The Suez Canal Crisis is known as the Tripartite Aggression in the Arab world and the Sinai War in Israel. In late 1956, it was an invasion of Egypt by Israel, later followed by the United Kingdom and France.
The Isthmus of Suez, located in Egypt on the African continent, is a man-made sea-level canal that connects Asia and Africa from north to south.
The Erythraean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea are linked by the canal. This canal is twice as long as the Panama Canal in length.
The Republic of Panama is the owner and manager of the Panama Canal, a lock-type canal. Across the Isthmus of Panama, the Panama Canal links the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Presently, the Suez Canal is under the control of Egypt. Construction of the Suez Canal has made a straight and easy route from Europe to Asia, and East Africa has been obtained, covering the distance of 6000 km between Asia and Europe in just 300 km.
The voyage has been shortened by seven days as a result of this reduction in distance. The western Pacific and Indian Oceans can be reached from Europe via this canal, which offers the quickest nautical route.
The busiest sea route in the world is the Suez Canal, which carries more than 12% of all global trade volume. It is a crucial link in the transit of goods, oil, and natural gas from the East to the West.
By 2023, Egypt hopes to cut travel times and double the number of vessels traveling through the Suez Canal each day. Egypt first revealed its plans to extend the Suez Canal in 2015.
Over 19,000 ships, or an aggregate of 51.5 ships per day, with a net weight of 1.17 billion tonnes sailed through the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) in 2020, according to data. It is important to note that the economy of Egypt heavily relies on the Suez Canal, which brought in $5.61 billion for the African nation last year.
1. Significance Of The Suez Canal
- The importance of the Suez Canal is majorly due to its location. It is the only place that connects the sea of Europe (Mediterranean Sea) with the Arabian Sea (Indian Ocean) and the countries of Asia to the Pacific. If there were no Suez Canal, ships would have to travel across the African continent to reach the Arabian Sea (Indian Ocean) and the countries of the Asia-Pacific. It will increase the cost of transportation as well as increase the travel time.
- About 30 per cent of the world’s shipping containers pass through the Suez Canal, and 12 per cent of the world’s goods trade through the Suez Canal.
- Through the Suez Canal route to Western European countries and countries of North America, mineral oil from Persian Gulf countries, asbestos, iron ore, manganese, tea, coffee, jute, rubber, cotton, wool from India and Spices, sugar, leather, skins, teak wood, cotton clothes, handicrafts, etc. from other Asian countries are sent.
- Chemical materials, steel, machines, drugs, motor vehicles, scientific instruments, etc., are imported from Western European countries and North America to the Persian Gulf countries.
- Suez Canal has made the distance between Europe and the countries of the Far East very short. It has facilitated trade with many countries, like East Africa, Iran, Arabia, India, Pakistan, countries of Far East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, etc., which ultimately has increased trade among these countries.
Importance of the Suez Canal for India
This canal is also very important for India. Because of this canal, the trade relations between India and European countries have been strengthened in past years and still improving. India’s annual trade with Europe, North America, and South America through the Suez Canal are worth billions dollars. India uses the Suez Canal to export and import goods from North America, South America, and Europe. These import items include furniture, leather goods, petroleum products, vehicle parts, machinery, textiles and many more.
2. The Theory Of The Suez Canal
The creation of the “Suez Canal” delighted Egypt’s kings and colonizers since it would connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, today known as the Erythraean Sea.
The first canal connecting the Red Sea in the south with the Nile River in the north was constructed by Pharaoh Senausret III, creating a fresh channel to the Mediterranean Sea. Necho II, the second pharaoh, began constructing a new canal from the Nile to the south, but he passed away in early 595 BC before finishing it.
Persian Empire’s Role
The Suez Canal’s construction was completed by the Persian emperor Darius I. Leaders disregarded the Suez Canal for many decades, especially as silt made navigation impossible, but some authorities, like Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the second century BC, reopened it.
