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tv   Bruce Riedel Beirut 1958  CSPAN  December 8, 2019 11:20pm-11:55pm EST

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the history of myself some died before the book was finished these absent presences my auntie my mother's only sister my uncle joe and then my oldest brother who died the day after this book appeared in the world. >> thank you so much for coming i am honored to introduce as a senior fellow studies his book is a
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nonfiction thriller that's a cautionary tale combining real-world policy of the middle east of cold war era from 1858 we will watch a presentation please join me to welcome bruce. [applause] >> first of all thank you for coming tonight july 151958 at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon the second marine regiment landed
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on beirut beach the marines came ashore anticipating this would be d-day facing a hostile audience but in fact what they ran into was tourist laying on the beach some of them in the nude or in the newly invented bikini i don't have a picture but i do have a picture of them rushing to the shore fascinated by the marines having landed literally as they charged up the beach weapons loaded and ready to go to war vendors went down the beach selling coca-cola and other delights the lebanese turned out to see
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the sights here you can see the taxis pulling up so it was a comic opera but everything underneath was deadly dangerous the marines were landing in lebanon after very vicious civil war of christians and muslims and to expect going to combat and to violate the sovereignty of lebanon and they saw them supporting their christian enemies as those who are trying to hold onto power and in germany tactical nuclear weapons to be airlifted to the beachhead and the 82nd
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airborne division was put on alert to reinforce the beachhead. so if you think of that comic opera approach in very real terms this could have turned into a disaster. the first time us combat troops ever went into a mission in the middle east. the first combat mission. fortunately it turned out well only one army sergeant has died in the mission and was killed with sniper fire later on. and with the american combat operation of the middle east. and subsequent missions does not turn out as happily as
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beirut 1958 actually in 1982 it turned out as a disaster from over 240 american marines. if you look back on the first mission to gain some understanding into what was going on a few hours after they landed 3:00 o'clock beirut time was six hours earlier in washington president eisenhower gets on national tv to explain why he sent marines into harm's way. one year before eisenhower laid out the eisenhower doctrine the first time the american president said to the american people and to the world the middle east is vital to america's national interest. no president had ever
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identified the middle east as vital. one crucial interest was oil but the birthplace of judaism and christianity and islam and in the context of the cold war the united states cannot allow atheist communism to take over the birthplace of the three great religions. eisenhower 1957 did not identify the defense of israel as a strategic vital interest of the united states no subsequent american president whatever look at it that way. on july 151958 with the marines coming ashore there were two explanations as to
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why they were there. he said that a coup in iraq the previous day the 14th of july was the most pro-western government in the middle east had been overthrown was a direct threat to america national interest so the government in iraq was opposed to the very violent coup even by middle eastern standards. he identifies the two perhaps as the starting point of the middle east the end of the soviet union and international communism if the united states did not respond to the two - - the coup it could be a
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significant as a lost of china of 1948 it is a remarkable statement also completely divorced from the fact that his statements had very little to do with reality of iraq and the middle east 1958. 's real concern was not communism but this man the charismatic young very attractive president of egypt who had taken power through 1819 and 1952 and an extraordinary speaker able to lift an audience with his words and survived literally on stage have an assassin fire a bullet at him and he never
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stopped speaking. he was the winner of the 1956 crisis that egypt defeated the united kingdom and france and israel in part because eisenhower leaned to egypt over the try part tied aggressors and february 1958 syria and egypt united together against the united arab or public today we forgot nationalism as a motivating factor but in the fifties the idea of one arab nation from the gulf to the ocean was one of the most powerful ideologies in the world and he
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was at the center of that. it is ironic because in many ways he was a part of the cia. they did not put him in office, but even before the coup they contracted with him as arab nationalism is the wave of the future united states wanted to be part of the wave of the future so they saw arab nationalism as an effective counter in the middle east the individual associated with this policy was kermit roosevelt who is part of the roosevelt family he is most famous to americans
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to put the shop back in power in 1953 once removed from power in iraq he is less famous for the fact as the additional person who dealt with nasser. very shortly after taking power nasser asked the guy for money to buy arms he is a military general with the 1948 war against israel and that's what he wanted to do is reward to build up the military capabilities. the cia gave him a small stipend three or $5 million depending on the source which would not buy very many arms but nasser spent the money on building a radio tower for his radio station the voice of the arabs. in the fifties radio was the
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equivalent of twitter today to communicate with people. this is the tower that nasser built it is known in egypt as roosevelt's erection. the relationship between united states and the soviet union and egypt soured over the years and nasser went to the russians and to the czechoslovakian public regime and that soured the relationship by 1958 the relationship between the united states and united arab republic had deteriorated significantly it is february 1958 egypt and syria united and the response is the monarchies in iraq to form the alternative the federation of arab monarchies.
