Strategy and Politics in the Middle East 1954-1960: Defending the Northern Tier

Strategy and Politics in the Middle East 1954-1960: Defending the Northern Tier

Strategy and Politics in the Middle East 1954-1960: Defending the Northern Tier

Strategy and Politics in the Middle East 1954-1960: Defending the Northern Tier

Synopsis

By 1955, it was believed that a global conflict with the Soviets was unlikely in the short term. Strategic planning for a defence of the Middle East against a Soviet offensive continued, but it was relegated to a long-term contingency.

Excerpt

This is the second of two volumes that I have written on Allied contingency planning in the Middle East during the first decades of the Cold War. * While they should stand as a single work, they may also be read as distinct, separate entities.

I believe that it is only against the background of Western strategic planning for this region that the student of this cataclysmic period can understand fully the tumultuous events which followed each other in such rapid progression: the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement of 1954 for the evacuation of the British Military Base in Egypt; the formation of the Baghdad Pact in 1955, and the attendant Egyptian-Iraqi rivalry for the hegemony of the Arab world; the Suez Crisis which, together with the escalating Arab-Israeli conflict, erupted predictably into open war in October 1956; and finally, the crises that rocked the Middle East in July 1958 - the fall of the Hashemite dynasty and the ancien regime in Iraq, and the Anglo-American military interventions in Jordan and the Lebanon respectively. These last events constituted the final act in a drama that had begun in 1955. They were followed inevitably in the Spring of 1959 by Iraq's departure from the Baghdad Pact, and the renaming of its rump as the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO).

During the first decade after the war, the British base in Egypt was to have served as a launching platform and staging post for aircraft carrying out the Allied strategic air offensive against the Soviet Union and her satellites. Western planners believed that in the event of new world conflict, the Soviets' first strategic priority would be the conquest of western Europe. But they were convinced that the Soviets would launch a simultaneous, secondary offensive against the Middle East. If they succeeded, the Soviets would be able to exploit to their own advantage the region's strategic assets - its oil resources and its strategic bases. a Soviet occupation of the Middle East would also turn NATO's right flank.

The period covered by this volume witnessed a distinct change in Allied strategy for the Middle East. By 1955, Western strategists no longer believed that a global conflict with the Soviets was likely in the short term. (even if there always remained

* the first was Fighting World War Three from the Middle East: Allied Contingency Plans, 1945-54, London: Frank Cass, 1997 (Hebrew Edition, 1998).

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