Great Britain and Intervention

British Policy regarding the Spanish Civil War and the Suez Crisis

Yannick van Mook

March 1997

Master's thesis at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Cover photographs: two consequences of British policy:
left: Italian aircraft in Nationalist colours bombard Spain almost at will. (Edito Service, Genève).
right: Two Egyptian children in a ruined part of Port Said. (Onze Jaren, Amsterdam: Amsterdam Boek, 1975).



Chapter I: Introduction to British Foreign Policy

Chapter II: The Spanish Civil War

Chapter III: The Suez Crisis

Chapter IV: Conclusion

Appendix A: The Mediterranean Sea, 1936

Appendix B: The Middle East, 1956


Summary in Dutch * Nederlandse Samenvatting


The reactions of the United States, Great Britain, France and other countries to the Gulf War between Iraq and Kuwait and to the immensely cruel war in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s give the impression that these states only intervene if oil interests are involved. However, more factors may determine policies towards international crises or wars.

In the following pages the factors that made Britain refrain from intervention during the Spanish Civil War and that made her invade Egypt during the Suez Crisis will be investigated and compared. Unless the British Government chose these policies for no particular reason or purely on emotional grounds, it must have done so because it thought that these approaches served certain interests. The central question is whether these were the interests of, for instance, its own country, a set of principles or a politician's career.

The wars in Spain and Egypt seem to have little in common. One was a civil war, the other was a conflict between states, triggered by an act of nationalization. Twenty years separated them and during five of these years the world saw one of the greatest wars ever. Nevertheless, the Spanish Civil War and the Suez Crisis both took place when Britain was a major political and military power, when she faced the menaces of dictatorships like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, when anti-communism coloured opinions and when Anthony Eden was a prominent British statesman.

Section one of chapter one is a concise historical account of British foreign policy to place the Spanish Civil War and the Suez Crisis in a broader context. The second section briefly discusses the Foreign Office and the making of foreign policy in a democratic, parliamentary system. In the following chapters this will be illustrated further. Chapters two and three respectively describe London's approaches to the Spanish Civil War and the Suez Crisis, concentrating on the reasons of these reactions. The fourth chapter compares the factors that led to non-intervention in Spain and intervention in Egypt and draws out which interests, if any, were thought to be served.


Chapter I: Introduction to British Foreign Policy

A Hundred Years Before the Suez Crisis

In 1856 British forces won the Crimean War.[1] Two years earlier they entered the Black Sea with the self-confidence of soldiers who could rightly claim to serve the most powerful country in the world. Despite co-operation with France, the battles turned out harder than expected. Great Britain's leading role was not unchallenged. Sea power, on which England had relied since Elisabeth I, lost strategic importance in relation to land power in the course of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the Admiralty not only had to face the maritime forces of traditional rivals like France and Russia but also the emergence of the American, German and Japanese navies. Strained by the enormous global commitments, the Royal Navy eventually had to give up its supremacy in the New World and the Far East in the 1890s, to concentrate on the North Sea and the Imperial Route to India. The booming American and German economies weakened Britain's relative position in industry and trade while mounting defence expenditure pressurized the country's economic and financial resources. At home these were necessary to provide for the social reforms asked by the growing electorate. Concerning foreign affairs the population preferred a policy of peace and limited involvement abroad. To face German ambitions after the turn of the century, Britain searched for compromise and reconciliation. The possible defeat of France and Belgium by Germany was however a direct threat to the kingdom. When war broke out in 1914, British forces had to intervene.

The horrors of the Great War reinforced pacifism among Britons. Influenced by this, Whitehall, more than before, sought to settle international quarrels by negotiations, preferably on a multilateral basis. The new League of Nations institutionalized this ideal. In these years British diplomats started to use the word 'appeasement' frequently. Then, to appease meant, inter alia, 'to pacify, by satisfying demands'.[2] Such policy was practised before, but after the war it became a more outspoken element of Britain's external politics. Cooperation with potential allies and reconciliation with potential enemies were the means to secure stability. Multilateral treaties were signed to limit armaments and to establish friendly relations with the other powers. Britain had begun with the appeasement of Germany as the terms of Versailles were thought too harsh, causing grievances among her population and affecting international economy. Disputes with France on this issue were eventually settled. The Locarno Treaty and the Briand-Kellogg Pact, in which the signatories officially renunciated war, gave the impression of the advent of a peaceful era.

However, it turned out to be a time of economic crisis and international tensions. The condition of the British economy, which strength had continued to decline after the war, made the Treasury decide to decrease defence expenditure. It would further reduce Britain's freedom of action abroad. World-wide disarmament was therefore in her interest, but success became highly improbable when the Nazis took power in Germany and militarism ruled Japan. British diplomats did not know what to think of Hitler. The wish to preserve peace and the belief that he would calm down when part of his goals were achieved made the British accept German rearmament and the return of the Saar-region inside the Reich. Appeasement was accompanied by unconvincing efforts to remedy Britain's defence deficiencies and the search for support from other powers without becoming committed to the safety of continental countries besides France and Belgium.

Outside Europe the UK did not receive much help in counterpoising Japanese aggression in China, whose government she supported. The threat of war in the Far East and the foul language of the Nazis gave Italy's dictator Mussolini the courage to assert himself. The Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 was only condemned by words and trifling economic sanctions. A year later war broke out in Spain. Again, the Duce felt free to use force and intervened. Like him, Hitler took British and French inaction for granted. In March 1938 he remilitarized the Rheinland where, since World War I, Berlin was not allowed to station troops. He joined Italy in Spain and annexed Austria in 1938. The British government still hoped for some bargain with the Führer which should have held out at least until successful rearmament. Appeasement continued and Czechoslovakia was advised to adopt such a policy as well in her dealings with Hitler's claims for parts of her territory. In Munich, in September 1938, Prime Minister Chamberlain permitted Germany to take these parts and called the agreement a triumph for peace. The Nazi dictator defied Munich by invading Prague in March 1939. Mussolini quietly occupied Albania. Britons inside and outside Westminster knew that appeasement had gone too far. Great Britain committed herself to intervene on the continent if Hitler attacked Poland. He did so on 1 September 1939. Without having secured American and Soviet aid yet, the UK and France entered war against Germany and later also against Japan and Italy.

Towards the end of the Second World War, Britain's allies overshadowed her. The rise of Soviet Russia, encroaching upon large parts of Europe, was a source of growing concern. Labour and the Conservatives agreed that their country's security was best served by promoting cooperation between other European states and by assuring US participation in Western European defence. In 1949 NATO forged America's transatlantic commitment as a balance to Stalin's power.

Decolonization appeared inevitable after World War II. The hardships of the war were also felt in the colonies and countries linked to the UK. The motherland was partly blamed for them, especially there where the British had imposed harsh wartime measures. Like after the First World War London sought to meet grievances by doses of decentralization. This time, however, Britain had to go further; the defeat by Japan in 1941 had led her to promise independence to India. This was given in 1947. Yet, the UK was reluctant to leave other territories, not only because of imperialist sentiments but also for strategic reasons. This caused disappointment and unrest, which was aggravated due to economic problems. Unlike during earlier periods of discontent, Britain was less able to supress unrest. Without Indian manpower, without her former strength and with her presence needed along the European Iron Curtain, Britain chose to leave some in order to keep the rest. Pressure to depart from colonies and client states was exerted by the US and other countries and by the United Nations, of which the UK was a founding member. Its Charter denounced oppression of other peoples; many Britons, including an increasing number of MP's, agreed and accepted that they had to let them go. The successive British governments more or less responded to these opinions and eventually bade the Empire farewell.

Since World War II, world opinion mattered more than ever before. Thanks to decolonization, a large variety of countries could speak with their own voices. Having been victims of European force, they were sensitive to any recurrence of this. In the so-called Western world, the public and more and more politicians hoped that force would no longer form part of state practice. As far as its founders were sincere, the UN was created for this purpose. The UN Charter states in article 2.4 that 'All members shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state'. The Rule of Law was hoped to have replaced the Rule of Force. Of course, the Law of the Jungle prevailed. In 1956, after all that had changed in the world in a hundred years, a crisis, this time in Egypt, prompted Great Britain to send her forces, accompanied by the French, to the Eastern Mediterranean. But the old lion was surpassed by an eagle and a bear.

Making Foreign Policy

The Foreign Office has usually been rather aloof from the rest of British political life.[3] Though not as élitiste as before World War I, it has remained more socially exclusive than the other departments, to which the world of foreign relations seems small and secretive. Between the wars relations were not very close either with the India Office, the Colonial Office, the Dominions Office, the Board of Trade, the Admiralty, the Air Ministry and the War Office. These departments, each with international and stategic responsabilities, were often at odds instead of working together. To improve co-ordination between their policies a range of committees existed. After World War II, decolonization and departmental mergers, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence remained, giving the former a stronger role in directing Britain's outside relations than ever before.

To do so, the foreign secretary is helped by his[4] clerks and officials, including ambassadors and consuls. They gather information, assess it, give advise and execute the policy decided upon, and by advisers from other departments and the armed services. The extent of their influence can be considerable. It must not be ruled out, nor exaggerated, that they may sometimes withhold information from their minister to direct policy to a certain direction. The senior civil servants in particular can contribute to policy-making as they have more time to concentrate on issues than the foreign secretary, who is also a Member of Parliament. The latter has, furthermore, the disadvantage of staying in office for a limited period, making him somewhat dependent on the experience of his more permanent subordinates. The Private Office, consisting of a personally chosen secretary and some assistants, reinforces the minister's position. Moreover, in his relations with the Civil Servants, much depends on his personality and determination.

These traits are also important in his dealings with the other members of the government. The prime minister is in a position to dominate British politics effectively. He or she is the main coordinator of the different departments' policies and often takes a keen interest in financial, economic and foreign affairs. Ministers are bound to support their government in public as they are collectively responsible for its decisions. If a minister stands alone in his or her opinions on a particular issue, he or she must give in or resign. The foreign secretary must take notice of opinions in Parliament as well. His party's MPs are supposed to be loyal to their ministers, but this loyalty is largely based on persuing a policy that is known to be acceptable to them.

Support of the population is of special importance as the electorate decides whether the Government will stay in office. The alternation of ministers may damage continuity in foreign policy and it can be argued that some politicians are after short term success to safeguard their positions. Citizens organized in pressure groups have gained influence with the rise of the mass media and as a source of information their power must not be underestimated in the UK.[5] Their attitude and that of the public can more easily be ignored when elections are not due for several years. There is, furthermore, a general deference and lack of enthusiasm towards politics among the population. Things are different when politicians enter a field that may deeply affect the country, like war and peace. Propaganda can raise support for government actions, but mishandling of affairs, politically or militarily, may lead to wide discontent and public outrage. Those dealing with foreign policy have to consider their time's values and ideas, however vague and fashionable they may be. They themselves may have an 'individual taste' as Cedric Lowe calls it, which inspires their policies.[6] It is important to note that foreign policy is the result of intuition, emotion, mood and character as well as rational logic.


Chapter II: The Spanish Civil War

July - September 1936

The Spanish Republic and the United Kingdom

When the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed on 14 April 1931, many Spaniards cherished the hope for better social circumstances and the end of oligarchy. Monarchy had fallen after a bloodless revolution, giving place to democracy.[7]

Great Britain, the world's oldest democracy, did not share Spain's joy. She regretted the departure of King Alfonso XIII, whose wife was an English princess. Whitehall doubted whether the Republic was able to maintain enough stability to protect foreign economic investments and prevent revolutions of the so-called Proletariat. Her territorial integrity was threatened by regional separatism. The Foreign Office feared a fragmented Iberian Peninsula, posing dangers already experienced in the Balkans. As for bolshevist dangers, London was well informed by Ambassador Sir George Grahame that communism had only marginal support in contrast to anarchism.[8]

Up until 1936 Whitehall was fairly pleased with the successive governments in Madrid. Although in a brutal way, they maintained order. When in December 1935 the Spanish Government fell, a bitter election campaign started, which polarized the country and strengthened extremism. Former Prime Minister Manuel Azaña nevertheless managed to form a Popular Front, uniting the Left Republicans, Socialists, regionalists and Communists under a moderate program. In London it was feared that such a government would not be able to resist left extremist demands for long. Furthermore, the Popular Front seemed inspired by the Comintern's urge to form anti-fascist alliances. British officials believed that this was a Soviet strategy to set up communist regimes abroad.[9]

In February 1936, the Popular Front won by a slight difference. Azaña's reforms were unsatisfactory for those on his left. According to Grahame's successor, Sir Henry Chilton, some leading Socialists were eager to set up a Soviet Republic. He added that a right wing coup d'état would unleash left extremist terror. Despite the facts that the Comintern called for moderation and loyalty to Azaña and that the Spanish Communist Party was fairly quiet and small, British observers came up with evidence of Soviet agitation.[10]

Meanwhile, British relations with Madrid deteriorated. British mining companies warned that violence and Azaña's policies threatened the continuation of their Spanish activities, which, as it was stressed, were of strategic importance to the UK. The Republic disregarded economic agreements and even risked a tariff war in June. The increasing violence was not sufficiently dealt with. Extremists fought each other openly and particularly those on the left were felt to endanger British lives and properties. On 2 July a British manager was shot. To Whitehall it was clear that the Spanish authorities were 'either afraid or powerless to maintain order'.[11]

By July 1936 the Republic had lost all British sympathy. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and others in London saw a strong resemblance between their time's Spain and Russia in 1917.[12] On the 17th, the Spanish Generals Sanjurjo, Mola and Franco started a military rising to prevent what the British Government dreaded.[13]

The First Days

The rising partly succeeded. The insurgents took over control in the Moroccan Protectorate and in less than half of Spain. However, their position was strong enough to continue the rebellion and plunge the country they said to love into war.

The British Government was soon aware of the serious situation in Spain. It immediately sent the Royal Navy to evacuate Britons and others. Less decisiveness occured from the sale of oil to Loyalist warships and their use of the international port of Tangier, which General Francisco Franco threatened to bomb. The Cabinet did not reach a clear conclusion on this matter, whereas, on 21 July, Paris decided to urge the Republicans to leave Tangier. This French initiative was gratefully followed by Whitehall, which lacked the political courage to adopt measures clearly acting against Loyalist interests.[14]


The Proletarian Revolution seemed to become reality when in July and August armed workers took over companies and landless peasants seized land. In many areas, the Spanish Government had lost its authority to unions and local militia who claimed power after having helped to fight muting officers.

In London, most Conservatives, whose party dominated the National Government, were not inclined to help such a regime. Viscount Halifax, Lord Privy Seal, agreed with Samuel Hoare, First Lord of the Admiralty, that Britain should on no account 'do anything to bolster up Communism in Spain'.[15] Eden's advisers dismissed the Spanish Government's legal status as it was 'a Government which was failing to govern'.[16] The Foreign Secretary valued what Señor Oliván, the Spanish Ambassador and a personal friend, told him. 'In gloomy tones' he said that 'neither side could be said to represent democracy and liberty'.[17]

The Loyalists lost all credit due to the unchecked violence that raged through the Republic in the early months of the war. A minority of left extremists and trigger-happy men killed many thousands of people. London was shocked; the 'bolshevik reign of terror' had begun.[18] Officers of the Royal Navy were likewise taken aback when they saw crews of Spanish warships throwing overboard the corpses of commanders who had tried to support the coup.[19]

In Favour of the Nationalists

From the very start of the military rising, many in British Government circles favoured the Nationalists, as the insurgents were later called. Admiral Sir Ernle Chatfield, head of the Chiefs of Staff, thought that Franco's cause was 'much nobler than the Reds''. Ambassador Chilton, who had fled Madrid on 26 July and continued his work in southern France, neglected Anglo-Republican relations. As his American colleague reported, he tried to 'serve the Insurgents'.[20] Among the Conservatives in the House of Commons only the Duchess of Atholl and Vyvyan Adams favoured a Loyalist victory in 1936. In the Cabinet, sympathy lay more with the generals' revolt.[21]

This pro-Nationalist tendency persisted despite the knowledge that the mutineers received help from Mussolini and Hitler. Already during the first weeks of the war they sent important material and logistic aid. These dictators' support did not put the insurgents in a bad light. According to Neville Thompson in The Anti-Appeasers, there was among Tories a 'considerable sympathy and even admiration for the Italian system'. German Nazism had fewer admirers but on balance it was preferred to communism as it posed less 'threat to the existing social order'.[22] Of the Conservatives with more understanding of the German and Italian menace to Europe, which included Baldwin and Eden, almost all thought that it would not manifest itself in Spain.[23]

Despite the preference for the Nationalists, intervention on their behalf was not seriously considered. It was unnecessary: Italy and Germany already gave valuable aid. More importantly, the relationship with Paris, where a Popular Front governed, should not be put under severe strain. The future of Spain did not arouse many emotions and support for the insurgents was not ardent.[24] To assist disobedient generals in their bloody struggle against an officially recognized government would go too far, especially in the eyes of the British public, which seemed to prefer the Republicans.[25] As Sir George Mounsey, one of the Assistent Under-Secretaries at the Foreign Office, remarked, it would be 'contrary to all our principles of correctness and justice'.[26]


In July 1936, the Foreign Office was concentrating on a new Locarno-Pact and a treaty with Egypt. Events in Spain were considered less important. Having sent the Navy to evacuate people, Whitehall wanted no further involvement and merely hoped that Spain would not turn Red. However, as France started to support the Republic, there was no time to sit back.

Asked to do so by the Republican Government, Premier Léon Blum of France sent weapons and aircraft to Spain on 20 July. When he was in London a few days later, he was, according to historian Pierre Renouvin, warned by Baldwin and Eden. They are reported to have told him that in a conflict between France and Italy over Spain, their country would stay neutral and that German troops were moving to the French border.[27] As for domestic pressure on Blum, no doubt exists. The arms deliveries had launched heated debates in the French Cabinet, Parliament and press. On the 25th Blum assembled his ministers and the ensuing debate resulted in the suspension of aid to the Spanish Government.[28]

Two days later Eden described his Government's position on Spain as one of 'non-intervention'. Not wanting both sides to receive any sort of British help, he was displeased that the Republic, as a recognized power, could buy weaponry from British arms manufacturers. However, the Foreign Secretary and the Cabinet thought it legally too troublesome to take measures against such sales. Nevertheless, when Eden gave his instructions on foreign policy before he went on holiday on the 31st, he hoped that it was possible 'to avoid supplying [arms] by some means or other'.[29]

During the summer many members of the British Government, including the Prime Minister, were absent. The Foreign Office was now practically alone in formulating international policy. Until his return on 15 August, Eden remained in contact to control the broad lines of foreign affairs, leaving more detailed matters to his staff and Halifax, who deputized for him.[30]

Towards the end of July it became public knowledge through the press that the insurgents received active help from Italy, Germany and Portugal. On the 31st Blum reacted by declaring that continuation of this support would make France consider similar intervention. The next day he led his divided Cabinet to an important compromise. Paris would make an appeal to the British and Italian Governments proposing an international agreement of non-intervention. London was duly informed and gave a reply which was positive but non-commital. On 7 August the French Cabinet unilaterally banned the export of arms.[31] Again, it has been argued that the French decisions of August 1936 were taken under British pressure. However, Blum has later consistently claimed that he himself was responsible for multinational non-intervention.[32]


Whatever the occurence, degree and influence of British pressure on France, Blum was largely moved to non-intervention by domestic reasons. His country was in a bad shape, deeply divided along political, social and economic lines. The Premier feared that active help to an allegedly communist regime would increase unrest, cause the fall of his Government and, to his mind, might even lead to a right-wing revolt.[33] National discord would be dangerous in case of a foreign attack, as indeed was proven afterwards in 1940.

As in World War I, Britain was supposed to stand by France if another war broke out. London's opinion bore considerable weight. British officials were asked to help Blum, Foreign Secretary Yvon Delbos and others resist the call for intervention. Rumours of British pressure enabled the French Government to blame non-intervention and the arms ban on London and thus dampen the criticism of its pro-Republican rank and file.[34]

French unrest was one of the reasons of British non-intervention. France was Britain's main ally. The continent's most powerful democracy ought to balance Germany and prevent Hitler from reaching the Channel. French aeroplanes were sent to Spain, whereas the *Armée de l'Air*, once the world's greatest air force, was showing signs of decay. This and other military deficiencies were caused mainly by political instability. Yet, most concern was expressed over the French Left and the Communists in particular. The signing of an alliance between France and the Soviets Union in May 1935 was mistrusted and so was the loose coalition of left and centre parties in the Front Populaire. After the arms ban of 7 August, Sir Orme Sargent, the Assistent Under-Secretary who dealt with French issues at the Foreign Office, thought it wise 'to strengthen the French Government in its efforts [...] to free itself from Communist domination, both domestic and Muscovite'.[35]

Although France's instability and political discontinuity in the 1930s was the result of radicalism on the right as well, Whitehall had good reason to believe that France ran the risk of even greater internal difficulties if she intervened in Spain. By staying out of the Civil War herself, Britain could expect to discourage French intervention to some extent. Support for Blum and his proposal on multinational non-intervention would benefit her ally's political continuity even more.

The Britons

Throughout Europe the war in Spain came to be regarded as an ideological battle and in Britain too, emotions ran higher than during any other international event between the World Wars.[36] This atmosphere impressed several people in and around Whitehall, including Baldwin. According to K.W. Watkins and Raymond Carr, the country was 'bitterly' and 'deeply' divided over Spain. However, the situation in France is better qualified by these words.[37]

Fervent supporters for the Nationalists were few in number; to most opponents of the Republic simply refusing help to the Reds sufficed. On the Left, trade-unionist and future Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin argued that the working class would not risk war over Spain. In the Labour Party not everybody backed the Spanish Popular Front with full conviction and enthusiasm. Whereas several members called for a 'United Front' against fascism in Spain, others, including most of the leadership, favoured a more detached support.[38] Labour MP Hugh Dalton preferred a Loyalist victory but not because of 'any extravagant eulogy' to the Republic.[39] Another prominent MP for Labour, Arthur Greenwood, told the Foreign Secretary that 'a communist dictatorship in Spain' was a possible outcome of the war. Eden and Baldwin were pleased to hear a Labourite with views similar to their own.[40] Labour in Parliament supported multinational non-intervention as long as pro-Nationalist powers would abide by such an agreement. If not, the Spanish Government should be allowed to import weaponry.[41]

Despite having to face less radicalism than his French colleague, the Prime Minister was afraid that intervention would cause domestic difficulties. Preservation of national unity was one of Baldwin's major political aims, especially in the 1930s, when Britain had to face economic and international crises. Viscount Cranborne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, quoted Viscount Castlereagh, Foreign Secretary in the early nineteenth century, to explain the place of the Spanish Civil War in this difficult decade:

In this country at all times, but especially at the present juncture, when the whole energy of the state is required to unite reasonable men in defence of our existing institutions [...] it is of the greatest moment that the public sentiment should not be distracted or divided by an unnecessary interference of the Government in events passing abroad over which they have no, or at best very imperfect, control.[42]

Power Blocs and Peace

Not only divisions in France and in their own country filled the British Government with apprehension. The struggle in Spain could increase animosity between states as well. Even if intervention on different sides did not cause a new European war directly, the division of Europe into opposing blocs would be a 'real calamity' in Eden's words. Tensions elsewhere could later spark off a major armed conflict between these blocs.[43]

Eden and Hoare agreed with their Prime Minister that Britain should not glide into some kind of alliance with the Soviet Union. They did not only express their anti-communism. British alignment with France and the USSR concerning Spain, where Russian aid was starting to arrive in early August, would vex Mussolini and Hitler, Europe's noisiest pro-Nationalists and anti-communists. Their consequential isolation, as Sargent noted, could drive the two dictators together. Hoare did not think that a fascist bloc was inevitable as 'Italy seems anxious to resume friendly relations with France and ourselves'.[44] Therefore, agreement existed among Foreign Office officials that the UK must free 'Italy from the feeling of isolation and vulnerability which the Abyssinian affair has left her with'.[45] Having dismissed open support for the insurgents, the British thought that this could best be done by being neutral on Spain.

The danger nevertheless existed that if, for instance, France and Italy each supported one of the belligerents militarily, they might find themselves fighting each other, dragging the rest of Europe into war. As Baldwin told during the Abyssinian War, 'with two lunatics like Mussolini and Hitler you can never be sure of anything. But I am determined to keep the country out of war'. He and Eden therefore welcomed the proposal for a non-intervention agreement between the European powers, as it would make them leave the fighting to the Spaniards.[46]

In the middle of the 1930s, Whitehall still hoped to conclude a five-power agreement, comparable to the Locarno Treaty, as a means to preserve friendly relations and peace between Europe's leading states. Mounsey stressed that a non-intervention agreement could bring France, Germany, the USSR, Italy and Britain together to sit 'round a table' and then would serve as a good basis to reach a wider agreement. Eden agreed that Blum's plan should not be confined to Italy, France and Britain but that it should at least include Germany, Russia and Portugal as well.[47]


Keeping the European capitals on speaking terms was not the only reason why the British wanted a broad group of countries pledging non-intervention. An agreement on Spain with both Italy and Germany could, in Halifax's opinion, 'bring the war to an end' and lead to a 'non-Communist Government' in Spain.[48] Eden, disliking Republicans and Nationalists as well, hoped that both sides would collapse, giving place to a moderate government. On 25 August he explained to the Foreign Policy Committee that 'in the opinion of those best competent to judge, the situation in Spain would almost certainly result in a stalemate, provided that there was no foreign intervention on one side or the other'.[49]

A multinational agreement would offer the best chance of preventing foreign intervention (if there was any chance of this at all). However, unilateral non-intervention was thought to offer some chance as well. Eden had wanted to deny the Republic British weapons already before Blum made his proposal. Possibly he thought, like Delbos, that no pretext whatsoever must be given to the other powers.[50] If the British did not send arms to Spain, the French, the Italians, the Germans and the Soviets might not do so either.[51]

The Non-Intervention Agreement

As the French did not object to a European-wide agreement on non-intervention, the British decided to stand fully behind Blum's proposal. After the Foreign Office had received an approving phone call from Eden, who was most concerned about the situation in France, the two allies signed the Non-Intervention Agreement (NIA) on 15 August.[52]

Britain made efforts to induce other countries to participate as well. António Salazar's regime in Lisbon had already been put under verbal pressure a week earlier. Portugal, a close ally of the UK, was very anxious to intervene on Franco's side as her Government feared that Spanish communism might cross her borders.[53]

The principal idea of the NIA was the multilateral renunciation of delivering and exporting military equipment to Spain. This was to come into effect as soon as Italy, Germany, Portugal and the USSR joined in. However, Eden did not want to wait and on August 19 he announced a ban on the export of British weaponry. He had wished to make such a step before he went on holiday but now it could be made in the context of the NIA. The British embargo was supposed to set an example to Italy and Germany and show them that the UK and the NIA were not hand in glove with the Republic.[54]

The efforts seemed effective. Early September, 27 European countries had accepted the NIA, including Portugal, Italy, the USSR and Germany. The preamble to abstain from 'all interference, direct or indirect' was not endorsed by six countries, including Italy and Germany, who participated under individual specifications. The formulation of the arms embargo was not specific, leaving room for circumvention. As a platform for mutual control and discussion, the Non-Intervention Committee (NIC) was created. The NIC had to alert governments to 'inadvertent' breaches of the Agreement. Only governments of participating countries, not the Spaniards, nor journalists and other citizens, were allowed to alert or accuse other member states. The Committee would then examine and, if possible, verify the charges. There was no procedure written down for sanctions against proven breaches.[55] Bringing together squabbling delegates from several countries in London was obviously more important at this moment than Spain herself.


When the French and British were awaiting Europe's reaction to their Agreement, George Mounsey analysed the possibilities open to his Government if the NIA found no support or failed. He thought that Britain should not return to the normal procedure of allowing the recognized Republican Government to purchase British arms for defence purposes. This would damage relations between the UK and France on the one hand and those with Germany, Italy and Portugal on the other. Furthermore, this would 'deprive us of the impartial attitude which must in the future be our strongest hand in renewing relations with whatever party emerges on top as a result of the present struggle'.[56]

Mounsey considered that normal procedure would worsen relations with the Nationalists, whereas allowing arms manufacturers to sell to both sides would upset the Republicans. He therefore advised the continuation of complete impartiality. Britain should carry on finding 'reasons for issuing no licenses for export of arms destined for the Spanish Government [...] without actually refusing' them. He acknowledged that the Republican authorities would not be pleased but British weapons sold to both sides would be considered worse.[57]

The Foreign Secretary agreed with Mounsey.[58] Even without multilateral non-intervention the reasons for keeping Britain out of the conflict were valid: the situations in France and at home, the risk of Europe divided into blocs and the hope to see both sides giving way to a moderate government. On top of that, Mounsey had pointed out that London should stay on good terms with whoever won the war.

In August there was no certainty about the outcome of the struggle. Until one side would gain the upper hand, the best way to relate to the two belligerents was adopting 'an attitude of simple non-intervention', as Sir William Malkin, Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office, put it.[59] Nevertheless, an effective NIA, preventing each side from becoming indebted to a foreign benefactor would offer a better chance of establishing good relations with the future winner.

Strategic Considerations

On August 5 the French Admirals François Darlan and Jean Decoux visited the Admiralty in London. They expressed their concern that Italy might benefit from the Civil War by placing the Spanish Balearics, stategically positioned in the Mediterranean, under her influence. Hoare rejected preventive action on the grounds that Mussolini must not be discouraged in his search for British friendship. Admiral Chatfield thought that General Franco would not accept Italians on the Balearics. This idea was shared by many in Whitehall as it was 'not a Spanish characteristic to bargain away his property'. Ambassador Oliván gave weight to this line of thought when he told Eden on August 20 that Franco would be overthrown by his nationalistic rank and file if he ceded territory to foreigners.[60]

Another widespread assumption was that a Nationalist regime would not become a German or Italian ally as, like the Republicans, it would need British capital to rebuild post-war Spain.[61]

The Republic was thought to be more prone to foreign domination. The British Ambassador in Spain, the Spanish Ambassador in Britain, most Conservatives, including Eden, and even some members of the Opposition thought that a Soviet Republic was a likely outcome of the war.[62] Hoare speculated that communism would spread to Portugal, which would impair Britain's strategic position in the Atlantic. To Military Intelligence (MI_3 ), communism was the Empire's greatest enemy.[63]

Yet, British relations with the Soviet Union were not bad in 1936. In view of the Japanese and German menace, the Kremlin worked for a better understanding with the democratic powers, of which the Foreign Office was aware.[64] A year earlier, Eden had been the first British Minister to visit the USSR. He and Sir Robert Vansittart, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, were quite sympathetic to a rapprochement. Most of his colleagues were not. This was due to strong anti-communism but also to the view that militarily, the Soviets had little to offer. Any form of alliance with them would unnecessarily antagonize Germany, Japan, Italy and other countries. Commitments in Eastern Europe, where Britain was not believed to have important interests, would only increase the risk of involvement in local tensions, which had led to war before. Consequently, the future victors at Stalingrad were largely omitted from British political and strategic planning.[65] Whitehall saw no reason to please the Soviets regarding Spain but rather preferred them to stay out of there.

Conciliation with Berlin was thought to be an attainable goal in the summer of 1936. Concerns over the remilitarization of the Rhineland and the overall European situation were voiced by Eden and Vansittart in particular. The Admiralty and the War Office reassured the Cabinet. In 1936 they still supposed that the Wehrmacht was only for use in central and eastern Europe and that the Kriegsmarine was merely a Baltic fleet. As long as Hitler did not menace the North Sea countries, Anglo-German hostilities were ruled out.[66]

War with Japan was considered more likely, although a settlement with Tokyo was not excluded.[67] To resist the Pacific Empire and protect Britain’s Indian Empire, safe passage through the Mediterranean Sea was of prime importance. British relations with France, Greece, Yugoslavia and Portugal were, on the whole, good. Turkey was pleased to see the Versailles limitations on her maritime sovereignty removed at the Montreux Conference of 20 July 1936. Negotiations with the Egyptians were to lead to a Treaty of Alliance in August.[68]

Italy, however, posed a challenge, both politically and strategically. Britain was used to Italian friendship but Fascist ambitions were hardly reassuring. Mussolini exerted increasing influence in Albania, his propaganda was anti-British, he fuelled the revolts in Britain's Arab lands and his troops had conquered Ethiopia in April 1936. In those years Italy boasted a larger navy than France and as she lay in the middle of the Mediterranean like a giant aircraft carrier, surrounded by islands and in possession of Lybia, she could severely disrupt British communications to the Indian Ocean.[69] This was a major argument for Britain's acquiescence during the Abyssinian War. The Chiefs of Staff continuously urged for good relations with Rome, so that the UK could reduce its military commitments in the Mediterranean and concentrate on protecting the British Isles and the colonies.[70]

A month before Sanjurjo's rising, Eden asserted that Britain should 'deter' Italian expansion and maintain 'prestige and power' in the Mediterranean.[71] The Chiefs, in their report of 24 August on the Spanish Civil War, acknowledged that an unchecked Italy could indeed become a grave danger. A Hispano-Italian alliance and Italian occupation of parts of Spain and Spanish Morocco would be 'detrimental' and 'a threat to vital British interests'. Not a vital threat but nevertheless 'highly undesirable' would be the 'occupation of any of the Balearic Islands, Canary Islands and*or Rio de Oro'.[72] The officers no longer mentioned that the Nationalists would not accept a long term presence of Italian forces in Spain.

The report warned that open Italian intervention and especially British action 'other than action in a diplomatic sphere' to prevent this, 'would involve a grave risk of war'. Fear for Italy was expressed, as she was the only power 'ready for immediate action'. Unsurprisingly, the recommendations excluded any strong action to protect the vital interests. British naval presence must be strong in the vicinity of Spain and Mussolini must be told that the status quo in the Western Mediterranean was of close concern to the UK. However, the Chiefs pointed out that 'it is most important to avoid any measures which [...] merely tend further to alienate Italy'.[73]

To prevent Italian intervention and influence in Spain, one of its main causes, French intervention, had to be prevented. Furthermore, the European countries should cooperate as much as possible. Any 'action by armed forces to preserve order' in Spain should be 'preconcerted' and a multinational non-intervention pact was of pressing importance. The Chiefs stressed that London should be on good terms with the Civil War's victor so that Spain would be benevolently neutral if a European war started in the future.[74]

The strategic report did not specifically mention Soviet Russia nor Germany. They did not say that if Italy and Germany intervened in Spain, they would exhaust themselves. There were no references either to Gibraltar, separatism or to Spain's mineral wealth from which the German war machine would profit in the future. Anyhow, the Chiefs' recommendations converged with Britain's existing approach of non-intervention in Spain.

Additional Considerations

A survey of Britain's economic interests in Spain reinforced Whitehall's policy on the Civil War. The investments were evenly divided between Loyalist and Nationalist Spain. The terror in Republican areas during the first months of the war was partly directed against foreign firms, which complained to the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade. British companies were, however, not all pro-insurgent; several considered conditions in the Republic satisfactory, regarding circumstances. As business must go on, relations with the local authorities, whether loyal or rebel, had to be as friendly as possible. This accorded with the principle of impartiality as formulated by Mounsey and the Chiefs of Staff. If authorities were not friendly or if costs ran high due to the war's violence, London was in general not prepared to take measures as impartiality had to be upheld at all costs.[75]

In his memoirs, Anthony Eden mentions that he discussed intervention 'on purely humanitarian grounds' with the French and Spanish Ambassadors in London. Eden writes that throughout the war, British representatives in Spain managed to save many lives. As in the opinion of the United Nations decades later, impartiality was considered to be the most useful stance.[76]

A 'forceful' reason for the British Government's non-intervention was, according to Eden, what was learnt from the Peninsular War against Napoleon. The Spaniards, 'brave but proud, unpunctual and xenophobe', would, whatever the outcome of the war, feel no 'gratitude to those who had intervened'.[77] There may be some truth in this, but it sounds like an excuse. This argument does not explain why there has been no intervention in the form of arms deliveries. The Spanish Government certainly wanted and needed foreign assistance.

September 1936 - February 1938

Few Changes

Heavily armed Italians, Germans, Portuguese and Russians were sent to Spain by their Governments, which had signed the Non-Intervention Agreement. Yet, London and Paris defended the NIA. Stanley Baldwin said that when a dam needs repair, it must not be swept away altogether.[78]

British and multilateral non-intervention was upheld as its reasons still counted in Whitehall. As the outcome of the war remained unclear, Britain continued her attempts to stay on the best of terms with both belligerents. There were fewer expressions of concern about the unstability in France but at home the public was still thought to be 'pacifist and non-interventionist' as Eden's Private Secretary Oliver Harvey stressed. Cranborne believed that intervention would 'split England from top to bottom'.[79] According to Gallup polls, the Britons nevertheless preferred a Loyalist victory. Labour politicians ceased to support non-intervention after the flagrant breaches of the NIA had come to their knowledge. With bitterness they demanded the restoration of the Spanish Government's right to purchase weapons.[80]

Sir Neville Chamberlain, Chancellor of the Exchequer and, since May 1937 Prime Minister, had enough self-confidence and determination to remain unshaken by attacks on his Government. He succesfully challenged the Opposition's weakness and lack of alternatives, while believing in the public's support and gratitude for his domestic and foreign policies. Despite certain aspects of his policy, e.g. on Spain, most Britons were indeed right behind him up until the early months of 1939.[81] Anthony Eden became very popular in 1937 but in Whitehall he found far less support. When in 1935 he entered the Cabinet, he was not very welcome. Baldwin noted that 19 out of 20 members thought they should be Foreign Secretary. Hoare in particular showed little respect for his young colleague. Eden’s nervous personality did not strengthen his position. Although he offered an alternative to Chamberlain's foreign policy in 1937[82], he lacked the Prime Minister's authority, self-confidence and clarity.[83]

Many in Whitehall continued to trust General Franco to keep the Italians and Germans at bay. In June 1937 Spanish sources told that the insurgents' leader desired nothing 'so much as good relations with England'.[84] Regarding Spanish Morocco, it was argued that a Republican victory, even without any Soviet help, might turn out to be strategically disadvantageous to Britain. The Spanish Government might not want to keep the expensive colony and sell it to another country. Whitehall, including the Foreign Office, considered even French control there a potential menace to Gibraltar in the long run.[85] However, the Foreign Office was concerned about substantial Nationalist exports of strategic minerals to Germany and in November 1936 its concern focussed on a secret treaty between the insurgents and Italy, giving the latter the right to establish bases in Spain in case of war with a third power. The Chiefs of Staff were not at all alarmed at this 'nebulous' agreement.[86]

Among Britain's leading politicians, almost the same opinions of the two Spanish belligerents persisted. A notable exeption to this was Eden. The terror that had raged through the Republican area had reached its peak in September 1936, whereas on the insurgent side inhuman behaviour raised its ugly head. The Foreign Secretary's main concerns were the Nationalists' foreign helpers. In the course of 1937 his antipathy towards the Republic gave way to unaffected yet definite preference for a Loyalist victory.[87]

Great Britain and Germany

Non-intervention was hoped to keep war confined to a corner of Europe. Yet, more and more people in Westminster noticed that the dark clouds gathering above Europe, mostly came from German instead of Spanish skies. In the autumn of 1936 new evidence wrecked the Armed Services' optimism on Germany's military potential and intentions. The Chiefs of Staff presented their gloomy picture to the Cabinet and repeatedly informed it that Britain was unfit for war. However, Wesley K. Wark argues in The Ultimate Enemy that 'the intelligence authorities failed to provide a balanced reading' of German power. Britain and France were in a better position to confront the Nazi's in 1938 than in 1940.[88] At the time, Eden, despite his regular requests for heavy rearmament, thought that the stories of British weakness were too alarmist and criticized the Chiefs' defeatism. During the Abyssinian crisis they had exaggerated Italian military strength and ever since he had felt a certain distrust of them.[89]

The Cabinet members shared the Chiefs' pessimism. However, their new leader, Chamberlain, opposed rapid rearmament for economic reasons mainly.[90] Higher defence expenditure, as requested by the Armed Services and the Foreign Secretary, demanded too much of Britain in his opinion. Her economy and financial situation had to be strong in order to win a long struggle with the Germans and their potential supporters. To this end the Prime Minister set out to provide the UK with strong armed forces, backed by a strong, resourceful economy. This combination, to be realized in 1942, would deter Germany and other countries and make them shrink back from war. Chamberlain therefore followed the Chiefs' advice on reducing military commitments and the number of potential enemies.[91] Hitler had to be cooled off, which, as long as Britain was weak, could only be done by appeasement. By this approach, Germany, released from her grievances, might renounce war altogether, even before 1942. Neville Chamberlain was willing to take the risks his policy entailed. It was necessary for the sake of peace. Though sane people usually hate war, Chamberlain, who had never been in battle, was particularly abhorred by it. His policy was feasible as, to his mind, every human being, the Nazis included, listened to reason.[92]

Eden had grave doubts. To his mind the Nazis were too unpredictable, their aggression could escalate in any year. Yet, he had to admit that military strength on a sound economic basis was 'irresistable'. The Foreign Secretary could not offer an equally attractive alternative. Despite the economic burden, Britain had to rearm quickly to overpower Hitler during negotiations or on the battlefield. Until sufficiently rearmed, some concessions to the Germans were acceptable, but only if they offered something in return. Eden wanted to keep Berlin guessing at London's intentions but, for now, Hitler's bold moves would leave no other option but acquiescence.[93] This was hardly an outlined view; Eden's real answer to the German threat was reflected in his policy regarding Spain.

