Suez: A Very British Crisis

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‘Suez: A Very British Crisis’ is a BBC Two series, depicting how the Suez crisis in the 1950s signaled the end of Britain’s history as a power that could act alone on the world stage. It uses dramatic reconstructions and interviews with participants and witnesses to the crisis. Betrayal – The first part shows how the Suez Canal in Egypt was a symbol of western dominance. As France and Britain were the major shareholders in the company that ran the canal and British troops occupied its banks, when Gamal Abdul Nasser came to power in 1954, his main objective was to remove the British from Egypt. The British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, did not understand that the world had changed. Conspiracy – This part explains how Britain plotted with France and Israel to gain back control of the canal, when Nasser seized control of the Suez Canal. Nasser was regarded as a dictator whose claim to represent all Arabs was a direct threat to British interests in the Middle East. He was determined to make Nasser reverse his decision by force if necessary. The plan was for Israel to invade Egypt, its neighbor, allowing Britain and France to issue an ultimatum to each side to stop fighting or they would intervene to “save” the canal. War – In the final episode, Anthony Eden takes Britain to war in Suez. The invasion took place as planned. But Eden had not informed the Americans. When they found out, they were concerned about wider relations with the Arab world and refused to back the operation. Desperately short of funds and without financial support from the Americans, the British were forced to pull out of Suez by December 1956.

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