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UNITED STATES NATIONAL INTERESTS
AND THE MIDDLE EAST, 1955-1958
ROBERT LEROY WENDZEL
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
The author wishes to express his gratitude for the assistance
which he received in carrying out this study. First and foremost, he is
indebted to Dr. Frederick H. Hartmann who supervised the preparation of
the manuscript. Dr. Hartmann's patient and constructive guidance con-
tributed significantly to the clarity and organization of the text, and
his penetrating questions were exceptional ly helpful In the substantive
analysis. Special thanks are also due to the other members of the Dis-
sertation Supervisory Committee, Dr. 0. Ruth McQuown, and Dr. Ralph H.
Blodgett. Credit for the final typing goes to Charlotte Isbill. Finally,
the author acknowledges the continuous support of his wife, Karen, with-
out which the study might not have been completed.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............. .. .....
I INTRODUCTION ................. ...
General Analytical Framework. .
Particular Emphasis ................
Terminology .... . .
The Plan of the Study ...............
Arab Awakening. ...
Camel Abdel Nasser.
United States Policy.
III DETERIORATING AMERICAN-EGYPTIAN RELATIONS .
The Baghdad Pact..................
The Gaza Raid . . .
The Arms Deal ...................
The High Da at Aswan ...............
IV SUEZ CRISIS. PHASE ONE: AMERICAN HOSTILITY
TO EGYPT...... ....................
Nationalization: The Question of Legality.. ...
First Reactions . .
Conference Diplomacy ................
. . .
. . .
. . .
TABLE OF CONTENTS (Continued)
V SUEZ CRISIS, PHASE TWO: DERIVATIVE SUPPORT
FOR NASSER ....................... 98
Pre-invaslon ..................... 98
The Invasion. .................... 104
The United Nations. ................. 106
Reflections ................... 114
VI UNITED STATES OPPOSITION TO NASSER. . 125
The EIsenhower Doctrine . .. 125
Reception and Reaction ..... ....... 130
Isolate Nasser. . . 137
Crisis In Jordan. .................. 139
The Syrian Crisis ....... ..... 145
VII GRADUAL REORIENTATION OF UNITED STATES POLICY. 158
Formation of the United Arab Republic .. 160
Crisis In Lebanon ....... ........ .. 166
Evaluation. ., ............... ..... 186
VIII CONCLUSION ....................... 92
Re General Hypothesis . .... .192
Re Particular Hypothesis. . 197
Related Considerations. . 204
Closing Remarks .................. 210
BIBLIOGRAPHY ................... ........ 212
APPENDIX ............................. .. 2224
The basic question with which this study is concerned Is whether
the policy which the United States pursued toward the Middle East in the
period 1955-1958 was harmful or beneficial to the United States national
Interest.1 Because of the crucial role of Nasser's Egypt as the symbol
and leader of Arab neutralism, American-Egyptian relations will receive
General Analytical Framework
In the years Immediately after World War II the Middle Eastern
situation Was characterized by uncertainty and Instability. During most
of the tmwnteth, century the British had been the dominant force In the
area an had maintained order, but Britain was greatly weakened by the
war. She was no longer able to be the major stabilizing element in the
Middle East. The other previously major foreign power. France, also was
weakened considerably. At the sam time that the colonial powers were
declining, revolutionary nationalist forces wre becoming more powerful.
IWe are using the term Middle East to designate the geographical
region within which are located the following entitles: Saudi Arabia,
Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Turkey, Yemen, the Arabian
Sheikdom and Protectorates, and Egypt. When Egypt merged with Syria In
1958 the resulting entity was named the United Arab Republic. When the
merger dissolved the name "United Arab Republic" was retained by that
state known as Egypt In pre-merger times. We will follow the practice
of using the title which the state itself was using at any given time.
Nationalist forces were struggling against foreign domination and the
status quo. Western rights, and Arab friends who had an Interest in pre-
serving those rights, were being endangered. in addition to these dis-
rupting factors, the Palestine dispute was rapidly approaching an
One fundamental change in the International situation brought
about by the war was the emergence of the United States and Soviet Russia
as the dominant powers on the International scene. The Instability and
conflict so evident in Middle Eastern affairs appeared to make the area
particularly susceptible to a Communist takeover. With the decreased
capabilities of the European states so apparent, It was evident that only
the United States possessed the capacity to successfully counter Soviet
power. American pollcymakers believed that the United States had no
choice but to oppose Communist expansion.
Within this initial context the United States formulated its
conception of the relation of the Middle East to the American national
interest. Though the phrasing has not always been the sae, during most
of the postwar period, through and Including 1958, the following has
been the essence of this conception (a) Independence of the Middle
Eastern states; (b) freedom of transit for the Western powers and the
free movement of oil to Western markets; and (c) denial of the area to
In order to protect these Interests the United States adopted
certain policies. These policies were based on certain general
ISee, for eaxaple, the address by Assistant Secretary of State
Rountree in U. S., Department of State, Bullein. Vol. XXXVI (June 17,
1957). pp. 974-975.
principles which were conceived to be self-evidently valid. These were
(a) opposition to all who weaken Western influence; support for all who
do net, (b) opposition to all who Increase Comunist Influence; support
for all who do not, (c) support for all who act In friendly fashion to
the Westj opposition to all who do not, (d) support for all who uphold
the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes; opposition to
all who do not, (e) support for all who are antl-colonial; opposition to
all who are not, and (f) support for the United Nations and all who sup-
port It; opposition to all its opponents.
The specific policies to be adopted would be deduced from these
principles. If one opposed the West, he had to be opposed. If he dealt
with the Communlsts, he had to be opposed. If he opposed the United Na-
tions, he had to be opposed. If he supported aggression or colonialism,
he had to be opposed. Whatever the situation, these principles ware sup-
posed to provide an adequate basis for action.
The difficulty with these principles, however, was that In many
cases they Indicated Incompatible courses of action. For example, a
state could oppose Cormunism and support the West. One would deduce that
this state should be supported. At the same time, In a given Instance,
it could be an aggressor and oppose the United Nations. Prom this one
would deduce that this state should be opposed.
In any given case there was no way of knowing which principles
were the nost Important. There was no criterion for choosing one In-
stead of another. In actual practice the United States sometimes con-
ceived one to be more important and sometimes another. The result was an
Inconsistency and uncertainty In policy which resulted In Increasing
tension between the United States and its allies and the United States
and the Arabs. This led to a weakening of the IIATO alliance and uneces-
sarily unfriendly relations with the Arabs. Both of these factors helped
create an extremely propitious opportunity for Comunist penetration, one
which was quickly capitalized upon. This obviously was detrimntal to
the national Interest of the United States.
In a more formal way, we might state our general hypothesis and
sub-hypotheses In the following fashion:
Hypothesis: United States formulation of its policies In
term of categorical principles was detrimental
to the national Interests of the United States.
1. The United States formulated its policies on the basis
of certain categorical principles.
2. In given situations, where several principles were In-
volved, completely contradictory courses of action were
indicated by different principles.
3. There was no method for determining which principle was
paramount. Thus the principles failed to provide a
clear basis for action.
4. Sometimes one principle was chosen as the basis for
action, sometimes another.
5. The result was an Inconsistent and uncertain policy
which antagonized both allies and Arabs.
6. This led to an exceptional opportunity for Comunist
penetration and the Communists capitalized n It.
Within our general framework e will pay particular attention to
the effects of United States policy on American-Egyptian relations. To
some extant the general hypothesis and sub-hypotheses are as applicable
to thlti ,M of American policy as they are to the !dhle. Certainly pol-
icy was formulated on the basis of categorical principles. There were
principles which indicated incompatible courses of action and there was
really no way of determining which principle as paramount. The result
was s Inconsistency and uncertainty in American policy toward Egypt.
Despite this fact there was somewhat mar continuity with respect
to this anst of American policy than to the policy as a whole. Under-
lying the United States action toward Egypt was a consistent jttjtude of
hostility. The reason for this attitude flowed from the application of
two of the categorical principles to the Egyptian case: that the United
States would oppose all who weaken Western influence and support all who
do not; and the United States would oppose all who Increase Communist In-
fluence and support all who do not. Of course, as in the Suez crisis,
other principles might occasionally be deemed more Important nd thus a
different course of action would be followed. But the underlying atti-
tude remained the same.
The particular form which American policy took was opposition to
Egypt's "positive neutrality" In the cold war, and a quest for anti-
Comanist comltments by the Arab states. it s a major contention of
this study that this United States policy was harmful to American na-
Why? In the first place, this policy was designed to attain cer-
tain goals which were not necessary to the protection of the national In-
terest of the United States. This Interest required only that the United
States and Its major allies have access to the resources and transit
rights of the Middle East, and that the area be denied to the Communists.
The preservation of these rights did not require that the Arab make anti-
Communist commitments or refrain from following neutralist policies.
The mere fact that the United States sought to achieve unneces-
sary goals would not have been harmful, however, if these goals could
have been achieved and/or Jf the action undertaken had not endangered the
Interests which were vital. Unfortunately, It appears that these goals
were not achievable and the attempt to achieve them did endanger more es-
Why? The reason was that Gamal Nasser and his Ideas had great
appeal throughout the Arab world. To many Arabs he was far more than
just the President of Egypt; to these people Nasser was both the symbol
and leader of the Arab struggle against foreign domination and the status
quo. As such he was a representative of Arab Interests as well as Egyp-
tlan. Many equated an attack on Nasser with an attack on Arab progress.
If Nasser had not possessed such a broad base of support, If he
had been merely another Arab leader wi thout an unusual amount of appeal,
then it is possible that a policy of consistent opposition would have
caused his downfall or persuaded him to change his ways. But this was
not the case. Since he did have such strength, it is evident that only
an extremely concerted effort could possibly have brought such results.
The United States was not aware of the nature or extent of his appeal,
and thus both misunderstood and underestimated his strength. The meas-
ures which were adopted in Washington were not adequate to achieve the
goal for which they were designed. When the clash between the United
States and Nasser occurred it not only led to mutual antagonism, It also
resulted in an increase in Nasser's strength.
Nasser realized that non-Arab support could be very useful. At
the sam time he wanted to make sure that such assistance would not Jeop-
ardize the very goal he wished to achieve, namely, the removal of foreign
domination. He was, therefore, very sensitive about the expressed or Im-
plied conditions upon which support depended. It was his hope to receive
unconditional aid from both last and West. United States policies, how-
ever, convinced him that his only source of non-Arab support was the Com-
munist bloc. He thus dealt with the Communlsts very extensively. This
resulted in a considerable Increase In Communist influence in the Middle
In a more formal way we might state this train of thought In the
Hypothesis: American policy toward Egypt was detrimental
to the national interest of the United States.
1. The Middle Eastern national Interest of the United
States required that the United States and its major
allies have freedom of transit through the Middle East
and that oil be allowed to flow freely to Western mar-
kets. it also required that the area be denied to the
2. It was not essential to the protection of this interest
that the Arab states refrain from following a neutralist
policy and make anti-Co munist commitments.
3. In Its refusal to condone cold war neutrality and its
quest for enti-Coomunlst commitments, the United States
came Into direct conflict with Gamal Nasser.
4. Nasser had great popular strength In the Arab world be-
cause to many he was both the symbol and leader of the
Arab struggle for independence and progress. Many Arabs
came to equate opposition to Nasser with opposition to
5. When the conflict between the United States and Nasser
finally occurred, Nasser was strengthened because other
Arabs united with him In opposition to what they felt
was Western Intervention In Arab affairs and Western ac-
tion detrimental to Arab Independence and progress.
6. In order to combat Western pressure, Nasser and other
Arabs dealt with the Communists more extensively than
they would have In the absence of such pressure.
7. The result was a greater decline In Western Influence and
a greater increase in Communist Influence than would have
occurred in the absence of American pressure.
In our examination we use two basic concepts which are suscepti-
ble of different Interpretations. Therefore w will define them at this
time. It has been stated that, as a field of study, International rela-
tions focuses "on the processes by which states adjust their national In-
terests to those of other states.' These Interests cover the various
desires of sovereign states. Since these desires vary from state to
state and time to time, they may differ greatly. There are some Inter-
ests, however, which are deemed to be essential to the states' security.
If we are speaking of such Interests we shall label them "vital" Inter-
ests. More precisely, we shall designate an interest to be vital if it
is one "for which a state is normally willing to go to war Imediately or
In the process of formulating a foreign policy a state attempts
to weed out Interests which are Inconsistent with each other, if an
IFrederick H. Hartmann, The Relations of Nations (Nlw York: The
Macmillan Co., 1957), p. 5.
Interest is clearly contradictory to another we know that It cannot be
followed concurrently with the one it contradicts. But it is very often
the case that the Interests, while divergent, are not completely contra-
dictory. The situation is such that pursuance of a given interest does
not make it Inpossible to pursue another but only curtails the advantages
of doing so. Such an interest we shall label as "counterbalancing."
More precisely, "a counterbalancing Interest is one that offsets and lim-
Its the policy considerations involved in another Interest."1
The meaning of the remainder of the terms which are employed in
this analysis should be quite clear when their context Is considered. If
there Is a particularly unusual usage or if there Is a possibility of am-
biguity the meaning of a term will be explicitly stated at the time.
The Plan of the Study
The first two chapters of this study are designed to Introduce
the topic and provide the perspective necessary for an adequate analysis.
In the first the basic issue is Identified, the general analytical frme-
work and hypothesis are presented, and the hypothesis relating to the
special emphasis on Egypt is stated. Chapter II gives necessary back-
ground information with respect to pertinent trends in Arab and Egyptian
history, President Nasser's personal experiences, the philosophy of posi-
tive neutralism, and previous American policy.
With this perspective in mind, the analysis of American policy in
the 1955-1958 period is begun. Chapter III focuses on the Baghdad Pact,
the Gaza Raid, the Egyptian-Communist arms deal, and the Aswan Dam affair.
'IJ,* p. 343.
The deterioration in American-Egyptian relations Is stressed. Chapters
IV and V are both concerned with the Suez crisis. One train of thought
emphasizes the underlying hostility to Nasser throughout the entire cri-
sis. At the same time the difficulties in American policy resulting from
basing policy on categorical principles are examined. Particular stress
Is placed on the Inconpatibility of the courses of action Indicated by
different principles and the severe problems of choosing which principle
is the one to be Implemented. The sixth chapter deals with the events of
the year following the crisis at Suez. It highlights the uncompromising
American opposition to Nasser as shown by economic measures and action In
the Jordanian and Syrian crises. The Elsenhower Doctrine Is analyzed.
Considerable emphasis Is placed on the result of American policies,
namely, the strengthening of Nasser's position In the Arab world and In-
creased Communst penetration. In Chapter VII the formation of the
United Arab Republic and the Lebanon crisis are discussed. The gradual
reorientation In American policy in the direction of establishing a AdR
vlyndl with Nasser and the attempt to establish a framework to control
the revolutionary tendencies of Nasserism provide the main themes for
In the concluding chapter the results of the study in relation to
both the general and the particular hypotheses are examined. At this
time the "lessons" which seem to flow from our analysis are discussed.
The background for this analysis Is provided by the following
elements: the Arab awakening. Egyptian history, Nasser's personal expe-
riences, the philosophy of positive neutralism, and previous American
policy.' The thread of continuity among the first three elements was the
desire to eliminate foreign influence over the Arab world. The fourth,
positive neutralism, was related to these elements by the fact that It
was the approach to International affairs which Nasser conceived to be
appropriate to the achievement of his goals.
Previous American policy was important in two ways. First, be-
cause of Its pro-Jewish orientation in the Palestine dispute, it created
deep reseenent nd suspicion among the Arabs. In addition to this the
United States developed a policy of contalnaent within which there was no
room for neutralism and which featured a quest for anti-Coamunlst coMmit-
ments. This policy, If adhered to, would Inevitably clash directly with
the Interests of Nasser as formulated In positive neutralism. This chap-
ter will analyze the development of these factors prior to 1955.
For centuries prior to World War I the lands of the Arab world
were ruled by the Ottoman Turks. As the war progressed, various Arab
'Because Egypt is so central to our study, Egyptian history is
discussed separately from the general analysis of the Arab awakening. In
reality, these two elements are inextricably tied together.
factions exchanged their services to one side or the other in return for
promises of Indepndedence and other rewards. Despite the various promises
after the war Arabdom was carved up by the British and French under the
League of Nations Mandate system. Britain received Iraq and Palestine,
France getting Syria and Lebanon. Certain Arab figure were placed in
positions of authority by their Western superiors. However, true power
was retained by the colonialists.
The basic feature of the Inter-war period was the struggle by
Arab nationalists to free their countries from colonial domination.
These attempts were opposed by those Arabs with interests vested In the
status quo, led by the monarchs and the landed aristocracy. The mada-
tory powers, especially Britain. made soe concessions in the way of
granting autonomy, but they always retained the ultimate authority In all
matters of eny import.
World War it proved to be a blessing for Arab nationalism. The
European powers suffered greatly and had to readjust their goals to met
thefr decreased capabilities. The Arabs took advantage of this and
Syria, Labanon, and Jordan achieved their Independence. Iraq, which be-
came nonally Independent In 1930, began to assert Its freedom ore
openly. Nevertheless, many Arabs still flt that the existing treaty
arrangements were an Imposition on their sovereignty.
The character and ideas of Arab nationalism are a direct result
of these historical experiences. The Western powers had implanted certain
concepts In the Arab mind: freedom, Independence, self-determination,
strength, unity, progress. Many colonialists no doubt sought to help the
Arabs to attain these goals, but this motivation is essentially
Irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that Arabs heard about these
things but did not achieve them. Iany cae to believe that the colon-
alists were the chief obstacles to advancement. Since the Imperallst
powers were Western, antl-imperalism became synonymous with
nti -Westrni sm.
The overriding objective of Arab nationalism became Independence.
This necessitated an anti-Western policy aimed at eliminating all Western
Influence from the area. This drive for freedom became an extremely ex-
plosive issue, charged with emotion. It is still so today. Any action
which Is conceived to, In any way. Infringe upon Arab Independence or
sovereignty, brings forth an excitedly hostile reaction.
A second major idea of Arab nationalism might be called pan-
Arabia.e it, too, arises from historical circumstances. Hany Arabs be-
lieve that there Is essentially one Arab people.1 The present state sys-
tem, it Is felt, is an artificial creation of the Western powers without
any underlying geographic, social, economic, or political validity. The
elimination of these artificial boundaries and the creation of a unified
Arab state Is a necessary step, for only by such action can the Arabs
gain the strength and influence which is necessary for the achievement of
other Arab Interests.
There is no disputing the existence of such a feeling among th
Arabs. Yet in practice It runs headlong Into the obstacle of the status
IFor ia Interesting presentation of this view, see Edmond Rabbath.
"The Common Origin of the Arabs," In Sylvia G. Hall (ed.), &Ar NationaL
ism: An Antholoav (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1962), pp. 103-119.
quo. The present leaders and many of the existing groups are unwilling
to surrender what they have. They compete as much as they cooperate.
We must not, however, let this practical fact of the present
blind us to the genuine desire for unity which does exist. The stress
and strain between status quo nd change are certainly evident, and no
one can predict the outcome with certainty. But woo to an outsider who
banks on the divisions and attacks an Arab state in such a way that it
appears to be a thrust at Arab unity. This kind of sve is bound to pro-
duce a united hostile reaction.
The final fundamental element In Arab nationallsa might be la-
belled the desire for progress. The Arabs are mawre of the economic and
social advancements in other countries and want the same for themselves.
They want economic and social growth. They are a part of what is often
called the revolution of rising expectations.
These are the three basic interests of Arab nationalism: inde-
pendence, unity, and progress. The country which may feel can lead
Arabdom to achieve them is Egypt; the man, Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Certain factors In Egyptian history were constant for centuries.
Egypt was an unbroken governmental unity but under foreign rule. There
was extensive economic exploitation by foreigners. Economically, cul-
tua lly, and Intellectually, the country stagnated under the Ottoman
Egypt was the first Arab country to emerge from the domination
of the Ottomans. Though under the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan, she
experienced about thirty years of expansion under the Albanian leader,
Mohammed All. When he threatened the dissolution of the Empire, however,
the Europeans stepped In to prevent the Russian Bear from advancing to
The financial extravagance of his successors led to a great num-
ber of foreign loans. When the Egyptians were unable to service these
loans, there was considerable European interference. In 1881 a revolt
was led by one Arabl. The British soon stepped in to suppress this up-
rising and establish a temporary" military occupation.
Until World War I the British effectively controlled Egypt while
"temporarily" occupying her. When the war broke out Britain unilaterally
declared Egypt to be a protectorate. Time after time the British an-
nounced their "Intention" of leaving, but something always seemed to ec-
cur which required that they prolong their stay. It seemed that there
were a great many "agitators" and "fanatics" who resented their presence
and It was necessary that the forces remain to protect British lives and
With the war's end nationalist agitation for Independence In-
creased. From 1919-1922 there was a steady stream of strikes, bloodshed,
and passive resistance. In 1922 this led to a unilateral British Decla-
ration of Independence which declared that Egypt was an Independent, sov-
ereign state. However, the following matters were "absolutely reserved"
to the discretion of His Majesty's Government:
1. The security of the British Empire's communications
2. The defense of Egypt against all foreign aggression or
interference, direct or Indirect.
3. The protection of minorities and foreign Interests.
4. The Sudan.1
Egyptian nationalists were not satisfied with this agreement be-
cause of the obvious control which Britain would exercise under Its
terms. In addition, British troops remained. Sporadic violence, strikes,
and other forms of resistance continued.
The British soon Introduced parliamentary government, but this
merely consolidated the position of the landed aristocracy and concern
treated official power In the King. The Parliament never was strong
enough to challenge the King and virtually dictatorial powers were
In 1936, nationalist pressure and the Italian threat forced the
British to make another concession. A Treaty of Alliance was concluded.2
Britain retained control over affairs of the Sudan but ceased its whole-
sale occupation of Egypt. Troops were to be stationed only in the Canal
Zone. These troops were not, In theory, an Infringement on the sover-
eignty of Egypt. If either party were involved In a war, the other would
came to its aid. Egypt's part would be to let Britain use all the facil-
Itles on Egyptian territory. The Sudan situation remained the same. Fi-
nally, Great Britain agreed to support Egypt's application for membership
in the League of Nations.
originally a 2art of Egyptian territory, it had seceded in 1882.
It was reconquered by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1898 and a condominium was
established. In point of fact, this was simply the facade behind which
the British exercised complete control. For the text of this Declaration,
see Royal Institute of International Affairs, Great Britain and Egypt.
1914-1951 (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1951), p. 8.
2For text, see ibid., pp. 190-200.
Despite this treaty there was little doubt about who was "running
the show."' Through various Indirect means, and because of the vested
Interests which the King and aristocracy had In cooperation, Britain re-
mined in effective control. Everyone realized this. Understandably,
the nationalists were still not satisfied.
In 1942, there occurred an incident which Illustrated this situa-
tion beautifully. World War II did not enthuse the Arab peoples, all of
whom were under direct or indirect foreign control. They looked at the
nation oppressing them and not at the danger to that nation from abroad.
Many hoped for British defeat so that Arab Independence would become a
reality. Egypt, under the clauses of the treaty, however, was under full
occupation by the British.
When the military situation worsened for the allies, King Farouk
dismissed the pro-British Sirrl government and appointed one All Mher to
be preemer. The British demanded his removal. When Farouk, in an unu-
sual display of courage, refused to back down, British tanks surrounded
the palace. The Ambassador forced his way In and demanded Maher's resig-
nation and his replacement by Nahas. After he threatened to depose Farouk
by force, the King acceded to his "request."2
1However, it Is possible to ake a good case for the proposition
that Britain really did intend to start Egypt toward genuine Independence
by this treaty.
2j. B. enerJI, The nddle East In World Politics (Calcutta: The
World Press Private, Ltd., 1960), p. 47. For a related but not identical
version, and for the humiliation felt by the Egyptians, see Hohiamed
Nagulb, Egypt's Destiny: A Pprsonal Statement (Barden City, N. Y.:
Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1955), pp. 79-80. Also seo Robert St. John, T
Boss: The Story of Gamal Abdel Nasser (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960),
Following the war the Egyptians pressed again for their twin
goals of expulsion of the British and the unity of the Nile Valley (I.e.,
the Sudan and Egypt) under Egyptian rule. Negotiations were begun anew,
but they proved to be fruitless. Actually, there was nothing to nego-
tiate because the Egyptians would accept no compromises on the Sudan is-
sue and would not consider the problems separately.1
The situation became more explosive. The Palestine Wer had hu-
millated the Arabs, showing their weakness and disunity. Internally,
King Farouk and the aristocracy lived in splendor and corruption while
the country suffered. The Wafd became discredited. Violence against the
British continued. Revolutionary groups such as the Communists, the
Muslim Brotherhood, and the Free Officers Increased In strength.
In early October, 1951, Egypt unilaterally denounced Its treaties
with Great Britain on Suez and the Sudan, and Farouk was hastily pro-
claimed "King of Egypt and the Sudan." On October 13 the United States,
Brltabn, and France presented an Invitation to Egypt to became an equal
member of a new defense organization to be known as the Allied Middle
East Commond. The British base at Suez would be handed over to Egypt
with the understanding it would become an allied base. Egypt would also
furnish other facilities n the case of a possible emergency. Of course
Egypt would be defended and would participate on an equal basis.
Egypt did not even bother to study the proposal. It was rejected
two days later. The extreme nationalism had made It Impossible to trade
tThe British were willing to withdraw from the Canal Base If sat-
isfactory safeguards were provided, but were understandably unwilling to
concede the Sudan to Egypt.
British troops for "allied" troops. "Apparently no attempt was made In
advance to sound out the Egyptian Government."1 Given the situation and
tenor of the time, it is highly unlikely that any Egyptian Government
could have been receptive to the proposal.2
The Internal situation became even more unruly in early 1952. In
January, British troops fired on Egyptian military units. Severe anti-
foreign rioting occurred in the course of which mny foreigners were
killed and more than 100 business establishments destroyed. In July a
military Junta, ostensibly led by General Nagulb but actually controlled
by Colonel amel Abdel Nasser, overthrew King Farouk In a bloodless coup.
Shortly thereafter It began to pragmatically formulate and implement Its
It can be readily seen that the history of Egypt would tend to
make the dominant goal of Egyptian nationalists the removal of foreign
domination. Since the country which had been n control was Western, the
natural orientation of this policy would be anti-Western.
One could not predict what the ultimate goals might be. However,
it should have been realized that the primary foreign policy Interest was
1John C. Campbell, Defense of the Middle East: Problems of Amrl-
can Policy (Naw York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1960), p. 43.
21bd,., pp. 43, 46. Sea also Charles D. Cremans, The Arabs and
the World: Nasser's Arab Nationalist Policy (New York: Frederick A.
Preger, 1963). pp. 138-139; Fayez A. Sayegh. "Evolution of Neutralism in
the U.A.R.." In The Dynamics of Arab Neutralis. A Sympsium (San
Francisco: Chandler Publishing Co., 1964), pp. 174-79.
)The basic relevant developments in which the U. S. had a sig-
nificant part are discussed later In this chapter under the heading.
"United States Policy."
the achievement of true Independence by the removal of foreign Influence.
If the new regime was deeply committed to this goal, It would adopt what-
ever means proved necessary and would befriend whoever would help In its
Gamel Abdel Nasser
Geml Nasser grew up In a period In which their was ceaseless na-
tionalist agitation against British rule. He became a full-time nation-
alist, not Just an occasional demonstrator. hIe wM part and parcel of
the revolutionary activity.
There wre many organizations which sought the removal of foreign
rule. They ranged In Ideological content from the Communist Party to the
conservative theocrats of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nasser spent some time
In nearly all of them, learning the techniques of revolution. The sub-
stantive programs which these organizations advocated, however, were of
little interest to him. Nasser's interest was in the practical opera-
tions of attaining and using power. One biographer, Wilton Wynn, has put
It this way:
From the momnt he entered school in Alexandria, amal had
thrown himself Into one political movement after another, em-
bracing any Ideology that might free Egypt of foreign domination.)
In 1937 Nasser entered the Nilitary Academy. After graduation he
and fellow officers exchanged revolutionary deals and decided to Join to-
gether. The resulting organization became know as the Free Officers.2
IWilton Wynn. IHss.3, of Eqypet The Search for Dignity (Cambridge:
Arlington Books, Inc., 1959), p. 21. On this point, see also Cremeans.
pp. 27-28; St. John, Chapters lI-1l1.
2For an interesting first-hand account of this organization and
Its activities, see Anwar El Sadat, Revolt on the Nile (New York: The
John Day Company, 1957).
From that point forward these men dedicated themselves to the removal of
What are the basic goals which Nasser seks? As one would deduce
from the foregoing, the primary objective is the removal of foreign domi-
nation and Influence from Egypt. As we saw In our discussions of the
"Arab Awakening" and "Egyptian History," this goal Is far from being
solely Nasser's property. In this regard
He Is not the creator or the arbiter of Arab nationalism's
role In International affairs; his role has been more that of
commander in chief, whose function has been to translate ideas
The fight against "Imperlalilsa' is a basic theme In the little
book purportedly written by Nasser, Egypt's Liberation: The Philosooph
of the Revolution.2 As John Campball has said:
Through the whole story--his revolutionary Ideas and ac-
tlvity as a student, his experience In the Palestine War, the
motives of the present and the dream of the future--the main
enemy Is always the same. "Imperialism."3
There are other goals which Nasser seeks.4 One day he hopes to
unify all Arabdom under his leadership. He desires economic and social
progress. He hopes that a true renaissance of Arab culture can occur.
ICremens, p. 24.
2Gamt Abdul Nasser, Egavt'S" Liberation: The Philosophy of the
Aevolution (Washington. 0. C.: Public Affairs Press, 1955). According
to St. John, the book was a collaborative product of the efforts of
Nasser and a close friend, Hohanmed Helkal. St. John, p. 193. See also
Cremeans, p. 213.
3ampbell, p. 70.
*l* his book, cited above, for further elaboration.
But each of these goals depends on the prior removal of foreign
Nasser's ambitions are not limited to Egypt. He conceives of
Egypt as acting In three circles--an Arab circle, an African circle, and
an Islamic circle.1 She has positive role to play in each. Of these,
however, "there can be no doubt that the Arab circle is the most
Nasser's conception of this role Is Illustrated by the following
The pages of history are full of heroes who created for
themselves roles of glorious valor which they played at deci-
sive moments. Likewise the pages of history are also full of
heroic and glorious roles which never found heroes to perform
them. For some reason it seems to me that within the Arab
circle there is a role, wandering aimlessly In search of a
hemr. And I do not know why It seems to me that this role, ex-
hausted by Its wanderings, has at last settled down, tired and
weary, near the borders of our country and is beckoning us to
move, to take up Its lings, to put on its costume, since no one
Is qualified to play it.3
The thread of continuity among the "Arab Awakening," "Egyptian
History," and "Gasal Abdel lesser," is the desire to elimInate foreign
Influence. In his attempt to achieve this goal, Nasser developed an ap-
preach to International affairs which has become known as positive
'Nasser, pp. 85-86.
2,., p. 88.
31bid.. pp. 87-88.
The "neutralisCl' which is involved here refers to an attitude of
neutrality toward the Cold War. In fact, however, this attitude is more
one of dissociation and indifference than of strict neutrality. It is
the attitude of an outsider toward the conflict rather than of one deeply
involved in it. In reality It is a protest against Involvement in the
Neutralists reject the thesis that the Cold War is the only sig-
nificant element n International affairs. They feel that there are many
other issues of supreme Importance, issues which may force the Cold War
into the background. The belief is that there are crucial problems In
many areas of the world which exist alongside, but Independent of, the
East-West battle. For Nasser, one such issue is the fight against
The essence of neutralism is the attainment of "a state of free-
dom from all alien determinants of foreign policy."1
It is the achievement of the ability to Judge every issue
(including issues of the Cold War) on its own merits and In
the light of one's national interests and principles, and not
on the basis of comroltmnts made In advance to other parties
nor In the light of such extraneous consideration s align-
ment with power blocs.,
The natural result of this belief is a policy of ano-alignment
with ahd non-comeitment to either side in the Cold War. Neutralists
IFayez A. Sayegh, "Anatomy of Neutralism--A Typological Analysis,"
In The Ovnamics of Neutralism In the Arab World: A Syvmosium (San
Francisco: Chandler Publishing Company. 1964), p. 39.
refuse to be a part of any bloc, treaty, or pact the basic purpose of
which is to wage the struggle.1
Nasser added something to these standard tenets of neutralism.
He added a "positive" aspect. Basically this Involved the idea that it
Is Impossible for a state to accomplish anything significant If It simply
reacts negatively to Cold War Involvement. The logical extension of such
a policy could lead to a complete lack of relations with the Great Powers.
Yet It is these states who would be most able to provide assistance. The
object is to deal with them without compromising one's Independence and
without becoming Involved in their problems. Thus:
To be positively neutral Is to conduct relations with other
countries, Including countries which are Involved In the cold
war, without reference to their cold-war positions: It Is vir-
tually to ignore their politico-military affiliations and their
United States Policy
Prior to World War II the United States had few Interests In the
Middle East. There were various American cultural, economic and educe-
tionea enterprises, but these were non-governmntal In nature. The offi-
cla attitude was cordial, but the policy was one of unilateralism and
lContrary to what is sometimes said, neutralists are not opposed
to pacts a jaUL. Witness, for example, the Arab Collective Security
Pact. In other words, they do not object to their g w pacts.
2ayegh, p. 64.
3For a thorough discussion of this period, sea John A. Deaovo,
American Interests and Policies In the Middle East. 1900-1939 (Mlnneap-
olls: University of Minnesota Press, 196]).
With the coming of the war the situation changed somewhat. Mill-
tary operations required the landing of troops and the establishment of
bases. Certain ports were used extensively. High level military and
civilian officials crisscrossed the area. But It as understood that the
many activities were related to the war effort. Politically, the Middle
East was still considered a British sphere.
After the war It became obvious that the situation had been dras-
tically changed. Britain's power was greatly reduced and she was obliged
to reduce her commitments accordingly.1 The basic stabilizing element in
the Middle East was being removed. The Cold War had developed and was
keeping tensions at a high pitch. Great petroleum resources ware In-
creasing the Middle East's Importance. Arab and Jeu wre at each other's
throat. these circutances the United States was forced to re-eamlne
its traditional policy.
The two problem which most affected United States-Egyptian rele-
tions In the post-war decade were the Cold War and Palestine. The 1ll-
fated attempt to Include Egypt in an Allied Middle East Comand has al-
ready been discussed.2 Even though this failed, the United States felt
that som kind of defense arrangement should ultimately be concluded.
The Soviets had become established in Eastern Europe; there had been a
Communist victory in China: there had been an attack on South Korea;
Berlin had been blockaded; and severe pressure had been put on Greece,
Turkey, and Iran. Therefore, It was not logical to expect any let up in
the Soviet drive.
1According to Campbell, p. 11, "No element .. was so fraught
with revolutionary implications as the decline of British power."
2See above, pp. 19-20.
When General Eisenhower became President In 1953, he appointed a
long-time Republican adviser on foreign affairs, John Foster Dulles, to
be Secretary of State. In mid-year Mr. Dulles became the first Amerlcan
Secretary of State to tour the Middle East. He was encouraged by what he
saw, but recognized that this was not the time to again seek a alliance
Upon his return he gave a rather optimistic report to the Presi-
dent. The following points Mwre exceptionally laportant:
1. General Naguib was a popular here. He "and his asso-
ciates are determined to provide Egypt with a vigorous
government which will truly serve the people."
2. It would be a "disaster" If a break occurred between
the United States, Great Britain, and France. However,
the United States had bean "unnecessarily mbiguous" on
the question of colonialism.
3. At this time a Middle East Defense Organization was
Impossible. The nations are more concerned with
fighting anong themselves than with fighting
4. However, "there is more concern where the Soviet Union
is near." In general, "the northern tier of nations
shows awareness of the danger."
As Nasser and Nagulb began their attempts to rid Egypt of British
forces, they received diplomatic support frem the Unlted States. In 1953
the Junta signed an agreement with Britain settling the Sudan issue. le-
gotiations proceeded over the evacuation of the base in the Canal Zone,
and an agreement was reached in 1954. America's Ambassador to Egypt,
Jeffrson Caffery, was very helpful to Nasser. There Is no doubt that it
1U. S., Departant of State, Amrican Forelin Policy. 19SO-195S:
Basic Docuents. pp. 2168-2175.
was hoped that the success in reaching this agreement would make Egypt
ore willing to line up with the West.1
Throughout much of 1954, the United States had been negotiating
with the new regime with regard to economic assistance. In December an
agreement was signed for the amount of $10 million. As Alchard H. Nolte
The clear hope was. if Egypt was not to be coerced, Its co-
operation in Western defense arrangements might nevertheless be
wn once the British were out of the way.2
The second major issue In United States Middle Eastern policy was
Palestine. in order to understand the Arab reaction to American policy
we must briefly look at the history of this dispute as seen through Arab
The Arab revolt against the Turks In World War I had resulted
from an agreement between certain Arab leaders and the British. The gen-
eral nature of this was to the affect that the Arab lands would become
free and independent if the Turks were defeated. There is so* confusion
as to the exact boundaries these new lands would have, and to what extent
Palestine was Included, but there Is no doubt that the Arabs believed
that all of Arabdom was to be theirs.3 When the war ended, they instead
ICampbell, p. 66. See also Cremeans. p. 140.
21ichard H. Note, 'United States Policy and the Middle East," in
Georgiana Stevens (ed.). The United States and the Middle East (The
American Assembly. Englewood-Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 19614),
31Se especially the Husseln-MHcahon letters in J. C. Hurlwitz,
Dilomacy in the Near and Middle East (Princeton, N. J.: D. Van Nostrand
Co., 1956), Vol. II, pp. 13-17.
found Arabdom carved up by the British and French, with Palestine becon-
lag a British mandate.
The Interwar period was characterized by continual agitation
against the British. Because of the pledges to the Zionists, however,
Britain was allowing extensive Jewish Imigration into Palestine.1 The
Arabs held the British doubly guilty: first, they were foreigners occu-
pying Arab lands second, under their protection another non-Arb force,
Zionism, was moving In.
In World War II It became evident that high-ranking American of-
ficials were in complete accord with the Zionist drive for a new Jewish
state. Congressional resolutions were introduced to this effect. There
were a few calls for unlimited Jewish migration. On August 31, 1945,
President Truman appealed to British Prime Minister Attlee for the lme-
diate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees. IH appealed a second time
during the 1946 Congressional campaign.2 Two days later the Republican
candidate for Governor of New York, Thoms Dewey declared that "several
hundreds of thousands" of Jews should be admitted.3 In Palestine both
Jews and Arab were harassing the British as well as each other. Unable
to cope with the situation, the British dumped the problem into the lap
of the Unlted Nations.
1See the Balfour Declaration, JId., p. 26.
2The date of this appeal was October 4. 1946, which was the Jew-
ish holiday of Yom Kippur.
3New York Times October 7, 1946, p. 5. That the President's ac-
tion, too, was inspired by the search for votes Is shown in William A.
Eddy, F. D. R. Hets Ibn Saud (New York: American Friends of the Middle
East, Inc.. 1954). pp. 36-37.
A Special Committee on Palaestine reported that partition Into
separate Jewish and Arab states, with an Internationalized Jerusalem, was
the only feasible solution. With the United States exerting determined
pressure In its favor, the partition plan was passed by the General As-
se bly on November 29, 1947.1
The American action was taken despite advice against It by United
States diplomats In the Arab world. The Ambassador to Iraq, George
Wadsworth, "cabled Washington to the effect that American support of the
Zionists would cause the loss of the Middle East [ soon] every Amer-
Ican ambassador, minister, and consul general in the area had endorsed It
[the cable] or sent similar views of their own.'2
The Arabs refused to accept this plan. On My 14, 1948, the Pal-
estine Jews declared the Independence of Israel. Within minutes the
United States gave Israel diplomatic recognition. Arab armies attacked
the new state and the guerilla conflict was turned into a war.
There Is no need to discuss the course of the conflict. It was
ended by an Armistice in 1949 with Israel in possession of even more ter-
ritory than had been allotted to her In the partition plan. The Arabs
had been humiliatingly defeated. Refusing to accept the finality of this
loss, they declared that a state of war still existed and a "second
round" would soon begin.
IFor a particularly Interesting account of this pressure see
Alfred M. Lillenthal, There Goes the Middle East (New York: The Bookmaker,
Inc., 1960), pp. 4-7.
2Harry B. Ellis, Challenge In the Middle East: Communist Influ-
ence and American Policy (New York: The Ronald Press, Co., 1960), pp.
A few months later, with American help, Israel was admitted to
the United Nations. United States support continued and, prior to 1955,
the new state received more official economic assistance than did all of
the Arab states combined. In addition, she received extremely substan-
tial unofficial gifts of various sorts from private sources in America.
The significance of all this Is great. It is also quite simple
to state. The United States did Itself much harm with respect to United
States-Arab relations because of its role In the Palestine conflict.
There is no other Issue on which Arabs are as united as they are on their
hatred of Israel. The United States is regarded as the primary culprit
in the establishment of this new "colony" In the Arab world.
The Palestine conflict and efforts to establish an alliance thus
provided the two major background factors In United States policy. The
former had put America at a disadvantage in Its relations with the Arabs;
the latter would do serious harm If such efforts were continued.
DETERIORATING AMERICAN-EGYPTIAN RELATIONS
The first major period of our study began with fhe signing of the
Iraq-Turkey Pact In early 1955 and ended with Secretary ulles' with-
drawal of the American offer to aid Egypt In financing the construction
of a High Dam at Aswan. Opposition to Nasser and his cold war neutrality
and the search for antl-Coamunist commitments wre the basic aspects of
American policy. The Baghdad Pact was part of the quest for colmitmnts.
When Nasser sought arw, his neutralist policies were a major factor in
Washington's hesitancy to mke a deal. When he dealt with the Comunists,
the United States felt its criticisms of neutralism were substantiated.
Antagonism to neutralism proved to be a prim consideration in the with-
drawal of the Aswan Dam offer. These American policies ran directly
counter to Nasser's conception of Egypt's interests. As we shall seae
the result was conflict and a considerable deterioration in American-
The Baghdad Pact
The United States was cautiously optimistic as 1955 began. Nasser
had just consolidated his rule after ousting General Nagulb and ellmlnat-
Ing all organized rival factions from positions of power. The successful
completion of negot!a:la... between Egypt and Great Britain ilding to the
Suez Canal Base Evacuation Agreement was interpreted as an indication of
Egypt's pro-Western views. The United States and Egypt had signed an
economic assistance agreement at the end of the year. it was hoped that
Nasser might now be willing to line up with the West in the struggle
against Commun sm.
The futile attempts of the United States and Britain to enlist
Egypt in a Middle Eastern defense alliance have already been discussed.
Following Secretary Dulles' espousal of the "northern tier" concept, the
Anglo-American efforts were directed toward establishing alliances with
those countries lying In close proximity to the Soviet bloc. Of course,
Turkey was already a member of NAT and Pakistan had become a SEATO mm-
ber in 1954. But there was still a big gap In between.
The United States had begun the process of filling this gap in
early 1954 by signing a military assistance agreement with Iraq. Iraq
was already the keystone of British policy in the area. Premier Nurl s-
Said, though not popular at home, was apparently In complete control of
the situation and he was sympathetic to and thoroughly identified with
With the complete agreement and encouragement of the United
States, Turkey now took the Initiative in building a regional defense or-
ganlzation. In April 1954, she signed a treaty of friendship and coopera-
tion with Pakistan. Shortly after this she began negotiations with the
Iraqis for a similar agreement.
Several times during the following months officials of Iraq and
Egypt discussed the question of alliance with non-Arab Powers. What was
ISee boe, pp. 18-19.
agreed on In these sessions is a mater of dispute.1 The Iraqis claim
that they Informed Egypt that, though they recognized the reasonableness
of the Egyptian position, they would conclude an alliance with a non-rab
power should they feel such was necessary. According to Egypt, Hurl
promised he would not mke an alliance with a non-Arab state.
Perhaps It ii not very Important which version Is the more c-
curate. The fact is that It was announced in January that Iraq would
soon sign a military treaty with the Turks. The Egyptian reaction was
loud and predictably hostile. A torrent of verbal abuse was heaped on
Nurl and the monarchy. When Great Britain adhered to the treaty In
April. Nasser was still more dismayed.
The Egyptian response can be fruitfully analyzed In two ways.
First, what actions were taken? Second, what ware the reason for these
The first response was a continual stream of anti-pact vilifica-
tion through the Govermnt-controlled press end the Influential Voice of
the Arabs. The attacks were made "with a virulence unequalled In the
modern history of inter-Arab relations."2 This tactic was designed not
only to demonstrate official opposition in the hopes of forcing a back-
down by Iraq and compelling other Arab leaders to IIne up against Hurl,
but also to create Internal opposition to this and similar alliances
throughout the various Arab states.
'See Campbell, p. 54, on this point. Fayez A. Sayegh. "Evolution
of Neutralism In the U.A.R.," in The Dynamics of Arab Neutrallel A Sym-
gIumn (San Francisco: Chandler Publishing Co., 1964), pp. 179-180, con-
cludes that the Egyptian case is well established.
2Tom Little, Io (New Yorks Frederick A. Preager, 1958), p.
Nasser immediately called a meeting of the Arab League. He
threatened to withdraw if the League did not condemn Iraq. To his dis-
may, his lead was not followed. Though there was considerable support
for his position, he could not get the action he wanted. The withdrawal
threat proved to be a bluff.
Nasser's most effective response was the organization of a counter-
alitance. In March he signed agreements in principle with Saudi Arabia ,
and Syria for a unified military command. "Saudi Arabia, following Its
traditional anti-HashemIte policy, supported the Egyptian campaign po-
litically and financially.'l
What were the reasons for Nasser's opposition to the Pact? For
one thing he was opposed to all pacts between big and small powers, feel-
Ing the latter were always manipulated by the former.2 The history of
Egypt and the Arab world was replete with examples of such treaties and
Nasser and many Arabs felt that the record proved their point.
A closely related reason was the fact that this treaty was a pact
between an Arab and a non-Arab state. As such it was a blow to Arab
.solidarity and the ability of the Arabs to act as a unified third force
to achieve Arab objectives in the International arena. With respect to
legitimate defense needs Nasser felt the Arabs could rely on their Arab
Collective Security Pact.3
ICampbell, p. 55.
2Wynn, p. 111.
3Nsser was concerned primarily with defense against israel or
other small powers. If a great power attacked, it was felt that the re-
sponse would be dictated by the situation no matter what treaties
Another reason was the fact that It was LTurke with whom the
agreement was mde. Not only was she a non-Arab state, she was one with
a history of domination over the Arabs. Even more Inportant. Turkey was
new considered to be controlled by the West. Thus the Baghdad Pact was,
even from the outset, opposed because of its Western sponsorship. Of
course Great Britain's adherence in April reinforced this objection.
Nasser objected to the Western orientation of the pact for two
reasons. First, of course, there was the history of Western domination
of the Arabs. Only a few months previously INsser had reached an agree
ment to get British troops out of Egypt for the first tim since 1882.
New here was a now avenue for maintaining Britain's unwanted presence In
the area. The second reason was that since this particular pact was de-
signed to deter Soviet expansion, It was a part of the Cold War struggle.
It required a comltment to one side, bringing the Cold War to the Arab
world. It thus violated Nasser's basic precepts of non-alignment and
Another reason for Nasser's intense opposition concerned the
struggle for leadership In the Arab world. Iraq was Egypt's traditional
rival and now, with Nurl at the helm and with British and United States
backing, she was getting considerable outside assistance.2 This was a
ISee Little, pp. 261-263.
2According to Wynn, p. 112, "Egyptians regarded It as an attempt
by the West to build up Iraq as a competitor to Egypt as regional leader.
Nasser regarded this as proof of Western hostility to his regime." See
also Now York Times. April 4, 1955, p. 9, for Nasser's belief that the
West had violated a "Gentlemen's Agreement" to the effect that Elypt
should take the lead In building a surely Arab defense alliance.
direct challenge to Nasser In the region of most Imediate concern, the
Arab East. This was mor than Just a personal rivalry, because Iraq and
Its leaders stood for so much of what Nasser opposed: a monarchy, with a
highly fudallzed society, its leaders dependent on outside support and
police methods for their existence, defending the status quo in the Arab
What was the policy of the United States toward the pact? First,
it should be remembered that the pact was the logical culmination of
Dulles' "northern tier" concept. Furthermore, America ws allied with
Turkey in IMTO, Pakistan in SEATO, was Britain's closest friend end ally,
and had signed a military assistance agreement with Iraq. Though the ne-
gotiations were In large part sponsored by the British, the United States
gave them its blessings. As n. A. Fitzsimons has said, the pact "repre-
sented a convergence of the American policy of containment and the Brit-
ish policy of assuring British Influence In the area by new arrangements."
The United States reacted enthusiastically to the various agreements.
There was, it said, a "growing recognition" that Coamunism, not Israel,
was the true threat to the Arabs.2
Nevertheless, America was unwilling to become a ember. Evi-
dently Secretary Dulles felt that this arrangement was simply the best
alternative from a not too favorable selection. His former law partner,
Arthur Dean, says that, after hearing the arguments against the pact:
IN. A. Fitzslmons. "The Suez Crisis and the Containment Policy,"
review of Politics. XIX (October, 1957), 433.
2New York Time. February 26, 1955, p. 4.
Foster would grin and say, "You show me what else we
should do." He would demonstrate the military position.
He was influenced by the military problem and by the neces-
sity of giving some kind of support to Turkey. He
would say that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were worried about
the utter absence of any organized defense in the northern
Middle East, the lack of anything by way of a coordinated
military structure to prevent the Russians from taking the
entire area. Foster would also ague that we must also some-
times do what the British wanted.'
