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NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: EGYPT: THE 1956 CRISIS

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Article by Spencer Vann

The thrilling tale of T.E. Lawrence with its Machiavellian aftermath, memorialized in the Oscar winning movie Lawrence of Arabia, cast a menacing shadow on the future of Arab lands. The dashing yet tormented British warrior and commander, dressed in exotic tribal garb, fought side by side with the Arabs who threw their fortunes in with the Brits and French in World War I. He and the Arab insurgents waged ferocious battles against the armies of the vast, once unstoppable Ottoman Empire, and won. The Ottoman warlord Enver Pasha, in turn, took the fatal path of allying with Germany against the Allies, and lost.

The British and French made grandiose promises to Lawrence and the Arabs of freeing the Arabs from the Ottoman occupiers to lure them into the war. But the 1916 Sykes–Picot Agreement, drafted in secret by the French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot and Britain’s Sir Mark Sykes, told a very different story, that of betrayal.

The agreement carved up the conquered territories, creating artificial borders. The Marxist Bolsheviks, miffed at being left out of divvying up the booty—mainly oil rich parts of Iran, Istanbul and the Turkish straits, which Ataturk had gallantly saved—exposed the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

The Arabs, initially shocked and outraged, began to plot their revenge. Britain and France now considered themselves the unstoppable ones. France laid claim to greater Syria, including Lebanon with its strategic ports; Alexandretta and northern Iraq. The British spoils included Egypt; the League of Nations mandate of Palestine, including Jordan; most of oil rich Iraq and the strategic port of Haifa.

These occupations were made as the once-formidable empires of the Great British Lion and France were taking their dying breaths after the gigantic bloodletting of the Great War. They also set the stage for fierce uprisings and guerrilla warfare, followed by repressions, reprisals and serial interventions, with treachery on all sides.

Since 1914 when Britain first invaded Iraq, the British invaded Iraq and Egypt, the French Syria and Lebanon, and their heir to Western power, the United States, struck Iraq twice and then Libya. Most recently, the U.S. and France came to the brink of attacking Syria, and meddled in Egypt by supporting the once vilified Muslim Brotherhood, just to name a few interventions. Resistance groups included patriotic nationalist fighters as well as radical groups that used savage terror tactics.

Allies came and went. Iraq’s Saddam, Libya’s Gaddafi, Egypt’s Mubarak and Syria’s Assad are only a few on the long list of allied leaders of convenience later to be demonized or eliminated. Yet for a century, the smokescreen justifications for the Western powers’ interventions and assassinations remained the same: “democracy,” “regime change,” “weapons of mass destruction,” “pre-emptive self defense” and “humanitarian intervention.”

All against an Arab region that the Western powers themselves have alternately occupied, invaded, imposed sanctions and exploited, rendering many millions homeless and impoverished. The stakes are high. The economic costs of war are enormous, the bloodshed is horrific, so why cast the dice?

Tapping the massive oil reserves to satisfy the West’s need and greed for the black gold is a primary reason for its interventions. A close runner-up is the requirement for the vital ports and waterways that provide the means to move the vital oil and other resources. Then there is the strategic, geographical proximity of the Arab states to Israel, Europe and Africa.

Showdown
The 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, with its cliffhanging twists and turns, captures much of the riveting intrigue of the turbulent Middle East. Cold War rivalries that collided with a charismatic Arab leader’s drive to free the Arab world from occupiers snowballed out of control. The British and French response, based on false intelligence and pretenses, invoked fear-mongering buzzwords that led to a global showdown and brought a half-crazed British leader down. Villainy and deception on all sides triggered a nearly unstoppable chain of events that drove the world to the brink of nuclear confrontation.

Once more, thousands of innocents were sacrificed on the battlefields of reckless power players.

A Global Flashpoint
The Suez Canal, “the jugular vein of the Empire,” was of vital strategic importance to the Allies in both world wars, when it facilitated the transport of weapons and fuel. Two-thirds of Europe’s oil passed through the Suez Canal. The
canal became a military game-changer when the Brits denied it to enemy ships to cripple their war efforts.

Before Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps built the Suez Canal in 1869, cargo ships took four months to sail from
Europe to Asia around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. The alternative was to sail to Port Suez in Egypt, caravan across the desert in a grueling journey, and connect with the Red Sea. Once the caravan arrived at the Red Sea, cargo and passengers loaded up on a ship again. Desert raiders often attacked the caravans, and pirates of the Red Sea threatened the ships and crews.

De Lesseps, an engineer with ties to Viceroy Mohammad Said Pasha, the inept son of the great Viceroy Mohammed Ali Pasha who died in 1849, planned to build a canal to provide the shortest link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean and transform the international shipping industry.

The French owned large shares of the canal company. The British, who tried to sabotage it out of jealousy, later purchased a large chunk of the shares in 1875 from the bankrupting Viceroy Said Pasha, who could not afford the exorbitant interest payments to the European lending sharks.

In 1882, a British, Indian and French expeditionary force invaded and defeated an Egyptian insurgency. Britain occupied the territory and established the world’s largest base in Ismailia on the west bank of the canal. Fierce resistance built up until the situation exploded in a revolution in 1919. The insurgency was brutally crushed.

It’s Terrorism; No, It’s a Resistance
In 1922 the British made a lame pretense of giving Egypt independence but controlled the military. By 1928, an underground extremist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, had formed to oppose the British occupiers. Then in 1936, the British formally turned the country over to the Egyptians, but they maintained control through their lackey Prince Faruk. Guerrilla warfare, bolstered by the police, Muslim, Christian and secular elements, heated up to shake the British control for good.

“Black Saturday,” 26 January, 1952 was the flashpoint. Renegade police officers attacked the British troops in Ismailia, killing 30 British troops over several months. The Brits began to pull the 27,000 civilian expats back home.
Thousands of British troops in tanks and armored cars stormed the Egyptian police headquarters manned by 700 policemen, killing 50 police armed with obsolescent Lee Enfield rifles and capturing the rest. The next day, agitated Egyptians led by the Muslim Brotherhood burned 700 hotels, clubs, bars and shops owned by some of the Brit and other Westerners, killing 36 Western civilians. The Brits condemned the Arabs’ acts as “terrorism”; the insurgents defended their movement as a “resistance.”

The British decided they could no longer bear the enormous expense of keeping 80,000 troops in Egypt with the resistance swelling.

Gamal Abdel Nasser, leader of the Free Officers, a subversive army officers’ movement hell bent on getting rid of the British, realized that the situation was ripe. He made his move, overthrowing the British puppet government of Prince Faruk in a bloodless coup.

The 36-year-old Nasser, a handsome, fiery orator, and a 6’2” giant of a commander, did not forget his humble background. An avid reader of the classics which shaped his philosophy, he attended the Military Academy of Egypt and gained an excellent command of the English language. Like so many leaders with bouts of megalomania, he took drastic measures. He confiscated land owned by the wealthy feudal landlords, nationalizing it to redistribute to the peasants.

At the time, a mere half of one percent of the population, mostly Brit expats and Egyptian elites, owned 75 percent of the wealth. Most Egyptians had no means to obtain adequate clothing or sufficient food, according to a report by Nasser’s Minister of Information and founder of the Arabic Organization of Human Rights, Mohamed Fayek.

Nasser embarked on a grandiose plan to build the great Aswan Dam on the Nile, to be the largest in the world and to
cost a billion dollars, a fortune at that time. The dam would create jobs and help industrialize the country; provide flood control, irrigation water and electricity; and transform the dirt-poor country into a competitive economy. The World Bank, largely funded by the U.S. and Britain, agreed to ante up the first $400 million for the project.

Then Minister of Defense Anthony Eden and Nasser agreed that the British troops would be completely withdrawn by 1956, but ownership of the canal would not change.

“Sexing up Intelligence”
Egypt, bordering archenemy Israel, was desperate to build up its military capability. The U.S. and the U.K. had refused to arm Israel or Egypt after the bloody war of 1948, when Israel defeated attacking Arab armies. Meanwhile,
the French, having officially withdrawn from Syria and Lebanon after their mandate ended in 1946, were secretly arming Israel with its first jet fighters in violation of a UN arms embargo. France and the U.S. were nonstarters for Nasser, so he approached the willing Nikita Khrushchev, who provided Egypt with MiG-15 jet fighters, long-range bombers and military transport planes.

Now Prime Minister, Anthony Eden was convinced that Nasser was a Communist stooge and had to go. MI6, the British intelligence agency, concocted a plot codenamed Omega to get rid of Nasser. The covert group provided smear campaigns to the media and pushed for comprehensive sanctions on Egypt. “MI6 was taking a few sources and they were sexing them up,” Professor Scott Lucas, author of Divided We Stand: Britain, U. S. and the Suez Crises, told the BBC.