Chamberlain, Italy and Spain

On Chamberlain's quest for lasting peace, the establishment of good Anglo-Italian relations was of major importance. Besides diminishing Britain's military burden, this would isolate Hitler and, hence, make him more tractable.

Strengthening ties with France, Poland, the USSR, the USA and other countries, thus creating an anti-fascist bloc, would upset appeasement. Germany and Italy would be antagonized and driven into each other's arms. Furthermore, Stalin's Great Terror reached the Red Army in 1937, killing many thousands of fine men. The Americans were too isolationist and the Chiefs of Staff regarded France unreliable.[94] However, finding a worthwile understanding with Mussolini was thought possible and so Chamberlain set out to build a castle in Spain. The war raging there should be left for what it was and should not come between the Prime Minister and the dictator.

Eden and Italy

Eden sought to oppose Hitler by assuring alliances with and benevolence from a multitude of countries. Rather than gambling on Mussolini, he wanted to fortify existing friendships. He pleaded for close cooperation with France and Belgium and for seizing every opportunity to get US support.

When in January 1937, soon after the Anglo-Italian Gentleman's Agreement in which both signatories affirmed to respect the status quo and each other's interests, a new Italian detachment of so-called 'volunteers' went to Spain, Mussolini justified Eden's distrust of him. Furthermore, Italian radio continued to pour out anti-British propaganda in 1937 and made Eden a major object of scorn.[95]

All this made Eden's hostility towards Mussolini increase. He regarded him as a 'gangster', the 'Mammon of unrighteousness' and as 'anti-Christ'.[96] In his memoirs, he denies that this opinion affected his policy. However, Harvey wrote in his diary that Eden admitted to him that, if he were not careful, his 'personal prejudices' might be 'colouring his attitude too much'.[97]

Eden insisted that concessions to Rome were acceptable only under strict conditions. He saw few openings for improving relations and none as long as Italian aeroplanes bombed Spain. Italy was not worth the cost of appeasement. She would not be able to restrain Hitler effectively, neither with words, nor with weapons. Eden argued that friendship with Mussolini would never be so close as to justify a long-term reduction of British military presence in the Mediterranean.[98]

Besides assuring foreign support, Eden wanted to tackle the German problem by impressing Berlin and gaining time. The latter was 'essential' for British rearmament but as he believed that the dictators might cause war unexpectedly, time was merely something he hoped for.[99] He did not have real plans to put the fright into the Nazis. They had grown too strong and good opportunities did not present themselves. However, Eden believed that Britain could better face the Germans if she had already started to intimidate Italy.

In November 1936, the Foreign Secretary fully agreed with Cranborne that Britain should show her strength in the Mediterranean and so 'make Italy less attractive in German eyes'. According to Eden, such a policy would weaken the Axis and show Germany and Japan 'that where a vital interest is threatened, the English will be found [...] not to be at heart a meek nor in action a timid people at all'.[100] Revealing Mussolini's weakness had another, very important, rationale. The success of fascism in the 1930s was partly due to the success of German and Italian foreign policy. In July 1937, the Yugoslav and Turkish Governments made it 'ominously' clear to their French and British counterparts that continued feebleness of the democratic powers would make it difficult to 'resist the attraction of strength elsewhere'.[101]

A hard line on Italy was not dangerous in Eden's view. He had faith in British naval power and trusted France and her once glorious Army. Italy, on the other hand, he regarded 'fundamentally weak', an opinion shared by few in Whitehall. Furthermore, despite talking of a German-Italian-Japanese bloc in late 1937, he assumed that Berlin and Tokyo would not wage war for their smaller accomplice's sake.[102]

Despite Eden's high position and popularity in Britain, his opinions on policy regarding Italy carried little weight. Several senior officials at the Foreign Office disagreed and like most Cabinet members, they favoured appeasing Mussolini. Chamberlain's views prevailed but he gave Eden the benefit of the doubt. His friend's popularity was an asset for the Government and he hoped that the Foreign Secretary's opinions would move to his side. In the meantime, since mid-1937, he established informal contacts with Italian leaders behind Eden's back.[103]

Eden and Spain

Spain offered the best opportunities to bring Mussolini down a peg and reaffirm Anglo-French dominance in the Western Mediterranean. The fascist ruler had wholly committed himself to a Nationalist, and hence an Italian, victory in the Civil War. In January 1937 Eden told his colleagues that 'the dictators should not be victorious' in Spain.[104] To him, this was more important than the principle of establishing friendly relations with both sides.

Harvey and Halifax found that Eden 'read too many newspapers' and was too sensitive 'to criticism from the Left'.[105] Yet, there seems to be no clear indicatation that Eden's policy was a response to such criticism or a way to increase his popularity. In Harvey's diary Eden appears genuinely anxious for the Republic's survival.[106]

It was not only to gain time for British rearmament that Eden wanted to prolong the war. Time was on the side of the Republic and when after the fall of Santander on 26 August 1937, Eden feared the 'beginning of the end', he stressed that Mussolini should get his victory only at the highest cost.[107] Harvey rather unscrupulously added that prolonging the war would make foreign aid unpopular in Spain and 'hence [...] our own genuine neutral attitude should be increasingly appreciated'.[108]

In addition to its Italian aspects, the Civil War had to be seen in relation to Germany. Eden stated that cautious elements in Berlin, notably the Wehrmacht and the Foreign Office, opposed adventures like intervention in Spain. Another German or Italian success would strengthen the Nazi fanatics' positions. Underlining Britain's need to gain time, he warned the Cabinet that in the Nazi language

any adventure is a minor adventure. They spoke thus of the Rhineland last year, they are speaking thus of Spain today, they will speak thus of Memel, Danzig or Czechoslovakia tomorrow. It is only by showing them that these dangerous distinctions are false that we can hope to avert a greater calamity.[109]

Proposals for Action

On a few occasions the Foreign Secretary saw the opportunity and stressed the importance to apply British power. After the Italian military reinforcements in January 1937, he pleaded for Royal Navy supervision in Spanish waters and harbours to enforce multilateral non-intervention. The French and Portuguese borders had to be closed and controlled by officials from neutral states. Hoare convinced the Cabinet that the proposal was too difficult to realize. He did not hide his underlying motive in saying that Eden's plan might 'be getting near a situation when as a nation we were trying to stop General Franco from winning' whereas 'perhaps some members of the Cabinet [...] were very anxious that the Soviet Union should not win in Spain'.[110] The Cabinet concluded instead that the NIC's existing control scheme should be upgraded. Other member states later agreed to this. Whereas Eden's cordon would not have been waterproof, the NIC's scheme offered excellent opportunities to those wishing to intervene.[111]

In March 1937, Eden proposed that the Royal Navy should intercept any ship carrying pyrites from Nationalist Spain to Germany and Italy. The Cabinet disagreed as, according to Hoare, such an operation would be either ineffective or lead to war. Furthermore, it would anger the insurgents, who were expected to secure victory soon.[112]

The following month, Franco threatened to sink British merchant vessels if they approached the port of Loyalist Bilbao. Whereas the Admiralty exaggerated the effectiveness of the blockade, Eden, wishing to 'overawe Franco' and prevent starvation, called for full naval protection. In the Cabinet it was decided that steaming within three miles of Bilbao was at one's own risk. Nevertheless, three ships with food safely entered the port.[113]

Eden had no military answer to the horrendous bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937. Although his speeches at the time left few doubts that he found German planes responsible for the attack, he conformed with the Government's line not to accuse Berlin in public.[114]

In August Eden came up with his most far-reaching proposals for military action. The direct reason was the continuous flow of attacks on merchant ships, and even on the Royal Navy. These were mostly carried out by Italian submarines and aircraft in Nationalist colours. The Sea Lords were asked to consider options like sinking the rebel cruiser 'Canarias', a blockade of the Nationalists' coast, raids on their seaports or seizing Majorca, which was in insurgent hands. These suggestions for reprisals horrified the admirals; they feared failure in carrying out these tasks, they feared a counter-attack on Gibraltar, they feared bad relations or even conflict with Italy and Germany and they feared that 'Japan would profit by our entanglement'.[115] Chamberlain could be pleased with his officers; their objections nullified Eden's plans, so that he himself did not need to attack his Foreign Secretary.


Mussolini had made Eden's position stronger. In the eyes of the Britons and of many MP's on both sides of the House of Commons, the Italian submarine attacks needed punishment. The Prime Minister also thought that Italy had gone too far. Anxious that France would take unilateral action, Chamberlain and the Cabinet agreed with Eden to embrace the French suggestion for a conference to discuss the situation.[116] The Mediterranean countries, the Black Sea countries and Germany were invited to come to Nyon in Switzerland on 10 September. Rome and Berlin declined. Without their representatives the Anglo-French proposals found virtually no opposition and so the conference was successfully concluded after only four days. Eden had seized the opportunity: the French and British navies would patrol the Western Mediterranean and hunt for aggressive ships. Chamberlain was too late, not having realized where the conference could lead. He nevertheless managed to reserve the Tyrhennian Sea patrol zone for Italy if she wished to join the scheme later. Towards November Mussolini, preferring a participant's role to an outcast's, indeed wanted his share. To involve the Italian navy, some concessions were made to the original scheme and Nyon lost some of its effectiveness.[117]

The attacks had stopped.[118] For once Eden was able to show different images of Great Britain and Italy. As Harold Macmillan, a promising Conservative MP, worded the new situation,

The result of Nyon was the one set-back that the dictators suffered. The spectacle of an Anglo-French fleet of eighty destroyers sweeping the Mediterranean, and of the Duce later asking to be allowed to join in hunting his own submarines, gave a good deal of pleasure to many individuals who were heartily sick of continual retreats.[119]

But the Loyalists hardly benefited from the patrols. Although, as the Foreign Office believed, Russian and other ships would now go to the Republic, Loyalist ports saw little activity. Stalin seemed to have lost interest in Spain whereas Mussolini sent more and more war material to the insurgents.[120]

Last Attempts

According to the French the Nyon patrols were hardly enough punishment for Mussolini, especially now it turned out that he was sending even more troops to Spain. On 2 October Premier Chautemps and Eden, who understood French vexations, together decided to invite Italy to talk with them about the Civil War, offering the prospect of an Anglo-Italian deal on wider subjects as bait. Eden would make clear to Rome that his Government would endorse a French decision to open the borders to Republican Spain if more Italian troops were sent to war. This and other phrases were removed by Chamberlain. Italy nevertheless refused to attend the talks as Germany had not been invited.[121]

Oliver Harvey's diary tells that the Foreign Secretary's support to such action by France was not just a threat. Eden, fearing the collapse of the Republic before winter, was 'extremely anxious' to help her. Whether Mussolini accepted the invitation or not, France should be allowed to enter Spain. If the usurper declined, Eden envisaged the end of British non-intervention as well, as 'we ourselves should sell arms'. Harvey and others at the Foreign Office pointed out that French interference would lead to even more massive intervention by the Italians and the Germans, who had larger military reserves.[122] Eden knew this too; Léon Blum had argued in a similar way in 1936.[123] The Foreign Secretary was probably near exasperation. Yet, at some moment in autumn Eden told Delbos: 'Don't open the frontier but allow to pass what you want'. The French Government subsequently allowed and even organized the smuggling of arms from France to the Republic.[124]

On 15 October Eden said that he liked the idea of occupying Minorca with the French to prevent the island from falling into Nationalist or Italian hands. Harvey argued that it would set a bad example and 'we must leave it to Muss to take a false step'. Eden sighed that nothing was effective against Mussolini except a direct challenge. The public, as Harvey had urged upon his chief a few day earlier, disliked risks; the Cabinet disliked any sort of challenge.[125]


In the following months the Cabinet was determined to start formal Anglo-Italian talks in the nearest possible future. On its way it found the Foreign Secretary's intransigence on Spain, the British public, the French, the Dominions, the Americans, members of the League of Nations and others who, besides reproving Italy for her role in the Civil War, had not forgotten her invasion of Ethiopia.

When in early 1938 Hitler's *Anschluß* of Austria was approaching and the Republic appeared harder to defeat than expected, Mussolini became more forthcoming in his dealings with Britain. To Chamberlain this was an excellent moment to begin the talks but Eden regarded this the opportunity to make Italy accept and execute the NIC's plan for withdrawal of foreign troops.[126]

Anthony Eden resigned from the Government on 20 February 1938. Maybe he did so because of bad health or because he followed the advice of former Prime Minister David Lloyd George and others to dissociate himself publicly from Chamberlain, whose policy might prove disastrous in the future. The principal reasons, though, were Eden's lack of authority and the inability to realize his own ideas.[127]

February 1938 - April 1939

The Anglo-Italian Agreement

Neville Chamberlain thought that now his Foreign Secretary had resigned, the Anglo-Italian conversations had 'a fair prospect of success'.[128] The indignation that followed after the *Anschluß* on 11 March 1938, made it more difficult to reach an understanding with a fascist dictator. The Prime Minister assured Parliament that the Civil War would be included in the negotiations.[129] Although he and Lord Halifax, the new Foreign Secretary, were not planning to really bother Mussolini with Spain, the Anglo-Italian Easter Agreement of 16 April was to come into effect after a substantial number of Italians had been withdrawn from Spain. Britain would then officially recognize the Italian Empire of Abyssinia. Chamberlain hoped and expected that the Civil War would end within a few weeks, so that the renewed friendship with Rome could contribute to European peace. In November, after the euphoria of the Munich Agreement and after 50% of the Italian troops were said to have left Spain (which was not true, as the War Office knew), Mussolini could boast about British recognition of his brutally conquered empire.[130]

Lord Halifax and Spain

Halifax, who had been a strong proponent of Chamberlain's foreign policy for years, came to appreciate Eden's views better in the course of 1938, eventually preferring deterrence to accomodation.[131]

In June 1938 aircraft flown by Italians and Germans attacked many ships registered in Britain. Harvey, now Halifax's Private Secretary, wrote on 2 July that his chief 'genuinely' liked to take 'effective action to stop the bombing'. Whereas Harvey, referring to Nyon, believed that threatening would be effective, the Foreign Secretary feared repercussions if Britain had to execute her threat. The Prime Minister decided to leave it to a verbal warning.[132]

It is likely that Halifax had doubts about the policy on Spain as a whole. In January 1939, he requested John Coulson of the Foreign Office to examine whether Britain should abandon non-intervention. However, the latter's report concluded by underlining the risk of escalation if France and Portugal opened their borders. Coulson argued that direct help to the Republic would entail a similar risk.[133] These considerations were made in a period of war scares, less than a year before the outbreak of World War II.[134]

The End of the Republic

Non-intervention was maintained despite a change in Whitehall's perception of the Loyalists. There was respect for their war efforts and, as a British official in Spain noted, 'the epithet "red" has been vastly overworked'.[135] The Republicans had received little from Stalin since late 1937. As their forces nevertheless seemed to hold out, London favoured an armistice or a negotiated settlement to end the war and the insurgents' naval attacks in the summer of 1938. But General Franco did not want to hear of international mediation.[136]

Piracy, so severely punished by Brittania in her younger days, was now called an 'irregularity'. One of the results was the starvation of Barcelona in the winter of 1938-1939. Finally, in February 1939, Whitehall was fully convinced of the Republic's imminent fall, which occurred in April. There was no point anymore to stay on good terms with both sides. On 27 February, Britain, together with France, officially recognized General Franco's regime.[137] Hitler and Mussolini now sent their troops to Czechoslovakia, Albania and to Poland.

Chapter III: The Suez Crisis

Until March 1956

The Suez Canal and Great Britain in Egypt

In August 1869 water started to flow between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. The Suez Canal enabled ships to navigate from Europe to South and East Asia without having to sail round the Cape of Good Hope. French engineers and Egyptian labourers had pierced it under direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps's Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez. The Company was given its concession to dig and run the Canal by the Egyptian Viceroy for Turkey and it was registered as an Egyptian company. The shareholders were mainly French citizens and the Viceroy, who had bought almost 45% of the shares. The Company earned money by collecting the transit dues and spent it mostly on maintenance, the Canal's further development and salaries for its employees, which included the pilots, whose tasks were to lead vessels through the waterway.[138]

In 1876, the Khedive (as the Viceroy was titled now) had financial problems. The British Government seized the opportunity and obtained the Egyptian shares. After riots against foreign interference in Egypt, during which numerous Europeans were killed, the United Kingdom intervened with force and landed in Port Said on 20 August 1882 to enter Cairo within a month. De Lesseps, supported by Europe's maritime powers, urged upon the British to keep the Canal open, which they did. However, an accord with the Company, resulting from pressure, assured London of decisive powers over the Canal.[139]

In 1888, representatives of the UK, France, Turkey and several other powers convened in Constantinople to subscribe to the neutrality of the Suez Canal.[140] The Convention's preamble stated that 'the Suez Maritime Canal shall always be free and open in time of war as in time of peace to every vessel of commerce or of war, without discrimination of flag'. Egypt, which was now de facto under British rule, was allowed to take measures contrary to this principle if necessary for her defence or for maintaining public order. Furthermore, she was responsible for the Canal's security and defence. The treaty was permanent, meaning that its words would have the same value after 1968, the year in which the Company's concession was to expire.[141]

While the dues enriched the Company, the British Consul-General gave so-called advice to the Khedive, who was usually prudent enough to follow it. The 'Veiled Protectorate' became an official protectorate when in 1914 Turkey entered World War I on the Axis' side. After the war, the growing power of Egyptian nationalism made London decide to loosen the reins a bit. In 1922, Egypt was proclaimed an independent and sovereign kingdom. However, Whitehall was to remain in absolute control of the country's defence and the security of the Suez Canal.[142]

The 1936 Agreement

During the 1920s and 1930s, London and Cairo tried to rearrange their relationship by negotiations. Mussolini's growing influence in the Middle East highlighted the necessity for the UK to normalize its position in this region. Iraq was given independence in 1932 and in 1936 Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and High Commissioner in Egypt, Miles Lampson, urged the Cabinet to honour most Egyptian wishes. A stable and healthy Anglo-Egyptian alliance would form a bullwark against Italian expansionism and guarantee safer passage through the Suez Canal in time of war.[143]

On 26 August the treaty was signed. British troops were to be withdrawn from Egypt's metropolitan area and, authorized by the Egyptian king, they would protect the Suez Canal. In case of war or the threat of war, Egypt was to make her whole territory available for Britain and take emergency measures. During World War II, Egypt opted for neutrality and fullfilled the Alliance's obligations reluctantly and sometimes under heavy British pressure.[144]

The Last Years of the Egyptian Kingdom

After the Second World War, Egypt resumed the fairly independent line of government she enjoyed since 1936. One of her main objectives was to resurge as the greatest power in the Middle East.[145] Under Clement Attlee's Labour Government, the UK wanted to retain its powerful position there as much as possible. London was prepared to withdraw the British troops from Egypt, which was done in 1947. However, in the Suez Canal Zone they would stay until the Canal's management and security were adequately settled. In Whitehall's opinion, British forces should be allowed to return to the Zone if Egypt or a neighbouring state was attacked by a third power. Leaving the running of the Canal to Cairo or to the Company, whose concession would expire in twenty years anyhow, was barely acceptable.[146]

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Palestine, which was under British control, tensions mounted between Palestinians and the Jewish colonists. After having searched for a compromise in vain, Britain called in the United Nations. Their decision to partition the Holy Land led to the First Arab-Israeli War in 1948. King Faruq sent his soldiers to help the Palestinian side and raise his prestige. The British, despite their link with Egypt and alliances with Jordan and Iraq, did not intervene on their behalf, not wishing to upset the friendship with the United States, who supported Israel morally. This alienated both Jews and Arabs. The latter side was convincingly defeated, which added to the Egyptians' feeling of resentment and anger against the UK.[147]

Although the hostilities had ended, Egypt still blocked cargo for Israel that needed transport through the Suez Canal. British MP's of all parties were angry at Cairo and in June 1951, the UN adopted a resolution declaring that Egypt should lift the blockade. Just after he had become Prime Minister again, Sir Winston Churchill stated that one had 'to keep the Suez Canal open to the world, using such force as might be necessary'. His Foreign Secretary, Eden, was, however, opposed to 'precipitate action' against Egypt, who, as he explained later, had a strong legal case. She only acted on grounds of self-defence.[148] As will be seen later, Eden had his own ideas on international law.

