Thursday, September 28, 2017

America in the Middle East

America's Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, by Hugh Wilford

Wilford continues the story with the Americans moving into Cairo; there was a need to coordinate Lend-Lease activities in the region.  It turns out that Lend-Lease was useful for purposes other than sending Jeeps to Europe.  From the time of his transfer from the State Department to the OSS in April 1944…

…Kim [Roosevelt] was a key player in Project SOPHIA, a secret program for spreading OSS officers throughout the region under cover of [Lend-Lease.]

Bill Donovan had been looking into setting up a Cairo office for the OSS as early as 1942; the office was established in May 1943.  With this now in place, the office would be charged with collecting intelligence, spreading propaganda, and conduct a massive campaign of political warfare.

The Americans were blessed with a unique asset – the tremendous goodwill developed and earned by American Missionaries and educators in the decades prior.  While the British and French were looked at with suspicion and even despised for their colonial attitudes in the region, the Americans were seen, rightly until this point, as benevolent.  This goodwill was the currency that the Americans would exploit to gain their advantage. 

Stephen Penrose, Jr. was the first American assigned to the Cairo office.  He was the son of the president of Whitman College, a small college in Washington founded by New England missionaries.  He would spend time teaching at the American University of Beirut (AUB), where he would later return as president.

This background brought him connections in the Arab world; he brought in several former colleagues from AUB to staff the Cairo office – including David Dodge, the great-grandson of AUB founder Daniel Bliss.  Penrose leveraged his contacts on several missionary boards, obtaining street maps and other detailed information of the various cities and locales in the region. 

Kim Roosevelt would travel to Allied-occupied Iran, under cover of the Lend-Lease program.  He would meet with Joseph Upton, a Harvard-educated expert on Persian antiquities, apparently in Tehran overseeing the archeological work by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He was, in reality, an OSS field agent.

Another agent in Tehran was specialist in Persian language and history at Princeton University; a third majored in art and archeology at Princeton before pursuing a scholarly career.

By this time, Kim’s cousin Archie had returned to the Middle East, and they met upon Kim’s return to Cairo.  Tours of Palestine and Lebanon would follow, including meetings with Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.  But still, this was a time for Arabists, not Zionists, in the United States government.

When Kim departed and with the war over, he wrote in his final report that the entire US effort in the Middle East was a waste of time and money.  Archie remained in the region, now in Iraq.  Despite being married, Archie found the happiest moments of his life when assigned to the Middle East. 

The end of the war brought on the Cold War and the continuation of the Great Game – with Britain hanging on but with visible signs of the transition to America in taking the lead Anglo role.  Communists were to be found in every corner; the Soviets were assumed to be behind every antagonistic action aimed at the colonialist British.

Archie was in an interesting spot – several years earlier he had learned that communists were involved in running the American Youth Congress (AYC), a national youth group prominently supported by his cousin, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  He would publicly criticize her for this role.


At the end of the war, Archie returned home for a short time; to his wife’s disappointment, he quickly took an assignment to Iran.

Iran – long a plaything in the Great Game between Great Britain and Russia; soon to be the plaything of the United States and the Soviet Union.  And soon to be home for the first – and perhaps most well-known – major CIA intervention in the region.


  1. Good read, thanks.

    This is when my anarchistic gumption is at its highest: when governments play their deadly foreign meddling games simply because they can.

  2. And that intervention was completely unnecessary and destructive as it set the stage for the Iranian Revolution and theocratic control of the country.

    Of course we live today with the Government of Iran using its nuclear weapons program as a cudgel to keep the Color Revolutions/Regime Change happy West from pulling the same stunt in Iran as they have in Libya.

  3. I wonder if the following might not have something to do with the never-ending Middle East conflicts:

    By their own admission, today's Jews are not genetic Israelites but merely proselytes to the religion of Judaism (not to be confused with the religion of the Old Covenant Israelites).

    Consider carefully the following admissions, all of them quotations from recognized Jewish sources:

    "Strictly speaking, it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a 'Jew' or to call a contemporary Jew an 'Israelite' or a 'Hebrew.'” (Richard Siegel and Carl Rheins, eds., “Identity Crisis,” The Jewish Almanac, (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1980) p. 3.)

    That sentence is the opening sentence of the First Chapter entitled "IDENTITY CRISIS" of the 1980 Jewish Almanac. That today's Jews are not genetic Israelites is also admitted in "The Jewish Encyclopedia," the "Enyclopedia Judaica," "The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia," "The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia," and by many of their historians.

    According to three Jewish encyclopedias and Flavius Josephus, the entire Edomite nation was forced into converting to Judaism and became known as Judahites at the time of the high priest John Hyrcanus (Maccabaeus):

    "…in the days of John Hyrcanus (end of the second century B.C.E.) … the Edomites became a section of the Jewish people." (“Edom,” Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, Israel: Encyclopaedia Judaica Company, 1971) Volume 6, p. 378.)

    "They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation…." (“Edom, Idumea,” The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York & London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1904) Volume V, p. 41.)

    "…from then on they constituted a part of the Jewish people, Herod [King of Judea] being one of their descendants." (Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoden, “Edom (Idumea),” The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977) p. 589.)

    "…they submitted to the use of circumcision, and the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time … they were hereafter no other than Jews." (Flavius Josephus, “The Antiquities of the Jews,” Josephus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1960) Book XIII, Chapter IX, Verse 1, p. 279.)

    We keep hearing that if we don't bless the modern State of Israel (which America has been doing since at least 1948) that we will be cursed. However, it seems it's been just the opposite, Since 1948, you name it, and there's not an area in America wherein she hasn't become worse off. Could it because America's been identifying the wrong people as Israel.

    Today's Jews are not the only ones with an identity crisis.

    For more, see "The Mystery of the Gentiles: Where Are They and Where Are They Now?" at

  4. Hey bionic mosquito I been reading up on the Ottoman Empire and the invasions into Europe. I was wondering in your opinion if the allies (Being Britain, France and the USA) had stay out of the Middle East after WW1 do you think it would be more, the same or less peaceful?
    And do you think that we would have less or more terrorist’s attacks?

    I know it is impossible to fully say and is only a guess.
    I remember years ago some Libertarians (I wish I remember which ones, I think Stefan and Adam Koiseh were some) were going on about how terrorists attacks only happen on nations that were involved militarily in the Middle East and it would stop if we got out. This was for any country either having soldiers their or selling weapons in that region. This was back around 2008 to about 2014.

    Well Germany and Sweden have be the lest involved in the Middle East, while at the same time during the Syrian war (that is still going on) have offered many housed and gave welfare to many. And yet they have had some of the worst attacks.

    1. I believe it is reasonably correlated that the less involved a foreign government is militarily involved in the Middle East, the fewer attacks there have been on the home soil. But, of course, I don’t regard this as an absolute – the facts argue otherwise.

      “I was wondering in your opinion if the allies (Being Britain, France and the USA) had stay out of the Middle East after WW1 do you think it would be more, the same or less peaceful?”

      So, what is meant by “stay out of the Middle East”? To me, it is more than avoiding the colonialism and invasions: it also includes no weapons sales, no covert actions, etc. Peaceful trade, that’s about it.

      I think a couple of things: had the west stayed out of the Middle East, the conflicts in the Middle East would have been smaller and more local and less destructive; call these tribal feuds. There would be fewer terrorist attacks in the west.

      This would have to be coupled with a more appropriate structure regarding immigration – as long as there are state borders, there will be a state role in this matter.