Geologists think that when the Red Sea dwindled in size over time, its coastline migrated southward, away from the Suez Lakes. The canal experienced chronic silt buildups in conjunction with the coastline’s shift towards the south, making it challenging for various administrations or Emperors to maintain this waterway’s accessibility.
3. Suez Canal Company
The construction plan of the Suez Canal was started by the French diplomat De Lesseps in 1854. In 1858 a company was established to build the Suez Canal, named Universal Suez Ship Canal Company. The Universal Suez Ship Canal Company was entrusted with the construction and operation of the canal for the next 99 years.
This Canal was built between 1859 and 1869. The construction of this canal was completed in 1869. And the canal was officially opened for international traffic on 17 November 1869. According to reports, a whopping amount of approximately $100 million was spent to build this canal.
Earlier, this canal was managed by Universal Suez Ship Canal Company, its parent company. The company has 50 per cent of its shares from France, and 50 per cent of its shares were from Turkey, Egypt, and other Arab countries. Later the British bought the shares of Egypt and Turkey, and in 1875, Great Britain became the largest shareholder of the company.
Britain annexed Egypt in 1882. But according to an international treaty that was signed in 1888 AD, the Suez Canal was opened for the ships of all countries equally without any restrictions in both war and peace. So, ultimately declining the control of any individual country. It was also made clear to everyone that no preferential treatment would be given to any country on the basis of the share that it holds in the company.
In this agreement, it was agreed by all the member countries that the army of any one nation would not be stationed on this canal. But the British being the British, broke this agreement in 1904 and stationed their armies on the canal and the movement of ships of only those nations which were not at war with Britain was allowed.
4. Transfer of Powers to Egyptian Government
Egypt gained independence in 1936, but the rights to the Suez Canal remained with Britain. In 1947, an agreement was reached between the Suez Canal Company and the Egyptian government. It was decided that the Egyptian government would get its ownership over the canal if the 99-year lease with the company were cancelled.
In 1951 AD, the movement against the atrocities of Great Britain started in whole Egypt. Finally, in 1954, an agreement was reached, according to which Britain agreed to withdraw its army from the Suez Canal with certain conditions.
After World War II, Egypt began demanding independence from British troops in the Suez Canal area, and in July 1956, Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal.
Up until the emergence of Napoleon Bonaparte, Egyptian kings had abandoned the Suez canal for decades. Napoleon attacked Egypt in 1798. He attacked Egypt in an effort to undermine the British Empire and take control of the entire planet.
Napoleon desired to control the construction of a canal across Suez. He wanted to construct this canal because he believed it would deal the Brits a double blow. The British were struck by two shocks:
- One benefit of this canal for the French would be a quicker connection to the Indian Ocean.
- The second is that by creating a new commercial route from Europe to Asia, France would harm the British, who control the current route that circles the Cape of Good Hope and leads to Asia.
Napoleon, however, was forced to give up on his projected canal project due to several errors in the geological analysis of this area. Napoleon abandoned this project, yet the Suez canal he envisioned survived the emperor.
Role of the Ottoman Empire
Ferdinand de Lesseps, a French diplomat, and engineer obtained “Pasha’s” approval to begin construction of the canal in the middle of the 19th century.
To carry out the idea of the canal, the Universal Suez Ship Canal Company was established in 1858, and construction work on the canal started a year later. Because a new waterway may have affected its interests, Britain, which had exclusive use of the route around the African continent, stayed against this idea.
And the canal was formally opened to ship traffic in 1869.
5. The Suez Canal Crisis
Impact of First Arab Israel War Suez Canal Crisis
When World War I ended, the mandate of Palestine came under the control of Britain, and Britain announced its favour for the creation of a separate state for Jews, which was resented by the Arabs. During World War II, the Nazi persecution resulted in a high influx of Jews into Palestine, and by 1940 half of the population of Palestine became Jewish, and this resulted in demand for a separate state for Jews. The US pressurised Britain to allow the entry of Jews in Palestine from Europe. Under this pressure, Britain proposed 2 state solutions though it was rejected by Arabs.
