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To what extent can the Suez Canal crisis of 1956 been said to have been a humiliation for Britain?

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Introduction

To what extent can the Suez Canal crisis of 1956 been said to have been a humiliation for Britain? The sudden deterioration in Anglo-Egyptian relations that took place between 1954 and 1956 was caused partly by Nasser's increasingly aggressive policy, partly by British perceptions of that policy. In a book, wrote by Nasser, he located Egypt in the centre of three circles embracing the Arab, Islamic and African worlds. He saw it as his task to encourage nationalist movement throughout Africa, in 1954 these included the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya and the war against French settlers in Algeria. Nasser became seen as being the unrivalled champion of Arab nationalisation and liberation. Nasser also announced his intention to exterminate Israel. During the Cold War Nasser sided with the highest bidder. By 1956 Eden saw Nasser as another Hitler, a man who must be stopped, and if possible stopped, before his aggressive policies could be shown to have succeeded. The sudden deterioration in Anglo-Egyptian relations that took place between 1954 and 1956 was caused partly by Nassers increasingly aggressive policy. At the time of the Suez Canal crisis Britain's status as an imperial power was in question as to whether or not Britain could continue to govern all of their territory. ...read more.

Middle

Intervention by the United Nations brought an armistice in early November, and a UN emergency force replaced the British and French troops. The canal, blocked for more than six months because of damage and sunken ships, was cleared with UN help and reopened in April, 1957. Egypt agreed to pay, in six annual instalments, approximately $81 million to shareholders of the nationalised Suez Canal Company; final payment was made on Jan. 1, 1963. The decision to use force against Nasser was clearly related to the assessment made of him but it was possible to take a very unfavourable view of Nasser, and yet to insist that any action taken must have the approval of the UN. This was the position adopted by Gaitskell. Many of the leaders in the British and French Governments saw Nasser as another Hitler and Gaitskell agreed although he said "While force can not be excluded, we must be sure that the circumstances justify it and that it is, if used, consistent with our belief in, and our pledges to the Charter of the United Nations and not in conflict with them". A vote for a Cease Fire was initiated, Britain vetoed it and Gaitskell condemned the act as "an act of disastrous folly whose tragic consequences we shall regret for years". ...read more.

Conclusion

The United States had refused to back Britain in supporting it in Egypt. The U.S had told Britain to get out, as they had no intention of helping them. The Canal had been put out of action to spite the West by Egyptian forces sinking ships to block a passage for Western shipping industries. This was the major indication that Britain was no longer a World Power and was nothing more than a minor in comparison to the United States. The Suez Crisis was very humiliating for Britain at the time. Britain had left Egypt like a dog with its tail between its legs on America's command. This is a major point in Britain's self image, status and prestige. The entire Suez Crisis would have changed the world's view on the new Britain. It was no longer a mighty imperial power, it was but a minor influential power in the Anti-Soviet alliance and its status and prestige as a "Great Power". Britain's national pride and international standing was greatly dented - Britain were no longer seen as a Great Power at all. Members of Britain's commonwealth were unsettled and whether or not the Commonwealth would break up was uncertain. Many saw Britain as nothing but a follower of America. Good relations were restored with America almost immediately. The Suez Canal was re-opened under Egyptian control, helped out by the UN. ...read more.

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