The Middle East

on the World Today

A REVERSION to neutralism is the likeliest response of the Arab peoples of the Middle East to the stepped-up Russian peace offensive. This region which has been least involved in the cold war now appears to be least affected by such Soviet overtures to the East as that “ renouncing” claims to the Turkish provinces of Kars and Ardahan. Arab memories are long. You still hear bitter references to the Crusades in Beirut coffeehouses. It is recalled there now that the Soviets once before made a dramatic renunciation of this same Turkish territory at a time, in 1921, when the Persian Gulf was being referred to in Moscow as the Suez of the Revolution.

On their own home front Arab leaders continue to recount the series of Allied promises of independence made to them during both World Wars, and to brood resentfully over the loss of Palestine. That defeat they attribute to both the U.S.S.R. and the Western powers, whose collaboration at the UN made possible the creation of Israel.

It is characteristic, therefore, that neither President Eisenhower’s expressed interest in winning their friendship nor the visit of Secretary of State Dulles last spring should have dispelled their skepticism about any shift of American policy in their favor. They have remained equally unmoved by Soviet gestures in their direction, notably during the recent Soviet campaign against Zionism.

Secretary of State Dulles’s report on the Middle East when he returned from his visits there indicated clearly that he sensed this impalpable neutralist spirit and recognized that any workable U.S. policy must come to terms with it. Three days in Cairo were sufficient to convince him that any extension of the NATO defense system to the Arab states is at present impracticable.

“No such system can be imposed from without,” Dulles reported. “It should be designed and grow from within out of a sense of common destiny.” He was careful to say of the burning issue of Suez that he found nothing irreconcilable between international concern over the Canal Zone bases and “Egyptian sovereignty.”Further on he stated pointedly: “We cannot afford to be distrusted by millions who could be sturdy friends of freedom.”

But the most significant of Dulles’s findings on the Middle East countries was the distinction he came to make between nationalism and Communism. In public statements before his journey he had attributed most Arab unrest to Communist propaganda. His meetings with Arab leaders in their capitals, and hours of careful listening to their impassioned appeals, obviously impressed him with the real purposes and strength of the Kemalist type of reform movements which they lead. Dulles became aware that their efforts to build an Islamic version of the welfare state, their emphasis on discipline and patriotism, all provide through the socalled Arab Liberation movement an alternative rallying point for the discontented who would tend otherwise to embrace Communism.

Naguib’s leasership

So far, while there is a good deal of talk about reform in all the Arab states today, under a whole new cast of leadership, it is in Egypt and Syria that Islamic socialism comes nearest to emerging. There are significant parallels between the exhortations of General Naguib in Egypt and General Shishakli in Syria to their increasingly large followings.

Both stress that the Arabs must draw inspiration from their great Islamic heritage; that latent energies must be mobilized for the reconstruction of Arab society; that the state has responsibility for the material welfare of the people; and that “selfrespect and confidence” must be regained through improving their own military strength.

Beyond these common principles there are differences in detail. Egypt benefits from the moderate influence and magnetic personality of General Naguib, who has attracted to his cause the best brains and most enlightened element among Egyptians. ft stands in a favorable light, too, for its open-door policy towards the West, in contrast to Syria’s defensive xenophobia.

In dealing with Communism, Naguib has offered Egyptian Communist sympathizers a second chance; and many have deserted the Communist cause to work with his reform government. As a result Egypt’s Communist Party is reported to have been much weakened. Syria continues to suppress all Communist activity, along with any other opposition to the present regime — a situation which the new constitution may deal with more adequately. Both states, however, are setting a new pace for Arab leaders in the neighboring countries, where echoes of the same general program of reform are now being heard.

Dulles looks for new allies

From Cairo to Karachi, then, Secretary Dulles and Mutual Security Director Stassen heard the same theme with local variations; and admittedly they learned at first hand something of the character of Arab nationalism. It is clear gain for both sides, therefore, that they made their pilgrimage to the East before undertaking a review of U.S. policy there.

This review still goes on. Its purpose is to find ways to improve relations with the Arab East while maintaining firm friendship for Israel. The minimum goal is that the U.S. shall not, as Dulles put it, he distrusted. The maximum goal has been to enlist the Arab stall’s, along with Israel, in a Middle East defense system which would reinforce the line now held by Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey.

In Western eyes, if Alexandretta, Haifa, and Suez were freely available and the back roads through the Arab and Israeli desert open to Allied reinforcements, some security for the region would be assured. But in the Arab view this Allied design means that once again they may be overrun; that they may, at best, become victims of scorched-earth tactics and, at worst, of outright conflict on their soil. Given their history of exploitation by the great powers, and their chronic sense of grievance, it is understandable that Allied talk of another Middle East Command arouses resistance, and that the Arab states should seek refuge from the dilemma imposed by their geography in isolationism.

Arab resistance to the idea of collective security under Western tutelage has been most forcefully illustrated in the dispute with Britain over the bases in the Suez Canal Zone. The army junta now running Egypt has, unfortunately, staked its prestige on driving out not only British forces but British technicians from the chain of air and supply bases running from Suez to Port Said. At the same time General Naguib and his right-hand adviser, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, hope to build up their own military strength and that of an all-Arab command with Western arms and aid,

This dual objective of getting Britain out but assuring a supply of British jets and U.S. arms illustrates a characteristic ambivalence toward the West throughout the Arab states. The chance that U.S. policy makers must continue to weigh is whether, by encouraging the moderate revolutionaries of Egypt by such support, the U.S. will, in fact, be helping to stabilize the Middle East.

Unqueslionably arms and economic aid are the twin levers of power which the U.S. can use to win Arab good will. But they will not be used without full guarantees that there will be no second round with Israel, or without full consultation with Britain.

