Suez Crisis

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The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, was a military attack on Egypt by Britain, France, and Israel beginning on October 29, 1956.

The attack followed Egypt's decision of July 26, 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 recognizing the People's Republic of China during the height of tensions between China and Taiwan.


The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, after ten years of work financed by the French and Egyptian governments.[1] 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 strategically important; 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.[2] In ratifying it, the Ottoman Empire agreed to permit international shipping to pass freely through the canal, in time of war and peace.[3] 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.

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 defense 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.[4]

Events leading to the Suez Crisis

Early 1950s

At the outset of the 1950s, Great Britain, the predominant foreign power in the Middle East, was reassessing its role in the region. The economic potential of the Middle East, with its vast oil reserves and the Suez Canal, as well as its geo-strategic importance against the background of the Cold War, prompted Britain to consolidate and strengthen its position there. Vital to maintaining British influence in the region were the kingdoms of Egypt and Iraq.

Britain's military strength was spread throughout the region, including the vast military complex at Suez with a garrison of some 80,000[5] 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 yet, increasingly, it become a source of growing tension in Anglo-Egyptian relations.

In the wake of the Second World War, Egypt's 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 Communist Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, and an increasingly hostile attitude towards Britain and her presence in the country. Added to this anti-British fervour was the perceived role Britain had held in the creation of Israel.[5] As such, 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 years.[6] Britain refused to withdraw from Suez relying upon its impinged 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[7]. 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.[7] This proved to be a catalyst for the removal of the Egyptian monarchy. On July 23, 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 were intercepted, removed or destroyed by the Egyptians while attempting to pass through the Suez Canal. On 1 September 1951, the UN Security Council 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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."[10] 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.[11]

Nasser struck a further blow against Britain by negotiating an arms deal with communist Czechoslovakia in September 1955[12] 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 authorized 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.

Increasingly Nasser came to be viewed in British circles — and in particular by Prime Minister Anthony Eden — as a dictator, akin to Benito Mussolini. Anglo-Egyptian relations would continue on their downward spiral.

Nationalization 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; America's closest ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, was just as fundamentally opposed to the Hashemite-dominated Baghdad Pact as Egypt, and the U.S. was keen to increase its own influence in the region. The failure of the Baghdad Pact aided such a goal by reducing Britain's dominance over the region. "Great Britain would have preferred to overthrow Nasser; America, however uncomfortable with the Czech arms deal, thought it wiser to propitiate him."[13]

The events that brought the crisis to a head occurred in the spring and summer of 1956. On 16 May, Nasser officially recognized the People's Republic of China, a move that angered the U.S. and its secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, a keen sponsor of Taiwan.[11] This move, coupled with the impression that the project was beyond Egypt's economic capabilities, caused Eisenhower to withdraw all American financial aid for the Aswan Dam project on 19 July.[11] Nasser's response was the nationalization of the Suez Canal. On 26 July, in a speech in Alexandria, Nasser gave a riposte to Dulles. During his speech he deliberately pronounced the name of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the canal, a code-word for Egyptian forces to seize control of the canal and implement its nationalization.[14]

In his 26 July speech in Alexandria, Nasser announced that the Nationalization Law had been published, that all assets of the Suez Canal Company had been frozen, and that stockholders would be paid the price of their shares according to the day's closing price on the Paris Stock Exchange.[15]

The nationalization of the Suez Canal hit British economic and military interests in the region. Britain was under immense domestic pressure from Conservative MPs who drew direct comparisons between the events of 1956 and those of the Munich Agreement in 1938. Since the US government did not support the British protests, the British government decided in favour of military intervention against Egypt to avoid the complete collapse of British prestige in the region.

Direct military intervention, however, ran the risk of angering Washington and damaging Anglo-Arab relations. As a result, the British government concluded a secret military pact with France and Israel that was aimed at regaining control over the Suez Canal.

Anglo-Franco-American diplomacy

On 1 August 1956, a tripartite meeting was opened at 10 Downing Street between British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd, U.S. Ambassador Robert D. Murphy and French Foreign Affairs Minister Christian Pineau.[16]

An alliance was soon formed between Eden and Guy Mollet, French Prime Minister, with headquarters based in London. General Stockwell and Admiral Barjot were appointed as Chief of Staff. Britain sought co-operation with the United States throughout 1956 to deal with what it maintained was a threat of an Israeli attack against Egypt, yet to little effect. Between July and October 1956, unsuccessful initiatives encouraged by the United States were made to reduce the tension that would ultimately lead to war. International conferences were organized to secure agreement on Suez Canal operations but all turned out to be ultimately fruitless.

Protocol of Sèvres

Main article: Protocol of Sèvres

Three months after Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal company, a secret meeting took place at Sèvres, outside Paris. Britain and France enlisted Israeli support for an alliance against Egypt. The parties agreed that Israel would invade the Sinai. Britain and France would then intervene, purportedly to separate the warring Israeli and Egyptian forces, instructing both to withdraw to a distance of 16 kilometres from either side of the canal. The British and French would then argue that Egypt's control of such an important route was too tenuous, and that it needed be placed under Anglo-French management.

The interests of the parties were various. Britain was anxious lest it lose efficient access to the remains of its empire. France was nervous about the growing influence that Nasser exerted on its North African colonies and protectorates. Both Britain and France were eager that the canal should remain open as an important conduit of oil. Israel wanted to reopen the canal to Israeli shipping, and saw the opportunity to strengthen its southern border and to weaken a dangerous and hostile state.

Prior to the operation, Britain deliberately neglected to take counsel with the Americans, trusting instead that Nasser's engagement with communist states would persuade the Americans to accept British and French actions if they were presented as a fait accompli. This proved to be a fatal miscalculation for them.


Operation Kadesh: The Israeli operation in the Sinai Peninsula

Operation Kadesh received its name from ancient Kadesh, located in the northern Sinai and mentioned several times in the Hebrew Pentateuch. Israeli military planning for this operation in the Sinai hinged on four main military objectives; Sharm el-Sheikh, al-Arish, Abu Uwayulah, and the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian blockade of the Tiran Straits was based at Sharm el-Sheikh, and by capturing the town, Israel would have access to the Red Sea for the first time since 1953, which would allow it to restore the trade benefits of secure passage to the Indian Ocean.

The Gaza Strip was chosen as another military objective because Israel wished to remove the training grounds for Fedayeen groups, and because Israel recognised that Egypt could use the territory as a staging ground for attacks against the advancing Israeli troops. Israel advocated rapid advances, for which a potential Egyptian flanking attack would present even more of a risk. al-Arish and Abu Uwayulah were important hubs for soldiers, equipment, and centres of command and control of the Egyptian Army in the Sinai. Capturing them would deal a deathblow to the Egyptian's strategic operation in the entire Peninsula. The capture of these four objectives were hoped to be the means by which the entire Egyptian Army would rout, and fall back into Egypt proper, which British and French forces would then be able to push up against an Israeli advance, and crush in a decisive encounter.

On the first day of the war, because Israel's intelligence service expected Jordan to enter the war on Egypt's side,[17] soldiers were stationed along the Israeli-Jordanian frontier. The Israel Border Police militarized the Israel-Jordan border, including the Green Line with the West Bank, during the first few hours of the war. This resulted in the killing of 48 Arab civilians by the Israel Border Police, and is known as the Kafr Qasim massacre. This event and the resulting trials of officers had major effects on Israeli law relating to the ethics in war and more subtle effects on the legal status of Arab citizens of Israel.

Early actions in Southern Sinai

The Israeli chief-of-staff, Major General Moshe Dayan, first planned to take the vital Mitla Pass. Dayan planned for the 1st Battalion, 890 Paratroop Brigade, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Eitan, a veteran of the Israel War of Independence, and future head of the IDF, to drop at Parker's Memorial, near one of the defiles of the pass, Jebel Heitan. The rest of the brigade, under the command of Colonel Ariel Sharon would then advance to meet with the battalion, and consolidate their holdings.

