THE AMERICAN ROLE
At times of great affliction . . . it is important to determine clearly . . . what has really happened. . . . We say truthfully that what we saw during those five dreadful days was the extreme degree of violence in which the Arab nation has confronted the U.S. government.
Mohamed Heikal, Al-Ahram, June 16, 1967
Nasser's obsession with the role of the United States in the Middle East in general and with its policies toward Egypt in particular was an important factor in his miscalculation. Reading Rikhye's account of the May 24 conversation between U Thant and Nasser, for instance, one is struck by the importance in that exchange of Nasser's denunciation of the United States. On reading the accounts provided by Mohamed Heikal and Abdul Majid Farid, his obsession with the United States becomes even more striking. Judging by his comments, he sincerely thought that his real opponent was not Israel but the United States, which was out to destroy him and the Egyptian revolution.
A similar impression is given by Nasser's 1967 May Day speech, which is devoted largely to an attack on the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, the latter two being described as tools of the first. On hearing it, Americans in Cairo knew they were in for a hot summer. Nasser could do various things to make life difficult for them, but war with Israel did not loom as a likely possibility. Certainly no one predicted it, although Ambassador Battle mentioned it as a possibility in his farewell telegram.
The stage for Nasser's remarks was set by a series of weekly articles by Heikal in Al-Ahram attacking U.S. policies. Heikal appeared to have convinced himself that the United States was unalterably opposed to the Egyptian revolution and committed to bringing it down. He had indicated to Battle before the latter's departure in March that he had been planning such a series but had held it off out of respect for Battle. Heikal's articles and Nasser's speech sounded like exercises in paranoia then and still do