01/24/07 - britain and egypt

In today's excerpt - Britain loses its domination of Egypt:

"Britain's first occupation of Egypt, supposedly temporary, had begun in 1882 and lasted until June 1956. Thus Egypt became, in all but name, a British protectorate. ... In 1952, the coup led by the Free Officers led by General Neguib forced the abdication of King Farouk. By June 1956, Neguib had been replaced by Nasser, who became President in 1954. On April 6, 1955, Anthony Eden became Prime Minister in Britain ...

"Britain had sought to maintain a military balance in the Arab-Israeli dispute by supplying limited amounts of essentially obsolete weapons, but an arms deal with the Soviet bloc in September 1955 meant Egypt was now receiving Czechoslovakian tanks and modern aircraft. Eden ... did not wish to push Nasser further into the orbit of the Soviet bloc, so talks began in Washington on funding for the Aswan Dam project.

"However, in July 1956 Eisenhower cancelled the promised grant of $56 million towards the dam. The furious Nasser decided to nationalize the Suez Canal, so that the revenues from it would finance the Dam instead ... but he stated that shareholders would be compensated at the prevailing market price, and the operation of the canal would be administered by an independent body. ...

"In August, British and French military strategists began to plan an invasion ... meanwhile, it was increasingly clear that the U.S. was unwilling to sanction the use of force ... Ignoring [U.S. Secretary of State] Dulles's warnings, Eden and Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd, together with the French, now set in train a highly secret process of collusion with Israel against Egypt. ... [J]ust as there seemed little to prevent the occupation of the length of the Canal ... the British and French governments accepted a ceasefire. ... It was American pressure that had forced Eden's hand. This became apparent when the U.S. blocked a British approach to the IMF to access funds to stave off a run on sterling. Some $50 million of the reserves went in the first forty-eight hours. ...

"Nasser remained firmly in power. ... Eden denied that there had been any foreknowledge of Israel's action against Egypt. ... Eden resigned on January 9, 1957."


Timothy Benson


'Suez 1956'


History Today




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