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If you are looking for a good but DENSE book about the Middle East, “Eisenhower 1956” may be it. I just finished reading it and it filled in some holes about how the world got stuck in this never ending conflict. The author was David A. Nichols, an Eisenhower biographer and fan. The book talks a lot about how the various governments there were changing as colonialism died and was replaced by authoritarian, nationalist regimes. The people of many countries there seem to have changed from a peaceful, paternalistic government to a warlike, paternalistic government. This was no improvement. At this time the Middle East was rapidly changing - Israel had been supported by the Soviet Union and the British had threatened to bomb Israel to punish them for fighting with Jordan! The US refused to sell Israel significant military equipment. European economies had become dependent on oil shipped through the Suez Canal, which had just been nationalized by Egypt. The situation there was as complex then as it is today. One of the more interesting wars it covered was the “Tripartite Aggression” as the Arabs called it or the “Suez Campaign” as the Israelis called it. The war started on Oct 29, 1956 when Israel invaded Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula. This was to support a secret plan to allow Britain and France to take the Suez Canal back. At that time the Muslim countries in that area did not like Israel, and had attacked it in 1947, but were very much in conflict among themselves. Apparently one of the unforeseen results of the 1956 attack by Israel was to accelerate the unity between their opponents and push them into the embrace of the Soviet Union. The Soviets subsequently became the arms supplier of choice for many of the armies in the region and sold lots of weapons. I have read several other books about that area, one was “Six Days Of War” by Michael B. Oren and it was interesting to see his version of the history of the Suez Campaign - it describes that attack as a necessary response. From reading several books it appears that the attack was unprovoked, unnecessary, and caused many more problems than it solved. The Eisenhower book leaves the impression that the 1956 war might have been avoided had Eisenhower not had a major heart attack, a major abdominal surgery, and a reelection campaign in that year. Also, the Warsaw Pact almost had Hungary leave it that year, and they invaded Hungary and violently suppressed a rebellion there. The book answered a lot of questions that I had about the region and was well written. Apparently the sad situation we are now in might have been much better, had a number of people made much smarter decisions. What if the region had not divided into Muslim/Soviet and Israel/US sides??? It might have been several blocs supported by different major powers; even though Egypt and Israel were at war, the other Muslim countries did not come to the aid of Egypt (for various reasons). If you are tired of hearing about the Middle East - avoid this book.
I'd thought this would be a very interesting topic to share with the forum unaware that Pakistani & Israeli pilots did battle each other in air to air combat. The Pakistani pilots were known as the 'Unsung heroes of the Arab-Israeli wars'. 5th June 1967, the Israeli's are bombarding the Syrian, Egyptian & Jordanian Air forces, the Arabs ask the Pakistanis for help, 16 PAF pilots volunteer and fly off. Fast roll back to the 6 day 1967 war. "Within 72 hours, (Pakistan's) Saiful Azam (alias "Master Of Migs) became the only fighter-pilot in the world to hold the record of shooting down three confirmed kills of Israeli aircraft in air-to-air combat and damaging one plane that crash landed, a record that still stands today". "All told, Pakistani Air Force pilots, in addition to Saiful Azam serving in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Syria, in 1967 war, downed as many as 10 Israeli aircrafts without losing a single pilot or a single aircraft. Pakistan, moreover, provided the Arab states with numerous military advisors and pilots who also served in 1973 war with remarkable achievements. The Pakistani military also provided critical military restructuring and reevaluation especially to Jordan after the 1967 war". "During the 1973 war, for example Flt. Lt. A. Sattar Alvi became the first Pakistani pilot, flying a Syrian aircraft to shoot down an Israeli Mirage in air combat. Similarly and on the Egyptian front, PAF pilot Flt. Lt. M. Hatif , flying an Egyptian MiG-21 shot down an Israeli F-4 phantom in an air combat. Pakistani Air Force did not lose a single pilot or aircraft in any of the wars". "After the engagements, Flight Lieutenant Captain Sattar Alvi and Shahbaz formation leader Squadron Leader Major Arif Manzoor were awarded two of Syria's highest decorations for gallantry, the Wisaam Faris and Wisaam Shuja'at in 1973 by the President of Syria Hafez al-Assad in a public ceremony" "It is rather strange that the Pakistani contribution to Arab militaries is never mentioned in Arab culture let alone in official Arab histories of the war. Pakistan had a contingent of at least 16 pilots who served as volunteers in Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq in 1967 and 1973 wars". Although PAF Pilots played a crucial part to help the Arabs, Israel still managed to keep All Arab air forces on the ground and Win all the wars. http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/08/01/229723.html "Flight Lt Sattar Alvi standing with a Mig-21" " MIg-21 Gun camera footage of an F4 Phantom moments before it was shot down by Flt. Lt. M. Hatif " "Saiful Azam remains the only fighter pilot who has flown for four air forces (Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq and Pakistan) at war, along with the unique distinction of having skills against two different air forces (India and Israel), United States Air Force honored Azam in 2000 and that Azam is "One of the twenty two 'Living Eagles' of the world"