The Suez Canal Crisis

I remember standing in front of the local grocery store from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., then my mother from 2 p.m. to midnight, and then my father from midnight to 7 a.m. the next day in order for my parents to buy one kilo of salt, sugar, and coffee, then waiting again the next day for cooking oil, baking powder, some fruit and vegetables.

It was 1982, during the glory days of communism, and we were taught at school to be self-sufficient since the wicked powers of capitalism would smash us.

Have you noticed an increase in the cost of goods?

There are times when I feel like the costs are changing daily.

Is it influenced by the situation of the global economy?

Naturally, it does.

And where is this economic uncertainty coming from?

From an economic and security sense, the world is more concerned with shipping than with the Gaza War.

The Gaza War poses no real threat to international security or world peace.

This assertion is true, even if it appears cynical, aloof, or even ignorant.

Please do not misunderstand me.

Despite its severity, cruelty, and large number of civilian casualties, the battle in Gaza remains, at most, a confined regional issue, with only two major parties battling mostly inside the Gaza Strip.

Other distant powers with clout in the region, from Iran and the United powers to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and a reunified Europe, are also treading carefully.

From an economic sense, the Gaza War has had no effect on the world economy.

Yemen’s Houthis, who represent a threat to shipping through the strategically crucial Bab el-Mandeb strait between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean—the world’s third-largest choke point for oil supplies after the Strait of Hormuz and Malacca—could upend the delicate informal balance of interests.

Every day, around six million barrels pass through it, the majority of which are destined for Europe.

However, there are indirect costs as well: increased insurance premiums, crew hazard fees, and other expenses because of shipping attacks.

As a result, while the Houthis’ actions in the Red Sea may raise costs for practically everything, beginning with oil, residents of neutral nations stand to gain nothing from the conflict in Gaza.

But first, let us go back to the Cold War era and look at the Suez Crisis.

The 1956 Suez Crisis, which exposed the shifting power dynamics of the twentieth century, was a watershed moment in post-World War II geopolitics.

The Suez Canal, which connects Europe and Asia by joining the Mediterranean and Red Seas, was at the centre of this conflict.

As a result of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalisation of the canal, Britain, France, and Israel initiated a military intervention.

Their goal was to limit Nasser’s growing dominance in the region while also restoring control of the canal.

Global tensions stemming from the Suez Canal

The Suez Canal grew to prominence as one of the world’s most major waterways once it was completed in 1869, opening up faster economic routes between Europe and Asia.

Because of the canal’s strategic importance, the British were able to gain a majority interest in it in the late 1800s.

With the canal at its heart, the Middle East became a geopolitical hotspot by the middle of the twentieth century, as decolonization winds blew over Asia and Africa.

Things began to change dramatically in the 1950s. Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt in 1952 after King Farouk was deposed in a coup led by the Free Officers Movement.

What causes contributed to the Suez crisis?

In the years preceding the Suez crisis, events heightened Middle East tensions and laid the framework for the impending conflict.

Along with his rise to power in Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser advocated Arab nationalism and a desire to reduce Western influence in the area.

Israel, a key ally in the region, as well as former colonial powers France and Britain, are growing increasingly dissatisfied with his policies and choices.

Although the Baghdad Pact was founded in 1955 by the United Kingdom, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and the United States to oppose Soviet hegemony in the Middle East, Nasser saw it as a direct danger to his vision of Arab unification.

In retaliation, Nasser later that year secured an arms arrangement with Czechoslovakia, a Soviet satellite nation.

The West’s belief that Egypt was drawing closer to the Soviet bloc strained relations even further.

Concerns about Egypt’s developing ties with communist countries, as well as Nasser’s Cold War neutrality, led to the withdrawal of financial support from both France and the United Kingdom in July 1956.

This decision significantly harmed Nasser’s reputation as well as Egypt’s feeling of pride. Captured and looking for alternative methods to pay for the dam, Nasser took a gamble.

On July 26, 1956, he declared the Suez Canal nationalised. This decision meant that the Egyptian government would receive 100% of the proceeds from the canal’s operations.

Despite widespread support for the canal, the country’s biggest supporters, Britain and France, were outraged by this conduct.

A crisis has begun

The three countries involved in the sophisticated military operation during the Suez Crisis were Britain, France, and Israel, each with its own goals.

