Anglo-American military interventions in Lebanon and Jordan in July 1958 were the result, respectively, of the Suez crisis of 1956 and the setback of relations between the U.S. and Syria during the summer of 1957. After meeting the Anglo-French with strong resistance, the Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser emerged as Egypt’s hero, and an undeniable leader in fighting colonialism and supporting the movement for independence and unity of the Arab world. In Syria, the socialist Baath regime had already turned to the Soviet Union, engaging in close financial and military relations. On Oct. 13, 1957, during the Syrian crisis, Egyptian forces landed on Syrian shores to protect the country against a possible Turkish attack, and the following February Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic. Iraq, the front-runner in founding the Baghdad Pact (1955), was concerned about Nasser’s plans for the Middle East and established the Arab Union with Jordan in opposition to Nasser. However, on July 14, 1958, pro-Nasser and other revolutionary elements in Iraq enacted a military coup, overthrowing the monarchy. The danger posed by the formation of a powerful Cairo-Baghdad arc and the Arab nationalists spurred the regimes in Lebanon and Jordan to ask the West to engage in a military initiative for their protection. The U.S. and Britain’s reaction was direct and dynamic.
U.S. Marines Deploy in Beirut
In 1956, the pro-West, Maronite Christian Camille Chamoun was the newly-elected president of Lebanon. He carried out administrative and electoral reforms, remained neutral on intra-Arab conflicts, was on friendly terms with all the great powers and avoided being drawn into the Cold War vortex. However, due to a series of internal and external factors, such as resentment created among Muslims by favorable pro-Christian government policy; Chamoun’s attempt to amend the constitution so as to have the right to run for president once more; the government’s acceptance of the Eisenhower Doctrine; the deterioration of the country’s relations with the Syrian and Egyptian radical regimes; and the impact the founding of the United Arab Republic (UAR) had on Lebanese Muslims led the country to the brink of civil war between Muslims and Christians who supported the president (May-June 1958). The former, with numbers that had increased significantly after the country’s independence in 1943, demanded more civil rights and social-economic benefits, and were putting pressure on Lebanon to be linked with the newly founded UAR. The latter would not carry out a population census to avoid being forced to reform the political system, aiming for the preservation of the country’s pro-Western stance. On July 15, after the coup in Iraq, Chamoun called for assistance from the U.S., meanwhile warning the ambassadors of the U.S., France and Britain that if the West did not intervene in 48 hours, he would be assassinated and Lebanon would become the UAR’s satellite country.
In Washington, there was obvious concern for the new challenge created by Nasserism. While the coup in Iraq was under way, the Americans decided not to rely on the United Nations or the United States' Arab allies as they had done in the case of Syria the previous year, but to act dynamically to protect their interests in the Middle East. On July 15, marines landed on the coast of Halde in Lebanon and in a few hours occupied the Beirut airport and port, and then other military hot spots in the country. On Oct. 25, U.S. Army forces backed out of the country when Chamoun’s term as president expired and political normality was restored.
King Hussein Requests U.S. Paratroops Come to Amman
Concerning Jordan, Britain provided protection. In May 1946, when the British Mandate for Jordan ended, the country was declared independent. However, Britain maintained its influence through a network of consultants, military officials and specialists in development issues. Grass-roots reaction against British presence increased after creating the Baghdad Pact, and in March 1956 King Hussein was forced to remove the British commander of the Arab Legion, Lieutenant General John Bagot Glubb. In the 1956 parliamentary elections, National Front pro-Nasser leader Sulayman al-Nabulsi dominated the termination of the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty of 1948, asking the Parliament to recognize the Soviet Union and communist China. Furthermore, he carried out military and administrative reforms, rejected the Eisenhower Doctrine and secured financial support from the Arab World to replace British funding. His first step toward a political unification with the neighboring country, Syria, was to achieve close economic cooperation. However, in order to avoid the country’s political swing to the left, King Hussein dismissed his Cabinet and in April 1957, after dealing successfully with two attempted coups, expelled pro-Nasserist and socialist ministers from Parliament and imposed a royal dictatorship.
After the formation of the United Arab Republic, King Hussein felt threatened and proceeded to a federal union with Iraq, which was being ruled by King Faisal II, his uncle. In good time, the unification was dissolved due to the overthrow of King Faisal II’s monarchy. Then, Hussein asked Britain for help, not only to deal with a probable coup from pro-Nasser elements active in the country, but also to combat the threat of Syria’s military intervention. On July 17, about 1,500 British paratroopers were transferred from Cyprus to Jordan and occupied the Amman military airport, important government buildings and major transportation hubs. Thus, stability in the monarchy was secured.
During military operations in these two Arab countries, there was close cooperation between the U.S. and Britain. The Americans used the British military bases in Cyprus for the Lebanon operation, and helped the British by transferring supplies from Cyprus to Amman. Moreover, facilitated by Americans, Israel allowed the entering of British aircraft in its airspace.
U.S. intervention in Lebanon established their determination in protecting pro-Western regimes and dealing with Arab nationalist and communist threats in the Middle East. Stability in Lebanon was restored; however, social-economic problems were not resolved. In 1975, a fierce civil war broke out and the U.S. was forced to deal with new challenges concerning their Middle East strategy. On the other hand, Britain, despite its successful intervention in Jordan, could not maintain its political and military position in the area. For the U.S., the country that was going to be the Middle East stronghold from now on of Western interests was not Britain, but Turkey. The birth of special Turkish-American relations was expressed through the provision of great U.S. financial support to Turkey following 1957-1958, founding the Central Treaty Organization in Ankara under the leadership of the U.S. and politically backing Turkey concerning the Cyprus issue.