M I D D L EE A S TC R I S I S
The Middle Eastern geopolitical situation between the USA and USSR (1960)
█ / █ United States / US Allies
█ / █ Soviet Union / Soviet Allies
Regional tensions grow, eventual outbreak of war in 1962
Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Middle East Crisis was a period of heightened geopolitical tensions between the Soviet Union and United States in the Middle East, primarily characterized by confrontations, supervise actions and military conflicts between the pro-Soviet and pro-American countries of the region. Competition between the two global superpowers for dominance in the Middle East would result in in a regional arms race. As their respective allies continually accumulated more American or Soviet equipment in a bid to achieve their own security, provide deterrence or prepare for the initiation of conflict. The crisis began in 1957, following the decision of the Iranian government to permit the deployment of Soviet marines and navy assets in Bandar-e Bushehr. The United States, seeing the new Soviet presence as an attempt to disrupt or influence the shipment of Middle Eastern oil, deployed the USS Saratoga as a show-of-force to Iran and the USSR. Both the Soviets and Iranians condemned the actions of the US and even the Soviet Premier Anastas Mikoyan feared a possible US-military strike on Iran. In response the USSR increased arms shipments to Iran, which was followed by a spike of US military sales to the UAR and the deployment of new aircraft and personnel to American military bases in the country.
On December 1st 1957, a military coup in Syria against the ruling Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) reinstated Prime Minister Shukri Al-Quwatli. Although the previous SSNP government had maintained a non-aligned stance in the Cold War it had still received some arms and a handful of military advisors from the USSR. To curry favour with the pro-Western United Arab Republic and the United States, Al-Quwatli expelled the Soviet military advisors and severed ties with Moscow. Syria later joined the UAR in January 1958 sparking a new phase in the regional crisis. In response to having a new border with the UAR through Syria, Israel signed a major arms deal in March 1958 with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The deal came as a shock for the western powers and their regional allies, and was perceived as a major boost for Soviet influence in the Middle East. Following this trend, the pro-communist Mashriqi government of Abdel Karim Qasem began to receive Soviet arms and advisors (most of which were formerly in Syria) beginning in April 1958. In the same year, Qasem announced territorial claims against Kuwait and attempted to seize the region from the United Arab Republic, sparking a major crisis which provoked the deployment of US forces to Kuwait. While the Israeli Defence Forces, armed with Soviet weapons, continued operations against Palestinian Feda'yin in neighbouring Arab states.
Influenced by the "Eisenhower Doctrine" which called for the construction of an anti-Soviet bulwark in the Middle East, the United States steadily increased its military and economic assistance to the United Arab Republic from 1958. Meanwhile both the CIA and Istikhbarat supported actions to undermine the stability of pro-Soviet Middle Eastern regimes, such as during the Ahar Uprising in Iran and the Ayyar Revolution in the Mashriq. However, the Ahar Uprising failed to inspire a wider revolution against the government of Mohammed Mosadeq. In contrast, the Ayyar Revolution of May 1962 successfully overthrow Abdel Karim Qasem which ended a period of heavy communist influence over Mashriqi politics. The new pan-Arab 'National Salvation Government' led by Colonel Abdel Salim Arif expelled Soviet advisors and would later join the United Arab Republic. The coup against Qasem would eventually help spark the 1962 Middle Eastern War, which resulted in an overwhelming Arab victory against Soviet-backed Israel and Iran. Later, yet another geopolitical conflict would rise between the US and Soviet Union over the covert establishment of a US-spy plane base in Tal'afar, close to Iran and Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in September 1962. These tensions would be compounded by the downing of a Soviet Yakovlev Yak-27 reconnaissance aircraft by the United Arab Republic over Tel Tamr on December 23rd 1962.
