Arab Countries post-World War II – COLD WAR

Arab Countries post-World War II – COLD WAR

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in
the wake of the First World War, almost all of the Arab countries fell under the domination
of either France or of Great Britain through the Mandate System. This system gave provisional
independence to these countries but still allowed for administrative control from the
Great Powers until these countries were seen as being able to stand truly independently.
I am your host David and today we are going to discuss the situation in the Arab countries
in the aftermath of the Second World War so that we have a clearer understanding of one
of the most volatile regions in the second half of the 20th Century. This is…The Cold
War. The French were in control of Algeria, Morocco,
Tunisia, considered part of the Maghreb, as well as Syria and Lebanon. The British found
themselves controlling Sudan, South Yemen, Oman and the Gulf states, as well as Iraq,
Palestine, and Transjordan. Egypt, while nominally independent, was highly reliant on the British,
with thousands of British army troops deployed there. As you might expect, slowly, but surely
nationalist forces grew in numbers and confidence and started to demand more self governance.
The Second World War, and the resulting weakening of both Great Britain and France only increased
hopes and demands for full independence. So, before we start looking at specific situations,
it is necessary to recognize that the level of political maturity was different from country
to country. In some areas where tribal loyalties were paramount, or where the peasantry remained
apolitical, the idea of self-conscious nationhood had little reality. In the Arab world, the
line was often far from clear between loyalty to an individual “nation” such as Egypt
or Iraq when compared to the wider loyalty to a pan-Arab idea. And then of course, you
need to include a rapidly increasing Jewish population and the emergence of the State
of Israel following the Second World War, which added another dimension to the political
struggle in the Arab countries. So we are going to start by talking about
the positions of the two Superpowers as well as the two Great Powers who effectively controlled
the Arab countries we are going to talk about. After that, we’ll talk more about the specific
countries themselves. Great Britain understood that it would be
difficult to maintain its empire as it was before the Second World War. Prime Minister
Clement Atlee talked about Britain having “no desire to retain unwilling peoples”,
while the Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin stated that Britain wish “to leave behind forever
the idea of one country dominating the other.” The British plan was to sign agreements with
each of the Arab states and accept them as independent states while still arranging to
maintain some low level of dependence from each of the states upon Great Britain. However,
the increase of nationalism and the low-level of trust that stemmed from the ongoing colonial
process prevented these plans from being realized. For example, by late 1945, Egypt and Britain
had begun to renegotiate the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Agreement, which had stipulated that the British
military was restricted to ten thousand troops in Egypt for the defence of the Suez Canal
and maintained joint governance of Sudan, but with the real power resting with the British.
In the renegotiation, Britain would only offer minor concessions, insisting on its continued
military control of the Suez Canal as well refusing to rule out the possibility of the
recognition of an independent Sudan. Rioting against the new agreement broke out across
Egypt and Britain was forced to withdraw its troop presence from the majority of Egypt
back into to the Suez Canal area. A similar process occurred in Iraq, where Britain tried
to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government on a new treaty in late 1947, which would
have allowed the British to maintain control over the military bases at Habbanlya and Shucayba
as well as granted access to other Iraqi facilities in the event of war. By January 1948, rioting
in Baghdad against the negotiations was sufficient to cause the Iraqi government to break off
the proposed treaty. France, despite having been devastated by
the war, or perhaps because of it, was very keen on continuing its control of its Arab
colonies. In Syria, it vehemently opposed attempts at independence for the country,
and in May of 1945, anti-French demonstrations in Damascus and Aleppo were met with bombs
and machine guns and serious fighting also erupted in Homs and Hamah This was the 3rd
time in 20 years the French had responded to Syrian independence protests in the manner.
It was only under threat of British intervention, proposed by Winston Churchill, that General
Charles de Gaulle ordered a cease-fire. A UN Resolution in February of 1946 called on
France to vacate Syria, to which the acceded and mid April 15, 1946 all French troops were
clear of Syrian soil. French reluctance to lose its colonies in the Maghreb, in North
West Africa was even more intransigent, with Tunisia not gaining independence until 1956
and Algeria taking until 1962, after a brutal war of independence, costing the lives of
over 150,000 people. We here at the Cold War Channel will be covering this in more detail
in future episodes so make sure to stay tuned! So that was the position of the regional powers
but where did the two Superpowers stand on all of this? The Soviet Union, for it’s
part, was keen to increase its influence in the region while simultaneously decreasing
the power and influence of the Western Powers. The Soviets held an advantage as Arab nationalism
was largely aimed at British and French imperialism as they had not personally faced any threat
from the Soviet Union. Soviet attempts at direct control in the region began as early
as the 1945 Potsdam Conference where they proposed the USSR have a special trusteeship
over Tripolitania in Libya. As you might have already guessed, this was firmly rejected.
However, for the most part, the main tactics of the Soviet Union consisted of propaganda,
penetration, and diplomatic maneuvering. In effect, they did everything they could to
make life more difficult for the British and French .
However, the Soviet Union did opt to support the creation of Israel and recognize the right
of the Jewish population to its own state. This, as you can well imagine, alienated the
Arab countries against Soviet influence. When war broke out in May of 1948, Pravda argued
that “with all its sympathy for the national liberation of the Arab Peoples, the Soviet
public cannot but condemn the aggression of the Arab states against the right of the Jewish
people to create their own state in accordance with the decision of the UN General Assembly”.
The United States, for its part, had assumed a preeminent role in global affairs in the
wake of the Second World War and this of course included the Middle East. It declared its
unequivocal support for the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine and, with the British
increasingly unable to exert its own influence in the region, leaned on the Americans heavily
for support. As evidence of this, within a short time, the size of the US Navy in the
Mediterranean outstripped that of the Royal Navy.
OK, so that gives an idea of the interests and strategies of the Great Powers in the
Arab countries. So, now we should look at those countries themselves.
We’ll start with Egypt, a kingdom that had long been under the significant influence
of Great Britain. Led by King Farouk, Egypt was becoming more and more difficult for the
British to influence as anti-British sentiments grew. Tensions grew even further as London
refused to recognize Sudan as a part of Egypt, over which they had long held a claim. Egypt’s
support of the Arab cause in Palestine, followed by Israel’s victory during the First Arab-Israeli
War, further contributed to this disillusionment and political instability. This instability
was characterised by assassination, which included the Prime Minister Mahmoud El Nokrashy
Pasha by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was followed by the assassination of
Hasan Al-Banna, himself the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Elections, held in 1950,
were won by the Nationalist Wafd Party, largely due to the boycotting of the elections by
the Muslim Brotherhood, and the instability issues continued to plague the country. By
1952, the nationalist Free Officers movement, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, had overthrown
the monarchy and established military supremacy over the government, setting the stage almost
uninterrupted dictatorship in the country. Iraq, for its part, was a monarchy, ruled
by Faisal II, a member of the Hashemite family and the government was led by the pro-western
Nuri as-Said. As I had mentioned earlier in this episode, as-Said had agreed with the
British in 1948, to allow them access and influence over military installations in Iraq,
which would have also lent a great deal of influence to the British over the Iraqi military
and its overall foreign policy. The so-called Portsmouth agreement was highly unpopular
and as a result of much domestic unrest, the treaty was cancelled. Political instability,
combined with the governments continued pro-Western policies eventually led to a military dictatorship
in 1958. Led by a Nationalist group known as the Free Officers, a new military government
was established under Abd al-Karim Qasim. Jordan in the post-wat period, was ruled by
the Hashemites, like Iraq was and was given full independence from Britain in 1946. Unlike
in Iraq however, Jordan accepted British military use of bases in Jordan and continued the support
of the British financed Arab Legion, the Jordanian army, under the London Treaty. Jordan participated
in the First Arab-Israeli War as a part of the Arab Coalition and was able to expel Jewish
forces from East Jerusalem as well as take control of the West Bank. It is important
to note here that the war created an estimated half a million Palestinian refugees, living
in Jordan. The Palestinian refugee issue will become a central theme in Middle Eastern politics
as the Cold War progresses. East Jerusalem and the West Bank, were formally annexed by
Jordan in 1949, a move that was tolerated by the British and the Israelis but was vehemently
opposed by the rest of the Arab world. This left King Abdulla isolated and, in 1951, he
was assassinated by Mustafa Shukri Ashu, a Palestinian. Abdullah was succeed by Talal
bin Abdullah, who ushered in a new constitution for Jordan in 1952 before being forced to
abdicate as a result of mental health issues. He was succeeded by King Hussein, who retained
the monarchy until his death in 1999. Syria, part of the French Mandate after World
War One, had proclaimed its independence as early as 1941, but France looked to regain
its control over the country in the post-war period. As we discussed earlier, the French
used force of arms to try and reassert itself in Syria, however, as a result of international
pressure from both the British as well as the United Nations, French forces withdrew.
Syria was a more democratic state in nature than the other Arab nations but was still
troubled by political instability. By 1949, Syria’s democratic government had been overthrown
in a military coup, likely backed by the CIA. This initiated a period of extended instability,
with political control switching back and forth between civilian and military forces.
Between 1946 and 1956, Syria had 20 different cabinets and drafted four separate constitutions.
Lebanon, ethnically and religiously diverse, united in opposition to French repressions.
This unified opposition, together with pressure from the British and Americans, forced the
French to release all political prisoners in Lebanon, ending the French Mandate on the
22nd of November, 1943, which incidentally is still celebrated as Lebanon’s Independence
day. Leaders of the various communities created and signed the National Pact, stipulating
the following; that Lebanon would always remain independent, Christian communities would cease
to identify themselves with the West, and Arab communities would not seek to merge with
any Arab country. Also, Lebanon would continue to maintain its spiritual and intellectual
ties to the West while at the same time would still closely cooperate with other Arab states
but without taking sides in the event of conflict. Finally, top government posts would be divided
among the leaders of the various communities; the President of the Republic would be a Marionite
Christian, the Prime Minsiter would be a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies
would be a Shia Muslim. Although Lebanonwas more economically and politically developed
than most Arab countries, it did not take long for internal divisions in the country
to begin to deepen and entrench themselves. In the Maghreb, France was the long-time colonial
master in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, while Libya had been under Italian colonial rule
until the Second World War. The French for their part, like in Syria and Lebanon, were
reluctant to give their colonies independence and practiced a policy of both repression
and half-measures intended to keep them inside the Empire.
In Algeria, the police arrested Algeria’s nationalist leader Messali Hadj as well as
raiding suspecting centres of dissident activity. These repressions resulted in the official
deaths of 1,500 Algerians although there are some estimates that place the death toll at
closer to 45,000 people. France, trying to alleviate the situation somewhat, attempted
to establish a two-chamber assembly in Algeria with the upper chamber representing Europeans
and so-called ‘meritorious’ Muslims living in Algeria while the lower chamber would represent
the rest of the Muslim population. This proposed solution was rejected by both Muslims and
Europeans. The tension in Algeria would continue to escalate through the 1950’s as the Algerian
nationalist movement continued to grow in proportion to France’s opposition. A bloody
civil war would soon erupt, which we at the Cold War channel plan will bring to you in
a future episode. The divorce from France by both Morocco and
Tunisia was less violent but was still far from amicable. It took time for France to
gradually divest itself from these two colonies and eventually grant independence. This happened
in Morocco in 1955 with Tunisia gaining its freedom a year later in 1956.
Libya, a former Italian colony, took a different route to independence. In 1949, the United
Nations General Assembly decided that the former colony should become an independent
nation by 1952. In December of 1951 King Idris I declared the country to be independent and
set the country on a largely pro-Western course. Domestically, he did not tolerate any type
of opposition and all political parties were prohibited. He remained the leader of Libya
until a coup led by Muammar Gaddafi overthrew him in 1969.
In general, the Arab countries each went through different paths to achieve their independence.
Some faced extreme bloodshed while other attained nationhood by relatively peaceful means. However,
numerous factors including the Arab-Israeli conflict and the continuous geopolitical struggle
between the capitalist world and the socialist world would turn the region into a place of
seemingly permanent military conflict and of dictatorships. We will continue these discussions
in future videos, so make sure you are subscribed to our channel and have pressed the bell button.
We rely on our patrons to create these videos, so consider supporting us via
This the Cold War channel and we will catch you on the next one.

