Red Design in the Middle East

SCHMIDT, DANA ADAMS

Red Design in the Middle East The Soviet Union and the Middle East. By Walter Z. Laqueur. Praeger. 366 pp. $6.00. Reviewed by Dana Adams Schmidt Washington correspondent. New York "Times"...

...The difference is that this time the Soviet Union is far more deeply involved, economically and politically...
...Laqueur does not address himself directly to this kind of silliness...
...For one thing he is an Israeli, and therefore suspect, although minute examination of this work shows not the slightest trace of pro-Israeli bias...
...The center of the conflict had moved southward from the Balkans and Constantinople," he observes, "and the stakes are rather different...
...Even if the Communists had followed a 'moderate' line in 1928-35 instead of their ultra-radical policy, even if they had collaborated with the national movement instead of dissociating themselves from it, they could not have made much headway...
...and they won't believe it about Iraq now...
...For the internal crisis in the Middle East had not yet sufficiently ripened, and Soviet power and prestige were by no means universally recognized during the early '30s...
...New York "Times" Contributor, "Middle Eastern Affairs" WITH ALL THE TALK this summer about the Soviet challenge to the West in Berlin, it is easy to forget what Allen Dulles said a few months ago about Iraq: that the situation there was "the most dangerous in the world today...
...He destroys it by delving deep into the intellectual origins of Soviet theory about the role of Communism and national and social revolution in the Middle East and, more generally, in Asia and Africa...
...Despite outward appearance and a current boom, the Middle East in an industrial age is not favorable ground for the creation of a new world power...
...They struggled against the evidence that Syria was endangered by the Communists in 1957...
...any attempt to regard it as such is bound to produce misleading conclusions...
...Walter Z. Laqueur puts the Russian activities in the Middle East into grand perspective...
...Now there are oil, and Suez and Israel...
...It is illuminated at every stage by the author's challenging interpretations, conclusions and predictions...
...Of all the great world religions, Islam is perhaps the least dangerous rival from the Soviet point of view...
...Soviet penetration...
...Reza Shah and Amanullah on grounds that "within the national movement the left wing would gradually take over, and the national movement would then turn into a social revolution...
...Laqueur's particular merit is that he combines profound knowledge of the Soviet Union with profound knowledge of the Middle East...
...On the whole, the professional Arabists don't care for Laqueur...
...From there he analyzes in great detail the Soviet offensives on political, economic and cultural fronts up to their most recent crucial climax in Iraq...
...But "it may be taken for granted that an attempt will be made to postpone any open conflict until Soviet predominance in the Middle East, and Communist influence there, will be more strongly entrenched...
...Stalin put an end to this sort of thing after he was disillusioned by the "betrayal" of Chiang Kai-shek in 1927, but now the Soviet Union is trying again in the cases of Nasser and Kassem...
...And he follows the twists and turns of Soviet theorists, together with the superimposed twists and turns of Soviet foreign policy, through the "great divide" of the Bandung Conference in the spring of 1956 and the Egyptian arms deal with the Soviet Union in the fall...
...He recalls that the Soviet Union once backed Kemal Ataturk...
...The head of the Central Intelligence Agency, who usually knows what he is talking about, went on to tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he thought the Soviet pressure on Berlin was probably meant to distract the West from a more vital Soviet objective: the Middle East...
...One can do no better than to quote some: He starts by refuting the idea that Soviet aspirations in the Middle East are a simple continuation of age-old Russian foreign policy...
...For a man with the environmental limitations of an Israeli background, who has had little or no first-hand experience of either the Arab or the Communist world, this is truly an intellectual four de force...
...Even more disturbing, he shatters the Arabists' pet illusion that there is something about Islam and Arab civilization that makes the Arab world invulnerable to Communism...
...He fills in the vast background behind that much-used phrase...
...He quotes documents from the '20s and '30s that have never before been available to the general public...
...The Soviet leaders calculate that the leaders of the "national bourgeoisie" with whom they are now collaborating might "try to turn against the Communists at a given stage, but they would not stand a much greater chance than Benes and Jan Masaryk in Prague in 1948...
...But this book is no mere compilation of facts...
...The Soviet Union," he says, "is not a state comparable to Western states...
...Conflict with the leaders of the national movements "thus seems inevitable in the long run...
...The Communists are unwilling to postpone indefinitely the complete transformation of Arab society which is their objective...

Vol. 42 • September 1959 • No. 34


 
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