Crisis in the Middle East: An Introduction to Suez 1956

Crisis in the Middle East: An Introduction to Suez 1956

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geopolitical crises or Wars for that matter are like the moment an old house collapses it's a dramatic moment but the result of decades even centuries of neglect and abuse forces that continue to build up over time eventually overpower the structure and then everything just goes to hell today we're gonna talk about one of those collapses but not in a metaphorical sense we're gonna talk about the Suez Crisis a dramatic geopolitical event in which
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many stressors and forces came to a head in a little over a week I'm your host David and this is the cold war let's begin with the actual canal this conflict on paper was about for all of human history if you wanted to ship something from south or east asia on a boat to ports in europe you literally had to sail around the entirety of the continent of Africa which is needless to say massive some ancient societies in Egypt tried to make this trip a lot
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shorter by building a passageway here to connect the Red Sea in the Mediterranean the French Suez Canal Company began work to connect these two waterways and make one of the most significant canals on earth this is in itself a fascinating subject but of course well outside the purview of this channel in 1869 the canal opened under French control and everyone was thrilled well except for maybe the Egyptians who saw none of that revenue from what would become a
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bustling canal in 1882 the anglo-egyptian war put the canal into British hands and an international treaty in 1888 the term the British would control it in a further treaty in 1936 and with decolonization starting to become a bit of a thing the Egyptians signed ownership of the canal to the British so a canal of major significance to global trade was in Egypt but not controlled by the Egyptians after the Second World War the canal would become
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even more important as it became a significant trade route for that all governing commodity going into Europe oil by the 1950s oil accounted for about half the traffic going through the canal representing two out of every three barrels of oil used in Europe have I spelled out how hugely massively stupendously important this canal is yet now after the Second World War the British determined that Egypt as well as Iraq and its oil were of supreme
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importance they double down on their military presence there even in light of increasing decolonization and allows the economy the Egyptians asked the British to leave in 1951 but they flat-out refused to do so the next year a military coup overthrew Egypt's King Farouk and turned it into a republic one of its goals was to expel the British occupying the country and end all forms of monarchy and aristocracy in Egypt this movement
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focused on ending imperialism and was centred on a form of Arab nationalism a crucial part of this maintenance of independence was to make sure each up stayed three of the influence of both the US and the USSR this is the beginning of what historians called an online movement it would become a strange middle ground navigated by several countries during the Cold War from India to Yugoslavia to Sweden the ideology of the movement in Egypt focused on development which would use
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land reforms even planned economies but retain a distinct secular Arab identity and who developed this ideology well after a short post revolution power struggle it came into being under Egypt's president Gamal Abdel Nasser this type of governing ideology pops up in places like Gaddafi's Libya or Asad Syria as you can imagine though an anti imperialist like Nasser with goals to push the British out of Egypt would come into direct conflict with wealth and
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British though we should note that early on there was an attempt to calm this down Britain even agreed to a gradual plan to withdraw troops from the canal however Britain still held control by the terms of the earlier treaty and refused to hand it back to the Egyptians until the agreed upon date in 1968 part of this agreement meant that Egypt gave up its control over Sudan yes there was a point where Egypt was a colony with its own colony so this combined with the
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gradual removal of troops in Suez started to damage the Nasser government there were protests and even an assassination attempt on the president this unrest convinced Nasser that Egypt needed to establish itself against the British and as a central leader in the Middle East so no matter what deals were made the geopolitical aims of Cairo and London were at odds the other major British power base Iraq was increasing tensions with Egypt under
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its Arab nationalism plan Nasser wanted to have the entire Middle East as a part of Egypt's sphere of influence and that included the British friendly government in Baghdad now we can get to the context in which we talk about the Cold War I'm actually a little impressed this may be a record for the longest it took to get to the conflict after which the channels named so let's talk about the Cold War in the Middle East the primary geopolitical goal of the u.s. in the Middle East was to establish a
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collection of allies as a bulwark against the growth of Soviet influence the idea was to make an organization very much like NATO the problem is that the US had an already tapped out military so couldn't make substantial commitments themselves so they actually thought they might see a friendly influential regional leader like Nasser as a boom if they could keep Nasser out of the hands of the Soviets then their interests in the Middle East were of benefit to their geopolitical goals to
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counter the Soviets from influencing this oil-rich region the only problem was that many of those Arab nationalists were mad at America's allies Britain and France as well violence was flaring up over the new State of Israel so the u.s. had to keep their influence at arm's length using the CIA to influence nationalist leaders covertly as not to offend the British in the French Nasser himself was close with several CIA agents however they were unable to
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convince him that the Soviet Union represented a threat Egypt had enemies British enemies right there while the Soviets were all the way in Moscow and had no history of colonizing the Egyptian people the u.s. tried to get the British and Egyptians to work together but Nasser wouldn't have it he wanted the British out out of Egypt out of the entire Middle East they even tried to bribe him into joining this alliance they tempted to make of which Nasir pulled
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off an extremely alpha move by taking the money and then just refusing to participate the u.s. tried a new tactic to publicly enter into Middle Eastern geopolitics but in a way which would get Egypt more on their side they tried to be sympathetic to Arab states in their conflicts with Israel they even took Egypt side in the debate over the British and the occupation of the Suez Canal as well thinking the Arabs might be too mad to work with they made more overtures to non Arab countries border
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in the region like Turkey Pakistan and Iran the British got it known as adding themselves in Iraq to the mix around the same time in February of 1955 Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and won a significant victory against the Egyptians the founding of this alliance and the Israeli invasion of Gaza led Nasser to think the u.s. had turned on them and looked for different powers to help them in their decolonization mission and he knew exactly who might be interested Nasser tried to see if he
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could tease some aid out of the USSR and maybe play the threat of Soviet influence to pressure the u.s. to supply Egypt with weapons the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was very interested and was willing to break with the Soviet norm of not making friends with non-communists Nasser met with some communist leaders and they reported that the Egyptian leader was a strong man who might be convinced to become a communist these overtures didn't move the u.s.
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much and so Nasser began negotiating a purchase of weapons from communist Czechoslovakia a deal which went through in 1955 making the West panic Soviet influence was showing up in the Middle East now there's one more player we need to bring into this storm of geopolitical intrigue France part of Nasser's pan-arab work meant supporting anti imperialist groups in Arabic speaking countries wherever they were well one
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instance of anti imperialist revolt they supported both publicly and Clinton stantly was the movement against the French occupation of Algeria France now also had an interest in seeing the end of Nasser and this pan Arab nationalism oh yeah and did we mention that the French were also an Israeli ally the complicated web of international relations then the final moments leading to the collapse were finally underway Jordan after British attempts to add
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them into their alliance kicked the British out of their country aunty Nasser rage began to swell in Britain the u.s. grew frustrated with Egypt's attempts to play them in the USSR off against each other and withdrew development aid and lastly an effort in 1956 to stop this tension from blowing up was rebuffed by Nasser but what really set it off and why this is after all called the suez crisis was the nationalization of the canal in july of
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1956 Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal and on his command the Egyptian military seized it the company would be nationalized and its shares reimbursed to Western stockholders the news came suddenly and shocked the world the conservative British government demanded they D nationalized the canal stirring a political battle between the labor and conservative parties in Britain the u.s. tried a game to stop the road to war but were rebuffed and
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then three months later representatives from France Britain and Israel met to draft a plan to invade Egypt and take the canal back by force the house was now collapsing what would follow is a bloody week of conflict known as the Suez Crisis to find out what happened and what impacts it had on the Cold War and the world well you'll have to tune in next week to find out to make sure you don't miss the conclusion please make sure you're subscribed to our
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