Suez Crisis

May 20, 2017

Smoke rises from oil tanks beside the Suez Canal

Smoke rises from oil tanks beside the Suez Canal, November 5, 1956. Imperial War Museums, MH 23509


Built in 1869 by the British and the French, the Suez Canal provided a direct maritime link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nassar seized and nationalized the canal, prompting fear among Western governments that the vital route of oil through the canal was compromised. Tensions came to a head when Britain and France attacked the canal zone. Canadian Secretary of State Lester B. Pearson, who had been working to obtain a diplomatic solution, then proposed a peacekeeping force that would monitor the situation. The presence of United Nations forces allowed the British, French and Israeli forces to retreat without losing face, while diffusing tensions. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1957.

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