Why did the United States stay out? There are several possible
reasons. First, Israel opposed the alliance. From the Israeli point of
view, Joining the pact would have violated the professed policy of impar-
tiality in the Arab-israeli dispute. Another factor may have been de-
sire not to antagonize the Soviets any more than was necessary. Also, as
Campbell points out, the Administration did not want Its Hiddle Eastern
policy to become a domestic political Issue, which might well be the case
If the Senate had to ratify a treaty.2
But the fundametal reason seem to have been a reluctance at
this time to get involved in Inter-Arab quarrels. All of the Arab states
except Iraq were indifferent or hostile to the pact. Secretary Dulles
supported this conclusion when, in testimony before Congress, he said
that the reason was "because In our opinion it was too controversial as
aong Arab countries."3
What effect did the pact and Vashington's relation to it have on
American relations with Nasser? He obviously considered the pact
IRoscoe rummond and Gaston Coblentz. Duel at the Brink; John
Foster Dulles' Commnd of American Power (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday
and Co., 1960), pp. 148-149.
eampbell, p. 60.
3U. S. Senate, Hearings on the Elsenhower Doctrine. p. 135.
completely contrary to his Interests. Inevitably, therefore, to the de-
gree with which America was identified with the pact she was automti-
cally identified as Nasser's adversary. United States ties with Iraq,
Britain, Pakistan, and Turkey, its support of the principles of the pact,
the fact that the final arrangement was in many ways the result of Amer-
ican ideas end pressure, and the close working relationships which Wash-
Ington later established with the new organization, combined to more than
offset the lack of formal membership and the profession of neutrality in
The United States was trying to gain what it felt ware the advn-
tages of an antl-Communist defense alliance without also having the dis-
advantages of membership. In this fashion it hoped to obtain as many
comltments to the West as possible end still avoid exacerbating regional
quarrels or being tainted with a colonialist label because of association
Unfortunately for the United States, it underestimated the sensi-
tivity of Nasser and his followers both with respect to the leadership
struggle with Iraq and the threat of renewed Western domination. Wash-
Ington also underestimated Arab intelligence when it failed to realize
that the mere facade of lack of membership would not hide the real
ThI Gaza Raid
Throughout the history of the Palestine Armistice Arabs and Jews
alike had been guilty of raids which violated the boundary lines. As the
number of refugees increased and no progress was ade toward a solution,
as the Arabs blockaded Israel and refused to allow passage through the
Canal, as Israel refused to change the territorial status quo or limit
Inmlgration, etc., time only reinforced the existing attitudes and images
which each side held of the other.
On February 17, 1955, the militant Zionist, David Ben-CGrlon,
ceme out of retirement to become Minister of Defense. A mere eleven days
later israel launched an organized military attack Into the Egyptian-
administered Gaze strip, killing many Egyptian soldiers and Palestinian
refugees. The attack was very efficient and took the Egyptians com-
pletely by surprise. This was the first military attack Into IaEypt i
territory since the 1949 Armistice Agreements, "for which the israeli
Government publicly assumed official responsibility."1
The attack was a shock to Nasser and a great blow to his pres-
tige.2 One of the Inmediate causes of the Egyptian revolutlen had been
the lack of proper equipment and training of the array during the Pales*
tine War. Furthermore, the regime, Itself, was coposed of military mn,
men whose pride rested on having at least a respectable fighting force.
Also, it ts one of the arks of sovereignty, a fact not lost on the small
nations of the world, to hve a good army.
Yet here Egyptian weakness was glaringly exposed. Nasser and his
army were humiliated and furious. Israel had shown the world, including
IFayez A. Sayegh, "The Evolution of Neutralism in the U. A. R.,"
In The Dynamics of Neutralism in the Arab World: A Svymooslu (San
Francisco: Chandler Publishing Co., 1964), p. 193.
2it has been suggested, however, that this attack helped Masser
in the struggle with Iraq because It gave vitality to the new Egyptian-
Syrian-Saudi Arabian military alliance. See LIlilnthal, p. 82.
Nasser's former colonial masters and present rivals for Arab leadership,
that the revolutionary Junta was little mnre prepared than Farouk.
The raid galvanized Egypt Into action in several ways which af-
fected its relations with the United States. First, Egypt Imedliately
Informed the United Nations Security Council of the raid and requested
its urgent consideration of this "aggression." Following the submission
of a counter-complaint by Israel, the Council adjourned pending the re-
port of Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision
On March 17, the Council convened anrdherd the report. The
Chief of Staff stated that the Egypt-Israeli Mixed Armistice Comissilon
had found Israel responsible for the attack and decided it violated the
Armistice Agreement. The Egyptians hoped to have sanctions applied under
Chapter VII. but this was farther then the Council was willing to go. On
March 28. the United States, along with Britain and France, submitted a
resolution condemning the Israeli attack.
The United States thus gave Egypt support in the Security Council.
Yet this did little to alter mutual relations because the American stand
was based on its support for the peace-keeping efforts of the United Na-
tions and Its opposition to force as a means of changing the status quo.
Nasser Just happened to be on the right side. He well knew that the sup-
port was of a derivative nature.
A second policy which Nasser Initiated after the Gaza raid was
the organization of the Fedaeaen (self-sacrificers). Me felt compelled
to retaliate against Israel for this humlli at on n order to show every-
one that Egypt was no longer a country which would "take things lying
down." Robert St. John, one of Nasser's biographers, describes It this
At first there was great secrecy about them, but before
long Cairo Radio wts Instructed to advertise their exploits.
for two purposes: To give Egyptians sme quaslmilitary vic-
tories to cheer, and to undermine Israeli morale. Volunteer
terrorists were recruited from among the two hundred thousand
Arabs crowded together In the Gaza strip, trained by Egyptian
army officers, and sent Into action. At first they entered
Israel only from the Gaza strip, but later they were shipped
to Jorden, Lebanon, and Syria, so they could infiltrate Israel
from all sides. Their aim was to strike deeply Into Israeli
territory, inflict the maximum possible damage and casualties,
stay a* loig as their amnunltlon held out, then return with
any military Infomation they could obtain.
The organization of the uFdavmn was a contributing factor to a
gradual deterioration of relations between the United States and Egypt.
The United States opposed it because of the terroristic nature of its ac-
tivities; it was opposed because the state being Injured was Israel; and
it was opposed because such actions could only hve the result of In-
creasing tensions within the area and making it more difficult to main-
tain the status quo.
Apart from these specific considerations there is another eleImnt
to be mentioned here. To a large extent a country conceives the nature
of its interests, and the mans to implement them. In relation to the
A which it has of another country or leader. The United States had
not yet had much to do with Nassor but had been inclined to be optimistic
about his beliefs, methods, and goals. The move to terroristic activi-
ties, however, tarnished the image considerably.2
St. John, p. 208.
2e should be as careful here of overemphasis as of neglect. The
United States had worked with people before of whom It did not approve
The Aru Deal
As we noted previously, the revolutionary Egyptian regime con-
sisted of ex-army officers. They recognized the need, from both the mall-
tery and political viewpoints, to have an efficient armed force. uch of
iNsser's Internal support was based on the armed forces. The raid at
Gaza was an experience which compelled aesser, for domestic as wall as
foreign purposes, to pursue his attempts to get outside military help
with Increased vigor.
American policy with respect to military assistance in the Middle
East was based on the Tripartite Declaration Issued by the United States,
Great Britain and France on Hay 25, 1950. The pertinent paragraph stated
The three Governments recognize that the Arab states and
Israel all need to maintain a certain level of armed forces
for the purposes of assuring their Internal security and
their legitimate self-defense and to permit them to play
their part In the defense of the area as a whole. All ap-
plications for arms or war mterlal for these countries will
be considered In the light of these principles. In this con-
nection the three government wish to recall and reaffirm the
term of the statements made by their representatives on the
Security Council on August 4, 1949, In which they declared
their opposition to the development of an arm race between the
Arab states and Israel.'
This attempt to maintain peace by keeping a military balance was
obviously based on the theory that nations, or blocs, of equal strength
(I.e., that are "balanced") will not become aggressors Of course the
policy could be effectively Implemented only so long as these three
powers had control of the supply of weapons.
and certainly would do so again. Nevertheless, such action as that taken
here does have an effect on the formation of policy.
Ill. S., Department of State. American Forelan Policy. 1950-195Is
Basic Documents. Vol. II, 1957, p. 2237.
The Egyptians were dissatisfied for several reasons. First, the
Declaration lumped Israel against all the Arab states combined. Obvi-
ously each Arab state Individually would have much less than Israel.
Second, the supplying powers were in the position to determine what the
recipients needed for "legitimate self-defense" and "Internal security."
Even more disturbing than these objections were those which de-
veloped out of the long series of fruitless negotiations. At this point
It would be wise to get at the history of these dealings. An American
Congressional Study Mission was given the following report by the Depart-
ment of State:
On lec.mabr 10, 1952, the United States and Egypt con-
cluded an ares-purchase agreement under the Iutual Defense
Assistance Act of 1949. The terms of this act require that
a recipient country agree that the material or services re-
calved will be used solely for Internal security and that the
recipient will not undertake any act of aggression. The re-
cipient country must also agree not to re!nquish title or pos-
session to any equipment provided without the consent of the
United States, and to protect the security of the articles
In February 1953, the United States and Egypt prepared to
discuss details of a proposal Involving the sale of a moderate
amount of United States military equipment. An Egyptian mis-
sion visited the United States shortly thereafter, but the
sale did not materialize because of increased violence in the
Suez base area. The United States informed Egypt that arms
deliveries would be deferred pending settlement of the United
In July 1953, the United States advised Egypt it mould
enter into firm commitments to provide Egypt with military aid
and economic assistance simultaneous with the signature of
agreement in principle on the Suez base. Six days after the
two countries Initialed such an agreement, August 2, 1954. sep-
arate draft agreements on economic aid and military assistance
were given to the Government of Egypt by the United States A.-
bassador in Cairo. At the end of that month Egypt Informed the
United States it had decided not to request military aid at that
time. By the middle of October the Egyptian Government had
changed Its mind and indicated it wished to resume negotiations
on military aid. Following protracted discussions, Egypt de-
cided in January 1955, that it did not wish to sign the
standard-type i ltary assistance agreamnt such as had been
signed by other nations receiving United States military
Although Egyptian policy deadlocked a military grant as-
sistance agreement, Egyptian arm purchase requests received
prompt attention by the United States following the Suez set-
tlement. Until June, 1955, Egypt's requests for moderate arms
purchases Mwre filled.
During these negotiations the Egyptians had found themselves in
dl les. On the one hand they wanted and needed the weapons. On the
other, they disliked the various conditions which were a part of any deal
with the Americans. They were called "strings." It mattered little to
Egypt that other countries were required to sicept similar conditions.
In April Nasser spoke with Chou En-Lel about the possibility of
assistance from the Russians. Chou was encouraging and slid he would
speak with them. In May, at a diplomatic reception in Cairo, Nasser and
Soviet Ambassador Solod discussed the question. On June 3, Secretary
Dulles received a dispatch Informing him of this conversation. The, on
June 9, Nasser informed United States Ambassador Byroade of the meeting
and warned him that this was not a bluff. He said that if the West would
not deal with him, he would get arms from the Russians.
American diplomats in Cairo were convinced that Nasser needed
these arms to consolidate his Internal position and quiet the growing un-
rest in his army, to regain some lost International prestige, and to ful-
fill legitimate self-defeonse requrements.2 It was believed that the
IU. S., Congress, House of Representatives, Comittee on Foreign
Affairs, Renort of the Special Study Mission to the Middle E South
and Southeast Asia. and the Western Pacific. Report No. 2147, Coth Cong.,
2d Sess., May 10, 1956. p. 38.
20n this point Ambassador Byroade later said that he believed
Nasser wanted the arms because "he was afraid of attack." U. S., Senate,
principles of the Tripartite Declaration would not be violated by the
arms he sought. The people at the Embassy realized that Nasser was des-
perate and was not bluffing. These considerations led to recommendation
that Nasser's requests be filled.
In June Nasser asked for $27 million worth of arm "without
strings." He still would not sign the usual assistance agreements. He
did not want American military lmssions in Calro nor Aerican legislation
stipulating that he could not use the weapons at his own discretion. He
also disliked the idea of having to continually report to Washlngton.
Nevertheless, it was announced on June 30 that the United States had
agreed "In principle" to supply him with the $27 million wrth of arms.
However, there were still sam "technical" difficulties to be worked out.
In July passer continued his negotiations with the United States.
Secretary Dulles was advised that Nasser had decided "to at least suspend
at that tim any efforts to get arm from the Soviet bloc, and to try to
get arm from the United States."l The Soviets, however, told Nasser on
July 27 that they were ready to deal.
It appears that Nasser had not as yet made up his mind. He still
hoped that the West would relax its conditions and would not require pay-
ments in American currency. The clinching fact for him seed to be the
Committee on Foreign Relations and the Comlttee on Armed Services, Hear-
inas on 5. J. Res. 19 and H. J. Res. 117. Joint Resolutions to Authorize
the President to Undertake Economc and Militarv Cooneration with Nations
In the General Area of the Middle East In Order to Assist In the Stranath-
Menna and Defense of their Independence. 85th Cong., 1st Sess., 1957, pt.
2, p. 714. Hereinafter this will be cited as U. S., Senate, Hearings on
the Elsenhower Doctrine.
IU. S., Congress, Senate, Comittee on Foreign Relations, HirU-
Inas on the Situation In the Middle East, 84th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 16.
continually growing evidence that, despite official protestations to the
contrary, Israel was receiving arms from France. He referred to the ex-
istence of secret Franco-srael arms agreements. He alleged that they
stipulated that at least one hundred tanks and sum fast Histere Jet
fighters were destined for Israel. The Israelis denied this and the
French termed It "fantasy."1
In addition to the increasing arms for Israel, the situation on
the border was getting worse as clashes became more and re frequent.
The Israelis attacked Khan Yunis in the bloodiest battle yet. Than, on
September 21, they Invaded and occupied the "demlitarlzed" zone of El
Auja. Israel refused all United Nations demands to withdraw her troops.2
Officially Nasser was still negotiating with both alnes. it was
becoming Increasingly obvious, however, that the Arrlcan-Egyptlan talks
were staleated, The announced reasons for the lak of progress were
that prices were too high and payments had to be made In American cur-
rancy. Then, on September 27. 1955, Nasser made his historic announcement:
iOn October 3, Nasser said British and French Intelligence docu-
ments substantiating this were Intercepted and this was not denied. When
Israel's French weapons were available for all to see following Suez,
they corresponded In type and quantity very closely to Nasser's list of a
year earlier. It has been stated: "Already at the and of 1954. with the
agreement of French Prim Minister Mendes-France and the approval of Air
Force Minister Catroux, a Franco-Israell areas deal was signed." Sloha
Flapan, "Bridge Across the edlterranean," w Outlook. Vol. VII (May,
1964), p. 15. M this is accurate, then certainly Nasser had legitimate
worries. Even If no firm Mde had been made, at least there were nego-
tiations to this end being carried on. Michael lonldes, Divide and Lose;
The Arab Revolt 1955-1958 (London: Geoffrey and Bias, 1960), p. 127.
21t was from this area, still occupied, that the Sinal attack was
launched In October. 1956.
I shall now tell you about America. From the start of
the revolution we kept on asking her for arms. And what was
the result? That we received promises with conditions attached:
We could receive arms by signing a mutual security pact! We
could receive arms in return for some alliance We refused to
sign any mutual security pact, any form of alliance; and so, my
brothers, we were unable to obtain eras from America.
When we received a reply to our request from the Gvernment
of Czechoslovakia declaring its readiness to supply us with weap-
ons in accordance with the Egyptian amy's needs and on a purely
commercial basis, and stating that the transaction would be re-
garded as any other comnerclal one, we accepted Immediately. And,
last week, Egypt signed a commercial agreement with Czechoslovakia
for a supply of weapons to her. This agreement stipulates that
Egypt shall pay for these weapons with her products such as cot-
ton and rice.'
The effect of Nasser's announcement was electrifying. In one
bold stroke he had done more to break Arab dependence on the West than
any Arab leader In history. The Arab world was an uproar. Throughout
Arabdom the masses halled their new Saladin. The yoke of domination was
broken. All of the Arab leaders, even Nurl es-Said, hailed his ove as a
great step forward.2
The Soviets had scored a significant breakthrough.3 The Northern-
tier alliance had been "leap-frogged" and a beachhead established In the
Noble Frankland (ed.), Documents on international Affairs. 1955.
Royal institute of International Affairs (London: Oxford University
Press, 1957), pp. 370-372. Hereinafter the volumes of Documents Issued
under the auspices of the Royal Institute will be cited as R.I.I.A.,
Documents, with the appropriate year.
obviously there were degrees of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, all
Arabs wanted to be able to deal with someone besides the West L they
wished to. In addition, the tremendous popular support given this action
made It next to Impossible not to at least give it lip-service. An Amer-
Ican diplomat said, "if Nasser ran for President In Lebanon, Syria, or
Jordan today, ie would be elected unanimously." Wynn, p. 120.
Some cultural and economic agreements had been signed In August
but they wre inconsequential In comparison to this.
miet populous Arab country. And it had been so easy, so "above board."
