The Eisenhower Doctrine claims another backyard for America ~ The Middle East 1957-1958
On 9 March 1957, the United States Congress approved a presidential resolution which came to be known as the Eisenhower Doctrine. This was a piece of paper, like the Truman Doctrine and the Monroe Doctrine before it, whereby the US government conferred upon the US government the remarkable and enviable right to intervene militarily in other countries. With the stroke of a pen, the Middle East was added to Europe and the Western hemisphere as America’s field of play.
The resolution stated that “the United States regards as vital to the national interest and world peace the preservation of the independence and integrity of the nations of the Middle East.” Yet, during this very period, as we have seen, the CIA initiated its operation to overthrow the government of Syria.
The business part of the resolution was contained in the succinct declaration that the United States “is prepared to use armed forces to assist” any Middle East country “requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism”. Nothing was set forth about non-communist or anticommunist aggression which might endanger world peace.
Wilbur Crane Eveland, the Middle East specialist working for the CIA at the time, had been present at a meeting in the State Department two months earlier called to discuss the resolution. Eveland read the draft, which stated that “many, if not all” of the Middle East states “are aware of the danger that stems from international communism”.
Later he wrote:
I was shocked. Who, I wondered, had reached this determination of what the Arabs considered a danger? Israel’s army had just invaded Egypt and still occupied all of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. And, had it not been for Russia’s threat to intervene on behalf of the Egyptians, the British, French, and Israeli forces might now be sitting in Cairo, celebrating Nasser’s ignominious fall from power.1
The simplistic and polarized view of the world implicit in the Eisenhower Doctrine ignored not only anti-Israeli sentiments but currents of nationalism, pan-Arabism, neutralism and socialism prevalent in many influential quarters of the Middle East. The framers of the resolution saw only a cold-war battlefield and, in doing so, succeeded in creating one.
In April, King Hussein of Jordan dismissed his prime minister, Suleiman Nabulsi, amidst rumors, apparently well-founded, of a coup against the King encouraged by Egypt and Syria and Palestinians living in Jordan. It was the turning point in an ongoing conflict between the pro-West policy of Hussein and the neutralist leanings of the Nabulsi regime. Nabulsi had announced that in line with his policy of neutralism, Jordan would develop closet relations with the Soviet Union and accept Soviet aid if offered. At the same time, he rejected American aid because, he said, the United States had informed him that economic aid would be withheld unless Jordan “severs its ties with Egypt” and “consents to settlement of Palestinian refugees in Jordan”, a charge denied by the State Department. Nabulsi added the commentary that “communism is not dangerous to the Arabs”.
Hussein, conversely, accused “international communism and its followers” of direct responsibility for “efforts to destroy my country”. When pressed for the specifics of his accusation, he declined to provide any.
When rioting broke out in several Jordanian cities, and civil war could not be ruled out, Hussein showed himself equal to the threat to his continued rule. He declared martial law, purged the government and military of pro-Nasser and leftist tendencies, and abolished all political opposition. Jordan soon returned to a state of relative calm.
The United States, however, seized upon Hussein’s use of the expression “international communism” to justify rushing units of the Sixth Fleet to the eastern Mediterranean—a super aircraft carrier, two cruisers, and 15 destroyers, followed shortly by a variety of other naval vessels and a battalion of marines which put ashore in Lebanon—to “prepare for possible future intervention in Jordan”.2
Despite the fact that nothing resembling “armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism” had taken place, the State Department openly invited the King to invoke the Eisenhower Doctrine.3 But Hussein, who had not even requested the show of force, refused, knowing that such a move would only add fuel to the fires already raging in Jordanian political life. He survived without it.
Sometime during this year the CIA began making secret annual payments to King Hussein, initially in the millions of dollars per year. The practice was to last for 20 years, with the Agency providing Hussein female companions as well. As justification for the payment, the CIA later claimed that Hussein allowed American intelligence agencies to operate freely in Jordan. Hussein himself provided intelligence to the CIA and distributed part of his payments to other government officials who also furnished information or cooperated with the Agency.4
A few months later, it was Syria which occupied the front stage in Washington’s melodrama of “International Communism”. The Syrians had established relations with the Soviet Union via trade, economic aid, and military purchases and training. The United States chose to see something ominous in this although it was a state of affairs engendered in no small measure by John Foster Dulles, as we saw in the previous chapter. American antipathy toward Syria was heightened in August following the Syrian government’s exposure of the CIA-directed plot to overthrow it.
