Ques: - What were the events that led to the Suez Crisis in 1956? How did it deal a final blow to Britain’s self-image as a world power?
Ans: - Suez Canal crisis was the extension of cold war politics in the Middle East. During the cold war period, both the blocks tried to rally the maximum number of client nations behind them. It was in this context that the western block under USA and Britain tried to win Egypt to its side. Therefore Egypt was given a very mouth-watering proposal in the form of a very favorable economic assistance package for the construction of the Aswan Dam on the river Nile.
Although Gamal Abdel Nasser welcomed the proposal he was not ready to restructure his foreign policy in favor of the western block. To the frustration of the western powers, he extended recognition to a communist country, China. Such a gesture on the part of Egypt upset the western block so much so that Britain announced withholding the amount of economic assistance on the Aswan dam. As a countermeasure to the Egyptian President, Nasser terminated the British lease on Suez Canal and nationalized Suez Canal on the plea that he would mobilize the required resources to carry forward with the construction of the project. In retaliation Britain and France in association with Israel invaded Egypt. It culminated in the so-called Suez Canal crisis.
Under severe pressure of world public opinion and the verdict of UNO, Britain had to withdraw from the Suez Canal. This proved to be a landmark event in international politics. Britain already had faced the situation of economic decline in the post-second world war era. Then Suez Canal crisis put a death knell to its superpower status. Once a power vacuum was created due to the decline of British power in west Asia, it was quickly filled up by the USA. Therefore the USA emerged to be the net gainer at the loss of Britain.