President Nasser and the United States


President Nasser’s experience with the U.S. is an excellent history lesson for young people who were not yet born during Nasser’s era because it is key to interpreting recent developments between Egypt and America.

At the time of the 1952 Revolution the U.S. ambassador to Egypt was Jefferson Caffery, a high-ranking diplomat. Caffery was known to be a great supporter of Nasser, who, along with his Free Officers, was seen as having strong anti-communist sentiments. American support had grown after the Cairo’s January 1952 fire, an expression of popular anger and potential prelude to a street-led revolution.

The U.S. saw Nasser and the Free Officers as guarantors of stability against the kind of popular revolt that would serve Egyptian leftists. Once Nasser became president, he came into conflict with the leftists and arrested many of them.

Within two years, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles discovered that despite his country’s unique relationship with Nasser, he was no puppet. Nasser refused to join the Baghdad Pact created by the U.S., Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and the U.K. in 1955 to support the U.S. in her Cold War against the Soviet Union.

Both Soviet Russia and the United States courted Nasser, offering foreign aid and military support. Dulles agreed, in principle, to help build the Aswan Dam, a major development project to provide electric power and stop the Nile floods. President Nasser’s response to both sides was that Egypt would remain non-aligned. In other words, Egypt would not join the Western bloc led by America, or the Eastern bloc led by Russia.

Nasser’s decision outraged Dulles. The wording he chose has gone down in the history of U.S.-Egypt relations. Dulles claimed that neutrality was “immoral” and that it was Nasser’s responsibility to choose between good and evil. Of course, “good” was the U.S. and NATO, and “evil” was the Eastern Bloc. As a result, Dulles withdrew American support for the Aswan Dam, denied military aid and blocked exports of American wheat to Egypt.

By the same token, while recalling the history of Egyptian-American relations, we should not forget that President Gen. Eisenhower, one of the heroes of World War I, insisted that the British, French and Israelis withdraw their forces from Egypt during the 1956 Tripartite Aggression.

CIA Chief explains U.S. hostility

After the Six-Day War in 1967, it was discovered that the U.S. had supported Israel against Egypt. In 1978, I heard an explanation that linked the 1967 War to Nasser’s involvement in Yemen.

I was in Washington D.C. with Field Marshal Abdel Ghany El-Gamasy, minister of defense under President Sadat, with whom I had worked as a media advisor during the October 1973 War. During a dinner at the Pentagon in honor of El-Gamasy, I sat next to CIA Chief Admiral Turner who explained to me why the U.S. had taken the side of Israel against Egypt.

Under Nasser, Turner said, Egypt had acted like a major power by going into Yemen and using Egyptian troops to build roads and airports. The U.S. could not accept Egypt in that role.


Today, when the U.S. interferes in the domestic affairs of Egypt by aligning itself with the Muslim Brotherhood nominee and adopting a hostile stance towards the SCAF, it brings back memories of U.S. hostility towards President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the fifties.

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