Washington officials and the American media settled easily into the practice of referring to Syria as a “Soviet satellite” or “quasi-satellite”. This was not altogether objective or spontaneous reporting. Kennett Love, a New York Times correspondent in close contact to the CIA (see Iran chapter), later disclosed some of the background:
The US Embassy in Syria connived at false reports issued in Washington and London through diplomatic and press channels to the effect that Russian arms were pouring into the Syrian port of Latakia, that “not more than 123 Migs” had arrived in Syria, and that Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Hameed Serraj, head of Syrian intelligence, had taken over control in a Communist-inspired coup. I travelled all over Syria without hindrance in November and December  and found there were indeed “not more than 123 Migs”. There were none. And no Russian arms had arrived for months. And there had been no coup, although some correspondents in Beirut, just a two-hour drive from Damascus, were dispatching without attribution false reports fed to them by embassy visitors from Damascus and a roving CIA man who worked in the guise of a US Treasury agent. Serraj, who was anti-Communist, had just broken the clumsy British-US-Iraqi-supported plot [to overthrow the Syrian government]. Syria was quiet but worried lest the propaganda presage a new coup d’etat or a Western-backed invasion.5
As if to further convince any remaining skeptics, Eisenhower dispatched a personal emissary, Loy Henderson, on a tour of the Middle East. Henderson, not surprisingly, returned with the conclusion that “there was a fear in all Middle East countries that the Soviets might be able to topple the regimes in each of their countries through exploiting the crisis in Syria”.6 He gave no indication as to whether the Syrians themselves thought they were going through a crisis.
As an indication of how artificial were the crises announced by the White House, how arbitrary were the doomsday pronouncements about the Soviet Union, let us consider the following from a Department of Defense internal memorandum of June 1957, about two months before Henderson went to the Middle East:
The USSR has shown no intention of direct intervention in any of the previous Mid-Eastern crises, and we believe it is unlikely that they would intervene, directly, to assure the success of a leftist coup in Syria.7
In early September, the day after Henderson returned, the United States announced that the Sixth Fleet was once again being sent to the Mediterranean and that arms and other military equipment were being rushed to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. A few days later, Saudi Arabia was added to the list. The Soviet Union replied with arms shipments to Syria, Egypt and Yemen.
The Syrian government accused the US of sending warships dose to her coast in an “open challenge” and said that unidentified planes had been flying constantly over the Latakia area day and night for four days, Latakia being the seaport where Soviet ships arrived.
Syria further claimed that the US had “incited” Turkey to concentrate an estimated 50,000 soldiers on Syria’s border. The Syrians ridiculed the explanation that the Turkish troops were only on maneuvers. Eisenhower later wrote that the troops were at the border with “a readiness to act” and that the United States had already assured the leaders of Turkey, Iraq and Jordan that if they “felt it necessary to take actions against aggression by the Syrian government, the United States would undertake to expedite shipments of arms already committed to the Middle Eastern countries and, further, would replace losses as quickly as possible.” The president had no quarrel with the idea that such action might be taken to repel, in his words, the “anticipated aggression” of Syria, for it would thus be “basically defensive in nature” (emphasis added).8
The American role here may have been more active than Eisenhower suggests.
One of his advisers, Emmet John Hughes, has written of how Under-Secretary of State Christian Herter, later to replace an ailing John Foster Dulles as Secretary, “reviewed in rueful detail… some recent clumsy clandestine American attempts to spur Turkish forces to do some vague kind of battle with Syria”.9
Dulles gave the impression in public remarks that the United States was anxious to somehow invoke the Eisenhower Doctrine, presumably as a “justification” for taking further action against Syria. But he could not offer any explanation of how this was possible. Certainly Syria was not going to make the necessary request.
The only solution lay in Syria attacking another Arab country which would then request American assistance. This appears to be one rationale behind the flurry of military and diplomatic activity directed at Syria by the US. A study carried out for the Pentagon some years later concluded that in “the 1957 Syrian crisis … Washington seem[ed] to seek the initial use of force by target”10 (emphasis added; “‘target” refers to Syria).
