Suez Crisis, 1956 – Eden vs Nasser. ST: ENG – FRA.

Suez Crisis, 1956 – Eden vs Nasser. ST: ENG – FRA.


This is a story of how
the Government of the United Kingdom… …decided to attack an Arab nation. Of how, afraid its oil supplies
were under threat,… …it embarked on a strategy
of regime change. Of how Britain deliberately bypassed
the United Nations. And of how a British Prime Minister
led the nation to war… …based on suspect intelligence. But this isn’t Iraq 2003. This is Egypt, 1956. These are British paratroopers, fighting on the orders
of British Prime Minister Anthony Eden. He has gambled on a war,
in a desperate bid… …to destroy Egypt’s new young President,
Gamal Abdel Nasser. I am absolutely convinced
that the action we have taken is right! This is a war over who will run
this Egyptian waterway, the Suez Canal,… …and the vital oil supplies
which are transported through it. Suez is a crisis which will push the world
to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. That moment, I did think,
“This is really going to be the Third World War”. In Britain, we know Suez is a war
based on a Prime Minister’s lie. A lie which destroys him. The MI6 sexed-up their intelligence. But seen from the other side,… …Suez is a story of how a small, poor Arab country defended itself against the Western world,… and won. People will defend their country,
they will defend their land. July the 26th, 1956. It is a warm evening, as Egyptian President,
Gamal Abdel Nasser, prepares to address his people. His country is in ferment. Only 7 days before, the young President
had suffered a humiliating blow… …when the West sabotaged his key plan
to lift Egypt out of poverty. Now, 200,000 people gathered
to hear their President’s response. But, unknown to the crowd,… …30 people, stationed on the banks of the Suez Canal, are listening for a password. A Frenchman’s name,
hidden in Nasser’s speech. {They} have their radio on… …to follow the speech,… …waiting for the password:
“de Lesseps”. When they hear this word,… …their President has told them
to storm the offices of the Suez Canal Company. [Speech in Arabic]
“…Ferdinand de Lesseps”. As jubilant Egyptians celebrate,
Nasser heads to a movie theater to relax. He doesn’t know that, in London,… …Antony Eden
has already decided to have him killed. Egypt, cradle of ancient civilizations,… …and, in the post-war era,… …strategically the most valuable country
in the Arab world. Thanks to this, the Suez Canal,
which carries oil to the economies of the West. The company that runs the canal… …is largely owned by Egypt’s old colonial masters, Britain and France,… …and is staffed by Europeans. We considered the Suez Canal Company
is a country inside our country. A state inside our state. Egypt sees virtually nothing of the tens of millions
of dollars the canal earns each year. Feelings of resentment are growing. Imagine somebody,
foreigner in your country,… …and he gives you nothing. He takes everything,
and he gives you nothing. Is that justice? In February 1955, Egypt’s young President,
Gamal Abdel Nasser,… …meets British Prime Minister,
Anthony Eden, for the first time. The two men dislike one another
from the start. The impression of President Nasser
about Anthony Eden was that he… …was a small “chercheur”,
and not a… a… you know…! …committed with imposing
the British point of view on the other side. For Eden, Egypt remains part of Britain’s
sphere of influence in the Middle East. Although nominally independent
since 1922,… …Egyptian kings have dutifully done
what British Prime Ministers have told them to do. Eden lived in the… …legend of the Empire,
but the world was different. Eden didn’t realize
the change in the balance of power. Anthony Eden is every
inch the conservative Prime Minister. Educated at Eton and Oxford,
he was Foreign Secretary during the war,… …and is Winston Churchill’s
hand-picked successor. But, in Nasser, Eden encounters
a new kind of Arab leader. He is part of a new generation of Egyptians, determined
to secure real independence for their country. {Speech in Arabic} Nasser is one of a group of officers
who had overthrown the playboy King Farouk in 1952. Two years later, Nasser had shown Britain
that Egypt would not be pushed around. An aggressive guerrilla campaign
forces the British to evacuate 88,000 soldiers… …from the biggest base in the world,
on the banks of the Suez Canal. At that time,
what was most important,… …is real independence,
and to get free, really free,… …by evacuating the troops. There was an operation… …against the British troops,… …parallel to the negotiations. When the negotiations
go in a smooth way,… …we eased the resistance. When the British delegation became stubborn,
we intensified the resistance. By the spring of 1956,