Judging from the enthusiastic response among the Arabs, It was not un-
likely that any additional opportunities for penetration would be
The United States reacted by dispatching Assistant Secretary of
State George Allen to Cairo to "explain" Amrica's position. It s not
known exactly what Mr. Allen was Instructed to do, but it is certain that
his mission could only be Interpreted as an attempt to put severe pres-
sure on Nasser to remedy his "wrong" action and "force" him back Into
An ominous portent had occurred even before Nasser's announce-
mant. It was known for a couple of days previously that the deal was
set, but Nasser had not announced it publicly. Then:
Literally minutes before Nasser was to set out for the
auditorium where he wauld announce the arms deal, an Associ-
ated Press report was received saying that George V. Alien
was being sent to Cairo to give Nasser an "ultimatund'
outlining serious consequences for Egypi if Cairo Kccepted
the arms deal.'
Of course Mr. Allen denied that there was any intention of putting
pressure on Nasser. He was there, he said, merely to clarify the Amri-
can position and gain a mare realistic understanding of Egypt's. Further-
more, It was said that the trip was not just In response to the arm deal
since it had been planned for months.
Certainly Mr. Allen was in no position to threaten. The deal was
an accomplished fact and the arms section of the Tripartite Declaration
1Ellis, p. 44.
was useless. The only thing that attempts to compel to renege would ac-
complish would be to drive him further away from the West. in the light
of the popular response to the deal, and Nasser's personality, any at-
tempt to e*ert pressure ms doomed to futility or worse.1
When Allan reached Cairo he and Ambassador Byroade went to see
Nasser. They were deliberately kept waiting for mre than an hour. The
reason for this snub, as stated by the Egyptian official who handled the
situation for Nasser, shows how sensitive the Egyptians are to anything
resembling foreign coercion. This official said:
We kept Mr. Allen waiting because we had heard he wa bring-
ing from Washington an Indignant letter and that he intended to
bang the tablt and give us a lecture. We kept him waiting to
cool him off.'
What were the reasons underlying the Amerlcan decisln not to
deal with Nasser on the terms he desired? Officially it was because no
agreement could be reached on financial aspects such as the prices and
teams of payment. The logical deduction from this is that if these tech-
nical problems could have been cleared up the deal would have gone
Various administration officials In testimony before Congres-
sional comitees, however, established the fact that technic.l considera-
tions were of secondary Importance. Admiral Radford put It this way:
iAccording to Wynn, p. 120, the very act of sending Allen was In-
terpreted by the Arabs as evidence that Washington was panicky. They
felt that Washington has come crawling to Cairo." Another author states,
"his trip served further to enhance Nasser's prestige throughout the Arab
world." Keith Wheelock, Nasser's New EavYt: A Critical Analysis (New
York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1960), p. 230. Also see Campbell, p. 73.
2St. John, p. 210.
'"hat they wanted to buy .. were types of weapons we did not want them
to buy.1 And exAmbassador Caffery said: "Well. It was simply this,
Senator: He wanted military assistance without any condition, and we
Nasser obviously felt that our decision wa not based on techni-
calities. Ambassador Byroade, In response to a query concerning why
Nasser bought from the Soviets and not from the United States, put it
Well, I think I can tell you why he did. I think It was
after he reached two fundamental conclusions. There were tech-
nicalities Tnvolved of course: Could he use local currency?
NH was out of dollars, and so on.
I believe he decided that this was not a matter of techni-
calities, but as a matter of principle and policy the West
would not or could not help him get safely stronger than
The other conclusion which I feel certain he made was that
he had no alternative. His officers knew for 3 months that he
had been offered Higs and Jet bombers and Stalin tanks. I
think it reached a point where he felt he had to go ahead.3
Accepting the fact that the decision was based on policy consid-
erations, how do we evaluate It? We knew what did happen. The pertinent
issue here is whether it would have served the American national Interest
to have dealt with Nasser on his terms.
It is lIpossible to give a categorical answer to this question.
There were several factors supporting the decision which was made. in
the first place, one of the primary goals of revolutionary nationalism In
1i. S., Senate, Hearinas on the Elsenhower Doctrine. pt. 1. p.
21W., pt 2, p. 783.
3bid., pt 2, p. 715.
the Arab world is to remove all foreign domination. In the history of
this area such domination has been Western. In a sense, therefore, the
United States would have ben strengthening a man whose avowed ai was to
weaken Western Influence If It had given him what he wanted
Another factor was that Nasser's philosophy of positive neutral-
lsm pushed him in the direction of dealing with both sides. The Arabs,
he felt, had the right to maintain relations with countries regardless of
their cold-war positions. In order to play an effective role In interna-
tional affairs, as wall as strengthen themselves at hoe, he believed
that it was necessary to avoid too great a dependence on either West or
East. Besides, by playing off one against the other, perhaps both sides
would be more helpful. Thus Nasser's own thinking, as it developed prag-
matically, would lead him to seek some non-Western aid. The fact which
this points up is this: even if the United States had made the deal it
is almost certain that the Arabs and Soviets would have gotten together
sooner or later.
Furthermore, there were a great many other problem. The techni-
cal considerations could have been solved. But If America had done as
Nasser wished, all of the others with whom It deals would have wanted at
least equal terms. The question would have ben raised, why be an ally
when a neutral can get so much? Because Egypt was an avowed foe of
Israel, any deal like this would also have aroused both domestic nd for-
eign opposition from the Israelis and their friends.
Nevertheless, one can also make a plausible argument n favor of
a deal. if the United States had given him the exact quantity and qual-
ity of era he sought on the terms he specified, Nasser and the other
nationalist Arab leaders might have realized that America was willing to
work with them when the conditions were right. To some extent this would
have show that the United States recognized soe l legitimacy in Arab as-
pirations and was willing to trust in At Judgment as to the policies
which should be adopted. Another very significant effect would have been
to show that the United States was willing to do ore than merely give
lip-service to the professed policy of neutrality In the Arab-Israeli
dispute. Had Washington dealt with him certainly Nasser at least would
not have been flrce to turn to the Soviets for lack of an alternative.
All of this would have Involved a risk. In addition to these
factors listed previously In support of the decision taken, there was the
fact that Nasser eight use these weapons against his Arab or Israeli
neighbors. Buut all decisions involve some risk. Obviously It ws risky
not to deal with him.
Perhaps no final Judgment can be made with any degree of cer-
tainty. The least one an say however, is that the decision was a rea-
sonable one based on som solid arguments. In any case It Is probably
wore Iaportant to recognize the effects of what ma done than to specu-
late on what Lgi have been. The United States did not deal with Nasser
but the Soviets did. Arab nationalist suspicions of the Wast were
It seems unlikely that Nasser would have used American arm to
openly attack Israel. In the first place, it was quite obvious that the
United States would protect Israel against outside aggression. Second,
Nasser received arms equal In quality to those he sought from the United
States, and did M. In fact, so attack. This does not mean that he
would not use such arms to equip the FEdavi n or that he would not use
thee In self-defense against an Israeli attack.
reinforced but their conception of the Russians was changed. The Soviets
now had a strong foothold In the Middle East.
The Hiah Dam at Aswan
Despite its obvious uselessness, the United States reaffirmed the
Tripartite Declaration as the basis for Its arms policy. Israel requested
arms to "offset" the Egyptian deal, with considerable support from several
United States Congressman, but the Administration decided against such
action. In November Washington sent "observers" to Baghdad as .the Baghdad
Pact organization was created. It adhered to our policy of not becoming
a member, however.
But the mOst Important events from the point of view of the
United States-Egyptian relations were occurring in Washington. An Egyp-
tian delegation was negotiating with officials of the United States,
Great Britain, and the World Bank for funds to help finance the construc-
tion of a High Dan at Aswan. This was an extremely important project to
Egypt. The extreme poverty of the average Egyptian Is appalling, but It
is very difficult to raise his living standards much because of the lack
of cultivable land. With population density very high and Increasing
constantly, it was Imperative that new land be made arable. One proposed
method of doing this was to construct the High Oam at Aswan.
Various organizations and officials found the plan to be techni-
cally and economically feasible.1 Even this inoth undertaking would do
little more than enable the present miserable conditions to be maintained.
IFor excellent background material on the High Dam, see Wheelock,
But failure to do It, or something like it, could mean great internal
problems for Nasser. His dynamic image and promises of reform called for
a project such as this. It was essential in order to Increase his coun-
try's economic and political strength. It was a key element in his over-
all program for economic development.
There was, however, the difficult problem of financing such a
huge undertaking. Given Egypt's economic situation, there was no possi-
bility of her picking up the entire tab. Nasser thus sought to get as
much outside assistance as possible.
The United States, now that Nasser had flouted its will, was
awakening to the Soviet threat. Despite its increasing dislike of Nasser,
the Administration decided that it ought to work with him to prevent any
further Soviet gains. Nasser naturally enough used the threat of a Soviet
deal as a lever to exact more favorable conditions from the West.
In October there were "reliable reports" that the Soviets were
interested. Shortly thereafter, however, Dr. Ahmed Husseln, the Egyptian
Ambassador to Washington, Informed Secretary Dutles that Egypt would
prefer to have the United States and the World Bank provide the required
assistance.' in November and December negotiations continued. On Decem-
ber 17, the Department of State announced:
The United States and British Governments assured the Egyp-
tian Government .of their support in this project, which
would be of inestimable lmortance In the development of the
Egyptian economy and the improvement of the welfare of the
Egyptian people. Such assistance would take the form of grants
from the United States and the United Kingdom toward defraying
the foreign exchange costs of the first stages of the work.
'New York Times. October 18, 1955, p. 3.
Further, assurance has been given that the Govern-
emot of the United States would, subject to legislative au-
thority, be prepared to consider sympathetically In the light
of the then existing circumstances further support toward fi-
nancing the later stage to supplement World Bank financing.
The United States had dealt itself back in the game, or so it
seemed. The amounts offered were grants of $56 million and $14 million
from the Amerleans and British respectively, and a loan of $200 million
at 5 per cent, repayable In forty years, by the World Bank. The latter
was contingent upon the Anglo-American offers. All this was for the
first stage. It was widely known that the United States was offering
$130 million for the second stage.
At this point It is necessary to discuss the immediate context
for the negotiations as provided by the events of late 1955 and early
1956. The basic element in this connection was the increased hostility
between the Egyptians and the British. As this developed into an open
conflict of interests, the United States sought to remain friendly to
both sides. Its attitudes became more and more ambivalent.
Jordan provided the testing ground for the Anglo-Egyptian feud.
ow that Britain was the leading Western Power In the Baghdad Pact, she
was determined to use it to solidify her position in the riddle East.
She thus decided to try to attract more Arab states Into the alliance,
and Jordan was the most likely prospect. When It appeared as If Jordan
might Join, however, severe rioting broke out and the Jordanian govern-
lU. S., Department of State, American Foreign Policy. 1950-19SS:
Basic Documents. Vol. II, p. 2230.
After a short lull, the British tried again. Sir Gerald Templer
was sent to Jordan to offer a favorable revision of the Anglo-Jordanian
Treaty and an increased subsidy In return for Joining the alliance. Riot-
ing broke out anew and more governments fell. It became obvious that no
Jordanian government could stand unless it disavowed any intention of be-
coming a member of the Pact.
From the British point of view the Templar mission was a failure.
It was compounded in March when Sir John Begot Glubb, the British Com-
mander of Jordan's Arab Legion, was suddenly dismissed. Both Incidents
were considerable victories for Nasser. As has happened many times since,
pro-Nasser Internal elements, with the encouragement of the Cairo radio
and press, put terrific pressure on the local governments to follow the
Nasser line. Though It seems that Nasser was not the immediate instiga-
tor, It was he that provided the basic Impetus because of his popularity,
and it was he that was the main benefactor.
The result of these events was to bring the conflict of interests
between Nasser and the British more into the open than ever. The Ameri-
cans did not want to take sides. Though their sympathies lay with Great
Britain, and they too were afraid of the disruption of the status quo
which Nasser was bringing, they did not want to be tainted with the "co-
lonialist" label of the British. it was hoped that a middle ground could
be found between the demands of Arab nationalism and the security inter-
ests which the United States felt were best served by alliances and bases
lit should be noted that such actions might not always be benefi-
cial to him.
backed by Western power. Sherman Adams illustrated Anglo-American differ-
ences when, In connection with a visit to Washington by Mr. Eden In Janu-
ary, he said:
But Eden's visit to Washington did not resolve one serious
difference between the Americans and the British on the Middle
East question; our firm opposition to colonialism made us sym-
pathetic to the struggle which Egypt and the other Arab states
were making to free themselves of the political and economic
control that the British felt they had to maintain in the Middle
East in their own self-interest.'
Another series of developments was also shedding a different light
on the situation. The West had hoped, rather naively, that Nasser would
pay no more attention to the Communists once it began to negotiate on the
Dam and showed him who his "true" friends were. Yet this had not been
the case. In fact, more economic and cultural agreements had been signed.
Nasser's public statements were increasingly anti-Western in nature. And
on May 16 he extended diplomatic recognition to Washington's bogey, Com
As these things were developing the negotiations dragged on. In
February, World Bank President, Eugene Black, was in Cairo. Nasser dis-
liked the Bank's requirements for regular information on the foreign ex-
change position and the economic condition of the country. Me called
these "strings" and felt that they were an Infringement on the dignity of
Egypt. As Erskine Chil ders has accurately pointed out:
Egypt, with a hundrPi years of past experience of foreign
financial pressure leading to occupation, was about the last
country in the world where such ostensibly reasonable condi-
tions could pass unchallenged. The forces that had stayed
ISherman Adams, Firsthand Report: The Story of the Elsenhower
Administration (New York: Harper and Bros., 1961), p. 247.
In Egypt for seventy-four years as a direct result of nineteenth
century loans were only about to be withdrawn.
An agreement was finally worked out whereby Egypt would supply the in-
formation desired "voluntarily."
It appeared that it was only a matter of time before the deal was
consummated. But Nasser was still hoping for better terms. In April he
once again used the spectre of a Soviet deal in his bargaining. The
American reaction to this was the opposite of what he had hoped for. It
was violently negative. Dulles made it quite clear that he did not like
such "blackmail" tactics.
It was becoming obvious that the United States was having second
thoughts about the project. The attitude of pressured friendship which
it had been exhibiting since December was changing. American officials
were becoming increasingly disenchanted because of Nasser's anti-British
moves and anti-West propaganda, and his increased contacts with the Com-
munists. In the letter Nasser was mortgaging a great deal of Egypt's
economic future to pay for weapons.2 The Chinese recognition was an ob-
vious slap. The protracted negotiations over apparently trivial but rea-
sonable requests were aggravating. The invocation of the Russian threat
angered Mr. Dulles. Egypt's opponents were applying pressure. States
receiving aid were using the High Dam offer to make exorbitant demands.
IErskine B. Childers, The Road to Suez: A Study of Western-Arab
Relations (London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1962), p. 145.
%5y now it was know that the arms deal was much larger than orig-
Inally imagined and that there was a strong possibility that another one
would soon be made.
Another element in all this was the Dulles view of neutrals. In
a series of speeches In early June he made his distaste plain for the
world to see. For example, when speaking of the various mutual security
treaties of the United States he said that:
These treaties abolish, as between the parties, the princi-
ple of neutrality which pretends that a nation can best gain
safety for Itself by being Indifferent to the fate of others.
This has increasingly become an obsolete conception, and, ex-
cept under very exceptional circumstances It is an Immoral and
shortsighted conception. emphasiss mine)'
Amid new rumors of Soviet aid It was announced in Washington that
funds earmarked for the dam were no longer being held and a new appropri-
ation would be needed. On July 9, Mr. Black reaffirmed the World Bank's
loan offers in a letter to the Egyptian Finance Minister, but on July 10
Dulles stated that it was lrprobable that the American loan would go
through. A few days later the Senate Appropriations Comittee directed
that no mutual security funds could be used for this project without its
prior approval. Finally, on July 16, Assistant Secretary Allen was re-
placed by Will am Rountree and it was announced that Ambassador Byroade
would soon be withdrawn from Cairo. Just prior to this Byroade had told
Nasser that a new policy was being discussed in Washington, one much less
friendly to Nasser.2
It appeared as if Nasser had overplayed his hand. The Egyptian
Ambassador was rushed back to Washington with instructions to accept the
IU. S., Department of State, Bulletin, Vol. XXXIV (June 18,
1956), pp. 99-100.
2Simon Malley, "--And the Answer was Suez," Reorter, Vol. XV
(September 6, 1956), p. 32.
offer. On July 17, he publicly announced Egypt's acceptance. Two days
later he was to see Secretary Dulles to seal the deal.
On July 19, Dr. Hussein called on the Secretary. According to
Herman Finer, whose conclusions were drawn from a series of Interviews
with many of the participants, Dulles began by explaining the many diffi-
culties he was encountering In clinching the loan. The Ambassador ques-
tioned him on certain points and Dulles responded rather carefully. As
Oulles appeared to be bringing all the reasons against the loan to a head:
The Ambassador became excited. .. He leaned forward
over the table, gesticulating. "Don't please say," he blurted
out, "you are going to withdraw the offer, because ." (and
he pointed to his pocket) 'be have the Russian offer to finance
the Dam right here in my pocket."
