AN imperative need to secure sources of high grade oil, the possibility of arousing the Moslem world against England, and the moral and strategic value of controlling the Suez Canal have brought Hitler to the Near East.

The Rumanian oil fields did not satisfy the requirements of the Nazi mechanized forces for an abundant supply of high grade lubricants. Without them Hitler cannot invade England, and he therefore had to make 'Iraq a major objective.

Hitler seems to act with nerve-destroying suddenness. Actually the groundwork for his movements is prepared long in advance with German thoroughness. Thus he has had his agents at work for months stirring up Islamic resentment against England. He hopes to be able to capitalize among the Moslems his position as the world's greatest Jew-baiter, and to turn to his advantage the enmity between Zionism and the Arabs which revolves around British policy in Palestine. He hopes in this way to facilitate his conquest of the 'Iraq oil fields.

The Suez Canal is so often referred to as a British life line that Hitler would like to seize it, not so much for what it is actually worth to England but in order to deal British prestige a staggering blow. As British shipping to India, Australia and the Far East is now routed via the Cape, he would be merely closing an inlet and outlet that have not been used in an important way for many weeks. But the prestige value of its capture would be high, especially for propaganda purposes among the Arabs.

As the Suez Canal traverses Egyptian territory, the part it has played in the relations between Britain and Egypt is well worth considering at this juncture. The sovereign of Egypt is today the world's most influential Moslem ruler. Now that Hitler is manifestly endeavoring to arouse all Moslems against Britain the attitude of King Farouk towards that country is a question of major importance. Probably the best way to get a proper insight into it is to inquire into the King's feeling about the control of the Suez Canal. This requires that the pages of history be turned back to February 1922.

This date is chosen because it was then that Britain renounced her Protectorate over Egypt. The British Occupation, which began in 1882, had been converted into a Protectorate in December 1914. Through both these régimes Great Britain maintained complete control over the strategy of the Suez Canal. When she issued her unilateral declaration of February 28, 1922, she incorporated in it a proviso to the effect that "until such time as it may be possible by free discussion and friendly accommodation on both sides to conclude agreements in regard thereto . . . the security of the communications of the British Empire in Egypt" would remain in English hands.

It took the British and the Egyptians from February 1922 to August 1936 to come to an understanding concerning "the independence with reservations" granted to Egypt. Personalities are often a deciding factor in determining policy in the Near East. In 1930, when a settlement appeared to be imminent, they were the rock upon which it broke. The dynamic driving power of the late Lord Lloyd, then British High Commissioner, and the memory of the rugged individualism of Saad Zaghlul Pasha, whose dominance over Egyptian politics was actually strengthened by his death, defeated all chance of an agreement.

But in 1936 things were different. Lord Lloyd had been replaced by Sir Miles Lampson, after the contrast between them had already been lessened by Sir Percy Loraine's short stay at the Residency. The new High Commissioner, in Professor Arnold J. Toynbee's words, "played the part of the good genius in the Anglo-Egyptian drama of 1935-1936." He is a big man, a charmeur, a conversationalist, whereas his predecessor was a small man, a doer of things and an orator. Lord Lloyd impressed everybody with the fact that time is precious and that bargaining is a waste of time. Sir Miles Lampson loves to linger and therefore is able to do business in the East.

If Sir Miles Lampson was a good genius, Signor Mussolini could be described in the terms in which Mephistopheles introduces himself to Faust, as --

"Part of that Power which would The Evil ever do and always does the Good."

What is meant by this is that when Fascism revealed, in the latter part of 1935, that it contemplated the spoliation of Ethiopia, both British and Egyptian statesmanship realized that the time had come when considerations of amour propre had to give way before the realities of life. Mussolini's designs upon Ethiopia presented an issue which directly affected both countries. They involved a challenge to Britain's position in the Sudan and impinged upon her hegemony in the Red Sea. They gave Egyptians, whether Moslems or Copts, grave concern regarding the safety of the headwaters of the Blue Nile; and they were an affront to the spiritual sway exercised by Egypt in Ethiopia through the Patriarch of the Coptic Church, who was an Egyptian.

