DBQ Question – How did Anwar Sadat impact United States’ foreign policy in the Middle East?
Dayton High School
The relationship between United States has been changing since the nationalist revolution of Egypt in 1952. This relationship has changed depending on the leadership of both countries. The fear of the Cold War, communism, Palestinian terrorism, control of oil, and difference of culture between the two countries has impacted their treatment of each other. A turbulent relationship through their history of foreign policy, it was the work of Anwar Sadat who cemented the relationship between Egypt and the United States.
Egypt had been controlled by Great Britain since the 1880s, even though it was never officially a colony. Great Britain’s interest in the region was tied closely to the Suez Canal, which linked the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia.1 The British also became more involved in the region in the post World War I era, with the Balfour Declaration. This policy statement released by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour stated that the British government supported the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. 2 President Woodrow Wilson showed his commitment to a Jewish homeland in August of 1918 in an open letter to Rabbi Stephen Wise.3
The United States became more involved in the Middle East in the aftermath of World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Ibn Saud in February of 1945. During this meeting Saud commented to Roosevelt that the Arabs would choose death over the idea of giving up any of their lands to Jews. FDR responded that the US would not help the Jews against the Arabs and would not act hostile towards Arabic people.4 In the months following this meeting, state department personnel, Wallace Murray warned his supervisors that FDR’s support of Zionism could lead to bloodshed in the Middle East and would endanger the oil relationship with Saudi Arabia.5
The images of a Jewish homeland versus the Arabic people living in the Middle East visited many Americans in the reading of the monthly magazine, National Geographic. One such article from the mid 1940s called “Palestine Today” showed the Jewish homeland on Palestine comparable to how United States citizens immigrated to California in the 1880s.6 Photos published in National Geographic showed a pretty Jewish holocaust survivor working in a field and then showed an Arabic farmer clad in traditional clothing, holding a sword as he watched three Palestinian workers.7
Another example of the cultural differences between the Middle East and the United States occurred during the Truman Administration. Kind Saud’s minister of finance, Abdullah Suleiman met with Truman during August of 1946 to ask for help on a Saudi irrigation project. Truman’s response was that Moses should be sent out to strike rocks with his staff to help them find water.8
Truman’s administration felt that the people in the Middle East were a group of uncertainty. They felt that both the political and religious extremism could set up a big concern when it came to US interests in the region.9 This uncertainty continued into the Eisenhower presidency, where Eisenhower had to confront the issue of Egypt nationalism and the crisis of Cold War communism.
The Suez Canal in Egypt became an issue during the Eisenhower administration. The Suez Canal was owned by The Suez Canal Company and was opened in 1869.10 After years of British control in the region, there was a nationalist revolution in Egypt in 1952 and the British agreed to remove their military bases in 1954 and the right to bring in forces to protect the canal if necessary.11 This was the height of the Cold War and Gamal Abdel Nasser had managed to overthrow British control without the direct help of either the United States or the Soviet Union. Nasser’s aim was to become the principal leader of the Arab world and to remain neutral from both Cold War partners, yet he wanted to take advantage of both the main players of the Cold War.12
Nasser took advantage of his relationship with the United States by asking for funds to help with the Aswan High Dam, which he claimed was a project to crucial to the Egyptian economic development. But, playing the Cold War cards, he also bought weapons from Czechoslovakia, a Soviet controlled country.13 John Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, felt that the arms deal would make Nasser and Egypt a “tool of the Russians.” Yet Egypt then decided to recognize the People’s Republic of China, which upset Dulles. Dulles canceled US financing of the Aswan High Dam. Nasser in retaliation, allowed the Soviets to fund the dam, and this allowed him to announce the nationalization of the Suez Canal.14
This chain of events upset both the British and the French who then proceeded to negotiate with Israel. The two European countries decided with the Israelis that the Israelis would attack the canal and then the British and French would have to provide military support to protect it, although their real ploy was to get rid of Nasser.15 While this seemed like a great plan for the two European countries, they failed to notify the politicians of Washington. It also took place at the end of October, 1956 which was the same time as revolutions in Poland and Hungary. President Eisenhower was furious and felt that the Europeans were starting to look colonial again. The event also almost broke up the NATO alliance.16
The real winner of this whole event was Nasser as he retained control of the Suez Canal, it made France and England look bad, it pitted the Cold War superpowers against each other, and in the end, Nasser remained the undisputed leader of Arab nationalism.17
It was this Suez War in late 1956 that shaped President Eisenhower’s Middle East policy. It was on January 5, 1957 that Eisenhower addressed Congress about the region. Eisenhower was worried that the region would fall under the control of communism and asked Congress to give economic and military aid to any Middle Eastern countries at the risk of falling to the communist threat. Eisenhower wanted to keep Middle Eastern countries independent with this support and this concept became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine.18
As a country, the independence of this region was less of a concern, since many Americans supported Israel and their goals. During Eisenhower’s Administration, many Americans supported a Jewish homeland in the Middle East as a sort of atonement for not getting involved sooner in preventing the Holocaust.19
During the Six Day War of 1967, Israel seized Sinai, the West Bank, and Golan Heights with the support of US President, Lyndon Johnson. The Middle East from Cairo to Kuwait City erupted in a wave of anti-Americanism.20 The citizens in the United State supported Israel, in a real life, David and Goliath fight, with Israel filling the role of David.21 In fact, the results of a public opinion poll from the time, Americans supported Israel, 19-1.22
After this event, Soviet interest in the region seemed to be waning. During the Six Day War, Soviet leader Brezhnev did nothing to prevent Israel from taking land in the region and it seemed that Brezhnev did little to help Egypt get these lands back.23 Nasser, although Egypt lost the land, was revered as a leader throughout the region, until his death in 1970.24
After the death of Nasser, Vice-President, Anwar el-Sadat was elected the President in 1971.25 Sadat early on had a treaty with the Soviets, but then decided to end his relationship with the Soviets.26 Sadat felt that a relationship with the US would benefit him more as they had a connection with Israel. Originally President Nixon and his Secretary of State Kissinger ignored Sadat, even after Sadat kicked out about 15,000 Soviet advisors. In October of 1973, Sadat launched a surprise attack across the Suez Canal to obtain the attention of the United States.27 His plan worked, as he felt he would probably lose the war, but instead he desired a politically win. He felt that the Americans would not let the Israelis humiliate a leader who had already removed power from the Soviet Union in the region. The Israelis did rebuff the attack with the help of US military supplies, and Soviet leader Brezhnev asked for a cease fire. Kissinger refused, going so far as ordering a brief nuclear alert to show the Soviets he meant business. Kissinger then went on to help both Egypt and Israel negotiate an end to the hospitalities, gaining US support from the two countries, while the Soviets received nothing.28
Sadat brought domestic change by allowing more political freedom and a new economic policy to his country. He relaxed government control and encouraged private and even foreign investment in Egypt.29 During this time frame, Nixon and Kissinger worked behind the scene with Sadat to work on an Arab-Israeli truce. Many Americans and even Israelis considered Sadat to be a “good Arab”.30
In November, 1977, Sadat visited Jerusalem. This gave President Jimmy Carter the opportunity to invite both Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin to join him in peace talks at Camp David in 1978. These talks led to the Egypt-Israeli peace accord signed in March, 1979. While this peace accord eventually allowed Egypt to retain the Sinai in May 1982 and improved US/Egyptian relations during the time frame, it did upset some Egyptians and most other Arabic states in the region.31
US political reaction to Sadat was strong. President Nixon had commented that Sadat was sophisticated, constructive, and an essential influence in the Middle East.32 While he worked with Sadat, President Carter admired Sadat more than any other leader and remarked that he would be “a man who would change history.”33
On October 6, 1981, Islamic extremists assassinated Sadat in Egypt.34 Current and former US President, Carter, Ford, and Nixon along with most American citizens were shocked as he was gunned down in Cairo.35 Sadat’s role was over in Egypt and he was remembered as a positive leader from the vantage of United States. Jimmy Carter remarked when heard the news of the assassination that, “Sadat was a great and good man”, who was a victim of his enemies v
who were, “obsessed with hatred for his peaceful goals.”36
Egypt: US Department of State: Diplomacy in Action. Retreived4/27/2011. Last updated November 10,
John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History (The Penguin Press: New York, 2005, Kindle Edition).
