In May of 1919 Britain sent a special mission led by Alfred Milner to investigate how Egypt could be given some degree of autonomy without jeopardizing British interests. There was public protest against Milners mission and finally Milner accepted that he would have to negotiate directly with the leadership of the Wafd.
During World War I Britain exercised its power over Egypt and Sudan to further its war effort without much concern for their populations. Britain raised funds from Egypt by paying for the cotton and animal fodder it needed at prices below their market prices. In effect, this was a taxation of those industries. When Britain needed Egyptian labor for its Expeditionary Force it did not hire them at market wages it conscripted a half million peasants. The British troops stationed in Egypt during the war led to shortages and higher prices for the necessities required by the general population.
The countries of the League of Arab States, including Egypt, invaded Palestine to destroy Israel. The Israeli army proved to be more than a match for the Arab armies. The invasion was a disastrous failure for the Arab states.
The Wafd government lasted only until 1944. Its support among the Egyptians had lessened due to its appearance of being too much allied to British power. Factions developed within the Wafd and when parliamentary elections were held in 1945 the Wafd did not participate. As a result minor parties won the elections and formed a government.
Britain then implemented its version of independence for Egypt without negotiating with any Egyptians leaders. Britain declared the end of the protectorate but retained four powers.The security of the Suez Canal and other elements of communication of the British Empire in EgyptThe defense of Egypt against all foreign aggressionThe protection of foreign interests and minorities in EgyptThe control of Sudan.
Humiliated Zaghlul resigned from office and retired from politics. He died within three years. Mustafa Nahhas finally emerged as the leader of the Wafd to replace Zaghlul. Nahhas had been close to Zaghlul and was exiled to the Seychelles Islands with him.
During and after the war President Woodrow Wilson emphasized the goal of self-rule for all nations. Prominent Egyptians organized in late 1918 for the purpose of sending a delegation (wafd) to the Paris Peace Conference which was settling issues of national independence in Europe.
The second major event of 1936 was that the British decided to formalize their relationship with Egypt. The British protectorate of Egypt has been unilaterally renounced in 1922 without any negotiation with the Egyptian government. The Anglo-Egyptian Treaty that was negotiated by the Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Nahhas and the British high commissioner for Egypt, Miles Lampson, allowed Britain to keep a defense force in Egypt for the protection of the Suez Canal. The Treaty left the governance of Sudan entirely in British hands even though at that time Sudan was considered an integral part of the nation of Egypt.
The Wafd lost some of its status and overwhelming political support in Egypt as a result of its acceptance of Allenbys ultimatum. Other political groups were formed, among them theMuslim Brotherhood, (al Ikhwan al Muslimun).
Milner negotiated an agreement with Zaghlul in London in 1920 and as a result of that agreement the British government announced that it would accept an end to the protectorate as a starting point for the negotiation of new treaty between Egypt and Britain. In April of 1921 Zaghlul was allowed to return to Egypt, where was celebrated as a national hero. His glory was short lived. General Allenby did not want to see a man of Zaghluls independence emerge as the leader of an independent Egypt so Allenby had Zaghlul arrested and deported to the Seychelles Islands. Again widespread demonstrations broke out and violence followed.
TheDecipherment of Egyptian Hieroglyphics
The settlement and development of Egypt goes so far back that the climate of North Africa was different from what it is now. About ten thousand years ago the area that is now the Sahara Desert was well watered. Cave painting in the central Sahara depict a land populated by animals and people who now only live far to the south. There is even one cave painting depicting people swimming.
Saad ZaghlulThe most prominent leader of the Wafd was Saad Zaghlul. Zaghlul had been a member of the Umma Party before the war. Umma was the more moderate of the two nationalist organizations that developed in 1907.
At age 19 in 1937 he entered the Egyptian Military Academy to become an officer. After he completed his training he was assigned to a post near the hometown of his father and where he himself had spent three years in schooling as a boy.