Botched Assassination Attempts
The British Foreign Minister at the time, Anthony Nutting, told the BBC that over a telephone landline, he and the prime minister had become embroiled in a violent argument. “’I don’t want Nasser neutralized. I want him destroyed, murdered,’ Eden shouted at me.”

“A former commanding officer of our battalion told me, ‘The moment you mention the word ‘Nasser,’ Eden practically got down and chewed the carpet,’” said Sir James Spicer, commander of the British 1 PARA, who led the catastrophic invasion of Egypt in 1956.

“I am not exaggerating. Nearly every month there was an assassination attempt by the British, the French or Israelis,” a minister in Nasser’s cabinet, Sami Sharif, told the BBC in 2012.

A hit man fired eight bullets at Nasser in Alexandria’s Manshiya Square during a crowded parade in 1954. Nasser was unharmed, but two of his guards were wounded.

“The plans were wildly out of control,” Lucas said. In addition to hiring snipers, MI6 infiltrated the Canal Company and recruited moles, preferable Egyptian double agents, to poison his coffee and put nerve gas in his heating system. Nasser crushed the Muslim Brotherhood for joining in on the assassination attempts.

Operation Dignity and Glory: The Suez Is Under New Management
U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles decided to punish Nasser for his Soviet ties by denying him the funding for the Aswan Dam.

“President of the World Bank Eugene Black came to me and said, ‘We just committed the biggest blunder in the history of the world today. On the orders of Mr. Foster Dulles, we refused to loan money to build the Aswan Dam,’” said Egyptian actor Omar Sharif of Syrian/Lebanese origins, who played Ali Sharif in the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

Nasser first heard the news on the radio while flying in a jet. “I was surprised by the insulting attitude in which the refusal was delivered, not by the refusal itself,” he said later.

“President Nasser ordered me to bring him the file of the Suez Canal,” Sami Sharif told the BBC.

“What about nationalizing the Canal?” the president asked him. Nasser figured that the 35 million pounds sterling of yearly canal tolls would fund the Aswan Dam.

“I was surprised, but I felt proud,” Sami Sharif said. “Imagine a foreigner in your country and he takes everything and gives you nothing. Is that justice?” Nasser, the great orator, gave his first speech since his humiliation. He spoke
for two hours, but skirted the rejection of the Aswan Dam funding.

“It was all rhetoric. Many Egyptians thought he did not have the balls to stand up against the West,” said Keith Kyle, author of Suez.

Three days later, at 9 p.m., Nasser began his next speech in Manshiya Square in his birthplace, Alexandria. 200,000 people jammed the square, anticipating Nasser’s response to the West. He spoke of the arrogance of the West and how Egyptians had suffered centuries of occupation, from the Romans to the Ottomans, to the French and then the
British.

The Egyptians remembered well the enormous human sacrifices made for constructing the canal. For an entire decade, Egyptians dug the canal out of the desert sand, often by hand. An estimated 35,000 Egyptians excavating the canal died from starvation, heat stroke and disease. 20,000 peasants were forced to work for the Viceroy for little or no pay, in six-month shifts at a time for 18-hour days for four or five years during the early period, living in squalor without housing, according to a Modern Marvels documentary.

We Will Not Be Manipulated
“We will not be manipulated. Today we are going to get rid of what happened in the past,” Nasser continued in his longwinded speech.

“We listened to the speech and he made a wonderful speech. He said, ‘I tried everything. I went to the Americans and I asked them for a loan. I went to the World Bank and asked them for a loan because our population is growing so quickly we need electricity and sources of energy and they refused. So I found myself without any means. The only thing I could do was nationalize what we have that is in our country right here,” Omar Sharif said.

Meanwhile, Nasser’s men, highly agitated, waited on the banks of the Suez for the password, “Ferdinand de Lesseps,” their signal to storm the Suez Canal.” Nasser had selected his trusted minister Adel Ezet to head the Canal Nationalization Group, and military official Mahmud Eunis to mastermind the plan. Eunis quietly selected 30 men he could trust, swearing them to secrecy.