No nerve was so raw in all of Dulles's sensitive composi-
tion as Russia. He at once retorted, 'Veil, as you have the
money already, you don't need any from us! Iy offer is
The State Department Issued the following announcement:
Developments within the succeeding 7 months have not been
favorable to the success of the project, and the U. S. Govern-
ment has concluded that it is not feasible in the present cir-
cumstances to participate In the project. Agreement by the
riparian states has not been achieved, and the ability of Egypt
to devote adequate resources to assure the project's success
has become more uncertain then at the time the offer was made.2
On the following day the British and World Bank offers, both of
which were contingent upon the American offer, were withdrawn. Egypt had
been hit on the sensitive nerves of poverty, the Nile, neutralism, and
IHerman Finer, Dulles Jver Suez: The Theory and Practice of his
Dilomacy (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1964), pp. 47-18.
2U. S., Department of State, American Forelgn Policy: Current
Documents. 1956 (1959), p. 604.
financial pressure, nearly all the elements tied up with historical hu-
miliation and frustration.
This was bound to result in a great loss of face for Nasser un-
less there was some retaliation. He had put great emphasis on the dam
in his economic plans and had excited his people with propaganda about
its value. As Longgood has accurately pointed out:
The dam was to be to him what the great Pyramids had been
to the Pharaohs, and for his people It had become symbolic of
their hopes for a better life. It was Inevitable that Colonel
Nasser would strike back, violently and dramatically.
Not only was this a great substantive blow to Nasser, the annerJ
of the withdrawal was very offensive. Instead of letting the matter die
on the vine or using regular diplomatic channels, Dulles openly rebuffed
Nasser by his sudden public action. As Nasser later told an American
America was perfectly entitled to refuse us aid, despite
all her promises. It Is her right because it Is her money.
But to create doubt about our economy, to cast suspicion on
the soundness of our financial policies at a time when we are
striving hard to raise our standards of living, could only be
Interpreted as a move to destroy world confidence In our eco-
nomic position. They heaped humiliation on top of humiliation.
They were addressing themselves to the Egyptian people to over-
On top of this blow came the news that the Soviets would not at
this time pick up the tab. They said the project was secondary to the
industrialization of Egypt and had never really been considered. This
1W. F. Longgood, Suez Story: Key to the Middle East (New York:
Greenberg, 1957), p. 146.
2Halley, p. 32. Also see St. John, p. 244.
was tantamount to calling Nasser a liar. It looked as if he was out in
Nasser's first official response was a fury-laden speech four
days later. He said:
If an uproar In Washington creates false and misleading
announcements, without sham and with disregard for the prin-
ciples of international relations, that the Egyptian economy
Is unsound, and throwing shadows of doubt on Egypt's economy,
I look at Americans and say: May you choke to death on your
We Egyptians will not permit any imperialists or oppressors
to rule us militarily, politically or economically; we will not
submit to the dollar or to force.
Two days later came the nationalization of the Suez Canal Com-
pany. We shall deal with the Suez crisis at length below. At this time
we must examine very carefully two closely related questions. First, what
were the causes of Oulles' withdrawal of the offer? Second, what did he
expect to accomplish by such action? These are the two aspects of the
broader question, 'Why?"
The unsoundness of the Egyptian economy and the failure to reach
an agreement with the other riparian states were the official reasons
given for the withdrawal. The economy, however, was about as sound as it
was when the offer was made. After all, the original offer came three
months afte the arms deal. It is true that some additional agreements
INew York Times, July 25, 1956, pp. 1-2. As is often the case
direct transliteration from one language into another gives considerable
distortion of meaning. Concerning this phrase, "for his listeners In
Arabic, the Koranic phrase had about the force of 'I don't care if
they're junming with rage. We will do what we set out to do." Childers,
p. 167. This difference was Ignored. Even If it had been considered, it
is doubtful that the results would have been significantly different.
had been made since that time and the United States now knew the arms
deal was larger than it had first imagined. Nevertheless, only ten days
before the American withdrawal Mr. Black had reaffirmed the World Bank
offer. While there may have been more question then before, It does not
seem that this was the crucial point.
The same conclusion is necessary with respect to the lack of
agreement by the riparian states. Given the nature of the withdrawal and
the "Inestimable Importance" of the project, plus Egypt's sudden accept-
ance of all American conditions, It seems clear that this was not a pri-
There were other factors which are often thought of In this cate-
gory. Some Southern Congressmen were violently opposed because they
feared the land to be reclaimed might be used to grow cotton. Yet these
people were few In number, the dam would not be completed for at least
fifteen years, and none of the land was to be used for cotton. In fact,
Egypt hoped that this project would lessen her chronic dependence on her
cotton crop for foreign exchange.
In line with this were other elements which composed the domestic
opposition to aid for Nasser. Pro-British, pro-Israel, anti-foreign aid,
anti-neutralist, and other factions combined to make a potent force.l
All of these factors tended to push him toward his decision.
None of them, singularly or combined, however, seem to have provided the
real reasons. It is the author's view that the primary basis for Dulles's
action was a combination of the following elements:
'Cremeans, p. 150; Little, p. 283, put much emphasis on this
1. The Increasing drift of Nasser away from the Western
camp, particularly exemplified by the recognition of
Common t China.
2. Dulles' dislike of neutrals in the battle against
3. The feeling that Nasser symbolized this neutralism
which was paving the way for Communist penetration
of the underdeveloped areas.
4. Dulles' dislike of the tactic of playing East against
5. The feeling that by aiding Nas er we were indirectly
financing Communist expansion.1
What did Dulles hope to accomplish? It is hard to know. No
doubt he expected Nasser to be put in an extremely difficult position.
This might lead to less danger from the Communists. Perhaps he would be
"forced" to repent and stand up and be counted for the West, again creat-
ing less danger of Communist penetration. He may even have been trying
to topple Nasser.3 One of his closest associates states:
Those of us who worked with Dulles were never told ex-
plicitly why he acted so abruptly. We surmised that perhaps
the main reason was because Nasser was scheduled to make a
trip to Moscow early in August. If the United States would
agree to the Aswan Dam financing, the Egyptian President could
then concentrate in Moscow on concluding his second big arms
deal with the Russians, thus getting the best of both worlds.
Dulles guessed accurately that Nasser would not journey to
Moscow at all if the Aswan Dam offer were rescinded, because
ISt. John, p. 244, particularly emphasizes this point.
obviously there Is no way of proving conclusively that this is
the "real" answer. Nevertheless, given the trend of events and the basic
Dulles conception of neutrals, there is certainly considerable logic to
support this conclusion.
31t should be remembered that this was the kind of Western blow
that often had brought down a Government, either through ashamed resigna-
tion or Increased pressure later on. In the Arab world there were many
predicting such a fate for Nasser.
that would compel the Egyptians to go hat-in-hand not only
with regard to the High Dam project but on the arms deal as
A semi-authorized biographer, however, puts it this way:
For Dulles, a moment of cold-war climax had come. It was
necessary to cal I Russia's hard In the game of economic compe-
tition. Dulles firmly believed the Soviet Union was not In a
position to deliver effectively on all her economic propaganda
It was necessary to demonstrate to friendly nations, by act
rather than by oral explanation, that U. S. tolerance of na-
tions which felt it necessary to stay out of Western defensive
alliances could not brook the kind of Insult Nasser presented
In his repeated and accumulated unfriendly gestures.
!t was necessary to make the demonstration on a grand
Nasser combined the right timing, the right geography, and
the right order of magnltude for a truly major gambit In the
cold war. (emphasis mine)
It certainly seems that Beal is correct In saying that Bulles was calling
the Soviet's hand and wea trying to teach the neutrals a lesson.
Regardless of the specific causes and reasons perhaps the most
important things are that he did withdraw the offer, it was done hastily
and In a way which could not help but be taken as a rebuff, Nasser did so
take It, and Nasser did react by his act of nationalIzation.
Did the United States Government have any Idea that Nasser's re-
action might be expropriation? Reports on this are conflicting. Dulles
IRobert Murphy, Diplomat Among Warriors (Garden City, New York:
Doubleday and Co,, Inc., 1964), p. 377.
john Robinson Beal, John Foster Dulles: A Biography (New York:
Harper and Bros., 1957), pp. 258-259. For a similar interpretation, see
Jean and Simonne Lacouture, Egypt In Transtilon (New York: Criterion
Books, 1958), p. 470. Also see Cremeans, p. 150; Ellis, pp. 47-48.
Dulles was correct In his estimation of the Soviets. It was Nasser whom
himself said "no.") This is a commonly accepted position.2 However, It
has been stated that Couve de Murvllle, at that time the French Ambassa-
dor to Washington, immediately went to the State Department and warned
them that Nasser would retaliate, probably by seizing the Canal.3 It is
also said that:
The French Ambassador Is known to have been astounded by
what appeared to him to be an uncomprehending attitude at the
Department. During the next twenty-four hours, other foreign
envoys In Washington gained a similar Impression thae Dulles
had simply failed to foresee a seizure of the Canal..
What may be said then is this: It is uncertain as to whether the State
Department and Mr. DulleS were more than scarcely aware of the possibil-
ity that Nasser might retaliate by nationalization. What Is certain,
however, Is that very little serious consideration was given to this pos-
sibility. In fact, it seems quite obvious that there was little thought
given to the consequences at all. Secretary Dulles left on a tour of
Latin America on July 21 and was In Lima, Peru on July 26.5
1U. 3., Senate, Hearings on the Elssnhowar Doctrine, pt. I, p.
453. Corroborating this is Murphy, p. 378.
2Ells, p. 48; Cremeans, p. 149. Also see Emil Lengyel, MT
Changing Middle East (New York: The John Day Company, 1960), p. 88.
3Drunmond and Coblentz, pp. 171-172. Confirming this, Finer, p.
4Ibid.. p. 172. According to Finer, p. 47, "The warning was
laughed at by officials."
5We should be careful at this point in assigning responsibility
for this decision. Neither the State Department nor President Elsenhower
had been consulted until the morning of July 19. The decision was not
only hasty, It was also un lateral. Ambassador Byroade first discovered
it while reading the paper. See Murphy, p. 377.
At this point it is necessary to try to answer the Inevitable
question 'Vhat if Dulles had not acted as he did?" This issue can be di-
vided Into the fact of withdrawal and the method employed to effect this
result. A solid argument can be made that a simple diplomatic notifica-
tion of our decision not to go through with the deal, couched in polite
phraseology, might have been a fairly effective policy. After all, given
the likelihood of Increased Communist dealings with Nasser anyhow, the
fact that the withdrawal would put Russia on the spot, the fact that many
American allies were wondering whether they might be better off aid-wise
If they became neutral," the fact that Nasser was working continuously
to undermine Western influence in the other Arab countries, the fact that
he was the avowed enemy of Israel, and the fact that Washington disliked
the techniques he often used, all of these factors made it possible that
the Dulles policy. if carried out In a different fashion, might have been
very effective In making Nasser cbae to terms. It can be quite plausibly
argued that if we had gone through with the loan, the only difference
would be a few more American millions and men In Egypt. it is highly
doubtful that it would have been able to stop Communist penetration
It seems more logical, however, despite the reasons supporting
the decision, to conclude that It would have been much more beneficial to
American interests not to have withdrawn the offer. Nations have many
Interests end some of them tend to counterbalance others. American
IFor the view that going ahead would "knock out the U.S.S.R.,"
see Pierre Rondot, The Chanaing Patterns of the Middle East (New York:
Frederick A. Praeger, 1961), p. 154.
assistance In financing the dam would have counterbalanced the increasing
Soviet influence in Egypt.
The construction of the High Dam was an enormous project even in
absolute terms. When one recognizes the necessities of Egypt's economic
situation and the low level of her national income, he realizes that in
relative terms the project was even more important. It is obvious that
the nation which provided the required assistance would be In an extremely
influential position. This would be the case not only for the immediate
future but, owing to the nature of the job, for a great many years in the
Carrying through with the deal would have been beneficial In an-
other way. Not only would it have counterbalanced Soviet penetration, it
also would have required Nasser to devote much more of his energies to
the peaceful and constructive task of economic development. From the
viewpoint of the American interest in maintaining a relatively stable
situation which allows orderly growth, this effect would have been much
better than having Nasser concentrate on building one Arab nation by
whatever means necessary. Economic development Is a fundamental Interest
of the Arab people and one which the United States could have whole-
heartedly endorsed. An excellent opportunity to promote this interest
was missed. Once again the Arabs were shown that aid would not be forth-
coming from Washington unless they made an anti-Communist commitment.
American assistance would have done a great deal to show that the
United States was concerned with the welfare of the Arab people regard-
less of who their leader Is. It must be recognized that the economic
benefits of this project will not become evident for twenty or thirty
years. Thus the United States would have been helping the Eayptlans.
whose leader Just happened to be Nasser.
Finally, American help would have shown that the professed policy
of neutrality In the Arab-Israeli dispute was more than an empty phrase.
It was all very well to speak of Impartial treatment, but the history of
the dispute seemed to belle this. Where were the Ic to support the
words? A carrying through of the pledge would have shown that the United
States was as willing to work with the Arabs in achieving their legitimate
Interests as It was to work with the Israelis in achieving theirs.
Even more deplorable than the fact of the withdrawal was M1IA0
of its execution. The curt and abrupt manner in large part neutralized
the potential benefits of the act. Most of the world's leaders, Includ-
ing American allies, were shocked. Less sensitive men then Nasser would
have been thoroughly angered. Nasser, who had always resolved to return
slap for slap, was incensed. Dulles had done his worst. Nasser retall-
ated by doing his. He seized this opportunity to nationalize the Suez
In summary, the period from early 1955 to mid-1956 was character-
ized by deteriorating American-Egyptian relations. Washington's quest
for anti-Communist commitments led to the Baghdad Pact. This agreement
antagonized Nasser by violating the precepts of positive neutrality and
strengthening arch-rival Iraq. He felt it also threatened a perpetuation
of Western control. Humiliated by the Israeli raid at Gaze, Nasser nego-
tiated with both East and West for arms. The United States, perhaps
legitimately, felt it could not give Nasser better terms than it gave Its
allies. Unable to get what he wanted, Nasser turned to the Communists
and made a deal. This embittered Washington. In order to prevent fur-
ther Soviet penetration the United States offered to help Egypt finance
the construction of a High Dam at Aswan. Great Bri tain and the World
Bank followed with offers contingent upon Washington's. However, when
Nasser continued his agitation against Britain, Invoked the threat of
Communist aid, temporized In negotiations, and recognized Communst
China, Secretary Dulles angrily withdrew the American offer. Great
Britain and the World Bank did likewise. Nasser bitterly responded by
nationalizing the Suez Canal Company, and the Suez crisis began.
SUEZ CRISIS, PHASE ONE: AMERICAN
HOSTILITY TO EGYPT
When the Suez Canal Company was nationalized, the world went into
a state of crisis. The first phase of this crisis comprised those events
from the time of the nationalization to the discussions at the United Na-
tions In early October. Because of its anti-neutralist attitude, the
United States automatically took an antl-Nasser course. It was assumed
that the act of nationalization was obviously illegal. Egypt could not
be permitted to "get way with It." There simply hod to be international
control of the canal.
Also, however, the United States felt that the dispute had to be
settled peacefully. It did not want to be pictured as a colonialist. In
attempting to achieve these interests it refused to act as strongly as
the British and French desired. Phase one came to an end as Washington
and its allies had a partial parting of the ways.
Nationalization: The Question of Legality
On July 26, 1956, President Nasser nationalized the Universal
Suez Marl time Canal Company. As he spoke to a crowd in Alexandria, the
Canal Company offices and the facility Itself were being seized by his
1For complete text of this speech, see R.I.I.A., Documents,
1956, pp. 77-113.
Before discussing the subsequent events, It would be wise to deal
with the issue of the legality of Nasser's action. In order to assess
this matter one must be absolutely clear about what this action was. It
was a nationalization of the Suez Canal Copany. The leal status of the
Canal was In no way affected, nor were the International legal obliga-
tions of the Egyptian Government with respect to freedom of navigation.
This does not mean that future action might not occur which would affect
these matters, but only that this act of nationalization did not do so.
