Suez Crisis, 1956 – Burning Issues – Free PDF Download



  • The Suez Crisis began on October 29, 1956, when Israeli armed forces pushed into Egypt toward the Suez Canal after Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal,
  • A valuable waterway that controlled two-thirds of the oil used by Europe.
  • The Israelis were soon joined by French and British forces, which nearly brought the Soviet Union into the conflict and damaged their relationships with the United States.
  • In the end, Egypt emerged victorious, and the British, French and Israeli governments withdrew their troops in late 1956 and early 1957.
  • The event was a pivotal event among Cold War superpowers.

Little history

  • The canal has existed in one form or the other since construction started under the reign of Senausret III, Pharao of Egypt (1887-1849 BC).
  • Many kings who ruled later kept improving and expanding this canal.
  • Construction picked up pace around 300 years back as maritime trade between Europe and Asia became crucial for many economies.
  • In 1799, Napoleon’s efforts to build a proper canal were brought to an end due to an inaccuracy in the measurements.
  • In the mid-1800s, French diplomat and engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps convinced the Egyptian viceroy Said Pasha to support the canal’s construction.

Construction of canal

  • In 1858, the Universal Suez Ship Canal Company was tasked to construct and operate the canal for 99 years, after which rights would be handed to the Egyptian government.
  • The canal was opened for international navigation in 1869.
  • The French and British held most of the shares in the canal company.
  • The British used their position to sustain their maritime and colonial interests by maintaining a defensive force along the Suez Canal Zone as part of a 1936 treaty.
  • In 1954, facing pressure from Egyptian nationalists, the two countries signed a seven-year treaty that led to the withdrawal of British troops.

Nationalisation of canal

  • In 1956, Egyptian President Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal to pay for the construction of a dam on the Nile.
  • The Egypt was furious with the United States for reneging on a promise to provide funds for construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River.
  • Nasser ordered the Suez Canal seized and nationalized, arguing tolls from the ships passing through the canal would pay for the Dam.

Suez crisis

  • The British were angered by the move and sought the support of the French and neighboring Israel.
  • This led to the Suez Crisis with UK, France and Israel mounting an attack on Egypt.

The war

  • The Israelis struck first on October 29, 1956.
  • Two days later, British and French military forces joined them.
  • Originally, forces from the three countries were set to strike at once, but the British and French troops were delayed.
  • Behind schedule but ultimately successful, the British and French troops landed at Port Said and Port Fuad and took control of the area around the Suez Canal.
  • However, their hesitation had given the Soviet Union time to respond.
  • The Soviets, eager to exploit Arab nationalism and gain a foothold in the Middle East, supplied arms from Czechoslovakia to the Egyptian government beginning in 1955, and
  • Eventually helped Egypt construct the Aswan Dam on the Nile River after the United States refused to support the project.

Role of USA

  • The response of President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration was measured.
  • It warned the Soviets that reckless talk of nuclear conflict would only make matters worse, and cautioned Khrushchev to refrain from direct intervention in the conflict.
  • However, Eisenhower also issued stern warnings to the French, British and Israelis to give up their campaign and withdraw from Egyptian soil.
  • Eisenhower was upset with the British, in particular, for not keeping the United States informed about their intentions.
  • The United States threatened all three nations with economic sanctions if they persisted in their attack.
  • The threats did their work.
  • The British and French forces withdrew by December;
  • Israel finally bowed to U.S. pressure in March 1957, relinquishing control over the canal to Egypt.

1st time use of Peacekeeping force

  • The Suez Crisis marked the first use of a United Nations peacekeeping force.
  • The United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was an armed group dispatched to the area to supervise the end of hostilities and the withdrawal of the three occupying forces.


  • The crisis made Nasser a powerful hero in the growing Arab and Egyptian nationalist movements.
  • Israel, while it did not gain the right to utilize the canal, was once again granted rights to ship goods along the Straits of Tiran.

Q) What was the 1st Arab country to officially recognize the state of Israel?

  1. Egypt
  2. Jordan
  3. Syria
  4. Lebanon




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