American intervention in the Middle East


American intervention in the Middle East

"This article provides an overview of American interventions in the Middle East executed between 1941 and before the Iranian Revolution in 1978-1979."

Background

The United States’ relationship with the Middle East prior to the Second World War was limited. Moreover, in comparison to European powers such as Britain and France which had managed to colonise almost all of the Middle East region after defeating the Turkish Empire in 1918, the United States was ‘popular and respected throughout the Middle East’. [Fawcett,L(2005) "The International Relations of the Middle East" UK: Oxford University Press p 284] Indeed, ‘Americans were seen as good people, untainted by the selfishness and duplicity associated with the Europeans’ [Fawcett,L(2005) "The International Relations of the Middle East" UK: Oxford University Press p 285] . American missionaries had brought modern medicine and set up educational institutions all over the Middle East. Moreover, the US had provided the Middle East with highly skilled petroleum engineers. [ Rugh, W, A (2005) "American Encounters with Arabs: The Soft Power of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East" U.S.: Praeger Publishers Inc. ISBN-13: 978-0275988173 pp 25-26] Thus, there were some connections, which were made between the United States and the Middle East before the Second World War. Other examples of corporations between the US and the Middle East are the Red Line Agreement signed in 1928 and the Anglo-American Petroleum Agreement signed in 1944. Both of these agreements were legally binding and reflected an American interest in control of Middle Eastern energy resources, namely oil, and moreover reflected an American ‘security imperative to prevent the (re)emergence of a powerful regional rival’. [ Le Billon,P, El Khatib, F(March 2004) “From free oil to 'freedom oil': terrorism, war and US Geopolitics in the Persian Gulf” "Geopolitics", Volume 9, Issue 1 p 109] The Red Line Agreement had been ‘part of a network of agreements made in the 1920s to restrict supply of petroleum and ensure that the major [mostly American] companies…could control oil prices on world markets’. [ Review(Winter 1982) : “State Power and Industry Influence: American Foreign Oil Policy in the 1940s” "International Organization", Vol. 36, No.1 p 168] The Red Line agreement governed the development of Middle East oil for the next two decades. The Anglo-American Petroleum Agreement of 1944 was based on negotiations between the United States and Britain over the control of Middle Eastern oil. Below is shown what the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt had in mind for to a British Ambassador in 1944:

Persian oil …is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, it’s ours. [Yergin, D (1991) "The Prize: The Epic quest for Oil, Money and Power" New York: Simon and Schuster p 401]
On August 8, 1944, the Anglo-American Petroleum Agreement was signed, dividing Middle Eastern oil between the United States and Britain. Consequently, political scholar Fred H Lawson remarks, that ‘by mid-1944, U.S. officials had buttressed their country’s position on the peninsula by concluding an Anglo-American Petroleum Agreement that protected “all valid concession contracts and lawfully acquired rights” belonging to the signatories and established a principle of “equal opportunity” in those areas where no concession had yet been assigned.’ [ Lawson, F, H (Aug., 1989) “The Iranian Crisis of 1945-1946 and the Spiral Model of International Conflict” "International Journal of Middle East Studies", Vol.21, No.3 p 310] Furthermore, political scholar Irvine Anderson summarises American interests in the Middle East in the late 19th century and the early 20th century noting that, ‘the most significant event of the period was the transition of the United States from the position of net exporter to one of net importer of petroleum.’ [ Anderson, Irvine.(1981) "Aramco, The United States, and Saudi Arabia". U.S.: Princeton University Press. p. 36]

