After the debacle in Egypt, and unsettled by what it considered its greatest foreign policy error since World War II, Washington shifted more and more of its energies to fighting the Cold War in the Third World.
In the Soviet Union Khruschev brought about changes that allowed his government to exploit opportunities with the newly emerging nations.
For both nations the Middle East was the top priority.
From 1955 through 1968, the Soviet Union provided nearly $3 billion in military aid to the region.
Moscow had several objectives, including a need to access warm water ports on the open sea, a desire to limit Western access to the region’s oil resources, and a determination to eliminate Western influence by destroying alliances, particularly the Baghdad Pact of 1955, the CENTO Pact of 1956, and the more loosely aligned Islamic Alliance of 1966.
As a first step, the Soviets increased their appeal to Arab nationalism, portraying Israel as an instrument of Western imperialism and the United States as a neocolonialist power.
La Feber says that Moscow also “fanned local arms races … between revolutionary and moderate Arab, and between Algeria and Morocco, thereby undermining American efforts.”
The United States provided roughly the same level of assistance as did the Soviets, representing itself as a guardian of stability in the region despite the fact that it was chiefly concerned with protecting Western interests against Soviet overtures.
Western interests were important since, at that time, the Middle East provided 80 percent of Western Europe’s oil supply and contained more than three-fifths of the world’s proven oil reserves, in addition to its proximity to NATO’s southern flank.
As arms flowed into the Middle East, Iran’s concern over issues relating to regional security intensified.
In Iran, the shah’s perception of threat was also exacerbated by the magnitude of Soviet aid to neighboring Afghanistan who, for nearly nine years (1946 – 1955), had unsuccessfully sought American aid and support.
When the United States ultimately made clear its commitment to Pakistan and its unwillingness to commit itself comparably to Afghanistan, the country became the first Cold War recipient of Soviet economic credits.
By 1964 the buffer state received the highest per capita assistance of any nation under the Kremlin’s economic umbrella. This knowledge propelled a defense build-up in Iran and Pakistan.