Because the proposal was being developed behind closed doors, the parties met in Sèvres, France, at the end of October 1956 to complete it. On October 29, 1956, Israel launched its invasion of the Sinai Peninsula, pushing fast towards the Suez Canal.

Their official rationale was that they needed to combat fedayeen attacks and address the threat posed by Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.

However, the move was part of a bigger plan agreed upon with France and Britain.

Following the Israeli advance, Britain and France issued an ultimatum to Egypt and Israel on October 30, asking a truce and the evacuation of any forces within 10 miles of the Suez Canal.

The ultimatum was designed to serve as a pretext for their participation because the British and French expected Egyptian rejection.

Egypt, as expected, disregarded the ultimatum, and Britain and France launched an aircraft attack of Egyptian soldiers on October 31st.

Over the next few days, a series of airstrikes targeted critical Egyptian infrastructure, including airports, communication lines, and military bases.

On November 5, French and British paratroopers descended from the sky at crucial places along the canal, including Port Said.

The next day, naval forces joined the attack, and together they began to conquer the northern portion of the canal.

The three powers had hoped for swift and decisive military intervention, but they did not receive it.

Egypt faced stiff military and popular opposition. The Egyptians used a scorched earth technique to disrupt the canal by sinking ships and destroying buildings and bridges.

Outrage all over the world

The international community reacted fast to the Suez crisis, primarily condemning Israel, Britain, and France for intervening. Many individuals argued that the military intervention was a clear attempt by colonial powers to reclaim control of the post-colonial world.

The fact that the preparation was done behind closed doors and the intervention was carried out under false pretences only added to this image.

Despite its reservations about Nasser and his policies, the US was very concerned about the crisis’s broader implications.

The United States was concerned that involvement might heighten Cold War tensions by bringing Arab countries closer to the Soviet Union.

Furthermore, Britain and France’s actions contradicted the narrative that the US intended to present regarding its support for decolonization and self-determination. To secure a resolution, the US exercised tremendous diplomatic and economic pressure, including threats to withhold financial assistance from the United Kingdom.

The Soviet Union criticised the action as well. The Soviets were legitimately concerned about a possible escalation that may lead to direct conflict with the West, even if they also meant to use the situation to strengthen their influence in the Middle East.

The Soviet Union’s prime minister, Nikita Khrushchev, sent stern warnings to the United Kingdom, France, and Israel, and even hinted at acting on Egypt’s behalf.

The United Nations

The United Nations was a key factor in crisis management. During the General Assembly’s emergency session, there was widespread condemnation of the invasion.

As a result, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was founded as the first peacekeeping organisation of its kind, with the task of maintaining the truce and ensuring the withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Egypt.

Many countries, both in the West and in newly founded republics in Asia and Africa, condemned the invasion.

Protests erupted in a few cities throughout the world, including London and New York, highlighting global fury at Israel, Britain, and France’s actions.

The end of the Suez Crisis

Britain and France agreed to a cease-fire at the end of November 1956 in response to diplomatic and economic pressure.

The United Nations played an important role in ensuring the conclusion of hostilities and the following departure of foreign forces.

The United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was despatched to Egypt to supervise the cessation of hostilities and allow the evacuation of Israeli, British, and French forces.

UNEF remained in the Sinai Peninsula until 1967, acting as a barrier between Israeli and Egyptian forces, and it was critical to the region’s continuing stability throughout that time.

The early aftermath of the Suez Crisis had a tremendous influence on the parties immediately involved.

The crisis saw a significant decline in Britain’s and France’s global power.

The widespread condemnation they faced, as well as their failure to achieve their objectives without American assistance, signalling the end of an era in which European nations could alone dictate the laws of international affairs.

Even though Israel enjoyed some military wins, it was diplomatically isolated.

Nonetheless, the episode highlighted Israel’s security concerns from its neighbours, setting the door for additional clashes in the region.

The aftermath of the crisis was both a cause of struggle and a source of victory for Egypt and Nasser.

Nasser became a hero in the Arab world as he opposed colonial powers and maintained control of the Suez Canal.

However, due to the damage and blockages caused by the battle, the canal was closed until April 1957.

Its reopening symbolised Egypt’s tenacity and the country’s independence.

While I would prefer not to say that history repeats itself, we must, without a doubt, learn from it.

What causes disagreements, conflicts, and economic crises affects everyone on the earth.

This post was written by Mario Bekes