A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What Did and Did Not Happen on July 23, 1952

I've posted about the Egyptian coup/Revolution of July 23, 1952 every year since this blog began and don't want to repeat myself over much, but I thought I'd note for the record that not everything happened at once. Most modern Egyptian coverage of course focuses on the roles of Nasser and Sadat, although Egypt's first President Muhammad Naguib, has been rehabilitated from the "unperson" status to which he was subjected during the Nasser years.

‘Ali Maher Pasha
But if you look at the front page of al-Ahram above, you will note that neither Nasser nor Sadat nor even the Free Officers  as a whole are shown, but General Naguib standing next to a man with a mustache. That man is ‘Ali Maher, a civilian politician the Free Officers named as Prime Minister. ‘Ali Maher Pasha (the old honorific titles would go soon, but the headline refers to Nagub as Naguib Bek as well) had served as Prime Minister in the past, and the Army was not yet ready to govern directly, though Naguib became Minister of War and Navy.

Ex-King Farouq holds King Ahmad Fuad II
As I've noted here many times, the Free Officers also did not abolish the monarchy  right away. King Farouq was forced to abdicate on July 25 in favor of his six-month-old son, Ahmad Fuad II, who thus became Egypt's last King. Now living in Europe and in his early 60s, he still visits Egypt quietly from time to time.

The Regency Body: ‘Abd al-Mon‘eim, Barakat, Muhanna
Farouq sailed into exile on the royal yacht on July 26, taking the infant King Ahmad Fuad II with him, with sovereignty nominally vested in a three-man Regency Council appointed August 2,consisting of Prince Muhammad ‘Abd al-Mon‘eim, a son of Khedive  ‘Abbas Hilmi II and a collateral member of the Royal Family, Bahi al-Din  Barakat Pasha a former Speaker of Parliament, and Col. Rashad Muhanna, as the Free Officers' representative. This Regency Body (not formally a Council), would be short-lived.

Both the retention of the monarchy and the appointment of Maher were largely cosmetic, aimed at presenting the officers as reformers rather than revolutionaries, and the fig leaves were soon discarded, and at not giving Great Britain an excuse to intervene. (The Free Officers were in close touch with the Americans, as well.)

The Prince Regent
On September 7, the Regency Body was dissolved, and Prince ‘Abd al-Mon‘eim was named Prince Regent.

Ten days later, on September 17, ‘Ali Maher Pasha was also forced out, and General Naguib became the Prime Minister. By now it was cear that the Free Officers' Revolution Command Council (RCC) were running things, with Naguib at their head.

On June 18, 1953, nearly 11 months after the coup, the RCC announced the abolition of the monarchy, and Ahmad Fuad II's nominal rule was ended and Egypt declared a Republic. Naguib became Egypt's first President, while also retaining the titles of Prime Minister and Chairman of the RCC.

Nominally, holding those three titles gave Naguib much power, but the RCC took decisions by majority vote. Naguib, the only general officer in the group at the time of the coup and a man in his 50s, saw many things differently from a collection of colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors in their 30s. The younger men tended to align with Col. Gamal ‘Abdel Nasser, now a Deputy Prime Minister.

The rest of the tale is fairly well known. By February 1954 Nagub sought to demand real power and was briefly ousted by the RCC. The crisis was resolved after popular protests and Naguib was restored to the Presidency, but with Nasser as his Prime Minister and Chairman of the RCC. Nasser now held the real power and Naguib was mostly a figurehead from then until November of 1954, when he resigned. As the Nasser era evolved and propaganda intensified, Nasser was increasingly portrayed as the sole author of the coup. Though Naguib was rehabilitated in the end and now has a subway stop named for him, the roles of ‘Ali Maher, the Regency Body, and the Prince Regent are largely forgotten.
Naguib and the RCC, 1952

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