The 1930s and the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936
Early in 1953 the RCC banned all political parties. In June of 1953 Egypt officially became a republic. Farouk had abdicated in favor of his son and was exiled. Thus for a period of time Egypt remained a monarchy. But that ended with the declaration of Egypt as the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Nasser was a political type seen quite often in Muslim countries and also in Latin America. They are thewindbagslike Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega who are adept at gaining and holding onto power but incompetent at accomplishing anything meaningful for those they rule. (In contrast, Lula da Silva who was a bona fide workingman, is not of that type.) Gamal Nasser was idolized in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world for his rhetoric and political gestures but completely incompetent in establishing policies that would improve the life of the people he rules. He was more of a showman than a leader. The domestic policies he promoted were not continued by his successors. His publicity photographs reek of his personal vanity; e.g.,
Timeline of Plans and Projects to Build Canals Connecting the Nile with the Red Sea
One might say that Allenby used the assassination of Stack to humiliate the new Wafd government and to extract major concessions from Egypt concerning Sudan.
In Europe fascist parties came to power that preached nationalism and socialism. Egypts version of this movement came in 1933 asYoung Egypt, a nationalist organization with fascist leanings. Its paramilitary youth organization was called theGreen Shirtsin emulation of ItalysBlack Shirtsand GermanysBrown Shirts. It was founded by Ahmad Hussain and advocated the emergence of a new Egyptian Empire consisting of Egypt and Sudan for a beginning.
(To be continued.)Gamal Abdul Nasser
When the Saharan climate began to dry one of the few places in the region where water was available was along the Nile River. Even before the development of agriculture the Nile River Valley would have been a prime place for human settlement. Agriculture was first developed in the Zagros Mountains 8,000 BCE. There is evidence of agriculture being practices in the Nile River Valley from about 6,000 BCE. That meant that it took about two millennia for the idea of agriculture to diffuse south from the Zagros Mountains to Egypt.
In 1954 Nasser negotiated a revision of the treaty between Britain and Egypt. The revised treaty provided for the withdrawal of British troops over a twenty month period. The treaty however allowed for the return of British troops to the Suez Canal in case of an attack against Egypt. The Communists on the left and the Muslim Brotherhood on the right were severely critical of Nasser for not completely eliminating the role for Britain in Egyptian affairs.
The British withdrew the troops to the Suez Canal Zone itself but the negotiations foundered on the issue of Egyptian control of Sudan. Britain refused to turn over control of Sudan to Egypt and asserted that Sudan was ready for independence. Sidqi was elderly and not in good health. He was not able to deal with the stress of negotiating with the British. He resigned in 1946 and Mahmud Nuqrashi was brought back as Prime Minister. Under Nuqrashi, Egypt asked the newly formed United Nations to adjudicate the issue.
The government in 1928 tried to prohibit students from participating in any political movement. In that year it formulated a new constitution to replace the 1922 constitution.
This was a perfect position for someone who wanted to organize acoup detat. He could spot officers who might be sympathetic to such a coup and could work on recruiting them.
Nasser found enough high level officers to create a group of nine who called themselvesthe Free Officers Movement. In July of 1952 the Free Officers Movement was able to take control of the police stations, army headquarters, radio stations and government buildings. The group was careful to not give Britain an excuse to intervene. At that time Nasser had the rank of only lieutenant colonel and he deferred to General Muhammad Naguib. The Free Officers formed a Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and Naguib was designated as chairman and Nasser as vice-chairman. The Free Officers were willing to let professional politicians run the government so long as the RCC had the power to dismiss the politicians if need be.
Politics in Egypt and the Middle East in general became turbulent after the end of World War II. At the end of 1945 the Egyptian Prime Minister, Mahmud Nuqrashi, demanded the removal of British troops from Egyptian territory and a renegotiation of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936. When Britain refused Nuqrashis demands extensive rioting broke out throughout the country. The old warhorse, Ismail Sidqi, who had been Prime Minister during the 1930s was brought back to be Prime Minister in the dealing with the British.
