Suez Crisis Part 1 of 2


In 1956, a dispute over the Suez Canal in
Egypt led to international crisis… and war. Two fading colonial powers, Britain and France,
expected an easy victory over Egypt… but were forced into a humiliating withdrawal,
as the world’s new superpowers flexed their muscles. It was a stark sign that the age of European
imperialism was over, and that a new international order had taken its place. Little remembered today, the events of 1956
had huge consequences for Britain and France, the Arab world, Israel, and the United States
of America. This is the story of the Suez crisis, whose
fallout shaped world affairs for decades to come. In 1869, world navigation was transformed
by the opening of the Suez Canal. This 100 mile, man-made waterway through the Egyptian
desert cut 5,000 miles off the voyage from Europe to Asia, as ships no longer had to
sail around Africa. Its construction, overseen by French diplomat
Ferdinand de Lesseps, had taken 10 years, and cost the lives of many thousands of Egyptian
labourers. The Suez Canal Company, which owned and ran
the canal, was a private company owned by its shareholders, including French, Austrian
and Russian investors, as well as the ruler (or Khedive) of Egypt, Ismail Pasha. In 1875, to pay off his mountainous debts,
the Khedive sold his 44% share in the Canal Company to the British government. As the world’s greatest imperial and naval
power, Britain had initially opposed the canal, seeing it as a potential threat, but soon
proved to be its greatest beneficiary: 80% of the ships that used the canal were British,
and it became a vital link to the British Empire’s eastern colonies, and ‘the jewel
in the crown’… India. And so control of the canal, and the security
of Egypt, became a vital British strategic concern. In 1882, when Egyptian anger at European interference
in their country exploded into a nationalist revolt, led by Colonel Ahmad Ourabi, the British
sent a military force to intervene. The Egyptian army was swept aside, and Egypt
effectively became a British protectorate for the next 60 years. British control of the Suez Canal was a major
strategic advantage in both world wars. But in the wake of victory in World War Two,
the British Empire was in retreat. India, Pakistan and Burma gained their independence.
There were revolts against British rule in Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus. Egypt had received formal independence in
1922. But Britain continued to station troops there, and govern much of the country’s affairs. Only in 1947 did British troops withdraw to
the so-called ‘Canal Zone’, under an earlier deal with Egypt’s King Farouk, that the British
could keep bases there until 1956. But Egyptians were turning against Farouk.
They blamed him for failing to prevent the creation of the Jewish state of Israel, and
for Egypt’s defeat in the Arab-Israeli War that had followed. They also blamed King Farouk for allowing
British troops to remain in Egypt. In the Canal Zone, British soldiers and civilians
came under attack from the increasingly hostile local population… with riots, arson and
gun battles – leading the British to impose martial law. By 1952, a group of nationalist Egyptian army
officers, known as the Free Officers Movement, had had enough. They seized power in a military
coup. King Farouk was forced to abdicate, and went to live out a luxurious exile in
Italy. The following year, Egypt was declared a republic. Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser emerged as the
new leader and president of Egypt – a committed and charismatic Arab nationalist, determined
to free Egypt from foreign influence. In the 1950s, America and the West were engaged
in a stand-off with the Soviet Union known as the Cold War. A so-called ‘Iron Curtain’
divided Europe, between communist east, and capitalist west.. Around the world, each side tried to win friends
and limit the other’s influence. Egypt, the largest and most powerful Arab
state, would be a valuable prize for either side. But which way would President Nasser
turn? US President Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted to
win over Nasser – but couldn’t grant his request for a major arms deal – they’d most
