President Eisenhower on U.S. Troops To Lebanon [1958] - History

President Eisenhower on U.S. Troops To Lebanon [1958] - History

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President Eisenhower on U.S. Troops To Lebanon [1958]

Yesterday morning, I received from President Chamoun of Lebanon an urgent plea that some United States forces be stationed Lebanon to help maintain security and to evidencence the concern of the United States for the integrity and independence of Lebanon. President Chamoun's appeal was made with the concurrence of all the members of the Lebanese Cabinet. President Chamoun made clear that he considered an immediate United States response imperative if Lebanon's independence, already menaced from without, were to be preserved in the face of the grave developments which occurred yesterday in Baghdad whereby the lawful government was violently overthrown and many of its members martyred. In response to this appeal from the government of Lebanon, the United States has dispatched a contingent of United States forces to Lebanon to protect American lives and by their presence there to encourage the Lebanese government in defense of Lebanese sovereignty and integrity. These forces have not been sent as any act of war. They will demonstrate the concern of the United States for the independence and integrity of Lebanon, which we deem vital to the national interest and world peace. Our concern will also be shown by economic assistance. We shall act in accordance with these legitimate concerns. The United States, this morning, will report its action to an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. As the United Nations charter recognizes, there is an inherent right of collective self-defense. In conformity with the spirit of the charter. the United States is reporting the measures taken by it to the Security Council of the United Nations, making clear that these measures will be terminated as soon as the Security Council has itself taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. The United States believes that the United Nations can and should take measures which are adequate to preserve the independence and integrity of Lebanon. It is apparent, however, that in the face of the tragic and shocking events that are occurring nearby, More will be required than the team of United Nations observers now in Lebanon. Therefore, the United States will support in the United Nations measures which seem to be adequate to meet the new situation and which will enable the United States forces promptly to be withdrawn. Lebanon is a small peace-loving state wig which the United States has traditionally had the most friendly relations. There are in Lebanon about 2500 Americans and we can not, consistently with our historic relations and with the principles of the United Na tions, stand idly by when Lebanon appeals itself for evidence of our concern and when Lebanon may not be able to preserve internal order and to defend itself against indirect aggression.

Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy, Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology

Director - The Intelligence Project

Backed up by three carrier battle groups, a Marine Corps battalion in full combat gear stormed a beach near Beirut on July 15, 1958. At its peak there were almost 15,000 Marines and Army troops ashore in Lebanon. At the same time, British paratroopers deployed to Amman, Jordan in a coordinated Western intervention intended to prop up friendly governments in the region.

President Dwight David Eisenhower, who avoided sending troops to fight for his eight years in office, sent them to Beirut because of a coup on July 14 in Baghdad. In the 1950s, Iraq was the West’s strongest ally in the Arab world. Ruled by the Hashemite royal family and united in a loose federation with Jordan, Iraq was the only Arab country to join the so called Baghdad Pact that Eisenhower envisioned as the Middle East version of NATO containing the Soviet Union.

America’s great opponent in the region was Egypt’s charismatic President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Demonized by Israel, France, and England, Nasser was seen by many as a stalking horse for the Soviets. Early in 1958, Egypt and Syria united to form the United Arab Republic which Arab nationalists hoped would lead to the unification of the Arabs from “the Ocean to the Gulf.” Nasser would be its ruler. Crowds chanted his name rhythmically around the Arab world.

Lebanon’s Maronite Christian President Camille Chamun was a fierce enemy of Nasser. He was facing a rebellion by the country’s Muslim population and many Christians who were sympathetic to Nasser. Chamun was trying to get a second term as president, which was unconstitutional and deeply unpopular. Chamun blamed his troubles on Nasser and alleged the United Arab Republic was smuggling arms to the rebels. United Nations inspectors did not support Chamun’s allegations.

The coup in Iraq came as a complete surprise to the American and British intelligence communities. It was also violent: The Iraqi army brutally executed King Faisal and the crown prince, as well as the prime minister. Baghdad was in turmoil. The coup makers were unknown but immediately expressed support for Nasser.

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Washington panicked. The usually unflappable Eisenhower convened a National Security Council emergency meeting on July 14. Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles estimated that the coup would lead to a wave of pro-Egyptian regime change across the Arab world. Lebanon and Jordan would collapse. Vice President Richard Nixon suggested intervening in Baghdad. Eisenhower later said in his memoirs that “we feared the worst…the complete elimination of Western influence in the Middle East.” He ordered the Marines to assault the beach in Beirut the next day to save the Chamun government and the British sent paratroopers to back up King Hussein in Jordan.

The landing was almost comic. The Marines expected D-Day. Instead they encountered Lebanese girls and tourists in bikinis and boys selling soft drinks and cigarettes. But it was deadly serious. The Marines were ready to enter the capital and suppress the rebels. Nuclear weapons were prepared in Germany for deployment to the beachhead.

Fortunately, the American ambassador disobeyed his instructions and brokered a deal with the Lebanese army to “escort” the Marines, and with the Muslims not to shoot them. A tense stand-off ensued. The Lebanese treated the Marines as guests, not occupiers.

Within days it became apparent the coup in Baghdad was not controlled by Nasser. Instead, the new Iraqi regime became something of a rival to Egypt as the spearhead of Arab nationalism.

Eisenhower sent a senior diplomat to Beirut, who eased Chamun out of office and replaced him with the army commander. The conflict was defused as the Muslims felt vindicated. The Marines came home. The crisis passed. Eisenhower reverted to his customary cautious approach.

The intervention was strongly criticized in the Congress. Senator John F. Kennedy said the administration was demonizing Nasser, who was not a Soviet puppet and should work with Arab nationalism. He predicted the remaining monarchies in Arabia would be swept away if they did not reform. His colleague William Fulbright was against the intervention in Beirut and argued against it on the 14th in the White House.

Only one Marine died in combat in Beirut in 1958. A quarter-century later, we were not so lucky when another intervention in Beirut went horribly wrong. Today, Americans are engaged in combat across the Middle East in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere.

A familiar pattern has emerged. First comes shock and surprise at an unexpected event like the Baghdad coup. Then a rush to judgement that the worst is inevitable. Demonize the enemy. The sky is falling. We must do something. Send in the Marines.

In Beirut in 1958, Eisenhower was lucky, one ambush could have brought escalating violence. He was also smart to adjust to the new realities in the region quickly.

A how-to guide for managing the end of the post-Cold War era. Read all the Order from Chaos content »

Bruce Riedel

Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy, Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology

Director - The Intelligence Project

But the terrain they encountered was hardly a battlefield. Lebanese and foreign sunbathers — some in bikinis, the 1950s innovation in lady’s swimwear — scrambled for cover. Lebanese vendors quickly appeared with carts selling cigarettes, cold drinks, and sandwiches for the American soldiers. Scores of Lebanese teenage boys soon arrived to gawk at the scene, eager to help the Marines set up their equipment.

It was America’s first-ever combat operation in the Middle East. American troops had been in the Middle East since World War II, but not in combat. America had built an airbase in Saudi Arabia, for example, but it had never been used to fight.

No one in Beirut — or Washington — thought that this mission would mark the beginning of decades of seemingly endless American combat missions in the Middle East.

No one in Beirut — or Washington — thought that this mission would mark the beginning of decades of seemingly endless American combat missions in the Middle East. In retrospect, Beirut in 1958 was a decisive turning point.

Operation Blue Bat: The 1958 U.S. Invasion of Lebanon

The first US overt military intervention in the Middle East took place 60 years ago, when the Marines landed on a beach just south of Beirut on a sizzling summer day. While Washington was responding to a plea by Lebanon’s beleaguered Maronite Christian president Camille Chamoun, whose government was facing a rebellion by a coalition of mainly-Moslem political opponents, the real motive for the muscle flexing was the overthrow of Iraq’s pro-Western regime while the popularity of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, a Soviet ally, swept the region at the height to of the Cold War. This invasion, now tucked away in the folds of history, stands out as a swift and nearly bloodless operation with tangible results as compared to the more recent US military fiascos in the region. Many credit this accomplishment to level-headed diplomacy and collaboration between US and Lebanese officials to avoid all-out war.

Lebanese soldiers (L) and pro government Druze fighters (R) exchange gunfire with anti-government rebels in the Chouf Mountains southeast of Beirut. Norbert Schiller Collection. Phot. AP Wire Photo

The intervention, code named Operation Blue Bat, had no clear military objectives besides making the beach landing, seizing the airport, and moving into the city. Moreover, the plans originally made jointly with the British military kept shifting until the last minute when President Dwight Eisenhower decided that his troops, a combined Marine and army force of 14,000, would take on this mission single-handedly and with half the 24 hour warning time that he had promised the commanding officers.

After landing on Khaldeh beach the Marines secured the airport so that transport and other military planes could land there. Phot.(L) Chuck Smilie, (R) Norbert Schiller Collection, AP Wire Photo

1st Lt. Chuck Smilie on the ground in Lebanon. Phot. Chuck Smilie

Retired Marine Colonel, Charles Smilie, who goes by Chuck, was a First Lieutenant with the third of the three battalions of the Sixth Fleet which participated in the initial beach landing. The 26-year-old Marine and his mates were heading to Athens for a few days’ leave when “all of a sudden we thought the boat was going to capsize when it made a sharp turn and started heading south to go to Lebanon.” They had never heard of the country nor did they know what to expect. “We were told that we were there to maintain order, maintain peace, but it’s not like we were given a whole lot of intelligence.”

Despite the ambiguity and logistical challenges, the first contingent of the 6,000-strong Marine force to participate in this operation successfully landed on July 15 at Red Beach, just north of the town of Khaldeh and half a kilometer from Beirut International Airport. The scene that the “leathernecks” encountered was far from the hostile scenarios that some had been apprehending. Ironically, it was the Marines who startled the locals made up of villagers carrying out their daily chores, construction workers, and bathers taking a break from the capital’s stifling summer heat. Curiosity drove these onlookers to converge onto the landing site where young boys even helped the Marines unload some of their heavy equipment as their wheeled vehicles got bogged down in the soft sand of the Lebanese coast. Street vendors popped up at the beach offering to sell their wares to the Americans.

A carnival-like atmosphere followed the Marines landing at Khaldeh Beach south of Beirut. Street venders set up shop selling the Marines everything from Coca Cola to carpets. Norbert Schiller Collection, Pho. (L) AP Wire Photo (R) UPI

Armed Rebels, one of them a woman, crouch behind a barricade in the rebel stronghold of Tripoli. Norbert Schiller Collection, Phot. UPI

These displays of normal life in times of turmoil, which would characterize Lebanon even during the bleakest days of the civil war that erupted nearly two decades later, did not downplay the seriousness of the crisis. The conflict was complex, with local, regional, and international implications, which seems to forever be Lebanon’s predicament. Internally, President Chamoun, who was nearing the end of his non renewable six-year term, had come under fire by his opponents for having allegedly manipulated the parliamentary elections of June 1957 to guarantee a legislative body that would amend the constitution to allow his reelection. The poll results, which heavily favored Chamoun, sparked riots and solidified the standoff between the president’s supporters and opponents. Although the two camps included leaders of different religious affiliations, many Christians stood by the president while most Moslems wanted him to step down. The most vocal opposition heads who would later emerge as the rebellion leaders were Saeb Salam, a Beirut Sunni, Kamal Jumblat, a Druze from the Chouf Mountains, and Rashid Karami, a Sunni from Tripoli. The regional and international contexts to this situation were the rivalry between the pro-Western Baghdad Pact and the pan-Arab movement led by Egypt and backed by the Soviet Union. Chamoun had refused to break relations with Britain and France after the 1956 Suez War when the two former colonial powers sided with Israel against Egypt. Subsequently, he supported the Baghdad Pact feeling the pressure from Egypt’s union with Syria in what became known as the United Arab Republic. Both these moves angered his opponents who saw them as a stab to Lebanon’s Arab identity.

Gun-toting rebels accompany their leader Saeb Salam to a meeting with US envoy Robert Murphy (L). Druze leader Kamal Joumblatt, who was heading the rebellion against the government in the Chouf Mountains speaks to the press from his hideout. Norbert Schiller Collection, Phot. (L) AP Wire Photo, (R) Keystone Press

Although the United States was keeping a close eye on developments in Lebanon, the real catalyst for the military intervention was the Iraqi Revolution of July 14, 1958. Army officer Abdel Kareem Kassem led the coup d’état which overthrew young King Faisal killing him and Prime Minister Nouri es Said. The violent events in Baghdad, the only Arab member of the pro-Western regional alliance, sent shock waves to Washington and Beirut. As the US leadership was considering the options to protect its strategic interests in the region, not least of all were Iraq’s oilfields, Chamoun invoked the Eisenhower Doctrine under which the United States would send military and economic aid to any Middle Eastern country threatened by communist aggression.

An elderly street photographer jokes with marines in Beirut about having their picture taken. Norbert Schiller Collection, Phot. UPI

When the Marines made their landing at Khaldeh, their leadership was aware of the risks involved. The rebels, a lightly armed 10,000-strong force split into different factions, posed a benign threat, while the more significant danger came from the Syrian First Army which consisted of 40,000 troops equipped with Soviet tanks. However, as it turned out, the Syrians stayed out of the conflict except for facilitating weapon transfers to the rebels, and it was the Lebanese army which constituted the greatest diplomatic challenge to the Americans. From the beginning of the crisis, Army Chief General Fouad Chehab’s greatest concern was that the army would break up along religious lines, which is what happened during the 1975 Civil War and led to the country’s disintegration. Chehab had so far contained the situation by allowing the insurgents to protest, while at the same time keeping them in check. With US boots on the ground, the general was now worried that the United States would be perceived as an occupying force.

Using his good standing with Washington and Cairo, Chehab played a key role in maintaining stability and he did so in close coordination with US officials. When he heard of the landing, the army chief appealed to US ambassador Robert McClintock to send word to the Marines to reboard their ships. However, the request was turned down by one of the battalion leaders and the landing force proceeded with the plan to capture the airport and move into the capital. Confirming Chehab’s fears, a Marine column headed north from the airport to Beirut was stopped at a Lebanese army roadblock where soldiers aboard tanks stood ready to fire at the Americans. The situation was defused at the last minute when Chehab, McClintok and Admiral James Holloway who commanded the entire operation appeared at the scene. They immediately went into intense negotiations at a nearby school where they hammered out the agreement that would define the relationship between US forces and the Lebanese army and clarify the US’s military role in this intervention.

A soldier makes his rounds on a locally-purchased donkey delivering the Stars and Stripes newspapers to his fellow combatants. A Marines takes a nap on top of supplies at a depot in the center of Beirut. Norbert Schiller Collection, Phot. (L) AP Wire Photo (R) Bill Sauro, UPI

It took about a week for the two sides to finalize their agreement, and in the meantime the situation on the ground was still precarious as all sides continued their political maneuvering. In addition to the airfield, the Marines took control of Beirut’s dock area and some strategic bridges leading to the city. However, their most vulnerable position was the airport, where traffic had intensified with the landing and take off of military planes airlifting Marines and army troops. Rebels positioned in nearby hills fired towards the airstrip, but their pot shots proved largely harmless. In the city itself, two Marines on patrol lost their way and strayed into the rebel stronghold of Basta where they were kidnapped and released a few hours later. On the political front, Chamoun continued to press the Americans to interfere more aggressively to quell the rebellion and eliminate any regional threat to his regime.

US Deputy Undersecretary of State, Robert Murphy (L) and US Ambassador to Lebanon Robert McClintock (R) meeting with Lebanese President Cammille Chamoun. Norbert Schiller Collection, Phot. AP Wire Photo

Amid this state of uncertainty, Eisenhower sent Deputy Undersecretary of State Robert Murphy to Beirut. While his initial mission was to address the tensions between the military and the US Embassy officials, which turned out to have been defused, Murphy quickly turned his attention to the Lebanese situation. After shuttling back and forth between the different parties, the emissary determined that the country’s internal strife was a local issue which should be handled as such. He gave the rebel leaders assurances that the US military’s presence was not intended to keep Chamoun in power which promptly defused the situation and reduced attacks against the Americans. Moreover, Murphy openly declared his support for immediate presidential elections, a call which was surprisingly heeded by Chamoun without resistance. While the US envoy addressed the political crisis, Chehab and the US command reached an agreement stipulating that the Marines would be positioned north of the capital and the US army to the south,while Lebanese soldiers created a neutral zone between the US troops and the rebels in Basta.

As the country prepared for the July 31 presidential vote, the Marines settled into a routine which would characterize the remainder of their brief venture into Lebanon. Smilie, the Marine pilot who landed on the second day of the invasion, said that after a week at the airport, where he coordinated air traffic with Lebanese tower control officials, he was transferred to a camp in a pine forest near the hillside town of Beit Meri north of Beirut. “This wasn’t war. We spent a lot of time sitting on our duffs doing nothing trying to spur out some fun,” he recalled. To pass the time, Smilie and his buddies would venture to the local restaurant in Beit Meri or barrel down the hill to Beirut where they hung out at the pool of the Commodore Hotel, the beach of the Bain Militaire, and off course the iconic bar of the Saint George Hotel. To keep up with their training, and maintain their sanity, they flew sorties over Lebanon for about four hours a month.

First Lt. Chuck Smilie, suffering from Dysentery, lies on his cot holding a roll of toilet paper near the village of Beit Meri in the foothills north of Beirut. Dysentery and boredom were the biggest threats that the US military faced in Lebanon. Fellow Marines 1st Lt. Jack Manroe (L) and 1st Lt. Bob Baughman wash up in their makeshift bathroom amid the pine trees. Phot. Chuck Smilie

By mid-August, the first troops began to pack up and board transport ships leaving Lebanon. Norbert Schiller Collection, Phot. UPI

Although the rank-and-file were largely oblivious of the political complexities of the crisis and its potential dangers, their predicament could have been bleaker had it not been for the open cooperation between the US command, American diplomats, and Lebanese officials namely Gen. Chehab. By the end of Operation Blue Bat in late October, one US soldier had been killed and one wounded by the rebels, while the two recorded Marine deaths were due to friendly fire. This was considered a glaring success compared to the next US deployment in Lebanon after Israel’s 1982 invasion when 220 Marines and a dozen service personnel were killed in an attack on a Marine compound near the airport. For Lebanon, the 1958 US intervention facilitated Gen. Chehab’s ascent to the presidency ushering in an era of nation building and prosperity which would become known as the Golden Age.

A history of how Israel out-foxed US Presidents, from Eisenhower to Obama

President Trump hosts Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu this week with the new U.S. administration expected to fall in line as so many “out-foxed” predecessors have, as Morgan Strong described in 2010:

At the end of a news conference on April 13, 2010, President Barack Obama made the seemingly obvious point that the continuing Middle East conflict pitting Israel against its Arab neighbors will end up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, 2015, in opposition to President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran.

“The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” Petraeus said in prepared testimony. “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

[Petraeus later tried to back away from this implicit criticism of Israel, fearing that it would hurt his political standing with his neoconservative allies. He began insisting that the analysis was only part of his written testimony, not his oral remarks.]

Yet, the truth behind the assessments from Obama and Petraeus is self-evident to anyone who has spent time observing the Middle East for the past six decades. Even the staunchly pro-Israeli Bush administration made similar observations.

