What Caused the Suez Crisis?

The Suez Crisis of 1956, also known as the Tripartite Aggression, was a result of a United States miscalculation regarding the sale of Soviet weapons to Egypt, a last-minute U.S. refusal of funds for the Aswan High Dam project and the subsequent invasion of Egypt by Israel, France and England. One of the primary objectives of the Israeli invasion of Egypt was to gain control of the Straits of Tiran in Sinai and to allow Israeli shipping use of that waterway as a means of eliminating the need to rely upon the Suez Canal. The invasion was precipitated by Egypt's nationalizing, or taking control of, the Suez Canal, which was supposed to remain an international property for another 12 years before ownership was officially transferred to Egypt.

Pressure from both the U.S. and the Soviet Union eventually brought about the withdrawal of Israeli, French and British forces from their positions within Egypt. Israeli forces, however, remained on Egyptian territory longer than French or British forces and extended the crisis until March of the following year. The Suez Canal was finally reopened to international shipping during the following month, but Israel had gained one of its primary objectives in enabling Israeli shipping to travel through the Straits of Tiran.

The Suez Crisis represented a tense moment in Cold War super-power relations because the U.S.'s traditional allies, England and France, were backing and participating in the Egyptian invasion while the Soviet Union lent its support to Egypt. As an aftermath of the invasion, Egyptian control over the Suez Canal was confirmed by both the U.S. and the United Nations. Continuing tensions between the nations of Israel and Egypt, however, set the stage for the Six-Day War that was to follow in 1967.