Cairo insisted that only an unconditional withdrawal of British troops from the Suez Canal bases was acceptable. The British, not wishing to give in on the Canal's security, had to face growing aggression against their presence in late 1951 and early 1952. Unrest among the Egyptians themselves, who lived in bad economic conditions, increased and terrorists, who seemed to have the tacit approval of the local police, attacked British installations in the Canal Zone. In January 1952, British forces responded with violent attempts to disarm the auxiliary police, triggering off riots in Cairo where eleven Britons were killed. On 23 July 1952, the Egyptian armed forces reacted. Dissatisfied with the chaos and the ailing, unpopular Government, they deposed King Faruq and placed the well-beloved General Mohammed Neguib at the head of a new Egypt.[149]

#The 1954 Agreement#

In London, Prime Minister Churchill was quite content with the new Egyptian rulers, who displayed a greater sense of responsability and integrity. He liked their plans for more equitable landownership and thought that now Egypt was led by soldiers, Cairo would become aware of the Soviet menace. Eden was nevertheless wary that 'extremist anti-foreign elements in the new régime may gain the upper hand'.[150]

After successfull negotiations on other issues, Neguib offered to talk about Suez in the spring of 1953. At that time, it dawned upon the British that the real force behind Neguib was Colonel Gamal Abdul Nasser. Officials recognized him as anti-British but were nevertheless showing some optimism as he 'thinks with his head rather than his heart'.[151] The strongest misgivings about the negotiations came from the British side. Churchill shared with the Suez Group, a Tory faction in the House of Commons, a deep reluctance to see the UK leave Egypt. The Prime Minister's hard line precluded a swift settlement. His Foreign Secretary was the principal proponent of withdrawal, which made him the object of severe criticism. After the Sudan Agreement, Eden and the Foreign Office had more trust in the Egyptian leaders, arguing that a good understanding with Britain and America was in the interest of Egypt's security and economy. The UK had no choice either. Asserting that the 'methods of the last century' were no longer applicable, Eden thought that Britain had to accept with Egyptian independence instead of bracing herself for continuing nationalist discontent and violence. Besides, the Foreign Secretary and the Chiefs of Staff argued that, since Cyprus was to become Britain's principal stronghold near the Middle East and bases in other Arab countries would be maintained, permanent presence of troops in Egypt was no longer needed. The negotiations had furthermore brought Cairo so far as to accept that British forces could return to the Suez Canal if Egypt or a country nearby was attacked. One hoped that normalization of Anglo-Egyptian relations would, as was hoped, take away Egyptian objections to an anti-Soviet alliance in the Middle East. What really made Churchill go along with most other Cabinet members were the pressure of the multitude of overseas commitments on British economy and the explosive power of the hydrogen bomb. This new and awesome weapon was thought to make conventional warfare obsolete.[152]

On 19 October 1954 the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement was signed. It stipulated that the British garrison would have left Egypt by June 1956. British civilian engineers were to remain in the Canal Zone until 1961 to facilitate a return of British troops if Egypt, an Arab state or Turkey were attacked by a foreign power other than Israel. Relations between Cairo and London were better than ever and Nasser harshly suppressed opponents of the Agreement.[153]


Eden hoped to pick the fruits of the Agreement. It was Whitehall's ambition to set up a multilateral defence organization of Middle Eastern states, the UK and the US, to face the USSR and to maintain Britain as a major world power without having to bear the military burdens all by herself. Nasser's ambition was, however, to keep Egypt away from the NATO-side in the Cold War and take a non-aligned position. He also wanted to accomplish greater Arab unity under Egyptian guidance.[154]

Cairo declined to participate in a Middle Eastern alliance which was ungrudgingly accepted in London. Eden sought to establish a defence pact in the North of the Middle East. As Iraq and maybe Syria and Jordan would be included, Nasser, anxious about Arab autonomy and solidarity, was opposed to this, too. Therefore, the Foreign Office sought to reach its aim with subtlety. However, Ankara did not hide its eagerness for a pact against Russia. Furthermore, there was uncertainty whether Baghdad would remain in favour of joining it. London was therefore incited to follow the Turkish drive towards an alliance. On 24 February 1955, Turkey and Iraq signed the Baghdad Pact. The UK joined a few months later.[155]

Four days earlier, Nasser and Eden met each other in Cairo in a friendly atmosphere. Yet, there were irritations. The former probably did not believe that the Turks, and not the British, were responsible for the swift conclusion of the impending treaty. The latter told London of Nasser's 'frustrated desire to lead the Arab world'.[156]

In June, Eden, who was Prime Minister since April, reprehended the 'gross impertinence' of Egyptian propaganda which attacked Britain when two of her client states in the Gulf area were involved in a border conflict with Saudi Arabia. Agitated by increasing hostility, he wished to sanction Cairo through suspension of British arms deliveries to Egypt, but the Foreign Office advised not to jeopardize relations with Nasser.[157]

Rearmament had become an Egyptian top priority after violent incidents with Israel in March. The British and the French offered only limited quantities. Nasser turned to the Americans but their hardware was too expensive. On 15 August he warned that, despite his anti-communism, he may accept the very attractive offer made by the Soviets. The British and the Americans were apparently asleep but when on 21 September reliable sources told that Egypt accepted Russian weaponry, they were shocked. The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan and several officials now liked to see Nasser fall from power. However, another leader would probably be worse and with Nasser a lasting settlement with Israel and thus stability in the Middle East seemed at least remotely possible. Abandoning Britain's pro-Egyptian policy was not considered wise either as Egypt was too influential in the Arab world and strategically too important to give her up already and to risk her entering the Soviet orbit. The anger was swallowed and London decided to accept the challenge and race against Moscow for Egyptian and Arab goodwill.[158]

As Egypt planned a large dam in the Nile near Aswan and needed money for it, Eden wanted it to be financed with pounds and dollars, not with rubles. The USSR had already made an offer. The Prime Minister convinced the Americans to provide the bulk of the money needed for the Dam. On 14 December the Western offer was made. Eden also offered to mediate between the Arabs and Israel to which Nasser responded fairly positively.[159]

The recent rapprochement with Egypt did not last. Whitehall had promised Cairo not to induce Jordan to enter the Baghdad Pact. Although Eden preferred to wait with enlarging the alliance, the Turks and a high-ranked but undiplomatic British general, sent to Amman by the Foreign Office, pressed Jordan to participate. Unsurprisingly, Nasser now suspected that Britain was cheating on him. Egypt then broke her part of the promise by diffusing waves of anti-British propaganda to the Arab countries and British colonies in Africa again. In Jordan, opposition against the Baghdad Pact grew, fomented by Egyptian words and supported by Saudi money. All this angered Eden more and more. On 29 January 1956, he compared Nasser with Mussolini.[160]


The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha

On 1 March 1956, King Hussein of Jordan dismissed the British commander of his elite legion, Sir John Glubb. The general, also known as Glubb Pasha, had been a symbol of Great Britain's presence in Arabia, a comrade-in-arms of the noble sons of the desert. All of a sudden this ended. The British Prime Minister raged against Nasser, who received all the blame. The King had most likely taken the decision himself, though it was not irrealistic to assume otherwise. Egyptian influence and pressure on Jordan was increasing and Glubb had been called 'an enemy of the Arabs'.[161]

General Glubb, without remorse towards the young monarch, advised Eden that friendship with Jordan should and could survive. So, despite Tory protests, no sanctions were imposed against Amman.[162] On the contrary, in the following weeks the Foreign Office proposed to give more attention and aid to Jordan and Iraq. With the Americans, with whom the Saudis had fairly good relations, Riyadh should be convinced to stop the intrigues that played into Nasser's hands. In Syria, the efforts of the Iraqis, who tried to install a more stable and friendlier government there, had to be supported. Aid to Egypt should be reduced. The object was to isolate her. Regarding Nasser and his Government, most at the Foreign Office agreed that they ought to be replaced and even words like 'destroyed' were used.[163]

Eden, who largely agreed with the Foreign Office's approach, was resolved to suit the action to the word. W. Scott Lucas writes in Divided we Stand that in March, Eden, without telling the Cabinet and the Foreign Office, gave MI_6 authorization to deal with Nasser. It is unclear what action he envisaged exactly but contacts were established with dissident officers in Egypt.[164] Before the Suez Crisis began, intervention, though silently and secretly, had already been decided upon.

Eden and Nasser

The history of Egypt tells that the British did not have much scruples about deposing her rulers. In 1953, the Iranian Prime Minister was made to leave; such operations were part of Britain's Middle Eastern policy. Why Whitehall and Eden in particular wanted to replace the Egyptian leadership in 1956 is not explained by General Glubb's dismissal alone. Several who did not believe that Nasser was behind it, spoke of the need for another ruler and before 1 March, similar wishes were uttered.[165]

Antipathy against Nasser played a role. Eden's biographer Robert Rhodes James writes that the Prime Minister had developed 'a real personal hatred of Nasser'. Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh, charged with Middle Eastern affairs at the Foreign Office and Eden's former Private Secretary, was 'furious' about these 'emotional attitudes' in foreign policy. According to James, Eden regarded Nasser, like Mussolini, as 'vain, megalomaniac, with vaulting ambitions and grandiose ventures in whose dreams of fame and glory his unfortunate people were cast not only as his admiring audience but as docile participants and, if need be, victims'.[166] Several actors in the international scene match this description and have nevertheless enjoyed British favours.[167]

There were more specific reasons for the wish to topple Nasser. He and his compagnons were seen as anti-British. Yet, Eden, as Shuckburgh believes, had been sincere in his desire to co-operate with Egypt.[168] He had hoped that Nasser felt the same. It was difficult to see the Egyptians, after having been in the British Empire for so long, going their own way. Nasser probably did not want animosity with the UK, but some of his policies, especially his opposition to the Baghdad Pact, led to resentment. After the arms deal with the communist block, Eden wanted to write him a letter of reproach, reminding him that in February 1955 he 'took my hand [...] and assured me that a new chapter had opened in our relations'. Since then, Cairo choose 'to denounce Britain and to oppose British policy on every occasion'. Eden's advisers, anxious that these lines would 'look rather silly', convinced the Prime Minister not to send them.[169] Eden still thought it worthwhile to appease Egypt and offer a Dam. But the Baghdad Pact stood between the two men, who were both not big enough to look over it.

Eden and most other in Whitehall accused Nasser of setting the other Arab countries against the UK, which was reminiscent of Mussolini.[170] Not without reason, they thought that the Egyptians wanted to replace the British as the dominant power in the Middle East. Officials and propaganda from Cairo exerted influence on other Arab capitals. Nasser was ready and keen to help out Jordan if British aid stopped as a reaction to Glubb's dismissal. The positions of politicians close to Cairo strengthened in Jordan and Syria. The British worried about the agreements between Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and later also Yemen, to set up joint military command systems.[171] Saudi Arabia's subversive policies, designed, like Egypt's machinations, to undermine the Baghdad Pact and acquire Arab hegemony, were worrisome as well. MI_6 proposed plans to replace King Saud but the character of the latter's regime was entirely different and America's strong economic position in Saudi Arabia made other kinds of sanctions possible.[172]

Another of Nasser's flaws was his alleged closeness to the Kremlin. The Egyptians imported Russian and Czecho-Slovak weapons and their leader visited several Eastern European countries. More disquieting news came from by MI_6 . Since November 1955 its officers learned of what they considered reliable sources in Nasser's entourage that Soviet influence in Cairo was stronger than thought earlier. They claimed that Nasser's ambitions, (summarized as 'destruction of Israel', 'domination of all Arab governments', 'elimination of all Western positions in the Arab area' and 'extension of Egyptian influence in North Africa') would receive Russian support if the Soviets would be allowed to play a more prominent role in the Middle East.[173] The hope for peace between Egypt and Israel was shattered and Whitehall officials like William Clark, Eden's Press Secretary, drew their conclusions. He wrote that Nasser 'must go, though I feel sad about that as I liked him'. Shuckburgh said that if this was true, 'the right course would be to overthrow him'. However, Shuckburgh was more sceptical of MI_6 reports and, qualifying Nasser as 'unreliable', he believed that, rather than being a Red stooge, Nasser 'thinks himself supremely clever, and is playing East off against West'.[174]

Nasser was not afraid to pursue risky policies as he would confirm on 26 July. Doing business with Moscow was another example. It paid off as it showed the Arab world that he was no Western puppet and bold enough to defy the British and Americans. He had explained once that he was opposed to communism, which was undoubtedly true, and that after decades of British domination, he did not search submission to Russians.[175] However, this attitude did not exclude the possibility of a future alliance with the USSR if ever a world war ignited. As Henry Byroade, an American official, told: 'the difficulty in dealing with this fellow is that he honestly agrees with our criticism [about the] dangers of Egypt's policies in the longer run, yet seems convinced he must move as he does in the short run'. When Macmillan expressed the fear that Nasser was 'dangerously committed to the Communists', he was uncertain whether this had happened 'innocently or deliberately'. 'In any event', he added, 'it would be advantageous [...] to overthrow him if possible'.[176]

The Soviet encroachment was maybe overestimated but not invented. After Stalin died in 1953, relations between the USSR and the Western allies improved. The Cold War did not seem to become hot in the near future. Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and Nikolai Bulganin, the Prime Minister, wanted to preserve the status quo in Europe, but not in the rest of the world. They started an active search for influence and power in the so-called Third World. Support was given to the Bandung Conference of 'non-aligned' states in April 1955 and economic aid was given 'for political purposes' as Khrushchev confessed to the Americans. Regarding the Middle East, the Soviets, as Shuckburgh noted, were 'openly espousing the Arab cause against the Jews' and called the Baghdad Pact 'a British prison for the Arabs'. They offered aid to Jordan after 1 March, just like the Egyptians and the Saudis.[177]

Adding up Nasser's policies, the situation in the Middle East and the Soviet menace, Eden came to the conclusion that the Arab world might be lost, and probably to the benefit of the USSR. He did not believe that with the advent of the hydrogen bomb, the strategics of conventional warfare had become out of date. With Washington, London tried to surround the communist block with a belt of defence organizations. The Baghdad Pact (later known as CENTO) was the missing link between Pakistan (SEATO) and Turkey (NATO).[178] The objects were to stop Soviet expansionism per se and, more specifically, to prevent the Russians reaching the Indian Ocean and Africa. The UK had colonies, bases, treaty obligations and other commitments in regions ranging from East Africa to Far East Asia, which British Conservative and Labour governments zealously tried to uphold until at least the early 1970s.[179]

The Middle East was of central importance for Britain's global role but also for her economy. This region provided the bulk of oil needed in British industry and transport. To Eden, who was not skilled in economic matters, it was simple: 'no oil, unemployment and hunger in Britain'. Macmillan and the Treasury reported that 'without the oil, both the United Kingdom and Western Europe are lost'.[180]

The stakes were high. Egypt's neutrality in the Cold War was acceptable if only she were benevolently neutral. Whitehall was not convinced of this. Nasser was seen as a danger to stability in the region and to Arab benevolence towards the British. The Prime Minister thought this unacceptable and acted.

