Director, Centre for Imperial & Global History
Cross-posted from Politics Home
On 29 October 1956, Israeli forces launched an attack on Egypt. The following day Britain and France quickly issued an ultimatum to both sides to stop fighting. There was no compliance and, on 5 November, Anglo-French forces invaded Egypt in order to ‘separate the combatants’. The operation was a military success – and a catastrophic political failure.
For Britain and France’s actions had been based on a lie, and a pretty see-through one at that. The real motivation was to overthrow Egypt’s President Nasser, who just over three months earlier had nationalised the Suez Canal Company. In Paris and London, this was seen as a threat to Western Europe’s oil supply and to international order more generally. Initial efforts to get Nasser to ‘disgorge’ what he had seized, via diplomacy backed by coded threats, were unsuccessful.
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