Egypt is free of British troops. With his country moving away
from its colonial past,… …Nasser embarks on an ambitious plan… …to transform the lives of his people. Egypt was very much backward. Half percent of the people
were possessing about 75% of the fortune. We had one of the lowest standards of life. The majority of Egyptians
were in the streets with naked feet. Nasser’s solution is to build a huge dam
on the Nile, at Aswan,… …which will provide
water for agriculture and electricity. It will be the biggest dam in the world,
and will lift Egypt out of poverty once and for all. This project of the high dam will provide Egypt
with water to double the farms,… and will give power, electricity,
to industrialize Egypt. But Nasser needs 400 million dollars
to realize his dream,… …an enormous sum in the 1950s. His first port of call is the West. In the beginning,… …Nasser, and all the revolution,
have no problem with the Americans. On the contrary,
we can get help from the Americans. The World Bank, backed by the United States
and Britain, agrees to give him a loan. At this point, Nasser’s relations
with the Americans seem close. Nasser’s favorite film is “It’s a Wonderful Life”,
with Jimmy Stewart, he really loves that film! And Washington arranges to send out
a special copy of the film,… …with Arabic subtitles… By 1956, Egypt’s glamorous young President
is confident his plans to develop Egypt are on course. But Nasser has another problem,
which will destroy his plans. As the sporadic fighting
takes on the proportions of full-scale war,… …dead and captured arms
are the order of the day,… …as both Arabs and Israelis
put their nations on a full mobilization basis. Nasser fought in the Arab armies,
defeated by the Israelis in 1948. Since then, the Middle East’s newest state
has fought a border war with its Arab neighbors. Israel’s very existence
is an affront to Nasser. Nasser was at the time
a great dangerous enemy. Very soon it was clear that he
aspires to a unified Arab world. Nasser made great speeches,
he was handsome, he was eloquent,… …he carried fire with him.
He was a catastrophe! The Israelis see themselves
surrounded by enemies. Fearing attack, they are desperately
trawling the world for arms. The Americans were very strict,
they wouldn’t supply arms. So did Great Britain, and I thought
that the only opening we had is France. France agrees to supply Israel
with the Jewish state’s first jet fighters. To Nasser,… …it looks like an increasingly
powerful enemy is at the gates. The French are giving Israel arms. I am confronted to issues
that may strike at my country. Should I stand still? So Nasser decides,
he too will look abroad for arms. As with the loan for his dam,
his first call is on the United States. Nasser, from the… …first day of the revolution,
asked the Americans. I need arms. Our army needs arms. And he asked the British
the same question. Neither the British, nor the Americans,
gave a response to that. But this is the 1950s. The depths of the Cold War. The West and the Soviet Union are locked
in a battle for influence across the world. Nasser knows that,
if Washington says “No”,… …then maybe Nikita Khrushchev,
in Moscow, will say “Yes”. Egypt flexes its military muscles with a display
of arms newly acquired from Russia and its satellites. The first arms from the Soviet bloc
land in Alexandria,… …on the 27th of September, 1955. The deal is a triumph for Khrushchev,… …who is keen to extend
communist influence in the region. He didn’t expect that countries
would be communist immediately. He was willing to wait. Egypt was the first great success for him. This was for Khrushchev a sign,… …the kind of relationship he could have
with many of the large states in the developing world. And for the West, this was
a very dramatic achievement. But Nasser is not in Khrushchev’s pocket,
as many in the West fear. No, Nasser has never been a communist!
Never, never, at all! We are believers! I am a believer,
I believe in God! Nasser used to believe in God! Nasser used to pray! The communists,
they don’t believe in God! They don’t pray! Nasser was an anti-communist. The Soviets knew full well
he was an anti-communist. They knew
that he was putting communists in jail! He didn’t let those communists out of jail
when his relations improved with the Soviet Union. But both sides
made a pragmatic decision. But in Eden’s view,
Nasser does look like a communist stooge. The Prime Minister and the Americans decide
to punish him for cutting a deal with the Soviets. Their response is to mount a covert campaign
against Nasser, codenamed Omega. Omega includes propaganda that provide
information to journalists, to broadcasters. They say, Nasser really isn’t a very good person.