Throughout this period, Washington officials alternated between striving to enlist testimonials from other Arab nations that Syria was indeed a variety of Soviet satellite and a threat to the region, and assuring the world that the United States had received a profusion of just such testimony. But Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia all denied that they felt threatened by Syria. Egypt, Syria’s closest ally, of course concurred. At the height of the “crisis”, King Hussein of Jordan left for a vacation in Europe. The Iraqi premier declared that his country and Syria had arrived at a “complete understanding”. And King Saud of Saudi Arabia, in a message to Eisenhower, said that US concern over Syria was “exaggerated” and asked the president for “renewed assurances that the United States would refrain from any interference in the internal affairs of Arab states”. Saud added that “efforts to overturn the Syrian regime would merely make the Syrians more amenable to Soviet influence”, a view shared by several observers on all sides.
At the same time, the New York Times reported:
From the beginning of the crisis over Syria’s drift to the left, there has been less excitement among her Arab neighbors than in the United States. Foreign diplomats in the area, including many Americans, felt that the stir caused in Washington was out of proportion to the cause.
Eventually, Dulles may have been influenced by this lack of support for the American thesis, for when asked specifically to “characterize what the relation is between Soviet aims in the area and the part that Syria adds to them”, he could only reply that “The situation internally in Syria is not entirely clear and fluctuates somewhat.” Syria, he implied, was not yet in the grip of international Communism.
The next day, Syria, which had no desire to isolate itself from the West, similarly moderated its tone by declaring that the American warships had been 15 miles offshore and had continued “quietly on their way”.11
It appears that during this same restless year of 1957, the United States was also engaged in a plot to overthrow Nasser and his troublesome nationalism, although the details are rather sketchy. In January, when King Saud and Iraqi Crown Prince Abdul Illah were in New York at the United Nations, they were approached by CIA Director Allen Dulles and one of his top aides, Kermit Roosevelt, with offers of CIA covert planning and funding to topple the Egyptian leader whose radical rhetoric, inchoate though it was, was seen by the royal visitors as a threat to the very idea of monarchy.
Nasser and other army officers had overthrown King Farouk of Egypt in 1952. Ironically, Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA have traditionally been given credit for somehow engineering this coup. However, it is by no means certain that they actually carried this out.12
“Abdul Illah,” wrote Eveland, “insisted on British participation in anything covert, but the Saudis had severed relations with Britain and refused. As a result, the CIA dealt separately with each: agreeing to fund King Saud’s part in a new area scheme to oppose Nasser and eliminate his influence in Syria; and to the same objective, coordinating in Beirut a covert working group composed of representatives of the British, Iraqi, Jordanian, and Lebanese intelligence services.”13
The conspiracy is next picked up in mid-spring at the home of Ghosn Zogby in Beirut. Zogby, of Lebanese ancestry, was the chief of the CIA Beirut station. He and Kermit Roosevelt, who was staying with him, hosted several conferences of the clandestine planners. “So obvious,” Eveland continued, “were their ‘covert’ gyrations, with British, Iraqi, Jordanian and Lebanese liaison personnel coming and going nightly, that the Egyptian ambassador in Lebanon was reportedly taking bets on when and where the next U.S. coup would take place.” At one of these meetings, the man from the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) informed the gathering that teams had been fielded to assassinate Nasser.
Shortly afterwards, Eveland learned from a CIA official that John Foster Dulles, as well as his brother Allen, had directed Roosevelt to work with the British to bring down Nasser. Roosevelt now spoke in terms of a “palace revolution” in Egypt.14
From this point on we’re fishing in murky waters, for the events which followed produced more questions than answers. With the six countries named above, plus Turkey and Israel apparently getting in on the act, and less than complete trust and love existing amongst the various governments, a host of plots, sub-plots and side plots inevitably sprang to life; at times it bordered on low comedy, though some would call it no mote than normal Middle East “diplomacy”.
Between July 1957 and October 1958, the Egyptian and Syrian governments and media announced the uncovering of what appear to be at least eight separate conspiracies to overthrow one or the other government, to assassinate Nasser, and/or prevent the expected merger of the two countries. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States were most often named as conspirators, but from the entanglement of intrigue which surfaced it is virtually impossible to unravel the particular threads of the US role.15
Typical of the farcical goings-on, it seems that at least one of the plots to assassinate Nasser arose from the Dulles brothers taking Eisenhower’s remark that he hoped “the Nasser problem could be eliminated” to be an order for assassination, when the president, so the story goes, was merely referring to improved US-Egyptian relations. Upon realizing the error, Secretary Dulles ordered the operation to cease.16
(Three years later, Allen Dulles was again to “misinterpret” a remark by Eisenhower as an order to assassinate Patrice Lumumba of the Congo.)
Official American pronouncements during this entire period would have had the world believe that the Soviet Union was the eminence grist behind the strife in Jordan, the “crisis” in Syria, and unrest generally in the Middle East; that the Soviet aim was to dominate the area, while the sole purpose of US policy was to repel this Soviet thrust and maintain the “independence” of the Arab nations. Yet, on three separate occasions during 1957—in February, April and September—the Soviet Union called for a fourpower (US, USSR, Great Britain and France) declaration renouncing the use of force and interference in the internal affairs of the Middle Eastern countries. The February appeal had additionally called for a four-power embargo on arms shipments to the region, withdrawal of all foreign troops, liquidation of all foreign bases, and a conference to reach a general Middle East settlement.
The Soviet strategy was clearly to neutralize the Middle East, to remove the threat it had long felt from the potentially hostile control of the oil region by, traditionally, France and Great Britain, and now the United States, which sought to fill the “power vacuum” left by the decline of the two European nations as Middle East powers.
History does not relate what a Middle East free from big-power manipulation would have been like, for neither France, Great Britain, nor the United States was amenable to even calling the Soviet “bluff”, if that was what it was. The New York Times summarized the attitude of the three Western nations to the first two overtures as one that “deprecated the Soviet proposals as efforts to gain recognition of a Soviet right to a direct voice in the affairs of the Middle East. They have told the Russians to take up their complaints through the United Nations.”
Following the September proposal, John Foster Dulles, replying to a question at a press conference, said that “the United States is skeptical of these arrangements with the Soviet Union for ‘hands-off. What they are apt to mean is our hands off and their hands under the table.” This appears to be the only public comment the US government saw fit to make on the matter.17
It may be instructive to speculate upon the reaction of the Western nations if the Soviet Union had announced a “Khrushchev Doctrine”, ceding to itself the same scope of action in the Middle East as that stipulated in the Eisenhower Doctrine.
In January 1958, Syria and Egypt announced their plans to unite, forming the new nation of the United Arab Republic (UAR). The initiative for the merger had come from Syria who was motivated in no small part by her fear of further American power plays against her. Ironically, under the merger arrangement, the Communist Party, already outlawed in Egypt, was dissolved in Syria, an objective which a year and a half of CIA covert activity had failed to achieve.
Two weeks after the birth of the UAR, and in direct response to it, Iraq and Jordan formed the Arab Union, with the United States acting as midwife. This union was short lived, for in July a bloody coup in Iraq overthrew the monarchy, the new regime establishing a republic and promptly renouncing the pact. The trumpets of Armageddon could once more be heard distinctly in the Oval Office. “This somber turn of events,” wrote Eisenhower in his memoirs, “could, without vigorous response on our part, result in a complete elimination of Western influence in the Middle East.”18
Although the president would not be so crass as to mention a concern about oil, his anxiety attack was likely brought on by the fact that one of the greatest oil reserves in the world was now under rule of a government which might well prove to be not as pliable an ally as the previous regime, and too independent of Washington.
The time for a mere show of force was over. The very next day, the marines, along with the American navy and air force, were sent in—not to Iraq, but to Lebanon.