UN too voted in favour of 2 state solution, thus on 14 May 1948, Jewish Palestine came into existence. Just after its creation, Israel was attacked by the Arab world(Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon) and hence began the First Arab Israel War in 1948.
The result of the war was that Israel captured 3/4th of Palestine, more than it was given by the US. Israel also acquired west Jerusalem, while Jordan captured West Bank and East Jerusalem. And this led to conflict within the Arab world as Jordan captured West Bank & East Jerusalem. After Jordan & Egypt and now Palestine found themselves living as refugees in Israel & Jordan.
After the war of 1948, Gamal Abdel Nasser became President of Egypt in 1954 as he de-throne King Farrukh. Nasser nationalised Suez Canal in 1956 as he wanted to reduce the influence of the British from this region.
Nationalization of Canal:
The Suez Canal was nationalised on 26 July 1956 by the President of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Therefore, in the year 1956, Britain, France, and Israel invaded Egypt to protect their commercial/trade interests dependent on the Suez Canal. This war is known as the Suez Canal Crisis.
In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal and ordered the evacuation of Egypt from the British and French forces. Most of the share capital in the Suez Canal Company belonged to the British and French governments. Naseer’s move caused a stir in both countries. power
Therefore, Israel and later Britain and France attacked Egypt to protect their commercial/trade interests dependent on the Suez Canal. The aim of this attack was to re-establish control of the West and remove Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser from his dominion.
After the war broke out, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the League of Nations intervened politically, and the invading countries Israel, Britain, and France were forced to retreat. The United Nations was in favour of sending a peacekeeping force to Egypt to establish peace there, and the Suez Canal was opened to the movement of ships from all countries in 1957.
How Nationalization of Canal Caused The Suez Canal Crisis
The Suez Canal Crisis was primarily brought on by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian president, nationalizing the canal in July 1965. The governments of France and Great Britain held jurisdiction over the canal.
The Suez Canal was nationalized by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser primarily for financial reasons. He focused on finding more finance for the completion of the Aswan High Dam even though the funds for the Aswan Dam’s construction turned out to be insufficient.
As the United States and the United Kingdom opted not to finance the construction of the dam, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to impose martial law in the area surrounding the Suez Canal.
Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, decided to apply penalties since the United States and the United Kingdom had promised to finance the construction of the dam in reaction to Egypt’s growing ties to the Soviet Union and communist Czechoslovakia.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, further took over the Suez Canal Corporation, igniting the Suez Canal Crisis. Additionally, he declared that the construction of the Aswan High dam would be paid for in five years by the tolls received by ships using the canal.
It was feared by France and the Brits that Naseer would block oil supplies from the Persian Gulf by closing the canal.
The decision to nationalize the canal enraged the French and the British and exacerbated the Suez canal crisis. The British and French plotted with the Zionists to retake possession of the canal from the Egyptians rather than Nasser giving proper compensation to the canal’s original proprietors.
In addition to the economic benefit, the nations also needed to make amends with Egypt, and more notably, Nasser.
France was outraged at Egypt for assisting Algerian insurgents fighting the French. Britain was furious because Nasser’s pan-Arab program was costing it influence. Periodically, Israel and the Egyptian army engaged in border combat.
Approval of Egypt’s Control Over The Suez Canal
By March 1957, all of the troops had left the area, and Egypt’s dominance over the Suez Canal had been acknowledged. A further indication of Great Britain’s growing sway in West Asia was the Suez Canal crisis. Since the Ottoman Empire’s dissolution and the emergence of the US as the new power, Great Britain has been in control of it.
Throughout the conflict in 1967, the canal was once more shut down. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, as Egyptian-Israeli ties began to improve, it was reopened once more in 1975.
6. The Outbreak Of The Suez Canal Crisis
On October 29, 1956, the British and French troops joined the Israeli army in an offensive. The French and British soldiers had originally intended to launch an immediate attack, but transportation problems had delayed their plan.
Yet, the attack on Port Said and Port Fuad, which were captured by British and French forces while Israel controlled the Sinai Peninsula, was successful. The Egyptian forces’ total authority over the canal area was lost as a result of the coordinated onslaught.