Can you please report this? Omega also includes
sanctions against Egypt. It includes
blocking military aid to Egypt. Then, as part of this undeclared war,… …a secret decision is taken to slow down
financing of the Aswan dam. Anthony Eden and the US Secretary of State,
John Foster Dulles,… …are behind the new strategy. I think Dulles
was angry with Nasser… …for having almost flaunted
his independence. I really think that he did…
Dulles believed… …that Nasser’s behavior
was a… almost a personal affront to him. In London, Eden’s mistrust of Nasser
is increased… …by some mysterious intelligence reports
which have just landed on his desk. They are from an MI6 contact,
known as “Lucky Break”. “Lucky Break” tells Eden that Nasser
is a pawn of the Soviet Union,… …and the Egyptian people
will welcome his overthrow. From reading the reports
that MI6 is giving to British officials,… …and giving to the Americans,… …I think they are taking a few sources,
and they are sexing them up. No one individual
could have provided the information… …that Nasser
was so close to the Soviets,… …that Nasser was so vulnerable
to being overthrown, if not assassinated,… …because that was not true! That simply was not true! But “Lucky Break” is telling the British Prime Minister
what he wants to hear. [Speech] Foreign Office Minister, Anthony Nutting,
is one of the first to realize… …just how far the Prime Minister
is now prepared to go. Over an open line,
having just said “It’s me”,… …but we started a violent argument on the telephone,
and he was really violent in that conversation. Amm… And ended up by shouting at me,
“I don’t want Nasser neutralized, I want him destroyed!” There were 2 people involved in the conversation,
Eden and Nutting. Nutting said, subsequently,
that Eden [???]. Operatives within MI6
take the Prime Minister at his word. What we had was
a Thomas à Becket situation,… …where Eden says, “Will someone
not make me rid of this turbulent Nasser?” I’m not exaggerating. Nearly every month, nearly every month,
there was an attempt against us. From the West.
Either French, or British, or the US. Nearly every month! As Nasser was making
a public speech in Alexandria,… …a young man
fired eight bullets at him. All missed the Premier,
but two of his aides were wounded. The plans just are…
are wildly out of control. Putting nerve gas into the ventilation system
of Nasser’s headquarters,… …trying to put poison
into Nasser’s coffee,… …trying at some point
to possibly shoot Nasser. If “Lucky Break” did not exist in 1956,
he would have had to be created,… …to justify their extravagant plans
to get rid of Nasser. On the 19th of July, 1956, the Egyptian Ambassador
to the USA is called in to the State Department. He is informed
that the financing of the Aswan dam is canceled. If the West can’t assassinate Nasser,
then they will destroy his dreams to develop Egypt. To add insult to injury,… …President Nasser only learns of the decision
from the radio news. I was surprised by the insultive… …attitude, with which the refusal… …was declared. Not by the refusal itself,… …but the insultive attitude, and…
which meant a humiliation. Now, Nasser has two choices: … …he can meekly
accept the West’s punishment,… …or he can fight. Three days later, he gathers
his most trusted lieutenants together. President Nasser… …ordered me… …to bring him the file of the Suez Canal. And he told me,
“What about…” “…nationalizing this Canal?” I got surprised on the first time. But… …in… internally,… …in myself, I got proud! To think about this action at that time! I felt proud! Nasser calculates
that the Aswan dam can still be built… …if the tolls of ships transiting the Suez Canal
come to Egypt,… …and not the British- and French-controlled
Suez Canal Company. But Nasser knows
that nationalization is a huge risk. He will have to physically seize control
of the canal itself. The next day, he is scheduled to make his first speech
since his humiliation at the hands of the West. All Egypt waits for his response. [Speech in Arabic] The speech is an anti-climax. It was all a trick, and the… …the reaction of the Egyptians was over. He hasn’t got the balls to… to really stand up to the United States. But, afterwards, Nasser orders
an old military colleague, Mahmoud Younis,… …to mastermind the dangerous job
of taking physical control of the canal. Yunis selects 30 men he can trust. Yunis emphasized that,… …if this piece of news is released,… …then it will surely… …ahh… …not succeed. Three days later,
Nasser is scheduled to speak publicly again. The men know their cue for action
is a password hidden in the President’s speech,… …which will be carried
on Egyptian radio. The password is the name of the man
who designed the canal,… …Ferdinand de Lesseps. As they wait, they still don’t know if their President
has definitely decided to take the gamble. My feelings were a combination… …of, first, fear,… …and, of course,
the sense of responsibility… …is… is tremendous. In the stifling July heat, Nasser makes his way
to Alexandria’s Manshia Square,… …where he is to deliver his speech. Once again, his people wait to hear if he will respond
to the West’s denial of funding for the Aswan dam. At 9:00 p.m.,
Nasser climbs the podium. The speech is long. Nasser catalogues the centuries of humiliations
the Egyptians have suffered at the hands of the West. His tone is measured, but angry. On the canal, Ezet and his men
are in position, ready for the signal. But, after two hours,
it still hasn’t come. Then, the moment of truth. [Arabic]… Ferdinand de Lesseps! At this signal,… …Yunis, Ezet, and their men,
simultaneously break into the 4 main offices… …of the Suez Canal Company. In Alexandria,
Nasser leaves nothing to chance. He repeats the password
a total of 14 times. …de Lesseps… …de Lesseps… In the Canal Company headquarters,… …Yunis informs the European employees
that the company has been nationalized. He is polite,
but he is also armed. Attempts at sabotage or obstruction
by the employees will not be tolerated. They were very astonished,… …and afraid. We tried to calm them down,… …and we asked them to continue work,
as if nothing has happened. Back in Alexandria, Nasser now
reveals to the world… …what the employees of the Suez Canal Company
have just discovered. Across Egypt,
there is pandemonium. It was a bombshell, of course.