61 thoughts on “Arab Countries post-World War II – COLD WAR

  1. We are eager to cover every crucial story of the Cold War period, but we need your help to keep the production going. Please, consider supporting us via patreon:

  2. your Sudan map hasn't South Sudan, which only became independent in the 2010s.
    your Morocco map has Western Sahara, which was still a Spaniard colony back then.

  3. Are you gonna talk about the 1 and a half million Jewish refugees who were expelled fallowing the creation of Israel to punish the Jews

  4. As you can see from the video , all the problems of the middle east are caused by western fucks and then we blame them for hating us

  5. Trust me, you're almost there. The gestures are much better, the presentation is much more lively. Now someone needs to tell the sound manager to increase the volume, and we'll be set.
    Thanks in advance.

  6. Arabs always wanted to unite but the colonial powers wanted to divide us on no basis at all just drawing lines in the desert, all of this because last time we were united we ruled a quarter of the world

  7. To understand the position of France about Algeria's independence, it's important to precise that there were around 1 million French inhabitants in that colony. They were of French origin, but most of them were born in Algeria. If I remember correctly, there were around 7 millions Arabs and Berbers at the same time. The local population was also far from united.
    Algeria had a special status in the empire, as it was not organized like other colonies, but in 3 "départements", like in mainland France.
    Eventually, the French population had to flee the country and became refugees. And the tribes who had supported the French during the war of independence were simply abandoned.
    During the war of independence, no good solution was possible. Any outcome would have left some part of the Algerian population in trouble.

  8. Hate to be that guy, but Western Sahara (included in your maps together with Morocco) was controlled by Spain, not France. Spain also held the Rif region in the country's north.

  9. Please talk about south east asia during this period. Vietnam dominated this subject because you know, Vietnam war
    But i beg you to talk about this region during cold war

  10. You forgot to mention that France imposed keeping the French language a part of the educational system in the independence deals with Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Lebanon was the only Christian majority nation in the region. And King Farouk of Egypt had one demand from his daughters, which was marrying a Muslim and all the three of them married Christian men. Also you didn't talk about how nationalist arabs kicked the Jewish communities out their homes.

  11. Will you also do a video about Turkey's entry into NATO and the threat of an soviet invasion, the Turkish straits crisis
    etc. followed up by another video about the Cyprus crisis?

  12. In january im writing my bachelor thesis on the soviet influence in the arabian Peninsula so thank you for this video, also the western sahara was spanish not french

  13. Fun fact: The independence of Egypt, forced on britain by the United States threatening to call in their debt, is what directly lead to the independence of india. The costs of trade with india skyrocketed when having to pay tolls to egypt to get through the suez canal, making the colony nonviable.

  14. a quick question as the war progressed will you change the leader portraits i.e kennedy and khrushchev during cuban missile crisis?

  15. that power-sharing agreement in lebanon sounds so reasonable, I'm sure everyone will get aloh god why is everything on fire

  16. Algeria wasn't a "colony" to France. They considered it as a part of France itself and ran it, and fought to keep it, as such. Tunisia and Morocco were just protectorates so it was easier to let them go.

  17. I feel as though this episode is a step in the wrong direction after the recent Iranian, Gouzenko and Operation Unthinkable videos. In addition to the errors on the map others have noted (Western Sahara being French controlled; Sudan somehow having its post-2011 borders), there is some pretty egregiously lazy editing of the stock footage. For example, around the seven minute mark David is talking about Arab attitudes towards the Soviets, but the footage is of students and tutors in Oxford or Cambridge in England! The beginning of the discussion about Lebanon after the 12 minute mark shows a U-boat firing its deck gun and German soldiers firing their kar98s, neither of which has anything to do with the topic at hand. Additionally, while I'm sure the British had flimsy prop-driven biplanes at Habbiniyah at some point right after the Great War, they certainly did not when they tried to negotiate a new treaty with the Iraqis after World War II. Yet that's the footage we see after the nine minute mark. Mentions of rioting in Baghdad after the four minute mark is accompanied by random footage of men marching through snow.

    I understand that virtually all stock footage is to some extent a contrivance. Most World War II documentaries use propaganda footage to illustrate panzer divisions on the march, for instance. With very few exceptions (the explosions of the Hindenberg and the battleship Barham come to mind) there is some artificiality if not fabrication of most footage from these time periods. However, I can't see much excuse for not bothering to align the footage with what is being described onscreen. It's as though some editing assistant just queued up some licensed newsreel footage from British Pathe or whoever, saw that "Iraq", "Egypt" or "Lebanon" was somewhere in the title, and then just used part of that newsreel regardless of whether the clip was relevant or not. I can't make sense of what I'm seeing onscreen otherwise, and I'm frankly disappointed.

  18. what's untold is how much the British and the Americans and the French were also undermining each other while jostling for control

    my great uncle was in Libya in the 50s and 60s and lots of the American planes and helicopters "accidentally" got sand in their engines when the only other personnel around were British and they kind of avoided talking about it and changed up people's clearances

    but it wasn't always a unified front

  19. What about the clash between the Royal Army and the Egyptian police that would lead to the Cairo fire , the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Suez crisis impact on Egypt, the Yemen war, and many other important events that were glossed over or not mentioned?

  20. SYKES – PICOT!! How can it be left out??? Also, your narrative (even from a Westerner perspective) is extremely blend and accommodating vis-à-vis the Colonial Powers (or the USA). Indeed, what about Saudi Arabia or Iran? Although not technically Arab, the latter is an important piece of Middle-Eastern post-WW2 history.

  21. 9:09 That flag looks like the flag Switzerland would get in Victoria 2 if they became Islamist (and if Islamist was an ideology in that game)

  22. I heard there was a high ranking member of the Vichy government who became police chief of Paris after the war and when a bunch of Algerians were in Paris protesting for independence, he had his men open fire on them and then dump their bodies in the siene. He got away with until the 70s

  23. Stupid Mafias play their game
    Killing 100's of millions of people
    People should just kill off the Mafias

    5,000 years of world history …is just the Mafias killing People

  24. The one that pisses me off the most is what happened immediately to iran because had the US and UK not gotten rid of mossadegh then the country probably wouldn't have been anti western theocracy as it is right now

  25. It would be exiting to watch if you could make a video on India-Pakistan war of 1971
    as Soviet Union supported India while America backed Pakistan.

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