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Overview

In the Middle East, the Foreign Office kept watch on Soviet intentions and worked to overcome differences with the Iranian government over nationalized assets. In the 1950s the backdrop against which British foreign policy was played out was also changing rapidly. This was very clear in the Middle East where the United Kingdom was engaged in a complex attempt to build a new web of relationships to take the place of the network of treaties and mandates upon which its presence in the region had once been founded. The 1930 Anglo-Iraq treaty was thus replaced by a newly negotiated Special Agreement (Iraq, Documents 6 and 9). The British Army Training Staff Mission to Turkey was disbanded (Turkey, Document 2), but Turkey was seen as a key player in the newly established Baghdad Pact (Middle East General, Document 18). And dialogue continued with Egypt despite the phased withdrawal of British troops from the base in Suez, which had once been the mainstay of British power in the region. The February 1955 meetings between Eden and Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian leader, were even described as _friendly_ (Middle East General, Document 5). Such efforts, however, faced a number of serious threats. First of all the stability of the region continued to be lessened by the animosity between Israel and its Arab neighbors. This conflict had flared up in February with an Israeli raid on Gaza (Israel, Document 4), and showed no signs of being improved by British or Anglo-American attempts at mediation. Britain_s one public offer to act as an intermediary in the dispute was very badly received by the Israelis (Israel, Document 13). Behind the scenes, the secret Anglo-American Project Alpha proved no more successful. Second, both the extent of Egypt_s ambition to emerge as the dominant Arab power and the degree to which this ambition ran counter to Britain_s regional aspirations became steadily clearer as the year progressed. A conversation between Eden and the Egyptian ambassador in April highlighted Egyptian dislike of the Baghdad Pact (Egypt, Document 4); the proposed treaty linking Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia constituted a clear counter-initiative to UK plans (Middle East General, Document 11); and most serious of all, the information in October that the Egyptians had turned to the Eastern Bloc for their latest arms purchases, suggested that cold war rivalry would further compromise the stability of the region (Egypt, Documents 14_17). Nor could the British rely on the Americans to help them in their aims. Although Macmillan and his colleagues were well aware of the desirability of acting in concert with Washington whenever possible (Iran, Document 16), the United Kingdom and the United States were out of step with one another in their planning for security arrangements in the region, as would be shown by Washington_s refusal to join the Baghdad Pact.

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