Absolute bombshell! We listened to this thing
nobody expected. People were rejoicing in the streets. I celebrated with all Egyptians. The employees of the newly nationalized company
do not join in the celebrations. I remember that
some of them said, that,… …you do not realize the impact,… …and the reactions from the West. Because the West cannot leave… …this international waterway… …ahh… …in uncapable hands. In London, Eden
is enjoying post-dinner brandies… …with military and diplomatic
top brass at Number 10. When news of Nasser’s actions
comes through, he is furious. We all know this is
how fascist governments behave,… …and we all remember,… …only too well,… …what the cost can be
in giving in to fascism. A former commanding officer of our battalion
described it in his usual blunt way to me. He said that, the moment
you mentioned the name Nasser,… …Eden practically got down
and chewed the carpet! But in the United States,
initial reaction is less belligerent. Eisenhower dispatches John Foster Dulles
to London, to calm Eden down. Dulles carries with him
a letter from the President. The letter said that under no circumstances
would American public opinion,… …or their government,
support use of force in the Middle East. But Eden has already
made his decision. The next morning,
Eisenhower had a cable from Eden,… …stating explicitly that the government had decided
that they were going to get rid of Nasser,… …that this was
the only alternative,… …that it was a firm decision,
they weren’t going to change it,… …and that… …that was that! Essentially, the British and French reaction
to the Suez Crisis… …encapsulated 2 principles
about which we have heard… …quite a lot recently. One was regime change,
feeling that was good. The other was
pre-emptive self-defense. Eden’s justification for this
is the belief that Nasser is a Soviet puppet,… …a direct threat to British interests. “Lucky Break’s” intelligence
has told him so,… …but the intelligence is wrong. In Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev
knows nothing of Nasser’s plans. When he nationalized the canal,… …it was a surprise
for the Soviet Union also. He didn’t take the permission, or anything. Even once he had made this decision,… …a few days before the announcement,
he didn’t tell the Soviets. And he didn’t tell them
for an obvious reason! He knew
what their reaction would be! Moscow would tell him,
don’t do it! The West saw Moscow
as the Ginger Man in the story,… …as provoking Nasser
to be more and more aggressive. In fact,
Moscow was doing the opposite. Meanwhile,
in the newly nationalized canal,… …the atmosphere is tense. Nasser knows that Eden does not expect
the Egyptians will be able to run the canal. Critical to its running
are the 300 pilots,… …nearly all European,
who guide each ship from one end to the other. Without these pilots,
the traffic will never start. The canal will stop. We noticed that, after… …the summer leave is over,… …some did not come back. We also noticed
that some are selling… …their cars,
their furniture. In 14th of September, at 12 o’clock,… …they declared,… “We stop work.” Seven weeks after nationalization,… …the British Prime Minister has secretly
instructed the pilots to abandon the canal. It was now an exam,… …in which, if we fail,… …then also the Suez Canal
will be lost. Egypt’s hopes rest on the shoulders
of the 26-year-old trainee pilot Ali Nasri,… …who, with only
a fortnight’s training,… …has to take a ship
through the canal. My first vessel was German,… …and the Captain came and said,
“You are from the new pilots?” I said, “Yes,…” “…and this is my first time…” “…I have to take a ship alone!” The potential for disaster is huge. The canal is
little over a hundred metres wide at points. Ali Nasri fears a miscalculation
could send his tanker into the banks,… …blocking the whole canal,
and proving Eden right. The feeling of responsibility
made me lose some confidence. I couldn’t see the buoys! You see green buoys and red buoys. I couldn’t see any! But, by time, and encouraging of the master,
and they start to give orders. Slowly, his ship moves off
down the canal. My orders are executed immediately. You keep the vessel
in the middle, straight. So I start to feel happy,… …relaxed, I can see the buoy! The vessel was moving,
so I started to feel easy, easy. Nasri’s progress is followed,
with bated breath, on the banks of the canal. I saw somebody in the road,
somebody calling, “Pilot, pilot!” Yes? I looked by the glass, I found him,