Anthony Eden acted as he had wanted to take action twenty years earlier. In the foreword to Full Circle, the volume of his memoirs dealing with the post-war period, he wrote about 'the lessons of the thirties and their application to the fifties'. A major regret in Eden's life was that in 1936, he, as Stanley Baldwin's Foreign Secretary, allowed Hitler to occupy the Rheinland, the Nazis' first bold move. The lesson learnt, and now put to practice, was to nip a dangerous dictatorship in the bud.[181]

The Russian Dam and the Egyptian Canal

In June nothing seemed to herald the Suez Crisis. On the tenth, the Egyptian Government signed an agreement with the Suez Canal Company on certain financial arrangements and the former reaffirmed the concession to the Company. Three days later, the British withdrawal from the Suez Canal Zone was completed and celebrated by the Egyptians. On the 26th, Gamal Nasser was elected President of his country by obtaining a typical score of 99.84% of the votes cast.[182]

The Foreign Office's new approach towards the Middle East did not include a withdrawal of the offer to finance the Aswan Dam. However, within the confines of the Whitehall buildings, Selwyn Lloyd, Macmillan's successor as Foreign Secretary, had decided, with his American counterpart John Foster Dulles, that the project should 'wither on the vine'.[183]

In the US and the UK, politicians and the press criticized the ambitious project for the Dam, benefiting a government which was not even friendly. Iraq resented the idea that Egypt should receive so much, while she herself was more co-operative with the Western allies. Sudan, now independent, was anxious for the effect the Dam would have on the Nile.[184] In Washington and London the idea emerged that the major reason to finance it, keeping the Russians from building it, was not valid. On the twentieth, the day he left the Foreign Office, being fed up with the job and the Middle East, Shuckburgh wrote on the Soviet offer:'Tant pis. The Arab states will have to see the Russians actually carrying out some project before they will believe that the Communists are not selfless paragons of brotherly love'. Dulles had similar thoughts.[185]

The offer would be withdrawn but several at the British Forign Office, being concerned with Nasser's reaction, wanted to keep Cairo guessing. Archibald Ross, Shuckburgh's successor, hinted that Whitehall might 'drop the project as a prelude to effective action to get rid of Nasser'. There appears to be no further evidence that the UK tried to provoke Egypt.[186]

On 19 July the US withdrew their offer, and were followed in this by Britain. The reason given was the unfitness of Egypt's economy for the project. Cairo felt insulted and Nasser wanted to show that one could not play around with his country. He decided to nationalize the Suez Canal Company, an idea that had been lingering in his mind for a long time. The dues would provide the means to build the Aswan Dam so that he would not become dependant on one of the superpowers. He knowingly risked intervention by the British and the French, but the risk, he calculated, would decrease over time. His Cabinet was stunned and anxious. On 26 July 1956, during a rousing speech by President Nasser, laws which nationalized the Company and obliged its employees to continue working, were promulgated; Egyptian soldiers entered the Suez Canal Company's office.[187]


'He must not be allowed to get away with it'. Eden was clear that Britain's reaction to Nasser's act would have to be strong. The Cabinet members who were at 10 Downingstreet on the evening of 26 July agreed and so did the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri es-Said and Hugh Gaitskell, Leader of the Oppostion, who were there as well. The latter said that the Government 'ought to act quickly whatever they did'. Yet, during nocturnal talks attended by Eden, several ministers, the Chiefs of Staff, the French Ambassador and the American Chargé d'Affaires, immediate military action to occupy the Suez Canal Zone had to be discarded as only Port Said could be conquered in a few days after which the invasion force would have to wait too long for reinforcements. It was not going to be a short crisis.[188]

Relying on economic measures alone to hit Egypt was discarded as well. Already in 1951, the Foreign Office concluded that these would also damage the British economy. The effects of a blockade on an underdeveloped economy like Egypt's would not be felt immediately and were assessed to be small. Furthermore, economic steps were hardly spectacular and not seen as strong measures. Lloyd said that 'Nasser would laugh at them'.[189]

Political pressure by many governments would have more effect on Egypt. However, during a Cabinet meeting on the next day, Eden rejected the suggestion to exert this pressure via the UN Security Council as this would involve the USSR and the Prime Minister was not certain of US viewpoints.[190]

Eden stressed that 'in the last resort, this political pressure must be backed by the threat - and, if need be, the use of force'. The whole Cabinet, lacking only Richard Austin Butler, the influential Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the Commons, who was ill, assented to this. All present accepted that if force was necessary, Britain would go in alone if no other power was prepared to join her.[191]

The French and American Governments were to be approached and the Chiefs of Staff would prepare a plan and a timetable for an invasion of Egypt. Several Cabinet members were to convene regularly to discuss the crisis in detail; the full Cabinet were to decide on their proposals. This group was called the Egypt Committee and consisted of Prime Minister Eden, Chancellor of the Exchequer Macmillan, Foreign Secretary Lloyd, Minister of Defence Sir Walter Monckton, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords, the Marquess of Salisbury (formerly Viscount Cranborne) and the Commonwealth Secretary, the Earl of Home.[192]

International Control

The Egypt Committee wanted to remove the Suez Canal from Egyptian hands. After doing so, a desire that Westminster's Conservatives and Socialists had shared for a long time could be realized, viz. placing the Canal under international control. This meant that Egypt had to give up her recent nationalization. However, this also meant that the Suez Canal Company would not reassume control of the waterway as after 1968 its concession would end so that the Canal would become Egyptian property after all. Eden argued that Nasser's action presented the opportunity to reach a settlement that assured permanent multinational control of the Suez Canal.[193]

Whitehall had several objections to Egypt running the Canal all by herself. It was feared that Cairo would raise the dues but also that the Aswan Dam and other domestic projects would be built at the expense of the Canal's maintenance and development.[194]

The British furthermore suspected that Egypt would not respect the Constantinople Convention. As an act of hostility, she might 'indulge in flag discrimination at our expense' or even close the Canal. Lloyd said that 'NATO and Western Europe would be at the mercy of one irresponsible and faithless individual'.[195] However, the legally dubious blockade of Israeli ships by Egypt since 1951 showed that these dangers already existed before the nationalization. Eden had accepted Cairo's justification then, but now, when his pro-Egyptian views had waned and passage of British ships was at stake, matters were of course different. By withdrawing the British garrison from the Canal Zone, the waterway had already become vulnerable to malevolent designs, which, if carried out, would undoubtedly make the British seriously consider force as counter-measure. The nationalization and the ensuing international crisis seemed to offer Eden the occasion to convince the world that, as part of a multinational settlement of Suez Canal affairs, enforcement of freedom of passage through the Canal should be allowed. If the Egyptians, who were feared to become Soviet cronies, obstructed passage to British and NATO ships, the Canal could be cleared without defiance of world opinion.

Britain was strongly attached to free passage of her vessels. The Canal was of great significance for the Royal Navy, being a shortcut for destinations south and east of Suez. The waterway was regarded as Britain's lifeline. About half of Western Europe's oil imports from the Middle East went through the Canal.[196] The Chancellor of the Exchequer insisted that a 'detour [of tankers round the Cape] was really not a practicle possibility for any length of time'.[197] Although the London City and the world of international commerce thought that the nationalization was no cause for panic, Eden and his Ministers were adamant that Nasser must not 'have his hand on our windpipe'.[198]

The other way that was used to transport Middle Eastern oil to Europe was via pipelines, running notably through Syria. In early August, Damascus was thinking of suspending this flow. Such steps, taken in the spirit of the Suez nationalization, were precisely what the British apprehended.[199] The Cabinet expected that if Nasser 'gets away with it', the temptation to commit other 'acts of economic piracy' or acts hostile to British interests in general, would no longer be resisted.[200]

So, Great Britain had to make a stand and mark the limits. In the Prime Minister's mind, she had to preserve 'the West's authority' in the Middle East and beyond. The warning was directed to the Soviets as well. Eden told them in April 1956 that he must be 'absolutely blunt about the oil because we would fight for it'.[201]

Another Egyptian Government

As Harold Macmillan explained, the Egypt Committee set out 'to bring about the fall of Nasser and create a government in Egypt which will work satisfactorily with ourselves and the other powers'.[202] This one-year-old desire gained new vigour as the Cabinet believed that Nasser's nationalization could somehow offer the opportunity to get rid of him.[203]

The desire also grew because the Committee saw now even more reason why the Egyptian regime should go. The most fiendish of Nasser's deeds occurred on 26 July. Still, they were further convinced when 'accumulating evidence' of Egyptian plots in Lybia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq turned up.[204] The Iranian Foreign Minister and the Lybian ambassador told Lloyd that their pro-Western governments would fall if Nasser was not checked. The decline of British influence in the Middle East looked even more ominous when in September reports indicated that Soviet aid to Egypt included modern submarines and volunteers.[205] 'Whether he likes it or nor', Eden said, he 'is now effectively in Russian hands, just as Mussolini was in Hitler's'.[206]

The Rheinland

The nationalization of 1956 highlighted Eden's analogy with the remilitarization of 1936. It was another of Nasser's bold moves. On 6 September, Eden and Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office and one of the Prime Minister's closest advisers, wrote to the American President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

In the 1930s Hitler established his position by a series of carefully planned movements [...] His actions were tolerated and excused by the majority of the population of Western Europe. It was argued that Hitler had committed no act of aggression against anyone or that he was entitled to do what he liked in his own territory or that it was impossible to prove that he had any ulterior designs or the Covenant of the League of Nations did not entitle us to use force and that it would be wiser to wait until he did commit an act of aggression.

It was better to react with strength rather than wait 'until Nasser has unmistakenly unveiled his intentions'.[207]

The Retreat from Empire

The withdrawal from Egypt and the Suez Canal had been marked steps along the path of decolonization. On 26 July, salt was thrown into a wound which had not yet healed. Although there were few die-hard imperialists in Westminster and the Suez group consisted of only 26 out of 344 Tory MP's, the nationalization hurt the feelings of many on both sides of the House of Commons.[208] R.A. Butler later wrote that it stirred 'deep-seated emotions [which despite] affecting liberal-minded people, [...] coalesced only too easily with less generous sentiments: the residues of illiberal resentment at the loss of Empire, the rise of coloured nationalism, the transfer of world leadership to the United States'.[209]

Inside the Cabinet, Harold Macmillan was the most outspoken guardian of his country's age-old global power. He talked of honour and humiliation. He preferred Great Britain perishing in flames while fighting her last battle instead of being 'reduced to impotence' and becoming 'another Netherlands'.[210]

At least since World War II, Eden had acknowledged that the Empire could not be maintained in its pre-war form, which was reflected in his policy towards Egypt in the first half of the 1950s. Yet, at heart, he found difficulty in accepting the retreat. Although not a jingoist, his love for England was deep and he was fond of the British Empire. The waning power of both was saddening; their humiliation by some 'upstart dictator' was infuriating. To him, a weak response was unimaginable.[211]

Popularity, Prestige and Reputation

When Sir Anthony Eden became Prime Minister in April 1955, he was widely acclaimed. The new Head of the Government was a gentleman, a statesman with great international prestige, popular among so many Britons and highly respected by all major political groups.[212] But his bright image was soon tarnished. His leadership was questioned in party and press when he reshuffled his Cabinet twice. First, he installed the strong-minded Macmillan in the Foreign Office to replace him in December 1955 by the supremely loyal Lloyd. This affair and rumours depicted him as indecisive, which was probably true regarding purely political matters and domestic policy.[213] The economy stagnated, almost at the moment when Eden entered office. In his chosen area, he had to face two espionage scandals. After Glubb's dismissal he made a dramatically poor performance in the House of Commons where he lost his temper.[214]

All along his carreer, Eden was a relatively popular man. Now this was changing and he may have hoped to regain popularity by demonstrating leadership in a crisis and standing up to Nasser.

Inside his Conservative Party, the Prime Minister lost many so-called friends and lay under attack many times. This had started when he was still a Foreign Secretary. In particular his policy on the Middle East had been relentlessly criticized. He never gave in, and would not do so either when measures against Jordan were demanded in March 1956. Nevertheless, on the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement of 1954, Shuckburgh noted that Eden was 'beginning to find the unpopularity of his Egyptian policy in his party too heavy a burden, and [was] seeking ways of abandoning it'.[215] Pressure to react strongly in the Suez Crisis was heavy[216] but Eden wanted a policy of strength on 26 July already, and even before this date he had secretly authorized action against Nasser. It is unlikely that his hard line on Egypt after years of seeking her goodwill was a way to put himself in advance of criticism and to regain support among Tories. In 1956 Eden felt betrayed by Nasser in his search for Egyptian benevolence. His subsequent reversal of policy towards the line of his former critics was one of conviction rather than political calculation.[217] Conservative opinion confirmed his course of action but probably did not give shape to it.

During the Suez Crisis, Eden was probably more concerned about his reputation and self-image than about his popularity. Throughout his carreer, he read press comments with avid interest. Shuckburgh described him as 'a sea anemone, covered with sensitive tentacles all recording currents of opinion around him'.[218] During his prime ministership, he was frequently accused of 'dithering'.[219] Feeling hurt every time, he may have become even more determined to choose a tough line on Suez, to show that he did not dither, but that he was steadfast and courageous.

Being courageous was part of his image and linked with the reputation he probably cherished most, viz. the one of anti-appeaser. He had been called an appeaser in debates on Sudan, on the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement, on Glubb's dismissal. The Daily Telegraph wrote about his 'clumsy courtship of unfriendly and fickle Arab statesmen'.[220] The Suez Group was proved to be right and Eden, once a praised Foreign Secretary, seemed another Neville Chamberlain. He may have chosen a hard line as regards Egypt, partly because he could not stand to be called an appeaser again, because he wanted to prove that he really was no such person. Nasser was likened with Mussolini by himself and also with Hitler by speakers on both sides of the House of Commons. If Eden wanted to live up to his reputation, now was the moment to do so. When in a TV-speech on 8 August, Eden pointed out the similarity between Nasser's acts and fascist behaviour, he publicly committed himself to a policy of no surrender.[221]


British ambitions during the Suez Crisis were far from easy to realize. Egypt would not give up her recently acquired control of the Canal if she were not confronted with massive and steadfast international pressure. London hoped to apply this by ensuring the support of the world's major maritime powers for international control during a conference scheduled for August.[222]

Concerning the other major objective, it was of course very unlikely that Nasser and his Government would leave their seats and offer them to pro-British politicians. To uphold British and personal prestige, Nasser would have to be made to bite the dust. The Egypt Committee hoped that strong diplomatic pressure, backed by military threat and forcing Egypt to give up the Canal, would humiliate Nasser and cause his reign to totter. Covert operations would help to stir up local opposition in Egypt.[223]

Eden and his closest Ministers were not confident that other countries, especially those in Asia and Africa, where governments nationalized foreign assets as well, would condemn Cairo strongly or that international pressure, even in combination with military threat, would lead to the desired results. Kirkpatrick remarked: 'it is difficult to draw up a programme which will achieve the end "Defeating Nasser without resort to force"... I shall be grateful for ideas'.[224]

If Britain intervened militarily, she would take the fate of the Suez Canal and Nasser in her own hands. This prospect became even more interesting in late August when it dawned upon the British that Nasser's position in Egypt was strong. A coup against him would be more likely to succeed if he had suffered a military defeat before.[225] A disadvantage of recapturing the Canal by force was that in the process, traffic through the waterway might become impossible for some time. Egypt's friends like Syria could cut the pipelines, forcing the UK to buy oil from the US and pay for it with expensive dollars. This, and the susceptibility of financial markets to crises and wars could cause a run on sterling. Macmillan and Salisbury stressed, however, that these short term effects were preferable to the 'slow strangulation' of European economy that would follow from allowing Egypt and her satellites to seize property of strategic value.[226] On the military side, intervention was considered feasible. Eden confidently dismissed Ambassador Sir Humprey Trevelyan's warning on possible Egyptian guerrilla activities against invading forces.[227]

Because of the attraction of force and because of the faint hope that economic and political means would sort effect, intervention received particularly serious attention, at the expense of other than forceful means. As was worded explicitly by Macmillan and Lloyd, the search for peaceful means amounted in practice to no more than a way to satisfy opinion and a way 'to fill up the time before a striking force can be got ready'.[228] When this moment arrived, time became very important. Egypt was preparing against an attack by organizing defences, guerilla command units and receiving modern Russian weaponry. Britain could not keep a large military force ready for action in the Mediterranean for a long time. Furthermore, like Nasser, Whitehall knew that with each day, support in and outside the UK for British military action would diminish.[229] Time consuming peace-initiatives after the maritime conference by third countries or the UN could therefore imperil the possibility to opt for forceful means. Britain's international reputation, public opinion and good manners required that London should not disregard them. The British Government would listen, but with impatience. If a peace initiative proved to be incapable of coming forward to British interests, it would have be to broken off as soon as possible. Hopefully, this would leave enough time to intervene.[230]

The Britons

The nationalization came as a shock and was sometimes denounced hysterically in practically all right and left-wing papers.[231] In the House of Commons, on 27 July and 2 August, just before Parliamentary recess, Conservatives and the Opposition were united in condemning Nasser.[232] In Hugh Gaitskell's opinion, Nasser had seized, not nationalized the Canal as 'it was done suddenly, without negotiation, without discussion, by force'. 'Nasser wanted to show the rest of the Arab world - "See what I can do". He wanted to challenge the West and to win... He wanted to make a big impression... It is all very familiar. It is exactly the same that we encountered from Mussolini and Hitler in those years before the war'. Approving of Eden's military preparations, he tried to bring to mind the UN Charter and the fact that Britain had never violated it.[233]

The following day, Gaitskell, fearing that his anti-Nasser speech was misunderstood, wrote Eden to emphasize that only the UN could allow the UK to use force. Soon, others in Labour became outspoken opponents of intervention.[234] In mid-August several papers made a virtual volte-face. Two weeks after reminding its readers that 'Mussolini ended up hanging upside down', the left-wing Daily Mirror argued that 'Eden cannot talk to Nasser in 1956 as Churchill talked to Mussolini in the 1940s'.[235] A Gallup pole, taken on 10 August, indicated that about two thirds of the Britons agreed with the military build-up, but that only about one third wanted the troops coming in action if Egypt did not accept the decision of the coming Maritime Conference. The Conservative Party chairman, Oliver Poole, wrote to the Prime Minister that most people in Britain wanted a diplomatic rather than a military victory.[236]

Among Tories, some hardened their opinions on Suez, whereas Poole felt that there was also a 'noticeable softening'. In September, Butler told the Cabinet that the Party would support military action if all other means were tried, but the Chief Whip, Edward Heath, spoke of Tories who ruled out force completely and who might be numerous enough to block the Cabinet's decisions with the Opposition in a vote.[237]

In the Cabinet, pressure mounted to put all efforts in finding a peaceful solution first, which was partly a reaction to public opinion.[238] Even in the Egypt Committee there was a Minister, Monckton, who felt uneasy about using force before all other means were really exhausted. Apart from concerns over world support, military matters and costs, he was worried that British opinion would be devided.[239] His colleagues would not budge. Macmillan found that, if necessary, the Government 'must use force and defy opinion'. Kirkpatrick, who, being a civil servant, was not elected, retorted that he did not care about public opinion but about the right direction of policy. Eden told the French Ambassador that he must take public opinion in account.[240] Still, if non-military means were not promising, as the Prime Minister expected, force was necessary. He was confident that the British people would understand if the moment were to arrive.[241]

World Opinion: Legal Matters

If Britain wanted to convince her friends in the world that the Suez Canal should be under international control and that a situation might arise in which force was justified, it would be helpful if international law was on British side. Egypt was, however, allowed to abrogate her concession to the Canal Company and, because Nasser promised to compensate the shareholders equitably, the Cabinet had to concede that 'from the strictly legal point of view' he had acted correctly.[242]

Nevertheless, Viscount Kilmuir, sitting in the Cabinet as Lord Chancellor, and legal advisers devised the case that Egypt had broken international law as the Company, though being nominally Egyptian, had an 'international character' which was confirmed by 'various agreements made by the company with the Egyptian Government'. The case was not strong but besides Kilmuir and Lloyd, who was a lawyer, few cared about legal talk. Eden was certainly not one of them.[243]

Another legal question was whether Britain was entitled to intervene militarily as a last resort. The UN Charter allows the use of force only if explicitly authorized by the UN or in case of self-defence against an armed attack.[244] Although acknowledging that the UN could not be disregarded, Kilmuir, the principal legal authority in the Cabinet, still adhered to the old principle, which was already out of date in the 1950s, that a state may also use force to protect vital national interests. Salisbury brought to mind that the UN was a means, not an end. Peace, and even more so, justice were the ends.[245]

World Opinion: the Commonwealth

Among the Commonwealth countries, which were consulted immediately by London, only New Zealand promised to stand by Britain 'through thick and thin'. Australia and especially Canada, referring to the danger of more divisions between countries on this globe, were more critical towards Britain's determination to use force in the last resort. Ottawa even questioned the military preparations, which might lead to an escalation.[246]

The Government of Pakistan, on the other hand, saw no problem in using force to punish Nasser provided that Israel did not play a role in such action. However, public opinion in their country was pro-Egypt and so their support was only expressed behind the scenes.[247]

The Government of India, an influential power and champion of non-alignment, did not condemn the nationalization in public either, despite Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's angriness about this irresponsible act, taken without any consultation with New Delhi. Resorting to arms as countermeasure was irresponsible too. India, being on good terms with Britain as well as Egypt, hoped to reconcile them.[248]

Having taken a look at world opinion, several at the Foreign Office emphasized on 13 August that diplomatic means should receive the fullest and unequivocal attention and that 'military action in present circumstances would [...] prejudice our political relationships over a very wide field, including serious damage to the Commonwealth'.[249] Some senior officers, in particular Admiral Earl Mountbatten, the First Sea Lord, and several Cabinet members, including Monckton, had similar views. They were concerned about the lack of faith in political means as displayed by the Egypt Committee and the almost inevitable use of force.[250] To Eden and his closest Ministers, realizing Britain's objectives was of such importance that it was worth the price. The Prime Minister remarked that 'people still talk about the danger of our alienating India or worrying Africa, but the fact is that if we lose out in the Middle East we shall be immediately destroyed'.[251]


France, Great Britain's major ally in Europe, did not only agree with Anthony Eden on international control of the Suez Canal; she also wanted to see Nasser fall. In 1954 Algerians started a bitter fight against French rule of their country; allegedly, Egypt was the driving force behind the independists. The Socialist Premier Guy Mollet and his Foreign Minister Christian Pineau were, however, not so much interested in this colonial motive for toppling the Egyptian President. They were ideologically and morally inspired to help Israel stand up against her major enemy.[252]

Mollet, preaching 'solidarité occidentale', willingly accepted British guidance on Suez and offered troops. In London, however, doubts existed on becoming too closely aligned with the French, who were considered to be very impopular among Arabs.[253] Still, France could not be left aside because of her strong link with the Suez Canal. Furthermore, the offer of 2000 well-equipped, experienced and ruthless French paratroopers was tempting. France was thus involved in the military preparations and if London and Paris decided to intervene, her men would operate under British command.[254]

The United States of America

The American reaction was totally different. The friendship between the United States and Great Britain was strong but not without frictions in some areas. The former criticized British colonialism and imperialism, also during decolonization. Eden, who found this sometimes hypocritical attitude irritating, tended, as James writes, 'to be excessively critical of American policies and purposes'. He could not easily accept that while his country was in decline, the US were taking up an increasingly dominant position.[255] Like Churchill, he wanted Britain to assert herself as a big power that could act independently of others. Although both men were wholly convinced of the necessity of a strong link with their wartime ally, they believed that this 'special relationship' was characterized by equality. But President Eisenhower confided to his diary that 'in the present international complexities, any hope of establishing such a relationship is completely fatuous'.[256]

Both countries worked together to contain communist expansion. Washington concentrated on the Far East and London on the Middle East. The British found the Americans dangerously hostile towards Mao Tse-tung whereas the latter regretted 'the rather jittery attitude' of their ally in the Middle East.[257]

In the US, policy makers and the CIA believed that there was only a limited danger of communist expansion in this region. Local nationalism should not be frustrated so that the Arabs would not seek recourse to Soviet help. The American Secretary of State Dulles wanted to 'lead the young nations to our side' by revealing the true, imperialistic nature of the USSR. Therefore, the British had to lose their imperialistic traits.[258] Until so, the US tried to distance themselves from Britain and her Baghdad Pact. To win Arab favour, the Eisenhower administration was not as pro-Israel as most other post-war American governments. Unlike Whitehall, the White House did not completely lose patience with Nasser in 1955 and early 1956. Worries about the Egyptian leadership were translated into further concentration on Saudi Arabia to make Riyadh the champion of the Arab and the Muslim world.[259]

Eisenhower did not condemn the nationalization of the Suez Canal, considering that 'Nasser was within his rights'. It was soon clear that American units would not participate in a military expedition against Egypt. International control of the waterway was received favourably. The President thought intervention 'very unwise'.[260] Apart from having moral objections, he expected that the whole of Africa and Asia would be angered by such an imperialist act. Possibly he was also concerned by the presidential elections which were to be held on 6 November 1956.[261]

In a letter of 3 September, Eisenhower made clear to Eden that he did not endorse force, not even as a last resort. The Prime Minister was very disturbed and responded by drawing a comparison between 1936 and 1956. But the President replied: 'you are making of Nasser a much more important figure than he his'.[262] Dulles, whom the British wrongly believed to be the real policy maker in Washington and who had earlier seemed favourable to forceful action as a last means, explained in early October that the threat of force was acceptable but nothing beyond that.[263] These words were downright setbacks for Eden, who once told his French colleagues that, to ensure US backing, he was 'prêt à marcher sur la tête'. Sir Roger Makins, the ambassador in Washington, insisted that intervention 'without full American moral and material support could easily lead to disaster'. Macmillan knew that the monetary hardships that would result from an intervention could not be countered without US financial help.[264]

The Prime Minister nevertheless emphasized that the Suez Canal was vital to Britain. It was easy for the US, who had no such interest, to say that Eden had to calm down.[265] Anyhow, American support was not entirely lacking, he thought. On 1 October Macmillan returned from a trip through the United States. He had had private talks with several American officials. Dulles had told him that force might be needed but the Chancellor did not pay enough attention to the Secretary's remark on holding 'things off until after November 6th'. Macmillan also had an amicable conversation with the President, touching barely upon Suez. He nevertheless felt free to reassure Eden about Eisenhower's stance on force: 'I know Ike. He will lie doggo!'[266]

The Arab Governments

Great Britain's friends in the Middle East, who were concerned about their political fates because of Nasser's influence, advised Eden and Lloyd to take no half measures. On the evening of 26 July, Nuri es-Said told the British what they should do with Nasser: 'Hit him, hit him hard and hit him now'.[267] The Libyan ambassador warned, however, that although Nasser would not be mourned by the Arabs, general opnion was sympathetic to Egypt. Syria and Saudi Arabia responded favourably to Nasser's nationalization. In August, all Arab countries, excluding the British client states on the Arabian Peninsula and including even Iraq, whose Government could not disregard public opinion, followed.[268]

In reality, Iraq's Prime Minister still approved of an intervention but he urged not to involve Israel in any way. The Hebrew State was seen as the common enemy of all Arab countries. Macmillan, with the support of Sir Winston Churchill and the Chiefs of Staff Committee, argued in favour of a military plan in which Israel would arrange a diversion in the east of Egypt before the Anglo-French attack was to begin. Eden and Lloyd turned this proposal down. The British quarrel with the Egyptian Government had to be isolated completely from the Arab-Israeli conflict.[269]

Even if London decided to punish Egypt without Israeli assistance, the British acknowledged that many Arabs, including many Iraqi and Jordanian people, might be infuriated by such action against a fellow Arab nation. As Macmillan realized: 'we are caught in a terrible dilemma. If we take strong action against Egypt, and as a result the Canal is closed, the pipelines to the Levant are cut, the Persian Gulf revolts and oil production is stopped - then UK and Western Europe have "had it"'. On the other hand,

if we suffer a diplomatic defeat; if Nasser "gets away with it", Nuri falls, and the Middle East countries, in a ferment, "nationalise oil"... we have equally "had it". What are we to do? It seems clear that we should take the only chance we have - to take strong action, and hope that thereby our friends in Middle East will stand, our enemies fall, and the oil will be saved, but it is a tremendous decision.[270]

Thus, using force would not be a simple and popular decision. Sir Norman Brook, the Cabinet Secretary, warned Eden: 'How do you do it in this age? Call together Parliament, send in the troops and get a positive vote of perhaps forty-eight in Parliament and a vote against you in the UN? It just isn't on'. It would be better if, as Nuri es-Said strongly advised, Britain could deal with the crisis 'in such a way that Nasser would be obliged either to give in or to fire the first shot'.[271] The Egypt Committee concluded that if, as expected, force would be needed, and if London wanted to avoid the consequential anger of the Arabs, but also of the Commonwealth, the Asians, the Africans, the Americans and the Britons, Nasser had to be provoked so that, in the words of Salisbury, 'he does something that gives us an excuse for marching in'.[272]

The Maritime Conference

The aim of the international maritime conference was to reach an agreement on international control of the Suez Canal. The British did not expect President Nasser to agree to this. Therefore, their hopes were merely fixed on pronouncing a joint condemnation of the nationalization and rallying widespread support for international control so that an intervention to achieve this end would have some justification in the eyes of Parliament and the world.[273]

Representatives from 22 countries came to London where the conference opened on 16 August. Egypt had been invited but her Government expected that the British would only seek to impose their terms while issuing threats.[274] Discussions centred around two proposals. The first was made by India. It called for negotiations with Egypt to set up a consultative body of Canal users which would co-operate with the Egyptians, who would remain the sole owners of the waterway.[275] The second proposal was American and responded to British wishes. A Suez Canal Board, consisting of Egypt and states using or being dependant on the Canal, would control it, without any political link with any country. After deduction of costs for maintenance and development, all profits would go to Egypt. Violations of this agreement would be sanctioned and interference by force of passage through the Canal would constitute a threat to peace and thus a violation of the UN Charter. Except for India, Ceylon, Indonesia and the USSR, all participants favoured the latter proposal.[276]

A committee was sent to Cairo to present the so-called Eighteen Nation Plan to Nasser in early September. The Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, the leader of the mission, did not threaten the Egyptians. However, the Anglo-French military build-up and the advice to British and French nationals to leave Egypt, were clear threats made by London and Paris.[277] President Nasser was not the man to give in to such menace. Although he was ready to make agreements about the height of dues and free passage, he explained lucidly that he wanted no tampering with Egypt's sovereignty over the Suez Canal.[278]


When Robert Menzies arrived in Cairo, John Foster Dulles came up with the Suez Canal Users' Association, as it was later called. This organization of maritime powers would employ its own pilots and its members would pay the transit dues to their joint account, not to the Egyptian Canal Authority. The latter, remaining the owner, would receive only 'a fair share' for maintenance and the Canal's development. If Egypt tried to obstruct vessels of SCUA members, she would violate the Constantinople Convention regarding freedom of passage and each member would 'regain its liberty of action'. Dulles told the British and the French that, if confronted with obstruction, ships would be diverted around the Cape, but he failed to clarify that, as far as he intended it, 'liberty of action' excluded force.[279]

The British were attracted to SCUA. It would be, as Lloyd put it, a 'slap in the face' for Nasser, who would see the Canal's revenues pass by his nose.[280] His nationalization would become a complete sham, ridiculed around the world and in Egypt. Combined with the effects of US economic pressure which Dulles now promised to exert, Nasser's position in Egypt would become difficult and, as the British hoped, untenable. The Canal would, however, remain Egyptian. SCUA was therefore even more attractive if the Egyptians stopped the ships that did not pay their dues to their account; the British would then have the liberty 'to march in'. This scenario had already been in Eden's mind before Dulles made his proposal.[281]

On 12 September the Prime Minister announced the Users's Association to Parliament. The Opposition at once attacked SCUA, seeing it as a provocation.[282] Governments of other countries had similar views.[283] Worse even was that Washington started to crawl back. Dulles told that American ships sailing under a flag of convenience instead of the Stars and Stripes (meaning 90 to 95% of US vessels) could not be obliged to pay their dues to SCUA. During a press conference, he said that 'if force is interposed by Egypt [...] we do not intend to shoot our way through'. William Clark complained that Dulles 'watered down the Canal Users' Association till it was meaningless'.[284] Furthermore, Nasser told that Egypt would let the Association's ships through.[285]

Yet, the British had another card to play. The Suez Canal Company had fixed 15 September as the date after which its employees would have to be allowed to leave Egypt. Harold Watkinson, the British Minster for Transport, suggested to bring together a large number of ships at both ends of the Suez Canal that day, all wishing to cross the isthmus. Without the Company's pilots, chaos would reign, demonstrating Egypt's incapability of running the Canal. London and Paris would then send their own pilots, who would organize a convoy and demand passage. If refused, warships would lead the convoy.[286]

Since late July, Egypt had recruited her own pilots. Contrary to what the Canal Company had made British and French ministers believe, piloting was not that difficult.[287] On 15 September, all foreign pilots could freely leave Egypt. Faced with an abnormal amount of ships on the same day, the nation of Pyramid-builders, helped by pilots from another country of ancient exploits, Greece, managed wonderfully. It was not President Nasser who looked ridiculous.[288]

The United Nations

The next and last step which the Egypt Committee envisaged to take before the use of force, was presenting her griefs to the United Nations Organization in New York. In this time, when colonies became independent states, the UN embodied, as Keith Kyle states in Suez, both internationalism and 'a very uncompromising notion of national sovereignty'. In Clark's opinion, 'the sad fact [was] that in the present state of international law and order, nationalism, which may destroy the world community's interest, is sacrosanct and Nasser could get away with theft before the UN'.[289] With many former colonies friendly to Egypt, the Soviet Union and its vetoes and other Communist members, satisfactory resolutions seemed almost impossible. Even if these were adopted, Nasser could lay them aside without running a big risk of becoming subjected to effective UN sanctions.[290]

On 27 August, Lloyd explained to the Egypt Committee that not going to the UN was nevertheless worse than going. If the British did not go, the Egyptians or the Soviets would. The latters would complain about the Anglo-French military preparations whereas in London's view, the crisis was about Suez. The Foreign Secretary was concerned about opinion in his country and abroad being 'outraged' if the Government decided to intervene 'without having made some gesture towards the UN'. The UK and France should propose a resolution which endorsed the Eighteen Nation Plan. If a Soviet veto and endless amendments and procedures confirmed that further discussion in the Security Council was a waste of time, the two allies 'should withdraw, saying that the proceedings were futile and that the UN had shown itself incapable of dealing with the matter'. The Committee agreed with Lloyd.[291]

In the end of September the Prime Minister restated his objectives. The one regarding control of the Suez Canal was reduced to its essentials: no power should control the waterway on its own and, in case of any future interference with freedom of passage, effective sanctions, including those involving force, were allowed to be imposed. Provided that these conditions were met, Eden, turning to the other major objective, thought that 'it would still be possible to maintain other pressures which in the longer term should achieve the downfall of Colonel Nasser's regime in Egypt'.[292] So, he sent an eager Lloyd to New York with his final offer on how the Suez Canal should be run. Not having great expectations about succes, he told his Foreign Secretary to stay close to the French and their insistence on not losing time.[293]

On 5, 8 and 9 October, plenary debates were held in the Security Council. Nothing substantial came out of them but the Secretary General of the UN, the Swede Dag Hammarskjöld, invited Lloyd, Pineau and the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mahmoud Fawzi, to talk in private. The three accepted, although the Frenchman hoped that the negotiations would fail.[294]

Soon, the Egyptian said that his country was willing to negotiate on tarriffs and the Canal's development and that a Users' Association could hold combined meetings with the Egyptian Canal Board to discuss the operation of waterway. An impartial tribunal might pronounce itself on disagreements. It was all vague and so was Fawzi's remark that there was no objection to dues being paid to Egypt via SCUA.[295]

On 12 October, Lloyd proposed to Fawzi his 'Six Priciples'. These called for: (1) 'free and open transit through the Canal without discrimination'; (2) 'respect for Egyptian sovereignty'; (3) 'the operation of the Canal [being] insulated from the politics of any country'; (4) dues 'fixed by agreements between users and owners'; (5) 'a fair proportions of the dues [going] to development' of the Canal and (6) arbitration to settle the outstanding affairs between the old and new owners (i.e. the Suez Canal Company and the Egyptian Government respectively).[296] Fawzi accepted the principles, although he expressed some reservations about point 3. Regarding sanctions, more and detailed negotiations were needed.[297]

Although he was pleased with the results so far, Lloyd explained to the Security Council, which met on 13 October, that the talks had only led to a 'framework within which to find a basis for negotiation'. He prepared a resolution which included the Six Principles and, at French insistence, the Eighteen Nation Plan. The Principles were adopted unanimously. The Plan was vetoed by the USSR and the only other opponent was Yugoslavia.[298]

While Lloyd faced the Security Council, Eden faced the Conservatives on an important party conference. The last few days, the Tories there had been calling for implementation of the Eighteen Nation Plan. Eden was approached to adopt this view and say so in his speech. The words in his address to the Conservatives were patriotic and made clear that force remained the last resort. However, the only demand that Eden made, was that the Suez Canal must not be left in 'the unfettered control of a single Power'.[299]

In the morning of 14 October, Anthony Eden read Selwyn Lloyd's latest report from New York. The Prime Minister concluded that, despite the vagueness of the present results and the uncertainty whether further results were attainable, the British Government should ask the Egyptians to proceed with negotiations.[300]

The Triple Aggression[301]


In the afternoon of 14 October, Anthony Eden received two envoys from Guy Mollet. They were Albert Gazier, the Minister for Social Affairs, who deputized for Christian Pineau, and an obscure major-general, Maurice Challe. The men first talked about the violent incidents between Jordan and Israel. These took place in September and October and many people, including civilians on both sides, had been killed. If a war broke out, British forces would help King Hussein, as agreed upon in the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty.[302] The Frenchmen then asked what the UK would do if Israel invaded Egypt. Eden answered that he could not see himself saving Nasser. Anthony Nutting, who was the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and present at the meeting, asked whether such an attack was likely. After Eden's Private Secretary was sent away, Challe replied by revealing a plan. Israel would be asked to conquer Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and reach the Suez Canal. Britain and France would then order the two belligerents to withdraw their units ten miles away from the waterway to protect it against war damage. Whether the Egyptians complied or not, an Anglo-French force would occupy the Canal Zone. There it would stay until Cairo accepted international control.[303] On 16 October, Eden, accompanied by Lloyd, visited Mollet and Pineau in Paris. He said that he fully agreed with the plan.[304]

On the 22nd and the 24th, secret talks were held in Sèvres, a Parisian suburb. Apart from high representatives from the French and Israeli Governments, these were attended by a reluctant Lloyd, who was uncomfortable with the plan. His place was taken on the second day by the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Patrick Dean.[305] The British were adamant that Israel's aggression and the threat to the Canal should appear real enough to justify intervention in the eyes of foreign and public opinion. This was hard to marry with Israel's insistence that Britain and France should enter the scene as soon as possible, so that their aircraft would quickly destroy the Egyptian bombers that threatened Israeli cities.[306] Nevertheless, an agreement was made and written down in the Protocol of Sèvres. Israel would commence the attack on Egypt on 29 October. On the following day London and Paris would issue the ultimatums, requesting Egypt, to 'accept temporary occupation of key positions on the Canal by the Anglo-French forces to guarantee freedom of passage [...] until a final settlement'. After twelve hours the Canal Zone would be invaded.[307]

In Whitehall, very few knew of the impending war. The members of the Egypt Committee were informed and they agreed. Monckton, who had felt uncomfortable with his colleagues' line on Suez since August and who had been very worried since Challe's visit, left the Defence Ministry and the Committee to become Paymaster General on 18 October. He was succeeded by Antony Head.[308]

The Cabinet was told how Britain and France would react if Israel attacked Egypt but the collusion with Ben-Gurion was kept a secret. Eden wanted to minimize the risk of leakage and he may have withheld the information to win the Cabinet round. The course of action presented by Eden was criticized by some. The UN and the US would object to Britain and France interfering in a war without international consultation. The ultimatum to the belligerents to hold their forces ten miles from the Suez Canal would 'not appear to be holding the balance between Israel and Egypt' because the former would remain in possession of the Sinai. However, the majority agreed.[309]

Many of those who knew of Challe's plan were opposed. Selwyn Lloyd was talked into it by the Prime Minister;[310] he was more loyal to Eden than charmed by the scheme. Clark was against it and so were Nutting, Kirkpatrick and Ross. They objected that Lloyd's achievements in New York would be thrown away. They doubted whether the scenario was credible and warned that the US and the UN would condemn the intervention and that the Commonwealth would be divided. In the Middle East, friendly governments might fall and the others would endanger the oil supply.[311] Later, during and after the Suez war, Nutting and Clark resigned.[312]

Eden in Office

During the Suez operation, Aneurin Bevan, Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary, was disappointed: 'I have not seen from the Prime Minister in the course of the last four or five months [...] any evidence of that sagacity and skill that he should have acquired in so many years in the Foreign Office. There is something the matter with him'.[313] Nutting, who had been Eden's Private Secretary, told Shuckburgh in late 1955 that he was 'greatly disillusioned' with Eden as Prime Minister. He felt that there was 'nothing left of the human relationship'.[314] Eden had always been a difficult man to work with, being impatient, demanding, restless and highly volcanic in temper. Now, however, it had become worse and disheartening. In early 1956, Shuckburgh wrote that he was 'going through a phase of strong disapproval of A.E., his lack of stability, sensitivity and vanity. William [Clark] says it is a superficial frivolity, and that really he is still rather a big man'.[315]

Apart from the strains of being Prime Minister, this change may have been caused by Eden's illnesses. Since his childhood he suffered from his bad health. On 5 October, he was struck by a high fever and had to stay in hospital for a few days. During the following weeks, bouts of fever plagued him. He was prescribed even more drugs than before. Tensions, exhaustion and his illness may have weakened his capability to resist Challe's venomous scheme. His surgeon later told that his condition could well have impaired his judgement.[316]

However, a more important factor than illness to explain Eden's policy is probably the simple fact that he was human and thus not infallible. Like Lloyd, who felt over-promoted, many in and outside Whitehall thought that Eden was unsurpassed in the field of foreign affairs.[317] This may explain why his decision was supported: his colleagues followed his lead without asking enough important questions.