On 29 October 1956, Operation Kadesh - the conquest of the Sinai, began when Israel air-dropped a battalion into the Sinai Peninsula. However, the landing had not gone as planned, and the forces were now several miles from their target, and wasted valuable hours, and physical energy, moving into their positions opposite the Egyptian positions in the pass. The Israelis then dug in, received artillery and weapons from another airlift, and awaited the rest of the brigade.[citation needed]

The 890 Paratroop Brigade landed close to a camp being used by Egyptian road workers of whom they took 20-50 prisoners. Before moving off towards the Mitla Pass second-in-command Aryeh Biro and several other officers machine-gunned the prisoners to death.[23][citation needed] After the battle at Mitla the 890 Brigade proceeded to the Red Sea at Ras Sudar. There they killed all the occupants of a lorry that unexpectedly drove into their position. Fifty six Fedayin were killed, most of them trapped inside the truck. The Paratroopers then advanced towards Sharm El-Sheikh. Commander Raphael (Raful) Eitan instructed his men to take no prisoners.[24] An estimated 270 Egyptians were 'killed without battle.'[citation needed]

Early actions along the Gulf of Aqaba, and the central front

Meanwhile, the 9th Infantry Brigade captured Ras an-Naqb, an important staging ground for that brigade's later attack against Sharm el-Sheikh. Instead of attacking the town by a frontal attack, they enveloped the town, and negotiated their way through some of the natural chokepoints into the rear of the town, and surprised the Egyptians before they could ready themselves to defend. The Egyptians surrendered, with no Israeli casualties sustained.

The 4th Infantry Brigade, under the command of Colonel Josef Harpaz, captured al-Qusaymah, which would be used as a jumping off point for the assault against Abu Uwayulah.

Battle of Jebel Heitan, 890 Paratroop Brigade under attack

The portion of the 890 under Sharon's command continued to advance to meet with the 1st Brigade. En route, Sharon assaulted Themed, and was able to storm the town through the Themed Gap, and was able to capture the settlement. On the 30th, Sharon linked up with Eytan near Nakla.

Dayan had no more plans for further advances beyond the passes, but Sharon decided to attack the Egyptian positions at Jebel Heitan. Sharon would send his lightly armed paratroopers against dug-in Egyptians supported by air and heavy artillery, as well as tanks. Although the Israelis succeeded in forcing the Egyptians to retreat, the heavy casualties sustained would surround Sharon with a lot of controversy. Most of the deaths sustained by the Israelis in the entire operation, were sustained at Jebel Heitan.

Anglo-French Task Force

To support the invasion, large air forces had been deployed to Cyprus and Malta by Britain and France and many aircraft carriers were deployed. The two airbases on Cyprus were so congested that a third field which was in dubious condition had to be brought into use for French aircraft. Even RAF Luqa on Malta was extremely crowded with RAF Bomber Command aircraft. The British deployed the aircraft carriers HMS Eagle, Albion and Bulwark and France had the Arromanches and La Fayette on station. In addition, HMS Ocean and Theseus acted as jumping-off points for Britain's helicopter-borne assault (the world's first).

On 30 October, in the morning, Britain and France sent an ultimatum to Egypt. They initiated Operation Musketeer on 31 October, with a bombing campaign. On 3 November F4U-7 Corsairs from the 14.F and 15.F Aéronavale taking off from the French carriers Arromanches and La Fayette, attacked the Cairo aerodrome. Nasser responded by sinking all 40 ships present in the canal, closing it to further shipping until early 1957.

On late 5 November, the 3rd Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment dropped at El Gamil Airfield, clearing the area and establishing a secure base for incoming support aircraft and reinforcements. At first light on 6 November, Commandos of Nos 42 Commando and 40 Commando Royal Marines stormed the beaches, using landing craft of World War II vintage (Landing Craft Assault and Landing Vehicle Tracked). The battlegroup standing offshore opened fire, giving covering fire for the landings and causing considerable damage to the Egyptian batteries and gun emplacements. The town of Port Said sustained great damage and was seen to be alight.

