MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS”
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MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS”
                                                                                    ...
MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS”
                                                                                    ...
MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS”
                                                                                    ...
MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS”
                                                                               2010
...
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My lectures on suez canal crisis lecture ten

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My lectures on suez canal crisis lecture ten

  1. 1. MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS” 2010 NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA B.A. LL.B SEMESTER-III (2010): “GLOBAL POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE” MY LECTURES ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS” LECTURE TEN By DR. AFROZ ALAM ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF POLITICS NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA MOBILE: +919438303041 E-MAIL: afrozalam2@gmail.com afroz@nluo.ac.in SUEZ CANAL CRISIS: HISTORICAL CONTEXT The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, having been financed by the French and Egyptian governments. Technically, the territory of the canal proper was sovereign Egyptian territory, and the operating company, the Universal Company of the Suez Maritime Canal (Suez Canal Company) was an Egyptian-chartered company, originally part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The canal was strategically important to the British, and hence to the other European powers. To the British, the canal was the ocean link with its colonies in India, the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand. Because the canal was strategically important, the area as a whole became strategically important. Thus, in 1875, the British government of Benjamin Disraeli bought the Egyptian share of the operating company, obtaining partial control of the canal's operations and sharing it with mostly-French private investors. In 1882, during the invasion and occupation of Egypt, DR. AFROZ ALAM, NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA Page 1
  2. 2. MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS” 2010 the United Kingdom took de facto control of the canal proper, finance and operation. The Convention of Constantinople (1888) declared the canal a neutral zone under British protection. In ratifying it, the Ottoman Empire agreed to permit international shipping to freely pass through the canal, in time of war and peace. The Suez Canal proved its strategic importance during the Russo-Japanese War when the Japanese entered an agreement with the British. The Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Russian Pacific Fleet, based at Port Arthur. When the Russians sent reinforcements from the Baltic, the British denied them access to the canal. This forced the Russian fleet to steam around the entire continent of Africa, giving the Japanese forces time to regroup and solidify their position in the area. The importance of the canal as a strategic center was also apparent during both World Wars; in the First World War, the British and French closed the canal to non-Allied shipping, in the Second World War, it was tenaciously defended in the North African Campaign. In 1948, the British Mandate of Palestine ended, the British forces withdrew from Palestine, and Israel declared independence on the territory partitioned by UNSCOP (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) for the Jewish state. The Arab League declared its refusal to recognize the UN resolution and the two-state solution, favoring a one- state solution run by an Arab majority, and including both the Jewish and Arab territories. Soon after, the newly declared State of Israel was invaded by a coalition of Arab nations, including Egypt, resulting in the1948 Arab-Israeli War from which Israel emerged victorious. Failed peace talks in the aftermath of the war, combined with escalating border violence between Israel and its neighbours in the following years, helped to cement Arab-Israeli enmity. SUEZ CRISIS: MAIN CURRENTS Suez Crisis, international confrontation along the Suez Canal in 1956 that pitted Egypt against the combined forces of Israel, Britain, and France. The crisis, which was provoked by Egypt’s nationalization of the strategic waterway, triggered the diplomatic intervention of both the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It was finally defused through the placement of a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force in the Canal Zone. The Suez crisis began as a result of the increasingly independent and assertive leadership role played by Egyptian prime minister (later president) Gamal Abdel Nasser. When he came to power in 1954, Nasser followed a pro-Western diplomatic course. He soon diverged from this path, however, emerging as a prominent figure in the Non-aligned Movement, an association of countries that made no formal commitment to either Cold War bloc—the West, led by the United States, or the East, led by the USSR—while often seeking the support of both sides. In September 1955 Nasser arranged to purchase large amounts of Soviet weaponry from Czechoslovakia, a Communist country; at the same time, he secured promises from the U.S. and British governments to help fund a huge construction project on the Nile River, the Aswān High Dam. The U.S. secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, was not pleased by Nasser’s simultaneous overtures toward an Eastern- bloc nation, and he successfully manoeuvred to block the funding of the Aswān dam project. Nasser responded in July 