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13. The Middle East 1957-1958
The Eisenhower Doctrine claims another backyard for America

On 9 March 1957, the United States Congress approved a presidential resolution
which came to be known as the Eisenhower Doctrine. This was a piece of paper, like the
Truman Doctrine and the Monroe Doctrine before it, whereby the US government
conferred upon the US government the remarkable and enviable right to intervene
militarily in other countries. With the stroke of a pen, the Middle East was added to
Europe and the Western hemisphere as America's field of play.
The resolution stated that "the United States regards as vital to the national
interest and world peace the preservation of the independence and integrity of the
nations of the Middle East." Yet, during this very period, as we have seen, the CIA
initiated its operation to overthrow the government of Syria.

The business part of the resolution was contained in the succinct declaration that
the United States "is prepared to use armed forces to assist" any Middle East country
"requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by
international communism". Nothing was set forth about non-communist or anti-
communist aggression which might endanger world peace.
Wilbur Crane Eveland, the Middle East specialist working for the CIA at the
time, had been present at a meeting in the State Department two months earlier called to
discuss the resolution. Eveland read the draft, which stated that "many, if not all" of the
Middle East states "are aware of the danger that stems from international communism".
Later he wrote:

I was shocked. Who, I wondered, had reached this determination of what the
Arabs considered a danger? Israel's army had just invaded Egypt and still
occupied all of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. And, had it not been for
Russia's threat to intervene on behalf of the Egyptians, the British, French, and
Israeli forces might now be sitting in Cairo, celebrating Nasser's ignominious fall
from power.1

The simplistic and polarized view of the world implicit in the Eisenhower
Doctrine ignored not only anti-Israeli sentiments but currents of nationalism, pan-
Arabism, neutralism and socialism prevalent in many influential quarters of the Middle
East. The framers of the resolution saw only a cold-war battlefield and, in doing so,
succeeded in creating one.
In April, King Hussein of Jordan dismissed his prime minister, Suleiman
Nabulsi, amidst rumors, apparently well-founded, of a coup against the King
encouraged by Egypt and Syria and Palestinians living in Jordan. It was the turning
point in an ongoing conflict between the pro-West policy of Hussein and the neutralist
leanings of the Nabulsi regime. Nabulsi had announced that in line with his policy of
neutralism, Jordan would develop closet relations with the Soviet Union and accept
Soviet aid if offered. At the same time, he rejected American aid because, he said, the
United States had informed him that economic aid would be withheld unless Jordan
"severs its ties with Egypt" and "consents to settlement of Palestinian refugees in
Jordan", a charge denied by the State Department. Nabulsi added the commentary that
"communism is not dangerous to the Arabs".
Hussein, conversely, accused "international communism and its followers" of
direct responsibility for "efforts to destroy my country". When pressed for the specifics
of his accusation, he declined to provide any.
When rioting broke out in several Jordanian cities, and civil war could not be
ruled out, Hussein showed himself equal to the threat to his continued rule. He declared
martial law, purged the government and military of pro-Nasser and leftist tendencies,
and abolished all political opposition. Jordan soon returned to a state of relative calm.
The United States, however, seized upon Hussein's use of the expression
"international communism" to justify rushing units of the Sixth Fleet to the eastern
Mediterranean”a super aircraft carrier, two cruisers, and 15 destroyers, followed
shortly by a variety of other naval vessels and a battalion of marines which put ashore in
Lebanon”to "prepare for possible future intervention in Jordan".2
Despite the fact that nothing resembling "armed aggression from any country
controlled by international communism" had taken place, the State Department openly
invited the King to invoke the Eisenhower Doctrine.3 But Hussein, who had not even
requested the show of force, refused, knowing that such a move would only add fuel to
the fires already raging in Jordanian political life. He survived without it.

Sometime during this year the CIA began making secret annual payments to
King Hussein, initially in the millions of dollars per year. The practice was to last for 20
years, with the Agency providing Hussein female companions as well. As justification
for the payment, the CIA later claimed that Hussein allowed American intelligence
agencies to operate freely in Jordan. Hussein himself provided intelligence to the CIA
and distributed part of his payments to other government officials who also furnished
information or cooperated with the Agency.4
A few months later, it was Syria which occupied the front stage in Washington's
melodrama of "International Communism". The Syrians had established relations with
the Soviet Union via trade, economic aid, and military purchases and training. The
United States chose to see something ominous in this although it was a state of affairs
engendered in no small measure by John Foster Dulles, as we saw in the previous
chapter. American antipathy toward Syria was heightened in August following the
Syrian government's exposure of the CIA-directed plot to overthrow it.
Washington officials and the American media settled easily into the practice of
referring to Syria as a "Soviet satellite" or "quasi-satellite". This was not altogether
objective or spontaneous reporting. Kennett Love, a New York Times correspondent in
close contact to the CIA (see Iran chapter), later disclosed some of the background:

The US Embassy in Syria connived at false reports issued in Washington and
London through diplomatic and press channels to the effect that Russian arms
were pouring into the Syrian port of Latakia, that "not more than 123 Migs" had
arrived in Syria, and that Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Hameed Serraj, head of
Syrian intelligence, had taken over control in a Communist-inspired coup. I
travelled all over Syria without hindrance in November and December [1956] and
found there were indeed "not more than 123 Migs". There were none. And no
Russian arms had arrived for months. And there had been no coup, although some
correspondents in Beirut, just a two-hour drive from Damascus, were dispatching
without attribution false reports fed to them by embassy visitors from Damascus
and a roving CIA man who worked in the guise of a US Treasury agent. Serraj,
who was anti-Communist, had just broken the clumsy British-US-Iraqi-supported
plot [to overthrow the Syrian government]. Syria was quiet but worried lest the
propaganda presage a new coup d'etat or a Western-backed invasion.5

As if to further convince any remaining skeptics, Eisenhower dispatched a
personal emissary, Loy Henderson, on a tour of the Middle East. Henderson, not
surprisingly, returned with the conclusion that "there was a fear in all Middle East
countries that the Soviets might be able to topple the regimes in each of their countries
through exploiting the crisis in Syria".6 He gave no indication as to whether the Syrians
themselves thought they were going through a crisis.
As an indication of how artificial were the crises announced by the White
House, how arbitrary were the doomsday pronouncements about the Soviet Union, let
us consider the following from a Department of Defense internal memorandum of June
1957, about two months before Henderson went to the Middle East:

The USSR has shown no intention of direct intervention in any of the previous
Mid-Eastern crises, and we believe it is unlikely that they would intervene,
directly, to assure the success of a leftist coup in Syria.7

In early September, the day after Henderson returned, the United States
announced that the Sixth Fleet was once again being sent to the Mediterranean and that
arms and other military equipment were being rushed to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and

Turkey. A few days later, Saudi Arabia was added to the list. The Soviet Union replied
with arms shipments to Syria, Egypt and Yemen.
The Syrian government accused the US of sending warships dose to her coast in
an "open challenge" and said that unidentified planes had been flying constantly over
the Latakia area day and night for four days, Latakia being the seaport where Soviet
ships arrived.
Syria further claimed that the US had "incited" Turkey to concentrate an
estimated 50,000 soldiers on Syria's border. The Syrians ridiculed the explanation that
the Turkish troops were only on maneuvers. Eisenhower later wrote that the troops were
at the border with "a readiness to act" and that the United States had already assured the
leaders of Turkey, Iraq and Jordan that if they "felt it necessary to take actions against
aggression by the Syrian government, the United States would undertake to expedite
shipments of arms already committed to the Middle Eastern countries and, further,
would replace losses as quickly as possible." The president had no quarrel with the idea
that such action might be taken to repel, in his words, the "anticipated aggression" of
Syria, for it would thus be "basically defensive in nature" (emphasis added).8
The American role here may have been more active than Eisenhower suggests.
One of his advisers, Emmet John Hughes, has written of how Under-Secretary of State
Christian Herter, later to replace an ailing John Foster Dulles as Secretary, "reviewed in
rueful detail... some recent clumsy clandestine American attempts to spur Turkish forces
to do some vague kind of battle with Syria".9
Dulles gave the impression in public remarks that the United States was anxious
to somehow invoke the Eisenhower Doctrine, presumably as a "justification" for taking
further action against Syria. But he could not offer any explanation of how this was
possible. Certainly Syria was not going to make the necessary request.
The only solution lay in Syria attacking another Arab country which would then
request American assistance. This appears to be one rationale behind the flurry of
military and diplomatic activity directed at Syria by the US. A study carried out for the
Pentagon some years later concluded that in "the 1957 Syrian crisis ... Washington
seem[ed] to seek the initial use of force by target"10 (emphasis added; "'target" refers to
Throughout this period, Washington officials alternated between striving to
enlist testimonials from other Arab nations that Syria was indeed a variety of Soviet
satellite and a threat to the region, and assuring the world that the United States had
received a profusion of just such testimony. But Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia all
denied that they felt threatened by Syria. Egypt, Syria's closest ally, of course
concurred. At the height of the “crisis”, King Hussein of Jordan left for a vacation in
Europe. The Iraqi premier declared that his country and Syria had arrived at a "complete
understanding". And King Saud of Saudi Arabia, in a message to Eisenhower, said that
US concern over Syria was "exaggerated" and asked the president for "renewed
assurances that the United States would refrain from any interference in the internal
affairs of Arab states". Saud added that "efforts to overturn the Syrian regime would
merely make the Syrians more amenable to Soviet influence", a view shared by several
observers on all sides.
At the same time, the New York Times reported:

From the beginning of the crisis over Syria's drift to the left, there has been less
excitement among her Arab neighbors than in the United States. Foreign
diplomats in the area, including many Americans, felt that the stir caused in
Washington was out of proportion to the cause.

