1956 – The United Nations gets involved in the Suez Crisis

It’s hard to remember now, but from about 1950 to 1989, every crisis in world politics was viewed as a potential trigger to World War Three. Every time, it seemed, you’d find the Western allies on one side and the Eastern Bloc on the other. This one was different.

On October 30, 1956, Israel invaded Egypt, with the collusion of France and the United Kingdom. The invasion was in response to Egypt’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal four months earlier. The three invaders all had political and economic reasons for invading: Britain wanted to ensure access to the Canal, as did the French. Both nations were also united in wanting to depose Egyptian President Gamel Nasser. For Israel, it was mostly a pre-emptive strike, as Egypt’s military had been gearing up for some time now, mixed with a little territorial expansion.

Reaction around the world was on Egypt’s side for the most part. Using the United Nations, the USA and USSR forged a consensus solution to the crisis, in which Britan and France withdrew without acheiving their goals, but Israel retained its captured territory. For both the European powers, the crisis accelerated decolonisation and led to a chill in their relations with the United States – one that has never really ended for the French. In Egypt, Nasser took credit for the “victory”, which he deluded himself was his doing – a delusion that would last until Egypt’s defeat in the Six Day War of 1967.

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We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel