Military Review

Suez crisis: fast war and the end of the colonial era

The events of sixty years ago around the Suez Canal had a strong influence not only on the distribution of forces in the Middle East, but also on the whole of world politics. The fifties of the twentieth century on a global scale were characterized by a further aggravation of the Cold War between the West and the socialist countries, and in the Middle East and North Africa, an unprecedented rise in Arab nationalism was taking place, not without the influence of the USSR.

Egypt, the most powerful of the Arab countries, headed by 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser - one of the most ambitious Arab politicians of the twentieth century. The nationalist and patriot of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, considered nationalization of the Suez Canal, built in 1869, as a French-Egyptian project, but then came under the control of the British as one of its most important tasks. For Britain, as well as the world as a whole, the Suez Canal was of great strategic importance, as it linked the Mediterranean Sea through the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean. If it were not for the Suez Canal, British ships would have to go to India, bending around the entire African continent.

The idea of ​​nationalizing the Suez Canal was considered by Nasser as an excellent reason to rally the Egyptians, and at the same time strike a blow at the British and French hostile to the Egyptian government. France was unhappy with Egypt’s open support for the national liberation movement in Algeria, and Britain did not want to accept the loss of its influence on a country that had only recently been a British protectorate.

19 July 1956, the United States and the United Kingdom withdrew their proposal to finance the construction of the Aswan Dam. For Egypt, it was not only an economic blow, but also a great insult. Shortly before the withdrawal of the financing proposal, 13 June 1956, the withdrawal of British troops from the territory of Egypt was completed. Thus, the end was made in a long stories British political and military presence in this country. The withdrawal of British troops added advantages to the very high popularity of Gamal Abdel Nasser, both in Egypt itself and in the Arab world as a whole. The glory of a genuine fighter for the liberation of Arab countries from Western colonialism was entrusted to him. Nasser chose the right time to proceed with the nationalization of the channel - British troops had already been withdrawn from the country and could not interfere with his plans, and the refusal of Great Britain and the United States to finance the construction of the Aswan Dam needed a serious and impressive response from Egypt.

26 July 1956 Nasser made a statement in Alexandria on the nationalization of the Suez Canal. In his speech, he touched on both financial and historical aspects. From an economic point of view, Nasser stressed, nationalization is necessary to ensure the construction of the vital Aswan Dam, and from a historical point of view it is justice, liberation from the traces of British colonialism and tribute to the 120 of thousands of Egyptians who died during the construction of the canal in the 19th century. . Nasser's speech caused a real delight in the Arab world. For the first time, the leader of a developing country went straight against the interests of the Western powers.

Naturally, the United Kingdom and France immediately appreciated the actions of Gamal Abdel Nasser as hostile, although Egypt paid compensation to the shareholders of the channel. Of course, the Egyptian President himself also understood that his actions could lead to an escalation of international tension, but did not believe in the possibility of the invasion of Anglo-French and, especially, Israeli troops into Egyptian territory. Moreover, in early October 1956, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that affirmed Egypt’s right to control the Suez Canal. But, as it turned out, Nasser was wrong - Great Britain, France and Israel concluded a secret agreement in Sevres on the preparation of military intervention. Moreover, Israel was attracted to participate in the coalition only later - at the initiative of France, since Britain had very tense relations with Israel, caused by the fact that as early as 1947, Israel occupied the territories that London planned to give to Jordan.

It is likely that the initiative of Great Britain, France and Israel would have been crowned with success if it had not been for the US position. Washington was very unhappy with the excessive autonomy of the European powers, which, instead of focusing on confronting the Soviet Union in connection with the events in Hungary, were preparing an adventure against Egypt. In addition, the actions of Britain and France in alliance with Israel violated US plans to create an anti-Soviet coalition of Arab states in the Arab world.

After the invasion of the Anglo-French-Israeli troops in Egypt, even the most hostile to the Soviet Union Arab countries would never support the pro-Western coalition. The gamble of London and Paris would turn the entire Arab world against the West and push it into the arms of the socialist camp. However, both Great Britain and France decided to act independently in this situation, not looking back at Washington, since their own accounts with the Egyptian leadership and its policies were too serious.

Suez crisis: fast war and the end of the colonial era

The military circles of Great Britain and France faced a difficult task - not only to ensure by armed means the restoration of control over the Suez Canal, but also to achieve domination in the airspace of Egypt, and also, most importantly, to organize the overthrow of President Nasser, with whom they agreed, London, Paris and Tel Aviv, it was impossible. As part of Operation Musketeer, as the invasion plan for Egypt was called, the joint forces were to neutralize strategic facilities through massive air strikes on Egyptian territory, and then introduce ground units to the Suez Canal zone.

In this operation, the role of the "aggressor" was assigned to Israel. The British leadership proposed that Israeli troops first invade Egypt, occupy the Sinai Peninsula, and then, under the guise of a “peacekeeping operation,” British and French troops would undertake the destruction of Egyptian military installations and establish control over the Suez Canal zone. The image of the aggressor to Israel, and the whole Arab world that was against it, was not needed, so Tel-Aviv in return demanded that Britain consolidate its territorial gains in Jordan and Lebanon and recognize Israeli jurisdiction over the Gulf of Aqaba. But in London, the Israeli demands were refused, which, however, did not have a significant impact on the behavior of Tel Aviv - the flywheel of military preparations had already been launched.

To divert attention, Israel raided the West Bank, after which all Arab countries decided that there should be some kind of aggressive action on the part of Tel Aviv. Iraq deployed an army division to Jordan in case of possible hostilities against Israel.

The French Navy brought their ships to the Israeli coast, while units of the French ground forces began to land at Israeli airfields. In Israel itself, mobilization of reservists began, moreover, to avert its eyes, it was explained by the need to increase the combat readiness of the country in connection with the introduction of the Iraqi division into neighboring Jordan. In Egypt, they did not understand the meaning of Israel’s military preparations and did not believe in the imminent start of the war.

When 29 October 1956, the Israeli army attacked the positions of the Egyptian troops in the Sinai Peninsula, the head of the General Staff of the Egyptian army, General Abdel Hakim Amer, led an official visit to Jordan and Syria. On the night of October 28, Israel shot down an Egyptian plane returning from Syria, on which, as expected, Amer was supposed to fly. But the general returned to Egypt later, so only 18 senior officers of the Egyptian army were killed on the downed plane. After the start of the Israeli invasion, the United States proposed a resolution calling for an end to the aggression against Egypt, but the United Kingdom and France, using their right as members of the UN Security Council, vetoed the American resolution.

The balance of forces on the eve of the hostilities was not at all in favor of Egypt. The Israeli army, not to mention the armed forces of France and Britain, was much better armed, the level of combat training of personnel differed significantly, but in addition there was a significant numerical superiority. On the Sinai Peninsula, units with a total number of about 30 thousands of Egyptian military personnel were deployed, but of these, only 10 thousand people served in the regular army, the remaining 20 thousand people belonged to paramilitary and militia units that did not have the proper level of training or armament. October 31 British and French air forces began bombing the Egyptian military infrastructure.

The Allies, having begun to strike at command posts and communications centers of the Egyptian armed forces, instantly disabled the entire control system of the Egyptian army, after which the latter was in a state of chaos. In the shortest possible time, the air forces of Egypt were practically paralyzed, which were never able to fly most of their aircraft into the air. From the sea of ​​action aviation Great Britain and France and the ground forces of Israel were supported by British and French ships. Already on October 31, the Egyptian frigate Dumyat (Damietta) was sunk, and the Egyptian destroyer Ibrahim al-Aval was captured in the Haifa area. On November 5, 1956, a British paratrooper brigade landed in Port Said and established control over it as soon as possible, and the French paratroopers captured Port Fuad. On the night of November 6, the seized airheads began to land on captured bridgeheads. Then the Israeli units captured Sharm el-Sheikh, thereby establishing control over most of the Sinai Peninsula.

The fighting in Egypt caused an instantaneous increase in international tensions. In this situation, the Soviet Union was particularly active. Nikita Khrushchev began to threaten Britain, France and Israel with military intervention, up to and including nuclear strikes on their military targets. The United States of America also demanded that the aggression be stopped, which were also extremely annoyed by the Anglo-French amateur performances. The UN General Assembly decided to deploy a peacekeeping force in the conflict zone, with the quick consent of the Egyptian leadership. Already on November 6, the opponents of the conflict succeeded in forcing Britain, France and Israel to conclude an armistice with Egypt. The conflict was extinguished, and by December 1956, Great Britain and France had withdrawn their troops from captured bridgeheads on Egyptian territory. In March, 1957, under pressure from the United States, was withdrawn and units of the Israeli army. January 1 1957 was issued a decree annulment of the Suez Canal Agreement, meaning that Nasser’s goal was achieved.

The “quick war” caused great losses for Egypt. About 3 thousands of Egyptian soldiers and about 3 thousands of Egyptian civilians were killed, half of the armored vehicles of the Egyptian army were destroyed, despite the fact that the Allies lost only five planes, about 200 soldiers of the Israeli army and about 320 British and French soldiers killed. The main "pain points" of Egypt in terms of troop control, training of troops and weapons were identified, forcing Nasser to begin large-scale modernization of the armed forces with the help of the Soviet Union, which became for a long time the main supplier of military equipment and instructors for the Egyptian army.

As for the significance of the Suez crisis for international politics, it largely symbolized the end of the era of colonialism. The two largest and most powerful colonial powers — Britain and France — were actually forced to give up their interests, unable to withstand the pressure of the world community. It turned out that London and Paris can no longer dictate their will to third countries, including such states as Egypt. Moreover, the rash actions of the European powers put the world on the brink of a nuclear war, which did not occur only thanks to the political will of the Soviet and American leaders, since both the USSR and the USA then took the most reasonable position.

In addition to Egypt, which managed with the support of the USSR and the US anti-war position to achieve its goal and force the UK and France to abandon the aggressive plans that won in the Suez crisis, oddly enough, Israel turned out to be. He not only checked and demonstrated to the Arab world the real fighting capacity of his army, but also achieved the lifting of the blockade from the Gulf of Aqaba and significantly frightened the neighboring Arab states, stressing his readiness for decisive and tough actions.
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  1. Vard
    Vard April 5 2018 05: 32
    England and France have interesting things to do with it ... It’s now they’re kind of peaceful ... And then wow ... The bandits are still those!
    1. Olgovich
      Olgovich April 5 2018 08: 17
      Quote: Vard
      Interesting things in the assets of England and France ... It’s now they’re kind of peaceful ... And then wow ... The bandits are still those!

      Yes, they ALWAYS have such "peaceful" affairs. were.
      But Israel, supposedly, NEVER was the first to attack, always was only a “victim” of aggression. And here on you is the aggressor in its purest form ... request
      PS 200 dead Israelis are not so few
    2. Weyland
      Weyland April 5 2018 16: 12
      Quote: Vard
      It’s now they’re kind of peaceful ..

      Do not forget: then they have not yet lost most of their colonies and were (in couple) masters of almost all of Africa!
  2. parusnik
    parusnik April 5 2018 07: 49
    However, both Great Britain and France decided to act independently in this situation, without looking back at Washington.
    ... Probably one of the rare cases when the European powers acted independently ... without looking back at Washington ...
    1. Cartalon
      Cartalon April 5 2018 09: 08
      Rather, this is the last case when Great Britain acted as a great power, then Eden's resignation was ordered by the Americans, and since then Britain has simply been a protectorate.
  3. midshipman
    midshipman April 5 2018 09: 26
    Was there only in 1972. In “VO” published an article about the time “Creative business trip”.
  4. BAI
    BAI April 5 2018 10: 41
    The author’s article and the article by A. Privalov should be placed next to him And compare. So to say 2 look at one event.
    1. A. Privalov
      A. Privalov April 5 2018 13: 12
      Quote: BAI
      The author’s article and the article by A. Privalov should be placed next to him And compare. So to say 2 look at one event.

      Thank you for your trust! hi However, I have not written about the Suez crisis yet. It is time?
      The fact is that the HE already has five or six articles, of varying degrees of reliability and adequacy, on this topic. Including the article by the respected author - Ilya Polonsky - "The Battle of Suez. Sixty years ago, the world was on the verge of a global war," two years ago. Today’s article is somewhat different from the previous one in that the author somehow forgot to explain how Israel suddenly agreed to play the role of a villain in this performance, while everyone around was standing in white coats, bowing and inviting? Requirements "to consolidate territorial acquisitions in Jordan and Lebanon (?) And recognition of Israeli jurisdiction over Akо“look like the perfect oxymoron.” The image of the aggressor to Israel, and so the whole Arab world turned against itself, was not needed ”(Well, the urka who killed five grandmothers, of course, may well take over the beer stall, it’s everyday.). This passage, of course, touches. Well, the photo with the Israeli aggressor joyfully hoisting the tribal flag perfectly complements the picture with oil. Who can guess that the picture was taken 17 years later described in the article? ...
      1. BAI
        BAI April 5 2018 13: 27
        However, I have not written about the Suez crisis yet. It is time?

        1. Sorry, wrong. For some reason it seemed that there was an article.
        2. Of course it's time.
        1. A. Privalov
          A. Privalov April 5 2018 13: 40
          Quote: BAI
          However, I have not written about the Suez crisis yet. It is time?

          1. Sorry, wrong. For some reason it seemed that there was an article.
          2. Of course it's time.

          Well, then, I will prepare such an article. "Meeting the wishes of the workers" (c) laughing hi
  5. Alf
    Alf April 5 2018 20: 36
    Lives in the sand and eats from the belly
    Semi-fascist half-wiser
    Hero of the Soviet Union
    Gamal Abdel At All Nasser.

    As they say, in the morning in the newspaper, in the evening in the couplet.
  6. Catfish
    Catfish April 11 2018 03: 55
    During the operation "Musketeer" for the first time in history, the so-called "vertical invasion," simply saying helicopter landing. For an hour and a half, from two helicopter carriers, Thezeus and Ocean, 22 helicopters landed 415 commandos ashore and unloaded 23 tons of cargo. The helicopters were poorly adapted for the transfer of troops and although the seats, panels and doors were removed from them, different models of them took from three to seven people only. During the landing, only one helicopter was lost, and even that one simply ran out of fuel literally “two steps” from the side of Thezeus. The ship boat saved the pilot and three wounded paratroopers. It was the use of helicopters in this operation that served as the impetus for the creation of new "turntables" of heavy lifting capacity. And instead of the converted helicopter carriers, special ships began to be built. soldier