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. 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...
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