By the end of the Second World War, the United States had come to consider the Middle East region as ‘the most strategically important area of the world’. [ Chomsky, N (January/February 2005) Imperial Presidency "Canadian Dimension", Vol. 39, No. 1 p 8] and ‘…one of the greatest material prizes in world history’. [ Chomsky, N (January/February 2005) Imperial Presidency "Canadian Dimension", Vol. 39, No. 1 p 8] For that reason, it was not until around the period of the Second World War that America became directly involved in the Middle East region. At this time the region was going through great social, economic and political changes and as a result, internally the Middle East region was in turmoil. Politically, the Middle East was experiencing an upsurge in the popularity of nationalistic politics and an increase in the number of nationalistic political groups across the region, which was causing great trouble for the English and French colonial powers.
History scholar Jack Watson explains that ‘Europeans could not hold these lands indefinitely in the face of Arab nationalism’. [Watson, J, B(1981) Success "in Twentieth century World Affairs since 1919" Norwich: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd p 295] Watson then continues, stating that ‘by the end of 1946 Palestine was the last remaining mandate, but it posed a major problem’. . [Watson, J, B(1981) "Success in Twentieth century World Affairs since 1919" Norwich: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd p 295] In truth, this nationalistic political trend clashed with American interests in the Middle East region, which were, as Middle East scholar Louise Fawcett argues, ‘about the Soviet Union, access to oil and the project for a Jewish state in Palestine.’ [Fawcett,L(2005) The "International Relations of the Middle East" UK: Oxford University Press p 284] Hence, ‘‘‘Arabist’ ambassador Raymond Hare’ described the Second World War period, as ‘the great divide’ in United States’ relation with the Middle East, because these three interests would later serve as a backdrop and reasoning for a great deal of American interventions in the Middle East and thus also come to be the cause of several future conflicts between the United States and the Middle East. [Fawcett,L(2005) "The International Relations of the Middle East" UK: Oxford University Press p 285]

Iran: The first U.S. intervention in the Middle East after World War II

Just before the end of the Second World War, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Replacing Roosevelt in April 1945 was the slightly less diplomatic Harry S. Truman. President Truman would come to face ‘several major international challenges during his presidency. Although World War II had ended, the Cold War was beginning … [and] decolonization made… many Arab nations independent and led to the creation of Israel, as nationalism began to grow.’ [ Rugh, W, A (2005) American Encounters with Arabs: The Soft Power of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East U.S.: Praeger Publishers Inc. ISBN-13: 978-0275988173 p 27] In the book "American Encounters with Arabs: The “soft Power” of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East", William A. Rugh argues that Truman did not especially prioritize the Middle East in the immediate years after the Second World War. Rather, Truman ‘became increasingly concerned about the Soviet threat to U.S. interests, as his wartime ally turned into an adversary.’ [ Rugh, W, A (2005) American Encounters with Arabs: The Soft Power of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East U.S.: Praeger Publishers Inc. ISBN-13: 978-0275988173 p 28] Truman witnessed, when the war was over, that ‘Iran’s indigenous communist party, the Tudeh, had become a major political force [and was very] … successful in attracting cadres in the country’s Soviet-occupied northern provinces’ [ Lawson, F, H (Aug., 1989) “The Iranian Crisis of 1945-1946 and the Spiral Model of International Conflict” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol.21, No.3 p 314] This American policy, which reiterated confronting the Soviets and promoting democracy throughout the Middle East, came later to be known as the Truman Doctrine (1947).
Britain and the USSR were allies during the Second World War, and in September 1941 ‘Britain and the Soviet Union [had] jointly invaded Iran… to establish a supply route to the Soviet army.’ Lesch p 52 In 1942, the United States sent troops to Iran to aid the British and Soviet troops in protecting the supply route. Moreover, the ruler of the country Reza Shah, 'who was seen as a German sympathizer, [was forced by Britain, The USSR and the United States] to abdicate in favor of his twenty-one-year-old son Muhammad Reza Pahlavi’ [ Lesch p 52]
At the Tehran conference in late 1943, the United States promised, together with Britain and the USSR, to help rebuild and develop Iran after the war. Furthermore, Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States asured Iranian sovereignty,however, the Soviets did not retreat and Truman threathens to bomb the Soviet Union if it does not withdraw from Kurdestan and Azerbaijan in north Iraq. Hence, for the Truman Administration, as American political scholar Gary Hess argues,“Iran was a test of Big Power respect for the sovereignty of smaller nations” [ Hess, G, R, (March 1974) “The Iranian Crisis of 1945-46 and the Cold War” Political Science Quarterly, 89, 1, p 129] and was not an American interest purely because of economic considerations.

Israel

In 1947 , the U.S. and the Truman administration, under domestic political pressure, pushed for a solution and resolution on the Paletine- Israel conflict, and on May 1948 the new state of Israel came into existence. This process was not without it’s fights and loss of lives. Nevertheless, ‘the first state to extend diplomatic recognition to Israel was the United States; the Soviet Union and several Western nations quickly followed suit. No Arab state, however, recognised Israel.’ [ McWilliams, W, C, Piotrowski, H, (6th ed.)(2005) The World since 1945: A History of International Relations U.S. : Lynne Rienner Publishers p 154 ]

Syria: 1949

In Spring 1949, the elected government of Syria is overthrown and ‘according to former CIA agent Miles Copeland, …he and another CIA officer who was Assistant Military Attaché at the U.S. embassy in Damascus engineered the March 1949 coup in which Chief of Staff Husni Zaim overthrew [President Shukn al -] Quwatli.’ [Little,D(Winter 1990)"Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria 1945-1958" "Middle East Journal" 44, 1, p 55] This resulted in the establishment of a dictatorship under Colonel Za’im.