The men were at the ready, sweating bullets in the sweltering July heat, on edge, worried that their commander had
changed his mind. “His speech before saying that word was a hell of a period…it seemed like a century,” Ezet said.
“I imagined I had sitting in front of me our friend Ferdinand de Lesseps,” Nasser finally said. He repeated the password 14 times in all different contexts.

Eunis, Ezet and their men, all armed, stormed four of the Suez canal office buildings in Ismailia and Port Said, coolly warning the terrified employees not to resist and keep on working as if nothing had happened.

A Dangerous Game of Russian Roulette
“Some of your fellow citizens have just taken over the canal. The company is under new management. All assets will belong to the Egyptians,” Nasser elatedly broke the news.

A shocked, then jubilant Egyptian public went wild, filling the streets. Old and young joined the pandemonium.

“It was a bombshell,” said Talat Badrawi, leader of the civilian militia. Others warned that the West would not leave their prized waterway in what they thought were incapable hands.

Khrushchev was as taken off guard as Eden. Nasser knew that had he asked, the Soviets would have nixed the plan. Eden was dining with the top brass at Number 10 when he heard the news. “We all know this is how fascist governments behave. We all remember only too well and we know what the cost can be in giving in to fascists,” an enraged Eden ranted on the air, triggering the highest paranoia switch.

A shadowy MI6 contact dubbed “Lucky Break” told Eden that that Egyptians would welcome Nasser’s overthrow, that he was a threat to Britain with his newly acquired Soviet weapons. The intelligence was wrong. “But Nasser was never a communist. He believed in God, he prayed. Communists don’t believe in God or prayer,” Sami Sharif said.

“Nasser was anti-communist. He was putting communists in jail. He did not let them out when his relations improved with the Soviet Union,” Professor Timothy Naftali, author of Khrushchev’s Cold War, told the BBC. “The two made a pragmatic decision. This was a great success for the Soviets.”

What followed was a deadly game of Russian roulette. Eden ordered the 300 maritime pilots who guided ships through the canal to abandon the canal. Seven weeks later, without notice, they were gone. The whole world was watching with bated breath for the next play.

Twenty-six-year-old Egyptian pilot Ali Nazr, chosen to guide his first vessel, a German ship, through the canal alone after only two weeks of training, was ill-prepared and scared. The canal at the time was not over 100 meters wide and could easily be blocked if a tanker rammed into the banks.

“I couldn’t see the green and red buoys in the tense moments. I saw somebody on the road calling ‘Pilot, pilot, good luck, go ahead.’ It was engineer Chairman Eunis,” Ali Nazr told the BBC. Fourteen hours later the ship had passed successfully through the 100-mile-long canal as apprehensive crowds on the banks looked on.

The jubilant Egyptians celebrated for weeks. They had proven to the world that they could do what most of the West was sure they could not.

Sabotage
Eden ordered a gigantic fleet of 30 tankers, 10 more than the normal flow through the canal, to line up at Port Said to overwhelm the Egyptian pilots. Thirty-six Egyptian pilots worked around the clock with President Nasser on the wireless.

“Some Western papers suggested the Egyptians cultivate the Suez Canal area with potatoes,” Ezet told BBC. Three months went by and the canal was still open for normal business. Back in London and Paris, the British and French were still conniving to retake the canal. At Chequers, Eden’s country home, the French foreign minister told him of the French scheme. The Israelis, armed by the French, would attack. Then the British and French, feigning outrage at the attack, would intervene to keep the two countries apart and the Suez open.

Deceiving the Deceivers
The French Minister of Defense called his counterpart, Israel’s Shimon Peres, who was in Paris: “Have you thought of storming the Sinai?”

The schemers had unknowingly opened the door for the execution of a plot Peres had already been hatching, and better yet, they were offering upgraded tanks and warplanes to join the conspiracy within the conspiracy against the British. The Israeli master strategist joined in on the intrigue, but he had his own agenda that he kept close to his vest—that of wiping out the Egyptian army and arsenal, gaining control of the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula and neutralizing the hothead Nasser’s threat.

The French told Eisenhower that they were arming the Israelis with 12 Mystiere jets, but a U-2 spy plane spotted 60 of the warplanes, according to Dino Brugioni, retired chief of the CIA’s National Photographic Interpretation Center. Eisenhower was livid. The UN Security Council met in New York to try to negotiate a settlement to the explosive situation across the Atlantic.

