Although often overlooked in studies of World War II, the Middle East was actually a key theater for the Allies. Though the threat of direct Axis invasion by Rommel’s Afrika Corps never materialized beyond the Egyptian Western Desert this did not limit the Axis from probing the Middle East and cultivating potential collaborators and sympathizers. The Secret War for the Middle East explores the infusion of the political language of anti-Semitism, nationalism, fascism, and Marxism that was among the ideological byproducts of Axis and Allied intervention in the Arab world. The status of the British-dominated Middle East was tailor-made for exploitation by Axis intelligence and propaganda. German and Italian intelligence efforts fueled anti-British resentments; their influence shaped the course of Arab nationalist sentiments throughout the Middle East. These actions left an indelible mark on the sociopolitical evolution of the modern states of the Middle East, and their effects continue to be felt today.
A relevant parallel to the pan-Arab cause was Hitler’s attempt to bring ethnic Germans into the fold of a greater German state. In theory, as the Sudeten German stood on par with the Carpathian German, so, too, according to doctrinal theory, did the Yemeni stand in union with the Syrian in the imagination of those espousing pan-Arabism. As historic evidence demonstrates, this very commonality proved to be a major factor in the development of relations between Arab and Fascist leaders. The Arab nationalist movement amounted to little more than a shapeless, fragmented counter-position to British imperialism, imported to the Arab East via Berlin for Nazi aspirations.
Cdr. Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, USN, is an officer in the U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps and a Middle East foreign officer. He currently is the adjunct military professor and chair of Islamic studies at the National Defense University’s Dwight D. Eisenhower School for Resource Strategy and National Security. He holds a master’s degree in strategic intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College and is stationed in the Washington, D.C., area.
Basil Aboul-Enein is a former captain of the U.S. Air Force, where he held the position of public health commander and medical intelligence officer at Columbus AFB. He has a master’s degree in military history through Norwich University. He currently teaches undergraduate nutrition courses at San Jacinto College and East Mississippi Community College and lives in Starkville, MS.
~ From the Foreword ~
“Commander Aboul-Enein and his younger brother Basil have written a book that exposes America’s military leaders to key aspects of this underground war of diplomacy, intrigue, and propaganda. Their work examines the impact this battleground had on the evolution of Arab nationalist movements in the twentieth century and militant Islamist groups in the twenty-first century.”
— Ed Mornston, former director, Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism, Defense Intelligence Agency
~ Praise for The Secret War for the Middle East ~
“The Secret War for the Middle East is a fascinating read and offers an informed account of the Middle East during World War II as well as the implications for the region today. The authors know their subject well, and readers will undoubtedly learn much from the story they tell. Overall, this book makes a valuable contribution to the study of a period that proved critical for the emergence of the modern Middle East.”
-ARMY HISTORY (Winter 2015)
"Those seeking a good general history of the Middle East during World War II will find this a most informative book. It is immensely helpful in filling in the larger regional context of the campaign in North Africa. Another plus is the series of maps clarifying just how the Middle East fit into the larger war."
-Michigan War Studies Review
“The Aboul-Enein brothers have analyzed a crucial topic, one that intelligence officers should take the time to study.”
-Studies in Intelligence
“This valuable, insightful, and compelling book exposes, in the main, some facets of the covert war of diplomacy, intrigue, and propaganda and the impact that the Middle East had on the evolution of Arab nationalist movements in the twentieth century and militant Islamist groups in the twenty-first century.”
-Naval History Book Reviews
“Youssef and Basil Aboul-Enein are not professional historians; they are American military persons. Judging by their recently published book, however, they definitely are going to have a place of distinction among historians of the modern Middle East. “
-Digest of Middle East Studies
“For us to truly understand the Middle East it is vital that we explore how European competition in both World Wars shaped the region. This book provides a fresh perspective on how the British, Germans and Italians in World War II competed for popular support of their respective governments. It links how the saturation of fascist propaganda by the Nazis and Italians created a condition ripe for exploitation and the undermining of the British and French in the Near East. You will understand why a young Captain Anwar Sadat would have pro-Nazi sympathies not for his understanding of Hitler’s ideology, but as a means to attain Egyptian independence. Under the pressures of World War II, democracies would be put to the test, and the British would set aside their democratic ideals and dictate governments in Egypt, Iraq and Iran. Youssef and Basil Aboul-Enein have written a book that allows us to ponder these difficult questions using World War II as a case study. How far should we sacrifice our democratic ideals in the name of regional security? One such repercussion was the introduction of fascist ideas into popular Arab political discourse. A powerful read!”
—Vance Skarstedt, dean of faculty, National Intelligence University
“CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein is an officer who remains an integral part of the education of our International Fellows at the National Intelligence University. His ability to engage allied Arab officers is unparalleled, and it is a sight to watch as he lapses between Arabic and English on issued ranging from Islamic history, colonial policy, and various conflicts in the region. This book uncovers the importance of the human and mental landscape of the Middle East, as the Axis and Allies competed with one another for popular support. ”
—Lorenzo Hiponia, director, Center for International Engagement, National Intelligence University