A tale of political bungling with tragic consequences on two continents.
Following the nationalization of the Suez Canal by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt in July 1956, the governments of Great Britain, France, and Israel entered into a scheme for a joint invasion of Egypt. Each nation's leader had his own motivations, including control of the canal and oil pipelines, Nasser's support for Algerian rebels, Israeli access to the Red Sea, and a strong dislike of Nasser personally. Attempts to keep their collusion secret quickly led them into a tangle of lies to their allies—in particular the United States—to the United Nations, and sometimes to their own governments. The resulting invasion in October and November was a colossal diplomatic, political, and military fiasco resolved when an infuriated Dwight Eisenhower forced a British withdrawal by withholding support for the plummeting pound. This neo-colonialist folly further rendered Western governments incapable of confronting the Soviet Union when it crushed the Hungarian uprising that, by coincidence, occurred during the Suez crisis. For Eisenhower, who faced an election in early November, Suez was the mother of all October surprises. Guardian columnist von Tunzelmann's (Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean, 2011, etc.) narrative cracks along like an international political thriller as she tracks the action day by day, sometimes hour by hour. The British prime minister, Anthony Eden, leads the cast of characters; unhealthily obsessed with Nasser, his quixotic effort to reassert British dominance in the Middle East effectively ended Britain's status as a great power. The author lays bare at every turn the arrogance, complacency, incompetence, and wishful thinking that drove British and French decisions in a story that could appear as comedy were it not for the death, destruction, and diplomatic wreckage that resulted.
A fine new account of an unnecessary crisis that "scattered dragon's teeth on all-too-fertile soil,” which “would bear gruesome fruit for decades.”