After the war, in 1948 when Israel declared its statehood Nasser participated in the attempted invasion. While generally the Arab forces were soundly defeated by Israeli forces the unit commanded by Nasser resisted defeat and counterattacked. It was one of the few instances of military success of a sort in the 1948 hostilities. Nasser became something of a national hero. As a result he was given an appointment as an instructor at the Military Academy in Cairo.
Nassers nationalization program was growing. At first it was only enterprises owned by foreigners that were nationalized. Ultimately it was all enterprises. The following anecdote concerning this nationalization was related to me by an Egyptian of Greek Ancestry. His name was Tony. Tonys family had lived in Egypt for several generations and considered themselves as Egyptian as Cleopatra. The family had plant for producing cement. Nassers government decided that Tonys family were foreigners and therefore their cement plant was subject to nationalization. The way this nationalization was carried out was that a representative of the Egyptian government would show up at the property and would tack a notice to the door announcing that the property now belonged to the Egyptian government. Tonys family had friends in the government that warned them that this was going to take place. When the government agent arrived he found the door had been removed. Being thwarted in carrying out standard procedure the agent went back to his supervisors for consultation. They decided that the notice should be tacked onto the door jam. Again Tonys family was forewarned and when the agent arrived again he found the door jamb had been removed. He returned again to his supervisors. They then, after a period of deliberation, sent out a carpenter to install a door jam and a door. The agent then tacked the notice to this door. However, by this time Tonys family had removed all the machinery and other things of value and all the government got was an empty shell of a building. The Egyptian economy lost the production of the cement plant and the Egyptian government gained something of far less value.
Although the popular support for the Wafd had diminished somewhat it still commanded an overwhelming majority in elections. In the election in 1936 the Wafd candidates captured 159 out of the 211 seats in the parliament. The Wafd received almost 90 percent of the vote. Mustafa Nahhas of the Wafd became Prime Minister.
Israel declared its independence in 1948 and was soon recognized as a sovereign nation by most non-Muslim countries. The Soviet Union was the first to recognize the nationhood of Israel.
Two other events of great political significance occurred in 1936. King Fuad died and his son Farouk became king. Farouk in later years became notorious for his lavish, degenerate life style and his unreliability in political matters.
The Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 and the revised version agreed to in 1954 both called for the tran
There was further cause for Nasser to turn to the Soviet Union. He wanted to build another dam at Aswan that would provide flood control, irrigation water and electric power generation. There was already a small dam there so the new dam was called theAswan High Dam. A cost benefit analysis by the World Bank indicated that the benefits would be no more than the cost so the net benefit of the dam to Egypt would be near zero. The World Bank and other international lending agency did not outright refused to finance the dam. They made financing contingent upon Egypt allowing the World Bank to manage Egypts finances in much the same way that Britain did in the 19th century. Nasser refused those conditions and separately antagonized the West by giving diplomatic recognition to the Peoples Republic of China. The World Bank and the various Western governments withdrew their offer to finance the dam. What was left out of the analysis by the World Bank was the long term Egyptian paranoia about some power upstream on a branch of the Nile River cutting off flow and extracting concessions from Egypt. The reservoir behind the Aswan High Dam would give a reserve of water that would reduce Egyptian vulnerability. When financing for the dam was not forthcoming from Western sources Nasser sought Soviet financing. The Soviet leaders could not have cared less about the cost benefit analysis, they wanted influence in the Arab world and so they agreed to finance the dam. This resulted in the presence of large numbers of Soviet personnel, military and otherwise, in Egypt.The Suez Canal Crisis of 1956
The Timeline of the Life of Cleopatra
However before the Egyptian British disputes could be settled another issue took top priority: Zionism. In 1947 the League of Arab States decreed that its members would counter any attempt to partition Palestine, then under British control, with military force.