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on march 3rd 1958 the king of saudi arabia between nixon and dwight eisenhower told the american ambassador saudi arabia they were underway to overthrow the syrian government to wake up the republican 48 hours later the syrian intelligence service announced they had a plot to assassinate nasser that was spearheaded by the king not only did they have evidence by blowing up his airplane they had canceled checks to the plot makers as if you overthrow the regime do not sign the check. [laughter] so now by 1958 he was ike's
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favorite alternative. the head of saudi arabia and the defender of the two holy mosques which a more moderate pro-western version and the eisenhower administration used him to counter nasser. the year before the king had come to the united states and was the first saudi king to ever visit the united states. 's visit was planned for nine days it lasted 12. the king had indicated he would bring 80 people with him he brought almost 200 there were so many studies in the delegation they could not all fit in blair house they literally set up tents to house the rest of the saudi delegation.
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so we'd like to say he was wined and dined but he was given great profile by the eisenhower administration. the failure of his plot to assassinate nasser resulted in a severe throwback in the saudi royal family within a matter of days stripped the king of all his power and gave it to the crown prince faisal he stayed in power as king but was powerless after that. faisal was much less favorable to the united states. so that was one big setback. shortly afterwards the lebanese civil war began and that was another setback to america the lebanese president was one of the few arab leaders who publicly divorced
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the eisenhower declaration but in jordan the cia uncovered a plot to overthrow king hussein who was in his early twenties very inexperienced and is running a country 80 percent palestinian with no support with a nationalized monarchy and they uncover the plot by tapping the phone of the serbian defense attaché who was plotting with the egyptian counterpart to overthrow the king and in the june 1958 the cia gave all the information to the jordanians and they arrested him and the plot makers. the king turned to his brother-in-law, the king of
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jordan being faisal the second and you can see how remarkably young they are in 1958, the two of them agreed iraq would send a brigade of the iraqi army to oman to help stabilize the situation. unfortunately the brigade they selected was filled with those who were preparing plot against faisal the plot succeeded on the 14th of july, 1958 it was very violent. the brigade was moving through baghdad in the early morning with ammunition which was very unusual instead of heading towards jordan it went to the royal defense ministry and
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lined the family up against a wall and two machine gun all of them and their bodies were dragged through the streets. the prime minister of iraq was the de facto leader of the country of 20 years without a day later and executed on the spot and dragged to the street. very violent and a stunning blow to america's interest. so through a series of events all building up through the 14th of july in iraq. the coup was led by this man nobody knew who this guy was egyptians didn't know who he was the americans didn't the russians didn't he was a complete unknown factor.
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the coup plotters were not pro- egyptian but people on the streets demonstrated immediately where their sympathies were with the streets in baghdad on jul july 14 the tanks that overthrew the government had nasser all over them it wasn't a big stretch to come to the conclusion this was the egyptian sponsored coup the lebanese at that point this gentleman was the prime minister and the president of lebanon in the fifties had a
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highly sectarian government based on fiction that christians are the majority of the people even by 1950 but that was the government as the colonial master in the twenties and thirties the prime minister is sunni muslim by convention the president only serves one term in 1958 he was obviously seeking a second term everybody knew it. it was messier than that so the dominant christian church actually supported the muslim rebels had a very confused situation and the intricacies were far more than most americans with any knowledge of the middle east wanted to get into.
