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«Suez Crisis 1 Suez Crisis The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression,[1] [2] (Arabic: ‫ﺍﻟﻌﺪﻭﺍﻥ ...»

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Suez Crisis 1

Suez Crisis

The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression,[1] [2] (Arabic: ‫ﺍﻟﻌﺪﻭﺍﻥ ﺍﻟﺜﻼﺛﻲ - ﺃﺯﻣﺔ ﺍﻟﺴﻮﻳﺲ‬‎ ʾAzmat

al-Sūwais / al-ʿIdwān al-Thalāthī; French: Crise du canal de Suez; Hebrew: ‫מבצע קדש‬‎ Mivtza' Kadesh "Operation

Kadesh," or ‫ מלחמת סיני‬Milẖemet Sinai, "Sinai War") was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on October 29, 1956.[3] [4] Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel, and then began to bomb Cairo. In a short time, and despite Israeli and British denials, considerable evidence showed that the two attacks were planned in collusion, with France as the instigator, Britain as a belated partner, and Israel as the willing trigger.[5] Anglo-French forces withdrew before the end of the year, but Israeli forces remained until March 1957, prolonging the crisis. In April, the canal was fully reopened to shipping, but other repercussions continued.

The attack followed the President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser's decision of 26 July 1956 to nationalize the Suez Canal, after the withdrawal of an offer by Britain and the United States to fund the building of the Aswan Dam, which was in response to Egypt's new ties with the Soviet Union and recognizing the People's Republic of China during the height of tensions between China and Taiwan.[6] The aims of the attack were primarily to regain Western control of the canal and precipitate the fall of Nasser from power, whose policies were viewed as potentially threatening the strategic interests of the three nations.

The three allies, especially Israel, were mainly successful in attaining their immediate military objectives, but pressure from the United States and the USSR at the United Nations and elsewhere forced them to withdraw. As a result of the outside pressure Britain and France failed in their political and strategic aims of controlling the canal and removing Nasser from power. Israel fulfilled some of its objectives, such as attaining freedom of navigation through the Straits of Tiran. As a result of the conflict, the UNEF would police the Egyptian–Israeli border to prevent both sides from recommencing hostilities.

Background The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, after ten years of work financed by the French and Egyptian governments.[7] The canal was operated by the Universal Company of the Suez Maritime Canal, an Egyptian-chartered company; the area surrounding the canal remained sovereign Egyptian territory and the only land-bridge between Africa and Asia.

The canal instantly became strategicallyimportant; it provided the shortest ocean link between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. The canal eased commerce for trading nations and particularly helped European colonial powers to gain and govern their colonies.

In 1875, as a result of debt and financial crisis, the Egyptian ruler was forced to sell his shares in the canal operating company to the British government of Benjamin Disraeli. They were willing buyers and obtained a 44% share in the canal's operations for less than £4 million; this maintained the majority shareholdings of the mostly French private investors. With the 1882 invasion and occupation of Egypt, the United Kingdom took de facto control of the country as well as the canal proper, and its finances and operations. The 1888 Convention of Constantinople declared the canal a neutral zone under British protection.[8] In ratifying it, the Ottoman Empire agreed to permit international shipping to pass freely through the canal, in time of war and peace.[9] The Convention came into force in 1904, the same year as the Entente cordiale, between Britain and France.

Despite this convention, the strategic importance of the Suez Canal and its control were proven during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904—1905, after Japan and Britain entered into a separate bilateral agreement. Following the Japanese surprise attack on the Russian Pacific Fleet based at Port Arthur the Russians sent reinforcements from their fleet in the Baltic Sea. The British denied the Russian fleet use of the canal and forced it to steam around the entire continent of Africa, giving the Japanese forces time to solidify their position in the Far East.

Suez Crisis 2 The importance of the canal as a strategic intersection was again apparent during the First World War, when Britain and France closed the canal to non-Allied shipping.

The canal continued to be strategically important after the Second World War as a conduit for the shipment of oil.

Petroleum business historian Daniel Yergin wrote of the period: "[I]n 1948, the canal abruptly lost its traditional rationale.... [British] control over the canal could no longer be preserved on grounds that it was critical to the defence either of India or of an empire that was being liquidated. And yet, at exactly the same moment, the canal was gaining a new role — as the highway not of empire, but of oil.... By 1955, petroleum accounted for half of the canal's traffic, and, in turn, two thirds of Europe's oil passed through it.[10] At the time, Western Europe imported two million barrels (bbls) per day from the Mideast, 1,200,000 by tanker through the Canal, and another 800,000 via pipeline from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, where tankers received it. The US imported another 300,000 bbls. daily from the Mideast.[11] In August 1956 the Royal Institute of International Affairs published a report titled "Britain and the Suez Canal" revealing government perception of the Suez area. It reiterates several times the strategic necessity of the Suez Canal to the United Kingdom, including the need to meet military obligations under the Manila Pact in the Far East and the Baghdad Pact in Iraq, Iran, or Pakistan. The report also points out how the canal was used in past wars and could be used in future wars to transport troops from the Dominions of Australia and New Zealand in the event of war in Europe. The report also cites the amount of material and oil which passes through the canal to the United Kingdom,





and the economic consequences of the canal being put out of commission, concluding:

"The possibility of the Canal being closed to troopships makes the question of the control and regime of the Canal as important to Britain today as it ever was."[12]

Events leading to the Suez Crisis

Post-war years In the aftermath of the Second World War, Britain was reassessing its role in the region in light of the severe economic constraints and its colonial history. The economic potential of the Middle East, with its vast oil reserves, as well as the Suez Canal's geo-strategic importance against the background of the Cold War, prompted Britain to consolidate and strengthen its position there. The kingdoms of Egypt and Iraq were seen as vital to maintaining strong British influence in the region.

Britain's military strength was spread throughout the region, including the vast military complex at Suez with a garrison of some 80,000, making it one of the largest military installations in the world. The Suez base was considered an important part of Britain's strategic position in the Middle East; however, increasingly it became a source of growing tension in Anglo-Egyptian relations.[13] Egypt's post-war domestic politics were experiencing a radical change, prompted in no small part by economic instability, inflation, and unemployment. Unrest began to manifest itself in the growth of radical political groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and an increasingly hostile attitude towards Britain and her presence in the country. Added to this anti-British fervour was the role Britain had played in the creation of Israel.[13] As a result, the actions of the Egyptian government began to mirror those of its populace and an anti-British policy began to permeate Egypt's relations with Britain.

In October 1951, the Egyptian government unilaterally abrogated the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, the terms of which granted Britain a lease on the Suez base for 20 more years.[14] Britain refused to withdraw from Suez, relying upon its treaty rights, as well as the sheer presence of the Suez garrison. The price of such a course of action was a steady escalation in increasingly violent hostility towards Britain and British troops in Egypt, which the Egyptian authorities did little to curb.

On 25 January 1952, British attempts to disarm a troublesome auxiliary police force barracks in Ismailia resulted in the deaths of 41 Egyptians.[15] This in turn led to anti-Western riots in Cairo resulting in heavy damage to property and the deaths of several foreigners, including 11 British citizens.[15] This proved to be a catalyst for the removal of Suez Crisis 3 the Egyptian monarchy. On 23 July 1952 a military coup by the 'Free Officers Movement'—led by Muhammad Neguib and future Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser—overthrew King Farouk and established an Egyptian republic.

Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, cargo shipments to and from Israel had been subject to Egyptian authorization, search and seizure while attempting to pass through the Suez Canal.[16] On 1 September 1951, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 95 called upon Egypt: "... to terminate the restrictions on the passage of international commercial ships and goods through the Suez Canal, wherever bound, and to cease all interference with such shipping." This interference and confiscation, contrary to the laws of the canal (Article 1 of the 1888 Suez Canal Convention), increased following the coup.

Post-revolution period Britain's desire to mend Anglo-Egyptian relations in the wake of the coup saw her strive for rapprochement throughout 1953 and 1954. Part of this process was the agreement, in 1953, to terminate British rule in Sudan by 1956 in return for Cairo's abandoning of its claim to suzerainty over the Nile Valley region. In October 1954, Britain and Egypt concluded an agreement on the phased evacuation of British troops from the Suez base, the terms of which agreed to withdrawal of all troops within 20 months, maintenance of the base to be continued, and for Britain to hold the right to return for seven years.[17] The Suez Canal Company was not due to revert to the Egyptian government until 16 November 1968 under the terms of the treaty.[18] Despite the establishment of such an agreement with the British, Nasser's position remained tenuous. The loss of Egypt's claim to Sudan, coupled with the continued presence of Britain at Suez for a further two years, led to domestic unrest including an assassination attempt against him in October 1954. The tenuous nature of Nasser's rule caused him to believe that neither his regime, nor Egypt's independence would be safe until Egypt had established itself as head of the Arab world.[19] This would manifest itself in the challenging of British Middle Eastern interests throughout 1955.

Britain's close relationship with the two Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan were of particular concern to Nasser. In particular, Iraq's increasingly amicable relations with Britain were a threat to Nasser's desire to see Egypt as head of the Arab world. The creation of the Baghdad Pact in 1955 seemed to confirm Nasser's fears that Britain was attempting to draw the Eastern Arab World into a bloc centred upon Iraq, and sympathetic to Britain.[20] Nasser's response was a series of challenges to British influence in the region that would culminate in the Suez Crisis.

Frustration of British aims Throughout 1955 and 1956 Nasser pursued a number of policies that would frustrate British aims throughout the Middle East, and result in increasing hostility between Britain and Egypt. Nasser "... played on the widespread suspicion that any Western defence pact was merely veiled colonialism and that Arab disunity and weakness—especially in the struggle with Israel—was a consequence of British machinations."[20] He also began to align Egypt with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia—whose rulers were hereditary enemies of the Hashemites—in an effort to frustrate British efforts to draw Syria, Jordan and Lebanon into the orbit of the Baghdad Pact. Nasser frustrated British attempts to draw Jordan into the pact by sponsoring demonstrations in Amman, leading King Hussein to dismiss the British commander of the Arab Legion Glubb Pasha in March 1956 and throwing Britain's Middle Eastern security policy into chaos.[21] Nasser struck a further blow against Britain by negotiating an arms deal with communist Czechoslovakia in September 1955[22] thereby ending Egypt's reliance on Western arms. Later, other members of the Warsaw Pact also sold arms to Egypt and Syria. In practice, all sales from the Eastern Bloc were authorised by the Soviet Union, as an attempt to increase Soviet influence over the Middle East. This caused tensions in the United States because Warsaw Pact nations now had a strong presence in the region.

Suez Crisis 4 Increasingly Nasser came to be viewed in British circles — and in particular by Prime Minister Anthony Eden — as a dictator, akin to Benito Mussolini. Ironically, in the build up to the crisis, it was the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell and the left-leaning tabloid newspaper The Mirror that first made the comparison between Nasser and Mussolini.

Anglo-Egyptian relations would continue on their downward spiral.

Nationalisation of the Suez Canal and the road to crisis Britain was eager to tame Nasser and looked towards the United States for support. However, President Eisenhower remained unresponsive;



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