Assess the Short Term Significance of the Suez War of 1956
Assess the short term significance of the Suez War of 1956 The Suez War had profound short term significance in many aspects. It can be argued to be one of the first wars in the Arab-Israeli conflict which involved substantial foreign involvement. Although Britain and France were humiliated and lost their influence in the Middle East, it highlighted the rising importance of Cold War politics in the Middle East. Egypt and Israel can be considered as winners of the Suez War; Egypt gained complete control of the Suez Canal and Israel had access to the Straits of Tiran.
However, both countries were to remain hostile and the legacy of the Suez War will be conflict, not peace. First of all, the Suez War in 1956 played a significant role in Nasser’s Egypt. There were many gains for Egypt from the Suez War.
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American Historian, William Polk states ‘in western eyes, the Suez War made Nasser a hero’ and ‘claimed a political victory within a military defeat’, this comment clearly infers to the unsuccessful attempt of Britain and France to ‘destroy’ Nasser which made him became a symbol of anti-colonial movement.
This statement is reinforced by the words of Nasser, where he wrote that the Suez War ‘regained the wealth of the Egyptian people’ and ‘it was clear for the Egyptian people that they could defend their country and secure its independence’, while this comment is partly accurate, as Egypt did manage to gain complete control of the Suez Canal and obtained a large quantity of British military stores, the source here is clearly biased because Nasser had deliberately failed to describe Egypt’s casualties from the war. He had done this to promote his position as not only the Egyptian leader, but a leader which all the Arab nations looked up to.
Despite their success, Egypt had suffered the highest casualty with total death up to 1600, while Israel, Britain and France’s death were well below a hundred. Additionally, Egypt had failed to control the Gaza Strip and Photograph A shows despite control of the Suez Canal, Egypt was unable to use the canal efficiently to fund the country; for instance, by collecting toll fees. The Suez War critically damaged Egypt’s relations with America. In response to America’s cancellation of a promised grant of 46 million dollars towards building the Aswan dam, American aid was replaced by Russian aid.
However, one should always be mindful that Nasser did not want Egypt to be tied to the Soviet Union as he wanted Egypt to be neutral. Conversely, in American eyes, Egypt became part of the Cold War; as any country which was not part of Western alliance and which bought arms from Eastern Europe was just as bad as the USSR. The Suez War 1956 was of great significance for Israel. We can reinforce Avi Shlaim’s interpretation on the Sinai campaign to help discuss the impact on Israel. Despite an Israeli, Avi Shlaim gives a neutral point on the impacts to Israel.
The origin of the Sinai campaign was initially planned by Ben Gurion and its leaders such as Moshe Dayan. It’s 3 ‘Operational Objectives’ were to defeat the Egyptian Army, to open up Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and to put an end to Fedayeen attacks across Israel’s southern border. Moshe Dayan, in his memoirs, the Story of My Life, was confident that the three main objectives were achieved by the end of the Suez War. The Israeli army won a clear military victory which proved the Israeli Defense Forces the strongest in the Middle East; this was further reinforced by Moshe Dayan as ‘Nasser learned the respect the power of Israel’s army. Although Shlaim’s view that damage to Egypt was ‘slight and quickly repaired’ due to timely withdrawal from Sinai, Historian Normal Lowe argues that the inflicted heavy losses on Egypt in men and equipment would take ‘years to make good’. Furthermore, Israel managed to gain access to the Straits of Tiran, allowing them to trade with Asia and Africa. The end to Fedayeen attacks proved immense success, the Sinai Peninsula became effectively demilitarized guarded by UN troops which would allow Israel to enjoy eleven years of security and stability along the border with Egypt.
As well as the Three ‘Operational Objectives’ from the Sinai Campaign, it consisted of three political aims; to overthrow Nasser, expand Israeli borders and establishment of a new political order in the Middle East. Unlike the successes from their operational objectives, they failed to achieve the political aims. In the first political aim, Israel paid a heavy political price for ganging up with Britain and France against the emergent forces of Arab nationalism. In the second political aim involving Israel’s borders, Israel was forced to disgorge all the territory it had conquered.
