The Middle East during the Cold War


The Middle East in the Cold War was an area of extreme importance and also great instability. The region lay directly south of the Soviet Union, who traditionally had great influence in Turkey and Iran. The area also had vast reserves of oil, not crucial for either superpower in the 1950s (who each held large oil reserves on their own) but essential for the rapidly rebuilding American allies in Europe and Japan.

The original American plan for the Middle East was to form a defensive perimeter along the north of the region. Thus Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan signed the Baghdad Pact and joined CENTO. The Eastern response was to seek influence in states such as Syria and Egypt. Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria made arms deals to Egypt and Syria, giving Warsaw Pact members a strong presence in the region. Egypt, a former British protectorate, was one of the region’s most important prizes with a large population and political power throughout the region. British forces were thrown out by General Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956, when he nationalized the Suez Canal. Syria was a former French protectorate.

1. The Arab-Israeli conflict
1.1. The origins

Palestine was a British colony until 1948. At the end of World War II, the surviving Jews from the Holocaust in Europe decide guided by the Theodor Herzl’s Zionist (ideology advocating that Jews have the right to live in the region of Palestine, from where they were expelled in the first century after Christ. This movement is the solution to the anti-Semitism that Jews had suffered since their expulsion from Palestine).


The Jews began to emigrate to the British colony of Palestine in 1945. However, the situation was not so simple as it seems at first glance: Palestine was occupied by Muslim Arabs, who lived there for centuries. The conflict between Arabs and Jews are to begin. UN decides to put an end to the problem and creates the Jewish State (55% of the territory of Palestine was granted to you), the Arab State, and the city of Jerusalem, happened to be governed by the UN.

In 1948 the British leave Palestine and Gurrión, the israeli leader, proclaims the Jewish State. The Palestinian Arabs had the support of neighboring countries, which also Arabs, believed that the Jews had invaded Palestine without having the right to do so. A coalition of Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians attacked the newborn Jewish State. The Jews, who have just arrived from an industrialized Europe, brought with it a greater military technology than the Arabs and this is why, despite being fewer in number, were winners of this conflict and occupied 78% of the territory, ignoring the partition Plan of the UN.

1.2. The Arab-Israeli wars: the six-day war and el Yom Kippur de Guerra

In 1956 Nasser, leader of Egypt, decides nationalizing the Suez canal, which means to impose fees to the input and output of products by the channel. This produces tensions on the international scene, especially between the two great powers of the cold war. The Soviet Union decided to “support” to the Arab Middle East (Egypt, Syria…) and United States, on the other hand, provides its support to the Jewish State. At the end of the conflict the three allies (Britain, France and Israel), especially Israel, were mainly successful in attaining their immediate military objectives, but pressure from the United States and the USSR at the United Nations and elsewhere forced them to withdraw. As a result of the outside pressure Britain and France failed in their political and strategic aims of controlling the canal and removing Nasser from power. Israel fulfilled some of its objectives, such as attaining freedom of navigation through the Straits of Tiran .

Then, Egypt blocked the Gulf of Akaba, the only way out of the Jews to the Indian Ocean in 1967. This causes a Jewish reaction, attacking the region of Palestine, appropriating this of the Gaza Strip, the mountains of Sinai in Syria and Jerusalem. This conflict is known as the six-day war.

Three years earlier, in 1964 created the PLO ( The Palestine Liberation Organization ) directed by Yasser Arafat, which is supported by the surrounding Arab States of Palestine. At that time, thousands of Palestinians are exiled and have taken refuge in the surrounding Arab States. Arafat aims to reunite the Palestinian people and once reinforced, attacking the Jewish State and recover Palestine. However in 1970, Jordan expelled the Palestinians of the country due to the number of refugees had grown to become unsustainable, and these exile again, this time to the Lebanon.

