The United Arab Republic was a short-lived alliance between the Middle Eastern countries of Egypt and Syria, lasting from 1958 until 1961. In 1961 Syria withdrew from the union and Egypt kept the official title of "United Arab Republic" until 1971. The president of the U.A.R. for the duration of its existence was Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was the President of Egypt.
Nasser's Popularity and Pan-Arabism
After the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company in 1956 and the positive outcome for Egypt of the Suez Canal Crisis in 1957, Nasser's popularity throughout the Arab world was solidified. Nasser used his popularity, along with the advent of the transistor radio, to spread his dream of pan-Arabism. Pan-Arabism, or Arab nationalism, advocated for a single Arab state that would extend from Morocco to the Persian Gulf. This idea gained widespread popularity in the 1950s, especially in Egypt.
Formation of United Arab Republic
At the end of 1957 the Syrian government was in danger of being overthrown by the country's Communist Party. To prevent this, Syrian united with their much stronger allies, the Egyptians under Nasser, thus forming the United Arab Republic in 1958. Although this alliance was far from the realization of Nasser's pan-Arab dream, at the time it seemed to be a step in that direction.
Egyptian Domination Over Syria
Soon after the formation of the United Arab Republic, it became clear that Egypt would be the dominant partner in the relationship. The central cabinet was made up of eight Egyptians and one Syrian, which ensured that Egypt would call the shots on both federal and regional issues. Nasser purged the Syrian Army's officer corps and replaced them with Egyptian officers in order to keep watch over the military. He also closed 18 of Syria's 19 newspapers in an effort to control reports critical of the goverment.
Collapse of the U.A.R.
In addition to efforts to control politics and the military, Nasser also sought to control Syria's economy. He introduced price controls and mandated that all banks be Arab-owned. This increased Syrian dissatisfaction with the U.A.R., especially among the business community. In 1961, funded by the disenfranchised business elite, a small group of Syrian Army officers carried out a coup which effectively ended the alliance with Egypt, the United Arab Republic, and Nasser's dream for a pan-Arab state.
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- Terry Fincher/Hulton Archive/Getty Images