British forces tried unsuccessfully to suppress the demonstrations. In the violence about eight hundred Egyptians were killed and sixty Europeans. Reginald Wingate, the British high commissioner for Egypt relented and requested that the British government allow the Wafd be released and allowed to go to Paris. Instead the British government recalled Wingate and later replaced him as high commissioner with the most famous British general, Edmund Allenby. Allenby met with Egyptian leaders and they convinced him that the only way the uprising could be contained was to do as Wingate had suggested, release the Wafd from internment in Malta and allow them to go to Paris. This was done in early April of 1991.
In the last years of his secondary education he became heavily involved in political movements of a nationalistic nature. He became so involved in marches and demonstrations that his academic work suffered and he saw that an academic or intellectual career was not for him. At one march he was shot but since there is no mention of hospitalization it must have been a grazing or perhaps that the bullet passed through his clothing without wounding him. Nevertheless he as detained by the police for two days and thus listed among the politically unreliable. Being precluded from an academic career he saw a career in the military as his best and perhaps only option. He may also have seen that the most likely route to political office for him led through the army.
Not only in land reform but in other fields as well Nasser had goals that would constitute a socio-economic revolution. He sought to raise wages through an increase in the minimum daily wage rate, but simultaneously he sought to reduce unemployment. He increased the hourly wage rate even further by reducing the daily hours of work. He createdjobswithout necessarily increasing production. The most famous measure of this sort was his requiring the government to hire all university graduates who wanted to work in the government. This resulted in an overstaffed bureaucracy in which little was demanded of individual employees so there was little reason for a university graduate to want work anywhere but in the government. This meant a high fiscal burden for the government. This gave Nasser additional incentives to nationalize enterprises as a source of revenue.
The Wafd first presented their case to the British high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Reginald Wingate. The delegation was willing to concede Britain powers in the independent Egypt it sought. This included the right of Britain to retain control of the Suez Canal and station troops in Egypt to protect the Canal. The delegation was also willing to allow Britain financial controls that would insure the continued payment on Egypts national debt. The delegation also wanted to go to London to present Egypts case for independence before the British government.
The treaty did eliminate the special courts run by the British to handle the legal problems of foreigners in Egypt. The treaty further provided that the official representative of Britain in Egypt would be called an ambassador instead ofhigh commissioner. The command of the Egyptian army would be held by an Egyptian instead of, as in the past, by a British officer.Egypt and World War II
In February of 1954 Naguib resigned as from his positions of president and prime minister. This was probably forced by Nasser. However there was a public outcry against Naguibs resignation and other members of the RCC prevailed upon Nasser to let him again be president. Nasser became Prime Minister.
The major opponent of the Wafd in the 1930s was Ismail Sidqi and the parties he controlled. He represented monarchist sentiment in the political contests of the time. When the opportunity arose, King Fuad asked Sidqi to form a government. When Sidqi was Prime Minister he abolished the constitution of 1930 and formulated its replacement. There were great concerns about Sidqis dictatorial ways. Although Sidqi had been asked by King Fuad to form a government he was not a popular prime minister and after he had been away from Egypt for a few months because of health problems he had to tender his resignation as Prime Minister.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hasan al Banna. Hasan al Banna taught the problems of Egypt and other Muslim societies can only be solved by returning society the simple, pure life of the days of the Prophet. This purification starts with removing the influence of foreigners. The Brotherhood organized in terms of secret cells much like what develops as a resistance movement to a foreign occupation. It functions like a religious military movement.
The sultan of Egypt was made king of Egypt, Fuad I, and his son, Farouk, was designated as his heir. But Egypt was given one important concession; Egypt was to be aconstitutionalmonarchy. A constitution was formulated and approved and elections were authorized for an Egyptian parliament.