Engineer Yunis by himself! The Chairman! Standing in the road, saying,… “Good luck, go ahead!” Fourteen hours later, a ship, piloted by an Egyptian,
has passed successfully through the canal. Once again,
there are celebrations in the streets. It is beyond any imagination,… …that gives the confidence… …to the Egyptians,
that they can do… …what the whole world thought …that they cannot. But, in London, Eden is still determined
to build a case for intervention. Removing the pilots
is only his opening gambit. Now he decides
to overwhelm the inexperienced Egyptians,… …by forcing a gigantic fleet of tankers
through the canal. Now, the British had planned a nice little scheme
which would demonstrate to the world… …the Egyptians were incompetent
at running the canal. They then had lots of ships,
just poised and ready to go through the canal,… …once the pilots
had been withdrawn. Then, instead of receiving,… …say, 20 vessels at Port Said,
you receive 30,… …to make it more difficult… …for any group
to carry on as pilots. Exhausted, the 36 Egyptian pilots,
and whatever foreign recruits they can muster,… …worked day and night to deny Eden his wish,
and to keep the canal running. We were working continuously! President Nasser, at that time,… …was on the phone,
on the wireless,… …hour-by-hour! The Egyptians succeed in keeping the canal open,… …despite Eden’s best efforts at sabotage. For a second time,
the Prime Minister has been foiled. The whole world
was not expecting, at all,… …that Egypt would succeed
in this severe exam. And some of the Western papers… …suggested that the Egyptians… …cultivate the Suez Canal area
with potatoes,… …instead of running the Suez Canal. Eden is frustrated,
but Nasser feels vindicated. It is now almost 3 months
since nationalization,… …and the canal is still
open for business. It seems Eden’s plans to overthrow Nasser,
and wrestle back control of the canal, have failed. The world can see
no reason for war. Then, on the 14th of October,
2 visitors from the French Ministry of Defense… …arrive to see a gloomy Prime Minister
at his country retreat, Checkers. The French had invented
the following scenario. That Israel should attack Egypt. Thereupon, Britain and France,
who had forces in the neighborhood,,… …should say: “We cannot allow this kind of war,
because it will interfere with the Suez Canal.” “And therefore,
we are going to intervene,…” “…to hold the 2 countries apart!” I happened to be in Paris,… …so, the Ministry of Defense
called me in,… …and they said,
“Have you ever thought…” “…storming [???] Sinai?” And that’s how it started! Eden is enthusiastic
about this French plan. Not only will he be able
to seize the canal,… …he sees a way
to bring about Nasser’s downfall. You bomb Egypt,… …you create panic
within the country,… …you link this to an invasion,
Israeli invasion,… …and a new government will emerge,
and Nasser will be no more. As Eden is plotting in Britain,… …the rest of the world is trying
to broker a peace deal at the United Nations. Eden has reluctantly sent
his Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd,… …to meet with the French
and Egyptians at New York. To Lloyd’s surprise,
the talks are going well. He desperately hoped
that he would be able to make real progress… …in these talks at the United Nations,… …and was encouraged by Egyptian Foreign Minister Fawzi’s willingness to talk over the subject. But just as it seems
progress is being made,… …the atmosphere changes. The attitude of Pineau, the French Foreign Minister,
was very ambiguous. From the beginning, he seemed to be prepared
to get down to a real negotiation,… …but then, halfway through,… …he seemed to lose interest entirely,… …and we wondered
what was going on,… …and why. Eden, anxious that no deal
is struck in New York,… …telephones Lloyd, and orders him
to abandon the talks immediately. The Foreign Secretary, feeling
he might be close to a solution, is exasperated. Selwyn Lloyd probably thought that it was worthwhile
continuing with these discussions. You might say, like Hans Blix thought
that he could do with a couple more month’s time… …to decide something very definite
about the weapons of mass destruction. But Eden would never yield. Eden has another agenda, and instructs
Lloyd and Logan to travel, in secret,… …to a parisian suburb called Sèvres,
to finalize the plot with the French and Israelis. Lloyd was desperately disappointed,… …but felt a loyalty.
He had to do it. But it turned his stomach.
He hated it all the way through. The document agreed on here,
known as the Sèvres Protocol,… …puts down, in black and white,
the covert plan to invade Egypt, and fool the world. At the end, copies of the protocol
are presented for signatures. Patrick Deane, a Foreign Office official,
signs on behalf of the British,… …but Eden does not expect his desire for war
to be confirmed in writing. We returned late that night,
and took the documents to him, at Number 10. And his immediate reaction was,
“Oh, my God, I never expected this to be signed!” When this document finally emerged,
40 years later,… …it confirmed how a British Prime Minister
had deceived the world,… …and deliberately engineered
a war in the Middle East. On October the 29th,… …the Israelis land a parachute brigade
deep in the Sinai, as agreed at Sèvres. Nasser is awoken at 4 a.m.,
and told the news. You can tell that we were surprised,
and not surprised. How? We were predicting
that there will be an action against Egypt. But we have no
information from Israel. But the Israeli advance
towards the canal is a fake,… …designed purely to convince the world
that the canal is threatened. It was about 40 kilometers
from the canal, or 45 kilometers,… …but when you look at big maps,
then you can say,… “Ahh, the drop was
not far from the canal!” That was enough to fulfill the needs of the British
to say “The canal is struck!”. We didn’t go into the motives
and considerations of France and England,… …because our aims were clear. The Israeli forces concentrate instead
on destroying the Egyptian army in Sinai,… …which they have long seen
as a threat to Israel’s security. The attack takes
Nasser’s commanders by surprise. They are quickly overwhelmed,
and forced to retreat. The following day, Britain and France
issued their ultimatum, as planned at Sèvres. Israel and Egypt are to cease fighting,
or the 2 Western powers will intervene. Eden knows this is an ultimatum
that Nasser cannot accept. On the evening of the 30th of October,
the ultimatum expires. Shortly afterwards, Nasser hears planes
in the skies above Cairo. I was at the Indonesian Embassy,… …and there was the air warning,… …and then came the blackout. I listened,… …and there was the jet airplanes. And I said to the Indonesian Ambassador,
“These are British!”. Now, Nasser realizes, just how much
Eden is prepared to gamble. I haven’t thought at all
that Britain would do any attack against us. Because it was clear
that any attack against us… …would affect the British position
all over the Arab countries,… …and would mean the end of the British relations
and influence in the Middle East. As the bombs fall, a frightened Egyptian population
rush to join civilian militias. Most of us, the young people,
decided that we were going to defend the country. We really didn’t know what we’re gonna do,
because our training was very cursory. It included one clip of live ammunition. When we joined, first thing they did,
was they gave us those cases of… …Kalashnikov rifles,
right out out of the boxes, with grease. And they said,
“Okay here is your rifle!”, you know? This makeshift civilian army now waits
for the arrival of British paratroopers. We hear a lot of fire,
people firing rifles, and firing in the air. We didn’t know what was happening, you know?
Everybody is a parachutist, you know? Any noise, you think
somebody has just come from sky,… …so it was a very, very tense moment,
and we were scared. But Cairo, where Talaat Batrawi
and other volunteers are waiting,… …is not the target
for the British paratroopers’ assault. Port Said, at the mouth of the canal,… …is where Britain will begin
the reconquest of Egypt. After 5 days
of aerial bombardment,… …668 British paratroopers
land in Port Saïd. The city quickly finds itself
under occupation,… …but its population is determined not to give Eden
the easy victory he has anticipated. And then, they landed. The British landed in Port Said. So, of course,
we wanted to wipe them out! All the people… …have arms, and guns,
and machine guns. They shoot at the aeroplanes,… …and every Egyptian people are ready
to sacrifice himself, in order to defend his country. As the resistance mobilizes,… …the British Prime Minister
is insisting to the world that his actions… …are right, legal, and morally sound. All my life,
I’ve been a man of peace,… …working for peace,… …striving for peace,… …negotiating for peace,. …and I’m still the same,… …with the same conviction,… …the same devotion to peace. But I’m utterly convinced… …that the action
we have taken is right. As Eden is speaking,
Port Said is burning. There were two streets,
Abbas Street and Ahmed Oraby Street. These were mainly
slums of wooden huts,… …so they shot powder at these homes,
and they were all set ablaze. One could see so many homes burned,
from the start to the end of the street. These homes were all burned. I saw corpses down the streets,
that nobody could burn,… and they brought small wagons,
usually used to sell vegetables,… …and put six or seven corpses on every wagon,
to take them to the graveyard,… …in order to be buried there. And I saw 2 corpses
which were flattened to the ground altogether. They were crushed by tanks. The war is barely a week old. Hundreds of Egyptian civilians
have already been killed in the bombing campaign,… …and more die
in the street fighting that follows. It is at this point that Eden hopes
a terrified Egyptian population… …will rise up to overthrow Nasser. They do not understand
what Egypt is. They were completely wrong. The Egyptians were, all of them,
were one heart behind Nasser. When they feel a foreign threat,
the people come together. And this has happened exactly. The Egyptian Armed Forces
may be hopelessly outgunned,… …but Nasser and his government
remain in Cairo. Plans are made to begin a guerrilla war,
should the Army be overwhelmed. A popular army, to fight in the canal’s industries,
in the countryside, in the port. We were hiding arms all over the villages,
everywhere in Egypt,… …so that even if it…
if the troops, they came to invade Egypt,… …we will fight, we will resist. And to prevent
the British taking the canal,… …Nasser orders ships to be sunk,
