The Cold War
The Suez Crisis was an event in the Middle East in 1956. It began with Egypt taking control of the Suez Canal which was followed by a military attack from Israel, France, and Great Britain.
The Suez Canal
The Suez Canal is an important man-made waterway in Egypt. It connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. This is important for ships traveling from Europe to and from the Middle East and India.
The Suez Canal was built by French developer Ferdinand de Lesseps. It took over 10 years and an estimated one and a half million workers to complete. The canal was first opened on November 17, 1869.
Nasser Becomes President of Egypt
In 1954 Gamal Abdel Nasser took control of Egypt. One of Nasser's goals was to modernize Egypt. He wanted to build the Aswan Dam as a major part of the improvement. The United States and the British had agreed to loan Egypt the money for the Dam, but then pulled their funding due to Egypt's military and political ties to the Soviet Union. Nasser was angry.
Seizing the Canal
In order to pay for the Aswan Dam, Nasser decided to take over the Suez Canal. It had been controlled by the British in order to keep it open and free to all countries. Nasser seized the canal and was going to charge for passage in order to pay for the Aswan Dam.
Israel, France, and Great Britain Collude
The British, the French, and the Israelis all had issues with Nasser's government at the time. They decided to use the canal as a reason to attack Egypt. They secretly planned that Israel would attack and seize the canal. Then the French and the British would enter as peacekeepers taking control of the canal.
Just like they had planned, the Israeli's attacked and grabbed the canal. Then the British and French jumped in. They told both sides to stop, but when Egypt wouldn't they bombed Egypt's air force.
The Crisis Ends
The Americans were angry with the French and the British. At the same time of the Suez Crisis, the Soviet Union was invading Hungary. The Soviet Union had also threatened to enter the Suez Crisis on the side of the Egyptians. The United States ended up forcing the Israelis, the British, and the French to withdraw in order to prevent conflict with the Soviet Union.
One result of the Suez Crisis was that the esteem of Great Britain was never quite the same again. It was clear that the two world superpowers at the time were the United States and the Soviet Union. This was the Cold War and when something had an impact on the interests of the United States and the Soviet Union, they were going to get involved and assert their power.
The Suez Canal had strategic and economic impact for both the Soviet Union and the United States. It was in both of their interests to keep the canal open.
Interesting Facts About the Suez Crisis
Take a ten question quiz on the Suez Crisis questions page.
- Sir Anthony Eden was the British Prime Minister at the time. He resigned shortly after the crisis ended.
- The Suez Canal is still open today and is free for all countries. It is owned and ran by the Suez Canal Authority of Egypt.
- The canal is 120 miles long and 670 feet wide.
- Nasser ended up gaining popularity both in Egypt and throughout the Arab world for his part in the event.
- The crisis is known in Egypt as the "tripartite aggression".
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