NATIONALIZATION OF THE SUEZ CANAL
BY GAMAL ABDEL NASSER
On 23 rd July 1952, Gamal Abdel Nasser and his group of free officers, dissatisfied with the corruption of the king Farouk regime and the British occupation overthrew the regime in a bloodless coup. On July 26 th , King Farouk left Alexandria on his personal Yacht never to return to Egypt again. His toddler son, Ahmed Fouad was declared king. The remaining British troops were asked to leave the country and by 1954, the last British soldier had indeed left. The Free Officers gradually engaged in politics during the following years. In 1953, they deposed Ahmed Fouad, the last King, and declared Egypt a Republic with Mohamed Naguib as its first president. Naguib who grew up within the old system, was a courageous yet peaceful man and had no plans for radical change, so he too was deposed and in 1954, the true leader of the coup, Nasser, became the country's head of state.
Nasser achieved unprecedented popularity throughout the Arab world. He was admired for his rousing support of Arab Nationalism; his domestic social programs, for the first time in Egypt's history, sought to better the lot of the peasant majority. He announced an aggressive development program in 1952 for which he was lobbying for funds around the world. He started by raising funds mainly through the U.N., World Bank and the western democratic nations and soon sought the assistance of communist nations. It was his aim, and for the benefit of the country, to build a huge dam at Egypt's southern frontier, to regulate the flow of the Nile and thereby modernize the Egyptian agricultural system, which flooded all of Egypt for a third of every year taking lives, destroying properties and rendering all agricultural land unusable. When an arms deal with Czechoslovakia went through, US Secretary of State John Dulles announced withdrawal of US funds and assistance for Nasser's development program. The World Bank followed suite. In response to the harsh treatment of Egypt by the western World, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal on July 26 th , 1956.
The nationalization of the canal took the world by surprise, especially the British and French stockholders who owned the Suez Canal Company. Although Nasser promised that the company would be compensated for its loss, Britain, France and Israel began plotting to take back the canal, occupy the Sinai Peninsula and overthrow Nasser. Britain, France and Israel united in secret in what was to become known as the tripartite collusion, something they denied publicly for many years. Israel opted to participate in the plans against Egypt in order to gain favor in the sight of western nations and to further it's own plans of a greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates.
Arrangements were made for Israel to make the initial invasion of Egypt and overtake the Sinai and one side of the canal on 29 th October 1956. The British and French attempted to follow the Israeli invasion with diplomacy for one whole day, but were unsuccessful, and the following day on 30 th October, sent in troops to occupy the other side of the canal. The actions of the tripartite collusion were not viewed in favour by the US or the Soviet Union since their intervention signified their predominance in the area. The United States opposed this action as a violation of the principle of self-determination. The American delegation to the United Nations voted in favor of a General Assembly Resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of the invading troops. Great Britain, France and Israel finally accepted these terms.
In March 1957, under the supervision of a U.N. police force, the Suez Canal was cleared of wreckage and opened to shipping. The canal was returned to Egypt, and reparations were paid by Egypt under the supervision of the World Bank. After 86 years, the canal was at last returned to its rightful owners, the Egyptians, who operated it and continued to develop it according to the needs of world shipping. Overall the actions of Britain and France served to draw Nasser and Egypt into further relations with the USSR. The fight for the canal also laid the groundwork for the Six-Day War in 1967 due to the lack of a peace settlement and the unfulfilled Zionist dream of a greater Israel.