2ème RPC paratroopers patrol in Port Said. October 1956

Acting in concert with British forces, 500 heavily-armed paratroopers of the French 2nd Colonial Parachute Regiment (2ème RPC), hastily redeployed from combat in Algeria, jumped over the al-Raswa bridges from Noratlas Nord 2501 transports of the Escadrille de Transport (ET) 1/61 and ET 3/61, together with some combat engineers of the Guards Independent Parachute Company. Despite the loss of two soldiers, the western bridge was swiftly secured by the paras, and F4U Corsairs of the Aéronavale 14.F and 15.F flew a series of close-air-support missions, destroying several SU-100 tank destroyers. F-84Fs also hit two large oil storage tanks in Port Said, which went up in flames and covered most of the city in a thick cloud of smoke for the next several days. Egyptian resistance varied, with some positions fighting back until destroyed, while others were abandoned with little resistance.

In the afternoon, 522 additional French paras of the 1er REP (Régiment Étranger Parachutiste, 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment) were dropped near Port Fouad. These were also constantly supported by the Corsairs of the French Aéronavale, which flew very intensive operations: for example, although the French carrier La Fayette developed catapult problems, no less than 40 combat sorties were completed. In total, 10 French soldiers were killed and 30 injured during the landing and the subsequent battles.

British commandos of No. 45 Commando assaulted by helicopter, meeting stiff resistance, with shore batteries striking several helicopters, while friendly fire from British carrier-borne aircraft caused casualties to 45 Commando and HQ. Street fighting and house clearing, with strong opposition from well-entrenched Egyptian sniper positions, caused further casualties.

Total British dead were 16, with 96 wounded.[18] Total French dead was ten and the Israelis lost 189. The number of Egyptians killed was "never reliably established"[citation needed]. It is estimated 650 were killed by the Anglo-French operation and 1,000 killed by Israel.[19]

Introduction of UN peacekeepers

Despite having no commercial or military interest in the area, many countries were concerned with what might be a growing rift between western allied nations. Canadian Lester B. Pearson, who would later become the Prime Minister of Canada, went to the United Nations and suggested creating a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Suez to "keep the borders at peace while a political settlement is being worked out." Both Britain and France rejected the idea, so Canada turned to the United States.

After several days of tense diplomacy, the United Nations accepted the suggestion, and a neutral force not involving the major alliances (NATO and the Warsaw Pact—though Canadian troops participated since Canada spearheaded the idea of a neutral force) was sent with the consent of Nasser, stabilizing conditions in the area. By April 24 of 1957 the canal was fully reopened to shipping.[20][21] The Israelis refused to host any UN force on Israeli controlled territory. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his efforts. The United Nations Peacekeeping Force was Pearson's creation and he is considered the father of the modern concept of "peacekeeping".

End of hostilities

The operation, aimed at taking the Suez Canal, was highly successful from a military point of view but was a political disaster due to external forces. Along with the Suez crisis, the United States was also dealing with the near-simultaneous Hungarian revolution, and faced the public relations embarrassment of criticizing Hungary's suppression of the revolutionaries there while at the same time avoiding criticism of its two principal European allies' actions. Perhaps more significantly, the United States also feared a wider war after the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact nations threatened to intervene on the Egyptian side and make rocket attacks on London, Paris,[22] and Tel Aviv[citation needed].

Thus, the Eisenhower administration forced a cease-fire on Britain, Israel, and France. The U.S. demanded that the invasion stop and supported Canada in sponsoring resolutions in the UN Security Council calling for a cease-fire. Britain and France, as permanent members of the Council, vetoed these draft resolutions. Canada and the U.S. then appealed to the United Nations General Assembly and proposed a resolution calling for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of forces.[23]

The General Assembly consequently held an 'emergency special session' under the terms of Uniting for Peace resolution, and adopted Assembly resolution 1001,[24] which established the first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), and called for "an immediate cease-fire". Portugal and Iceland went so far as to suggest ejecting Britain and France from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defense pact if they didn't withdraw from Egypt.[25] Britain and France withdrew from Egypt within a week.

