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suez canal map.jpgBackground

The Suez Canal is a 171 km long shipping canal that connect Port Said with the Red Sea. Originally opened in 1869, the canal was bought by britain in 1875. When the British army moved in to protect the canal in 1882, they remained in Egypt. The British government then assigned a Counsel-General to rule in the
country. After the revolution of 1919, Egypt finally achieved independencei n 1922 - but despite this the Suez Canal still belonged to and generated profit for Britain.

In 1952, a group of rebels organized a revolt against the Egyptian royal family. King Farouk was overthrown after a few days of the rebellion, the head of which, General Neguib, then took over the nation. But as it turned out, NEguib had no political skill and soon lost support from all who were pro-rebellion in the beginning. After his resignation in 1954, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Neguib’s deputy, succeeded him, beginning his presidential term on November 17th, 1954.


Aswan Dam

As his first order of presidential business, Nasser had plans to industrialize Egypt and lift it out of the awful conditions that it was in. One of these plans was the Aswan Dam - a huge dam (to be the world’s biggest) to bring power and electricity out to the people, and to end Egypt’s poverty once and for all. Unfortunately, this was a very expensive project - $400 million - money that the Egyptian government did not nearly have at the time. Nasser decided to acquire a loan from the World bank (ran by the US and Britain) and succeeded.

Tensions between the West and Egypt-

Tensions arise around the 1950’s , as the Middle East is at war with neighboring countries, it receives weapons and supplies from the West, one country that is receiving the most weapons, mainly from France is Israel - an enemy to Egypt. Nasser feels threaten and in order to compete with his enemy he will need weapons, but after asking both the Americans and the British, he received no response. Nasser thought that if Eisenhower did not agree to help then perhaps Nikita Khrushchev might. This bold action Nasser took, threaten the West and made them fearful that Nasser and the Soviets were teaming up,although Nasser was a known anti-communist , the West planned to punish him for making a deal with the Soviets. This was to be the start of the campaign agains Nasser codenamed “Omega” .The campaign included negative propaganda about Nasser available to the media, sanctions against Egypt for example stopping military aid and finally the decision was made to slow down and eventually stop the financing for the Aswan Dam project, which to Nasser was a huge disappointment and cause of humiliation to Nasser and his people. Attempts to assassinate Nasser became a frequent occurrence as the West’s suspicion of Nasser being a communist rises. After failing to assassinate Nasser, the financing of the Aswan Dam was retracted on July 19th, 1956.

The Suez Crisis

Humiliated and angered by the financial refusal, Nasser decided to devise a plan to nationalize the Suez Canal and make it 100% Egyptian. He figured out that if the income from ship tolls goes to Egypt instead of Britain, enough money could be made to continue the construction of the Aswan Dam. A plan was than created, to have Egyptian forces to overrun the Canal Company and have all the British employees evacuate immediately. Nasser gave several speeches to the public at this time, gathering more and more support for him and his intentions. On July 26th, 1956, Nasser dropped a codeword in one of his speeches in Alexandria, which was a sign to let Egyptian forces swarm into the Canal Company and fulfill nationalization. The newly nationalized Canal negatively influence Britain’s economic and military interests in Egypt. The people of Egypt, on the other hand, were ecstatic and felt a new sense of national pride, as well as a respect and admiration for Nasser, their leader.

The West's New Plan & War

On October 29th, 1956, Israeli parachute troops dropped down 40 km away from the Suez Canal in Egypt. The israeli then advanced towards the Canal, without actual intention to attack it, yet relatively close enough to the Suez to have anyone think otherwise. Instead, the Israeli wen off to cities - they focused on getting rid of the Egyptian army. Britain and France commanded Egypt to cease fire, but Egypt turned this command down in order to strongly resist the Israeli attack. This was the cue for the West to take over the situation, which at this point was escalating quickly. Britain attacked, thinking Egyptian civilians would revolt and attempt to overthrow Nasser. Instead, Egyptians united together, with young civilians, women, and children fighting in the war as a makeshift army. The British were to begin their attack at Port Said, while Egyptians thought that they would come to Cairo first. Unprepared, the Egyptians were caught off guard, and only a week later hundreds of civilians had been killed by the British army. Nasser then developed another idea - he ordered several ships to be sunk at the entrance of the Suez Canal so that Eden’s troops could not regain control of that area.

Leaders at the Time

Anthony Eden n Dwight D. Eisenhower Nikita Khrushchev
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom President of the United States First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
In office - In office - In office -
April 7th 1955- January 10th 1957 January 20th 1953 - January 20th 1961 September 14 1953 - October 14 1964
external image Anthony_Eden.jpgexternal image 220px-Dwight_D._Eisenhower,_official_photo_portrait,_May_29,_1959.jpgexternal image khrushchev-sized.jpg

Results of the war -

Khrushchev sees what is going on in Egypt and sees that Soviet reputation is being harmed on not one but two continents (due to also the revolt happening in Budapest). Khrushchev did not have sufficient troops in the Middle East to help Nasser against the French and the British, therefore he resorted to threatening the West with Nuclear Weapons , this is the first Nuclear Threat by Khrushchev. Many in the West were now fearful of a nuclear World War Three. Back in the USA, Eisenhower was extremely angry that the British went behind his back and made such a massive decision without consulting with the US and thus Eden lost respect from not only the Americans but also from the British and there were many demonstrations in London protesting against Eden. Around this time, England was struggling financially due to the rising gas prices and high inflation rate cause by the closure of the Suez Canal, Eden appealed to the U.S for financial aid, but Eisenhower refused to help until Eden withdrew his troops and on November 6th Eden calls a ceasefire. Humiliated and unpopular, Eden resigns in 1957.

Unresolved issues -

The results of the Suez crisis made Nasser a historic hero to Egyptians, he stood up to the powerful West and won.After 10 years, Nasser thought that he could defeat Israel, now that they didn’t have Britain and France to back them up.To his surprise, the Israeli defeated Arab forces, in the 1967 war.This war leaves unresolved issues between the Arabs and the Israelis to this very day.The results of the Suez Crisis convinced the US that the Middle East needed more American involvement, and the Eisenhower Doctrine was introduced to help any country “threatened” by Communism . This same policy of interventionism continues on in America today.