How the CIA Shaped the Modern Middle East

History Professor Hugh Wilford chronicles the agency's involvement in the region.


The Eisenhower administration is initially quite sympathetic towards Kermit Roosevelt's Arabist agenda. The new Secretary of State John Foster Dulles begins to turn against Nasser because increasingly he sees him as backing the Soviet Union rather than the U.S. So it is a combination of Dulles' Cold War framework, through which he viewed the world, [and a] growing public support within the U.S. for Israel that eventually forces the Arabist agenda to fail. But also, I argue that the British imperial legacy of the great game and seeing the East as the place of heroic spy games sort of undermines the Arabist agenda as well because it means that they are too ready to conduct covert operations in the Middle East and overthrow governments by staging coups and so on.

Why should Secretary of State John Kerry read your book?

To understand the problems that the [region] faces today, the resentment and the suspicion, and the troubled U.S.-Middle Eastern relations, you really need to go back to the foundational moments of the 1940s and the 1950s.

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