Suez and Egypt’s sovereignty

The British dilemma at Suez has been summed up by the Cairo correspondent of the London Times. “It may well be,” he wrote, “that satisfactory relations with Egypt and the other Middle East stales are not to be obtained so long as Britain is a suppliant for facilities on their territory to defend them against dangers which they do not feel to be imminent.”

It is becoming increasingly clear also that the useful role of India and Pakistan as Commonwealth members may be at stake if Egyptian nationalism is completely thwarted at Suez. The problem on all sides remains to find a formula whereby Egyptian sensitivity about the appearance of extraterritoriality at the Canal bases is assuaged without abandoning them completely.

The Egyptian solution, offered Dulles as an alternative to British control of the bases, is a joint Arab military command which would “associate" itself with Britain and the U.S. but retain control over all Arab forces and installations. It is symptomatic of the times in Arab-Asian relations with the West that, on the matter of sovereignty for Egypt, Indian and Pakistani support is unequivocal; while the question of security of the Canal Zone cannot but concern them to the extent of urging some form of joint management of its installations.

Arab refusal of formal alliance with the West in this crucial instance does not at this stage mean rejection of all Western ties. It is significant that the protection of foreigners and maintenance of security are recurrent themes of official addresses by members of the Revolutionary Council. A British threat to remove British civilian nationals from the country because of the Suez dispute has been countered by repeated assurances that the European community is welcome and safe in Egypt.

Religious tolerance is another point stressed. General Naguib made a point of visiting both a synagogue and a Coptic church during his first year in office as Premier. Colonel Nasser has stated publicly that Jews in Egypt are to continue to have complete freedom and equal rights as Egyptian citizens. In this respect Egypt and Lebanon stand in favorable contrast to Syria, where minorities are rapidly losing civil rights.

Bolstering Egypt‘s economy

On the economic front the Egyptian government has demonstrated unmistakably its desire to strengthen ties with the West. Thomas D. Cabot, who visited Egypt at its request with a mission of U.S. industrialists earlier in the year, has reported an urgent interest there in industrialization with U.S. or international aid. He points out that the best hope of economic salvation for the country lies in water storage by means of damming the Nile near Aswan. He estimates the potential increase in arable land as ten times the cost of the dam, which would also assure some 2 million kilowatts of steady power for industry.

Mr. Cabot considers the project a good financial risk, but concedes that a loan which could only be secured by Egyptian cotton would not appeal to the United States Government. He notes that the lack of a parliament to ratify an international loan blocks that solution, but urges serious consideration of this means of bolstering up Egypt’s economy.

Meanwhile an expanded Point Four program is under way in Egypt. Under a recent agreement U.S. technicians will assist the government in reclaiming large tracts of marshland south of Cairo near Fayoum and north in the province of Baheira. Some 16,000 families will be helped to buy farms in the new areas and trained in managing them under the direction of E. R. Fryer, former Assistant Administrator of the Technical Coöperation Administration.

Too little water

U.S., British, and UN efforts to shore up Jordan financially and help it become a viable state can have only marginal success because of the political impasse between Jordan and Israel. The announcement several months ago that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees had signed an agreement with Jordan for a $40 million power and irrigation project in the Jordan valley raises an old question in the valley. It is the problem of utilizing fully the waters of the Jordan and its chief tributary, the Yarmuk, in a divided Palestine.

Long before partition it was realized by all concerned that the irrigation of the coastal plain and the Negev desert, envisioned by Zionist planners, would require taking most, if not all, of the water from the Jordan through a system of reservoirs and canals to the desert in the south, This would necessarily leave much of the Jordan valley without water. With the accomplishment of partition, Israel acquired access to the Jordan’s headwaters and to Lake Huleh. She secured as well the southern outlet of Lake Tiberias.

Jordan, however, retains control of the Yarmuk, which rises in Syria. Any scheme, then, which involves diverting water from the Yarmuk for the benefit of farmers and some of the Arab refugees in Jordan runs up against the over-all problem of just division and full utilization of the entire river. It also raises the frequently overlooked point that there is not enough water in these streams to irrigate both the Jordan valley, as Jordan requires be done, and the coastal and desert regions now belonging to Israel.

Jordana valley TVA?

This is the basic economic problem of divided Palestine. To meet it the P.S. and UNRWA have been trying to use the TVA approach, treating the rivers as part of one system. Dulles stressed this again in his remark that he and Stassen had the impression that refugee relief funds “can well be spent . . . on a coördinated use of the rivers which run through the Arab countries and Israel.”

The difficulty now, as it has been for previous U.S. and UN administrators, is to bridge the political abyss which has, for example, immobilized for five years a Palestine hydroelectric station just below Tiberius because ihe water there belongs to Israel and 1the station to Jordan.

Dulles indicated in his summary of his trip his awareness of t his political cleavage and its implications for ihe U.S. With his announced purpose of reassuring the Arabs as to U.S. impartiality, he included several hints of contemplated action on their behalf. He noted the special character of Jerusalem, as the holy place of three faiths, adding that this had been repeatedly emphasized by the United Nations and that the world religious community has claims in Jerusalem which take precedence over the political claims of any particular nation.

Speaking of the Arab refugees, he remarked that some of them could be settled in the area presently eontrolled by Israel, but most could more readily fit into neighboring stales, once irrigated land is available. He suggested concessions on both sides in the political impasse.

Statements like these have raised Arab hopes. But it would take politically difficult decisions, backed by the U.S. Congress, to accomplish the Administration’s minimum goal of winning confidence in the Middle East. The maximum goal of collective security remains, as the Secretary acknowledged, for the future. Its final achievement becomes doubly difficult in the face of the new Soviet peace strategy.