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An Absolute Failure - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Nasserist parties in the Arab world recently celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Egyptian-Syrian unity and what came to be known as the United Arab Republic. This project was marketed (in a capable manner for that time) as the dream of the masses and the hope and goal of the nation. However, what time revealed in fact, reflected another truth.

In 1957, in Cairo, the Syrian ambassador Abdul Rahman Al Azem received a telephone call from another ambassador who requested that they meet immediately. When they met, the ambassador asked al Azem, “Is there going to be an announcement about Egypt and Syria uniting?”

He answered, “I don’t know anything about that.”

The ambassador said, “I have information that confirms that a union between the two countries is about to be declared.”

Abdul Rahman Al Azem returned to his home and received a late phone call from the presidential protocol division in Egypt informing him that the Syrian president and an accompanying delegation would arrive the next morning. The next day, the Syrian ambassador went to Cairo airport to receive the Syrian President Shukri al Quwatli, Khaled Al Azm and Sabri Al Asali, senior officials of the then Syrian government.

Abdul Rahman Al Azem sat in the same car as Khaled Al Azm and asked him about the reasons behind this unexpected visit. He answered: “We were pushed by Abd al Hamid al Sarraj and he requested that we leave for Cairo immediately to declare unity with Egypt.”

It is common knowledge that the military officer Abd al Hamid al Sarraj was Egypt’s number one man in Syria and was a channel of direct communication with [Egyptian President Gamal] Abdel Nasser and [military and political leader] Abdel Hakim Amer. The union was declared and Abdel Hakim Amer assumed responsibility for “al Shadar al Shimali,” the northern part, (a name that was given to Syria at the time). Recklessly, he invalidated Syrian figures and the country’s history forgetting that the Syrians, with their dignity, would not accept that.

Time passed and Egypt took control of the “union” and corruption and despotism began to distinguish that era. Intelligence-related problems, the robbing of freedoms and the seizing of properties under the pretext of nationalization and the agrarian reform had now spread to Syria, causing devastation in all fields. The Syrians could not bear that and resisted until separation was achieved.

Abdel Nasser did not benefit from this experience and asked Abdel Hakim Amer to remain [in his position]; in fact he granted him more powers to compensate him for the loss of Syria. The same approach caused the loss of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and even Jerusalem.

It is the approach of tampering with [coming] generations and their future, favoritism and assigning responsibility to people who can be trusted rather than to people who are competent. Yet even today it is easy to find people who argue that Abdel Nasser is guiltless and that in fact the guilt lies with those who were around him. Let us not forget who actually appointed those who surrounded him! It is a twisted and strange logic and as long as it remains, so too will the sad and laughable scene of demonstrations in Lebanon and Palestine that continue to carry pictures of Abdel Nasser, cheering him and shouting his slogans in a state of unparalleled denial and confusion.

At that time, Abdel Nasser sought to delude both himself and the people into believing that he is the Salahuddin [al Ayyubi] of his era. He commissioned the state to produce the film ‘Al Nasser Salahuddin’ presenting him as an “Arab” hero even though he was Kurdish but “this is what the market wanted.” Accordingly, such productions had to be presented to convince people, and why not?

Salahuddin unified Egypt and Syria and liberated Jerusalem so what is the relation to Abdel Nasser since the latter disunited Egypt and Syria?

It is a history that has been falsified and distorted in the interests of many people. What can we do except wait for the facts to be revealed in some television series?

After this absolute failure, do people still dare to celebrate the union? In that case, it would be quite normal to see people celebrate “Umm al Maarik,” the Mother of All Battles [a reference to the first Gulf War].

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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