World: Nasser's Legacy: Hope and instability

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Aswan High Dam, designed to generate cheap electricity and create some 1,500,000 acres of newly fertile land. To finance it, Nasser turned to both the U.S. and Russia. Rebuffed by the U.S. on a request to purchase weapons in 1955, Nasser stunned—and delighted—the Arab world by announcing that he had made an Iron Curtain arms deal through Czechoslovakia. U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles thereupon scratched Aswan as an American aid project, and Nasser responded by nationalizing the Suez Canal. "Americans," he cried, "may you choke on your fury!"

Britain and France, fearful of being strangled by a cutoff of Suez traffic, joined the Israelis in 1956 in a surprise attack on Egypt. Though Nasser's forces were badly beaten, he was saved when the U.S. and the Soviet Union combined to compel all three nations to withdraw their forces.

Nasser gained immense prestige throughout the Arab world, and he quickly exploited it. In one Arab state after another, he engineered pro-Nasser takeovers. Nasser proudly called the coups "pageants of sunrise," but the results often did not last much past sundown. His agents in Iraq helped to assassinate King Feisal II, tried at times to topple Hussein in Jordan, and assisted successful revolutions in Libya and the Sudan. They filtered through so many Middle East capitals weaving plots that there were increasing protests. During a 1966 visit, former Treasury Secretary Robert Anderson told him: "Mr. President, the U.S. Government has received complaints from every Arab government of subversive activity by your people." Nasser, feebly professing surprise, said that surely there were at least one or two states where nothing had ever been attempted. "Mr. President," Anderson said, "there are no exceptions."

Nasser's greatest failure as a sponsor of revolution was in Yemen, where Egyptian troops fought for five years in an ill-advised campaign to depose the Imam Badr and replace him with a republican government. "I was convinced that I was participating in a genuine war of liberation," Nasser said after the campaign had ended. "By the time I found out it was a tribal war, it was too late to get out with honor. I found myself stuck." Small wonder that some observers dubbed Yemen "Nasser's Viet Nam."

His greatest debacle was awaiting him in June 1967, when Nasser rashly took Syria's word that Israel was preparing an attack and ordered U.N. peacekeeping forces out of the Gaza Strip. He later admitted that he had not expected Secretary-General U Thant to comply. To his surprise, Thant rushed the U.N. troops out, leaving an obvious danger zone unguarded. In the face of Egyptian mobilization, the Israelis launched a devastating pre-emptive attack on Egypt. Drubbed in the Six-Day War, Nasser resigned, knowing that the Arab masses would plead for him to return. He did, a scant 16 hours after his resignation, promising that the Arabs would strike back against Israel with "one hand." Gradually rebuilding his forces, Nasser launched a "war of attrition" against the Israelis, who were dug in along the Suez Canal. Despite his constant advocacy of nonalignment, he grew increasingly dependent on Moscow to fuel his 288,000-man military machine. All the while, he denied that he was in danger of becoming Moscow's

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