They appeared to be losing the battle over the canal, but Nasser galvanized his nation’s soldiers and persisted.
Although the attack was delayed, the Soviet Union, one of Egypt’s allies, had time to counterattack. To exert influence in the Middle East, the Soviet Union (USSR) provided weapons and ammunition to the Egyptian military.
To resolve the Suez Canal crisis, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev called a meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations. In the event that the Israeli, French, and British soldiers did not leave on time, he even promised to launch nuclear missiles toward Western Europe.
The Soviet Union received a stern reprimand from President Dwight Eisenhower for their imprudent talk of nuclear war. He also threatened to impose financial penalties on the Israelis, British and French if they did not withdraw their troops from the Canal.
It must be said that Dwight Eisenhower’s strategy was successful, as the British and French evacuated their troops from the canal by December 1956. Israeli forces occupied the side of the canal facing the Sinai Peninsula until March 1957.
It is noteworthy that the Suez Canal Crisis saw the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force for the first time. An armed group known as the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) has been sent to the region to oversee the cessation of hostilities and guarantee the withdrawal of the three soldiers.
7. Casualties That Happened During The Suez Canal crisis
If we talk about the casualties that took place in the Suez Canal crisis, then it is worth noting that there was a huge loss of army men in this war of the Suez crisis. While the British casualties stood at 16 dead and 96 people were wounded, the French casualties stood at 10 killed and 33 wounded.
Regarding Israeli losses, there were 172 fatalities and 817 injuries. Yet, it was never conclusively determined how many Egyptians were killed.
Egypt suffered 1,000–3,000 killed and 4,000 wounded as a result of the Israeli invasion, compared to 650 dead and 900 wounded as a result of the Anglo–French campaign. Also, it was estimated that the Suez Canal crisis caused the deaths of 1,000 Egyptian citizens.
8. When Has The Suez Canal Been Closed?
For the first time on 26 July 1956, this canal was closed due to the controversy arising after the announcement of the nationalization of the canal. Britain and France were furious at this announcement of nationalization and hence attacked Egypt. Later a settlement was reached, and the waterway was reopened again.
In June 1967, Israel’s war with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan started. This war lasted for 6 days. During this war, 15 ships got stuck in the Suez Canal route. The canal was closed for the second time in June 1967.
One of these ships sank, and the remaining 14 were stuck in the Suez Canal route for the next 8 years. Due to this, the trade through this canal was closed for 8 years. Traffic in the Suez Canal was resumed on 5 June 1975.
9. Ships Of These Countries Were Stranded
- Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia),
- West Germany,
- The United Kingdom,
Apart from this, traffic has been disrupted in the years 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2021 due to the capsizing of ships.
10. The Aftermath Of The Suez Canal Crisis
The Suez Canal crisis and its repercussions marked the demise of Britain and France as superpowers in this globe. When the United States and the Soviet Union began to play a more significant role, their influence began to decline.
By merely threatening Britain with economic sanctions on one of its old colonies, Britain agreed to the evacuation of its forces.
Two months after the British soldiers left the Suez Canal region, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden announced his resignation.
For the following few decades, there would be tension in French-American relations. They would have even more difficulty preserving their colonies in Asia and Africa as a result.
11. Recent Issues In Suez Canal
As a cargo ship became stranded in the Suez Canal, the Suez Canal situation was once again brought to light. Due to poor weather preventing passage in the Suez Canal on March 25, 2021, a large cargo ship by the name of “Ever Given” became stopped close to the southern end of the canal.
On March 29, 2021, a week after it became stuck in one of the world’s most vital waterways and prevented other ships from passing through, this container ship was released from the Suez Canal.
To read more about the Suez canal blockage, you can visit Egypt’s Suez Canal blocked by huge container ship.
According to some historians, the ending of the Suez Canal Crisis led to over-hasty decolonisation in Africa, which further increased the chance of civil wars and military dictatorships in newly independent countries.
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