likely be used against Israel, which had many supporters in the US. The US and Britain instead offered to fund
construction of the Aswan Dam – the centrepiece of Nasser’s plan to modernise the Egyptian
economy. Britain also agreed to remove its troops from
the Suez Canal Zone by June 1956. But then, border tension between Israel and
her neighbours boiled over, as the Israeli army attacked Egyptian-controlled Gaza, killing
38 Egyptian soldiers. The Gaza Raid made Nasser determined to rapidly
strengthen and modernise Egypt’s army. Since the US wouldn’t help, Nasser turned to the
Soviet bloc, and signed a major deal to purchase modern tanks and aircraft from communist Czechoslovakia.
The deal was seen as a huge triumph across the Arab world. Nasser further antagonised America by establishing
diplomatic relations with Communist China. For Eisenhower, chasing an alliance with Nasser
was proving a major headache, and the US and British offer to fund the Aswan Dam was withdrawn. It was a move that would prove to have serious,
global repercussions… that neither Britain nor America ever saw coming. On 26th July 1956, Nasser stunned the world
by announcing that, with immediate effect, Egypt would nationalise the Suez Canal Company. ‘We dug the Canal with our lives, our skulls,
our bones, our blood’ he declared. ‘The money is ours and the Suez Canal belongs to us.
We shall build the [Aswan] Dam our own way.’ If Britain and America would not fund the
dam, Nasser intended to fund it himself with profits from the Suez Canal Company. His speech received an ecstatic response from
the people of Egypt. Nasser’s move was entirely legal – the Company’s
shareholders would be bought out at fair prices – yet his decision would trigger an international
crisis… war… and a new era in the balance of world power. In Britain, Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden
responded with fury to what he saw as a major attack on British national interests. 15,000 ships a year came through the Suez
Canal. And from the Middle East, they brought a vital resource that the British economy
couldn’t survive without… “…through it travels today about half
the oil without which the industry of this country, Western Europe, Scandinavia and many
other countries too, couldn’t keep going. This is a matter of life and death to us all.” Nasser, as Eden put it, had ‘his thumb on
our windpipe.’ As Britain’s Foreign Secretary in the 1930s
and World War Two, Eden had made his reputation by opposing ‘appeasement’ – the policy of
trying to maintain peace by giving in to the demands of dictators. But now, with poor health and frayed nerves
clouding his judgement, he convinced himself that Nasser was another Hitler or Mussolini
– an Arab dictator that Britain had to face down. The Egyptian president, he decided, would
have to go. French Prime Minister Guy Mollet agreed with
Eden’s assessment. He had an additional reason to want Nasser
gone – France was fighting a bitter war in its African colony of Algeria against nationalist
rebels… trained and supplied by Nasser. Britain and France now secretly began planning
a military operation to seize control of the Suez Canal, remove Nasser from power, and
reaffirm their status as major global powers. That summer, under pressure from the Americans,
Eden agreed to host an international conference, in a last effort to find a peaceful solution
to the crisis. “Lancaster House, London naturally attracted
quite a crowd on the opening day of the Suez Conference. 22 nations were represented. Only
two countries, Egypt and Greece, had declined the invitation to the fateful meeting…” 18 of the 22 nations supported Britain and
France’s position, that the Suez Canal be returned to international ownership – a proposal
turned down flat by President Nasser. US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told
the British that – nevertheless – America would not support an attack on Egypt… Dulles strongly believed that military action
against Nasser would push the entire Arab world into the arms of the Soviets. Besides,
President Eisenhower was running for re-election, and would not welcome the distraction. It was a warning that Eden fatefully ignored. Britain and France had already chosen the
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100 thoughts on “Suez Crisis Part 1 of 2

