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In 1956, the Egyptian government under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalized the British-owned Suez Canal. In an attempt to regain its lost possession, the United Kingdom, under the leadership of Prime Minister Anthony Eden, invaded Egypt alongside France and Israel. Midway through what was called the Suez Crisis, pressures from the United States and the United Nations forced the three nations to withdraw, marking the end of France and Britain as global powers; the hasty decolonization of Africa; by further extent, the 14 July Revolution in Iraq; and numerous other consequences. But what if instead of bowing to international pressure on November 6, 1956, the United Kingdom, France, and Israel had pressed on?
BackgroundIn 1869, the Suez Canal was opened after ten years of work and instantly became very strategically important; it provided the shortest ocean link between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. From 1875 to 1956, Great Britain had owned the Canal proper, its finances and operations (The French being the majority stockholders). At the 1888 Convention of Constantinople, the Canal was declared a neutral zone under British protection, and ships were allowed the pass through without hindrance in times of war and peace. This remained the same until July 26, 1956.
The Road to War
On July 23, 1952, the Free Officers Movement, led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, staged a coup aimed at overthrowing the monarchy, establishing a republic, and ending the British occupation of Egypt. That day, the monarchy of King Farouk I was toppled and Naguib took over as President, Prime Minister, Minister of War, and Commander-in-Chief. The Republic of Egypt was declared and the monarchy was abolished. n February 1954, Naguib was kidnapped and "relieved from all his posts" by Nasser's supporters and Nasser was "joyfully proclaimed as Prime Minister". After a power struggle between Naguib and Nasser, Nasser came out with full control of Egypt. As president, Nasser had three goals: to end British occupation; to build up Egyptian forces for a successful attack on Israel; and to improve Egypt's economy by constructing the Aswan High Dam to irrigate the Nile Valley. During the ongoing Cold War, Nasser supported the U.S.S.R. and made many decisions that angered the United States including buying Soviet weapons from Czechoslovakia and recognizing the People's Republic of China. Hoping to teach Egypt a lesson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower withdrew all American financial aid for the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
On July 26, 1956, President Nasser responded to America by giving a speech in Alexandria, Egypt. In his speech were the words "Ferdinand de Lesseps", the builder of the Canal, and the code-word for Egyptian forces to seize the Anglo-French Suez Canal. He then announced the nationalization of the Canal, declaring that he would take revenue from it to finance his dam, and the freezing of the Suez Canal Company's assets. That same day, in violation of the both the 1888 Convention of Constantinople and the Armistice of 1949, he declared that the Canal and the Straits of Tiran would be closed to all Israeli shipping.
The following day, the British Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, formed the Egypt Committee to co-ordinate Britain's intent on recovering the Suez Canal. In August, an international conference met in London to find a diplomatic solution. Eighteen proposals were adopted and presented to Nasser by the Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. The proposals would have declared the Suez Canal "international waterway free of politics or national discrimination" but were turned down by Nasser as a "derogation from Egyptian sovereignty". Throughout September and October, further conferences to come to an agreement proved fruitless. In the United Kingdom, Eden looked toward military action to take back ownership of the Canal. However, in the United States, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State, John Dulles, made it clear that such action of any kind would not be tolerated. At that time, The United States was planning to increase its influence in the Middle East, hopefully bringing them against the U.S.S.R., and a war would destroy relations with the West. Meanwhile, France was growing nervous over the influence that President Nasser held over its colonies in North Africa. In October 1956, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and Sir Anthony Eden held a secret meeting in Sèvres, France. There, the three nations formed an alliance and came to an agreement to go to war with Egypt and topple Nasser. However, in doing so, they were taking the risk of angering Washington.
In Egypt, the commander of the military was Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer, a close friend and supporter of Nasser's who had helped the President in his rise to power. Amer, however, was a corrupt, grossly incompetent drunkard, who would play a role in the eventual downfall of his leader.
Operation Kadesh: The Israeli Invasion
On October 29, 1956, Israel then initiated Operation Kadesh: to invade Sinai and capture Sharm el-Sheikh, which would allow it to restore the trade benefits of secure passage to the Indian Ocean. Israel began by bombing several Egyptian installments throughout the Sinai Peninsula and seizing control of Mitla Pass. P-51 Mustangs cut overhead telephone lines, severely disrupting Egyptian command of the Peninsula. In Egypt, Field Marshal Amer made the mistake of treating the reports of the invasion as a raid and did not order a general alert. While Israeli paratroopers were being dropped throughout the Sinai Peninsula, the Israeli 9th Infantry Brigade captured Ras an-Naqb and in a night attack, Sharm el-Sheik.
Operation Musketeer (Revise): The Anglo-French Invasion
On October 30, Britain and France sent ultimatums to Egypt to which Nasser responded by sinking 40 ships in the Suez Canal, blocking all shipping. On October 31, Eden and Mollet, initiated Operation Musketeer and shortly after, Egypt's air bases were bombed and Tripartite (British, French, and Israeli) air supremacy was established. On November 5, British troops invaded Port Said. Royal Marines engaged in urban combat, and soon took the city. As more drops and seaborne troops came in, the Anglo-French troops made a drive southward with armoured support toward Ismailia while the Royal Tank Regiment headed eastward toward al-Qantarah the night of November 6. On November 7, Ismailia fell the Tripartite Allies as well as al-Qantarah. With the Egyptian Air Force neutralized, the RAF and ALA dropped leaflets on Egyptian cities, while the British directed Arabic radio broadcasts from Cyprus, confusing the Egyptian military and the population and with Port Said and Ismailia under Tripartite control, Anglo-French forces headed west for Cairo and south for Suez. The following day Anglo-French forces began their assaults on both cities. On November 10, after two days of Urban combat, Cairo fell to the Anglo-French forces. Gamal Abdel Nasser had been killed in the assault on the city and Egypt was placed under the control of the Tripartite powers.
Throughout the whole war, huge amounts of pressure were levied against the United Kingdom and France. The United States, enraged at the apparent act of imperialism called for boycotts against Britain and France. Another Arab nation, Saudi Arabia, embargoed the shipment of oil to either Britain or France and the United States refused to fill them in. In the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev made threats to nuke both countries, although secretly was counting on the nations to listen to Eisenhower's warning. Eden, however, called the bluff and pressed on for four more days, ending the quick war with the end of Nasser's Egypt.
Within a few days, most threats and boycotts against the Tripartite allies were withdrawn. Egypt was under joint occupation by Anglo-French and Israeli troops, and the cleanup of the Suez Canal was underway. However, the war heavily tarnished relations with the United States. In West Germany, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was appalled at Soviet threats to nuke Britain and France, and even more so as the United State's uncaring reaction to threat of destroying two NATO members. This showed that the American nuclear umbrella was not as reliable as it claimed, nudging the European powers toward the creation of a "Third Force" in the Cold War. In the United Kingdom, Sir Anthony Eden's popularity increased, as well as that of the Conservative Party. The victory in Egypt gave a noticeable boost in British patriotism as well. In Africa and in other European colonies, the victory was a severe blow to independence movements, which lost a significant following. In the Soviet Union, Khrushchev appeared as a fool to the Soviets, including the powerful Georgy Malenkov.
Algerian War (1954-1957)
In the months following the Suez War, the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria began to lose support among Algerians, but continued fighting against the French. Guerrilla warfare and the urban campaign, the Battle of Algiers, continued on until March, when General Jacques Massu crushed the remaining FLN infrastructure and ended the insurrection. In spite of the pacification of Algeria, the endlessly divided Fourth Republic of France, smoothly gave way to the Fifth Republic, led by whom René Coty described as "the most illustrious of Frenchman" Charles de Gaulle. Gaulle's Fifth Republic brought further stability to France and to Algeria.
On January 20, 1957, The Treaty of Haifa officially partitioned Egypt. The Sinai Peninsula was annexed by Israel; most of the Northern Coast, including Alexandria and Dumyat, went to France; and the rest of Egypt was annexed by the United Kingdom. With divided Egypt still under martial law, the British and French restored order to their respective regions and began reconstruction. On March 4, the Suez Canal was reopened after months of clean-up. In Sinai, Israel sent settlers to populate the region with Israelis, much to the ire of the Arab world.
