cass, 2005), pg. 216-217. 2 Behcet Kemal Yesilbursa, The Baghdad Pact, pg. 219.

the rise of Arab Nationalism, an idea which was concerned only with Arab interests. Thus it would subsequently permit its followers to blur the line between which allies they took diplomatically, and gave sanction to move from supporting one side along with the other, using both for the political benefit of their own Arab state. The premier example of this would be the Egyptian President Gamal 'Abd an-Nasir, who frequently oscillated diplomatically between Western states and the Soviet Union. In 1955, the Soviet Union realized that they shared a commonality with Abd an-Nasir in terms of anti-Western ideas, leading to cordial relations, not to mention negotiations for arms deal as early as 1955.3 By 1957, 'Abd an-Nasir had become so popular, that whatever political positions he took would be accepted by the Arab masses. It was for this reason that, despite his attacks against the Eisenhower Administration, American analysts viewed him as key for the achievement of their objectives within the region. 4 And of course, whilst 'Abd an-Nasir was anti-Western, he put himself in a rather odd ideological position by also being anti-Communist. This lead to his also attracting Western support via offers to attack Arab Communists in return for trade and economic aid, cultural exchanges, and military training.5 The inconsistency in 'Abd an-Nasir's position, and his playing one power off against the other, was remarked upon by the Newsweek newspaper, which remarked upon the formation of the UAR that: “As long as Syria and Egypt continued to accept massive Soviet aid, they can hardly claim to be stemming Communist influence.”6 When looking away from the more diplomatic exchanges between Arab states and their foreign neighbors, we also realize that the Cold War produced episodes of political subversion and despotism. The period in question has seen multiple instances where foreign powers had installed and supported authoritarian regimes which, while ruling in a distinctly illiberal fashion, nevertheless gave the foreign powers what it was they desired in that specific case. For the West in particular, the establishment of democracy was by no means as important as securing natural resources for the purpose of enhancing its strategic strength in
3 Panayiotis J. Vatikiotis, Nasser And His People (London: Croom Helm Ltd., 1978), pg. 232. 4 Roby C. Barrett, The Greater Middle East and the Cold War: U.S Foreign Policy Under Eisenhower and Kennedy (London: I.B Tauris, 2007), pg. 43. 5 Roby C. Barrett, The Greater Middle East and the Cold War, pg. 48. 6 ‘Egypt, Syria: Shotgun Wedding,’ Newsweek, 10 February 1958, p. 52, in Roby C. Barrett, The Greater Middle East and the Cold War: U.S Foreign Policy Under Eisenhower and Kennedy (London: I.B Tauris, 2007), pg. 48.

the face of the Soviets, and supporting whatever authority would be able to stamp out communist influences, even if it were a despotic one. Whilst Middle Eastern nations had begun developing more democratic forms of government during the 1940s and 1950s, the succeeding decades saw not the advancement, but rather the reversal of this state.7 In fact, when making his summation of the legacy of foreign intervention, Rahsid Khalidi remarks: “...what is certain is that the covert and occasional overt interventions of the superpowers from World War II onward, besides exacerbating regional conflict...profoundly undermined whatever limited possibility there might have been of establishing any kind of democratic governance in a range of Middle Eastern countries from the late 1950s and through the 1970s and 1980s.”8 When mentioning specific examples, it would first be potent to mention the 1953 CIA/MI6 inspired coup against Mossadegh in Iran. While the coup itself occurs just outside the period in question, the rule of the succeeding Reza Shah Pahlavi extends across the entirety of the given time frame, and serves as an effective illustration of the previously mentioned points. It is well known, and plainly stated even by the CIA itself, that the Americans undertook the operation because they felt that Iran was in danger of capitulating to Communist rule. In addition, there was the issue of maintaining access to the vast oil reserves of the country.9 After his installation, the policies of the Shah dissatisfied the population to the point of political protest on 3rd June, 1963, which was quickly put down. After this event, the Shah dissolved the parliament and centralized authority in his own hands, in addition to rigidly controlling media, and using the SAVAK (secret police), to appropriately deal with any other political opposition.10 However, given that American political interests had been procured, these events were of no particular concern, and thus the rule of the Shah continued until the revolution in 1979. A second example would be the 1963 coup which ousted the Iraqi Prime Minister 'Abd al-Karim Qasim in Iraq. Whilst Qasim was by no means a democrat
7 Rashid Khalidi, Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011), pg. 159. 8 Rashid Khalidi, Sowing Crisis, pg. 200. 9 Mark J. Gasiorowski, 'The CIA Looks Back at the 1953 Coup in Iran,' Middle East Report 216 (2000): pg. 5. 10 Misagh Parza, 'Iran From 1919,' in The New Cambridge History of Islam, Vol.5: Islam in the Age of Western Domination (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pg. 496-497.

himself, neither was his American supported replacement, the Iraqi Ba'ath Party. This occurrence was characterized by the need to access abundant natural wealth existing in Iraq, again in the form of plentiful oil reserves. America had long understood the value of Iraq for this very reason, and initially supported Qasim in return for access. However, the Prime Minister was an Arab Nationalist, and wished to more greatly assert his independence as a result, in addition to more cautiously guarding petroleum reserves for the sake of political leverage. The Americans refused to allow the continuation of such policies, and thus the CIA ardently tried to topple his regime, having dealings with the Iraqi Ba'ath, including the young Saddam Hussein.11 Thus it was in February 1963 that army units, supported by the Ba'ath and the CIA, rose in revolt and placed Qasim under house arrest, after which he was tried and executed. The new regime was comprised of either Arab Nationalists in the mold of 'Abd an-Nasir, or Ba'athists, both of which, in the words of the revolutionary leader 'Ali Sa'di al-Saleh, had: “...came to power on a CIA train.”12 In addition to the more compliant regime and substantial access to Iraqi oil, came the added benefit, as with the case of Reza Shah, of being able to rely upon a regime which was committed to anti-Communist ideals. This additional benefit was made obvious when, upon the succession of the Ba'ath, thousands of Communists and other political opponents were executed.13 The Ba'ath, like 'Abd an-Nasir, would also oscillate between America and the USSR, though this does not change the reality of foreign support for dictators, it merely means that the foreign power in question would change. A final point of great importance is how the Arab-Israeli conflict influenced the Cold War in the region. Both Western nations and the Soviet Union had to be very careful in approaching this struggle, as which side they supported would greatly effect their political relations, not to mention their public rapport. Both America and the Soviet Union had elected to recognize and support the state of Israel upon its founding in 1948 for the sake of gaining prestige with the Jewish State. However, both sides then backtracked on this by more substantially supporting Egypt during the 1956 Suez War. From the American perspective, this
11 Barry M. Lando, Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq From Churchill to George W. Bush (New York: Other Press, 2007), pg. 25-26. 12 Barry M. Lando, Web of Deceit, pg. 29 13 Barry M. Lando, Web of Deceit, pg. 29

was for the purpose of counteracting the image of America as pro-Israeli, an action which was hoped to able to prevent Arab political affiliations with the Soviet Union. However, due to the lack of regard for the Arab nations on the part of both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, the 1960s saw solid American support for Israel, whereas the Soviets elected to play upon the majority sentiments of certain Arab countries by supporting them. It is at this point that the conflict became ever more attached to the Cold War, with each superpower supporting one side. The region became divided by extension, as Israel and the more compliant Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, remained within the American camp. Meanwhile, states not as dedicated to American interests, namely Egypt, Syria and Iraq, aligned themselves with the Soviet Union. This division continued not only past the 1970s and the end of the subsidiary “Arab Cold War”, but onto the early 1990s when the overarching Cold War conflict ended.14 To conclude, the period from 1955-1973 saw the region subject to the superpower conflicts of its time. The Arab states, while vulnerable, were still important in that they could be used for a number of strategic ends in the Cold War, which were mainly the diplomatic (and at times more brutal) halting of rival influences and the supplying of precious oil. This period also saw the imposition and support of dictatorial regimes which

14 Rashid Khalidi, Sowing Crisis, pg. 116-117.

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