The third aim however, written by Shlaim tends to contradict Moshe Dayan’s view that the ‘victory in Sinai meant that Israel emerged as a state that would be welcomed as a friend and ally. ’ While this may not be directed at Arab nations, it may have been implied in terms of relations with foreign powers. Although Ben Gurion failed to topple Nasser and achieve his political aims, the Suez War had allowed Gurion to force Sharett’s resignation which initially gave him the option of launching a war against Egypt. Moreover, Shlaim contends that Israel and Ben Gurion learned two important lessons from its experience in the Suez War.
Firstly, Israel must rely on nuclear deterrence to protect its borders rather than expanding it. Secondly, Israel was to depend on the US in future decision making and must deal and directly consult with the US before engaging in future wars; this is evident in the Suez War, where Israel was pressured by US withholding aid and expulsion from the United Nations to withdraw from Sinai. The impact of Suez War led to a high tide of Arab Nationalism in the Middle East. When Nasser regained control of the Suez Canal he destroyed the statue of De Le Sepp’s; a clear message of Egypt’s contempt for western imperialism.
Arabs reduced oil supplies to Western Europe showing they have become more anti-western. Syria and Saudi Arabia also broke off relations with Britain and France. In 1957, a ‘Treaty of Arab Solidarity’ was signed by Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Despite the mistrust remaining between the Arab states, this treaty highlighted the Arab nations all had a united aim to overthrow Israel and support the Palestinians. This is supported by Ian J. Bickerton and Carla L. Klausner as they discuss how Suez war ‘only deepened the Arab desire for revenge’.
Furthermore, William Cobban argues that the legacy of the Suez Crisis will be ‘war not peace’, and that Nasser would rally the Arab nations to a full scale war against the Israelis. This view of Arab Nation’s continual avenging attitude towards Israel is reinforced by Andrew Goldsmith, as he argues that the result of the Suez War resembled a ‘hiccup rather than a true turning point in the history of Egypt and Israel’s internal politics’. It was one of many conflicts in which Arab countries and Israel have failed to solve any existing tensions.
Another short term significance of the Suez War was that it greatly damaged leading European colonial powers particularly Britain. Keith Kyle argues that Suez confirmed to the world that Britain was ‘no longer a superpower’, as Britain’s failure to overthrow Nasser and secure the Suez Canal had cost them world degradation. With a clear indication of Britain’s end of imperialism, it led to a further decline of British and French influence around the world such as in Africa and South-East Asia. The Suez War encouraged rebels in Algeria, where the Algerians gained their independence from France in 1962.
Britain’s failure had cost them to lose foreign allies; the Israelis now looking towards the USA as their main supporter. Britain’s decreasing influence in the Middle East is further supported by Normal Lowe, where Britain’s ally in Iraq, premier Nuri-es Said came under increasing attack from other Arabs for his pro-British attitude. Britain’s damage from the Suez War then led to financial trouble where its international reserve was seriously depleted. Because of the blockage of canal and the disruption of pipeline caused by the Suez War, gas rationing was introduced in Britain.
This meant Britain had no choice but to become more obedient and less reluctant to oppose any US policy for its financial support . While Mordechai Bar-On, the Bureau Chief- General of Moshe Dayan states in hindsight that from the view of Britain and France, the Suez war was a major mistake. From Israel’s point of view, it was ‘perhaps lucky’ that they made the mistake, because it was to this mistake, Israel ‘became more ready for the next round in 1967. ’ France on the other hand went its own way, opposed to Britain’s decision to side with the US.
Led by de Gaulle, it left NATO and turned to leading Europe alongside a newly prosperous Germany. The Suez War had a profound impact on the Cold War. President Eisenhower explained that as a result of Suez, ‘The Middle East, which had always been coveted by Russia, today be prized more than ever by international communism’, this outcome was perhaps made by President Eisenhower himself as Timothy Naftali, author of Khrushchev’s Cold War explains that Nikita Khrushchev was able to get away with “nuclear bluff”, showing weakness of the US that the Soviet Union exploited.
As Egypt turns towards the Soviet Union for aid, Eisenhower was to become even more determined in containing communism. He set up the Eisenhower Doctrine which offers economic aid and military protection to Arab states that agree to reject communism. He even stated, ‘Since we are about to get thrown out of the [Middle East], we might as well believe in Arab nationalism’, showing Eisenhower’s awareness that the Middle East was to become the ‘arena’ of the Cold War.
However, his comment cannot be fully relied on as it was perhaps an excuse for America to enter the Middle East with dual objectives, as in Canada’s point of view, supported by William Cobban, Eisenhower‘s beginning to commit US troops to the Middle East – ‘what he said he would never do’ – was to replace Britain with its ‘own brand of imperialism’. In conclusion, despite major losses inflicted on Egypt, Nasser was able to turn the defeat into a political victory in which Nasserism influence, where a blend of Pan-Arabism, positive neutralism and Arab socialism was to extent throughout the Arab nations.
The results of the war have also proved Israel’s strength and determination in securing its position in the Middle East. Britain and France was to be humiliated and the Suez War accelerated decolonization and had caused them to lose influence in the Middle East. Relations between the USSR and USA have evidently resulted in a freeze rather than a thaw. However, the Suez War was just one of many events that had failed to resolve peace between Israel and Egypt. Andrew Goldsmith argues that the ‘internal politics of the Middle East were affected much less significantly than its external politics by the events of 1956. , Israel’s gain from the opening of Straits of Tiran and its peaceful border with Egypt were all reversed in 1967. Nasser still refused to recognize Israel. The contradiction is made by Moshe Dayan where he confirms that the result of Suez War stated ‘Reactionary and aggressive’ nature of Israel, and because it made Nasser the definite leader of the Arab World. Word count -1986 Appendix Photograph A obtained from http://www. theegyptianchronicles. com/Article/1956Jubilation. html Bibliography Secondary 1. Michael Scott-Baumann , Crisis in the Middle East: Israel and the Arab States 1945-2007, 2009 2.
Normal Lowe, Mastering Modern World History,2005 3. Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall Israel and the Arab World 4. Kirsten E. Shulze, The Arab-Israeli Conflict,1999 5. Andrew Goldsmith, http://www. hillel. upenn. edu/kedma/05/goldsmith. pdf 6. Paul Reynolds, http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/middle_east/5199392. stm, 7. http://israelipalestinian. procon. org/view. answers. php? questionID=000472 Contemporary 1. Michael Scott-Baumann, Conflict In the Middle East : Israel and the Arabs, 2007 2. http://millercenter. org/president/speeches/detail/3360 3. http://www. spartacus. schoolnet. co. uk/COLDsuez. tm 4. http://www. historylearningsite. co. uk/suez_crisis_1956. htm 5. William Cobban, Mission Suez. The Canadian Experience 6. National Geographic : Suez Crisis 7. The Egyptian Chronicles 1956, Photograph in Appendix http://www. theegyptianchronicles. com/Article/1956Jubilation. html , 8. Council on Foreign relations, http://www. cfr. org/content/meetings/hungary_suez-summary. pdf ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Conflict in the Middle East: Israel and the Arabs page 23. By Michael Scott-Baumann [ 2 ]. http://www. theegyptianchronicles. com/Article/1956Jubilation. html [ 3 ].
The Iron Wall Israel and the Arab World – page 143-185 by Avi Shlaim [ 4 ]. Mission Suez. The Canadian Experience by William Cobban [ 5 ]. http://israelipalestinian. procon. org/view. answers. php? questionID=000472 [ 6 ]. http://www. hillel. upenn. edu/kedma/05/goldsmith. pdf [ 7 ]. Modern World History page 238-289 [ 8 ]. National Geographic : Suez Crisis [ 9 ]. http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/middle_east/5199392. stm- Paul Reynolds [ 10 ]. http://millercenter. org/president/speeches/detail/3360 [ 11 ]. http://www. cfr. org/content/meetings/hungary_suez-summary. pdf [ 12 ]. Mission Suez. The Canadian Experience by William Cobban