Conspiring to divide

By Geoff Muirden

Written by investigative journalists, Brendan O'Malley, Foreign editor of the Times Educational Supplement and Ian Craig, Political editor of Manchester Evening News, The Cyprus Conspiracy blows the whistle on the forces underlying the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Turkey's seizure of about a third of the island followed hot on the heels of a coup backed by the CIA and the Greek military Junta that toppled Archbishop Makarios. This inevitably led to the partition of Cyprus, which remains to this day. Having accomplished the American's dirty work, the Greek Junta was swiftly jettisoned by its CIA backers and fell soon after.

The British policy of "divide and rule", perfected in India under the Raj, was recycled in Cyprus but, this time, more at the behest of the Americans than the British. In fact, the history behind these incidents is a turning point in the latter stages of the decline of the British Empire and the rise of the American Empire in its stead.

The Suez crisis was a significant marker of Britain's post war weakness. Britain found itself economically and militarily weak, and withdrawing from Suez, was forced to seek the help of the US. Eventually, British control of Cyprus and the Middle East would end up being handed over to the US on a silver platter.

The Cyprus Conspiracy understates American animosity towards the remnants of British Empire, saying, "though they had been ambivalent towards the British Empire in the past, the Americans believed that, in many areas, such as the Middle East, the British performed important security functions that no other nation could take over".

Nonetheless, it continues, "Britain had secured for itself an extraordinary array of military facilities and rights on (Cyprus) which, under the terms of the Treaty of Establishment, the British could not hand over to Washington if they pulled out."

Despite its waning power, the motives for British involvement are set out with admirable simplicity and directness as early as page 7 of the book, quoting Anthony Eden - "No Cyprus, no certain facilities to protect our supply of oil. No oil, unemployment and hunger in Britain. It is as simple as that."

For centuries, occupiers of Cyprus have used its strategic position for their own purposes. This book draws together many facts from official records to reach the conclusion that the 1974 division of Cyprus was no accident, but a carefully orchestrated manoeuvre by the US to consolidate its high tech spying facilities on the island.

Britain won Cyprus as part of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire in 1914 and in 1925 it became a Crown colony. But by then, Cypriots had had enough of being a pawn for superpowers and started agitating for independence. Many Greek Cypriots wanted enosis, unification with Greece. By 1950, the Cypriot Orthodox Church and 96% of Greek Cypriots wanted enosis. In response, Britain proposed a new constitution, accepted by the Turkish minority, but opposed by the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters, who wanted enosis or nothing. So began a drawn-out guerilla struggle against the British.

In 1960, Britain granted Cyprus its independence, which the book reveals as a sham.

O'Malley and Craig complain that "so much detail of the 1960 agreement is devoted to guaranteeing Britain's continual use of military intelligence facilities on Cyprus - 56 pages of the 103 page treaty establishing the "Independent" republic for example - that it is easy to conclude that this was what the 1960 settlement was really about."

Archbishop Makarios became President. By 1964 Makarios was moving towards greater links with Greece and his Arab neighbours. He was also too confident in his ability to play one superpower off another during the Cold War. A telling comment emerges from an interview conducted by O'Malley with Kissinger, who said he was not so much worried about Makarios's alignment, but by his confidence in his own ability to steer these dangerous reefs.

Things were brought to a head when a CIA-encouraged coup overthrew Makarios and replaced him with a puppet leader selected by its Greek military Junta sponsors. Turkey responded immediately by invading Cyprus as the Americans had envisaged. The Greek military Junta collapsed and Greece pulled out of Cyprus while the British and Americans stood by and did nothing.

The Turks occupied the northern third of the island and expelled 180,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes, a situation that continues today. After the Turkish attack Makarios said, "the United States is the only country which could have exerted pressure on Turkey and prevented the invasion." So why didn't it?

Henry Kissinger subsequently claimed he could do nothing to stop this occupation of Cyprus because the Watergate crisis engaged his attention. The book cites ample evidence for a conspiracy by Kissinger and Turkey to engineer the division of the island, as Britain stood passively by.

A contributing factor was that Makarios backed Arabs while the Americans were already the lifeblood of Israel. Their top priority was to keep the island's strategic value for themselves, even if it meant partitioning the island to maintain their and Turkey's, their regional ally, military and intelligence interests foremost. At the height of the arms build-up, the Americans needed to monitor Soviet missile launches in Central Asia, and fill the growing vacuum created by the shrinking British tentacles, gradually expanding its own role in the Middle East to today's limits.

The plot eventually hatched was one dreamed up by the British ten years earlier. It "reflected the belief of British and American strategic planners in 1964 that the military facilities would be better protected in a divided Cyprus than in a unitary independent state. By 1974, the quickening nuclear arms race, the need to monitor Soviet nuclear missile tests, and provide early warning of nuclear attack from a growing Soviet arsenal, and Britain's wavering commitment to stay on Cyprus, had raised the stakes further."

It is claimed that Britain "nearly went to war with Turkey, but the Americans stopped (it)." The US doesn't even appear to have considered the option of negotiating their own military agreement with Cyprus, even if the British went home. One suspects that if the Turks hadn't been in the middle of this woodpile the Yanks would have probably made Cyprus a client state long ago.

Cyprus remains divided, with no clear end in sight. In March, 2003, the deadline for agreement from both sides on an UN-sponsored reunification deal passed unheeded. When the plan was put to referendum, Turkish Cypriots supported it and Greek Cypriots did not. However, only the southern part of Cyprus, the Greek part, joined the European Union in 2004. Ironically, it looks to its union with Europe and Turkey's similar aspiration, as the potential circuit breaker to its division and 30 year occupation.

The Cyprus Conspiracy: America, Espionage and the Turkish Invasion, by Brendan O'Malley and Ian Craig. London, I.B. Taurus, 2004. ISBN 1 86064 737 5. Paperback. 268 pp.

 = courtesy of  kronos magazine and Kosmedia Communications  =

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