Arab Cold War

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The Arab Cold War was a series of sub-conflicts, during the global Cold War period, waged between the Arab states from the era of European decolonization to the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. The term was coined by American political scientist and Middle East scholar Malcolm Kerr, in his 1965 book of that title, and subsequent editions.[1] The period of conflict began following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 and the rise to power of Gamal Abdel Nasser; it lasted until 1970, when he died, or even later, since other divisions remained among Arab states.

Despite links and interactions to the wider Cold War over the period, the Arab Cold War played out initially along different lines. Rather than differentiating between capitalist and Marxist-Leninist regimes, the differentiating factor was between Arab nationalist republics, usually quasi-socialist and Pan-Arabist in orientation, and the traditional monarchies, with a quasi-feudal or rentierist economic structure. The leading Arab nationalist state during this period was Egypt, closely followed by, and in competition with Syria (with which it briefly united in the United Arab Republic 1958-61). The leading conservative monarchy was Saudi Arabia, with Jordan (and initially, Iraq) reluctantly falling in the same but competing camp.[citation needed]

Over the period, the history of the Arab states varies widely. In 1956, the year of the Suez Crisis, only Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Sudan, among the Arab states were republics; all, to some degree, subscribed to the Arab-nationalist ideology, or at least paid lip-service to it. Jordan and Iraq were both Hashemite monarchies; Morocco, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and North Yemen all had independent dynasties; and Algeria, South Yemen, Oman, and the Gulf territories remained under colonial rule. By 1960, Iraq, Tunisia, Algeria and North Yemen either had republican governments or Arab nationalist insurgencies, while Lebanon had a near-civil war between US-aligned and Arab nationalist factions within the government.[citation needed]

Although, in theory, almost all of the Arab states were non-aligned during this period, in practice, the nationalist republics, with the notable exception of Lebanon, were allied to the Soviet Union—even as most of them ruthlessly suppressed the Communist Parties within their countries—and the conservative monarchies generally allied with the United States.[citation needed]

Because conflicts in the period varied over time and with different locations and perspectives, it is dated differently, depending on sources. Jordanian sources, for example, date the commencement of the Arab Cold War to April 1957,[2] while Palestinian sources note the period of 1962 to 1967 as being most significant to them, but within the larger Arab context.[3]


  1. ^ Books by Malcolm Kerr
    • The Arab Cold War, 1958-1964: A Study of Ideology in Politics. London: Chattam House Series, Oxford University Press, 1965.
    • The Arab cold war, 1958-1967; a study of ideology in politics, 1967
    • The Arab Cold War: Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir and His Rivals, 1958-1970, 3rd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1971.
  2. ^ Water resources in Jordan: evolving policies for development, the environment, and conflict resolution, p.250
  3. ^ Bahgat Korany, The Arab States in the Regional and International System: II. Rise of New Governing Elite and the Militarization of the Political System (Evolution) at Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs