Two Soviet tank armies have fallen on Iran and are pouring down from the Zagros Mountains onto the Iraqi floodplains of the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers like wolves upon the fold. The Shah of Iran is dead, Tehran has been destroyed by a nuclear strike, and the surviving imperial courtiers are squabbling over the distribution of the nation’s riches. Iraq has disintegrated before the advancing Red Army tanks.
The Kennedy Administration has turned its back on any new commitment ‘east of Suez’. Only a handful of British tanks and a few thousand widely scattered troops around the oilfields of the Middle East and a fragile web of hastily concluded agreements of with former enemies and embattled allies stand between the Red Army and complete mastery of the Persian Gulf.
The whole Middle East is in turmoil. The Suez Canal is blocked. The British staging bases in Malta and Cyprus are wrecked and in America Congress has refused to ratify the US-UK Mutual Defense Treaty.
In the United States, the overwhelming popular mood is one of ‘America First’. The ‘victory’ of the October War has never seemed more pyrrhic, or all the death, destruction and grief more futile than it does in the second week of April 1964. The beleaguered British and Commonwealth forces in and around the Persian Gulf must face the fact that the cavalry – in the form of the slowly rebuilding American military colossus – is not about to come to the rescue any time soon, if at all, ever again.
Faced with a war in the Persian Gulf that it has neither the materiel, or in some quarters the will to fight, the West – what remains of it after the disaster of the Cuban Missiles War of October 1962 – faces a humiliating, crushing catastrophe of a kind that will alter the balance of global geopolitical power for a generation.
Has the nightmare of the October War been in vain?
Only one thing is certain; the World is about to be turned upside down again.