America, Britain, and the Middle East:
For a Policy of Strength
When the news broke last year that Egypt was to receive arms from the Soviet bloc the comment of one British observer with long experience of the Middle East was simply “At last!” What he found surprising was not that the rulers of the Soviet Union had in 1955 moved to upset the precarious balance of forces in the Middle East, but that they had not done so before. The explanation of their delay in exploiting such obvious opportunities for mischief is probably to be found partly in preoccupations elsewhere, and partly in developments within the Middle East which have created a new situation there during the last twelve months.
There was, of course, an initial Soviet attempt to break through into the Middle East just after the end of the Second World War, when Russia failed to withdraw her occupation troops from Persia by the date agreed on with America and Britain, and protected a separatist revolt in Persian Azerbaijan. This first move was a fiasco, for Persia appealed to the United Nations; America and Britain made a firm stand on the agreement; Russia climbed down, and the revolt collapsed as soon as the Russian troops were taken out of the country. Russia’s unwillingness on this occasion to go through with the original policy after it had run into strong opposition may be attributed primarily to the priority accorded to European commitments; Russian control in Eastern Europe was still at that time far from being consolidated, and it would have been imprudent to force a showdown with the Western powers over Persia in clear breach of treaty obligations when these powers appeared so acquiescent in the westward extension of the Soviet empire.
About the Author