The Free Officers Movement was unified only by the desire to overthrow the king, oust the British from Egyptian affairs and gain control of the country. They were not ideologically unified. Some, such as Nasser, were nationalistic socialists. Others were Marxists and still others were Islamic fundamentalists. There were personal antagonisms among them. In particular Nasser and Naguib both wanted to be the dominant power in the movement.
During the early years of the war the German war machine seemed invincible. After conquering France Germany became involved in saving the less than invincible war machine of Italy. This brought German troops into North Africa and there was fear that Germany would capture Egypt and take control of the Suez Canal. The politicians of Egypt, never very fond of the British, began to think of an alliance with Germany. The Wafd convinced the British ambassador, now the representative of British power in Egypt, that they would not raise a rebellion during the war against Britain power in Egypt. The ambassador then requested, or perhaps ordered is the proper term, King Farouk to dismiss the existing government in parliament and have the Wafd form a new government.
It took Napoleons expedition to Egypt of 1798-1802 to make Europe aware of the richness of ancient Egyptian civilization. Militarily Napoleons expedition was a disaster because the English decisively wiped out the French fleet at Aboukir Bay (The Battle of the Nile). Napoleons troops were able to defeat the Mamelukes who controlled Egypt at the time but as soon as the French fleet was destroyed the expedition was doomed. Napoleon himself escaped leaving his troops to fend for themselves.The CondominiumThe Emergence ofal Wafd(the delegation) as a Political Force
The civilian prime minister of the government resigned and Naguib took his place, thereby becoming the nominal head of government as well as chairman of the RCC and commander of the army. Ostensibly Naguib was the most power figure in the government. Nasser wanted to carry out a major confiscation of land holdings by the government supposedly for ultimate transfer to poor and landless peasants. Other members of the RCC including Naguib were less inclined to change land holdings.
The Muslim Brotherhood was critical of Nasser not only concerning his revised Anglo-Egyptian treaty. Nasser was not a person who accepted criticism graciously and he outlawed the Brotherhood in February of 1954. In October of that year, while Nasser was giving a speech in Alexandria concerning the treaty, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinate him. Nasser was not hurt and the assassin apprehended. Nasser then gave speeches in public in several places supposedly in defiance of the Muslim Brotherhood. This most likely was a public relations gambit, a bit ofshowboating, for if there had been any real risk it would of been senseless and irrational for Nasser to endanger himself in such public appearances.
Nasser was the originator of the coup but he needed Naguib to give military credibility to the RCC. Nasser and most of the other members of the Free Officers Movement were colonel level and Nasser was about forty years old. Naguib was a general, older and more well-baathknown than Nasser. Nasser needed him as a figure-head front for the RCC but was not about to relinquish leadership of the movement to him.
Gamal Abdul Nasser was the commanding officer of a unit in the war in 1948 which followed the formation of Israel. Nassers unit performed well and Nasser himself was wounded in the chest. Nasser became well known in Egypt as a war hero, a notably hansom and photogenic one. He later organized a group called theFree Officerswhich carried out acoup detat. Nasser in power exiled the king of Egypt, Farouk, and attempted to create an Arab socialism in Egypt.
In November of 1924 extremist who could not bear to have a moderate, gradualist program work found a way to provoke British authorities to it. The terrorists assassinated the Sir Lee Stack. Stack was the Governor General of Sudan and was also the commander of the Egyptian Army. Stack was an old friend of General Edmund Allenby, the High Commissioner of Egypt. Allenby presented an ultimatum of demands to the Egyptian government. These demands includedThat the Egyptian government apologize for the assassination of StackThat the Egyptian government find and punish the assassinsThat the Egyptian government pay an indemnity of 500,000That Egypt withdraw all troops from SudanThat Egypt allow unlimited increases in irrigation in SudanThat the Egyptian government withdraw opposition to Britain protecting foreign interests in Egypt.
The elections were held in January of 1924 and the Wafd won by a landslide, capturing 179 out of the 211 seats. Zaghlul was made the first prime minister of Egypt. He selected a cabinet that was intended to include all element of Egyptian society. The new parliament opened in March of 1924. Tragedy would soon bring down Zaghluls government.
Gamal Abdul Nasser was born near Alexandria. His father was a post office employee, a government worker, whose origin was near the city of Asyut in Upper Egypt, about 370 km (230 miles) south of Cairo. Gamal was born in 1918. As a boy he showed academic promise and was sent to live with an uncle in Cairo in order to attend better quality schools. While he was there his mother died and so he was deprived of his mother at the age of eight. Later Nasser for three years attended a Koranic school in the home town of his father, near Asyut. He returned to Alexandria to complete his secondary education.
Events quickly tested the RCC. Workers in textile factories in the Delta went on strike. The strike became violent. The RCC sent in the army to put down the strike and several strikers were killed. The government had the strike leaders arrested and tried by a military court. Two were executed and others were sent to prison. The government then had thirty people arrested and charged with belonging to the illegal Communist Party of Egypt.
At the beginning of World War II, for which Egypt was not a participant, Nasser and a friend from his officer training at the Military Academy, Anwar Sadat, sought assignment to Sudan. While there they made contact with agents of Mussolinis Italy in hopes of carrying out an overthrow of Egyptian King Farouk to coincide with an Italian invasion of Egypt. Nothing came of that plan.
Nasser tried to avoid confrontation with Israel in order to concentrate on his domestic revolution. Internationally he tried to separate Egypt from the anticommunist program of Britain. He became a famous figure in what was calledNonalignment. Effectively nonalignment was a move toward the Soviet bloc. In 1955 there was a military confrontation between Egyptian and Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. When Nasser sought to purchase weapons and military equipment from the West he faced having to comply with certain stipulation, such as ending his support for the rebels in Algeria. He then turned to the East and bought weapons from Czechoslovakia.
In March the Wafd (delegation) was arrested and imprisoned. Shortly thereafter they were transported to the island of Malta, then still under British control. The imprisonment and deportation of the Wafd result in wide-spread violent uprisings throughout Egypt. There was a general strike and massive public demonstrations. The wives of the exiled members of the Wafd led the demonstrations even though this involved a serious break in the tradition of seclusion for Muslim women. Railroad and telegraph lines were cut. British goods were boycotted.
There are few locations in the world that are more strategic than Egypt. Egypt is at the bridge of the African and Eurasian continents. But in addition to that strategic location with respect to land Egypt is at a strategic location with respect to the seas. Egypt is the bridge between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, both of which give access to an ocean. And if that were not enough Egypt has the Nile River which is one of the few fresh water sources in the region and which give water travel access to regions of Africa not accessible by any other means. The region which is now Israel-Palestine has the strategic location but it does not have a river like the Nile. Geographically Egypt has it all.
Up until the early nineteenth century the world knew very little of ancient Egypt other than what appeared in the Old Testament. The monuments such as the Great Pyramids at Giza were known from Grecian sources but Egypt in general was a mystery, a society that had been closed to outsiders for hundreds of years.
Nasser then did everything he could to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood and charged that Naguib was tied to it. This then became the excuse for removing Naguib from the presidency. Nasser then took over the office of president. Naguib was placed under house arrest and he spent 18 years in this status.
(To be continued.)Egypts Geopolitical Realignment
Zaghlul was forced to deal with the ultimatum. He accepted all but the last two conditions. Egypt considered Sudan to be an integral part of the Egyptian nation and Egypt feared there would not be enough water for Egypt proper if more water was being used in Sudan. This was a chronic cultural fear in Egypt; i.e., that increased use of Nile water upstream would mean that Egypt would not get the water it needs.
Egypt was hard hit by the Great Depression of the 1930s which started in the United States and spread around the world. Countries like Egypt that depended heavily on its export crop of cotton were particularly hard hit. (For an explanation of the origin of the Great Depression seeGreat Depression.