  1. 11:03 "poor health and frayed nerves clouding his judgement"
    I don't think his judgement was that clouded considering what Nasser later went on to do, and his rather provocative rhetoric. Also, he was correct about Egypt effectively having them by the throat if they nationalized the canal.

  2. It’s weird I have watched this and many other Suez Canal documentaries many times and yet I still want to watch this most interesting part of world events

  3. Left wing slanted bollocks.

    While it might have been a mistake to invade at Suez it was a bigger mistake to retreat.

    Especially just to ensure Eisenhower a clear run for a second term

    See Wanderer 628 comment below.

    Eden's craven submission to US pressure over Suez sent a clear signal to Russia that Britain no longer had the courage to defend its interests.

    As a result the Russians moved in to destabilise Africa
    and everywhere else possible, which lead ultimately to around 10 million unnecessary deaths.

    This presentation is hard left lies and shite.

  4. The Egyptian didn't blame the king, it was the post 1952 coup government Propaganda that accused the king to be at fault for the "Lose of Palestine" …
    and stop with the world manipulation man …

  5. Gotta love how the Indians blamed their OWN MAN when the scummy and brutal British used him as a scapegoat and excuse for their genuinely EVIL IMPERIALISM!

  6. I like how frenchs and brits conquered lands in which they weren't supposed to be in and then got mad when those people tried to gain their independence or tried to gain control of national regions under foreign rule, i wonder what would they think if for example China had control over Cornwall or Brittany.

  7. 11:00 "But now, with poor health and frayed nerves clouding his judgement, he [Eden] convinced himself Nasser was another Hitler or Mussolini."

    Clouding his judgement? That's literally what Nasser was. He was in the Egyptian Green Shirts in the 1930s, the paramilitary wing of the fascist Young Egypt Party.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Egypt_Party_(1933)

  8. The USA has much to answer for. It allowed Russia to dominate eastern Europe, and should have supported britain and france over Suez. Great mistakes that we still all suffer from today.

  9. Good stuff. Thanks. But what's with the flat tire sound track? History is interesting enough, and Epic History TV is doing a good job– it doesn't need the overbearing annoying soundtrack. Do you listen to that 50 times in a row while editing these videos?

  10. My dad fought there in '56. He told me that this was how he gave up smoking. Enemy action made it dangerous to resupply tobacco and other non-essentials, so he gave up smoking rather than chance a bullet.

  11. The US attitude to Suez is probably one of the reasons The Brits didn't get involved in Vietnam. Swings and roundabouts youf!

  12. Don’t agree with colonialism but I have to respect the fact it made my country the global power it is today with almost unrivaled cultural and political influence 🇬🇧

  13. I admiire the US but they stabbed Britain in the back. We owned the canal we did not steal it. Look at the American invasion of Panama exactly the same.

  14. tbh it seems like the brits and frenchie is salty over the loss of control and nationalisation of suez canal. Hollywood should stop portraying Western Bloc country as the "good" guys and knights of righteousness

  15. Despite its ability to project vast logistical might into world affairs in the 1940s, the U.S. political, military and intelligence leadership through the '40s and '50s suffered from naivety and idealistic delusion regarding how the world actually worked, as opposed to how they wanted it to work. In consequence they delivered themselves easy victories through knifing their friends, and then spent the rest of eternity trying to figure out what went wrong.

  16. A very sad example of the lack of will of the British and French. Had they persisted in their liberation Eisenhower would have been re-elected anyway and America would have avoided the trouble
    caused by the toleration of grand larceny by the Soviet backed Egyptians. The world would have been better off.
    So sad.d
    Don

  17. The self proclaimed "good guys" the imperialist allies. Yeah, especially France who killed a 1.5 million in the Algerian revolution. Pfffft, they're as bad the Nazis if not worse.

  18. Bring back the Ottomans, we're sick of the Western bullies. Let's invade them and treat them as bad as they treated us.

  19. Another epic video! I will watch them all, such quality was not seen in YouTube since Baz Battle, the great Indy Neidel on WWI and the Battlefield series. Thanks for such great videos!

  20. See , westerner destory middle East and unstablized it , zionist westerner and Israel created Isis terrorist groups ….. Arab immigration in Europe and America is correct and fair…..

  21. What gives France and Britan the right to try and control another country like that with the death of imperialism. It's not your country deal with it sound like a bunch of whiny bitches. If Egypt doesn't want to let you control their canal tough it up. Just my opinion. No country should have say and dominate another country like that.

  22. Egypt actually beaten easily it just the Us got sad being left out and start pushing political agenda also too curry Russian favor. Considering how nasser tariff would destroy those Eu economy it's no wonder they would go to war.

  23. ‘The British lion has tried to roar, but as everyone can see, it has no teeth. And now, the Egyptians are going to cut its tail off’.

  24. America supporting and backing socialists against NATO in the cold war again, who would have thought?

  25. Egyptian robbed the canal. If u lost ur commonsense, let me tell u that it’s just like Egyptian took the Macdonald’s in Egypt for free.