- 1957 Persian Gulf Crisis & Beginning of the Arms Race
From 1955 to 1957 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) routinely monitored the expansion of military facilities in the Iranian port city of Bandar-e Bushehr, speculating wether these installations were intended for sole usage by the Iranian military. On August 17th 1957 the Iranian and Soviet governments announced a new "Defensive Treaty" entailing the deployment of Soviet forces at Bandar-e Bushehr. The US government interoperated this agreement as part of a Soviet strategy to threaten or influence western imports of Middle Eastern oil and by extension western economic stability. This prospect proved so dangerous to American geopolitical interests that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles proposed a full naval blockade on Iran to pressure Mohammed Mosadeq into abrogating the treaty. Nonetheless, concerned with how the Soviets would respond to such a blockade, Eisenhower rejected the idea in favour of massively increasing the US military presence in the area as a show-of-force to Iran and the USSR. On August 20th the USS Saratoga was deployed from the US Middle East Force Base on Bahrain Island (United Arab Republic) to just outside Iranian territorial waters around Bandar-e Bushehr for "surveillance" activities.
From August 22nd to August 25th large amounts of US military assets were sent to the region. Three USAF squadrons (totalling 36 aircraft) of FJ-3 Fury fighter jets was sent to the joint US-UAR air facility in Bahrain. An additional squadron consisting of 12 of the newly introduced and A-3 Skywarrior strategic bombers was sent to Dammam Airbase. 8,500 American Marines accompanied the aircraft and were stationed in Bahrain to reinforce the existing US garrison, bringing up the presence of American personnel on the island to 18,500. On August 23rd John Foster Dulles flew to Cairo to meet Jamal Abdel Nasser in light of the US military buildup. During the summit, Arab Foreign Minister Abbas Sohliyeh publicly proclaimed that the "USSR is using Iran's strategic geography to enforce their presence and interests in the Middle East against the wishes of the local countries" and that "they [the Soviets] want a base at Bandar-e Bushehr so they can pressure the passage of oil through the Persian Gulf in times of confrontation with the United States." Allegedly, the US military deployments convinced Soviet Premier Anastas Mikoyan that the United States was preparing to strike Iran. The Iranian leadership was also concerned over this possibility and less pro-Moscow officials in Mosadeq's government urged him deescalate the situation by placing new constraints on the Soviet military presence in Iran.
Nonetheless, the defiant Mosadeq denounced the American deployments as "neo-colonial aggression" and declared that "the Iranian nation cannot be intimidated by even one of the worlds strongest militaries." Through the US troop buildup, Eisenhower hoped to demonstrate the continual US preeminence in the Middle East in the face of expanding Soviet-Iranian collaboration while dispelling any assumptions that his administration would retreat from its regional geopolitical commitments under Soviet pressure. In a public address regarding the events in the Persian Gulf, President Eisenhower condemned the Soviet base as a "severe provocation against the interests of the free world and freedom of navigation." Premier Mikoyan bit back, accusing the United States and UAR of trying to control the Persian Gulf and interfering in the political affairs of Iran. Following this, Mosadeq requested greater military assistance from his Soviet allies in response to the American buildup and Mikoyan agreed to reinforce Iran's security with Soviet armoured and infantry divisions. The Soviet government also agreed to a large arms deal with their Iranian allies, worth over $80-million worth of modern Soviet weaponry including T-55 and PT-76 tanks, Tupolev Tu-16 bombers, MiG-19 fighters as well as D-1 howitzers. Iran's acquisition of long-range Tupolev Tu-16 bombers was especially worrying for the United States and its local allies, fearing that they could be used to target oil production facilities, pipelines and US military bases in eastern Arabia. After realizing that neither Mikoyan or Mosadeq would back down, the US government changed tactics and began to gradually withdraw the forces it had deployed in mid-August. Simultaneously, American and Arab negotiation teams began discussions regarding a new Arab-American arms deal in response to the Soviet-Iranian one. And President Eisenhower personally assured Nasser that the UAR would receive batteries of the new XM3E1 (MIM-23 Hawk) system once it had been completed. In the meantime, the United States sold numerous weapons systems, such as M48 Patton and Sherman tanks, M3 half-tracks, M7 Priests, M40 recoilless rifles, Sikorsky H-34 helicopters, F-102 Delta Dagger interceptors, F-100 Super Sabre jets and M114 155 mm howitzers to the Qusa'ad throughout 1957 and 1958.
1957 Overthrow of the Syrian Government