In 1970, the new President of Egypt, Anuar Sadat decided to prepare a war against Israel with Syria and the PLO , since it refused to return to Palestinian territories occupied in the 6-day war. In 1973, during the Jewish holiday of the Yom Kippur, the Arabs attacked Israel, and although they do important territorial readers, but 10 days later the Israelites regain the occupied territories. The superpowers USA and the USSR decided to halt the war to avoid more instability in the area. Opens therefore a negotiation phase culminating in the Camp David Treaty, in 1979 between the Egyptian President and the israeli Prime Minister.
In 1974 the PLO is recognized by the UN as the only representatives of the Palestinian people.palestina-21de0

2. Conflicts in the Middle East
At the end of the de el Yom Kippur Guerra contradictory events occur. And it is that although on the one hand, the war leads to the signing of peace between Israel and Egypt (1979), new tensions arise in the Lebanon, Iran and Iraq. These stresses his home during this period and provide a preview of what will be the international scene at the end of the cold war.


 2.2 Islamic revolution in Iran
Before 1979, there was a corrupt dictatorship with a great American influence in Iran. Modernizing reforms undertaken by the S been Mohammad Reza Pahlavi provoked a widespread social unrest, which the Shiite clergy took the opportunity to control the situation.

Assault at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran

In March 1979 Khomeini proclaimed the Islamic Republic. Establishing a Constitution based on the more radical Islam’s principles . The regime was strict and tried to remove any Western influence. And it is that the own Khomeini called the United States as “The great Satan”. Anti-American sentiment was above and beyond, and is that Islamic students attacked the U.S. Embassy in November 1979, it was directly facing the superpower. Their suspicion was not limited only to Western countries, since it condemned the USSR of Communists and atheists.

2.3. Iran-Iraq war

The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein wanted to strengthen the position of his country in the area of the Persian Gulf. He believed that the Islamic revolution that had taken place in 1979 at the hands of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Shia in Iran clergy had weakened to the neighboring country and saw a good opportunity to attack them and get in this situation of alleged weakness the annexation of Shatt al-Arab. On the other hand, Hussein had superpowers to help him. And in fact, it happened.

Before the confrontation between these two country, two contenders of the Cold war look elsewhere and in fact, help Iraq militarily. Iran and its recent revolution Islamic suponian the powers one danger both Western to the USSR. However and despite could boast about victory in Iraq, the attack becomes stagnant and begins a long war ending in 1988 while Saddam Hussein got none of their purposes to strengthen the Iraqi position in the Middle East.Chemical_weapon1

2.4 The Gulf war- Invasion of Kuwait

The Invasion of Kuwait, also known as the Iraq-Kuwait War, was a major conflict between the Ba’ Ba’athist Iraq and the State of Kuwait, which resulted in the seven-month long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, and subsequently led to direct military intervention by American-led forces in the Persian Gulf War .


Persian Gulf War


President George W.Bush in Arabia Saudi

In 1990, Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing Iraqi petroleum through slant drilling, although someIraqi sources indicated Saddam HusseinCompleto decision to attack Kuwait was made only a few months before the actual invasion.Somefeel there were several reasons for the Iraqi move, including Iraq’s inability to pay more than $80 billion that had been borrowed to finance the Iran-Iraq war and Kuwaiti overproduction of petroleum which kept revenues down for Iraq. The invasion started on 2 August 1990, and within two days of intense combat, most of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard or escaped to neighboring Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The state of Kuwait was annexed, and Hussein announced in a few days that it was the 19th province of Iraq .

U.S. President George H. w. Bush deployed U.S. forces into Saudi Arabia , and urged other countries to send their own forces to the scene. An array of nations joined the Coalition. The great majority of the Coalition’s military forces were from the U.S., with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Saudi Arabia paid around US$ 36 billion of the US$ 60 billion cost

For further information visit:

Ablett, Eric. “El conflicto del Oriente Medio. “Wikispaces. 2013. Tangient LLC. 28/04/2013


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