MIDDLE EAST

The Suez Crisis

The Suez Crisis

The Suez Crisis

Suez CrisisAfter the 1948 war came to an end, Arab-Israeli tensions simmered. Many Arab states continued to want Israel destroyed.

In 1956 war erupted in the region again. To understand this one we need to turn attention to Egypt.

* Egypt had been controlled by the British until it became a Republic in 1953. However, Britain still had control of the Suez Canal. As canals go this one is about as swish as they come, as it lets ships go from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean (and therefore Asia) without having to go all the way round Africa, which would take ages and ages.

* Relations between Egypt and Britain, France and the US were tense because the Egyptian government started to receive military equipment from the Soviet Union (you can’t avoid that Cold War, can you?). The British responded to this by refusing to finance Egypt’s infrastructure projects.

*In July 1956 Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, causing the Suez Crisis. The move outraged the British, the French and the Israelis, who would now be forced to pay to use the canal. They also feared that the canal could be used against them, through actions such as cutting off shipping completely.

* In October, the British, French and Israeli governments secretly met to discuss the situation. Then, that same month, Israel invaded Egypt. The British and French also used their air forces to bomb Egyptian air fields, and then sent their own troops in November.

* The Israeli invasion went well, but the British and French struggled, although eventually they got control of the canal.

* The rest of the world (including the USA) thought this was all very naughty and a bit imperialist. The Soviet Union threatened military action against Britain. The USA was concerned the event would raise Soviet prestige. The British and French were forced to withdraw. UN forces were sent in to keep the peace.

The overall consequences of all this were that Israel had proved itself to be strong and capable, but had also made itself even more unpopular in the Arab world.