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Saunders starts off her book, which was published by Praeger in January 1996, with an insightful account of the region’s history and that of Syria’s, paying special attention to the political instability of the country in the years prior to 1953. With the different governments that came to power during this period, the US insisted on exerting influence to limit the spread of communism and push for a peace process with Israel. The Eisenhower administration tried to show Syrians that they favored a fair solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Shishakli refused assistance from the US because of their close ties with Israel and their ambitions for resettling Palestinians; he was even overthrown from his post when he later considered the resettlement issue. The conditions for US aid were seen as a threat to sovereignty and as a way to bribe Arab governments into peace with Israel.

Trade between Syria and the USSR increased between 1954 and 1956 during which the US continuously criticized the freedom of speech that the government granted to communists. Americans, according to Saunders, so cherished their freedom but found it ‘difficult to allow for people who fundamentally disagreed with US policy’ (36). The weight of her book lies in her explanation of the different American attempts between 1955 and 1957 at achieving an anti-communist government in Syria for which documentation remains highly security-classified.

While the SSNP was allegedly responsible for the assassination of Adnan al-Maliki in 1955, the US was ironically found to be a major supporter of the party in their plot. Syrian president Hashem el Atassi requested military aid from Iraq to strengthen the army and prevent a communist takeover. In Iraq, Nuri el-Said was in turn pitching the idea of Iraqi intervention to the US and Britain. The US however dismissed this option as an ‘aggression’. Likewise, Lebanese Foreign Minsiter Charles Malik suggested that the US should collaborate with anti-communist efforts in Syria, possibly the SSNP, to prevent the country from tilting towards communism. The attempts of both men failed, but the CIA and British Secret Service still carried out their Operation Straggle in 1956. Under this operation, the English secret service would try to establish a pro-western government, possibly looking towards the Iraqi military for help. On the other hand, the US turned to conservative Syrian politician Mikhail Ilyan. He later accused the US of betrayal after the Suez and consequently abandoned the plan.

Two alternative operations were launched in 1957 as Soviet military aid had continued to increase during that year. In August, a plot for a coup that was designed by the CIA was exposed due to weak implementation. The unveiling of this plot outraged Syria, and even brought it closer to the USSR as the union ‘loudly defended’ it in the press. In this sense, American insistence on intervention in Syria only moved it farther away from its goal.

In 1958, Syria and Egypt formed the UAR which put a halt to US intervention. This, along with crises in Lebanon and Iraq, led the US to reconsider its approach to Arab nationalism. Nasser’s approach, the coup d’état in Iraq and the attempted one in Lebanon led Eisenhower to think that Nasser was giving up the whole region to Soviet control. Pro-communists in Iraq rose against the pro-Nasserite constituents of the military and gave the USSR more influence in Iraq. Despite these disagreements, Soviet aid to the UAR continued. Syria withdrew in 1961 due to its inferior status, and Syrian nationalism came back to assert itself.

After 1961, Syria continued to receive aid from the USSR, as the US overplayed the looming threat of communism. What it failed to see was that for the Arab states, the real threat came from Israel and not the USSR. This only made their efforts futile, hypocritical, and based on a rather naïve view of the Middle East. Saunders duly demonstrates this through her analysis of government documents, letters, UN documents, journals, etc. A mere look at the components of intervention as described in her book, is enough to show how the American understanding of Arab nationalism severed its relations with Arab countries rather than ameliorated them. 



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