Exaggerating US Intelligence Influence: the Case of Egypt’s 1952 Coup   Leave a comment

Nasser3quote-the-genius-of-you-americans-is-that-you-never-make-clear-cut-stupid-moves-only-complicated-gamal-abdel-nasser-21-18-69

Undoubtedly, the CIA’s ability to reach out to the inner structure of social and political systems in other countries should not be underestimated. If you ask an average citizen about the CIA, they would remember scenes from Mission Impossible and Homeland. Books like Miles Copeland’s Game of Nations would feed this feeling of CIA’s ability to “report the exact size of each citizen’s underwear,” as Egyptians customarily say.

However, the American confusing, and contradictory, foreign policies, especially in the case of Arab Spring countries, question the credibility of its intelligence. We usually prioritise the explanation that CIA must be implementing a complex performance that goes beyond our comprehension. But we tend to forget the possibility that CIA could have simply messed up.

As a scholar who has usually been trained to get back to primary texts first, I was curious to read the CIA’s declassified reports on a matter that I tend to think that I read enough about to compare results. In this case, as an Egyptian, I was primarily interested in the case of the 1952’s Coup d’Etat (read about it here). That event was precisely covered by Copeland’s aforementioned book, in which he was bragging about the mythical plan “Project Fat Fucker” which was the American plot to oust king Farouk I of Egypt. But is this true?

The CIA has recently declassified nearly 30 “secret” and “top secret” digests and reports regarding Egypt’s most dangerous political transition in its modern history between July 1952 and February 1954. I will not cover everything in these documents, but a careful look at the speculative reports and ill-judgments on the pivotal days of this sensitive period should show us how ambiguous the situation was to the Americans (and to some degree to the British!).

The first report on the day of the coup: basic data on what happened is followed by a speculative suggestion that the possibility of establishing harmony between the king and the Free Officers is on the table. This shows how the American intelligence had no idea of what was going on, unfolding far-fetched possibilities of the situation.

On the night of the 25th of July, the king is besieged in his palace in Alexandria in a critical situation, making phone calls to the American ambassador and warning him that he has intelligence confirming that his situation is at stake and an immediate move must be made. The CIA’s “comment” was that this is just a panic response and that the king has some sort of a settled agreement with his opponents. However, the king was not panicking… the next day he was ousted and exiled!

The following day, the Egyptian minister of interior receives intelligence that the Free Officers are penetrated by Islamist and Communist members and that they could form a great threat to western interest. An urgent move must take place within hours! A top secret document shows the British – American agreement that the minister is exaggerating to strengthen his cabinet position in the negotiations if he showed that he was able to bring an Anglo-American power with him. And guess what, the most hostile, socialist and soviet ally government in the Middle East was formed by the west’s fiercest Arab enemy: Nasser, within two years. The “inexperienced junta” was completely unknown to the western intelligence, being able to form a meticulous plan to overtake the Egyptian army and receive a huge support from the public within hours.

The following documents on 1954 show the shaken reaction of the American intelligence which was unable to understand what’s going on, suggesting to sit and watch to be able to find a way to deal with the new beast.

This leaves us with the quote in the picture posted above, perhaps as something we need to remember when we find all normal scenarios unable to explain what’s going on in the Middle East at the moment.

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Posted March 27, 2018 by Mina Monier in Uncategorized

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