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April 2, 1956

France's Policy in the Middle East

This document was made possible with support from Youmna and Tony Asseily


April 2, 1956

France's policy in the Middle East


Political circles in Jordan have welcomed the visit that Mr Pineau, France's Foreign Minister, intends to make to the Arab countries because they believe that it could be more beneficial to the Arabs than to the Jews.


Those involved in politics talk a lot about France's attitude towards Arab issues and its positive policy against Anglo-American colonialism; they say that now that the Tunisian and Moroccan issues have been resolved, France is now probably the closest Western big power to the Arab people because:


It did not participate in the creation of the Jewish entity in the heart of the Arab world as Britain and America did;


It took an honourable stand vis-à-vis the Baghdad Pact which was rejected by the Arab people;


It withdrew from Syria and Lebanon without leaving behind it obstacles to impede these two countries' development. Quite to the contrary, it still gives them economic and military assistance to enable them to safeguard their independence.


It has never been known for France to interfere, or try to interfere, in Middle Eastern affairs; the only criticism that could be levelled at it has to do with its present harsh policies in Algeria. Once this problem is resolved, France will naturally become the only Western nation with which the Islamic and Arab worlds would want to cooperate to the fullest extent possible.


British and American circles in Amman were in general uneasy regarding the visit of the French Minister, especially at this time, for fear of what it might entail.


At a party held two weeks ago in Amman Mr Duke, the British Ambassador to Jordan, spoke to a number of journalists about France's policy in the Maghreb, and one of the journalists, Abdel-Hafiz Mohammad, asked him why Britain and America were closing their eyes to France's behaviour in Algeria and allowing it to dispatch NATO commanders to that region. He replied: 'If we do not do that, France will be thrown into the lap of the Soviet Union; communist propaganda has already infiltrated various circles in France.'


Arab circles opposed to Anglo-American policies believe that France would be able to turn over a new leaf in its policies in the Middle East, establish good relations with the Arab countries, and will not shirk from openly discussing with them issues of major concern to the Arab and Islamic worlds. They also believe that France will find the Arabs very well disposed towards it and eager to cooperate with it in solving some of its problems, thus sparing it a lot of trouble and suffering. There is ample opportunity for France to play a clever role, under prevailing circumstances in Syria and Jordan, to gain, on one hand, the affection of these two countries' people and, on the other, help them unite, strengthen their relations, and liberate themselves, once and for all, from British influence that has marred France's image in the Middle East.


If France ever decides to pursue this friendly policy, it will undoubtedly find a number of political and nationalist groups in both countries willing and eager to cooperate with it to achieve these objectives.


Mr Mohammad al-Shuraiqi, a former minister and one of the leaders of the Nationalist Movement in Jordan, told me: 'In spite of their strong condemnation of communism, the Arabs did not hesitate to cooperate with Soviet Russia when it demonstrated positive feeling towards Arab issues; so can you imagine how it would be if France ever adopts a similar position'?

French influence could be useful for the Arab cause, especially against Jews, based on its record of aid and nonintervention.


Document Information


Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 15, File 37B/15, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford.


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Youmna and Tony Asseily