Eventually, Dulles may have been influenced by this lack of support for the
American thesis, for when asked specifically to "characterize what the relation is
between Soviet aims in the area and the part that Syria adds to them", he could only
reply that "The situation internally in Syria is not entirely clear and fluctuates
somewhat." Syria, he implied, was not yet in the grip of international Communism.
The next day, Syria, which had no desire to isolate itself from the West,
similarly moderated its tone by declaring that the American warships had been 15 miles
offshore and had continued "quietly on their way".11
It appears that during this same restless year of 1957, the United States was also
engaged in a plot to overthrow Nasser and his troublesome nationalism, although the
details are rather sketchy. In January, when King Saud and Iraqi Crown Prince Abdul
Illah were in New York at the United Nations, they were approached by CIA Director
Allen Dulles and one of his top aides, Kermit Roosevelt, with offers of CIA covert
planning and funding to topple the Egyptian leader whose radical rhetoric, inchoate
though it was, was seen by the royal visitors as a threat to the very idea of monarchy.
Nasser and other army officers had overthrown King Farouk of Egypt in 1952.
Ironically, Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA have traditionally been given credit for
somehow engineering this coup. However, it is by no means certain that they actually
carried this out.12
"Abdul Illah," wrote Eveland, "insisted on British participation in anything
covert, but the Saudis had severed relations with Britain and refused. As a result, the
CIA dealt separately with each: agreeing to fund King Saud's part in a new area scheme
to oppose Nasser and eliminate his influence in Syria; and to the same objective,
coordinating in Beirut a covert working group composed of representatives of the
British, Iraqi, Jordanian, and Lebanese intelligence services."13
The conspiracy is next picked up in mid-spring at the home of Ghosn Zogby in
Beirut. Zogby, of Lebanese ancestry, was the chief of the CIA Beirut station. He and
Kermit Roosevelt, who was staying with him, hosted several conferences of the
clandestine planners. "So obvious," Eveland continued, "were their 'covert' gyrations,
with British, Iraqi, Jordanian and Lebanese liaison personnel coming and going nightly,
that the Egyptian ambassador in Lebanon was reportedly taking bets on when and where
the next U.S. coup would take place." At one of these meetings, the man from the
British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) informed the gathering that teams had been
fielded to assassinate Nasser.
Shortly afterwards, Eveland learned from a CIA official that John Foster Dulles,
as well as his brother Allen, had directed Roosevelt to work with the British to bring
down Nasser. Roosevelt now spoke in terms of a "palace revolution" in Egypt.14
From this point on we're fishing in murky waters, for the events which followed
produced more questions than answers. With the six countries named above, plus
Turkey and Israel apparently getting in on the act, and less than complete trust and love
existing amongst the various governments, a host of plots, sub-plots and side plots
inevitably sprang to life; at times it bordered on low comedy, though some would call it
no mote than normal Middle East "diplomacy".
Between July 1957 and October 1958, the Egyptian and Syrian governments and
media announced the uncovering of what appear to be at least eight separate
conspiracies to overthrow one or the other government, to assassinate Nasser, and/or
prevent the expected merger of the two countries. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United
States were most often named as conspirators, but from the entanglement of intrigue
which surfaced it is virtually impossible to unravel the particular threads of the US

Typical of the farcical goings-on, it seems that at least one of the plots to
assassinate Nasser arose from the Dulles brothers taking Eisenhower's remark that he
hoped "the Nasser problem could be eliminated" to be an order for assassination, when
the president, so the story goes, was merely referring to improved US-Egyptian
relations. Upon realizing the error, Secretary Dulles ordered the operation to cease.16
(Three years later, Allen Dulles was again to "misinterpret" a remark by Eisenhower as
an order to assassinate Patrice Lumumba of the Congo.)

Official American pronouncements during this entire period would have had the
world believe that the Soviet Union was the eminence grise behind the strife in Jordan,
the "crisis" in Syria, and unrest generally in the Middle East; that the Soviet aim was to
dominate the area, while the sole purpose of US policy was to repel this Soviet thrust
and maintain the "independence" of the Arab nations. Yet, on three separate occasions
during 1957”in February, April and September”the Soviet Union called for a four-
power (US, USSR, Great Britain and France) declaration renouncing the use of force
and interference in the internal affairs of the Middle Eastern countries. The February
appeal had additionally called for a four-power embargo on arms shipments to the
region, withdrawal of all foreign troops, liquidation of all foreign bases, and a
conference to reach a general Middle East settlement.
The Soviet strategy was clearly to neutralize the Middle East, to remove the
threat it had long felt from the potentially hostile control of the oil region by,
traditionally, France and Great Britain, and now the United States, which sought to fill
the "power vacuum" left by the decline of the two European nations as Middle East
History does not relate what a Middle East free from big-power manipulation
would have been like, for neither France, Great Britain, nor the United States was
amenable to even calling the Soviet "bluff", if that was what it was. The New York
Times summarized the attitude of the three Western nations to the first two overtures as
one that "deprecated the Soviet proposals as efforts to gain recognition of a Soviet right
to a direct voice in the affairs of the Middle East. They have told the Russians to take up


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