chapter  9
22 Pages

The Suez–Sinai War of 1956

After the Anglo-American withdrawal from the Aswan damventure, Nasser was probably left without any secure means of financing his scheme to bring Egypt into the modern age. But he was in a strong position domestically: an alleged 99 per cent of Egyptian voters had just elected him President. The nationalization of the Suez Canal Company had been considered earlier as a source of revenue, but even that would not provide all the necessary foreign exchange. It would, however, be something. And, probably, during the diplomatic consultations between Cairo and Moscow that immediately followed Dulles’s interview with Hussein, Russia agreed in principle to help. In any case Nasser felt that his new Egypt had been slighted. He had heard the news of the renege in the company of his fellow neutralist, Jawaharlal Nehru, with whom he had had discussions in Yugoslavia together with Marshal Tito on such subjects of interest to the three non-aligned leaders as the war in Algeria and relations between the Third World and the power blocs. Nehru had commented on the arrogance of people in the West. Nasser made secret plans to seize the Canal Company’s offices. On 26 July, speaking in Alexandria, he referred to his revolution restoring Egypt’s sense of dignity: no longer were Egyptian leaders left waiting in the offices of the British High Commissioner; in Egypt the Russian arms became Egyptian arms. He gave a history of Palestine and accused Britain, erroneously, of promoting Zionism to combat Arab nationalism. The West’s terms for the Aswan dam loan were ‘imperialism without soldiers’: with Eugene Black Nasser had felt he was sitting in front of Ferdinand de Lesseps. That was the signal for the seizure of the company’s premises. Nasser concluded by declaiming that the days of alien exploitation were over: the Suez Canal and its revenues would belong to Egypt. Nasser’s military experts had assured him

that it would take Britain and France at least a month to send a military expedition.1