As already mentioned in an earlier part of this article, the US has been employing various ploys and conspiracies over the past half century to paralyze the Egyptian leadership in the belief that doing so would lead to ensuring the Arab Republic of Egypt would not pose a threat to the existence of Israel.
However, such strategy could not be easily translated into action in the face of the confrontation between the two comps during the Cold War era. The Eastern Camp headed by the Soviet Union got engaged in fierce competition with the US so as to make Egypt join its camp, and thereby spread the communist ideology to the entire Arab world through Egyptian influence.
It was under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasir, irrespective of political errors, that Egypt experienced relative political independence for a brief period in its history free from western domination. In that brief period, Egypt managed not only to play a leading role in the Arab world but also secured dignity for becoming master of its own decisions. Leading the “Free Officers Movement”, Gamal Abdel Nasir played a crucial role in taking steps that limited the power of the monarchy in July 1952 and the subsequent formation of a government headed by Gen. Mahmoud Nejib. In June 1953, the Egyptian monarchy ceased to exist and Gen. Mahmoud Nejib became the first President of the new Republic. Soon after assuming the Presidency, Mahmoud Nejib began fostering close ties with the Moslem Brotherhood or “Akwan”, which move was not accepted by the Army officers headed by Gamal Abdel Nasir. Following a failed assassination attempt against Gamal Abdel Nasir by the end of 1954 on the part of “Akwan”, he overthrew President Nejib and officially became President of Egypt in 1956.
Following the assumption of the Presidency, Gamal Abdel Nasir managed to introduce a number of socio-economic changes towards improving the people’s standard of living. However, he faced continued external pressures and provocations. One of the major decisions he took was the expulsion of British troops from the Suez Canal. Besides, Gamal opposed the huge assistance extended to Israel by the Western countries, as well as the formation of the so-called British-sponsored “Baghdad Accord” which was anti-communist alliance grouping Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. Concerned with Gamal Abdel Nasir’s stance, Israel resorted to military provocations in the Gaza Strip. When Gamal tried to purchase arms from the western countries, he faced unacceptable preconditions. Thereafter, he forged alliance with the communist camp and managed to conclude an arms sale agreement to the tune of USD 200 million so as to strengthen Egypt’s military capacity.
The construction of the strategic Aswan Dam on the Nile River was one of the major development projects of the Egyptian government. The project was aimed at expanding agricultural land and generating energy supply. Initially, both Britain and the US were keen to extend loan for the implementation of the project with a view to putting Egypt under their control. The World Bank was equally ready to extend a loan. But, the U.K and the US that were unsatisfied with the independent path of Gamal Abdel Nasir soon broke the pledge, as did the western-controlled World Bank which put forth the lame excuse that “ the Egyptian government cannot manage to pay back such loan.” The real reason was, however, to punish the Gamal government bent on fostering relations with the communist camp.
In response to the betrayal, Gamal Abdel Nasir within a week nationalized the Suez Canal Company that was owned by the British and French governments. He also convinced the Soviet Union to fund the construction of the Aswan Dam, a move which infuriated Britain and France (the latter constructed the Suez Canal). For this very reason, Britain and France together with Israel drafted a secret plan aimed at launching military action against Egypt. And in 1956, Israel opened large-scale military aggression against Egypt on the Sinai front. Soon after, Britain and France invaded Port Seid and took control of the Suez Canal. Nevertheless, thanks to the strong pressure exerted by the Soviet Union in the UN Security Council, a ceasefire agreement was concluded within a week compelling Israel, Britain and France to withdraw from the occupied Egyptian territory.
The fact that Egypt not only managed to simultaneously confront the three so-called super powers but also ensured sovereignty over the nationalized Suez Canal after the war and the speedy withdrawal of the aggressor countries form the occupied territory enabled Egypt to win broad acclaim and dignity in the Arab world. Emboldened with the wide-ranging support and acclaim from the Arab masses, the Gamal leadership gave close attention to issues of concern to the Arab world in general and that of Palestine in particular, in addition to the founding of a regional body in the name of Untied Arab Republic Organization. However, the difference in ideology and stance in the Middle East on the one hand, and puppet governments serving foreign agendas on the other impeded the realization of the organization’s objectives. Although Gamal could not succeed in creating the envisaged political integration, he nonetheless managed to take significant steps highlighting the necessity of the Arab world’s integration. Apart from prompting the Arab countries to formulate common policy towards Israel, Gamal Abdel Nasir played major role in the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Moreover, he set up a military alliance with Syria, Jordan and Iraq directed against Israel.
Worried with the regional military alliance that Gamal established, Israel drastically strengthened its military capacity with the huge assistance and collaboration of the US Administration. In the face of the huge Israeli military buildup, Gamal deployed his Army in the Gaza Strip that was declared a demilitarized zone after the 1956 war so as to prevent any Israeli offensive. In doing so, he compelled the UN peacekeeping force to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and the Sharm Al-Sheik Port on the Red Sea. Besides, Gamal Abdel Nasir prohibited Israel ships from entering the Gulf of Aqaba.
Frustrated with such actions, Israel launched surprise aerial attacks in June 1967 against Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq referred to as the “6-day War.” Thus, Israel put the Gaza Stripe under its control. In November 1967, the Security Council through Resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw its forces from occupied territories of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. But, Israel rejected the Resolution, whereas Gamal Abdel Nasir summoned a meeting of the Arab countries in Cairo to discuss the issue. Shortly after the end of the meeting, however, a distressing news was disseminated i.e. the sudden death of the popular leader Gamal Abdel Nasir due to heart stroke that shocked the entire Arab world.
The next article would highlight the endeavors Egypt made and the outcome registered under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasir to become self-supporting in the agricultural and industrial sectors on the one hand, and the failure it experienced over the past 40 years since Gamal’s death after falling under the western camp through compromising its political independence.