The United States also put financial pressure on Great Britain to end the invasion. Eisenhower in fact ordered his Secretary of the Treasury, George M. Humphrey to prepare to sell part of the US Government's Sterling Bond holdings. The Government held these bonds in part to aid post war Britain’s economy (during the Cold War), and as partial payment of Britain’s enormous World War II debt to the US Government, American corporations, and individuals. It was also part of the overall effort of Marshall Plan aid, in the rebuilding of the Western European economies.

Britain's then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Harold Macmillan, advised his Prime Minister Anthony Eden that the United States was fully prepared to carry out this threat. He also warned his Prime Minister that Britain's foreign exchange reserves simply could not sustain a devaluation of the pound that would come after the United States' actions; and that within weeks of such a move, the country would be unable to import the food and energy supplies needed simply to sustain the population on the islands.

Furthermore, in concert with US actions Saudi Arabia started an oil embargo against Britain and France. The U.S. refused to fill the gap until Britain and France agreed to a rapid withdrawal. The other NATO members refused to sell oil they received from Arab nations to Britain or France.[26] There was also a measure of discouragement for Britain in the rebuke by the Commonwealth Prime Minister St. Laurent of Canada [citation needed].

The British government and the pound thus both came under pressure. Sir Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister, announced a cease fire on 6 November, warning neither France nor Israel beforehand. Troops were still in Port Said and on operational manoeuvres when the order came from London. Without further guarantee, the Anglo-French Task Force had to finish withdrawing by 22 December 1956, to be replaced by Danish and Colombian units of UNEF.[27] The Israelis left the Sinai in March, 1957.

The crisis broke the health of Eden and he was forced into retirement shortly afterwards.


The political and psychological impact of the crisis's denoument had a fundamental impact on British politics. Anthony Eden, widely admired across the globe for his stand against appeasement of the fascists in the 1930s and then for his seemingly selfless toil as Winston Churchill's understudy, suffered a mental breakdown and was quickly bundled out of office. His successor, Harold Macmillan, won office after convincing Conservative MPs he would defend Britain's imperialist heritage but greatly accelerated decolonisation. Increasingly British foreign policy thinking turned towards European co-operation as opposed to acting as a great imperial power.

Eden's resignation marked the last significant attempt Britain made to impose its military will abroad without U.S. support. Macmillan was every bit as determined as Eden had been to stop Nasser, although he was more willing to enlist American support in future, for that end. Some[who?] argue that the crisis also marked the final transfer of power to the new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

The incident demonstrated the weakness of the NATO alliance in its lack of planning and co-operation beyond the European stage. From the point of view of General de Gaulle, the Suez events demonstrated that France could not rely on allies any more. Britain withdrew its troops in the midst of the battle without warning its allies. In 1957, following these events, the French government launched an autonomous nuclear programme conducted in the Sahara,[28] known as Force de frappe, as a deterrent not only against the USSR but vis-à-vis every potential threat around the globe. By 1966 de Gaulle withdrew France from the integrated NATO military command. According to the protocol of Sèvres agreements, France secretly transmitted parts of its own atomic technology to Israel, including a detonator.[29]

The imposed end to the crisis signalled the definitive weakening of the United Kingdom and France as global powers. Nasser's standing in the Arab world was greatly improved, with his stance helping to promote pan-Arabism. The crisis also arguably hastened the process of decolonization, as the remaining colonies of both Britain and France gained independence over the next several years.

Canadian members of the UNEF on the EgyptIsrael border in 1962.

In Canada, the Suez Crisis contributed to the adoption of a new national flag without references to that country's past as a colony of France and Britain. The Egyptian government had objected to Canadian peacekeeping troops on the grounds that their flag at that time included a British ensign. This further encouraged Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to advocate the simple Maple Leaf that was eventually adopted. The French government never quite forgave Canada for its role in the crisis, and de Gaulle's infamous visit to French-speaking Quebec, encouraging radical separatist feelings by uttering the infamous Vive le Québec libre call that eventually lead to the October Crisis, would sour the two countries' relations.

