THE MIDDLE EAST: Nasser's Fury

  • Share
  • Read Later

In Egypt it was "Hate-Iran Week." Fortnight ago, President Gamal Abdel Nasser summoned home his ambassador in Teheran, and Iran's ambassador in Cairo was ordered to leave Egypt with hardly time to change from pajamas to street clothes. To speed the harried ambassador on his way, an Egyptian court attached the Iranian embassy's furniture as security for a tradesman's bill.

Nasser was moved to wrath by a recent, offhand press-conference remark by the Shah of Iran, who said that though Iran does not formally recognize Israel, it does recognize the Israeli government de facto. Iran is not an Arab nation, but it is a Moslem one, and Nasser thought that this was letting down the side. Nasser also knew that for some time Iranian oil has been secretly sold to Israel, in defiance of the Arab League boycott which U.S. oil companies generally adhere to.

Iran's oil need not travel through Nasser's Suez Canal. It can be unloaded at Israel's Red Sea port of Elath, on the Gulf of Aqaba. This week a new, 16-in. pipeline across the Negev desert will connect Elath with Israel's big refinery at Haifa. Designed to carry 1,700,000 tons of oil a year, it can in time be stepped up to a 5,800,000-ton capacity. Since Israel itself uses only 1,500,000 tons of oil a year, the Israel pipeline offers the possibility of sending Middle East oil products to Europe without paying Suez Canal tolls or being subject to Nasser's whim. Before a political rally in Alexandria, Nasser accused the Shah of being a tool of "imperialism," and, in classic fashion, all but invited the Shah's subjects to assassinate their king. Egypt's Ministry of Religious Affairs directed imams to preach sermons against the Shah as a "traitor to Islam," and Nasser urged his fellow Arab nations to withdraw their ambassadors from Teheran too. So far only Saudi Arabia has agreed, and on condition that all other Arab League nations made it unanimous.

In Washington last week World Bank President Eugene Black announced that there was "a good chance" that his organization would give the Israeli economy another boost by lending Israel $27.5 million toward construction of a $46 million Mediterranean harbor at the old Philistine port of Ashdod. The port would handle Israel's growing citrus trade, as well as products (potash, phosphates and other minerals) now being extracted in growing volume from the Negev desert.