Blogroll Me! How This Old Brit Sees It ...: Shades of Suez ...

28 April 2005

Shades of Suez ...

Posted by Hello

Comparisons are being made by some in the UK, between Tony Blair's handling of Iraq and Anthony Eden's 1956/7, Suez debacle. Undoubtedly, apart from their 'party' politics the similarities are striking.

Like Blair has done, Eden withheld vital information from the British public, their Parliament and even his own Cabinet. All of which, eventually led to his untimely resignation, premature loss of health and historic, public humiliation.

Eden, the then Conservative Premier, responded to Egypt's Colonel Nasser's coup and nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company [run since it's 1869 construction, by Britain & France] by striking secret deals with France & Israel, in 1956, regarding a massive conspiracy. ( The Suez canal being easily the number one route for bringing Middle East oil to Europe.)

The plan was for Israel to invade Egypt, thereby enabling France & Britain to intervene in the guise of peacekeepers, and to reoccupy the canal zone. Just as Tony Blair's Iraq war preperations were 'far from transparent' [to say the least] so were Anthony Eden's. Then, just as now, key negotiations involving a pre-planned military adventure, were conducted by a small, crony-cabal.

On 29th October 1956, the Israelis invaded Egypt -- exactly as per the underhanded, three party secret agreement.

Four days later, British & French paratroops were dropped into Egypt's canal zone. Almost immediately, a major international outcry ensued.

One big difference between Eden's Suez and Blair's Iraq, was the the sudden, strong and unexpected American opposition. Eden was utterly dumbfounded. A 'friend' he'd taken for granted, had turned on him. US President, Dwight Eisenhower, simply refused to counternounce such an operation. He reasoned that Russia, being then allied to Egypt, may well spark a conflict between the the nuclear powers. The American President told the British Premier -- in no uncertain terms -- to pull out.

So completely surprised & shattered was Eden, that he did so without even consulting France. From that moment on, it all fell painfully apart. Practically overnight, Eden became a broken man -- in every respect of the phrase. Almost immediately, he fell seriously ill.

Three months later, in January 1957, Eden was persuaded to step down as Britain's Prime Minister. Two days after that, he resigned as a Member of Parliament, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for jogging my memory and filling in some gaps for me. I do not think I really understood what happened. I just knew there was a "Suez Crisis" and I associated that with when Israel began settlements near the Suez.

1:48 am  
Blogger Richard said...

I just missed having to go there, by the skin of my teeth, Rosemary. A lot of my friends did go. Thankfully they all came back, ok. We still had National Service [the draft] then, from age 18.

2:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating details on the Suez operation, Richard! I never realized Eden backed down without informing/consulting the French.

Your post brought back vivid memories of those weeks that autumn ... the Hungarian revolt was brewing almost simultaneously with Suez developments, and together they had all the adults around my 8 yr old self mighty, mighty worried that war was real close to breaking out.

Which explained my dad's overreaction one cold, torrentially rainy night, when the local air raid sirens (we later learned) shorted out and went off after midnight ... and would NOT stop -- the continuous wail seemed to last at least an hour. My family spent much of that night in the potato cellar while dad turned off the gas, gathered blankets, filled water pitchers etc. Like a madman he was ... and both my younger brother and I didn't make it all the way through the next day at school, too tired to keep awake after being up half the night and scared out of our wits from waiting for the sound of Soviet bombers overhead.

6:05 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, I don't remember going through that scare, although I do remember the Hungarian revolt. All the connections were not there for me, faulty memory? or more probably not very politically aware nor world-wise in those days. And yet I was a married student in college at that time, not a kid. Strange.

10:19 am  
Blogger Richard said...

I'm fascinated too, Mark. I hadn't realised ordinary American's were so worried about a possible war - nor that you had air raid, warning sirens set up over there.

More evidence, I suppose, of how we're all 'conditioned' by our repective governments, as to how bad or good things are. Over here the only worry was that all our lads would get back soon, in one piece. "Victory" was a foregone conclusion as far as we Brits & the French [and Israel] were concerned.

No one expected it to end so soon though. It came as a big a shock to the man in the street, as it had to Eden, to learn the US wasn't 'on our side' this time around.

2:27 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Rosemary, 'faulty memory' is right. Heh - you're as bad as I am sometimes. Heh. It's Mark - not Michael. :^)

2:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Oh yes, the Civil Defense system (air raid sirens, public bomb shelters, air raid drills in school, etc.) was continuously active all thru the 1950s in the U.S. -- and we all knew the sound and location of the sirens, they'd test them briefly every Saturday at noon.

But most of that was gone by the late 1960s -- only the periodic "this is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System" announcements on radio and TV stations survived, at least til the late 1980s (the advent of cable TV), IIRC.

4:43 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Thanks for that, Mark. I'm still learning something new, every day.

7:12 pm  
Blogger Elaine Supkis said...

From 1950 to 1990 Americans were terrified of nuclear war yet Nixon wanted to nuke Vietnam...just for example. We would have used nukes over and over if the Soviets didn't have them.

Balance of terror: MAD. Heh.

My blog today talks about secret nuclear facilities and that they are still running along their well greased tracks...

11:17 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I think we in the UK only became really worried about 'nukes,' at the end of the 50s / start of 60s. Truth is, we got scared of the USSR - but we only because the US made us scared.

That's a good description, Elaine: Balance of 'terror' - much more apt than the offial phraseology - balance of 'power'.

I'll take a look at your latest nuke-blog.

12:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't remember going through that scare, although I do remember the Hungarian revolt.

I should have been more explicit ... the nighttime siren incident was a fluke, caused simply by just ONE siren (2 doors from our house) shorting out in the downpour. Hardly any of my classmates heard it, in fact, so my teacher was mystified why I was sooo sleepy the next day.

Sorry, didn't mean to make more of it than that ... I just thought it emblematic of the tension in the U.S. evident during the autumn of 1956 -- which was also a presidential election season (though Eisenhower was in hardly any danger from Stevenson's second run against him for the office).

4:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark, they still have these, on TV at least.

"this is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System" announcements

Fascinating column, Richard.

5:28 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

And to think, Harper, that some still keep shouting about 'conspiracy nuts'. Huh. Conspiracies are the norm with politicians - it's what they DO.

9:15 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Heh - look at this, from today's "Independent" D'you think Charles Kennedy reads this blog too?

Charles Kennedy, the party leader, told a rally yesterday in Newbury, Berkshire: "Tony Blair's authority is seriously undermined by Iraq. Even if he wins a third term, he is now going to be a lame duck prime minister. Iraq will haunt his premiership and his legacy, just as Suez did for Sir Anthony Eden."

4:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Good call, Richard! He deserves a lot more than haunting.

7:21 pm  

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