Egyptian Perspectives on the Suez War
On 23 July 1932 a group of military officers launched a successful military coup in Egypt. One of the main objectives of the new regime was to find a solution to the country’s most acute national problem - hammering out an agreement for the evacuation of British forces from Egypt (most of which were stationed in the canal area). When negotiations with Britain opened on April 1953, Egyptian-US relations drew substantially closer. The United States called for the complete evacuation of British troops from Egypt and was ready to provide civilian aid for the new regime. On 19 October 1954 an agreement was signed, according to which British forces would evacuate the Suez Canal Zone within 20 months. However, in Article 4 of the agreement, the parties agreed that in case of an attack by an outside power against any Arab League state or against Turkey, Egypt would allow British forces to
return to the Suez Canal area. In conformity with this agreement the last British troops left Egyptian soil on 13 June 1956.2
The main objectives of Egypt’s revolutionary regime, especially the need to secure full national freedom and socio-economic development, were manifest in the process which led to the Suez crisis and war. A prime indication of this can be found in the controversy surrounding the construction of the Aswan High Dam project. This huge project was designed to serve as a fundamental lever for the regime’s agricultural and industrial plans. However, the lack of financial resources and technological capability brought Egypt, in 1954-55, to apply for Western aid. Initial reactions were positive, as the United States, Britain and the World Bank expressed their willingness to support the project and provide it with substantial financial aid. This goodwill on the part of the international community was reversed, however, following the strengthening of Egypt’s image as a central leader of the anti-imperialist struggle. This image emerged largely as a result of Egypt’s objection to Western efforts to consolidate regional military pacts (such as the Baghdad Pact), along with its support for national liberation movements (such as the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale). Some Western governments followed Egyptian activities within the non-alignment group of states with much concern. Egypt’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China on 16 May 1956, its growing contacts with the Soviet Union, and the increasing prestige of Egyptian President Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser, especially after the role he played in the Bandung Conference (18-24 March 1955), only exacerbated existing Western anxiety.