Little, Douglass. American Orientalism: The United States and the Middles East Since 1945, (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2002, Kindle Edition).
“Suez Canal Opens – History.com This Day in History.” Retrieved 4/26/2011. History.com/…/suez-canal-
Yaqub, Salim. Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East. (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2004)
DOCUMENT 1: Telegram from US Intelligence in Cairo to Secretary of State, October, 1970
Vocabulary: UAR-United Arab Republic- Egypt and Syria joined together to form one country from 1958 - 1972
Gamal Abdel Nasser – Egyptian leader 1952 -1970
Document Note: This document was created after the death of Egyptian Leader Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Anwar Sadat is receiving congratulatory messages from large number of heads of state. Since we have no diplomatic relations with UAR, believe we under no obligation send message to him from White House. We also should not overlook fact that Sadat spent much of last years making demagogic speeches attacking us.
…If we do not send congratulatory message through USINT, this fact will no doubt be noted by Sadat and his advisors and our relations with new regime could get off on wrong foot.
On balance, we recommend President send following brief statement: Quote- I congratulate your Excellency on assumption of responsibilities of the office of President of the UAR. You have my best wishes for success in your efforts to bring peace and prosperity to the people of the United Arab Republic. End quote
Source: Confidential (Declassified) US Intelligence (October, 1970)
Who is this letter from?
Who is this letter written to?
Why is US intelligence weary of Sadat?
Why does US intelligence advise Presidents?
How could the advice in this letter be reworded?
DOCUMENT 2: Letter from Richard Nixon to acting President Sadat (October 14, 1970
Dear Mr. President,
On this occasion, I wish to express my deep appreciation for the very warm and gracious reception which you and the members of your Government extended to the United States delegation attending the funeral of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser…As you are assuming the heavy burdens of office, I extend to you, Mr. President, my sincere wishes for success in your efforts to bring the blessings of peace and well-being to your people. Sincerely, Richard Nixon
Source: Text as Received from White House 10/14/1970 Letter to Acting President Sadat from President Nixon
Who is this letter from?
Who is this letter to?
Why do you think this letter was written?
Who do you think helped President Nixon write this letter?
How would you change this letter?
DOCUMENT 3: Letter from President Anwar Sadat to Richard Nixon (November23, 1970)
My dear President Richard Nixon:
I thank you sincerely for your kind message to me, dated October 14, 1970 and would like you to know that we deeply appreciated your sending that distinguished delegation headed by Mr. Elliot Richardson to participate on your behalf and on the behalf of the people of the United States of America in the mourning of our great leader President Gamal Abdel Nasser…
For he gave his life and [dedicated] his efforts to the cause of the just struggle of his Arab nation and that of other nations looking forward to, and hoping and struggling for, the realization of political and social progress for subjugated people, the prevalence of the principles of true freedom [in the lives] of both nations and individuals, and the vindication of the principles of peace based on justice…
I [should like to] assure you that the people of the United Arab Republic, having resolutely chosen to follow the path mapped out by Gamal Abdel Nasser…
I wish to assure you, dear President, that the state of relations between our two countries does not please us at all. We wish it were better. We have made many efforts, toward that end, but as the saying goes, the road has two sides. We have gone a long way on our side of the street, and are still going ahead...
Please accept, dear President, my sincere thanks and greetings.
Source: Letter from President Anwar Sadat to President Nixon November 23, 1970. Response to President Nixon’s October letter.
Who is this letter to?
When was it written?
Why do you think President Sadat refers to Gamal Abdel Nasser?
What are other foreign policy events that President Nixon is encountering during this same time frame? How do you think these events impacted what his decisions in Egypt?
If you worked as an advisor to President Nixon, what advice would you give to the President in responding to President Sadat? Why?
DOCUMENT 4: Letter from Henry Kissinger to President Anwar Sadat (January 25, 1974)
Dear Mr. President:
During the course of the last three months we have worked closely together to achieve our mutual goal of establishing a permanent and just peace in the Middle East. I wish now to offer you my personal congratulations on the successful achievement of the first stage of this quest, an achievement which would have been extra-ordinarily difficult had it not been for the outstanding qualities of statesmanship which you have brought to our discussions. It has been a privilege to work with you.
