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Egypt is one of the largest and most developed countries in the Arab world. It has deep historical roots; possesses significant military, economic, and cultural potential; and influences all aspects of life in the Arab states of the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. Egypt’s revolution of 1952 opened wide perspectives for a national transformation of the country’s political, economic, and social spheres.
A few months after succeeding in its revolutionary attempt, the new Egyptian government commenced a realization of precisely planned large-scale programs for the development of its education, culture, and science systems (Cleveland and Bunton 298). Under the rule of Gamal Abd al-Nasser, Egypt’s administration aimed to create favorable material, moral, and ideological conditions for the development of national culture and growth through the adoption of reforms and the establishment of new alliances.
Nasser’s political strategy
Nasser’s political strategy was largely based on the idea of both national and pan-Arab union. He regarded Egypt to be a leading force in the struggle against Western imperialism because the country played a key role in the Middle East, a region that had shared problems, a joint future, and a common enemy (Cleveland and Bunton 326). This idea of Arab unity led to the creation of the United Arabic Republic, which was initiated by the Syrian government in 1958 and “appeared to be a major step along the road to Arab unity” (Cleveland and Bunton 298).
The UAR was comprised of Egypt and Syria. However, not all Arab countries shared Nasser’s views. The monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Jordan looked at Egyptian revolutionists with great suspicion. Similarly, Nasser viewed the prime minister of Iraq as an attendant of the West—in particular, the United States—with whom the Iraqi government had signed a few defensive pacts in an attempt to halt Soviet expansion.
Moreover, in 1955, the Baghdad Pact between Iraq and Turkey was concluded, forming a coalition that aimed to strengthen cooperation with NATO allies and consolidate British influence in the region (Cleveland and Bunton 326). By the nature of this fact, Nasser condemned this coalition as well as the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Said, in their support of the imperialistic West. As a result, Nasser had a significant influence on the formation of regional opposition to Iraq and the Baghdad Pact; through pro-Arabic propaganda, Nasser made a strong impression on the Arab audience, as well as the leadership of the previously colonized states who now sought a firmer position in a sharply polarized world.
After the Egyptian leader successfully resolved the issue of the British presence in the country and undertook actions to liquidate the bribable monarchy, he obtained hero status for many political actors who perceived the West as their biggest enemy. It became obvious that the fight against imperialism and the endeavors to unite Arabs represented only a few elements of a larger-scale conflict between the developing world and the Western powers.
The occupation of Egyptian territory by the British army was one of the biggest problems for the country’s politics of that time. After a few difficult years of negotiations between the parties regarding the evacuation of British troops, a treaty was signed on October 19, 1954 (Cleveland and Bunton 293). The agreement guaranteed the withdrawal of the British army from Egypt over twenty months; it also stated that the military objects in the area of the Suez Canal would remain under British and Egyptian co-ownership for the following seven years. However, on July 26, 1956, Nasser enacted a decree that began the nationalization of the canal (Cleveland and Bunton 295).
At that time, the Suez Canal served as the main route for a large portion of both English maritime transportation and international trade. Nasser did not stop at the Suez Canal, however; throughout the following years, he nationalized English and French banks, commercial enterprises, and industrial companies. These actions made the Egyptian ruler a national hero and one of the most influential figures in the region’s anti-imperialist movement.
Nasser’s efforts aimed at the removal of Western influence in the region were substantially supported by the USSR. The Egyptian political strategy for the fulfillment of its national interests was reflected throughout the establishment of a friendly relationship between Egypt and the USSR. The significant cooperation between these two countries reached the peak of its development during the 1950s and 1960s. The Soviet Union made a significant contribution to the improvement of Nasser’s military strength, as well as the economic development and technological advancement of the state (Cleveland and Bunton 237).
Nasser’s initiatives fostered the creation of a socialist, democratic, and cooperative society in the country. As a result, the agreement between Egypt and Syria was terminated because many Syrian soldiers believed that Nasser had gone too far (Cleveland and Bunton 310). Nonetheless, Egypt remained committed to its political course, which supported the integration of a socialist ideology into the local communities.
The Arab Socialist Union, which was developed by the Egyptian ruler, encouraged revolutionary enthusiasm, a more prominent role for the working class and peasantry (although it condemned any form of class struggle), external policies with a strong focus on anti-imperialism, the protection of national progress, and more. At the same time, both the theoretical beliefs and practical activities of the Egyptian president were controversial.
Although Egypt took a large step forward and became an influential state in the region and the world, many problems remained. Indeed, Nasser failed to build a cooperative socialist government and unite Arab countries. Nevertheless, Nasser’s successes made him an example for many politically active people in the Arab world.
Cleveland, William L., and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East. 6th ed. 2016. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Web.