After Suez, Aden and Iraq became the main bases for the British in the region while the French concentrated their forces at Bizerte and Beirut. UNEF was placed in the Sinai (on Egyptian territory only) with the express purpose of maintaining the cease-fire. While effective in preventing the small-scale warfare that prevailed before 1956 and after 1967, budgetary cutbacks and changing needs had seen the force shrink to 3,378 by 1967.

After border disputes led to a series of military clashes between Israel and Syria, the Egyptian government, warned by a false Soviet intelligence report of an imminent Israeli invasion of Syria, began to remilitarize the Sinai in support of its ally, and demanded that UNEF withdraw. This action, along with the blockade of the Straits of Tiran, was the final step in a series of escalations between the two sides that led to the Six Day War of June 1967. During the war, Israeli armed forces captured the east bank of the canal, which subsequently became a de facto boundary between Egypt and Israel and the canal was therefore closed until June, 1975.

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


  1. Turner, Barry. Suez 1956: The First Oil War. pp. 21–4.
  2. Suez Canal. Egyptian State Information Service. Retrieved on 18 March 2007.
  3. Howard M. Sachar. A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. Published by Alfred A. Knopf (New York). 1976. ISBN 0-394-28564-5.
  4. Yergin, p. 480
  5. 5.0 5.1 Darwin, p. 207. "Nothing could have been better calculated to lash popular Muslim feeling to new fury... and to redouble Egyptian hostility to Britain on whose 'betrayal' of the Palestine Arabs the catastrophe could easily be blamed."
  6. Butler, p. 111
  7. 7.0 7.1 Darwin, p. 208
  8. Butler, p. 112
  9. See: Michael N. Barnett, Confronting the Costs of War: Military Power, State, and Society in Egypt and Israel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 82-83.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Darwin, p. 210
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Kissinger, p. 529
  12. Darwin, p. 211
  13. Kissinger, p. 528
  14. Kissinger, p. 530
  15. BBC On This Day, 1956: Egypt seizes Suez Canal
  16. Le Canal de Suez et la nationalisation par le Colonel Nasser, Les Actualité Française - AF, 08.01.1956
  17. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, p.289
  18. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Dupuy 1343
  19. Donald Neff, Warriors at Suez. Amana Books, Vermont. 1988. ISBN 0-915597-58-6. Page 414. Quotes UN report: "thousands of wounded and dead bodies all over Sanai (sic)". Neff estimates 4,000 Egyptians wounded and 6,000 captured or missing in Sinai and a further 900 wounded by the Anglo-French.
  20. Message to the Congress Transmitting the 11th Annual Report on United States Participation in the United Nations. University of California Santa Barbara (January 14, 1958). Retrieved on March 5, 2009.
  21. Suez crisis, 1956. The Arab-Israeli conflict, 1947-present (August 28, 2001). Retrieved on March 5, 2009.
  22. (2008) The United Nations Security Council and War: The Evolution of Thought and Practice Since 1945. Oxford University Press, 291. ISBN 978-0-19953-343-5. 
  23. Hendershot, Robert; Family Spats: Perception, Illusion, and Sentimentality in the Anglo-American Special Relationship
  24. UNGA Emergency Special Sessions
  25. Brecher, Jeremy (2 April 2003). "Uniting for Peace", Z Magazine. Retrieved on 28 February 2007.
  26. Kennett Love, Suez: The Twice-Fought War, New York: McGraw Hill, 1969, p.651
  27. Service Cinématographique des Armées SCA reportage de Paul Corcuff, 22 December 1956 French Ministry of Defense arcvhives ECPAD MO56141AR14
  28. Délégation à l'Information et à la Communication de la Défense: Dossier de présentation des essais nucléaires et leur suivi au Sahara, French Defense Ministry, January 2007
  29. Affaire de Suez, Le Pacte Secret, Peter Hercombe et Arnaud Hamelin, France 5/Sunset Presse/Transparence, 2006