The Five Day War
Aware of increasing Israeli power, the nations of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan forged a secret alliance in the April of 1957. On June 7, the three nations invaded Israel, but were crushed in only five days- lacking the power of an Arab nationalist Egypt. Israel annexed Golan Heights, West Bank, and part of Nabatieh from Lebanon. Although angered by the defeat and losses, Israel's victory was great enough to hold off another Arab-Israeli war for years to come. Modernization continued in Israel, helped by both its allies.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq and Jordan
Following the victorious action in Egypt, the United Kingdom became more involved with the Baghdad Pact. Turkey, Iraq, Britain, Pakistan, and Iran grew closer together in the coming months. In Baghdad, King Faisal II, who had approved of the removal of Nasser, was supported by the British government and a phase of modernization began. Arab nationalists resented British imperial influence, politicized education, and an increasingly assertive middle-class, and began to plan a coup. On February 14, 1958, King Faisal and his cousin, King Hussein of Jordan, sought to unite their two kingdoms. Jordan at that point was economically strained, defeated by Israel, and was willing to unite with the pro-British and even slightly pro-Israel Iraq. The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq and Jordan was formed, benefiting both nations. On July 14, 1958, a small, under-supported Arab nationalist uprising was quickly dealt with by the Iraqi-Jordani government under the pro-British Nuri as-Said, Faisal II, and the British government.
The Republic of Greater Syria
Meanwhile, the nearby Republic of Syria had been quickly growing more unstable throughout the year. On February 1, the corrupt government of Shukri al-Quwalti was on the verge of collapse and in desperation, Syria united with Lebanon to form the Republic of Greater Syria.
The British Empire
In the United Kingdom, the economy and culture were thriving. Instead of a bipolar world- East versus West, U.S.A versus U.S.S.R.- with the other countries swept out the picture, England and France continued their positions as global powers along with their new ally West Germany. In August 1958, Prime Minister Anthony Eden resigned on account of his health, and left with his wife Clarissa for a holiday in New Zealand. His successor, The Right Honorable Harold Macmillan was appointed by the Queen after taking advice from Winston Churchill and Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 5th Marquess of Salisbury. As the new PM knew now that the American nuclear umbrella was not reliable, he supported the British nuclear programme, worked closely with France and West Germany, and tried to rebuild what Churchill called "the Special Relationship" with the United States. In the colonies, modernization and equality spread. In the Crown Colony of Kenya, many of the newly implemented reforms, such as universal suffrage, put an end to the declining Mau-Mau Uprising.
The Demise of the Soviet Union
The Second Russian Civil War.
In the Soviet Union further friction developed between the Stalinists (e.g. Molotov and Malenkov) and the anti-Stalinists such as Nikita Khrushchev. After making his threat to attack the Tripartite Allies and failing to come through, Khrushchev was voted out of office and replaced with Nikolai Bulganin. However, Khrushchev refused to give up power and even brought in the military to remain in control. Fighting soon broke out between the two factions on the streets of Moscow, between the soldiers loyal to Khrushchev and the those who were loyal to the Stalinists. Over the next few weeks, the fighting escalated into a civil war.
The Hungarian and Polish Revolutions of 1957
Meanwhile, uprisings broke out in both Poland and Hungary, taking advantage of the conflict in Russia. After the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, sporadic armed resistances and workers' councils strikes continued into 1957, and now on July 2, 1957, an all-out revolt broke out in Hungary. Mobs swarmed the Soviet troops, released political prisoners, and by the 22 of July, overthrew János Kádár. On August 1, remaining Soviet troops in Hungary were recalled to Russia by Malenkov to fight against Khrushchev and for the second time, Imre Nagy declared that Hungary had withdrawn from the Warsaw Pact and was now a social democracy. After the revolution in Poland, the Polish government in exile returned from London, made up of the Rada Jedności Narodowej (a rump parliament) and the Rada Trzech (a body with the prerogatives of the president). For the first time in 12 years, free elections were held. Count Edward Raczyński was elected President of Poland with Kazmierz Sabbat as Prime Minister.
In 1962, the political climate of the world was very different from that in the OTL. In Europe, Britain was the strongest nation, on par with both a slightly less powerful United States and a slightly less powerful Soviet Union. Along with its own Empire, Britain spearheaded both the Commonwealth of Nations and the Central Treaty Organization (formerly the Baghdad Pact ). France and a united Germany were up next, both very strong world powers. In the Middle East, Britain exercised a considerable amount of influence, along with Israel, the most powerful country in the region. In Eastern Europe, fighting in the Soviet Union allowed Poland, Hungary, and East Germany, along with Ichkeria in the Caucasus region to break away from the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, where conflict ended in December 1961, with the victory of Khrushchev over the Stalinists. In the wake of the Second Russian Civil War, Khrushchev launched an even greater de-Stalinization campaign. In Africa, France's Egyptian territories were ceded to Britain over three years, and Egypt became a British Crown colony.