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. Reviewed by Geoff. Muirden

This book, written by investigative journalists, Brendan O’Malley, Foreign editor of the Times Educational Supplement and Ian Craig, Political editor of Manchester Evening News, blows the whistle on the forces underlying the coup in Cyprus of July, 1974, which toppled Greek nationalist, Archbishop Makarios, soon followed by the invasion of Turkey which seized about a third of the country, a situation of divided rule between Greek and Turkish Cypriots which remains to the present day, showing that the British policy of "divide and rule", practiced in India under the Raj, has been 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 further stage in the decline and fall of the British Empire and the rise of the de facto American Empire with its global expanse.

FDR had worked for the decline of the British Empire during WWII and Britain was now "in hoc" to the US. After WWII, the US emerged as the new superpower. The Suez crisis was a significant marker of its weakness. Britain found itself economically and militarily weak, and was forced to seek the help of the U.S., withdrawing from Suez. British control of Cyprus and the Middle East ended up being handed over to the US.

The book tends to understate the opposition of America to the British Empire. It says: "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". (pp.122-123) In fact, FDR was not ambivalent towards the British Empire-he wanted to destroy it, and he assisted in doing so. Nevertheless, the second half of the statement is true: "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." (p. 123)

Despite its waning power,the motives for British involvement are set out with admirable simplicity and directness on 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 and this book suggests that the division of Cyprus was no accident, but a carefully orchestrated scheme using its facilities, as many other conquerors had, for their own interests. The background of British occupation of the island was its takeover by Britain 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, or 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 Turks, but opposed by the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters, who wanted enosis or nothing. So began a guerilla war against the British.

In 1960, Britain granted Cyprus its independence, which the book sees as a sham. The writers 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."(p.79) This was part of rule by outside powers that did nothing to solve ethnic divisions between Greeks and Turks. A Greek archbishop, Makarios, became President, while a Turk, Kutchuk, was made Vice President. By 1964 Makarios was moving towards greater links with Greece and Arab neighbours. But American and British interests wanted him out. Things were brought to a head when a CIA-sponsored, Greek-organized coup overthrew Makarios and replaced him with a puppet leader. Turkey responsed by invading and Greece pulled out, but the Turks took the northern third of the island and expelled 180,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes. This Greek/Turkish split remains to the present.

Makarios, after the Turkish attack said that: "the United States is the only country which could have exerted pressure on Turkey and prevented the invasion" (p. 217) So why didn’t it?

Henry Kissinger claimed he could not stop this occupation of Cyprus because the Watergate crisis engaged his attention. But the book cites evidence to show an underlying conspiracy by Kissinger and the US, as Britain stood by, to promote the division of the island and rule behind the scenes. One contributory factor was that Makarios backed Arabs, while the U.S. was a friend of Israel.American key motives were to keep the island’s strategic value as a military and intelligence base and to preserve America’s military interests in Turkey. Concerned to prevent the island from coming under Communist influence, US officials wanted to monitor Soviet missile threats in Central Asia and political threats in the Middle East. The Turks had threatened that if there was any military intervention against their invasion, they would leave NATO,so invasion went ahead.

Their motives are summed up: "the plot 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 pace of the 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".(p. 223)

It is claimed that Britain "nearly went to war with Turkey, but the Americans stopped (it)."(p. vii) It was a further sign that the US could overrule British power as it has done ever since.

At present, Cyprus remains divided, with no end in sight. In March,2003, the deadline for agreement from both sides on a UN-sponsored reunification deal passed unheeded. When the plan was put to referendum, Turkish Cypriots supported it and Greek Cypriots did not. The island has joined the European Union, but EU rules apply only to Greek Cyprus.

The US is the world’s only superpower and only it could persuade Turkey to withdraw and accept a UN-mandated solution, which it refuses to do. O’Malley and Craig have made a case for suggesting that it supported the "divide and rule" in the first place, and see no need to reverse it. But, given the strategic importance of Cyprus, even if it were to be reunited, it is likely it would remain dominated by more powerful nations, as it has been throughout its long history. In this respect, it might be compared with Ireland which, in the course of a long history, has been dominated by England, which keeps it divided and will likely continue to do so, despite centuries of tension.