29 October 1956

Suez Crisis begins: Israeli forces invade the Sinai Peninsula and push Egyptian forces back toward the Suez Canal

The Suez Canal Crisis, also known as the Suez Crisis, Suez War, or the Suez War of 1956, was a significant international conflict that took place in 1956. The crisis revolved around the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and it had far-reaching implications for global politics and the Cold War.

The Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, was a crucial waterway for international trade, particularly for the transportation of oil from the Middle East to Europe. It had been controlled by British and French interests for many years.

Nationalization of the Suez Canal:
On July 26, 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, which had previously been owned by British and French shareholders. Nasser’s decision was in response to the withdrawal of Western funding for the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

International Reaction:
The nationalization of the canal alarmed the British and French governments, as well as the United States. They were concerned about the potential disruption of their access to the canal and the loss of their influence in the region.

Israeli Invasion:
In late October 1956, Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, with the support and coordination of the British and French governments. Their plan was to regain control of the Suez Canal, remove Nasser from power, and prevent the canal from falling into Egyptian hands.

U.S. and Soviet Involvement:
The United States and the Soviet Union became involved in the crisis, with both superpowers pressuring the UK, France, and Israel to withdraw their forces from Egypt. The U.S., under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was concerned about alienating the Arab world and upsetting the delicate balance of the Cold War, while the Soviet Union supported Egypt and condemned the actions of the Western powers.

International Pressure:
Under international pressure and the threat of economic and political consequences, the UK, France, and Israel withdrew their forces from Egypt in late 1956 and early 1957.

Establishment of the UNEF:
To help maintain peace and ensure the reopening of the Suez Canal, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was established. UNEF was deployed to oversee the withdrawal of foreign troops from Egypt and to act as a peacekeeping force.

The Suez Canal Crisis marked a shift in the global balance of power, highlighting the declining influence of traditional colonial powers and the rising importance of superpower diplomacy during the Cold War. It also demonstrated the growing assertiveness of post-colonial nations in asserting their sovereignty. This crisis had significant repercussions for the politics of the Middle East and the broader international stage, and it underscored the limits of military force in achieving political objectives in a changing world order.