and the canal blocked Eden’s invasion has succeeded in obstructing
the very waterway he is trying to save,… …and that isn’t
the Prime Minister’s only miscalculation. The Suez crisis suddenly increases
the temperature of the Cold War. Burning buildings and bitter street fighting
signal the release of long pent-up resentment. Two thousand kilometers away, in Budapest,
the Soviet Union’s empire in Europe… …is threatened by a popular uprising. The Red Star has been ripped. The hated symbol of communism
is effaced, wherever found. Nikita Khrushchev sees his ally Nasser
coming under attack in Cairo,… …and realizes that Soviet prestige
appears to be crumbling on 2 continents. He feels that the West
is taking advantage of him when he is down. That the British and the French
are watching his troubles in Eastern Europe,… …and see that they have an opportunity to deal
with one of his allies now, because he is distracted. His reaction, was the reaction
of a political leader who is… …fearful,… …surprised,… …and angry, at the same time. Khrushchev uses the city of Budapest
to send a bloody message to the West,… …as recent research has uncovered. We have the Politburo minutes,
and it makes clear… …what’s going on here. He wants to send a signal then, that,
“No, the Soviet Union is as powerful as ever”. “You cannot mess with me either
in the Middle East or in Eastern Europe”. Then, Khrushchev ups the stakes. Lacking conventional forces in the Middle East
to help Egypt against the British and French,… …he threatens the West with the
“Doomsday Option”. He said to the world that,
“Don’t be surprised…” “…if the consequence of your actions is
that nuclear weapons will fall on London and Paris”. This was the first time
they had ever made a nuclear threat. Suddenly, it looks
like Eden’s adventure in Egypt… …is going to end in Armageddon. Somebody had a radio,… …and we heard on that, that the Russians
were threatening to drop bombs on London. And the Chinese
might be about to join in too. And, that moment, I did think,
this is really going to be the Third World War. The threat of nuclear war
concentrates minds in Washington,… …where President Eisenhower
is already furious with the Prime Minister. The United States was not consulted in any way
about any phase of these actions. Nor were we
informed of them in advance. He was so angry with the British!
I mean, he was really angry with… with the British. They’d gone around his back,
and colluded with these other guys! In front of the world, the American Secretary of State
condemns his country’s oldest ally. I doubt that any delegate
ever spoke from this forum… …with as heavy a heart… …as I have brought…
here tonight. Eden had the… …awful… …realization… …that he had totally misjudged
the American aspect of the affair. Eden’s plans are unraveling fast. He has not anticipated
this level of hostility from the Americans,… …nor from his own people! “If you are sincere in what you are saying,
then you are too stupid to be a Prime Minister!” There was demonstrations in London
as big as demonstrations in Egypt. And there is only one way in which they can even begin to restore their tarnished reputation! And that is to get out! Get out! Get out! The world sees photographs
which show, in grisly detail,… …the effects of the war
on the Egyptian people. As opposition across the world mounts,… …morale in Port Said soars. People around the world
were backing you! In the West,… …we had the public opinion
with Egyptians. And Eden realizes he has fatally miscalculated
the reaction of the Egyptian population to invasion. If you ask me,… “Were they afraid?”
Yes, we were all afraid! Because nobody likes to die. We used to live… …a daily natural life,… …but with little commodities,
limited food. But people would stay on,
on cafés, listening to the radio,… …encouraging you to resist! Very special atmosphere! Nasser refuses to go into hiding. He determines instead to rally his people
after Friday prayers at Cairo’s ancient al-Azhar mosque. In London, Eden is feeling the strain. He has failed to win
the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people. Nasser is more popular than ever. And now comes the decisive blow. Britain’s currency reserves have been hemorrhaging since the bombing campaign began,… …as dealers all over the world
dump Sterling. In those days,
Britain was the banker of the Sterling area. Britain saw immediate danger
of the bottom falling out of them. When Eden appeals to the Americans
for financial help,… …President Eisenhower makes sure
there will be no room for misunderstanding this time. Eisenhower was quite firm.
He said, “As soon as you agree to get out,…” “…and really are getting out,
we will help you, but not a minute before!” On the 6th of November, after 9 days of war,
Eden has no choice. With British troops having advanced
little over 10 miles down the canal,… …the Prime Minister
reluctantly calls a ceasefire. If the United Nations
will take over this police action,… …we shall welcome it! Indeed, we propose
that course to them! The arrival of United Nations contingents
at Port Said causes a sensation… …that nearly develops into a riot
by excitable Egyptians! Of course,
I was jumping with joy. When the last British soldier left,
we used to say, “Go to hell!” Plans are made for United Nations troops
to replace the British and French on the ground. The ceasefire is a humiliating climb down
for Eden and his commanders. I have to say that most of the officers
in the regiment took it as a mortal blow. I think it was very, very hard
on the professional soldiers,… …who’d gone into this enterprise
in good faith,… …thought that this was going to be
the final roar of the British lion,… …and suddenly found
that it was just a sort of, ahh,… …mingy little squeak,
that had achieved nothing! For the Prime Minister,
the pressure of failure is unbearable. With Britain facing a winter fuel crisis
because of the closure of the canal,… …he leaves the country for Jamaica,… …his health and career crumbling. Sir Anthony, the mode of your departure,
may we ask you how you are feeling? My feelings are
that I am… …deeply sorry to have had
to leave the country at this time. Five weeks later, he is back.