With Mussolini hotfoot on his African warpath, the Egyptian people became aware that the irksome connection with Great Britain had at least the negative merit of ruling out a still more disagreeable alternative. It kept Mussolini from invading Egypt. It assured the safety of an adequate supply of life-giving sediment from the Blue Nile. The Nile Valley became anti-Fascist from one end to the other. The Egyptian authorities realized that the hour had sounded for them to take out insurance against Italian aggression by meeting Britain in the spirit of that "friendly accommodation on both sides" referred to in the unilateral declaration of February 28, 1922.

Though this general antagonism to Italy inspired the Egyptians to do their utmost to come to terms with Britain, the Anglo-Egyptian conversations of 1936 opened in a spirit of pessimism on both sides. This was not unnatural. The negotiations of 1930 had broken down over the Sudan after the military questions had been settled. The Italian menace to British Imperial communications through the Suez Canal, which arose after 1930, had caused English technical experts to make larger demands in 1936 than their predecessors had advanced in 1930. The issue revolved around the ability of Sir Miles Lampson, British High Commissioner, to persuade the Egyptians that his country was not wantonly raising the price of complete independence but was merely forced to ask for more because the defense of the Suez Canal had meanwhile become immeasurably more difficult.

The alterations in the technical military situation which had brought about the startling increase in the demands of the British experts were two -- Italy's conquest of Ethiopia, and the rapid extension of the range of warfare, particularly in the air. Limited places d'armes like Gibraltar, Malta and Aden were dwarfed in the new geographical scale which wartime operations had begun to assume. "In 1936," Professor Toynbee asserts, "it would hardly have been an exaggeration to say that the strategist's first and last requirement was elbowroom."

British experts saw that Malta was overshadowed by Italy's manœuvring ground in Sicily and Libya, and that Aden was being overshadowed by Italy's new empire in East Africa. They insisted that their means of defending the Suez Canal, which they then thought was Britain's life line, should suit the new technical conditions. As a result, the diplomacy of Sir Miles Lampson was directed toward demonstrating to the Egyptians:

(1) That "the security of the communications of the British Empire in Egypt," that is to say, the safety of the Suez Canal, really was a matter of vital importance to Britain.

(2) That the problem with which the British and Egyptian Governments were confronted was to provide the British armed forces in Egypt with the elbowroom they would need in the event of war or the threat of war.

(3) That if Egypt desired complete independence and Britain's backing against Italian spoliation she would have to pay the price of giving Britain a free hand in protecting the Suez Canal.

Together, Mussolini's Mephistophelean touch and Sir Miles Lampson's diplomacy succeeded, and an Anglo-Egyptian agreement was signed on August 26, 1936. By it, the British air force in Egypt was given leave, even in peacetime, to range freely not only over the Canal Zone but through all the air over Egypt. In the second place, the British Navy in Mediterranean waters was to have the use of the harbor of Alexandria for a period of years. In the third place, the British Army in Egypt was assured of being able to command the technical means of deploying, at a moment's notice, from its narrow peacetime quarters in the Canal Zone over the remainder of the territory of Egypt, right up to Marsah Matruh, a point on the north coast of Egypt about halfway between Alexandria and the Egypto-Italian frontier.

Though Britain considered that the safety of the Suez Canal was vital to her interests, she in no way called upon Egypt to help her fight to maintain its inviolability. What she asked was to be given elbowroom in Egyptian territory for the defense of Imperial communications. Article VII of the Treaty is specific on this score. It reads in part:

The aid of His Majesty the King of Egypt in the event of war, imminent menace of war or apprehended international emergency will consist in furnishing to His Majesty the King and Emperor on Egyptian territory, in accordance with the Egyptian system of administration and legislation, all the facilities and assistance in his power, including the use of his ports, aerodromes and means of communication.

The rôle thus dictated to Egypt by Britain as the price of Egyptian independence was deliberately that of a passive ally.

During the reign of Khedive Ismail, 1863-1879, Egypt had had a fighting force that carried the Star and Crescent to the heart of Central Africa. It was led by such intrepid Americans as General Charles P. Stone of Massachusetts, Colonel Charles Chaillé-Long of Maryland and Colonel Alexander McComb Mason of Virginia -- not to speak of the 48 other American officers who, from 1868 to 1878, gave Egypt as powerful an army as almost any secondary Power in the world. Europe frowned upon this American-led Egyptian army, and one of the causes that contributed to Ismail's enforced abdication was European resentment that he had turned to America for military experts. When he was forced into exile, in June 1879, British and French policy in the Valley of the Nile tended to bring about the complete effacement of the Egyptian Army. This policy led to the defeat and death of General Gordon. It necessitated the complete withdrawal of Egypt from the Sudan, until Kitchener began the campaign that culminated in the victory at Omdurman on September 2, 1898.

