With the end of World War Two and the victory of the allies led by the US, it was only natural for it to assume the leadership of the “free world”, inherit the mantle of the British Empire and dominate Britain’s former colonies in the Middle East. It managed to do this in a number of ways, including military coups to bring about regime change to create a new world order in its own image. The new regimes owed allegiance to the US, including those in the Arab world whose role is to protect US interests and colonial ambitions, and strengthen the American Empire.
The Prime Minister of Egypt during the rule of King Farouk was the leader of the Wafd Party, Mostafa El-Nahhas Pasha. He realised this US reality after the coup staged by Hosni Al-Zaim in Syria. Farouk did not resist this coup, although he was able to thwart it at the time since he had the “Iron Guard” who owed him their loyalty. The British forces stationed in the Suez Canal zone did nothing to support the King. They knew the wider picture.
The BBC published documents on Britain’s position on the 71st anniversary of the coup. This was that Britain’s concern was focused solely on the safety of British subjects, and it warned Mohamed Naguib that Britain would place its forces in Egypt and the Middle East on high alert ready to take action if British lives were endangered. At the same time, it reassured him that it had no intention of intervening in matters that did not endanger British lives.
Former CIA agent Miles Copeland Jr wrote in his book The Game of Nations that the agency provided secret aid to Gamal Abdel Nasser — with whom Copeland had a close relationship — and made him a giant in the region. He also said that the CIA met with Nasser and his group three times just four months before the 1952 coup, and agreed with him that the message to the people of Egypt should be that the coup was not imposed by the British, Americans or French. The CIA even allowed Nasser to attack these countries in his speeches following the coup in order for his cooperation with the agency to remain secret.
Other military coups followed in the region with the support of America, and with the help of Abdel Nasser. Among the most famous was the 1958 coup led by the Iraqi Minister of Defence, Abdul Karim Qassem, that ended the monarchy in Iraq, of which Abdel Nasser was envious. Qassem was in turn overthrown in the Baathist coup of 1963. He was executed and replaced by his old friend Abd Al-Salam Aref, who was killed in a suspicious plane crash. His brother, Abdul Rahman Aref, took over and he was overthrown in another coup in 1968, known as the White Revolution and led by Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr and his deputy and nephew, a certain Saddam Hussein, who then turned against his uncle and ruled Iraq single-handedly.
On 26 September 1962, a group of army officers led by Abdullah Al-Saloul staged a coup against the royal imam regime in Yemen.
Famously, Muammar Gaddafi and a group of army officers led a military coup in September 1969 against King Idris Al-Senussi in Libya and forced him to abdicate. Gaddafi declared himself to be president.
In Syria, the coup regime led by the butcher Hafez Al-Assad basically sold the Syrian Golan Heights to Israel in the June 1967 war. The Americans rewarded him by appointing him as president of Syria, a position that he then bequeathed to his son.
Moreover, many coups have taken place in Sudan, which I mentioned in a previous article.
All of these military coups that swept the Arab countries are the greatest disaster that has befallen the nation, with senior officers interfering in politics. Significantly, all seem to have had the blessing of the US. Meaningful political life has more or less dried up to be replaced by regimes controlled by intelligence agencies and the guns of the armed forces.Instead of protecting the borders, soldiers protect their officers from the people. Too many people have been recruited and used as informers betraying those who are not loyal to the coup regime. This has torn the social fabric of many states to shreds. Military prisons have witnessed the most heinous and horrific types of crime and abuse, including murder and the rape of men and women, as well as torture. People have been humiliated and debased to a degree that was unprecedented even during the British occupation era. Abdel Nasser would repeat his famous words “Lift up your head my brother, gone is the time of enslavement,” and the masses, who dreamt of freedom, dignity and justice across the Arab world would applaud him. They were too scared to do anything else.
“Abdel Nasser used tell every Egyptian citizen, ‘Lift your head up, my brother’, but the poor and deceived citizen was not able to raise his head from the overflowing sewage, the whip of the intelligence services, the fear of detention, the sword of censorship, and the eyes of the detective, and the atmosphere prevailed in which nothing but hypocrisy thrived,” explained intellectual Dr Mustafa Mahmoud. “The slogan became obedience and loyalty before knowledge and competence. Values and morals deteriorated, production declined, and chaos rose over everything. Abdel Nasser lived twenty years in empty media hype and failed propaganda and socialist projects, then he woke up to a back-breaking defeat and an economic collapse, with 100,000 dead under the sands of the Sinai and military equipment that turned into scrap. Both the country and its citizens were lost.”
These authoritarian regimes embraced the colonial policy of divide and rule, creating a parasitic class of opportunists known as the “centres of power”. They controlled the country and the people. Ironically, the leaders used this class as a scapegoat for their mistakes and defeats, as Abdel Nasser did after his crushing defeat in the 1967 war, even though they were his own men.
As we have seen, the change of regimes in the Arab world, the fall of monarchies and their replacement with presidents (often “for life”), came through military coups led by army officers seduced by external forces in the hope of ruling and seizing the wealth of the country, and not through popular revolutions as happened historically in Europe. Despite this, those staging these coups insist on calling them popular revolutions, marking them with yearly celebrations and delivering great speeches to mark the anniversary of their “glorious” coups.
Far from condemning these assaults on democracy and people power, the democratic bastion called America turns a blind eye, and bestows huge amounts of aid on dictatorships, especially in the Middle East. The Egyptian coup of 2013 led by current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is a case in point. The US administration at the time couldn’t even bring itself to say the word “coup”. The Islamists had to be overthrown at any price, and if a coup was necessary, then so be it. The US continues to shape and mould the region.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.