In 2007 in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice termed the Israeli/Palestinian peace process of “strategic interest” to the United States and expressed empathy for the beleaguered Palestinian people. “The prolonged experience of deprivation and humiliation can radicalize even normal people,” Rice said, referring to acts of Palestinian violence.

But the recent statement by Obama and Petraeus aroused alarm among some Israeli supporters who reject any suggestion that Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians might be a factor in the anti-Americanism surging through the Islamic world.

After Petraeus’s comment, the pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League said linking the Palestinian plight and Muslim anger was “dangerous and counterproductive.”

“Gen. Petraeus has simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the U.S. and coalition forces in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived U.S. favoritism for Israel,” ADL national director Abraham Foxman said.

However, the U.S. government’s widespread (though often unstated) recognition of the truth behind the assessment in Petraeus’s testimony has colored how the Obama administration has reacted to the intransigence of Israel’s Likud government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S. government realizes how much it has done on Israel’s behalf, even to the extent of making Americans the targets of Islamic terrorism such as the 9/11 attacks (as the 9/11 Commission discovered but played down) and sacrificing the lives of thousands of U.S. troops fighting in Middle East conflicts.

That was the backdrop in March 2009 for President Obama’s outrage over the decision of the Netanyahu government to continue building Jewish housing in Arab East Jerusalem despite the fact that the move complicated U.S. peace initiatives and was announced as Vice President Joe Biden arrived to reaffirm American support for Israel.

However, another little-acknowledged truth about the U.S.-Israeli relationship is that Israeli leaders have frequently manipulated and misled American presidents out of a confidence that U.S. politicians deeply fear the political fallout from any public battle with Israel.

Given that history, few analysts who have followed the arc of U.S.-Israeli relations since Israel’s founding in 1948 believe that the Israeli government is likely to retreat very much in its confrontation with President Obama. [Now, nearly seven years into Obama’s presidency after Netanyahu’s persistent obstruction of Palestinian peace talks and his steady expansion of Jewish settlements that assessment has proved out.]

Manipulating Eisenhower

In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower was a strong supporter of the fledgling Jewish state and had supplied Israel with advanced U.S. weaponry. Yet, despite Eisenhower’s generosity and good intentions, Israel sided with the British and French in 1956 in a conspiracy against him. Israeli leaders joined a secret arrangement that involved Israel invading Egypt’s Sinai, which then allowed France and Great Britain to introduce their own forces and reclaim control of the Suez Canal.

In reaction to the invasion, the Soviet Union threatened to intervene on the side of Egypt by sending ground troops. With Cold War tensions already stretched thin by the crises in Hungary and elsewhere, Eisenhower faced the possibility of a showdown between nuclear-armed adversaries. Eisenhower demanded that the Israeli-spearheaded invasion of the Sinai be stopped, and he brought financial and political pressures to bear on Great Britain and France.

A ceasefire soon was declared, and the British and French departed, but the Israelis dragged their heels. Eisenhower finally presented Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion with an ultimatum, a threat to cut off all U.S. aid. Finally, in March 1957, the Israelis withdrew. [For details, see Eisenhower and Israel by Isaac Alteras.]

Even as it backed down in the Sinai, Israel was involved in another monumental deception, a plan for building its own nuclear arsenal. In 1956, Israel had concluded an agreement with France to build a nuclear reactor in the Negev desert. Israel also signed a secret agreement with France to build an adjacent plutonium reprocessing plant.

Israel began constructing its nuclear plant in 1958. However, French President Charles de Gaulle was worried about nuclear weapons destabilizing the Middle East and insisted that Israel not develop a nuclear bomb from the plutonium processing plant. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion assured de Gaulle that the processing plant was for peaceful purposes only.

After John F. Kennedy became President, he also wrote to Ben-Gurion explicitly calling on Israel not to join the nuclear-weapons club, drawing another pledge from Ben-Gurion that Israel had no such intention. Nevertheless, Kennedy continued to press, forcing the Israelis to let U.S. scientists inspect the nuclear reactor at Dimona. But the Israelis first built a fake control room while bricking up and otherwise disguising parts of the building that housed the plutonium processing plant.

In return for allowing inspectors into Dimona, Ben-Gurion also demanded that the United States sell Hawk surface-to-air missiles to the Israeli military. Kennedy agreed to the sale as a show of good faith. Subsequently, however, the CIA got wind of the Dimona deception and leaked to the press that Israel was secretly building a nuclear bomb.

After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson also grew concerned over Israel’s acquiring nuclear weapons. He asked then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Eshkol assured Johnson that Israel was studying the matter and would sign the treaty in due course. However, Israel has never signed the treaty and never has admitted that it developed nuclear weapons. [For details, see Israel and The Bomb by Avner Cohen.]

Trapping Johnson

As Israel grew more sophisticated and more confident in its dealings with U.S. presidents, it also sought to secure U.S. military assistance by exaggerating its vulnerability to Arab attacks. One such case occurred after the Egyptians closed off the Gulf of Aqaba to Israel in May 1967, denying the country its only access to the Red Sea. Israel threatened military action against Egypt if it did not re-open the Gulf.

Israel then asked President Johnson for military assistance in the event war broke out against the Egyptians. Johnson directed Richard Helms, the newly appointed head of the CIA to evaluate Israel’s military capability in the event of war against the surrounding Arab states.

On May 26, 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban met with Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Helms. Eban presented a Mossad estimate of the capability of the Arab armies, claiming that Israel was seriously outgunned by the Arab armies which had been supplied with advanced Soviet weaponry. Israel believed that, owing to its special relationship with the United States, the Mossad intelligence assessment would be taken at face value.

However, Helms was asked to present the CIA estimate of the Arabs’ military capabilities versus the Israeli army. The CIA’s analysts concluded that Israel could “defend successfully against simultaneous Arab attacks on all fronts, or hold on any three fronts while mounting a successful major offensive on the fourth.” [See “C.I.A. Analysis of the 1967 Arab Israeli War,” Center for the Study of Intelligence.]

“We do not believe that the Israeli appreciation was a serious estimate of the sort they would submit to their own high officials,” the CIA report said. “It is probably a gambit intended to influence the U.S. to provide military supplies, make more public commitments to Israel, to approve Israeli military initiatives, and put more pressure on Egyptian President Nasser.” [See A Look Over My Shoulder by Richard Helms.]

The CIA report stated further that the Soviet Union would probably not interfere militarily on behalf of the Arab states and that Israel would defeat the combined Arab armies in a matter of days. As a consequence, Johnson refused to airlift special military supplies to Israel, or to promise public support for Israel if Israel went to war.

The Six-Day Success

Despite Johnson’s resistance, Israel launched an attack on its Arab neighbors on June 5, 1967, claiming that the conflict was provoked when Egyptian forces opened fire. (The CIA later concluded that it was Israel that had first fired upon Egyptian forces.)

USS Liberty (AGTR-5) receives assistance from units of the Sixth Fleet, after she was attacked and seriously damaged by Israeli forces off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967. (US Navy photo)

On June 8, at the height of the conflict, which would become known as the Six-Day War, Israeli fighter/bombers attacked the USS Liberty, a lightly armed communications vessel sent on a mission to relay information on the course of the war to U.S. naval intelligence.

The attack killed 34 Americans sailors, and wounded 171 others. Israeli leaders have always claimed that they had mistaken the U.S. vessel for an enemy ship, but a number of U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk, believed the attack was deliberate, possibly to prevent the United States from learning about Israel’s war plans. [See As I Saw It by Dean Rusk.]

However, in deference to Israel, the U.S. government did not aggressively pursue the matter of the Liberty attack and even issued misleading accounts in medal citations to crew members, leaving out the identity of the attackers.

Meanwhile, on land and in the air, Israel’s powerful military advanced, shredding the Arab defenses. Soon, the conflict escalated into another potential showdown between nuclear-armed superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. On June 10, President Johnson received a “Hot Line” message from Soviet Premier Alexi Kosygin. The Kremlin warned of grave consequences if Israel continued its military campaign against Syria by entering and/or occupying that country.

Johnson dispatched the Sixth Fleet to the Mediterranean, in a move to convince the Soviets of American resolve. But a ceasefire was declared later the same day, with Israel ending up in control of Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai, and Palestinian lands including Gaza and East Jerusalem.

But a wider war was averted. Johnson’s suspicions about Israel’s expansionist intent had kept the United States from making an even bigger commitment that might have led to the Soviets countering with an escalation of their own.

Nixon and Yom Kippur

Israeli occupation of those additional Arab lands set the stage for a resumption of hostilities six years later, on Oct. 6, 1973, with the Yom Kippur War, which began with a surprise attack by Egypt against Israeli forces in the Sinai.

The offensive caught Israel off guard and Arab forces were close to overrunning Israel’s outer defenses and entering the country. According to later accounts based primarily on Israeli leaks, Prime Minister Golda Meir and her “kitchen cabinet” ordered the arming of 13 nuclear weapons, which were aimed at Egyptian and Syrian targets.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Simha Dintz warned President Richard Nixon that very serious repercussions would occur if the United States did not immediately begin an airlift of military equipment and personnel to Israel. Fearing that the Soviet Union might intervene and that nuclear war was possible, the U.S. military raised its alert level to DEFCON-3. U.S. Airborne units in Italy were put on full alert, and military aid was rushed to Israel.

Faced with a well-supplied Israeli counteroffensive and possible nuclear annihilation, the Arab forces fell back. The war ended on Oct. 26, 1973, but the United States had again been pushed to the brink of a possible superpower confrontation due to the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict.

Nuclear ‘Ambiguity’

On Sept. 22, 1979, after some clouds unexpectedly broke over the South Indian Ocean, a U.S. intelligence satellite detected two bright flashes of light that were quickly interpreted as evidence of a nuclear test. The explosion was apparently one of several nuclear tests that Israel had undertaken in collaboration with the white-supremacist government of South Africa. But President Jimmy Carter at the start of his reelection bid didn’t want a showdown with Israel, especially on a point as sensitive as its secret nuclear work with the pariah government in Pretoria.

So, after news of the nuclear test leaked a month later, the Carter administration followed Israel’s longstanding policy of “ambiguity” about the existence of its nuclear arsenal, a charade dating back to Richard Nixon’s presidency with the United States pretending not to know for sure that Israel possessed nuclear bombs.

The Carter administration quickly claimed that there was “no confirmation” of a nuclear test, and a panel was set up to conclude that the flashes were “probably not from a nuclear explosion.” However, as investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and various nuclear experts later concluded, the flashes were most certainly an explosion of a low-yield nuclear weapon. [For details, see Hersh’s Samson Option.]

Getting Carter

Despite Carter’s helpful cover-up of the Israeli-South African nuclear test, he was still viewed with disdain by Israel’s hard-line Likud leadership. Indeed, he arguably was the target of Israel’s most audacious intervention in U.S. politics.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious at Carter over the 1978 Camp David accords in which the U.S. President pushed the Israelis into returning the Sinai to the Egyptians in exchange for a peace agreement. The next year, Carter failed to protect the Shah of Iran, an important Israeli regional ally who was forced from power by Islamic militants. Then, when Carter acceded to demands from the Shah’s supporters to admit him to New York for cancer treatment, Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage.

In 1980, as Carter focused on his reelection campaign, Begin saw both dangers and opportunities. High-ranking Israeli diplomat/spy David Kimche described Begin’s thinking in the 1991 book, The Last Option, recounting how Begin feared that Carter might force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and accept a Palestinian state if he won a second term.

“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Begin’s alarm was driven by the prospect of Carter being freed from the pressure of having to face another election, according to Kimche.

“Unbeknownst to the Israeli negotiators, the Egyptians held an ace up their sleeves, and they were waiting to play it,” Kimche wrote. “The card was President Carter’s tacit agreement that after the American presidential elections in November 1980, when Carter expected to be re-elected for a second term, he would be free to compel Israel to accept a settlement of the Palestinian problem on his and Egyptian terms, without having to fear the backlash of the American Jewish lobby.”

So, by spring 1980, Begin had privately sided with Carter’s Republican rival, Ronald Reagan, a reality that Carter soon realized. Questioned by congressional investigators in 1992 regarding allegations about Israel conspiring with Republicans in 1980 to help unseat him, Carter said he knew by April 1980 that “Israel cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes found among the unpublished documents in the files of a House task force that looked into the so-called October Surprise case.

Carter traced the Israeli opposition to his reelection to a “lingering concern [among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.” [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Doing What Was Necessary

Begin was an Israeli leader committed to do whatever he felt necessary to advance Israeli security interests and the dream of a Greater Israel with Jews controlling the ancient Biblical lands. Before Israel’s independence in 1948, he had led a Zionist terrorist group, and he founded the right-wing Likud Party in 1973 with the goal of “changing the facts on the ground” by placing Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas.

Begin’s anger over the Sinai deal and his fear of Carter’s reelection set the stage for secret collaboration between Begin and the Republicans, according to another former Israeli intelligence official, Ari Ben-Menashe.

“Begin loathed Carter for the peace agreement forced upon him at Camp David,” Ben-Menashe wrote in his 1992 memoir, Profits of War. “As Begin saw it, the agreement took away Sinai from Israel, did not create a comprehensive peace, and left the Palestinian issue hanging on Israel’s back.”

Ben-Menashe, an Iranian-born Jew who had immigrated to Israel as a teen-ager, became part of a secret Israeli program to reestablish its Iranian intelligence network that had been decimated by the Islamic revolution. Ben-Menashe wrote that Begin authorized shipments to Iran of small arms and some military spare parts, via South Africa, as early as September 1979 and continued them despite Iran’s seizure of the U.S. hostages in November 1979.

Extensive evidence also exists that Begin’s preference for Reagan led the Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back, interfering with the President’s efforts to free the 52 American hostages before the November 1980 elections.

That evidence includes statements from senior Iranian officials, international arms dealers, intelligence operatives (including Ben-Menashe), and Middle East political figures (including a cryptic confirmation from Begin’s successor Yitzhak Shamir). But the truth about the October Surprise case remains in dispute to this day. [For the latest details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

It is clear that after Reagan defeated Carter, and the U.S. hostages were released immediately upon Reagan being sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, Israeli-brokered weapons shipments flowed to Iran with the secret blessing of the new Republican administration.

Dealing with Reagan

The Israel Lobby had grown exponentially since its start in the Eisenhower years. Israel’s influential supporters were now positioned to use every political device imaginable to lobby Congress and to get the White House to acquiesce to whatever Israel felt it needed.

President Reagan also credentialed into the Executive Branch a new group of pro-Israeli American officials the likes of Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen and Jeane Kirkpatrick who became known as the neocons.

Yet, despite Reagan’s pro-Israel policies, the new U.S. President wasn’t immune from more Israeli deceptions and additional pressures. Indeed, whether because of the alleged collusion with Reagan during the 1980 campaign or because Israel sensed its greater clout within his administration, Begin demonstrated a new level of audacity.

In 1981, Israel recruited Jonathan Pollard, an American Navy intelligence analyst, as a spy to acquire American intelligence satellite photos. Eventually, Pollard purloined massive amounts of intelligence information, some of which was reportedly turned over to Soviet intelligence by Israel to win favors from Moscow.

Prime Minister Begin sensed, too, that the time was ripe to gain the upper hand on other Arab enemies. He turned his attention to Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization was based. When U.S. intelligence warned Reagan that Israel was massing troops along the border with Lebanon, Reagan sent a cable to Begin urging him not to invade. But Begin ignored Reagan’s plea and invaded Lebanon the following day, on June 6, 1982. [See Time, Aug. 16, 1982.]

As the offensive progressed, Reagan sought a cessation of hostilities between Israel and the PLO, but Israel was intent on killing as many PLO fighters as possible. Periodic U.S.-brokered ceasefires failed as Israel used the slightest provocation to resume fighting, supposedly in self-defense.

“When PLO sniper fire is followed by fourteen hours of Israeli bombardment that is stretching the definition of defensive action too far,” complained Reagan, who kept the picture of a horribly burned Lebanese child on his desk in the Oval Office as a reminder of the tragedy of Lebanon.

The American public nightly witnessed the Israeli bombardment of Beirut on television news broadcasts. The pictures of dead, mutilated children caught in the Israeli artillery barrages, were particularly wrenching. Repulsed by the carnage, the U.S. public decidedly favored forcing Israel to stop.

When Reagan warned Israel of possible sanctions if its forces continued to indiscriminately attack Beirut, Israel launched a major offensive against West Beirut the next day. In the United States, Israeli supporters demanded a meeting with Reagan to press Israel’s case. Though Reagan declined the meeting, one was set up for 40 leaders of various Jewish organizations with Vice President George H.W. Bush, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz.

Reagan wrote once again to Begin, reminding him that Israel was allowed to use American weapons only for defensive purposes. He appealed to Begin’s humanitarianism to stop the bombardment.

The next day, in a meeting with Israeli supporters from the United States, Begin fumed that he would not be instructed by an American president or any other U.S. official. “Nobody is going to bring Israel to her knees. You must have forgotten that Jews do not kneel but to God,” Begin said. “Nobody is going to preach to us humanitarianism.”

More Tragedy

Begin’s government also used the tragedy in Lebanon as an opportunity to provide special favors for its American backers.

Bodies of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra camp in Lebanon, 1982. (Photo credit: U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees)

In From Beirut to Jerusalem, New York Times correspondent Thomas L. Freidman wrote that the Israeli Army conducted tours of the battlefront for influential U.S. donors. On one occasion, women from Hadassah were taken to the hills surrounding Beirut and were invited to look down on the city as Israeli artillery put on a display for them. The artillery began an enormous barrage, with shells landing throughout the densely populated city. The shells struck and destroyed apartments, shops, homes and shacks in the squalid refugee camps of the Palestinians.

A ceasefire was finally agreed upon by Israel and the PLO, requiring Yasser Arafat and all PLO fighters to leave Lebanon. The Palestinians were assured, as part of the agreement brokered by the United States, that their wives and children living in Lebanese refugee camps would be safe from harm. The PLO then left Lebanon by ship in August 1982, moving the PLO headquarters to Tunisia.

On Sept. 16, Israel’s Christian militia allies, with Israeli military support, entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and conducted a three-day campaign of rape and murder. Most of the dead with estimates varying from Israel’s count of 400 to a Palestinian estimate of nearly 1,000 were women and children.

American Marines, who had been dispatched to Lebanon as peacekeepers to oversee the PLO evacuation but then had departed, hastily returned after the Sabra and Shatila massacres. They were housed in a large warehouse complex near Beirut’s airport.

Over the next year, American forces found themselves drawn into the worsening Lebanese civil war. A key moment occurred on Sept. 18, 1983, when Reagan’s national security adviser Robert McFarlane, who was considered a staunch supporter of Israel, ordered U.S. warships to bombard Muslim targets inside Lebanon.

As Gen. Colin Powell, then a top aide to Defense Secretary Weinberger, wrote in his memoir, “When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides.” [See Powell’s My American Journey.]

Muslim attacks on the Marines in Beirut soon escalated. On Oct. 23, 1983, two Shiite Muslims drove explosives-laden trucks into two buildings in Beirut, one housing French forces and the other the Marines. The blasts killed 241 Americans and 58 French.

Over the ensuing weeks, American forces continued to suffer losses in skirmishes with Muslim militiamen near the Beirut airport and American civilians also became targets for execution and hostage-taking. On Feb. 7, 1984, Reagan announced that the Marines would be redeployed from Lebanon. Within a couple of weeks, the last of the Marines had departed Lebanon, having suffered a total of 268 killed.

However, the hostage-taking of Americans continued, ironically creating an opportunity for Israel to intercede again through its contacts in Iran to seek the help of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s regime in getting the Lebanese Shiite militants to release captured Americans.

Israeli arms dealers and neocon Americans, such as Michael Ledeen, were used as middlemen for the secret arms-for-hostages deals, which Reagan approved and McFarlane oversaw. However, the arms deliveries via Israel failed to reduce the overall number of Americans held hostage in Lebanon and were eventually exposed in November 1986, becoming Reagan’s worst scandal, the Iran-Contra Affair.

Noriega and Harari

Though Israel’s government had created some headaches for Reagan, it also provided some help, allowing its arms dealers and intelligence operatives to assist some of Reagan’s favorite covert operations, particularly in Central America where the U.S. Congress had objected to military assistance going to human rights violators, like the Guatemalan military, and to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.

As Vice President, George H.W. Bush met with Panamanian dictator Manuel Noreiga and considered him a compliant partner. Noriega subsequently funneled financial and other help to Reagan’s beloved Contras and once even volunteered to arrange the assassinations of leaders of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

One of Noriega’s top operatives was Michael Harari, who had led Israeli assassination teams and who had served as the Israeli Mossad station chief in Mexico. In Panama, Harari became a key intermediary for Israeli contributions to the Contras, supplying them with arms and training, while Noriega handed over cash.

But Noriega and Harari were conducting other business in the region, allegedly working as middlemen and money launderers for the lucrative smuggling of cocaine into the United States. When that information surfaced in the U.S. news media and Noriega became notorious as an unstable thug George H.W. Bush as President found himself under enormous political pressure in 1989 to remove Noriega from power.

So, Bush prepared to invade Panama in December 1989. However, the Israeli government was concerned about the possible capture of Harari, whom U.S. prosecutors regarded as Noriega’s top co-conspirator but who also was someone possessing sensitive information about Israeli clandestine activities.

Six hours before U.S. troops were to invade Panama, Harari was warned of the impending attack, an alert that enabled him to flee and may have compromised the safety of American paratroopers and Special Forces units preparing to begin the assault, units that took surprisingly heavy casualties.

Tipped off by Israeli intelligence agents, Harari was whisked away by an Israeli embassy car, flying a diplomatic flag, with diplomatic license plates to ensure he would not be stopped and held, according to an interview that I had in January 1990 with Col. Edward Herrera Hassen, commander of Panama Defense Forces.

Harari soon was on his way back to Israel, where the government has since rebuffed U.S. requests that Harari be extradited to the United States to stand trial in connection with the Noriega case. For his part, Noriega was captured and brought to the United States where he was convicted of eight drug and racketeering charges. [Hariri died on Sept. 21, 2014, in Tel Aviv at the age of 87.]

The one constant in Israel’s endless maneuverings both with and against the U.S. government has been the effectiveness of the Israel Lobby and its many allies to fend off sustained criticism of Israel, sometimes by smearing critics as anti-Semitic or by mounting aggressive cover-ups when investigations threatened to expose ugly secrets.

Given this long record of success, U.S. presidents and other politicians have demonstrated a declining capacity to press Israel into making concessions, the way Eisenhower, Kennedy and Carter tried to do. For instance, when President Bill Clinton first met with Netanyahu in 1996, Clinton was surprised to find himself getting a lecture from Israel’s Likud prime minister. “Who the f**k does he think he is? Who’s the superpower here?” a peeved Clinton was quoted as saying. [See The Much Too Promised Land, by Aaron Miller, an aide to Clinton.]

Joe Lockhart, then White House spokesman, told Clayton Swisher, author of The Truth About Camp David, that Netanyahu was “one of the most obnoxious individuals you’re going to come into just a liar and a cheat. He could open his mouth and you could have no confidence that anything that came out of it was the truth.”

Faced with these difficulties and fending off Republican attempts to drive him from office Clinton put off any serious push for a Middle East peace accord until the last part of his presidency. Clinton negotiated the Wye River memorandum with Netanyahu and Arafat on Sept. 23, 1999, calling for reciprocal undertakings by both sides. The agreement called for the freezing of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, but Netanyahu failed to stop the settlement activity. Demolition of Palestinian homes, restrictions on movement by Palestinians, and settlement building continued.

Ultimately, Clinton failed to achieve any breakthrough as his final efforts collapsed amid finger-pointing and distrust between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Handling Bush

Israel’s hopes were buoyed further when George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001. Unlike his father who looked on the Israelis with suspicion and felt some kinship with the Arab oil states, the younger Bush was unabashedly pro-Israel.

Though Reagan had credentialed many young neocons in the 1980s, he had kept them mostly away from Middle East policy, which usually fell to less ideological operatives such as Philip Habib and James Baker. However, George W. Bush installed the neocons in key jobs for Mideast policy, with the likes of Elliott Abrams at the National Security Council, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith at the Pentagon, and Lewis Libby inside Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.

The neocons arrived with a plan to transform the Middle East based on a scheme prepared by a group of American neocons, including Perle and Feith, for Netanyahu in 1996. Called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the idea was to bring to heel all the antagonistic states confronting Israel.

The “clean break” was to abandon the idea of achieving peace in the region through mutual understanding and compromise. Instead, there would be “peace through strength,” including violent removal of leaders who were viewed as hostile to Israel’s interests.

The plan sought the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, which was called “an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” After Hussein’s ouster, the plan envisioned destabilizing the Assad dynasty in Syria with hopes of replacing it with regime more favorable to Israel. That, in turn, would push Lebanon into Israel’s arms and contribute to the destruction of Hezbollah, Israel’s tenacious foe in South Lebanon.

The removal of Hezbollah in Lebanon would, in turn, weaken Iran’s influence, both in Lebanon and in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, where Hamas and other Palestinian militants would find themselves cornered.

But what the “clean break” needed was the military might of the United States, since some of the targets like Iraq were too far away and too powerful to be overwhelmed even by Israel’s highly efficient military. The cost in Israeli lives and to Israel’s economy from such overreach would have been staggering.

The only way to implement the strategy was to enlist a U.S. president, his administration and the Congress to join Israel in this audacious undertaking. That opportunity presented itself when Bush ascended to the White House and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, created a receptive political climate in the United States.

Turning to Iraq

After a quick strike against al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned its attention to conquering Iraq. However, even after the 9/11 attacks, the neocons and President Bush had to come up with rationales that were sellable to the American people, while playing down any suggestion that the coming conflicts were partially designed to advance Israel’s interests.

So, the Bush administration put together tales about Iraqi stockpiles of WMD, its “reconstituted” nuclear weapons program, and its alleged ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorists determined to strike at the United States. The PR operation worked like a charm. Bush rallied Congress and much of the American public behind an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, which began on March 19, 2003, and drove Saddam Hussein’s government from power three weeks later.

At the time, the joke circulating among neocons was where to go next, Syria or Iran, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”

Meanwhile, Israel continued collecting as much intelligence as possible from the United States about the next desired target, Iran. On Aug. 27, 2004, CBS News broke a story about an FBI investigation into a possible spy working for Israel as a policy analyst for Under Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz. The official was identified as Lawrence Franklin.

Franklin pled guilty to passing a classified Presidential Directive and other sensitive documents pertaining to U.S. foreign policy regarding Iran to the powerful Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which shared the information with Israel.

According to FBI surveillance tapes, Franklin relayed top secret information to Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s policy director, and Keith Weissman, a senior policy analyst with AIPAC. On Aug. 30, 2004, Israeli officials admitted that Franklin had met repeatedly with Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and a specialist on Iran’s nuclear programs.

Franklin was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison for passing classified information to a pro-Israel lobby group and an Israeli diplomat. No charges were brought against the AIPAC executives or the Israeli diplomat.

Bloody Chaos

Meanwhile, back in the Middle East, it turned out that occupying Iraq was more difficult than the Bush administration had anticipated. Ultimately, more than 4,400 American soldiers died in the conflict along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

President George W. Bush in a flight suit after landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln to give his “Mission Accomplished” speech about the Iraq War on May 1, 2003.

The bloody chaos in Iraq also meant that the neocon “real men” couldn’t go either to Syria or Iran, at least not right away. They were forced into a waiting game, counting on the short memories of the American people before revving up the fear machine again to justify moving to the next phase.

When the U.S. death toll finally began to decline in Iraq, the neocons stepped up their alarms about Iran becoming a danger to the world by developing nuclear weapons (although Iran has disavowed any desire to have nukes and U.S. intelligence expressed confidence in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a warhead four years earlier).

Still, while trying to keep the focus away from its own nuclear arsenal, Israel has pushed the international community to bring pressure on Iran, in part by threatening to mount its own military attack on Iran if the U.S. government and other leading powers don’t act aggressively.

The neocon anti-Iran plans were complicated by the victory of Barack Obama, who promised to reach out in a more respectful way to the Muslim world. Inside Israel and in U.S. neocon circles, complaints quickly spread about Obama’s coziness with Muslims (even claims that he was a secret Muslim or anti-Semitic). Obama further antagonized the neocons and Israeli hardliners by suggesting a linkage between the festering Palestinian problem and dangers to U.S. national security, including violence against U.S. troops in the Middle East.

Netanyahu, who again had assumed the post of prime minister, and the neocons wanted U.S. policy refocused on Iran, with little attention on Israel as it continued its longstanding policy of building more and more Jewish settlements on what was once Palestinian land.

In reaction to Netanyahu’s unwillingness to curb those settlements and with the announcement of more housing units during Biden’s visit Obama retaliated by subjecting Netanyahu to several slights, including refusing to have photographs taken of the two of them meeting at the White House.

Obama walked out of one meeting with Netanyahu after failing to get his written promise for a concession on halting further settlement construction. Obama went to dinner alone, a very pointed insult to Netanyahu. As Obama left the meeting, he said, “Let me know if there is anything new,” according to a member of Congress who was present.

Secret Pacts

For his part, Netanyahu has claimed that secret agreements with the Bush administration allow for the continued building of settlements. However, Obama said on National Public Radio that he does not consider himself bound by secret oral agreements that may have been made by President Bush.

Instead, Obama claims Israel is bound by the 2003 “Road Map” agreement which prohibits building more settlements. “I’ve said clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements, including natural growth, is part of these obligations,” Obama said.

Still, Obama has shied away from publicly challenging Israel on some of its most sensitive issues, such as its undeclared nuclear-weapons arsenal. Like presidents back to Nixon, Obama has participated in the charade of “ambiguity.” Even as he demanded “transparency” from other countries, Obama continued to dance around questions regarding whether Israel has nuclear weapons.

President Barack Obama talking on the phone in the Oval Office , Oct. 5, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Netanyahu and Israel surely have vulnerabilities. Without America’s military, diplomatic and economic support, Israel could not exist in its present form. One-quarter of Israeli wage incomes are derived from American aid money, German reparations and various charities. Without that outside assistance, Israel’s standard of living would sink dramatically.

According to the Congressional Research Service, Israel receives $2.4 billion a year in U.S. government grants, military assistance, loan guarantees, and sundry other sources. The United States also pays Egypt another $2 billion to keep the peace with Israel. The combined assistance to both countries comprises nearly one half of all U.S. foreign aid assistance worldwide.

In a sense, Israel can’t be blamed for standing up for itself, especially given the long history of brutality and oppression directed against Jews. However, Israeli leaders have used this tragic history to justify their own harsh treatment of others, especially the Palestinians, many of whom were uprooted from their ancestral homes.

Over the past six decades, Israeli leaders also have refined their strategies for taking advantage of their staunchest ally, the United States. Today, with many powerful friends inside the United States and with Obama facing intense political pressure over his domestic and national security policies the Israeli government has plenty of reasons to believe that it can out-fox and outlast the current U.S. president as it did many of his predecessors.

Morgan Strong is a former professor of Middle Eastern history, and was an advisor to CBS News “60 Minutes” on the Middle East. He is author of ebook, The Israeli Lobby and Me, Bush Family History, and Hoodwinking American Presidents. This article was originally published by Consortium News.

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President Eisenhower on U.S. Troops To Lebanon [1958] - History

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1158. Top Secret Niact Limit Distribution. Drafted on June 10 by Rountree and cleared by Dulles . Repeated to Cairo. Dulles sent a copy of this telegram to President Eisenhower on June 11 with a covering note that indicated that he had worked out the text of the message with Macmillan . Dulles added that he felt the message reflected Eisenhower ’s observations on a preliminary draft, “which was too long and somewhat ambiguous.” ( Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International Series) The initial draft cited by Dulles has not been found.

68. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ( Twining ), Washington, June 11, 1958, 8:59 a.m.

Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations. Transcribed in Dulles ’ office by Phyllis D. Bernau .

69. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1158. Top Secret Niact. Repeated to Cairo.

70. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Egypt

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–758. Top Secret Niact Limit Distribution. Drafted by Dulles and cleared by Rockwell . Repeated to Beirut, London, Paris, and USUN .

71. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1358. Top Secret Priority Limit Distribution. Repeated to London and Cairo.

72. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Rountree ) and Foreign Minister Malik , Washington, June 14, 1958, Noon

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1458. Secret. Drafted by Rountree .

73. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the President in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the Secretary of State in Washington, June 14, 1958, 3:41 p.m.

Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations. Transcribed in Dulles ’ office by Jane Morris. The call was in response to a call from the President a half hour earlier in which he indicated that he had just received a message from the White House concerning Lebanon and asked whether Dulles thought it was necessary for him to return to Washington. Dulles replied that he did not think it was necessary unless the Chamoun government made a formal request for support from U.S. troops. (Memorandum of a telephone conversation, June 14, 3:24 p.m. ibid. included in the microfiche supplement)

74. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Deputy Secretary of Defense ( Quarles ), Washington, June 14, 1958, 4:50 p.m.

Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations. Transcribed in Dulles ’ office by Jane Morris.

75. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Lebanon

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1458. Top Secret Niact. Drafted by Dulles .

76. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1458. Top Secret Niact. Repeated to London, Rome, Cairo, Damascus, Paris, Baghdad, Amman, Tel Aviv, and USUN . Received at 7:04 p.m. A note on the source text indicates that Rountree was informed at 9:50 p.m.

77. Special National Intelligence Estimate

Source: Department of State, INR – NIE Files. Top Secret. According to a note on the cover sheet, “The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff.” All members of the Intelligence Advisory Committee concurred in the estimate on June 14, except for the Atomic Energy Commission representative and the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who abstained because the subject was outside of their jurisdiction.

78. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Rountree ) and Foreign Minister Malik , Washington, June 15, 1958, 8 a.m.

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1558. Secret Limit Distribution. Drafted by Rountree on June 16.

79. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Representative at the United Nations ( Lodge ), Washington, June 15, 1958, 9:35 a.m.

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1558. Top Secret. Drafted by Dulles .

80. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1558. Top Secret Niact. Received at 10:10 a.m.

81. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the President and the Secretary of State, Washington, June 15, 1958, 11:56 a.m.

Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations. Transcribed in Dulles ’ office by Carolyn J. Proctor , with a notation that the conversation was “one-sided,” indicating that she heard only the Secretary’s side of the conversation.

82. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Lebanon

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1558. Top Secret Niact limit Distribution. Drafted by Rountree and Dulles and approved by Dulles .

83. Memorandum of a Conversation, Washington, June 15, 1958, 4:30 p.m.

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1558. Secret Limit Distribution. Drafted by Rountree . The source text indicates that the meeting took place in the Secretary’s home.

84. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House, Washington, June 15, 1958, 5:10–6:45 p.m.

Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted on June 17 by Hanes. Another memorandum of this conversation was prepared by Minnich. ( Ibid. included in the microfiche supplement)

85. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1558. Top Secret Niact . Repeated to London. Received at 6:24 p.m.

86. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1658. Top Secret Niact Limited Distribution. Received at 10:19 a.m.

87. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Lebanon

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1658. Top Secret Niact Limit Distribution. Drafted by Rockwell and cleared by Wilcox in draft and by Dulles . Repeated to London and USUN .

88. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1758. Top Secret Niact Limited Distribution. Repeated to London. Received at 8:01 p.m., June 16.

89. Telegram From the Chief of Naval Operations ( Burke ) to the Commander in Chief, United States Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean ( Holloway )

Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 62 A 1698, 092 Lebanon TS Sensitive. Top Secret Emergency. Drafted by Burke . Also sent to COMSIXFLT, COMDESRON 36. Repeated to Alusna Beirut, U.S.S. Rich , and U.S.S. New .

90. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Lebanon

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1758. Top Secret Niact Limit Distribution. Drafted by Rountree and cleared by Dulles in draft. The substance of paragraph 4 was cleared with Admiral Burke . Repeated to London and USUN for Lodge.

91. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1758. Top Secret Niact Limit Distribution. Repeated to London and USUN .

92. Memorandum for the Record by the Secretary of State’s Special Assistant (Greene)

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1758. Secret. This memorandum records a meeting that took place in the Secretary’s office. Participants included Dulles , Herter , Rountree , Rockwell , Wilcox , Sisco , Macomber , and Greene from the Department of State Allen Dulles and Norman Paul from CIA and Quarles and Generals Twining and Picher from the Department of Defense.

93. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( Rountree ) to the Secretary of State

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1758. Top Secret Limit Distribution Eyes Only. Drafted on June 16 by Special Assistant Harrison M. Symmes . Sent to Dulles through Herter .

94. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, June 18, 1958

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/6–1858. Top Secret Limited Distribution. Drafted by Rockwell .

Remembering Eisenhower’s Middle East Force Resolution

On this date in 1957, President Eisenhower signed into law perhaps the most open-ended force resolution in American history. It was never directly invoked, and it remains formally on the books to this day.

Eisenhower’s Request, Congress’s Response

In January, I wrote about an earlier congressional force resolution during the Eisenhower administration, related to what was then called Formosa, now called Taiwan. The Middle East resolution shared with the Formosa resolution many significant features: It was broad and open ended, it deliberately fudged constitutional issues in a way that became common for presidents thereafter, and it was primarily about signaling rather than warfighting. But unlike the Formosa resolution, which was whisked through Congress with almost unanimous support, the proposed Middle East resolution elicited several months of intense debate and was modified before Congress passed it.

As background, the Eisenhower administration saw the Middle East as an emergency situation in 1956. Following the Suez crisis, European allies’ influence there was discredited, and the administration feared that the Soviet Union would fill the vacuum without strong U.S. action and commitment.

In an address to Congress on Jan. 5, 1957, Eisenhower requested congressional support for a program of military and economic aid for Middle East nations, anticipating the possibility of communist aggression. He also sought authorization to use military force to protect such nations. The “Eisenhower Doctrine” would thus combine largesse with threats of armed intervention.

Two months later, Congress passed legislation that authorized the military and economic aid. As to the requested force authorization, Congress included the following provision:

[T]he United States regards as vital to the national interest and world peace the preservation of the independence and integrity of the nations of the Middle East. To this end, if the President determines the necessity thereof, the United States is prepared to use armed forces to assist any such nation or group of such nations requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism.

Note that instead of “authorizing” force, the resolution declared a policy to use it. Some critics in Congress thought that this change dampened the delegation of power that the president requested, whereas the administration thought that the change had no effect. The resolution provided that it would expire when the president determined that the “peace and security of the nations in the general area of the Middle East” was “reasonably assured” or if Congress revoked it with a concurrent resolution.

To those (including me) who complain that Congress has not updated the 2001 authorization for use of military force, consider that Eisenhower’s Middle East force resolution is still law. Today it is 62 years old. And if the 2001 authorization seems exceptionally open ended, consider by comparison that Eisenhower’s “New Look” military policy emphasized imposing massive retaliatory damage with nuclear weapons and his 1957 resolution applied to an entire, vast and poorly defined region. When Eisenhower had previewed his proposed force resolution to congressional leaders a week before the vote, Sen. Richard Russell, the Democratic chairman of the armed services committee, worried that “if this step should be taken we would not want to let it appear that only a ‘small war’ might ensue.” Eisenhower responded that “should Russia move it could not possibly be a ‘small war.’”

Constitutional Debates and Uncertainty

As to the constitutional allocation of war powers, Eisenhower generally believed that major wars required legislative assent. Especially after watching the Korean War, waged without congressional authorization, nearly ruin President Truman before him, Eisenhower believed this as a matter of constitutional principle as well as political pragmatism and strategic necessity. President Eisenhower also believed that the president had power to launch smaller-scale military operations (or covert paramilitary ones) and that the president had significant emergency military powers. The lines between those presidential powers and Congress’s war powers were unclear, though.

Congress, in reviewing the proposed force resolution, was badly fractured on constitutional war powers questions. Some members supported the proposal, some thought it was preposterously (maybe unconstitutionally) open ended, and some thought it would set a dangerous precedent that (also maybe unconstitutionally) suggested the president lacked vital unilateral powers.

When defending the proposed resolution before the Senate, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was pressed multiple times on whether the president already had ample constitutional power to protect militarily U.S. national interests in the Middle East. After noting that the constitutional allocation of war powers was unclear and contested, he stated Eisenhower’s position: that the president’s inherent authority to use force was limited and that, in light of constitutional ambiguity, a resolution would greatly strengthen his hand.

In one remarkable closed-door Senate foreign relations committee exchange on Jan. 2, 1957, Sen. Hubert Humphrey pushed Secretary Dulles on whether the resolution was needed:

Humphrey: Are we to understand or are we to interpret that in this area in the past, we would not have resisted Soviet aggression … [e]ven if American vital interests had been affected?

Dulles: That is the position that President Eisenhower takes. Now, I think President Eisenhower take a more conservative view of the power of the Executive than some other Presidents have taken possibly because he himself comes into the office as a general, he feels the responsibility or the desire to share responsibility with the Congress more than perhaps a civilian President would. But the fact of the matter is that the President, I think, leans over backward in his unwillingness to use the Armed Forces of the United States in ways which Congress has not indicated it wants.

Humphrey: Yet he is asking us for predated declaration of war. … In other words, he is asking for a predate for the use of force, and takes a conservative point of view in the application of the Executive powers as Commander in Chief.

Dulles: That is quite right, except I do not like the phrase “predated declaration of war.”

The Senate committee report on the final 1957 resolution notes that members were sharply split as to the president’s and Congress’s respective powers. It went on to say that the resolution’s “language has the virtue of remaining silent on the question of the relationship between the Congress and the President with respect to the use of the Armed Forces for the objectives stated in the resolution.” The House committee report says essentially the same, that it’s better to paper over the issue than try to resolve the constitutional debate.

War Powers, Reassurance and Deterrence

I’ve previously highlighted my own interests in the president’s “Power to Threaten War” and how constitutional allocations relate to deterrence and coercive diplomacy. Eisenhower’s Formosa and Middle East resolutions fascinate me because the Eisenhower years combined expansive congressional force approvals with the absence of war, and because he seems to have thought more than perhaps any other previous president about constitutional processes and their effects on signaling.

In a four-hour White House meeting with congressional leadership on Jan. 1, 1957, the president emphasized that a force resolution would bolster deterrence and help reassure allies:

[Eisenhower] added that should there be a Soviet attack in that area he could see no alternative but that the United States move in immediately to stop it—other than suffering loss of that area to Russia. Loss of the area would be disastrous to Europe because of its oil requirements. He cited his belief that the United States must put the entire world on notice that we are ready to move instantly if necessary. He reaffirmed his regard for constitutional procedures but pointed out that modern war might be a matter of hours only.

The President believed that if the Administration had that kind of authority it might never have to be used.

In the Jan. 2, 1957, Senate foreign relations committee meeting, Dulles put it this way when asked why unilateral presidential commitments to protect Middle East partners from Soviet aggression was not sufficient:

[T]hese statements by the President act as a temporary shot in the arm, but these people are very sophisticated now. They know that unless Congress shares, in effect, in these declarations, they do not amount to very much, and cannot dependably make their plans in reliance upon them.

…You may say, “Why don’t we wait until the attack occurs?” Why, then it is too late. The whole purpose of this thing is to be a deterrent, a preventive to war.

Contrast this with the much more common use of congressional force resolutions today, to bless ongoing or already planned military interventions.

Looking back at this as well as the Formosa case, I’m skeptical that foreign actors were as attuned to U.S. constitutional processes as Eisenhower believed. But since Eisenhower believed they were, he must have been concerned when his Middle East force authorization proposal did not fly through Congress unchallenged and without amendment like the Formosa resolution did.

As Arthur Schlesinger writes in “The Imperial Presidency,” the effect of Congress’s questioning and altering his proposed force authorization “was to convince him less of the need for serious consultation with Congress than of his inherent authority to employ armed forces at Presidential will.” The following year, when Eisenhower sent 14,000 troops to Lebanon, as a show of force to shore up its government, he didn’t even cite Congress’s Middle East resolution for authority.

Lebanon was the first and only time as president that Eisenhower sent combat troops into foreign territory (covert CIA paramilitary forces were another story). That Eisenhower withdrew those forces later that year after little violence is probably a big reason why Eisenhower is too little studied in histories of constitutional war powers. As I’ve noted before, “[s]cholars of constitutional war powers tend to look at actual wars, but if we want to understand how effectively they operate, we should be focusing at least as much on wars that didn’t happen.”

The Jan. 1, 1957, White House meeting about the Middle East force resolution may have been a post-World War II high-water mark in presidential deference to Congress on war powers (or some might say at least until President Obama decided to seek, momentarily and unsuccessfully, congressional authorization for strikes against Syria in 2013). After Eisenhower, credibility of American threats of force became predominantly associated with arguments for unilateral executive war powers.

History of Lebanon

Assorted References

The evidence of tools found in caves along the coast of what is now Lebanon shows that the area was inhabited from the Paleolithic Period (Old Stone Age) through the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age).

from bases in Jordan, Lebanon, and, especially, Syria. A radical Syrian regime openly pledged support to the Palestinian guerrilla raids. On November 13, 1966, an Israeli strike into Jordan left 18 dead and 54 wounded. Taunted openly for hiding behind the UNEF, Nasser felt he had to act. The…

…unrest spread to Jordan and Lebanon, Eisenhower responded at once. The 14,000 U.S. troops that landed in Beirut allowed the Lebanese president to restore order on the basis of a delicate compromise among radical, Muslim, and Christian factions. Khrushchev denounced the intervention, demanded that the U.S.S.R. be consulted, and tried…

…1982 Israel’s invasion of southern Lebanon, where Fatah had been headquartered, presented a further crisis. In an operation specifically intended to quiet Palestinian guerrilla activity along the Lebanese-Israeli border, the Israeli army ousted the PLO and Fatah from southern Lebanon Tunis, Tunisia, became the next base of operations. Having suffered…

…and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, a group of Lebanese Shiʿi clerics formed Hezbollah with the goal of driving Israel from Lebanon and establishing an Islamic republic there. Hezbollah was based in the predominately Shiʿi areas of the Biqāʿ Valley, southern Lebanon, and southern Beirut. It coordinated its…

of Beirut and southern Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had a number of strongholds. The following day Israel invaded Lebanon, and by June 14 its land forces reached as far as the outskirts of Beirut, which was encircled, but the Israeli government agreed to halt its advance…

…architect of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, a war that led to the removal from Lebanon of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its armed offshoots. Israeli troops reached Beirut, and a peace treaty was signed between Israel and a new Lebanese government, but the pact was soon disowned…

…massive military operation into southern Lebanon in an effort to secure the soldiers’ release and deliver a decisive blow to the Shīʿite militant group based there. The inconclusive 34-day war—in which Israel failed to free its soldiers or eradicate Hezbollah and in which more than 1,000 Lebanese and more than…

…clearing out PLO strongholds inside Lebanon. In fact the Israeli army advanced all the way to Beirut in a bitter campaign that entrenched Syrian occupation of the strategic al-Biqāʿ valley and intensified what already amounted to a Lebanese civil war among Palestinians, Muslims of various sects and allegiances, and Christian…

…were complicated by events in Lebanon. Following its eviction from Jordan in 1971, the PLO had established itself there, exacerbating the volatile political situation in that country and contributing to its collapse into civil war in 1975. Both Israel and the United States had reluctantly consented to Syria’s military intervention…

Begin again turned to Lebanon, where he was determined to defeat the PLO. In July 1981, fearing an Israeli-Syrian clash in Lebanon, the United States had brokered an ambiguous cease-fire, during which the PLO continued to amass heavy arms. Cautioned by Haig not to…

Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 fueled fears in Amman that the first step in the process of transferring Palestinians to the East Bank was under way.

…arrangement established in 1943 between Lebanese Christians and Muslims whereby the president is always a Maronite Christian and the prime minister a Sunni Muslim. The speaker of the National Assembly must be a Shiʿi Muslim. Amendments proposed in the Ṭāʾif Accord that helped end the Lebanese Civil War transferred many…

…the northern portion (Syria and Lebanon) was mandated to France, and the southern portion (Palestine) was mandated to Great Britain. By July 1920 the French had forced Fayṣal to give up his newly founded kingdom of Syria. The hope of founding an Arab Palestine within a federated Syrian state collapsed…

…in west Beirut and southern Lebanon. West Bank Palestinians demonstrated and engaged in strikes in late 1986.

