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The Second World War, and closing of enemies around Egypt, brought the British army back in Egypt larger in force than ever. They seized control of all Egyptian military facilities; despite Egypt itself being officially neutral throughout most part of the war for they considered it to be a European conflict they did not want any part in. While the government necessarily supported the British, but the Egyptians did not, and some were secretly pleased whenever the Axis won a victory against the Allied Powers. The Muslim Brotherhood as well as clandestine army groups secretly plotted the overthrow of the government. Convinced that the king was conspiring against them and unsure of Prime Minister Ali Maher¡¯s loyalty, the British installed their own candidate, Wafdist An-Nahhas, as Prime Minister at gunpoint in February 1942 to prevent an Egyptian-German alliance. The British Army won a great victory at Al¡¯Amein over the invading German army under General Erwin Rommel This incident showed clearly that Britain was to remain the dominant power in Egypt and the king and political parties could only exist if Britain allowed them to. The Wafd was severely discredited. Eventually the Wafdist government fell in 1944 and Egypt saw many changes in prime ministership and in the cabinet. The Wafd, the Saadist party and the king were hostile to each other, and even communist and militant groups were gaining support from the public.
British Withdrawal to Canal Zone (1945-49)
In 1945 a Labour Party government with anti-imperialist leanings was elected in Britain. This election encouraged Egyptians to believe that Britain would change its policy. The end of WWII, however, saw the beginning of the Cold War in which the Egyptians found themselves hopelessly entangled in. Worried that the Soviet Union would expand itself, the West would ¡®come to see the Middle East as a vital element in its post-war strategy of "containment."¡¯ Moreover, pro-imperialist British Conservatives like Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden spoke of Britain's "rightful position" in the Suez Canal Zone and stressed the crucial importance of the Suez Canal as an ¡®imperial lifeline¡¯ and claimed that the withdrawal of the British from Egypt would endanger international security.
Egyptian Prime Minister, Mahmud Nuqrashi, demanded the British to renegotiate the 1936 treaty and evacuate British troops from the country but was refused. Rioting and demonstrations erupted in Cairo and Alexandria, together with attacks on British personnel and property. A former driving force behind Egyptian politics, Ismail Sidqi, took over as Prime Minister of Egypt and negotiations with the British. The British Labour Party's Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, agreed to withdraw their troops to the Suez Canal Zone by September 1949. However, another disagreement was met over the liberation of Sudan by the British while the Egyptian nationalists believed in 'the unity of the Nile Valley', meaning that Sudan ought to be under Egypt's governance. Nuqrashi succeeded Sidqi's resignation in December 1946 and referred the case to the newly created United Nations the following year. On the other hand, the Brotherhood called for strikes and jihad against the British while tabloids called for a guerrilla war.
Defeat of the Arab League (1947-49)
In 1948, the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel by David Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv further fuelled Egyptian desire to free themselves from imperialist reins. In September 1947, the League of Arab States (Arab League) decided to oppose by force the UN plan for division of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. The Egyptians, like most Arabs, considered the State of Israel foreign and a product of Western imperialism. Thus the armies of various Arab states, including Egypt, invaded Palestine to save the country for Arabs against what they considered Zionist aggression. The Arabs were defeated by Israel, although the Arab Legion of Transjordan held onto the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Egypt rescued a strip of territory around Gaza that became known as the Gaza Strip.
Due to the poor preparations, inefficiency and lack of coordination with other Arab states, Egypt suffered a disastrous defeat and much shame, despite pockets of individual heroic acts. There were post-war scandals galore over the issuing of inferior equipment and of the king and government treacherously abandoning the army.
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