Of all the Arab states, Lebanon was easily the United States’ closest ally. She alone had supported the Eisenhower Doctrine with any enthusiasm or unequivocally echoed Washington’s panic about Syria. To be more precise, it was the president of Lebanon, Camille Chamoun, and the foreign minister, Charles Malik, a Harvard Ph.D. in philosophy, who had put all their cold-war eggs into the American basket. Chamoun had ample reason to be beholden to the United States. The CIA apparently played a role in his 1952 election,19 and in 1957 the Agency furnished generous sums of money to Chamoun to use in support of candidates in the Chamber of Deputies (Parliament) June elections who would back him and, presumably, US policies. Funds were also provided to specifically oppose, as punishment, those candidates who had resigned in protest over Chamoun’s adherence to the Eisenhower Doctrine.
As is customary in such operations, the CIA sent an “election specialist” along with the money to Beirut to assist in the planning. American officials in Washington and Lebanon proceeded on the assumption, they told each other, that Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia would also intervene financially in the elections. The American ambassador to Lebanon, Donald Heath, argued as well, apparently without ironic intention, that “With both the president and the new chamber of deputies supporting American principles, we’d also have a demonstration that representative democracy could work” in the Middle East.
To what extent the American funding helped, or even how the money was spent, is not known, but the result was a landslide for pro-government deputies; so much so, that it caused considerable protest within Lebanon, including the charge that Chamoun had stacked the parliament in order to amend the constitution to permit him to seek an otherwise prohibited second six-year term of office the following year.20
By late April 1958, tensions in Lebanon had reached bursting point. The inordinate pro-American orientation of Chamoun’s government and his refusal to dispel rumors that he would seek a second term incensed both Lebanese nationalists and advocates of the Arab nationalism, which Nasser was promoting throughout the Middle East. Demands were made that the government return to the strict neutrality provided for in the National Pact of 1943 at the time of Lebanon’s declaration of independence from France.
A rash of militant demonstrations, bombings and clashes with police took place, and when, in early May, the editor of an anti-government newspaper was murdered, armed rebellion broke out in several parts of the country, and US Information Agency libraries in Tripoli and Beirut were sacked. Lebanon contained all the makings of a civil war.
“Behind everything,” wrote Eisenhower, “was out deep-seated conviction that the Communists were principally responsible for the trouble and that President Chamoun was motivated only by a strong feeling of patriotism.”
The president did not clarify who or what he meant by “Communists”. However, in the next paragraph he refers, without explanation, to the Soviet Union as “stirring up trouble” in the Middle East. And on the following page, the old soldier writes that “there was no doubt in our minds” about Chamoun’s charge that “Egypt and Syria had been instigating the revolt and arming the rebels”.21
In the midst of the fighting, John Foster Dulles announced that he perceived “international communism” as the source of the conflict and for the third time in a year the Sixth Fleet was dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean; police supplies to help quell rioters, as well as tanks and other heavy equipment, were airlifted to Lebanon.
At a subsequent news conference, Dulles declared that even if international communism were not involved, the Eisenhower Doctrine was still applicable because one of its provisions stated that “the independence of these countries is vital to peace and the national interest of the United States.” “That is certainly a mandate,” he said, “to do something if we think that out peace and vital interests are endangered from any quarter.”22 Thus did one of the authors of the doctrine bestow upon himself a mandate.
Egypt and Syria, from all accounts, supported the rebels’ cause with arms, men and money, in addition to inflammatory radio broadcasts from Cairo, although the extent of the material support is difficult to establish. A UN Observation Group went to Lebanon in June at the request of Foreign Minister Malik and reported that they found no evidence of UAR intervention of any significance. A second UN report in July confirmed this finding. It is open to question, however, what degree of reliance can be placed upon these reports, dealing as they do with so thorny an evaluation and issued by a body in the business of promoting compromise.
In any event, the issue was whether the conflict in Lebanon represented a legitimate, home-grown civil war, or whether it was the doing of the proverbial “outside agitators”. On this point, historian Richard Barner has observed:
No doubt the Observation Group did minimize the extent of UAR participation. But essentially they were correct. Nasser was trying to exploit the political turmoil in Lebanon, but he did not create it. Lebanon, which had always abounded in clandestine arsenals and arms markets, did not need foreign weapons for its domestic violence. Egyptian intervention was neither the stimulus nor the mainstay of the civil strife. Once again a government that had lost the power to rule effectively was blaming its failure on foreign agents.23
President Eisenhower—continuing his flip-flop thinking on the issue—wrote that it now seemed that Nasser “would be just as happy to see a temporary end to the struggle … and contacted our government and offered to attempt to use his influence toend the trouble.”24
Camille Chamoun had sacrificed Lebanon’s independence and neutrality on the altar of personal ambition and the extensive American aid that derived from subscribing to the Eisenhower Doctrine. Lebanese Muslims, who comprised most of Chamoun’s opposition, were also galled that the Christian president had once again placed the country outside the mainstream of the Arab world, as he had done in 1956 when he refused to break relations with France and Great Britain following their invasion of Egypt.
