Key point: This was one of the few times the United States and Soviet Union had the same foreign policy objective.
Many historians consider the Suez-Sinai campaign in the autumn of 1956 the last hurrah for British and French colonialist efforts in the Middle East. Whether or not that was the case, the campaign was certainly a highly successful dress rehearsal for the Israeli Defense Force (Zahal) and the stunning Six-Day War 11 years later, as well as an authentic military campaign in its own right. It was, in every way, Zahal’s coming-out party.
Nasser Takes the Suez
The seeds of the Suez Crisis were sown on July 23, 1952, when Egyptian Army officers overthrew their nation’s long-ruling monarch, King Farouk. Emerging at length to head the new Egyptian government was the mercurial and charismatic Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, a veteran of the Egyptian Army’s humiliating defeat by Israel in 1948. Convinced that he was destined to head the great pan-Arab alliance of millennial myth, Nasser launched an unrelenting rhetorical campaign against Israel in particular and the western world in general, which he denounced as an age-old colonizing menace.
Nasser’s campaign against Israel had less to do with defeating the eight-year-old Jewish state than with providing a convenient rallying cry he could use to unite the divergent Arab masses. Nasser’s efforts took the form of state-sponsored terrorism and as a barrage of vicious radio broadcasts aimed at the Arab street. For all his sound and fury, however, Nasser at first was only mildly annoying to the Israelis, and he was not seen as a serious threat until he successfully brokered a massive 1955 arms deal with Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia, which suddenly placed Egypt in the preeminent military position in the region.