Mosaddeq and the Shah

Opposed to foreign intervention in Iran and a keen nationalist, Mohammed Mosaddeq became the prime minister of Iran in 1951. Thus, when Mosaddeq was elected he chose to nationalise the Iranian oil industry, where previously British holdings had generated great profits for Britain through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Furthermore, prior to the nationalisation of Iranian oil Mosaddeq had also cut all diplomatic ties with Britain. [ Dionisi, D, J(2005) "American Hiroshima: The reasons why and a call to strengthen America's Democracy", Canada:Trafford Publishing, ISBN 1-4120-4421-9, pp 30-38 ]
The Sha of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was opposed to the nationalisation of Iranian oil as he feared this would result in an oil embargo, which would destroy Iran’s economy and thus, the Sha was very concerned with the effect of Mosaddeq’s policies on Iran. Equally worried were workers in the Iranian oil industry, when they experienced the economic effect of the sanctions on Iranian oil exports which Mosaddeq’s policies had resulted in, and riots were happening across Iran.. [ Immerman,R,H, Theoharis, A,G (2006) "The Central Intelligence Agency: Security under Scrutiny" U.S: Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-33282-7, p 314] Thus, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi asked Mosaddeq to resign, as was the Sha’s constitutional right, but Mosaddeq refused, which resulted in national uprisings. The Sha, fearing for his personal security, fled the country but nominated General Fazlollah Zahedi as new Prime Minister. Although General Fazlollah Zahedi was a nationalist, he did not agree with the Mosaddeq’s lenient attitude towards the communist Tudeh party, which the United States had also become increasingly concerned with, fearing Soviet influence spreading in the Middle East. Therefore, when in late 1952, the British government asked the U.S. administration for help with the removal of Mohammed Mosaddeq, the U.S. administration agreed and ‘Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA , approved one million dollars on April 4, 1953 to be used “in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadegh” [ Dionisi, D, J(2005) "American Hiroshima: The reasons why and a call to strengthen America's Democracy", Canada:Trafford Publishing, ISBN 1-4120-4421-9, p 40 ] Consequently, after a failed attempt on August 15, ‘on August 19, 1953, General Fazlollah Zahedi succeeded [with the help of the United States and Britain] and Mossadegh was overthrown. The CIA covertly funneled five million dollars to General Zahedi’s regime on August 21, 1953’. [ Dionisi, D, J(2005) "American Hiroshima: The reasons why and a call to strengthen America's Democracy", Canada:Trafford Publishing, ISBN 1-4120-4421-9, p 40 ]
This CIA operation, often referred to as Operation Ajax and led by CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, ensured the return of the Sha on August 22 1953. [ Immerman,R,H, Theoharis, A,G (2006) "The Central Intelligence Agency: Security under Scrutiny" U.S: Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-33282-7, p 314]

Egypt 1956: The Suez Crisis

Today ‘more than a quarter of the world’s oil are shipped through the Suez Canal’ [ Fiscus, J, W (2004) War and Conflict in the Middle East: The Suez Crisis, U.S.: The Rosen Publishers Group, ISBN 0-8239-4550-2, p 5]