Sir Donald Logan of the British Foreign Ministry recalled the botched negotiations. Christian Pineau, the French
foreign minister who had a personal vendetta—-to punish Nasser for supporting the Algerian resistance against France made a pretense at negotiation and then quit halfway through. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd and the Egyptian representative were closing in on a compromise, when Eden called and ordered Lloyd to go to Sevres near Paris.

“Lloyd was desperately disappointed. It turned his stomach, and he hated the deception all the way through,” Logan told BBC.

Peres, Defense Minister Moshe Dyan and Ben Gurion had flown in secretly to plot with the French and British. Suspicions, personal rebuffs, wrangling and tangling about conflicting goals nearly tore the tense negotiations apart. Under pressure by the Israelis and French, Patrick Dean, British Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, signed the Sevre protocol laying out the conspiracy. Dean and Logan took it to Number 10.

“Oh my God, I never thought it would be written down,” an outraged Eden told Dean and Logan, ordering them to go back to Paris to burn the document. The French refused and the Israelis, headed for Israel, had taken a copy with them.

Forty years later the declassified document confirmed the wicked deceit.

On 28 October, in Operation Tarnegol, the Israelis launched the war by shooting down Nasser’s Ilyushion 14 High Command airplane flying from Damascus to Cairo. The plan, supposedly unknown to the British, was to take out the Field Marshall Amer and paralyze the Egyptian Air force. Amer had changed his plans at the last moment and was not on the downed plane, but sixteen officers and two journalists were killed.

On 29 October, the Israelis dropped a parachute brigade of 395 men in the Sinai, 40 kilometers from the canal, taking the Egyptian military completely off guard.

“We did not go into the motivations of the British and French. Our aims were clear,” Peres said.

The next day, Eden and the French issued a 24-hour ultimatum: Egypt and Israel cease fighting or the British and French would intervene to save the canal.

The ultimatum expired. The British and French had poised their fighter-bombers in nearby Cyprus, then a British colony, and prepared to attack.

The British Are Coming
“First came the air warning, then the blackout, then the jets. It’s the British,” Nasser told the Indonesian Ambassador, who was in his office. “I had not thought at all that Britain would do any attack against us. We thought of the French and Israeli collusion, but not the British collusion.”

Egyptians mobilized. In Cairo, officials handed Kalashnikov rifles out to a makeshift civilian army. “Everybody is a parachutist, we thought. People were shooting their Kalashnikov at anything. Any noise, you think it had come from the sky. It was a very tense moment and we were scared,” Talaat Badrawi, Cairo’s Civilian Militia chief said.

But Cairo was not the target of the British paratroop assault.. After five days of aerial bombardment, 668 British paratroopers were dropped on Port Said and French paratroopers east of Port Said to begin retaking the canal.

Civilian militias of Port Said grabbed the weapons they had stashed, including machine guns and Kalashnikovs, shooting at the airplanes in a pathetic display of resistance to the British RAF and airborne assault.

We Must Fight to the Death
Abbas and Abadi streets in Port Said, which housed mainly slums of wooden huts, were shot up. The shacks burst into flames like blazing dominos. A sickening stench of charred flesh, coming from corpses that lined the streets, filled the air. The locals brought out their rickety vegetable carts to haul six or seven of the charred bodies at a time to makeshift graveyards. Tanks crushed some corpses. Hundreds of civilians had been killed in the bombing and street fighting. The horrors of Port Said were broadcast in vivid detail all over the world, a local recalled to BBC.

Eden expected the Egyptians to overthrow Nasser, as Lucky Break had told him. No chance. Nasser rallied his people after prayer, “We must fight and never surrender; we will fight and never be humiliated. We will fight to the last drop of blood. It is our history, our future.”

The Egyptian armed forces were outgunned, but Nasser and his officers were stashing away arms for the guerrilla army all over the country, waiting for Eden’s armies to invade Cairo. Nasser ordered 40 ships to be sunk to block the canal.

Warnings of Armageddon
On the next continent, Khrushchev was dealing with an uprising in Hungary that he brutally put down, killing 2000. Believing the British and French had attacked his ally Nasser when he was down, an enraged Khrushchev sought revenge. The Soviet leader upped the ante, sending a bloody message to the West.

“’Don’t be surprised if, as a consequence of your action, you see nuclear weapons fall on London and Paris,’ Khrushchev told the West,” Professor Timothy Naftali, author of Khrushchev’s Cold War told the BBC.

The Western press warned of doomsday and Armageddon. Londoners prepared for the bombing. The Chinese were
poised to join the Russians. President Eisenhower, running for reelection, had warned Eden before the offensive that in no way would the United States support the use of force.

British citizens, realizing the folly of their mad-hatter leader, flooded the streets in a Labor-led protest, calling the prime minister too “stupid” to be PM and demanding that he “get out, get out, get out.” The demonstrations in London matched those in Egypt. Eden had not only brought the world to the edge of disaster, but also the British were facing hunger and a freezing cold winter. The closing of the canal had cut off shipments of fuel to England and the rest of Western Europe. Currency dealers dumped the pound sterling, forcing the bottom to fall out of the market. Desperate, Eden reached out to Eisenhower for financial help.

President Eisenhower, the Grand Performer
Eisenhower, furious that the British and French had invaded the day before the election, responded, “’Get out of Egypt and we will help you, but not a minute before,’” Robert R. Bowie of the State Department recalled. Eisenhower’s pretense of surprise in a blistering speech directed at the British and French was just a bluff.

“We were watching it on TV and we kind of smiled because we knew darn well that he knew all the time what was
happening. This was a show on his part but it was also to conceal the fact that we used the U-2s to obtain the information,” Dino Brugioni told BBC.

The officers of the British PARA regiment who had gone into the enterprise in good faith took it as a heavy blow. After nine days of fighting, the British troops were ordered to withdraw, having only advanced 10 miles. Humiliated, the troops pulled out as the Egyptian crowds taunted them in their retreat, yelling after them to “Go to Hell.” Eden resigned.

“The Arabs realized that Nasser was the hero who was sent by God to retrieve the Arabs from many years of subordination,” wrote Dr. Abde El Wahib Bakr, an Egyptian historian.

Nasser was the first Egyptian ruler in over two millenniums. Within four years of his taking power, the Egyptians were free, they had taken control of the Suez Canal and, thanks to Soviet funding, the Aswan Dam was being built to industrialize the country.

Nasser died in 1970 at the age of 52. The Egyptians’ outpouring of grief, the funeral processions and the crowds were unprecedented. The official cause of death was listed as a heart attack. There are those who still believe that he was assassinated.

Troubling Parallels
Fast-forward nearly 60 years. Many Egyptians and Brits view the Iraq War and the Syrian invasion that is still on our back burner in the light of the history of Egypt. Egyptians and Syrians, fearful that they could be next, demand that the United States quit interfering. The parallels of reactions to the threat to invade Syria and the Suez Crisis are
undeniable.

“The British and French encapsulated two principles that we have been hearing a lot about lately, regime change and preemptive self-defense,” Keith Kyle, author of Suez, told the BBC in 2012. The Russians and Iranians threatened the U.S. and France with military intervention as they prepared to bomb Syria, just as the Russians did in 1956. China sent 1000 marines to the Syrian coast, accusing the U.S. of lying about Syria. Parallels of the Iraq War and the Suez continue to pile up.

I said to Bush even before he entered Iraq: “Forget about all that…What will you do with the Shiites, the Sunnis, the
Kurds? You will drown there.’ Omar Sharif told Al Hayat TV. “He didn’t believe me.”

“When U.S. and Britain went into Iraq with the idea to be accepted with open arms, it was a very stupid idea... Where did they ever come up with that idea, I do not know. They could have looked at history books; they could have looked at the Suez crisis. It will never happen. People will defend their country, they will defend their land,” Badrawi told the BBC.

“Eden’s obsession with Nasser was equivalent to President Bush’s obsession with Saddam—personal, irrational, unhelpful,” said Richard Fyjis-Walker of the British Foreign Office.

“After all, this is the guy that tried to kill my dad at one time,” George W. Bush said in 2002.

“The United States will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most dangerous weapons,” President Bush gave the official justification to a shocked and paranoid American public after 9/11. The Telegraph called the Iraq War “the greatest intelligence failure in living memory.”

Will we find out in 30 years that the invasion of Iraq was driven by “sexed up intelligence” or a personal agenda?

Next: The Muslim Brotherhood and the assassination of President Anwar Sadat Vann Spencer is co-author of Robert K. Brown’s memoirs I Am Soldier of Fortune, Dancing with Devils available on sofmag.com

Note: Conversations here were based on documentaries by Al Hayat TV and the BBC including the BBC’s The Other Side of Suez.