  26. Long live the Empire 🇬🇧🇹🇨🇸🇭🇬🇸🇵🇳🇳🇿🇲🇸🇳🇺🇬🇬🇫🇯🇫🇰🇨🇰🇰🇾🇻🇬🇮🇴🇧🇲🇦🇺🇦🇮

  27. Is the AP footage in the video under a commons licens? How do one get the rights to show it on Youtube?

  28. I think it's hilarious Egypt swapped British rule for becoming a US satellite military state… Nationalism by brute force against superpowers doesn't work. At best you trade one super power for another.

  29. I really can't stop watching your videos over and over, they are absolutely informative and well designed! Thank you for your dedication.

  30. There is a tip missing here
    Nasser nationalized the canal after the withdrawal of the British troops

  31. @Epic History TV can you do the Japanese Imperial Army invasion of Malaya and Burma? I felt this is not very covered in English documentaries as much as the European theatre of war.

  32. History is often a perspective matter, for actors and analysts. I am not convinced that the UK wants to play Great Power in 1956. Suez Canal was a private company and Egypt a former British protectorate, so it was a backyard affair. UK and France were haunting on their home turf. Algeria was not a colony, as it said in the documentary, just a département, part of France, here the documentary did not have the right perspective. The USA had his own backyard: Porto Rico, Cuba, South America and Central America and also a so-called Panama Canal Zone. It was where De Lespes, the Suez canal builder, failed, it was an American zone for one century. Lord Eden, Churchill's hand-picked, confused Egypt with Germany, Nasser with Hitler, maybe it was confused between Churchill and himself? The UK played Jewish against Arabs at First World War and played Arabs against Jewish in Second World War, and then was kicked out from Palestinian at the end of the mandate in 1947. But the 1950s was not the 1930s, the polarization of the World between two superpowers changed everything. In 1950, the backyard politic in the Middle East, at least, was not without consequences. Arab countries were a free electron, half puppet and half revolted against the Western world. Maybe it was less the case for Saudi and Jordan because they were a British creation, but North African was a little bit more unstable. For my part, I don't know if Nasser was so closed to USSR, he bought arms form an East European country, not USSR, but were he a treat? What it is sure Nasser played the right cards and he won, and he died in office. Lord Eden lost power.

    What the point with Irak? Maybe the end of the realm of two superpowers on international politics? As Suez was the beginning?

  33. I really hope you're making some good money making these videos because holy crap they are good! You're the man! Keep them comin'!

  34. This was the time when the Arabs still admired America.
    And America picked the Israeli side, forever dooming any alliance with the Arab world.
    A horrible mistake that will lead to the downfall of America one day.
    Allying with what is effectively a corrupt supremacist Jewish state.

  35. As usual, Israel's side of the story is either downplayed or simply ignored. Five Arab armies had attacked Israel on the day it declared independence on May 14th, including EGyptian bombing of Tel Aviv, and yet were SHOCKINGLY defeated by the Holocaust survivors who had made it back to their ancient homeland alive with not a tank nor barely a plane of their own. But Gaza was allowed to be kept by Egypt as Israel did not want all those Arabs, and tens of thousands of Arab refugees had gone there for refuge from places like Ashkelon and Ashdod. They had supported the Egyptian attack which made it half way to Tel Aviv before being bravely stopped by a heroic Israeli kibbutz. And so from 1950-1956 Egyptian intelligence trained and armed "Palestinian" Arab terrorists to attack Israeli farms and installations, and some 400 Jews were killed in those attacks. So when London and Paris, for their own reasons decided it was time to take on Nasser, who was supporting Algeria's fight against the French occupiers, and for the British their fear of losing the Suez Canal, they asked Israel to attack Egypt and then they would come in to "stop the fighting." Clever plan. Egypt had been heavily armed by Soviet bombers and German Nazi designed missiles and had not let Israeli shipping use the Suez Canal and Israel was keen to destroy those bombers and missiles as well as stop the terror from Gaza (which continues down to this very day, now supported by Iran.) And those were the reasons why Nasser posed a threat to all three and particularly to Israel. But the BBC always takes the side of the adversary. Poor, poor Nasser (sob). Everyone just out to get him 🙂

  36. It's funny how Ike bankrupted the UK in 1956, and forced Israel to end its illegal invasion of the Sinai.

  37. Britain and France Used my country (Israel) in this war as their puppets, this war between Israel and Egypt was completely avoidable.

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