May I offer my appreciation for the warm welcome you extended to us in Aswan. We are all truly grateful for the thoughtfulness and courtesy extended to us by yourself and the Presidency staff.
Henry A. Kissinger
Document Source: Letter from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to President Sadat of Egypt (January 25, 1974)/
Who is this letter to and from?
What position does Kissinger have?
Why do you think Kissinger wrote this instead of President Nixon?
What are two important facts that Kissinger stated in this letter?
How would you have changed this letter?
If you were President Nixon, who else could have written this letter and why?
DOCUMENT 5: Letter from President Jimmy Carter to President Anwar Sadat (October 21, 1977)
Dear President Sadat,
When we met privately in The White House, I was deeply impressed and grateful for your promise to me that, at a crucial moment, I could count on your support when obstacles arose in our common search for peace in the Middle East. We have reached such a moment, and I need your help…
The time has now come to move forward, and your early public endorsement of our approach is extremely important – perhaps vital in advancing all parties to Geneva.
This is a personal appeal for your support.
My very best wished to you and your family.
Who is this letter to?
Who is this letter from?
In the original form, this letter was handwritten. What message does this send to President Sadat? Why?
What other foreign policy events is Jimmy Carter facing at this time?
How are the other foreign policy events Carter is facing impacting his decisions in Egypt? Why?
President Carter seemed to have a personal connection with President Sadat. How do you think this impacted decisions Carter made?
Document 6 Map of Egypt
Source information: Map of Egypt.
What is this map of?
What are two cities that you have heard of?
What natural resource is important to Egypt? Why?
Why is the Suez Canal vital to Egypt? The rest of the world?
Why do you think the United States care about Egypt in the 1970s? today?
As President in the 1970s, you are going on a tour of Egypt. Which three cities would you visit? Why?
DOCUMENT 7: The 1978 Camp David Accords
Notes: President Sadat of Egypt, Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, and President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, met from September 5 to September 17, 1978 to work on a framework for peace in the Middle East
-The agreed basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israel and its neighbors is United Nations Security council Resolution 242, in all its parts.
-After four wars during 30 years, despite intensive human efforts, the Middle East, which is the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of three great religions, does not enjoy the blessings of peace. The people of the Middle East yearn for peace so that the vast human and natural resources of the regions can be turned to the pursuits of peace and so that this area can become a model for coexistence and cooperation among nations.
-The historic initiative of President Sadat visiting Jerusalem and the reception accorded to him by the parliament, government and people of Israel, and the reciprocal visit of Prime Minister Begin too Ismailia, the peace proposals made by both leaders, as well as the arm reception of these missions by the peoples of both countries, have created an unprecedented opportunity for peace which must not be lost if this generation and future generations are to be spared the tragedies of war.
Source: The Camp David Accords of 1978. The United States, Egypt, and Israel were involved.
Which countries were involved in this document?
Where is this event taking place?
Why do you think the leaders met for multiple days?
What does President Sadat have to gain in making peace with Israel?
Why do you think this region has had multiple wars in the 1960s?
What would you change to help make peace in this region?
DOCUMENT 8: Picture of President Carter, President Sadat, and Prime Minister Begin.1978.
Source: Photo at Camp David Accords.
Who are the individuals in this picture?
Why do you think they look happy?
Why do you think President Carter is in the middle of the picture?
Why do you think President Carter is smiling?
Do you think this was the only picture taken this day? Why/why not?
Why do you think the White House released this particular picture?
Students will use primary source documents to write a letter. Their role is to write a letter as Anwar Sadat to the next leader of Egypt. Sadat will give advice to the leader as the role in the Middle East and how Egypt should relate to the United States. The letter must explain why the advice is given. The letter must use at least three of the primary source documents to help rationalize their reasoning.
Student Rubric Points Student Score Teacher Score
Student is in role of President Sadat 5
Student is giving advice to President Sadat 5
Student gives reasoning why Egypt cares about US 5
Student uses three primary sources 5
Letter is written in correct form 5