Thus it came about that Egypt had virtually no army, and certainly no effectively armed army, when the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was signed August 26, 1936. And the corollary to these conditions, created by Britain, was that she deliberately decided it would not be profitable to make Egypt an active ally, given the fact that an Egyptian army could not be improvised overnight. She preferred complete freedom of action.

No discussion ever arose regarding the loyalty with which Egypt carried out the Treaty under Mohammed Mahmud Pasha, who was Premier just before the war began. When imminent death caused him to resign, his successor, Aly Maher Pasha, coöperated with Great Britain in a way no friend of the democracies has ever criticized. When he in turn retired from office in June 1940, the Italian propaganda machine intensified a campaign of mendacity against King Farouk and his new Prime Minister, Hassan Sabry Pasha. The strategy employed was simple. Fifth columnists started whispering that he was pro-Italian. They invented tales of intrigues and cabals to give a background to their calumnies. And they were able to get many innocent people, both English and American, to repeat these stories and to embellish them, with the aim of angering the young monarch and sowing mutual suspicion between him and the British authorities.

If the procedure succeeded in causing King Farouk to break with Great Britain, Fascism and Nazism would have gained a powerful ally who might eventually have swung all North Africa, Syria, 'Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Moslem India to their banners. If, on the other hand, it precipitated him into turning his alliance with Britain from passive support to active aid, his subjects would resent being called on to fight on behalf of the nation which they considered was committed to turning over their Islamic Holy Places to the Jews. This might readily have caused a revolution and endangered the safety of the Suez Canal. Not merely have some friends of Britain failed to understand how wise the Egyptian sovereign was not to fall into the trap laid for him, but unfortunately certain Egyptians have joined in the sinister campaign against him. Many of them were hostile to the young King's father, the late King Fuad. They enjoyed a brief spell of glory during the Regency. They have not been able to forgive King Farouk for having attained his majority.

There was an effective means of converting some Englishmen and supporters of England into hostile critics of King Farouk. They simply pointed out that the Axis Powers had invaded Egypt, and that Egyptian troops were not in the battle line, and from this implied that the King was pro-Italian. This increased the difficulties of King Farouk in adhering to the letter and spirit of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty. The fact that he nevertheless has done so is evidence of his honesty.

There were other reasons, connected with general British policy in the Near East, why King Farouk found difficulty in adhering to the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty. They included:

(1) Mohammedan resentment at England's attempt to convert the Holy Land into a National Home for the Jews.

(2) The circumstance that the right-about-face executed by Britain in Palestine on May 17, 1939, when she brushed aside the Balfour Declaration, did not satisfy the Mohammedan world, but instead was looked upon by Islam as a manœuvre taken on the eve of open hostilities and intended to be effective solely "for the duration."

(3) The tirades launched against Haj Amin El Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, after May 17, 1939, by Mr. Malcolm Mac-Donald, the British Colonial Secretary.

Statistics demonstrate that Egypt is an overwhelmingly Mohammedan country, but they do not give an adequate insight into the intensity of the religious fervor of Moslems. And it is because Palestine is as much the Holy Land of the Mohammedan as it is of the Jew or the Christian that he so deeply resents Britain's attempt to convert it into a National Home for the Jews. He is prepared to die rather than surrender to Zionism this sacred Islamic soil.

The fact that the British Government said in its White Paper of May 17, 1939, that the framers of the Balfour Declaration "could not have intended that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population of the country" failed to allay this resentment. Too much Mohammedan blood had been shed in Britain's effort to impose a contrary interpretation. The new tack seemed to synchronize suspiciously with the imminence of war. Confirmation that it was merely a war measure appeared to be given by statements like that made by Selieg Brodetsky, head of the Jewish Agency's political department, that "Palestine is bound to become the chief channel for the resettlement of Jews who will have to leave Europe because of postwar conditions." And though the Balfour Declaration is repudiated in London, this repudiation has never received Washington's sanction. The Moslem world fears that American Zionism will try to force Britain to reapply the Balfour Declaration as soon as the war is won. And it knows how influential America will be after helping to bring about a common victory.

