Q.7 (c) Discuss the circumstances leading to the Suez Crisis of 1956 and examine its repercussions on global politics.
The circumstances leading to the Suez Crisis
(1) Nasser, the new ruler of Egypt, was aggressively in favour of Arab unity and independence, including the liberation of Palastine from the Jews. Almost everything he did, irritated the Western Powers.
(2) In 1936 Britain had signed an agreement with Egypt which alllwed the British to keep troops at Suez. This treaty was due to expire in 1956, and Britain wanted it renewed. Nasser refused and insisted that all British troops should withdraw immediately the treaty ended.
(3) Nasser signed armed deal with USSR and Russians trained Egyptian army. The USA was outraged at this as the West could no longer control arms supply to Egypt and Americans feared increase in the Russian influence in the Middle East during that Cold War era. Americans therefore cancelled a promised grant towards the building of Aswan dam.
(4) Crisis point came when Nasser immediately retaliated by nationalizing the Suez Canal, intending to use income from it to finance the dam.
(5) Britain thought that Nasser was on the way to forming a united Arabia under Egyptian control and communist influence, which could cut off Europe’s oil supplies at will.
Eden, British Prime Minister, who recalled Britain’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, looked to military action which might result in Nasser’s downfall and restore Britain’s influence in the region.
(6) Secret talks between British, French and Israelis hatched a plan that Israel would invade Egypt across the Sinai peninsula, whereas British and French troops would occupy the canal zone on the pretext of protecting it from damage in the fighting.
The United States, however, criticised the unjustified military action against Egypt.
Repercussions on global politics
(1) The intervention in Suez was a disaster. US President Dwight Eisenhower was incensed. World opinion, including that of the United States, together with the threat of Soviet intervention, forced Britain, France and Israel to withdraw their troops from Egypt. In Britain too there had been widespread outrage. Britain in particular found its standing with the US weakened and its influence ‘east of Suez’ diminished by the adventure.
(2) The prestige of Britain was shattered and she became weak. She was now unable to follow a foreign policy independent of the USA. The real balance of power in the post-Second World War had been starkly demonstrated and Britain’s prestige was dealt a severe blow
(3) The British action soon lost them an ally in Iraq, where premier Nuri-es-Said came under increasing attack from other Arabs for his pro-British attitude; he was murdered in 1958.
(4) The war failed to overthrow Nasser, and his prestige as leader of Arab nationalism against interfering Western Powers was greatly increased
(5) The Egyptians blocked the canal, the Arabs reduced oil supplies to Western Europe where petrol rationing was introduced for the first time, and Russian aid replaced that from the USA.
(6) The Algerians were encouraged in their struggle for independence from France which they acheived in 1962.
(7) Israel had inflicted heavy losses on the Egyptians in men and equipment, which would take years to regain. This gave Israel a breathing space as fedayeen raids sponsored by Egypt ceased.