1956 by nationalizing the Suez Canal, transferring ownership of the company that controlled the daily operations of the canal from its British and French owners to the Egyptian government. He declared that he would use the company’s profits of $25 million per year as an alternative source of funding for the dam. Nasser defended this action by stating that the canal was Egyptian property, and he pledged to compensate the company’s shareholders and to keep the waterway open to the shipping of all nations (though Israel remained excluded under an earlier Egyptian policy). The British and French governments found the prospect of losing control of the canal unacceptable, because the waterway provided a strategic conduit for huge amounts of oil shipped from the Middle East to Europe. Britain and France demanded that Nasser back down, and when diplomacy failed, they turned to Israel for a military ally. Israel at this time was already considering military action against Egypt. Since 1949 Egypt had forbidden the passage of Israeli DR. AFROZ ALAM, NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA Page 2
  3. 3. MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS” 2010 ships and any ships carrying cargo to or from Israel through the Suez Canal. Since 1951 it had blockaded the Strait of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, completely cutting off Israeli access to the Red Sea. Also, in previous years, guerrillas had staged numerous raids on Israel from the Egyptian-held Gaza Strip. After several months of secret planning with Britain and France, Israel initiated what would be known as the Suez- Sinai War by invading the Sinai Peninsula on October 29, 1956. In one day, the Israeli forces swept across the Sinai to within a few miles of the Suez Canal. On October 30, as planned, Britain and France issued an ultimatum demanding DR. AFROZ ALAM, NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA Page 3
  4. 4. MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS” 2010 that both Israeli and Egyptian forces withdraw from the Suez Canal so that a combined British and French military contingent could establish control along the length of the canal. Nasser refused to comply, and on October 31 British and French forces bombed Egyptian military bases, destroying much of the Egyptian air force on the ground. The Egyptian army in the Sinai was routed, and within a week the Israelis controlled almost the entire peninsula. British and French forces began to occupy the canal. In retaliation, Nasser ordered the sinking of 40 ships in the Suez Canal, effectively blocking the waterway. The United States and the USSR were both caught off guard by these developments, since their attention had been focused on the anti-Communist uprising underway since late October in Hungary. Both superpowers demanded an immediate cease-fire along the canal. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev threatened to use long-range rockets in support of the Egyptian army, while the U.S. government vowed to block all further oil shipments from South America to Europe. This combined pressure, coupled with a strongly worded cease-fire resolution (“Uniting for Peace Resolution”) rushed through the UN General Assembly with the support of both superpowers, forced the British, French, and Israeli governments to relent. Before the withdrawal, Lester Pearson, Canada’s acting cabinet minister for external affairs, had gone to the United Nations and suggested creating a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Suez to “keep the borders at peace while a political settlement is being worked out.” The then Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold at first was not enthusiastic about the idea, but later convinced and worked to solidify the concept. The United Nations accepted this suggestion, and after several days of tense diplomacy, a neutral force not involving the United States, Britain, France and most of the Soviet Bloc was sent with the consent of Nasser, stabilizing conditions in the area. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his efforts. The United Nations Peacekeeping Force was Lester Pearson's creation and he is considered the father of the modern concept “peacekeeping”. By the end of December 1956, therefore, the Suez Canal and the Sinai Peninsula had been restored to Egyptian control, and Nasser emerged as an Arab nationalist hero. While Israel was not granted access to the Suez Canal, it did regain free use of the Strait of Tiran in return for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip in early 1957. UNEF I lasted about eleven years until the 1967 Six Day War and finally left Egypt in May 1967 when Nasser withdrew its consent to host the UN peacekeepers. UNEF II did not return to the Middle East until October 1973, after the October War, called the Yom Kippur War by the Israelis since Egypt launched its surprise attack on the Jewish holy day. UNEF II was removed in 1979 after the signing of US mediated-Camp David Accords, ending the conflict between Egypt and Israel and returning the Sinai to Egypt. DR. AFROZ ALAM, NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA Page 4
  5. 5. MY LECTURE TEN ON “SUEZ CANAL CRISIS” 2010 The long-term significance of this crisis was threefold. First, it gave a graphic example of the newly assertive attitude animating many so-called Third World nations, which would no longer be content to follow the demands of their former colonial masters. Second, it showed that the two Cold War superpowers would intervene decisively—despite their ideological rivalry—to curb what they perceived as dangerous and unnecessary conflicts among third parties. Finally, it demonstrated that the UN could act effectively in those instances when the United States and the USSR pursued the same goal and ceased to block its initiatives from within. DR. AFROZ ALAM, NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ORISSA Page 5

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