It is conditions of this character that are confronting King Farouk. His people are anti-Fascist. He is anti-Fascist. He knows, and his people know, what the Italians did in Ethiopia. He knows, and his people know, that the Blue Nile cannot be handed over to Italian control. Their interests are anti-Italian. But they are torn emotionally when they hear an American Senator say that Palestine must be converted into a Jewish National Home as "a vital part of the just world order when the present conflict is over."

Here the personal equation also comes in. Before 1914 Palestine did not present any racial or religious problem. When the First World War broke out all the lands where Arabs formed the majority were under the government of the Turkish Empire. The Allies, knowing the restiveness of the Arabs and being desperately in need of their help, encouraged a revolt, promising that freedom for them would follow an Allied victory. But similar commitments in favor of the Jews were also given the Zionist organization. The ensuing trouble, which led to bloodshed in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday, 1920, was at first looked upon by the Mohammedan world as a local Palestinian issue. It was Haj Amin El Hasseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who made Islam conscious of the fact that it was not. It was he who persuaded the more than 150,000,000 Mohammedans under British and French rule to serve notice on the home governments that they would not have the support of Islam in the war then in the offing if the Balfour Declaration was not recalled.

When Mr. Neville Chamberlain decided to appease Islam he did not take a consistent course. He had his Colonial Secretary, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, announce that the Balfour Declaration "did not mean a Jewish State in Palestine against the wishes of the Arab population." But he also announced that the anathema against the Mufti of Jerusalem remained in force. The reason advanced for this procedure was the assertion that Haj Amin El Husseini was an assassin and a brigand, whose offenses were so heinous that Great Britain could not condone them.

No attempt will here be made to pass upon the correctness of these charges. Suffice it to say that 250,000,000 Moslems look upon the man in question as the personification of their claim to their Holy Places in Palestine and that like other people they are prone to personify causes. The fact that even since the present war began the ban against the Mufti of Jerusalem has not been lifted emphasizes how tactful King Farouk has had to be to prevent his devout Mohammedan subjects from turning their sympathies to the Axis Powers. This does not mean that Egyptian Mohammedans are rallying around Haj Amin El Husseini as the leader of Islam, but that the treatment to which he has been subjected by Britain has made him a symbol of Mohammedanism's claim to the Holy Land.

It requires not only a sense of loyalty, but also tact, forebearance and mastery of the niceties of psychology, for King Farouk to be able to adhere to the Anglo-Egyptian accord of August 26, 1939, when there is bound to be an undercurrent around him attempting to force him into the arms of the Axis. We may assume that Moslem extremists continually tell him that he should capitalize the well-known antagonism of Fascism and Nazism to Jewry in order to join forces with them to assure the preservation for Islam of Islam's Holy Places. But he has not listened to such counsels. He has lived up to his Treaty obligations with Britain in a way which should win for him the esteem of Englishmen and their American friends. If they knew the facts they would cease asking, as one American writer did recently, "whether the time for patience has not about run out and whether the choice of sides in this war can be postponed by the Egyptian Government indefinitely." They would see, on the contrary, that:

(1) The British military experts who dictated the dominant clauses of the Anglo-Egyptian Accord of August 26, 1939, deliberately elected, contrary to Egyptian amour propre, to make Egypt a passive ally and not an active one.

(2) The attention of these British military experts was centered upon safeguarding "the security of the communications of the British Empire in Egypt" -- that is to say, the inviolability of the Suez Canal -- and that unimpaired freedom of action seemed to them more important in this connection than permitting Egypt to become Britain's active ally.

(3) Great Britain has been given, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Pact, all the elbowroom in Egypt desired by the British military experts and complete control over the harbor of Alexandria.

(4) Moslem feeling in Egypt is so resentful of British policy in Palestine, and so fearful of the present attitude of the United States as regards a "just world order when the present conflict is over," that it might be hazardous to attempt to enlarge the terms of the Treaty, even if British experts should change their minds as to what is the best rôle for Egypt.

(5) In view of Egypt's position in the Mohammedan world there is no telling how wide might be the repercussions of any unrest starting in the Valley of the Nile.

(6) King Farouk's unchallenged position as a devout Mohammedan, and as a man whom the Moslem leaders throughout the world trust, makes his loyalty to his Treaty obligations a matter of outstanding importance not only for the defense of the Suez Canal but in preventing uprisings in favor of the anti-Jewish Axis Powers throughout the entire Near East, North Africa, Moslem India and other lands.

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