Eden was rather intuitive. Radical ideas and courses of action arose from his mind more than once. During his years as Foreign Secretary he constantly heared the views of his officials, assistants, advisers and outsiders. Like Oliver Harvey before the war, Shuckburgh, Glubb and others had talked him out of many plans and policies.[318] Now, when he had attained the highest post in the British Government, he was isolated and, as Nutting and Shuckburgh deplored, was losing contact with his former collaborators.[319] This became worse on 14 October, when secrecy started to reign and most of Whitehall was kept in the dark. Clark, Nutting, Kirkpatrick and Ross expounded their objections on 16 October but they were too late; Eden had already made up his mind and was about to leave for Paris.[320]

In October Eden was in closer contact with the French than with his staff. According to Hugh Thomas, author of The Suez Affair, Premier Mollet was 'persuasive' and 'far the strongest and most persistent influence on Eden for the use of force'. Mollet spoke frequently about the 1930s, about Hitler, Mussolini and, in one breath, Nasser.[321] Eden admired them. Brook wrote to Churchill: 'the PM was deeply impressed by the youth and vigour of M. Mollet's Government [...] They are by far the best French Government he has seen since the war. Over Suez they were tough and uncompromising'.[322] Gallic vigour was hardly an attenuating influence on Eden.

Eden's Arguments

Temperament, illness or French persuasiveness only partly account for Eden's policy. The Prime Minister had his reasons.

By deciding to use force after all, he gave up the only alternative, viz. continuing with the talks. Although he had been pleased by their results so far, the uncertainty remained whether a satisfactory settlement was possible through negotiations. During and after the conversations with Fawzi, Lloyd had expressed his worries on how to 'pin the slippery Egyptian down'.[323] Cairo had promised to put forward proposals on how to implement the Six Principles but nothing had been received yet when the British went to Sèvres. The third Principle, on the Canal's insulation from politics, was never formally accepted.[324] Hence, on the two points which were essential to Eden, enforcement and political independence, Nasser was vague and non-committal.

Eden, who had proven himself to be a skillful international negotiator during his years in the Foreign Office, must have known that agreements need time but he was impatient. The British wanted to preserve the possibility to use force if talks proved to be of no avail. During negotiations, this military pressure would compel Nasser to conclude a satisfactory deal. However, because of changing weather conditions and shorter daylight, the military plans had to be altered soon. It meant that a landing of Marines would not be possible until spring 1957.[325] While the Egyptian army was increasingly better prepared and equipped, the British forces in the Mediterranean grew restive and vehicles deteriorated.[326]

Another compelling factor was the risk of war between Israel and Jordan. On 10 October, the Israelis raided into Jordanian territory with massive fire-power. If the situation escalated into war, the British would assist Jordan and attack Israel. The British Chiefs of Staff warned that it would then be impossible to threaten Egypt, let alone fight her, at the same time. When the Protocol of Sèvres was signed, Israel no longer counted as a dangerous potential enemy but was transformed into a very useful ally. Dayan and his men would defeat the core of the Egyptian army and so enable the British and the French to occupy the Canal Zone more easily.[327]

A further attraction of Challe's plan was that it was supposed to deal with Nasser in a direct way. After a negotiated settlement, the President would stay in power and further measures would be needed to topple him. Eden had accepted this approach when Britain had referred the dispute over Suez to the UN. Now, Mollet and Ben-Gurion offered new possibilities, which took away the necessity to make a concession on one of his main objectives. Just before Sèvres, on 21 October, news arrived that reinforced the desire to get rid of the Egyptian leadership. The parliamentary elections in Jordan were a victory for the Nasserists, whose party bore a name that rang a bell: the National Socialist party. On the following day, their leader announced that the Chiefs of Staff of Egypt, Syria and Jordan would meet in Amman.[328]

Thus, given the importance to reach his objectives and given the likelihood that negotiations would fail, Eden decided to seize the last chance he had to intervene. As it was the ultimate opportunity before force could no longer be used, he was not very fastidious about the plan he chose.

Eden knew that Challe's plan was not perfect. He warned the Cabinet: 'we must face the risk that we should be accused of collusion with Israel'[329] (but he did not mention the Sèvres agreement, which in fact amounted to collusion). Knowing that the pretext might not be convincing, he probably hoped that it would at least confuse the international community. Although there was a serious risk that the entire Arab world would be infuriated, he insisted that, if Nasser was not humiliated, Cairo's influence in the Middle East would become so strong that Egypt's ruler could no longer be overthrown. Eden added that 'if [...] a military operation were undertaken against Egypt, its effect in other Arab countries would be serious unless it led to the early collapse of Colonel Nasser's regime. Both for this reason and also because of the international pressures which would develop against our continuance of the operation, it must be swift and succesful'.[330] At the time he may not have fully realized the importance of speed.[331]

Regarding opinion at home and abroad, it was helpful that, as Lloyd had reported from New York, Britain had improved her image thanks to her efforts at the UN.[332] Eden was convinced that most Britons would support the coming intervention. Monckton conceded that he thought so, too.[333] Foreign governments, as represented in the Security Council, were considered incapable of reaching an agreement on how to respond to the Anglo-French action.[334] Concerning Eisenhower, Macmillan repeated: 'he and I understand each other - he's not going to make any real trouble if we have to do something drastic'. Clark found that this remark had a 'very fundamental' effect on Eden.[335] Consultation with the President and his Secretary of State was rejected. Macmillan wrote in his memoirs, 'that the Americans didn't wish to be informed when we took the final action [...] because that would embarrass them'. Eden and Pineau wanted to leave the White House in the dark as they recalled the SCUA episode and 'the generally unsatisfactory nature of our exchanges with Mr Dulles about US action of any character'.[336] British economy and the pound would need all financial resources during and after the Suez operation. The French were withdrawing reserves from the International Monetary Fund to increase their resources. The Bank of England and the Treasury advised that such measures could wait. Furthermore, the Chancellor was confident of the US Treasury Department's benevolence.[337]

The pretext under which Britain and France would intervene may have sounded more credible to Eden than to other government leaders. He still thought it perfectly normal that a country should defend its vital interests by force if necessary. By protecting the Suez Canal against Israeli and Egyptian cross-fire, the Anglo-French force would not only appear to defend the interests of London and Paris, but those of the international community as well. It was contrary to the UN Charter, but violations had occurred before. Eden was most of all thinking of the American activities in Guatemala, where in 1954 the US supported local guerrillas.[338] The Prime Minister had few scruples about defying legal rules if it suited his policy. He refused to consult the Foreign Office Legal Adviser about Challe's plan as 'the lawyers are always against our doing anything. For God's sake, keep them out of it. This is a political affair'.[339] However, the world's politicians were often prepared to connive at US activities in Latin America; it was questionable whether they regarded the Middle East as Britain's backyard.

The Israeli Invasion and the Anglo-French Air Strikes

On 29 October 1956 Israeli troops crossed their country's western border. By the conquest of the Sinai the Sèvres Protocol and Guy Mollet's friendship would be honoured, an Arab enemy's army would be seriously hit and Egypt would no longer be able to block the Gulf of Aqaba. There were few Egyptian soldiers on the Peninsula as many of them were preparing for an Anglo-French attack on the mainland. President Nasser was surprised. When one of his officials told him that Paris and London were maybe behind Israel's aggression, he responded: 'It is impossible that the French and British should degrade themselves to such a level'. Britain, he said, had too much to lose.[340]

In the afternoon of the following day the UK and France delivered the ultimatums to Cairo and Tel Aviv. John Foster Dulles found it 'crude and brutal'. The Americans, who had not been consulted, felt betrayed.[341] At the UN Security Council, they brought forward a resolution which ordered Israel to withdraw and all UN members to refrain from the threat or use of force in the area. For the first time since the creation of the UN, Britain cast a veto.[342]

In the early hours of 31 October, the ultimatums expired but nothing happened. Apart from military reasons, the British decided to wait because bombing Egypt immediately would seem too brutal in both public and foreign opinion. This postponement did not refrain the Opposition from attacking the Government and accusing them of collusion. Lloyd denied it.[343]

At 6:15 p.m. (Egyptian time), the Anglo-French intervention started; bombs were dropped on targets in and around Cairo. The Egyptian population remained calm and cheered Gamal Nasser who spoke: 'We shall never surrender'. The conspirators against the President were not too eager to harm him now. Soon the Egyptian authorities deliberately blocked the Canal by sinking shipwrecks.[344]

The Britons were not as united as the Egyptians. Kyle argues that the intervention opened up 'the kind of civil rift which occurs in Britain not more than two or three times a century'.[345] According to polls taken on 2 November, 37% of the Britons thought it was right to take forceful action against Egypt; 48% said it was wrong.[346]

In the Commonwealth, only New Zealand and Australia supported Eden's policy but in private, their Prime Ministers worried about Anglo-American relations. In Pakistan there was heavy and growing pressure to leave the Commonwealth. However, the Government thought that force was necessary.[347]

Nuri es-Said, whose political position became difficult, said that Britain must demonstrate that she was not hand in glove with the Israelis and throw them out of Egypt.[348] In coordination with Cairo, Damascus and Amman devised a plan to attack Israel but the risks were too great. Instead, Syria stopped the flow of oil through her pipelines.[349]

In October 1956 Hungary tried to break out of the Soviet bloc. Heavy combats took place between Soviet garrisons and freedom fighters. Dulles was grieved that Britain and France displayed 'straightforward' and 'old-fashioned' colonialism 'just when the Soviet orbit was crumbling and we could point to a contrast between the Western World and the Soviet'.[350] Eisenhower publicly denounced Anglo-French actions. Yet, Washington gave the British to understand that they should reach their objectives rapidly and expected them to do so by 1 November.[351] But they failed to take their chance to limit American opposition. The armed forces stuck to a couple of days of bombings and psychological warfare. The Cabinet wanted to uphold the image of Britain and France as unaggressive peace-enforcers.[352]

This façade was upheld to great lenghts. In an extremely unruly House of Commons Eden, who was confident that the UNO was slow at making decisions, announced on 1 November that after the separation of the combatants, the UN should take over the peace-keeping mission from the Anglo-French forces.[353] That night the UN General Assembly debated. Dulles proposed a resolution that resembled the one that was vetoed in the Security Council. It was adopted by 64 votes to five.[354] On 2 November the Cabinet decided to ignore the Assembly's recommendations, which, unlike those of the Council, are not binding.[355]

On the same day the Egyptian bomber force was virtually annihilated. French generals and admirals now proposed a plan, called *Opération Omelette*, to start the conquest of the Suez Canal on the following day. Their British colleagues were opposed as it was too risky. On 3 November the French convinced Keightley to commence the attack on 5 November.[356]

Eden told the Commons on 3 November that the 'police action' would continue until Egypt and Israel had accepted a UN force and until they had accepted that before the arrival of the UN, British and French units would remain in the Canal Zone to keep an eye on them. Furthermore, the UN should stay in the area until settlements were made regarding Palestine and Suez.[357] Gaitskell stuck to his point that Britain must not act against the will of the UN. He did not see a 'police action'. 'What [the UK] did was to go in and help the burglar and shoot the householder'.[358]

Later that day Canada presented a plan for a UN Emergency Force 'to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities'. On American insistence it did not state that the French and British troops near Egypt would form the first contingent. The General Assembly adopted the scheme; the UK and France abstained.[359]

Paratroopers, Marines and Tanks

On 4 November, when thousands of Soviet tanks entered Hungary, the Egypt Committee discussed on how to proceed now that a UN force had been adopted. Lloyd warned against economic sanctions and wanted London to support the implementation of UNEF. However, he said that it was essential that the British and the French should occupy the Canal 'if only as the advance guard of a UN force'. If the number of civilian casualties remained limited, heavy sanctions would be unlikely. Head was optimistic about the Canal being taken without much bloodshed, as the Egyptians were concentrating their defences near Cairo.[360]

At a later meeting the Committee learnt from the Ambassador in Baghdad that 'our contacts with Iraqis [...] who were previously our convinced friends have been closed down'. A letter from Hammarskjöld, who believed that the General Assembly would not accept British and French detachments in UNEF, caused indignation. Another message came from Sir Pierson Dixon, the British Permanent Representative at the UN. He warned that the UN might pass a resolution affecting the oil supply. Macmillan threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed: 'Oil sanctions! That finishes it'.[361] Nevertheless, Lloyd's suggestion to enter Egypt as an advance guard of the UN was approved. Some Ministers, who remained unspecified in the reports, thought that the assault should be postponed for 24 hours so that the UN would have an opportunity to pronounce themselves about this. Eden said that the Cabinet should decide.[362]

In the Cabinet room, where one could hear a huge crowd of people outside, chanting 'Law, not War' and 'Eden must go', three courses of action were debated. Butler, Kilmuir and two others favoured a 24 hours postponement to give Cairo and Tel Aviv time to accept the Anglo-French force as the vanguard of UNEF. A postponement of indefinite length was advocated by three Ministers, including Monckton and Salisbury, who had backed Eden's hard line for so long. They thought that the intervention was no longer justifiable since Israel, like Egypt, seemed to have accepted a cease-fire. The Prime Minister and the others, forming a majority, wanted to invade as planned. UNEF, which should include British and French troops, could take over the peace-keeping mission as soon as the Canal was in safe (i.e. Anglo-French) hands. Support for Eden's preference became larger when it turned out that the Israelis, who were under French pressure, did not accept a cease-fire.[363]

In the morning of Monday 5 November 1956 British and French paratroopers landed in Port Said. There, seen from the North, the Suez Canal begins. They lost relatively few men but they did not capture the city in one day.

That night, while their troops were doing a filthy job in Hungary, Bulganin and Khrushchev wrote some letters. The British leaders were told that the intervention in Egypt was unjustified and barbarous. 'We are fully determined to crush the aggressors by the use of force and to restore peace in the East'.[364] Eden, who during the past weeks had spent few thoughts on possible Soviet reactions, was not impressed. 'Those threats', he alledgedly said, 'they're just twaddle'. The Ambassador to Moscow and General Keightley were not as free from worries. The latter was concerned about an air strike on Britain's Cypriotic bases.[365]

On 6 November British and French Marines entered Port Said, to be followed later by tanks. Keightley envisaged the complete occupation of the Suez Canal Zone within six days. Around 9 o'clock in the morning Eden was contacted by Eisenhower. What was said is unknown but the Prime Minister, who had wanted to continue the operation, no longer called for a continuation of the invasion when the Cabinet met at 9:45. Remaining silent about the talk with Eisenhower, he let his closest Ministers tell their bleak stories.[366]

Lloyd reported that the Egyptians and the Israelis, who had finished the conquest of the Sinai on the previous day, had now accepted an unconditional cease-fire. Salisbury, Butler and several others repeated that there was no ground anymore on which the intervention could be based in the eyes of the Britons and the world. There were Ministers who feared the USSR, UN sanctions or a combined Arab counter-attack. Only Head and a few others stressed the need to go forward and reach the city of Suez. Britain should achieve her objectives and without the control of the complete Canal Zone, she could not remove the shipwrecks that blocked the waterway.[367]

The most compelling reasons for Britain to accept a cease-fire were presented by Macmillan. The financial reserves were constantly dropping and there was heavy speculation against the pound. Washington refused to give any help and even opposed offers by third countries. As Head wrote later, 'Harold was very strong in his warning of what the US would do [...] he put the fear of God into the Cabinet on finances'. The supply of oil was in acute danger but the Americans offered none. At the UN they might refrain from preventing or delaying sanctions.[368]

The painful end of the intervention was made slightly bearable by some considerations. Lloyd was fairly optimistic that the occupation of Port Said, which capitulated in the afternoon, would provide the British with a sufficiently good bargaining position to secure a satisfactory settlement regarding the Canal.[369] Another hope was that, after a cease-fire and after his expected re-election on the same day, Eisenhower would show his friendly face again and support London and Paris taking advantage of their foothold in Port Said.[370]

Eden telephoned Mollet to tell him about the British decision. The Premier, disappointed but solidaire until the end, agreed. His officers presented some bold plans to capture the whole Canal before 12 o'clock p.m., when the cease-fire was to begin, but Keightley was opposed. At twenty minutes past midnight the war was over.[371]

After the War

On 7 November the General Assembly approved the establishment of UNEF. Britain and France voted in favour but the Egypt Committee decided to keep the Anglo-French troops in Port Said until it would become clear that the matters of Suez and Palestine were to be settled properly.[372] However, the Americans remained cool towards the British. There would be no oil and no financial relief for the UK unless Port Said's invaders left.[373]

To show off their power, Britain and France wanted to clear the Suez Canal but Hammarskjöld let Dutch and other salvagers do the job. Their image was further tarnished when it turned out that about 750 or even 1000 Egyptians had been killed during the conquest.[374] The Cabinet had to grapple with hostile opinion and the oil shortage on its own. Eden, on doctor's orders, rested in Jamaica from 23 November to 14 December.[375]

On 21 November the first UN troops entered Port Said and on 2 December the Cabinet, whipped on by Macmillan, decided that the Anglo-French force should leave Egypt unconditionally. On the 23rd, the French, with their heads raised, embarked in broad daylight; the British left by night. The UK could now draw hundreds of millions of dollars from the IMF and oil started to flow again.[376]

On 9 January 1957 Eden resigned. One important reason was his medical condition; another was probably the Prime Minister's undermined political position due to the failure of his policy over Suez.[377] His successor was Harold Macmillan, who had taken part in all major decisions during the past months and who was largely responsible for the misconceptions about how Eisenhower would react on force.[378]

On 6 March Israel, under heavy American pressure, started to leave the Sinai. The Suez Crisis came to an end when on 24 April the waterway was cleared for traffic. The Suez Canal was firmly in Egyptian hands.[379]


Chapter IV: Conclusion

The British Governments during the Spanish Civil War and the Suez Crisis, undoubtedly like other governments in other times, had little concrete information at their disposition on which they could base foreign policy. Even clear facts, like the delivery of arms by one country to another, may have said hardly anything about a foreign government's true intentions. The assessment of facts, situations, experiences and talks with other governments was therefore likely to have been influenced by sentiments like nationalism, dislikes and hatreds, by preconceptions, by a person's state of mind, by beliefs and ideas on foreign affairs in general, by a person's openness to others' views, by character and determination. When a policy has already been decided upon, new facts may have been assessed in such a way as to avoid the need to change course. A policy was and is based for a large part on assumptions, hopes and wishful thinking. Perhaps it is therefore that Soviet aircraft delivered to Egypt looked more ominous in British eyes than Italian planes in Spain's Nationalist air force.

The events in 1936 and 1956 were very different. Some specific considerations had to be made by the Government. During the fights in Spain, Whitehall tried to uphold an image of impartiality, for humanitarian reasons but especially because they wanted to be on good terms with whoever won the struggle. Impartiality was not a reason why the UK refrained from active intervention. The Government had already decided to wait until a victor would emerge rather than to commit itself to one side and hope that its aid would suffice to make that side win. It was a major argument for not allowing the Loyalists to purchase British weapons.

International law received little attention during the Spanish conflict. There were (and are) no widely accepted rules dealing with intervention in civil wars.[380] With or without the NIA, the Cabinet stuck to non-intervention. Anthony Eden approved of France violating the agreement in secret. Invading another state was another matter and after World War II the UN Charter gave law-abiding countries only a very limited scope in which they could resort to force. Eden preferred grand strategy and reaching his objectives to legal hair-splitting. He and many others still found that vital interests should be defended, if needed by force. The law was not just if it allowed what was regarded as theft. Eden thought he could break it as effective sanctions seemed unlikely. Furthermore, the invaders would move swiftly and operate behind a façade of peace-enforcement, so as to make the intervention more palatable to the world and probably also to the Cabinet members who were concerned about public and foreign opinion. The pretext proved to be unconvincing and slowed down the conquest. Eden and the Cabinet blew off the attack partly because of world opinion but especially because of American opposition.

The US played no significant role in the Spanish Civil War. Twenty years later they unexpectedly chose the part of defender of international law. It is possible that Eden would have thought twice about accepting Challe's plan if Harold Macmillan had not reassured him about President Eisenhower.