What were the basic legal issues raised? Discussing the least
significant one first, the West claimed that Nasser's act was illegal be-
cause the statutes of the company, approved In 1856, provided that: "the
duration of the Company shall be equal to the duration of the Conces-
sion."l The Concession was to run for ninety-nine years from the date of
the opening of the canal. Since the canal opened in 1869, the Concession
was supposed to last until 1968. Therefore, according to this reasoning,
there was an obligation on Egypt not to bring the company to an end be-
The Western powers never emphasized this issue much, and for good
reason. Both the statutes of the company and the Concession were agree-
ments made under Egyptian law between the Egyptian Government and a ri-
vate body. As such they were of a private nature and did not Impose any
International obligations. As has been pointed out, the Concession "did
lQuoted In A. L. Goodhart, "Some Legal Aspects of the Suez Situ-
ation," in Phillip W. Thayer (ead.), Tensions in the Middle East (Balti-
more: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1958), p. 257.
not constitute an International act."' Therefore, any violation of this
agreement by the Egyptian Government could not have been an International
Since it was the company which was nationalized, it was the com-
pany about which the legal controversy raged. The Western powers con-
tended that the company had an international status. They said that this
was so for two reasons. First they relied on the Constantinople Conven-
tion of 1888, to which Egypt was a signatory. In the preamble to this
agreement it was declared that the powers desired to establish a system
guarantee at all times the free use of the Suez Maritime
Canal and thus to complete the system under which the naviga-
tion of this canal has been placed by the Firman of his Imperial
Majesty The Sultan. (emphasis mine)z
The West contended that the phrase "complete the system" was Intended to
incorporate the previous agreements into this arrangement, thus confer-
ring an International status upon the canal company and an International
obligation upon Egypt not to fundamentally disturb its operations.
The Egyptian argument was that the Constantinople Convention was
a separate and distinct agreement which In no way affected the status of
the company. It was said that It was not the purpose of the Convention
to deal with the status of the company but rather to ensure freedom of
navigation. The phrase "complete the system" was merely a reference to
IBenno Avram, The Evolution of the Suez Canal Status From 1869
up to 1956: A Historico-Jurldlcal Study (Geneva: Lebralrle E. Droz,
1958), p. 24.
2D. C. Watt, Documents on the Suez Crisis (London: Royal Insti-
tute of International Affairs, 1957), p. 34.
the already existing system of navigation. Many commentators argue that
this conclusion Is unassailable when the preamble is read in conjunction
wi th the travaux Dreparatl res.1
The Western powers also argued that the company had an Interna-
tional status because of the surrounding international factors. These
were the International composition of the company's shareholders, the
International make up of its personnel, and the fact that the canal, be-
cause of its International service to the world community, should be con-
sidered as kind of an International public utility. It was said that
these factors In combination Impressed an international status upon the
The Egyptian case was twofold. First, it was said that all of
these factors were Irrelevant to the legal status of the company. There
was no way in which an international status could be automatically con-
ferred. Second, as Huang points out, even if this were possible:
Under public International law. leae lata, an interna-
tional status acquired by the Suez Canal Company by virtue
of these factors would not accord It the technical
status necessary for the application of public international
So far we have put the Egyptian case solely in the negative terms
of rebuttal. Let us now put it positively. The Suez Canal Company was
an Egyptian company chartered by the Egyptian Government under Egyptian
'Thomas T. F. Huang, "Some international and Legal Aspects of the
Suez Canal Question," American Journal of International Law, Vol. LI
(April, 1957), pp. 280-283. Also see Quincy Wright. "Some Legal Aspects
of the Suez Situation: Commentary," In Thayer, p. 264.
2Huang, p. 279.
municipal law. Because this was a private act Egypt acquired no interne-
tional obligations. Therefore, the act of nationalizatiion was merely the
act of a sovereign nation nationalizing a domestic company. As such, no
International obligation- were involved except with respect to providing
adequate compensation for the shareholders. This would be done In the
near future. Egypt's other International obligations, such as allowing
freedom of passage through the canal, were in no way affected and would
The controversy about the status of the company will never be de-
finitively settled. Our purpose is not to try to settle it but Instead
to point out the basic arguments and show that each side has a good case.
It is not unwarranted to say that, solely In terms of the legal issues
involved, the Egyptian case Is at last as good as the West's. Be that
as it may, certainly one cannot help but conclude that attempts to pic-
ture Nasser as being an obvious lawbreaker are unreasonable.
It seems that because the Suez Canal had always been largely a
British problem, the United States had not formed any clear-cut idea of
its relationship to American security. This does not mean that its Im-
portance was not recognized nor that there were not statements made con-
cerning its significance. Ihat it does mean is that the Administration
'Equally unreasonable are those who conclude that there Is j
doubt whatsoever that Nasser was within his rights and anyone who ques-
tioned him had no legal basis for his case. See Little, p. 286; Llilen-
thai, p. 182; Whealock, p. 239. Also see Frede Utley, Will the Middle
East Go West (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1957), pp. 76-91.
was not sure exactly how Important the canal was and how far it was nec-
essary to go to ensure that Its control remained in friendly hands.
The first American response to the nationalization was somewhat
general in nature though it reflected the undeniable concern felt in Wash-
ington. The State Department issued this release:
The announcement by the Egyptian Government on July 26 with
respect to the seizure of the Installations of the Suez Canal
Company carries far-reaching Implications. It affects the na-
tions whose economies depend upon the products which move
through this international waterway and the maritime countries
as well as the owners of the company Itself. The United States
Government is consulting urgently with other governments
Hardly had the shock of Nasser's action begun to abate when the
President received the following telegram from British Prime Minister
This morning I have reviewed the whole position with my
Cabinet colleagues and Chiefs of Staff. We are all agreed
that we cannot afford to allow Nasser to seize control of the
canal in this way, In defiance of International agreements.
If we take a firm stand over this now we shall have the sup-
port of all the maritime powers. If we do not, our influence
and yours throughout the Middle East will, we are all con-
vinced, be finally destroyed.
. . + .
My colleagues and I are convinced that we must be ready,
in the last resort, to use force to bring Nasser to his
senses. For our part, we are prepared to do so.2
The Immediate reaction in Washington was one of dismay. The
United States was firmly convinced that Nasser and like-minded neutralists
U. S., Department of State, The Suez Canal Problem. July 26-
September 22, 1956: Documents, p. 32 (hereinafter this shall be cited as
U. S., Department of State, S.C.P.: Documents). Egypt was not one of
these other r governments concerned" with whom America was consulting.
2For complete text see Anthony Eden, Memoirs: Full Circle
(Boston: Houghton Mifflln Co., 1960), pp. 476-477.
were a threat to American security. It was believed that his precipitous
act was ill-advised and perhaps Illegal. But there was no thought of us-
Ing force to settle the dispute. In order to find out if the British and
French really meant what they said, the President dispatched State De-
partment troubleshooter, Robert Murphy, to London.
In a series of discussions, Murphy discovered that the British
were deadly earnest. After dining with Foreign Secretary Macmillan,
Murphy "was left in no doubt" that the British felt that Suez 'Was a test
which could be met only by the use of force. Nasser has to be chased
out of Egypt."I Murphy Immediately Informed President Eisenhower of the
grave nature of the threat.
There was considerable consternation in Washington. The Presi-
dent was firmly convinced that, whatever else might be involved, the fun-
damental consideration was the prevention of the use of force to settle
the dispute. Murphy writes:
Elsenhower had strong personal conviction that fundamental
principles were Involved--that the United States could not be
a party to this type of military operation in view of Its sup-
port of the rule of law and the United Nations Charter, and in
view of what Eisenhower considered the injustice of InsLsting
on these principles in the case of smaller countries if we were
willing to wink at violations by greater powers,2
Secretary Dulles hurriedly flew to London to meet with the For-
eign Secretaries of Britain end France. He was accompanied by Herman
Phleger, the legal adviser of the State Department. These two lawyers
1Murphy, p. 380.
21bid., p. 381. Also see Beal, p. 266, and Deane and David
Heiler, John Foster ulles: Soldier for Peace (New York: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston. 1960). o. 250 ff.
devised "various delaying tactics designed to support Elsenhower's policy
of avoiding military intervention."1 At the sae time, Mr. Dulles pre-
sented his views on the substance of the problem. Eden summarizes them
1. It was Intolerable that the canal should be under the
domination of any single country without international control;
2. We should use the 1888 Convention as a basis for dis-
cussion In order to avoid complications with the Panama Canal;
3. Force was the last method to be tried, but the United
States did not exclude the use of force If all other methods
4. We should mobilize world public opinion in favour of
International operation of the canal;
5. We should attempt to get our views accepted by at
least a two-thirds majority of the conference that was to be
The Americans had concluded that it was "Intolerable" that a sin-
gle country should control the canal. This was, of course, an abstract
way of saying that it was "Intolerable" that Nasser should control the
Sue Canal. The solution envisaged was some form of international con-
trol. Dulles said that a way had to be found to make Nasser "disgorge"
what he was attempting to swallow.3
One additional point should be noted. According to Eden, Dulles
did not exclude the use of force as the ultimate arbiter If all peaceful
means should fall. If Eden Is accurate on this point, and If Murphy is
also accurate, then Mr. Dulles, wittingly or unwittingly, misled the
British concerning American views on the use of force.
IMurphy, p. 384.
2Eden, p. 487.
In order to show its allies that they need not resort to force,
and in the hope that Nasser might be "persuaded' to compromise his posi-
tion, the United States began to apply pressure on Egypt. All Egyptian
assets in the United States were frozen. Ambassador Byroade made It
quite clear that the United States was strongly opposed to Nasser's ac-
tion. He "was Instructed to make clear to Nasser some possible conse-
quences of his act of force.'l The American position concerning the use
of force was also emphasized as he stressed the necessity of keeping the
canal operating smoothly so as to avoid provoking Britain and France.2
The United States, Britain, and France decided to call an Inter-
national conference to discuss the canal problem. To this and a Tri-
partite Statement was issued August 2, 1956. After stating the basic
arguments against the legality of the nationalization, Invitations were
sent to twenty-four nations, Including Egypt.3
Before answers had been received to the invitations, the Secre-
tary made his feelings on the whole issue quite plain. Upon his return
from the conference he stated that Nasser had "suddenly and arbitrarily"
IFiner, p. 88.
3For the text of this statement, see R.I.I.A., Documenta 1956.
pp. 138-139. The basic point about legality stressed the "international"
status of the company. See above, pp. 72-73. Unfortunately, the phrase
"international" was also applied to the waterway. Though by this the
West was referring to the rights obtained under the Constantinople Con-
vention, it could have been interpreted to mean that the canal was not an
Integral part of Egypt or that Egypt did not have sovereignty over it,
yet these points were not really contested by the West. Egypt did so In-
terpret It. Thus even this statement aroused controversy.
seized the facilities of the canal and would turn this 'International
waterway into an Egyptian operation designed to promote the 'grand-
eur' of gypt."1 Even more emphatic was the stand taken August 3 during
a televised "discussion" of this problem with the President. This speech
is quoted below at length because It is very helpful In revealing Dulies'
feelings at this time:
Now, this act by President Nasser goes far beyond a mere
attempt by a government to nationalize companies and properties
within its territory which are not International In character,
because the Suez Canal and the operating company are Interna-
tional In character.
Now, President Nasser's speech made It absolutely clear that
his seizure of the canal company was an angry act of retaliation
against fancied grievances.
It s inadmissabie that a waterway internationalized by
treaty, which is required for the livelihood of a score or more
of nations, should be exploited by one country for purely selfish
To permit this to go unchallenged would be to encourage
breakdown of the international fabric upon which the security
and wall-being of all peoples depend.
Now, Ive been asked, "What will we do if the conference
falls?" *y answer to that is that we are not thinking in term
of the conference's failing. But I can say this: We have given
no commitments at any time as to what the United States would do
in that unhappy contingency.
And I believe that by the conference method we will invoke
moral forces which are bound to prevail.2 (emphasis mine)
This speech is particularly noteworthy in that it Illustrates
certain basic points about the Secretary's position
1. There was very loose usage of the term "International."
One cannot know whether this was Intentional or not. At
iU. S., Department of State, S.C.P.: Documnts. p. 37.
2~ld., pp. 38-41.
any rate, the result was confusion as to his concep-
tion of the legal status of the canal and the company.
What did he mean by "International"
2. There was little distinction between the company and
3. There was unquestioned acceptance of the assumption
that Nasser's act was Illegal.2
4. There was complete opposition to Egyptian control of
5. It was felt to be necessary to challenge Nasser.
6. There was considerable optimism about the coming
One point which was distressing the United States was the unani-
mous support given Nasser by other Arabs.3 Many had sound reasons for
not lining up with him. King Saud had been displeased by the nationall-
zation because Nasser had acted without consulting other Arabs. Both
Saud and Feisal of Iraq were apprehensive lest a war occur which might
deprive them of much of their oil revenue. Of course, Iraq was antI-
Nasser and anti-Egypt on almost every issue by israel. Jordan, In Its
usual state of weakness and disorganization, was consulting with Iraq
over the danger from Nasser and Syria. Yet because of Masser's popular
IRemember, it was the coma not the canal, which was
2As we pointed out above, pp. 71-75, there was a good argument to
support this conclusion but there was at least as good a case to support
the contrary. It was not unreasonable for Mr. Dulles to reach the con-
clusion he did, but It certainly was in error to assume that this con
clusion was obvious on its face and no one could reasonably reach any
3For example, the Political Commlttee of the Arab League an-
nounced Its support on August 6.
strength with the masses end the fact that the Issue was shaping up more
and mare as a nationalist-coloniallst conflict, not one Arab leader dared
to deviate from Nasser's train.
As the time approached for the conference, positions hardened.
The United States suspended all its assistance programs for Egypt pending
a settlement of the crisis. On August 12, Dulles once again made his
views toward Nesser quite evident. Sherman Adams puts it this way:
Dulles made t clear, however, that personally he shared
the British and French feeling that Nasser was a dangerous
threat to the West, and that his action was much more than a
demonstration of nationalism. "I believe Nasser Intends to
unite the Arab world, and, if possible, the Muslim world, and
then to use Mideast oil and the canal as weapons against the
West," the Secretary said.'
Egypt announced It would not attend the conference. The reasons
for Its action were presented in a White Paper.2 Much of this document
was devoted to presenting the Egyptian case for the legality of Nasser's
action.3 With respect to the proposed conference, we might summarize the
Egyptian position as follows:
1. The Invitations to the conference deliberately con-
fused the Issue so that the Interference in Egypt's
Internal affairs could be given a cloak of legality.
2. The conference was designed merely to ratify existing
Western Ideas for International control. There would
be no real negotiations.
3. The proposed international control is really a kind of
Adams, p. 251.
2Egypt, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, White Paper on the Nation-
alization of the Suez Marltime Canal Company, August 12, 1956.
3For a summary of this case, see above, pp. 75-77.
4. It was insulting to make Invitations to a conference
to consider the Suez Canal, without even consulting
Egypt, "the country whom the matter directly concerns."
5. The conference "has no right whatsoever to discuss any
matter falling within the jurisdiction of Egypt or
relating to its sovereignty or any part of Its
A counterproposal was Included. It called for a conference of
all those governments whose ships pass through the Canal, "for the pur-
pose of reviewing the Constantinople Convention and considering the con-
clusion of an agreement between all these governments reaffirming end
guaranteeing the freedom of navigation on the Suez Canal." Nasser was
very carefully avoiding the position of simply rejecting out of hand all
This counterproposal highlights one facet of Nasser's action
since the crisis began. Ever since the original speech he had acted and
talked er moderately. Traffic was flowing smoothly through the Canal.
British and French ships were not hindered in any way even though they
were not paying their tolls to the Egyptian canal authority. British and
French nationals were well treated. Nasser was taking pains to be ex-
tremely correct so that the British and French would have no pretext for
the use of force.
Despite the fact that Egypt would not be represented, the con-
ference on the Suez problem began right on schedule. Secretary Oulles
put forth the American position at the opening session. It consisted es-
sentially of three points:
1. An International "non-political' board should be cre-
ated to operate and mange the canal.
2. Egypt's "sovereignty" would be respected, she would
obtain a fair" return from the organization for the
use of the canal, and she would be represented on the
3. The canal had to be insulated from the politics of
With a few minor modifications, the Dulles position was accepted
by eighteen nations at the conference and was incorporated into a resolu-
tion. Four countries, Including the U.S.S.R., adopted a proposal by
India's Kreshma Menon which would have created an international board
with advisory powers only.2
The next step was a decision by the eighteen that a committee
should present its resolution to Nasser. The British attempted to get
Dulles to lead this mission and thus confront Nasser with the greatest
possible combination of opposition power. The Secretary declined on the
grounds that he had been away from Washington too long already.3 Prime
Minister Menzies of Australia was chosen In his place. The American rep-
resentative was career diplomat, Loy Henderson. When Informed of his as-
signment, Mr. Henderson "replied that the mission appalled him, that he
did not think it could possibly succeed."4
IFor the text of this speech, see U. S., Department of State,
S.C.P.: Documents, pp. 72-78.
2One can conjecture that Nasser would have accepted this proposal.
3Finer, p. 174, deplores this action as a "tremendous mistake.a
It Is his opinion that Nasser might have been more willing to accept the
proposal if Dulles had led the mission.
4J1d.. p. 176.
Between the time the decision was taken to send a mission to
Cairo and its actual arrival there, several Important events occurred.
One of the most significant was a nais conference held by Secretary
Dullos on August 28. He made several statements which showed that, de-
spite appearances of unity, there were some unresolved differences be-
tween the United States and its Western allies. For example, he said:
The United States is not dependent to any appreciable de-
gree at all union the Suez Canal. The economy of a number
of other countries Is vitall, dependent on the canal and J1,J
rimeri lv for them to have an opinion as to what arrangements
would in fact restore confidence so that their economies could
go on being dependent on the Canal. As I say, that Is not a
matter which I primarily a concern of the United States.
Nasser could not help but be heartened by this approach. Were it
not for Dulles' well-know hostility to him one might conclude that this
was a deliberate mve to ease United States-Egyptian tensions. Later
evidence show how erroneous such a conclusion would be. Nevertheless,
Nisser derived some support from the fact that his opposition was not
This same conference was notable for another reason. it Illus-
trated the Dulles technique of seeking a "non-political solution. When
the problem is thought of in terms of the great Issues such as "national-
ism versus colonialism." Dulles said, the problem becomes almost Insolu-
ble." But when you think of the concrete practical things you have to
do, It "should be soluble." Dulles' attempt to discuss the issue in
terms of issues like the hiring end firing of pilots, etc., ignored the
IU. S., Department of State, S.C.P.: Documents. p. 296.
supreme fact that the political Issue of Nasser and his role vis-a-vis
Britain and France in the Arab world was at the crux of the entire
Finally, the conference was Important for what was no discussed.
Britain had wanted the Issue taken to the United Nations, but Dulles al-
ways blocked the way. At this conference he pointedly discussed the
United Nations gAy. In its possible relationship to the proposed inter-
national board. The fear that the British and French would use the Se-
curity Council solely to get a Soviet veto, and then would use force, was
still weighing heavily on his mind.
On August 31, President Eisenhower gave even further evidence of
the rift between the United States and Its European allies when he stated
that the United States was committed to a peaceful settlement of the dis-
pute and "nothing else." On September 3, he w red Eden a message to this
effect.l Nasser thus realized that, if the statement was adhered to,
America would not support any military action against him.2
The Manzies mission arrived in Cairo on September 3, On the pre-
vious day, Michael Adam, a correspondent for the Manchuster Guardian, had
With the members of the Menzies mission arriving In Cairo,
the situation over the Suez Canal remains fundamentally the
same as it was a month aso. President Nasser has not changed
his ground in the least and still Insists on Egypt's full sov-
ereignty over the canal, while the Western powers still assert
IEden, pp. 517-518.
2St. John, p. 263, and Utley, p. 110, say that throughout the
crisis Nasser believed the Americans would support him against any
that they cannot accept a situation where freedom of naviga-
tion depends on Egypt's goodwill. (emphasis mine)/
Negotiatons lasted for six days. They were fruitless. It is
hard to see how anyone could have expected any other result. Nasser had
put his prestige on the line in this mve and had repeatedly stated that
he would accept no form of International control. His popularity had
greatly increased with the Arab masses and many of the Arab leaders.
Those who were opposed dared not speak out against him as witnessed by
the support of the Arab League. Much of the non-aligned world and the
Com unlst bloc were behind him. His antagonists were not completely uni-
fied.2 Ha had an excellent legal case and was acting properly in all
ways in order that there be no pretext for the use of force against him.
John Campbell sum ite up wall by saying:
How could he be expected to Jeopardize all he had won by
accepting a system of International control, which would have
been mre restrictive of Egypt's sovereignty than the conces-
sion to a foreign-owned but still legally Egyptian company
which he had Just annulled.3
On September 10, following the completion of this exercise in
futility, the Egyptians submitted another counterproposal. Its essence
was an invitation to the United States and other countries using the
canal to begin discussions for the purpose of creating a negotiating body
1Michael Adams, Suez and After: Year of Crilsi (Boston: Beacon
Press, 1958), p. 32. It Is Interesting to note that Just as the Manzles
mission was arriving It was announced that more troops have arrived In
Cyprus and troopships were standing by In England.
2See Eden, p. 518, for increasing United States resistance to the
use of force. Finer, p. 216, presents a private communication to Eden
which left the issue still in doubt.
3Campbell, p. 101. Murphy concurs, p. 387.
which would be representative of the different views of the various
states. This body would then review the Constantinople Convention.'
As had been the case with regard to previous Egyptian proposals,
the West ignored the Egyptian offer. The British and French were in no
mood to give an inch to this "new Hitler." The United States was unwill-
ing to consider any proposal which did not include some form of interna-
tional control. Dulles' refusal to consider Egyptian counteroffers gave
strength to the Eden-Hl let characterization of Nasser.
Dulles had another reason for dismissing the Egyptian proposal
without a second thought. He had come up with a new plan for interna-
tional operation of the canal. When the British had informed him that
they were going to take the Issue to the Security Council, he had again
urged them to wait. He had Informed them that the United States would
oppose any announcement to the effect the Issue would be placed before
the United Nations. Neither would it Join its allies In sponsoring any
resolutions. Eden bitterly writes, "what is more, they would not even
support it. 2 On receipt of this knowledge, the Europeans consented to
go along with Dulles again.
The new Dulles scheme became known as the Users Club or the Suez
Canal User's Association (SCUA). Basically, it Involved the creation of
an international organization of the primary countries using the canal.
The organization would employ its own pilots and personnel and would
IFor the text of this proposal see R.I.I.A., Documents: 1956. pp.
2den, p. 530.
receive all the tolls. It would then give Nasser a fair share of the
proceeds and would cooperate with him on the technical aspects of operat-
ing the canal.
Though the British and French were leery of the plan, the way in
which it was presented to them gave the Impression that Dulles was fully
committed to its implementation and would support whatever measures might
prove necessary to make the organization effective. It was on this basis
that they accepted It. Mr. Eden first revealed the plan publicly in a
speech to Parliament on September 12.
Britain and France had conceived of SCUA as an Instrument of
pressure. It was their understanding that the United States was in
agreement with this idea. On September 13, much to Nasser's delight,
Secretary Dulles again Illustrated the difference between the Anglo-French
and American positions. Hi made the following comments at a news
We have often said force, J, It is justifiable at
all, is only Justifiable as a last resort. So, if there are
alternatives to the use of force, we believe that they should
be fully explored and exhausted.
We do not Intend to shoot our way through. It my be that
we have the right to do It, but we don't Intend to do it as far
as the United States Is concerned. (emphasis mine)'
The inevitable doubts about Washington's alms and the degree to
which it was committed to their realization were again raised. To what
extent would the United States be willing to apply pressure on the
IU. S., Department of State, 5.C.P.: Documents. pp. 339-341. For
a particularly interesting discussion of the differences among SCUA's
founders, see Guy WInt and Peter Calvocoressi, Middle East Crisis (Middle-
sex, Great Britain: Penguin Books. 1957), pp. 75-76.
Egyptians to persuaded" them to accept Its proposals? If It would not
use force, what uld It do? What would America do If Its aslle used
force? Later excerpts aptly show that It was difficult to know where the
United States stood:
Q: Mr. Secretary, with the United States announcing in ad-
vance It will not use force, and with Soviet Russia backing
Egypt with its propaganda, does that not leave all the trump
cards In Mr. Nasser's hands?
A: Wall, what are the trump cards? Let's look at the
situation from a moral standpoint: I do not feel that ade-
quate appreciation has been given to the fact that great
powers with vital Interest at stake, possessed relatively of
overwhelming material and military power, have exercised, so
far at least, a very great measure of self-restraint .
adds more from a moral standpoint to the so-called "great"
nations than If they had used their force.
i e h a i i r
I do not know precisely what are the so-called trulp
cards" that you refer to other than the fact that there has been,
and I hope will be, a continued loyalty of the great nations to
their obligations under the United Nations.
Eden's shock and dismay is quite evident from his book. He wrote:
The words were an advertisement to Nasser that he could
reject the project with Impunity. .. iHad we known that they
were to be used as an accompaniment to the American announce-
ment, we would never have endorsed it.
The User's Club was an American project to which we
The whole purpose of the User's Club had been, by a dis-
play of unity In association with the United States, to avoid
having recourse to force. American torpedoelng of their own
plan on the first day of Its launching left no alternative but
to use force or acquiesce in Nasser's triumph.2
The Egyptian reaction to SCUA was extremely hostile. The ODrector
General of Information In Cairo Issued a protest to the effect that the
'IM pp. 344-345.
2Eden, pp. 539-540.
Implementation of the scheme meant war. This was personally given to
Secretary Dulles by Ambassador Hussein.' Nasser said the plan was an at-
tempt to rob Egypt of the canal and Its dues. He stated that anyone at-
tacking Egypt would not live to depart. Egypt would not submit to for-
eign domination. Why did the Americans, who claimed they wanted peace,
support a proposal which was really a proposal to form an association to
declare war?2 As usual, the Soviets fully supported the Egyptian view.
As was true with the proposal from the London Conference, there
had ben nothing to Indicate that Nasser would be at all receptive to
SCUA. The reasoning was the same and so was the situation. Without
severe coordinated pressure from al the allies there was simply no pos-
sibility of success, and It is highly doubtful that even this would have
been very effective. But since the United States had decided Nasser was
"wrong," and Duties would not even consult with hil about the problem, It
had to find ways of working with Its allies while also preventing them
from using force.
With this being the situation, did Dulles really believe that
the intricate legal maneuvers which he kept trying would be effective In
helping to solve the probleF He must have realized that SCUA, for exam-
ple, was unacceptable to Nasser. Robert Murphy Is probably as authorita-
tive as we can get on this point. He writes:
IFiner, p. 233.
2For text of this speech, see U. S., Department of State, SC..j
iosents. pp. 345-349.
If John Foster Dulles ever was actually convinced of the
possibility of organizing a Canal User; Association to operate
the Suez Canal, I was not aware of it.'
If Dulles was so skeptical, what mI he trying to do? It seem
as if he was (1) demonstrating that he thought Nasser was "wrong" and the
British and French "right"; (2) trying to avoid the use of force at all
costs; (3) stalling, playing for time In the hope that something would
"turn up" and allow a peaceful settlement; (4) while generally siding
with the British, being sufficiently ambiguous to allow Nasser to reach a
mutually beneficial settlement if he would Just become "goo; (5) trying
to play the honest peacemaker abiding by the rules of international law
and the obligations of the United Nations Charter; (6) improvising his
day-to-day tactics In accordance with these basic tenets.
While the maneuvering with the User's Club had been going on,
another important event was occurring. It had been widely maintained in
the West, on the basis of the reports of the Universal Maritime Suez
Canal Company, that only a large number of its highly trained pilots
could keep traffic flowing efficiently. Whether the company actually be-
lieved this or was deliberately misrepresenting the situation is Irrele-
vant to our topic. The relevant point is that the British and French ag-
J.lvadL that this was the case. They thus felt that, since a large number
of the employees were British and French, they had considerable leverage
available to persuade Nasser to come around."
The company announced in Paris that, at midnight on September 14,
British and French pilots would walk out. The West assumed that a
1Murphy. p. 386.
bottleneck would then ensue and the canal's operations would be halted.
Midnight came and the pilots left. The Egyptians took over. Supple-
mented by many new pilots recently recruited from other countries. In-
cluding the U.S.S.R. and the United States, and working emergency shifts,
the canal was kept operating. As timn passed It became obvious that
asser had wn another victory and made the Europeans more desperate.
The Western powers now moved to set up SCUA. Membership would
Involve no obligations. It was hoped that voluntary cooperation would
suffice to make things run smoothly. Fifteen of the original twenty-two
nations decided to Join and SCUA was established at the Second London
Conference. On his return, Secretary ulles gave the American public a
glowing report of its usefulness and the prospects for a settlement.i
Despite Mr. Dulles' optimism no one, except perhaps the American
public, was fooled. This rather pathetic attempt to set up an anti-
Nasser front had d l nowhere. The organization was bound to be ineffec-
tive. As Tom Little has said:
S.C.U.A. was a failure. Lt depended on Eavgt's coopera-
tion which was not forthcolmin. Its members were not willing
to use force against Egypt. for it was not their policies which
had neen affronted and It was not their company that had been
nationalized. The British and French Governments wre annoyed
at the trivial outcome, and particularly annoyed with Mr. Dulles,
at whose behest they had delayed an appeal to the Security Coun-
cil while the S.C.U.A. gambit was played. They looked and felt
foolish, for the thunder of their wrath had faded to a thin
squeak of Oulles-like displeasure. (emphasis mine)?
1. See U. S., Department of State, S.C.P.: Documents. pp.
2Little, p. 296.
The British decided that they had gone along with Mr. Dulles long
enough. Their vast armada was ready. They would take the issue to the
United Nations. If they failed to get satisfactory action there, which
would most certainly be the case, then all attempts at a peaceful redress
of their grievances would have been exhausted. Force could be used to
topple Nasser and it could be said that It had been used only as a last
The rest of the world did not realize how committed Eden was to
the downfall of Nasser. in the Middle East, for example, It was felt
that the crisis was easing.
It now seemed certain, so far as we could see from Baghdad,
that there would be a peaceful settlement, that there would be
no hostilities. With the issue before the United Nations and
Nasser already publicly committed to International negotiation,
no occasion for hostilities over the Canal dispute could now
The United States radiated confidence. On September 26, Dulles
held another news conference.2 He said that he "did not accept the pos-
sibllity" that Egypt would "get away with It." It would not because a
nation which defies the "reasonable rights" of others "loses in an in-
finite number of unpredictable but certain ways." The consequences to
Egypt "in the long run" from persistence In this line of action "would
be very bad." And "I don't see any prospect of Egypt making a success
IMichael lonides, DOvlde and Lose: The Arab Revolt of 1955-1958
(London: Geoffrey Bles, 1960), p. 156. Also see Michael Adams, p. 64.
2For complete text see U. S., Department of State, United States
Policy in the Middle East. September. 1956-June. 1957: Documents, pp.
87-98. Hereinafter to be cited as U. 5., Department of State.
out of the path it is now going." Exactly what consequences might ensue,
and what would make Egypt change Its course, were not specified.
Just before the Security Council was to convene, the Americans
gratuitously gave Nasser another big lift. Prior to the meeting where
the British and French desired a united front, In a fashion similar to
his actions a. the Menzies mission and SCUA, Dulles blatantly highlighted
the areas of difference. He said:
Now there has been some difference in our approach to this
problem of the Suez Canal. This is not an area where we are
bound together by treaty. There are also other problems
where our approach Is not always Identical. For exanole. In
Asia and Africa to the so-called problem of colonialism. New
there the United States Plasv a somewhat independent role. .
I suspect that the United States will find that Its role, not
only today but In the coming years, will be to try to aid that
process, without identifying itself either with the so-called
colonial powers or with the powers which are primarily concerned
with the problem of getting their Independence as rapidly as
possible. I think we have a special role to play and that per-
haps makes it IImractical for us. as I say. In every respect to
Identify our policies with those of other countries on whichever
side of that problem they find their Interest (emphasis mine)'
Dulles could not have attacked the British more effectively if he
had named them. What was the reason for this obvious gambit to win the
favor of the ex-colonal and emerging states? Certainly Dulles had not
changed his mind on the threat to the West which he felt Nasser posed.
But the Egyptian had considerable support Internationally. The issue
would now be ventilated in the United Nations, the new forum for the
sell nations. It appears that the United States did not want to be
tarred with the same brush as Britain end France.
IJj., pp. 103-104.
It seems that there was another reason. This may have been a way
of again warning the British and French not to expect any help in case
force were used.1 If they were going to merely go through the formality
of a United Nations proceeding and then use force, they could not count
on United States support. Admittedly, Dulles had been confusing on this
point and even these statements were not definitive. Nevertheless, the
fact that Dulles went out of his way to emphasize the differences in our
approaches was highly significant.
The Duiles news conference, along with the Allies' decision to go
to the United Nations, reflected the changing situation. The news con-
ference was an outspoken and obvious declaration of United States Inde-
pendence on colonial questions. It broadcast to the world the fact that,
though America might or might not act in concert with others on a given
occasion, .ts basic policy on these issues was unilaterally conceived.
IBy this time the public posture of the United States regarding
the use of force was quite clear. Both before and during the crisis
there were pledges to assist any victim of aggression in the Middle East.
The Secretary's news conferences of August 28 and September 1), and the
President's statement of August 31 and his wire to Eden of September 3,
certainly were strong indicators of the course which would be followed.
Many authors have concluded that either Eden knew or should have known
what the American response would be. See Campbell. p. 109; Little, p.
289; Lillenthal, p. 184. Yet, as pointed out by Broaberger and
Bromberger, p. 47, Eden clung to his belief that the United States would
be benevolently neutral even through the ensuing weeks when it became
quite clear that Mr. Duiles had returned to open hostility against a
Franco-British military demonstration." Though we cannot be sure, per-
haps rummond and Coblentz have put their finger on the explanation of
this curious situation when they write, p. 172, "He [Dulles] let Eden
gain the impression that Washington would not oppose an Anglo-French in-
vasion if all attempts at negotiation felled. When closetea with Eden.
he gave the impression of being at one with him In his aversion to Nasser.
Ln Public. however, he infuriated Eden by pointedly disassociating the
United States from British colonialism."
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