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History of Suez Canal Crisis

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The Suez Canal Crisis brought the whole world to the brink of global crisis. The Suez Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. In 1859, French diplomat Ferdinad D’Lesseps constructed it in a ten-year span under the supervision of a French company. It is stipulated between French company and Egypt that it would be under the control of company for next 99 years. However 44 % shares were with the Egypt.

Permit for a Neutral Zone

In 1875 the president of Egypt Ismail pasha for paying the foreign Debts gave all the shares to the Britain. Initially the Britain was against the suez canal for their interests. In 1882 Egypt came under the control of Britain and became the colony of British. So the Britain gained complete control over the Suez canal. In 1888 the suez canal was declared a neutral zone and permit was given to all countries for trade.

Suez Canal an important asset for Britain

As Egypt was a colony of Britain and the Suez Canal was a strategic asset for them, Britain took full advantage of their asset. During World War I, Britain allowed only its allies to pass through the Suez Canal. After the war, in 1922 the Egypt got independence from Britain but British influence did not abolish completely from Egypt .

After the independence the forces of Britain stationed in Egypt because of which Egyptian government and people were not happy with that. Therefore an Anglo-Egyptian pact was signed in 1936 by which the Britain withdraw their forces in next 20 years from Egypt except those who were protecting the suez canal.

Revolution of Gamal Abdul Nasser

In 1952, the revolution started in Egypt, which was led by Gamal Abdul Nasser, who became prime minister of Egypt in 1954. He was against foreign intervention in Egypt, and he promised the Egyptians that he would free them from foreign intervention. He also promised to build Aswan Dam on River Nile.

At that time, the relations between Egypt and Israel were not good, so Egypt closed the Strait of tiran for Israel’s navigation. As Relations was not good between them so Egypt sought to help of weapons from USA. But USA was an ally of Israel so he refused to give weapons that can be used against Israel.

However USA agreed on this to provide funds for the construction of Aswan Dam. On Denial Gamal Abdul Nasser got furious and made deals with the Czechoslovakia for modern weapons. Czechoslovokia was an ally of Soviet union. So the USA did not like this deal. Therefore the USA and his allies refused from providing funds regarding Aswan Dam construction.

So there was no option with Gamal Abdul Nasser and he had serious concerns with the british forces in Egypt. So in July 1956 he announced to nationalize the suez canal so that the revenue generating from this will be used for Aswan Dam construction. This was a dangerous step which consequences could be disastrous and this dangerous move did not like by Britain and France because mostly shares were with them. As mostly oil was supplied from middle east countries to Europe on which industries of Europe depends.

Conference in Paris

Therefore Britain decided to overthrow the government of Gamal Abdul Nasser and that can be the solution of the problem. In this matter, Britain had the complete support of France . So a conference was held in Paris in which Britain, France and Israel participated. As the Britain wanted immediate solution of the problem so in this conference it was decided that the control of suez canal will be given again to international powers.

But USA was against any sort of invasion because he did not want that during war to take such kind of step which could lead the Arab countries to Soviet union Block. But the Britain, France and Israel signed a top secret protocol in Paris. In this protocol it stipulated that Israel would attack on Egypt suez canal and would give ultimatum to Egypt, Britain and France for retreat.

Attacks of Britain France and Israel on Egypt

In October 1956 Israel attacked Egypt sinai peninsula and soon took the area control. According to plan, Israel gave an ultimatum, and Egypt refused to leave control of the Suez Canal. So Britain and France found a justification to attack Egypt. After two days they collectively attacked the forts Fuad and Said and took control of these forts. A resolution against the aggression was also presented in the UN Security Council, which was vetoed by France and Britain.

The Soviet Union was watching all this very closely and threatened France and Britain to retreat from Egypt. This attack was also against the will of the United States, so it concerned him greatly. The United States was enraged by their allies’ attack on Egypt and their actions. The US president hinted at strict economic sanctions if they did not stop the attack on Egypt. These economic sanctions proved beneficial, and Britain declared a ceasefire on November 6.

Agreement over Suez Canal Crisis

After this, Britain and France withdrew their forces from Egypt in December. Later, Israel also withdrew its forces until March 1957. The United Nations peacekeeping force landed in Egypt and supervised the occupation of the forces. Apparently, Britain and France seemed successful, but in spite of all this, they had to retreat. And the Suez Canal, which would have to come under the control of Egypt in 1968 according to the Egypt-France agreement, came under Egyptian control in 1956. The United Kingdom and France did not get anything.

However, Israel got the right to use the Strait of Tiran for navigation. Gamal Abdul Nasser came to be seen as a hero in Arab countries. The suez canal crisis is important also in this regard that the Britain got to know that US is super power now. And the influence of USA started growing after this. So in this way, the major blocks of the globe were saved from a huge crisis.

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The Author is a student at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid i Azam University, Islamabad.

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