Although accepting large sums of military aid from the United States in 1954, by 1956 Egyptian leader Nasser had grown tired of the American influence in the country. The involvement that the U.S. would take in Egyptian business and politics in return for aid, Nasser thought ‘smacked of colonialism’. [Lesch, D,W(ed.)(2003) "The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassesment" US: Westview Press, p 94] Indeed, as political scholar B.M. Bleckman argued in 1978, that ‘Nasser had ambivalent feelings toward the United States. From 1952 to 1954 he was on close terms with U.S. officials and was viewed in Washington as a promising moderate Arab leader. The conclusion of an arms deal with the USSR in 1955, however, had coded the relationship between Cairo and Washington considerably, and the Dulles-Eisenhower decision to withdraw the offer to finance the Aswan High Dam in mid-1956 was a further blow to the chances of maintaining friendly ties. Eisenhower’s stand against the British, French, and Israeli attack on Egypt in October 1956 created a momentary sense of gratitude on the part of Nasser, but the subsequent development of the Eisenhower Doctrine, so clearly aimed at “containing” Nasserism, undermined what little goodwill existed toward the United States in Cairo’. [ Bleckman B, M, Kaplan, S, S(1978) Force Without War: U.S. armed Forces As a Political Instrument U.S.: The Brookings Institution p 249 ] ‘The Suez Crisis of 1956 marked the demise of British power and its gradual replacement by USA as the dominant power in the Middle East.’ [Attie, C, C, (2004) Struggle in the Levant, Kings Lynn: The Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford p 1] The Eisenhower Doctrine became a manifestation of this process. ‘The general objective of the Eisenhower Doctrine, like that of the Truman Doctrine formulated ten years earlier, was the containment of Soviet expansion.’ [Attie, C, C, (2004) Struggle in the Levant, Kings Lynn: The Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford p 109] Furthermore, when the Doctrine was finalised on March 9, 1957, it ‘essentially gave the president the latitude to intervene militarily in the Middle East … without having to resort to Congress.’ [Attie, C, C, (2004) Struggle in the Levant, Kings Lynn: The Centre for Lebanese Studies, Oxford p 110] indeed as, Middle East scholar Irene L. Gerdzier explains ‘that with the Eisenhower Doctrine the United States emerged “as the uncontested Western power…in the Middle East’ [Gettleman, M, E, Schaar, S (2003) The Middle East and Islamic World Reader, U.S. : Grove Press p248]

Meanwhile, in Jordan nationalistic anti-government rioting has broken out and the U.S. decides to send a battalion of Marines to Lebanon in case of possibly having to intervene in Jordan later that year. Moreover, attempting to keep the pro-American King Hussein of Jordan, pro-American and in power, the CIA starts to make secret payments of millions of dollars a year to King Hussein. In the same year, the U.S. supports allies in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and sends fleets to be near Syria as Syria’s government has executed nationalistic and pro-Soviet policies the same year. [Ambrose, S, E(1980) The Rise to Globalism: American Foreiqn Policv, 1938-1980 New York: Penguin Books p 463] However, 1958 is to become a difficult year in U.S. foreign policy; in 1958 Syria and Egypt are merged into the “United Arab Republic”, anti-American and anti-government revolts are occurring in Lebanon, causing the Lebanese president Chamoun to ask America for help, and the very pro-American King Feisal the 2nd of Iraq is overthrown by a group of nationalistic military officers. [ Eisenhower, (1965) White House Years, vol. 2: Waaina Peace 1956-1961 New York: Doubleday, p. 268] It was quite ‘commonly believed that [Nasser] …stirred up the unrest in Lebanon and, perhaps, had helped to plan the Iraqi revolution.’ [Owen, R, Louis, R(2002) A Revolutionary year: The Middle East in 1958, U.K.: I.B. Tauris & Co,. Ltd, ISBN 1-86064-402-3, p 2]

The Six Day War and Black September

In 1963, after unsuccessful results from supporting anti-government Kurdish rebels in Iraq, the U.S. decides to support a coup by the Ba’ath party to overthrow the Qassim regime, which has maintained relations with the Soviet Union and allowed the existence of the Iraqi Communist Party. Moreover, in June 1967 Israel begins what is referred to as the Six Day War, to seize the remaining land of historic Palestine. [http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/history/1963cialist.htm] The U.S. supports Israel with weapons and continues to support Israel financially throughout the 1970s. On September 17, 1970: With U.S. and Israeli help, Jordanian troops attack Palestinian guerrilla camps, while Jordan's U.S.-supplied air force drops napalm from above. U.S. deploys the aircraft carrier Independence and six destroyers off the coast of Lebanon and readies troops in Turkey to support the assault. The U.S. threatens to use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union if it intervenes. 5000 Palestinians are killed and 20,000 wounded. This massacre comes to be known as "Black September." [http://www.globalpolicy.org/nations/citizen/2002/1217jordan.htm]
The American interventions in the years before the Iranian revolution have all showed to be based on economics, but more so have been influenced and led by the international Cold War context. [Watson, J, B(1981) Success "in Twentieth century World Affairs since 1919" Norwich: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd p 301]

Afghanistan and Pakistan

U.S. intervention in both Afghanistan and Pakistan started with the Carter Administration after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The relations of the U.S. with Afghanistan and Pakistan have been closely tied to the "war on terrorism" that has happened there.

See also

Foreign Relations of the United States
Iran
Iraq

References


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