But not for long! Eden never returned
to frontline politics,… …and his reputation never recovered
from taking Britain to war in the Middle East,… …under false pretenses. Britain’s reputation
was equally damaged. Well, it… it was
a total, utter disaster! And it took us 20 years… …to recover our rightful position… …as someone who was not… …the Lord and Master in that area,… …but a friend to those states
which had emerged… …after many centuries
when we and the French had ruled the roost! In Egypt, the Suez Crisis
was the making of Nasser. The 23rd of December, 1956,
noon Tuesday! It was the first day
after the liberation of Port Said,… …and the whole city was out,
to celebrate victory day! At that time, he was,… you know, he was god!
Ha, ha, ha, ha! I have to say! President Nasser is a historic… …hero. In the aftermath of the Suez Crisis,
Nasser was fêted all over the Arab world. Here, at last, was a leader
who could stand up to the West,… and win! And the Arabs, at that time,
start to realize that Nasser was the hero,… …who was sent by God
to retrieve the Arabs… …from many years of subordination. Nasser, in a sense,
was a big winner. But it was a win which set him up
to be an awfully big loser. Because Nasser eventually came to believe
his own propaganda, that he’d won a great battle. A little over ten years later,
Nasser decides that he is strong enough… …to settle old scores
with the Israeli invaders of 1956. In 1967, he said : … “Last time, we were fighting
Israel, Britain, and France. We won then. This time,… …Israel is alone! It is an appalling misjudgment. In the Sinai desert,
in the wake of Egypt’s catastrophic retreat,… …lie Nasser’s wrecked tanks. The whole world hopes,
that from great victory and utter defeat,… …wisdom will emerge,
and bring lasting peace to this part of the world. But, instead of peace
coming to the Middle East,… …the unresolved issues
of the 1967 war,… …the West Bank, and Gaza Strip,
still poison the region today. The end of the Suez Crisis
was also the moment a new power… …decided to take center stage
in the Middle East. Within weeks
of the end of the war,… …President Eisenhower,
convinced that the British and French… …could no longer be trusted
to protect Western interests in the region,… …announces a fateful change
in American policy. He concludes
that what the Middle East needs… …is more American involvement,…
not less. The Eisenhower doctrine said,
“We’re going to safeguard any country…” …which is threatened by communism
within the Middle East” That’s the old idea of, “You either are with us
in Washington, or with us in Moscow”,… …and that cuts out a third way
for Arab nationalism. The very factors which led the Americans
to keep their distance from Britain… …in moving too aggressively
at Nasser in 1956,… …they lose sight of those. The occasion… …has come for us… …to show our deep respect for the rights
and independence of every nation,… …however great,
however small. We seek, not violence,…
but peace. It is a policy which echoes
from Suez to today. States like these,
and their terrorist allies,… …constitute an axis of evil. I will not wait on events
while dangers gather. The United States of America will not permit
the world’s most dangerous regimes… …to threaten us
with the world’s most destructive weapons. This is not the time to falter. This is the time
for this House to give a lead. To show that we will stand up
for what we know to be right! To show that we will confront the tyrannies,
and dictatorships, and terrorists,… …who put our way of life at risk. The fact of the matter is,
that Iraq could turn out in the long run… …to be a Suez 50 years later,… …but whereas that will take years
to find out with Iraq,… …with Suez we found it out
within a matter of weeks. Ordinary Egyptians have drawn their own lessons
from the Suez Crisis. There is a great difference
between resistance… …and terrorism. I was a patriot,
defending my country! The spirit of resistance
is deeply rooted in our country,… …and in the area. When the US and Britain went into Iraq, with the idea
of being accepted with open arms, and so on,… …that was a very stupid idea. I mean, where did they ever
come up with that idea? I don’t know! They could have looked… …at the History books, they could have looked
at the Suez Crisis, you know,… …which is, after all,
it’sonly 50 years ago! …and they could have learned
that this will never happen! It will never happen! You know, people will defend their country,
they will defend their land! I am a human being,
I have dignity! I don’t accept any foreigner
to dominate me! Or else… I am a slave! Right or wrong?

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