chapter  3
38 Pages

The early Cold War, the loss of India, and Nasser’s revolt against the British, 1946–58

World War II ended with the allies victorious. During the conflict Iranian and Saudi leaders had invited American military trainers and advisors to assist them in bolstering their defenses; from Saudi Arabia they departed, but in Iran, government leaders asked them to stay. It would be a great mistake, however, to say that World War II marked the beginning of an American march to dominate the Persian Gulf. Great Britain’s influence greatly exceeded that of any other power, and those in London wished to keep it that way. They retained paternalistic defense relationships with the emirates on the Gulf, after all, and they possessed military bases throughout the region, including Iraq, Oman, and Aden. They maintained a flotilla of operational warships in Gulf waters. They garrisoned large numbers of troops within striking distance of the region. And perhaps most importantly, London officials felt themselves committed to maintaining order in the region, as they had done for over a century. The British in the first decade-and-a-half after World War II, however, faced one setback after another in the region, forcing London officials – against their wishes – to take the first steps in an unplanned and very drawn out retrenchment from the region, starting with the nation’s departure from India. These setbacks played out during the early years of the Cold War, in which America took the lead around the world in facing down an increasingly aggressive Soviet Union. This chapter, then, looks at British challenges and America’s growing presence in the Persian Gulf region from 1946-58.