Chamoun himself had admitted the significance of his pro-American alignment in a revealing comment to Wilbur Crane Eveland. Eveland writes that in late April, I’d suggested that he might ease tensions by making a statement renouncing a move for reelection. Chamoun had snorted and suggested that I look at the calendar: March 23 was a month behind us, and no amendment to permit another term could legally be passed after that date. Obviously, as he pointed out, the issue of the presidency was not the real issue; renunciation of the Eisenhower Doctrine was what his opponents wanted.25
Instead of renouncing the doctrine, Chamoun invoked it. Although scattered
fighting, at times heavy, was continuing in Lebanon, it was the coup in Iraq on 14 July that tipped the scales in favor of Chamoun making the formal request for military assistance and the United States immediately granting it. A CIA report of a plot against King Hussein of Jordan at about the same time heightened even further Washington’s seemingly unceasing sense of urgency about the Middle East.
Chamoun had, by this time, already announced his intention to step down from office when his term expired in September. He was now concerned about American forces helping him to stay alive until that date, as well as their taking action against the rebels. For the previous two months, fear of assassination had kept him constantly inside the presidential palace, never so much as approaching a window. The murder of the Iraqi king and prime minister during the coup was not designed to make him feel more secure.
The Eisenhower Doctrine was put into motion not only in the face of widespread opposition to it within Lebanon, but in disregard of the fact that, even by the doctrine’s own dubious provisions, the situation in Lebanon did not qualify: It could hardly be claimed that Lebanon had suffered “armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism”. If further evidence of this were needed, it was provided by veteran diplomat Robert Murphy who was sent to Lebanon by Eisenhower a few days after the US troops had landed. Murphy concluded, he later wrote, that “communism was playing no direct or substantial part in the insurrection”.26
Yet, Eisenhower could write that the American Government “was moving in accord with the provisions of the Middle East Resolution [Eisenhower Doctrine], but if the conflict expanded into something that the Resolution did not cover, I would, given time, go to the Congress for additional authorization”.27 Apparently the president did not place too much weight on John Foster Dulles having already determined that the Resolution’s mandate was open-ended.
Thus it was that American military forces were dispatched to Lebanon. Some 70 naval vessels and hundreds of aircraft took part in the operation, many remaining as part of the visible American presence. By 25 July, the US forces on shore totaled at least 10,600. By August 13, their number came to 14,000, more than the entire Lebanese Army and gendarmerie combined.28
“In my [radio-TV] address,” wrote Eisenhower, “I had been careful to use the term ‘stationed in’ Lebanon rather than ‘invading’.”29 This was likely a distinction lost upon many Lebanese, both high and low, supporters of the rebels and supporters of the government, including government tank forces who were prepared to block the entrance into Beirut of US troops; only the last-minute intercession on the spot by the American ambassador may have averted an armed clash.30
At a meeting between Robert Murphy and Lebanese Commander-in-Chief General Faud Chehab—related by Eveland who was briefed by Murphy afterwards— the American diplomat was warned that the Lebanese people were “”restless, resentful, and determined that Chamoun should resign and U.S. troops leave at once. Otherwise the general could not be responsible for the consequences. For fifteen years his officers had acted behind his back; now, he feared, they might revolt and attack the American forces.”
Murphy had listened patiently, Eveland relates, and then …
escorted the general to a window overlooking the sea. Pointing to the supercarrier Saratoga, swinging at anchor on the horizon, the President’s envoy had quietly explained that just one of its aircraft, armed with nuclear weapons, could obliterate Beirut and its environs from the face of the earth. To this, Murphy quickly added that he’d been sent to be sure that it wouldn’t be necessary for American troops to fire a shot. Shehab [Chehab], he was certain, would ensure that there were no provocations on the Lebanese side. That, Murphy told me, ended the conversation. It now seemed that the general had “regained control” of his troops.31
None of the parties seem to have considered what would have been the fate of the thousands of American military personnel in a Beirut obliterated from the face of the earth.
Civil warfare in Lebanon increased in intensity in the two weeks following the American intervention. During this period, CIA transmitters in the Middle East were occupied in sending out propaganda broadcasts of disguised origin, a tactic frequently employed by the Agency. In the case of one broadcast which has been reported, the apparent aim was to deflect anti-US feelings onto the Soviet Union and other targets.
But the residents of the Middle East were not the only ones who may have been taken in by the spurious broadcast, for it was picked up by the American press and passed on to an unwitting American public; the following appeared in US newspapers:
BEIRUT, July 23 (UPI)—A second mysterious Arab radio station went on the air yesterday calling itself the “Voice of Justice” and claiming to be broadcasting from Syria. Its program heard here consisted of bitter criticism against Soviet Russia and Soviet Premier Khrushchev. Earlier the “Voice of Iraq” went on the air with attacks against the Iraqi revolutionary government. The “Voice of Justice” called Khrushchev the “hangman of Hungary”and warned the people of the Middle East they would suffer the same fate as the Hungarians if the Russians got a foothold in the Middle East.32
On 31 July, the Chamber of Deputies easily chose General Chehab to succeed Chamoun as president in September, an event that soon put a damper on the fighting in Lebanon and marked the beginning of the end of the conflict which, in the final analysis, appears to have been more a violent protest than a civil war. Tension was further eased by the US announcement shortly afterwards of its intention to withdraw a Marine battalion as a prelude to a general withdrawal.
The last American troops left Lebanon in late October without having fired a shot in anger. What had their presence accomplished?
The authors of the Pentagon study referred to earlier concluded that “A balanced assessment of U.S. behavior in the Lebanon crisis is made difficult by the suspicion that the outcome might have been much the same if the United States had done nothing.
Even Eisenhower expressed some doubt on this score.”33
American intervention against the new Iraqi government was more covert. A secret plan for a joint US-Turkish invasion of the country, code-named Operation CANNON-BONE, was drafted by the US joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the coup in 1958. Reportedly, only Soviet threats to intercede on Iraq’s side forced Washington to hold back. But in 1960, the United States began to fund the Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq who were fighting for a measure of autonomy.34
At the same time, the Iraqis, under Brig. General Abdul Karim Kassem, started to work towards the creation of an international organization to counter the power of the Western oil monopolies. This was to become OPEC, and was not received with joy in certain Western quarters. In February 1960, the Near East Division of the CIA’s clandestine services requested that the Agency find a way to “incapacitate” Kassem for “promoting Soviet bloc political interests in Iraq”. “We do not consciously seek subject’s permanent removal from the scene,” said the Near East Division. “We also do not object should this complication develop.”
As matters turned out, the CIA mailed a monogrammed handkerchief containing an “incapacitating agent” to Kassem from an Asian country. If the Iraqi leader did in fact receive it, it certainly didn’t kill him. That was left to his own countrymen who executed him three years later.35
The significance of the Lebanese intervention, as well as the shows of force employed in regard to Jordan and Syria, extended beyond the immediate outcomes. In the period before and after the intervention, Eisenhower, Dulles and other Washington officials offered numerous different justifications for the American military action in Lebanon: protecting American lives; protecting American property; the Eisenhower Doctrine, with various interpretations; Lebanese sovereignty, integrity, independence, etc.; US national interest; world peace; collective self-defense; justice; international law; law and order; fighting “Nasserism” … the need to “do something” …36
In summing up the affair in his memoirs, president Eisenhower seemed to settle upon one rationale in particular, and this is probably the closest to the truth of the matter. This was to put the world—and specifically the Soviet Union and Nasser—on notice that the United States had virtually unlimited power, that this power could be transported to any corner of the world with great speed, that it could and would be used to deal decisively with any situation with which the United States was dissatisfied, for whatever reason.37
At the same time, it was a message to the British and the French that there was only one Western superpower in the post-war world, and that their days and that their days as great powers in the Lands of Oil were over.