11/11/08 - nasser and the king of iraq

In today's excerpt - in the late 1940s and 1950s the countries that had been the unwilling colonies and protectorates of Britain and the West began to rebel. A leading voice on this in the Middle East was Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) of Egypt, who had seized his power in a coup, wrested control of the Suez canal away from Britain and had grandiose plans for development in Egypt, along with a vision for pan-Arab nationalism. In Iraq, however, the king that Britain had installed over that country remained:

"Throughout the Middle East, nationalism was building to a crescendo and Nasser was its driving force. Suez had been a great victory for him proving that a Middle Eastern country could triumph not only against 'imperialistic' companies but also against the might of Western governments. He had extirpated the ignominy of Mossadegh's failure [in Iran where he had been democratically elected but then overthrown and replaced by the Shah in a U.S. and British-led coup]. And now a notable technological innovation the cheap transistor radio was carrying his rousing voice to the poor masses throughout the Arab world making him a hero everywhere.

"In 1958, further adding to Nasser's laurels Egypt finally bamboozled a reluctant and skeptical Soviet Union into providing the funding to build the Aswan Dam. In the same year, in a great symbol of Nasser's appeal, Syria joined Egypt to form the United Arab Republic, seemingly the first step in the realization of his dream of pan-Arabism. The apparent merger ominously brought together two countries which—with the Suez Canal in Egypt and the Saudi and Iraqi pipelines passing through Syria—dominated the transit routes for Middle Eastern petroleum. Nasser was at least theoretically in a position to threaten single-handedly or actually even to choke off most of that supply. In order to counter what the British ambassador to Iraq called Nasser's 'stranglehold', discussions ensued about quickly building Iraqi pipelines to the Persian Gulf as well as an export terminal at Fao on the Gulf. But then the situation in the region and in Iraq itself went from bad to what seemed a total disaster.

"For three years, Nasser had been conducting a virulent propaganda war against Iraq and the Hashemites, the British-backed Royal Family that had been installed by Great Britain on a newly created throne in Baghdad after World War I. In July 1958, officers plotting a coup [against the Royal Family] told their troops the far-fetched story that they had been ordered [by the King] to march to Israel and surrender their weapons. That was sufficient to get the soldiers to support a rebellion. The coup that followed set off an explosion of violence and savagery. Crowds surged through the streets holding aloft huge photographs of Nasser along with live squirming dogs, which represented the Iraqi Royal Family. King Faisal himself was beheaded by troops that stormed the palace. The Crown Prince was shot and his hands and feet were hacked off and carried through the city. His mutilated body along with those of a number of other officials was dragged through the streets and then hung from a balcony at the Ministry of Defense. The pro-Western Prime Minister Nuri es-Said was recognized as he tried to flee the city, apparently disguised as a woman, and was lynched on the spot by a mob. His body too was hauled through the streets and then a car was driven back and forth over it until it was flattened almost beyond recognition."


Daniel Yergin


The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power


Free Press a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


Copyright 1991, 1992, 2008 by Daniel Yergin


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment