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Understanding the Suez Canal Crisis

The Suez Canal nearly caused a nuclear war.

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During the Cold War, the governments of the most powerful nations in the world came close to war several times. One time was the Suez crisis, which happened in 1956.

What Is the Suez Canal?

The Suez Canal is a man-made waterway built in Egypt that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. The canal is a crucial waterway through which goods are shipped between European and Asian nations. The canal was built in 1869 and took ten years to complete. A French diplomat named Ferdinand de Lesseps oversaw the building of the waterway.

Beginnings of the Conflict

It all started when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to nationalize the waterway. Previously, it had been owned by the Suez Canal Company, which was founded by Lesseps. Later, both British and French governments owned parts of the organization, which meant the two nations controlled trade that was conducted through the canal.

Relations between Egypt and the British and French governments had been getting worse for years. The Egyptian military was pushing the British to pull the troops from the region. Nasser’s military also engaged in skirmishes against Israel’s Armed Forces at the border.

The Battle Begins

On October 29, 1956, the Israeli military attacked Egypt’s Armed Forces. The British and French joined the battle two days later. The forces of the three nations took control of Port Said and Port Fuad and the area surrounding the Suez Canal.

The Soviet Union was allied with Egypt and threatened the British and French with nuclear war. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower scolded the Soviets, saying that their nuclear threat made the situation more dangerous. He asked the Soviet premier not to become involved in the conflict. The American president also scolded the British, French, and Israelis, calling on them to leave Egypt. Eisenhower went so far as to threaten to impose economic sanctions if they refused.

The British and French left the country in December 1956. Israel finally left in March 1957. This led to Egyptian control over the Suez Canal, and its government has controlled it ever since.

What Happened After?

After the short war was concluded, Nasser became even more powerful. Britain and France began to lose influence worldwide as the United States and the Soviet Union exercised more control around the world.

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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