…PLO and its bases in Lebanon led Israel to invade that country in June 1982. Israeli troops soon surrounded the Lebanese capital of Beirut, which for several years had been the PLO’s headquarters. Following negotiations, PLO forces evacuated Beirut and were transported to sympathetic Arab countries.

Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine into various French- and British-administered areas. Negotiations were begun in November 1915, and the final agreement took its name from the chief negotiators from Britain and France, Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot. Sergey Dimitriyevich Sazonov was also

…9th century they continued into Lebanon. Many of the Tanūkh tribes in Lebanon readily accepted the politico-religious teachings of the Druze missionaries, whose sect accepts a mixture of Islāmic and Christian teachings.

…1914), the autonomous status of Lebanon was ended, a number of Arab nationalists were executed in Damascus (August 1915 and May 1916), and the Armenian community in eastern Asia Minor and Cilicia was massacred or deported to eliminate any domestic support for the pro-Christian tsarist enemy on the Eastern Front.…

United States

…and Britain—to protect the fragile Lebanese government, thereby identifying itself with one of the factions in the country’s long and bloody civil war, which had begun in 1975. On the morning of October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with explosives into the Marine compound at the…


With the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, the American Panama Canal Zone became a major staging area for the U.S. military and the U.S. became the dominant military power in Central America. [3] When Theodore Roosevelt traveled to Panama in November 1906 to inspect progress on the canal, he became the first U.S. president to leave the country while in office. [4] Subsequently, both William Howard Taft (in 1909) [5] and Warren G. Harding (in 1920) [6] visited Panama while each was the president-elect.

Taft and Harding each made one international trip while president. Taft and Mexican president Porfirio Díaz exchanged visits across the Mexico–United States border, at El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in October 1909. While filled with much symbolism, the meetings did pave the way for the start of construction on the Elephant Butte Dam project in 1911, even as Mexico fell into revolution. [7] Harding made an official visit to Vancouver, British Columbia on July 27, 1923 (six days prior to his death). Greeted dock-side by the premier of British Columbia and the mayor of Vancouver, he was given a parade through the city to Stanley Park, where he spoke to an audience estimated at over 40,000. [8]

Woodrow Wilson made two international trips while in office. When he sailed for France in December 1918 for the Paris Peace Conference, he became the first sitting president to travel to Europe. [9] He spent nearly seven months in Europe, interrupted by a brief 9-day return to the U.S. in late February 1919. [10] Wilson was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize for his peacemaking efforts. [11] While in Rome, he met with Pope Benedict XV this was the first meeting between an incumbent American president and a reigning pope. [12]

Calvin Coolidge traveled to Havana, Cuba in January 1928, where addressed the Sixth International Conference of American States. There, he extended an olive branch to Latin American leaders embittered over America's interventionist policies in Central America and the Caribbean. It was the only time in his life that he traveled outside the contiguous United States. [13] [14]

The most recent president not to make any international trips during his time in office was Herbert Hoover (1929–33). He did, however, undertake an extensive ten-week tour of Central and South America during the time he was president-elect. [15] He delivered 25 speeches in 10 countries, almost all of which stressed his plans to reduce American political and military interference in Latin American affairs. In sum, he pledged that the United States would act as a "good neighbor." [16] [17]

Franklin D. Roosevelt made 20 international trips during his presidency. [18] His early travels were by ship, frequently for fishing vacations to the Bahama Banks, Canadian Maritimes or Newfoundland Island. In 1943 he became the first incumbent president to fly by airplane across the Atlantic Ocean during his secret mission to Casablanca. As a result of this trip, he also became the first president to visit North Africa while in office.

Harry S. Truman made five international trips during his presidency. [19] Three months after ascending to the presidency, Truman made his only trans-Atlantic trip as president to participate in talks concerning how to administer the defeated Nazi Germany, which had agreed to unconditional surrender nine weeks earlier (V-E Day). He also visited neighboring Bermuda, Canada and Mexico, plus Brazil in South America. Truman only left the continental United States on two other occasions (to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, February 20-March 5, 1948 and to Wake Island, October 11–18, 1950) during his nearly eight years in office. [20]

Dwight D. Eisenhower made 16 international trips during his presidency. [21] He also traveled abroad once while president-elect, visiting South Korea in December 1952, fulfilling a campaign pledge to investigate what might get stalled Korean War peace talks moving forward. [22] By the time he left office in January 1961, Eisenhower had visited 26 countries.

Columbine II, one of four propeller-driven aircraft introduced to presidential service during Eisenhower's first term in office, was the first plane to bear the call sign Air Force One. This designation for the U.S. Air Force aircraft carrying the incumbent president was established after an incident in 1953, when Eastern Air Lines 8610, a commercial flight, crossed paths with Air Force 8610, which was carrying President Eisenhower. Initially used informally, the designation became official in 1962. [23] [24]

In 1959, the Air Force added the first of three specially built Boeing 707-120 jet aircraft—VC-137s, designated SAM (Special Air Missions) 970, 971 and 972—into the fleet. [25] The high-speed jet technology built into these aircraft enabled presidents from Eisenhower through Nixon to travel long distances more quickly for face-to-face meetings with world leaders. [26] That year he journeyed to Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, Middle East, and Southern Asia. On his "Flight to Peace" goodwill tour in December 1959, the president visited 11 nations, flying 22,000 miles (35,000 km) in 19 days aboard the VC-137 SAM970.

John F. Kennedy made eight international trips during his presidency. [27] Two of these were to Europe, and the other six were to various nations in the Western Hemisphere. His second trip to Europe included the famous speech Ich bin ein Berliner at the Berlin Wall, the visit of the first Catholic president to Vatican City, plus the visit to Kennedy's ancestral home in Ireland. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy traveled with him on his 1961 visit to France and received such a popular reaction there that the president quipped "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris – and I have enjoyed it!" [28] [29]

Lyndon B. Johnson made eleven international trips during his presidency. [30] He flew 523,000 miles aboard Air Force One while in office. Eschewing Europe in favor of Southeast Asia and Latin America. One of the most unusual international trips in presidential history occurred before Christmas in 1967. The president began the trip by going to the memorial service for Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, who had disappeared in a swimming accident and was presumed drowned. The White House did not reveal in advance to the press that the president would make the first round-the-world presidential trip. The exhausting trip was 26,959 miles completed in only 112.5 hours (4.7 days). The trip crossed the equator twice, stopped in Travis Air Force Base, Calif., then Honolulu, Pago Pago, Canberra, Melbourne, Vietnam, Karachi and Rome.

Richard M. Nixon made fifteen international trips during his presidency. [31] He made the unusual move of going on a week-long trip to Europe only five weeks after his inauguration. Nixon's 1972 visit to China was an important strategic and diplomatic overture that marked the culmination of the Nixon administration's resumption of harmonious relations between the U.S. and China. He also made groundbreaking trips to various Communist-ruled nations as well, including: Romania (1969), Yugoslavia (1970), Poland (1972), and the Soviet Union (1972 and 1974). In 1972 Nixon received delivery of the second custom outfitted jet to be used as Air Force One, VC-137C SAM 27000.

Gerald Ford made seven international trips during his presidency. [32] Ford made the first visit of a sitting president to Japan, and followed it with a trip to the Republic of Korea and the Soviet Union (to attend the Vladivostok Summit).

Jimmy Carter made twelve international trips to 25 countries during his presidency. [33] Carter was the first president to make a state visit to Sub-Saharan Africa when he went to Nigeria in 1978. His travel included five trips to Europe and one trip to Asia. He also made several trips to the Middle East to broker peace negotiations. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his peacemaking efforts. [34] In 1978 he travelled to Panama City to sign a protocol confirming exchange of documents ratifying the Panama Canal treaties.

Ronald Reagan made 25 international trips to 26 countries during his presidency. [35] He made seven trips to continental Europe, three to Asia and one to South America. He is perhaps best remembered for his speeches at the 40th anniversary of the Normandy landings, for his impassioned speech at the Berlin Wall, his summit meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev, and riding horses with the Queen at Windsor Park.

Reagan's presidency would be transitional in international travel. During his term in office, he ordered the two special mission Boeing VC-25 that would become the new presidential transport to replace the aging Boeing 707s. Heavy lift aircraft could bring security, limousines, and helicopters. After that time, the president had access to inflight bedrooms and showers, boardrooms, and communication equipment and with refueling virtually unlimited range. Summit meetings would proliferate, and international travel would become more of a constant expectation of the presidency.

George H. W. Bush made 26 international trips to 58 countries during his presidency. [36] He initiated the frequent international travel pace that is the hallmark of the post–Cold War presidency. He went to Europe 11 times, Asia twice, and South America once, along with a number of shorter trips during his four years in office.

Bill Clinton made 54 trips to 72 countries (in addition to visiting the West Bank and Gaza) during his presidency. [37] He made 24 trips to continental Europe, 17 to Asia, two to Africa and to Australia. His others were to nations in the Americas.

  • Congressional Research Service, April 18,2014, Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications
  • U.S. Senate, accessed Nov. 1, Official declarations of war by Congress
  • The Guardian, Sept. 10, 2011, Jimmy Carter: 'We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a bullet. We never went to war'
  •, Aug. 21, 2018, Eisenhower doctrine
  •, March 14, 2019, How the Vietnam War Ratcheted Up Under 5 U.S. Presidents
  • RealClearPolitics, Aug. 24, Gaetz: Trump The First President Since Reagan Not To Start A New War
  • John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, accessed Nov. 1, The Bay of Pigs

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