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on the afternoon of the 14th of july eisenhower convene the national security council and turn to the director of national intelligence. remember in the eisenhower administration that the secretary of state john foster dulles and something like that may never happen again in american history. it is the most bleak picture you can possibly imagine the coup in iraq was egyptian inspired leading to the overthrow and very quickly came to saudi arabia of the gulf states the entire region
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would fall into the hands of nasser in a matter of days unless america did something. his brother john foster dulles said if it falls to nasser if all to international communism and the middle east and the world's oil supplies will be in the hands of the soviet people. all of this was baloney. first of all it wasn't at all clear that coup was egyptian inspired although he did take arms from the soviet union eisenhower panicked and it's very interesting to read his memoirs because he said do something. the hero of d-day the greatest
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american general was smart enough to realize unlike some of the successors invading iraq is a really hard thing to do but invading lebanon is really easy because the united states has a large fleet in the eastern mediterranean when 2000 marines went ashore july 15 they were backed up by 70 ships including three carrier battles and the battlefield. and by invading lebanon to go to the defense the united states was doing something to sweep the region. nasser was very popular in lebanon 350,000 lebanese this
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is a country that has a little less people and because of 1958 with some christians in the syrian government in particular m with arms and assistance so he asked repeatedly for the united states to intervene on his behalf but on the 14th the marines followed but nasser for his part was in yugoslavia
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at the time and he secretly flew to moscow which of course reinforced the paranoia that nasser was in the hands of the russians. they agreed the important event was not going on in beirut. the important issue was baghdad and they decided to let the events play out while they frantically tried to find out who was running the new government in baghdad. the situation on the ground in beirut was extremely dicey. the lebanese army which was mostly christian officers
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regarded the intervention as an invasion violation of sovereignty and was prepared to fight back. the american ambassador on the scene advised eisenhower not to sell that on - - send the troops over and over and came up with a brilliant solution. he went to the commander of the lebanese army and said why don't we pretend you have invited the americans to come here to stabilize the situation they are not here as an intervention but as a guest. he went along with it and for the remainder of the americans deployment in beirut, technically the marines were escorted from place to place by patrols of
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the lebanese army. it was fiction but avoided a showdown. met and talk also got the assistance of undersecretary of state, number three with instructions to tell mcclintock to get on the program and got on the bright ground and said i will support the ambassador's efforts to defuse the conflict in together the undersecretary of state mcclintock began engaging with the various lebanese power. and what they agreed is he would be removed from office
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and the general would become the next president. this in fact is exactly what nasser wanted from the beginning so american intervention in lebanon in 1958 was accomplishing what egypt wanted all along and to the wisdom of mcclintock and eisenhower this was the smart way out of the crisis. one g.i. was killed in the intervention by a sniper fire but by october 25th 1958 the last american troops had gone home and operation was a
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success story. and then avoided sending troops into combat. of the mainland communism. and this is understandable. and then never fought in combat and then she wanted to avoid that. and then decided to do something else. and murphy went on to baghdad. with the iraqi nationalist and
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is mostly interested in running his own country. and the middle east anybody who tells you who knows what will happen tomorrow doesn't know what they're talking about. and many times there are unpleasant surprises for the united states of america. so the less it is don't panic. let it play out to give it some time and see what happens. don't reach the worst conclusion overnight give it a little bit time to play out. and i have one more thing to say about all of this one of the reasons i wrote about 1958 is i was there. i was five years old that is
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me in the cowboy outfit that's my brother trying to say i don't know who he is my father was with the united nations when i was two years old then we moved to beirut in 1957 in the fifties it was called the paris of the middle east and that literally was the most open and fun place to live in a region beirut is seated right on the mediterranean with the mountains right behind literally you can go swimming in the morning and skiing in the afternoon. of course when the civil war began it went sour in the end
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my father stayed my mother and brother and i were evacuated to naples italy where we stayed with the american fleet until the civil war would wind down and then we went back in. that's my personal account thank you for your questions or comments. [applause] >> this is a complicated question but why do you think the civil war in 1958 and this was much longer and bloodier
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quex. >> it's a very good question. >> after an awkward beginning mcclintock in particular had already established a network of ties with the various sunni shia leaders i think even more importantly lebanon was not a battlefield with a palestinian movement had not developed yet and were just refugees in lebanon once you got to the
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post 1967 era the pen one - - palestinian community staked out its own position and the conflict was between arab and israeli making it much much more complicated. >> thank you for coming tonight. [applause] [inaudible conversations]


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