Ending Empire in the Middle East: Britain, the United States and Post-War Decolonization, 1945-1973

Ending Empire in the Middle East: Britain, the United States and Post-War Decolonization, 1945-1973

Ending Empire in the Middle East: Britain, the United States and Post-War Decolonization, 1945-1973

Ending Empire in the Middle East: Britain, the United States and Post-War Decolonization, 1945-1973

Synopsis

This book is a major and wide-ranging re-assessment of Anglo-American relations in the Middle Eastern context. It analyses the process of ending of empire in the Middle East from 1945 to the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Based on original research into both British and American archival sources, it covers all the key events of the period, including the withdrawal from Palestine, the Anglo-American coup against the Musaddiq regime in Iran, the Suez Crisis and its aftermath, the Iraqi and Yemeni revolutions, and the Arab-Israeli conflicts. It demonstrates that, far from experiencing a 'loss of nerve' or tamely acquiescing in a transfer of power to the United States, British decision-makers robustly defended their regional interests well into the 1960s and even beyond. It also argues that concept of the 'special relationship' impeded the smooth-running of Anglo-American relations in the region by obscuring differences, stymieing clear communication, and practising self-deception on policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic who assumed a contiguity which all too often failed to exist. With the Middle East at the top of the contemporary international policy agenda, and recent Anglo-American interventions fuelling interest in empire, this is a timely book of importance to all those interested in the contemporary development of the region.

Excerpt

The Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ is surely one of the most studied international relationships in the post-war world. There are also a large number of seminal studies on Anglo-American relations in the Middle Eastern context. This is the first book, however, to examine the ‘special relationship’ in the region throughout the period of decolonization from the end of the Second World War to British withdrawal from East of Suez and beyond. The persistence of the British imperium is a central theme to emerge.

Far from tamely acquiescing in a transfer of power to the United States, as Ritchie Ovendale and others contend, British decision-makers robustly defended their regional interests well into the 1960s and even beyond. As Easa al-Gurg, who from 1991 served as the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United Kingdom, observed: ‘We had to recognise that although the British presence was officially no more, the British themselves were still very much with us.’ Indeed, there is a growing acceptance in the historiography of decolonization that the end of formal empire did not necessarily equate with the end of British influence in former dependencies. This was especially true of the Middle East where growing reliance on oil gave the region a renewed importance to Britain. Despite the encroachment of the superpowers after 1945 and the emergence of virulent, often anti-British nationalism, Britain strove, not always successfully, to preserve influence and interests during and beyond the demission of empire. An analysis of this process rests at the heart of the present study.

One of the sources of support (and of weakness) for British efforts to maintain a meaningful presence in the region was the United States. On the one hand, British statesmen hoped that US power could be turned to British advantage. Musing on the nature of Anglo-American relations during the Second World War, the future Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, noted: ‘We … are Greeks in this American empire … We must run the A[llied] F [orces] H[eadquarters] as the Greeks ran the operations of the Emperor Claudius.’ While British hopes of harnessing US power are well-known among historians of Anglo-American relations, the difficulties of achieving this objective have been less thoroughly explored, something this book seeks to redress. Equally, US efforts to manipulate Britain to serve American ends . . .

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