Two Crises in the Middle East: Cyprus, 1964
and the Six-Day War, 1967
After the Second World War, American involvement in the Middle East reached unprecedented levels, as British power in the region declined. The United States backed the creation of Israel in 1948, participated in the overthrow of the left-wing leader Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran in 1953 and frustrated British, French and Israeli efforts during the Suez Crisis of 1956. In 1958, there was the so-called ‘Eisenhower Doctrine’, proclaiming that the United States would support any friendly government in the Middle East facing a communist threat. US troops were sent into Lebanon in 1958 under the aegis of the Doctrine. The United States’ chief goals in the Middle East in the 1960s were maintaining regional security and stability (in part to preserve the flow of oil to the West), minimising Soviet influence and maintaining friendly ties with as many states as possible in the region while supporting Israel.1
These goals were challenged in two regional crises in 1964 and 1967, although the 1964 crisis was especially significant for its NATO dimension. That year, there was the chance that Greece and Turkey, both NATO members, might end up fighting one another over the ethnically divided island of Cyprus. Washington, seeking to put a lid on the crisis, attempted to mediate, and at one point suggesting to Ankara that the United States would abandon its NATO commitments to defend a fellow member should Turkey end up in a war with the Soviet Union, which was providing tentative backing for Cyprus under its Greek Cypriot leader. Later, when the Greeks were proving the most difficult in the search for a settlement, President Johnson vetoed a suggestion of his advisers to give Ankara the green light to invade and partition the island.
Further south, the United States’ relations with Egypt under President Nasser, who was strengthening his ties with Moscow, deteriorated while US bonds with Israel grew closer. Both developments stemmed from intensifying Egyptian hostility towards Israel and were also consistent