Whitehall had to take several aspects into account that mattered during both the Spanish Civil War as the Suez Crisis but which led to different policies. The British tried to contain communism and, in a more ambivalent way, fascism. Regarding Spain this policy meant that the Republicans should not be helped as they were alledgedly prone to the bolshevist virus. There was thought to be no fascist danger; not in Spain and, as many Tories still believed in 1936, not in Europe. Later the Nazi threat became undeniable and turned out to be more imminent than the Soviet menace. Eden came to favour a Nationalist defeat as this would mean a humiliation of fascism. His fellow Ministers believed that interference in Spain would unnecessarily antagonize Rome and Berlin and make them more dangerous. The Tories sounded more anti-fascist during the Suez Crisis than in the 1930s. Colonel Nasser was likened with a fascist dictator and at the same time he was a man dangerously close to the Kremlin. This latter qualification was what made him unacceptable and unbearable. During the Spanish Civil War, Eden could do little against dictators who had grown in strength because of earlier successes. In 1956 he saw a chance to prevent similar experiences.

From the beginning of the Spanish Civil War until the end, Britain's major fear was that intervention would lead to a world war. Eden was confident that Hitler would not start a war if the UK spoiled Mussolini's adventure in Spain. The Soviets would not do so either if Nasser was under attack. There was a strongly felt indirect danger of war if the struggle in Spain led to opposing blocs. Helping the Republicans along with Russia would drive Italy and Germany together. After the Iron Curtain was drawn, the existence of blocs was undisputed. Both sides sought to increase membership of their alliances or at least benevolence. British overtures to Egypt were fruitless. Furthermore, Nasser appeared to undermine existing alliances between Arabs and the UK. Some in Whitehall warned that intervention in Egypt would split the Commonwealth, the Anglo-American relationship and, especially if Israel was involved, endanger the pro-British governments in the Middle East. Eden assumed that speed and the façade would lessen these risks and that if Nasser was not checked, the danger to the Arab friends was greater. From the start of the Suez Crisis the Prime Minister wanted to show British authority, also to Moscow, as a contrast to Nasser's weakness. Nuri-es-Said and others encouraged him to do so. In 1936 Britain's major ally, France, was believed to enter into serious trouble if the two countries intervened in Spain. The French situation seems to have worried Whitehall less in the following years. However, some other European states started to doubt the value of British friendship. Warned by Turkey and Yugoslavia, Eden tried to show Britain's strength and unveil Italy's weakness, also to impress Germany. Neville Chamberlain preferred to pursue Italian benevolence and so prevent a fascist bloc.

Spain and the Middle East were strategically very valuable. Both areas lay between the UK and the Indian Ocean. Although in the 1930s the defence of India was of major concern, there were since the crown colony's independence still many eastern commitments to hold. Considering resources, access to Middle Eastern oil was seen as a matter of life and death for Europe whereas the availability of Spanish ores raised few worries. In the 1950s the British feared that the countries producing or transporting oil might come under the sway of Cairo. Furthermore, if the nationalization of the Suez Canal was left unpunished, more of these acts would follow. To assure that the Suez Canal would not become subject to evil anti-British designs, Eden insisted on multinational control of the waterway and an arrangement on the enforcement of the Canal's freedom of passage. A further consideration that justified a hard line in Whitehall's opinion, was that Nasser, willingly or not, might end up in the Soviet bloc, taking other Arab countries with him. Similar words were said of the Spanish Republicans. It was assumed that their opponents would not allow an Italian presence in Spain. Anyhow, the Chiefs of Staff added, Mussolini, unlike Stalin, was not an enemy but a neglected friend.

During the Suez Crisis the British had few doubts about their military capabilities to intervene in Egypt. The biggest problem was to limit the number of civilian casualties. In 1937, Eden was confident that the UK and France could deal some blows to the Nationalists and Mussolini. Unlike him, his colleagues thought that Italy was a strong military power. The Admiralty dismissed even the smallest reprisals against Italian activities in Spain because, among other reasons, they purported that such actions were too difficult. On top of that, Britain's armed forces already had so many commitments elsewhere. Intervention in the form of armament deliveries to the Loyalists (unless these took place in secret, according to Eden and the French), would only lead to an exhausting arms race against the Italians and the Germans, who were most likely to win such a competition. This argument was no longer valid in late 1938 when it appeared that the Republic did not need much in order to survive. Arguments against intervention nevertheless prevailed.

A major reason for Stanley Baldwin in particular to oppose interference in the Spanish Civil War was that the British population should not be divided in a time of dangerous crises. Later a majority of Britons preferred the Loyalist side and wanted the British Government to adopt a tougher stance against Mussolini. Yet, Whitehall officials continued to stress that the people did not want to risk war over Spain. There were many calls for lifting the arms embargo against the Republic but this was not enough to worry the Cabinet to great extents. Partly to assuage the public, the Government did not award belligerent rights to the insurgents. The 1950s were not a decade of similar war scares or major crises. There was among Britain's leaders less fear for divisions. Reactions just after the Suez Canal was nationalized supported a hard line policy but later opinion became divided in a way that troubled many in Whitehall. The Egypt Committee found that opinion could and should be defied if force was needed. The Britons would support military action if it took place. The façade was partly an attempt to dampen protests.

When Eden stood up against Mussolini it delighted the Britons. It made him more popular and gave him a reputation of being an anti-appeaser. Still, it seems doubtful that Eden's Spanish policy was significantly influenced by a desire to gain the public's favour. Twenty years later his popularity had diminished and maybe his tough position on Suez partly served to impress the Britons and the Conservatives. Yet, he chose force at a time when it cannot have eluded him that intervention would not arouse widespread support. American opposition, not domestic protests, was the foremost reason why he stopped the invasion on 6 November. Possibly, he wanted to redress the image of himself being an anti-appeaser, to disprove that he courted 'fickle Arab statesmen' and correct the mistake of having allowed Hitler to occupy the Rheinland.

Few Tory politicians seem to have considered the Spanish Civil War as a matter which involved national prestige and honour. British ships were left at the mercy of Mussolini's piracy. Eden appears to have been the major exception as it is likely that, apart from wishing to impress Britain's friends and foes, he wanted to show strength out of pride and patriotism. Undoubtedly most other Conservatives loved their country as well but their reasons for non-interference apparently weighed heavier than the humiliating scenes in Spanish waters. Patriotic and nationalistic sentiments were much more vehemently expressed during the Suez Crisis. Britannia was kicked by some dictator while she was retreating, with pain and resentment, from her Empire. Unlike some Tory MP's, who denounced even the smallest step away from Empire, Eden could live with it if only London got friendship or at least benevolence in return. He and his Cabinet did not seek to get Egypt back in the Empire; the Suez Crisis was more an opportunity to let off steam and show the world that Britain still had power.

In 1956 and particularly during the Spanish Civil War many Tories looked with suspicion to everything or everyone with a supposedly socialist or Red character. In the 1930s there was also a certain sympathy for fascism, although that was not or far less the case with Baldwin and Eden. The Spanish Government, apart from being considered close to bolshevism, was at the same time denounced as being undemocratic, weak and its supporters as being cruel savages. Many Tories hoped for a Nationalist victory. Whitehall did not consider Nasser to be a communist himself. However, the opinion that Egypt might bring the Soviets in the Middle East may have thrived particularly well in the Cold War's anti-communist atmosphere. Nasser lost sympathy also because of Cairo's anti-British views and propaganda. There seems to be no clear sign of a predisposition against Britain's non-European opponent but R.A. Butler later told that there was a 'resentment [...] at the rise of coloured nationalism'.[381] Eden hated Nasser and Mussolini. Lord Halifax spoke of 'Anthony's natural revulsion against Dictators'.[382] Yet, these feelings began after Italian and Egyptian propaganda had incensed him, after the deeds of the two leaders started to threaten British interests and because he felt betrayed by them. Eden's hatreds may well have fortified his hard line against them. The British Government's bias against the Republicans was an important but probably not a decisive reason for not helping them. The socialist Léon Blum was the initiator of the NIA. In 1937 Eden had to agree with Oliver Harvey that if London, Paris and Moscow sent weapons to the Loyalists, Rome and Berlin would send more to the insurgents and that the Britons feared the consequences of bold policies. In 1939, when many in Whitehall had attenuated their views of the Republic, Halifax did not want to risk a world war.

Eden's illness in 1956 and its treatment by drugs may have had an effect on his weighing the advantages of Challe's plan against the risks involved; it may have contributed to his growing irascability and the estrangement between him and others in Whitehall. The Prime Minister heard less differing views while most Cabinet Ministers agreed or did not or barely speak up for themselves. Lone critics like Walter Monckton offered no attractive alternatives and had no strong position in a government which was dominated by Eden. Chamberlain was said to have exercised 'an iron control over his Cabinet'.[383] Eden was the lone critic then. Without interaction and counterarguments, far-reaching and drastic policies (whether right or wrong) may flourish without detection or full realization of possible flaws. The French, who had different interests in the Middle East and who did not care much about world opinion, were not the ones to point them out. It was not always a grateful task for officials and ministers to present their opinions to Chamberlain and Eden. They were men of strong convictions, fully determined to attain their goals: peace in Europe, facing the dictators straight in the eyes, safeguarding the Suez Canal and the Middle East. They were confident that their country was in good hands. Chamberlain was the most self-assured of both men. Eden was uncertain about domestic matters, about the response to Hitler's menace while rearmament went so slow; but about Mussolini and later also Nasser, he had no doubts and neither about Great Britain's fundamental strength. At the root of their answers to different questions lay Chamberlain's belief in the reasonableness of man and Eden's belief that many humans listen only to strength. In pursuit of their objectives they were prepared to go far. Chamberlain circumvented his Foreign Secretary when talking with Italian leaders. Eden informed very few people of his authorization to MI_6 to make Nasser fall and Challe's plan. This further limited the number of people shedding new lights on ideas. Chamberlain and Eden dared to take some immense risks although maybe they did not or did not want to realize all of them fully. The former let the dictators gain strength to challenge them only later. The latter risked the fall of Britain's friends in Arabia and a loss of British and personal prestige. Eden did not refrain from the use of force if he thought there was no good alternative.

Policy may be given a certain direction by habit. As Baldwin's biographers Keith Middlemas and John Barnes write, the UK traditionally interfered in civil wars only when British security or interests were at stake.[384] During the Spanish Civil War, British interests were not assumed to be in danger. Concerning security, the threat of a world war made that Whitehall was adamantly opposed to intervention. Later, Eden held an opposite view. However, the actions he proposed were not in the first place actions for Spain herself but for Britain. Hence, regarding civil wars, British policy on Spain might be called traditional.[385] There was a practice that the British deposed Middle Eastern rulers at will. Some years before the Suez Crisis Eden said that the use of 19th Century methods was over. He had accepted Egyptian independence; when Colonel Nasser, like Prime Minister Mossadeq, seemed to be no friend but a foe, these methods tempted him nevertheless. The old habit may have made the decision to topple Nasser easier.

Great Britain was also known to act 'in defence of principle'.[386] Two of these principles are democracy and the Rule of Law. The Spanish Republic nor Nasser's Egypt were seen as democracies. However, these were not the reasons why the British disliked them; they found the closeness of these states to the Kremlin more unforgiving. The main problem of the Nationalists was, in Eden's opinion, their receiving assistance from Mussolini. Presumably Eden opposed fascism and dictatorships out of conviction but politics and strategy were at the origins of his hard lines against Rome and Cairo. The atrocities in Spain shocked many but, on the whole, Whitehall's attitude towards the Civil War was detached and other considerations weighed heavier. These were not necessarily morally void. Baldwin's and Chamberlain's Governments strived after solidarity among Britons and sought to preserve peace (although on the other hand, many Abyssinians, Spaniards, Czechs and others paid the highest price). In 1956 Britain broke international law. The Egypt Committee found that in this case the law did not serve justice and, like some offenders of municipal law, they took the law into their own hands. International law was defied and more than a thousand people were killed because Eden and his Ministers believed that more important issues were at stake; European economy and defence would be in peril and the Britons might relive years of 'unemployment and hunger'. This was all the more important when, during the Cold War and the 1930s, the very existence of Great Britain was felt to be in danger. She and her allies faced formidable challenges posed by expansionist Soviet dictators and by the aggressive regimes of Germany, Japan and Italy.[387]

Eden may have wanted to brush up his image and reaffirm his reputation in 1956. Possibly, nationalism and the hatred felt for Nasser and communism were motives in themselves. The Britons who decided not to intervene in Spain and to invade Egypt were under the influence of many factors, like sentiments and preconceptions. Nevertheless, Anthony Eden, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain acted in the belief that their decisions were in the interests of their country.


General; Biographies of Anthony Eden

Akehurst, Michael. A Modern Introduction to International Law. 6th ed.

London: Routledge, 1992.

Carlton, David. Anthony Eden: A Biography. London: Allan Lane, 1981.

Darwin, John. The End of the British Empire: The Historical Debate. Oxford:

Basil Blackwell, 1991.

James, Robert Rhodes. Anthony Eden. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson,


Keeble, Curtis. Britain and the Soviet Union, 1917-1989. Basingstoke:

Macmillan, 1990.

McKercher, B.J.C., and D.J. Moss, eds. Shadow & Substance in British Foreign

Policy: Memorial Essays Honouring C.J. Lowe. Edmonton: Alberta UP, 1984.

Medlicott, W.N. British Foreign Policy since Versailles, 1919-1963. London:

Methuen, 1968.

Punnett, R.M. British Government and Politics. London: Heinemann, 1968.

Sked, Alan, and Chris Cook. Post-War Britain: A Political History. 4th ed.

London: Penguin Books, 1993.

The Spanish Civil War

Avon, the Earl of. The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators. London: Cassell,


Carr, Raymond. The Spanish Tragedy: The Civil War in Perspective. London:

Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977.

Coverdale, John F. Italian Intervention in the Spanish Civil War. Princeton:

Princeton UP, 1975.

Crampton, R.J. Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. London: Routledge,


Dalton, Hugh. The Fateful Years: Memoirs, 1931-1945. London: Frederick

Muller, 1957.

Edwards, Jill. The British Government and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.

London: Macmillan, 1979.

Fuchser, L.W. Neville Chamberlain and Appeasement: A Study in the Politics of

History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1982.

Harvey, Oliver. The Diplomatic Diaries of Oliver Harvey, 1937-1940. Ed. John

Harvey. London: Collins, 1970.

Little, Douglas. Malevolent Neutrality: The United States, Great Britain and the

Origins of the Spanish Civil War. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.

Middlemas, Keith, and John Barnes. Baldwin: A Biography. London:

Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969.

Parker, R.A.C. Chamberlain and Appeasement: British Policy and the Coming of

the Second World War. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993.

Post, Gaines. Dilemmas of Appeasement: British Deterrence and Defense,

1934-1937. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993.

Roberts, Andrew. 'The Holy Fox': A Biography of Lord Halifax. London:

Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1991.

Thompson, Neville. The Anti-Appeasers: Conservative Opposition to

Appeasement in the 1930s. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

Wark, Wesley K. The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany,

1933-1939. London: I.B. Tauris, 1985.

The Suez Crisis

Azeau, Henri. *Le Piège de Suez (5 Novembre 1956)*. Paris: Robert Laffont,


Carlton, David. Britain and the Suez Crisis. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988.

Darwin, John. Britain and Decolonisation: The Retreat from Empire in the Post-

War World. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1988.

Horne, Alistair. Harold Macmillan: Volume I: 1894-1956. New York: Penguin

Books, 1991.

Kyle, Keith. Suez. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1992.

Louis, Wm. Roger, and Roger Owen, eds. Suez 1956: The Crisis and its

Consequences. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991.

Lucas, W. Scott. Divided We Stand: Britain, the US and the Suez Crisis.

London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1991.

Mansfield, Peter. A History of the Middle East. New York: Viking, 1991.

Selwyn-Lloyd, Lord. Suez 1956: A Personal Account. London: Jonathan Cape,


Shuckburgh, Evelyn. Descent to Suez: Diaries 1951-1956. London:

Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986.

Thomas, Hugh. The Suez Affair. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970.

Wilson, Keith M., ed. Imperialism and Nationalism in the Middle East: The

Anglo-Egyptian Experience, 1882-1982. London: Mansell Publishing, 1983.

Samenvatting in het Nederlands * Summary in Dutch

Een regering intervenieert in het buitenland meestal alleen als er gemeend wordt dat er belangen mee worden gediend. Welke deze belangen waren toen Groot-Brittannië besloot niet in te grijpen in de Spaanse Burgeroorlog en daarentegen wel Egypte binnen te vallen tijdens de Suez Crisis wordt onderzocht op de volgende pagina's.

Toen de Spaanse Burgeroorlog uitbrak op 17 juli 1936 was de regering van de Spaanse Republiek al weinig geliefd in Londen. Het werd door de regerende Conservatieven beschouwd als te links, ondemocratisch en niet in staat de orde in Spanje te handhaven. Spoedig na het begin van de ultra-rechtse opstand tegen de Spaanse regering ontstonden er zeer bloedige onlusten. De autoriteiten traden hiertegen onvoldoende op en vele duizenden die verdacht werden van steun aan de opstandige militairen werden gedood. De geschokte Britse ministers wilden niet dat de regeringsgezinden in Spanje, de zogenoemde Republikeinen of Loyalisten, de strijd zouden winnen, ook omdat ze vreesden dat dit een communistische staat tot gevolg zou hebben. De minister van buitenlandse zaken, Anthony Eden, zag het liefst dat beide zijden verloren en dat een patstelling zou leiden tot een gematigde Spaanse regering. Veel Tories hoopten op een overwinning van de opstandelingen, de zogenaamde Nationalisten onder generaal Franco, die gesteund werden door Mussolini en Hitler. Voor velen van hen was deze band met het fascisme geen groot bezwaar aangezien vooral het Italiaanse staatsbestel sympathie genoot. De voorkeur voor de Nationalisten was niet zodanig sterk dat hulp aan Franco serieus werd overwogen. Bovendien zou dit de relatie met Parijs schaden en tegen de zin zijn van de Britse bevolking.

Het kabinet wilde geen van beide partijen steunen maar het probleem was dat de officieel erkende Spaanse regering wapens mocht kopen van Britse bedrijven. Om dit te voorkomen steunde men het Franse voorstel om alle landen in Europa op te roepen zich volledig afzijdig te houden van de burgeroorlog. Het resulteerde in het Non-Interventie Verdrag dat in september door 27 landen werd ondertekend, inclusief Italië, Duitsland en de Soviet-Unie, dat de Republikeinen steunde.

Naast antipathie jegens de Republiek en angst voor communisme waren er andere beweegredenen voor Britse non-interventie. Frankrijk, Groot-Brittannië's belangrijkste bondgenoot maakte een tijd van grote politieke instabiliteit door. De linkse regering stond onder druk van haar achterban om de Republikeinen te helpen. Premier Léon Blum vreesde echter dat rechtse Fransen hiertegen in opstand zouden komen. Als Groot-Brittannië niet in Spanje intervenieerde, evenmin als andere mogendheden n.a.v. het NIV, dan zou de binnenlandse roep om ingrijpen verminderen.

In Groot-Brittannië waren tegenstellingen minder groot dan in Frankrijk. Desondanks wilde eerste minister Stanley Baldwin, die gedurende zijn loopbaan steeds streefde naar eensgezindheid in zijn land, het risico niet lopen dat er een grote kloof zou ontstaan door interventie in een ideologische strijd in het buitenland. Dit was des te gevaarlijker in deze tijd van economische en internationale crises. De socialistische Labour partij steunde non-interventie zolang Italië en Duitsland zich eveneens afzijdig hielden.

Een grote angst van de Britten was dat buitenlandse hulp aan de strijdende partijen in Spanje zou leiden tot een grote oorlog tussen de intervenierende mogendheden. Als Groot-Brittannië niet zou ingrijpen dan waren de andere landen misschien geneigd dat ook niet te doen. Zou Spanje geen directe aanleiding tot oorlog vormen, dan bleef het gevaar dat spanningen opliepen in Europa en dat er machtblokken ontstonden die later alsnog ten stijde zouden trekken. Londen en Parijs moesten zich niet met Moskou inlaten door de Republiek te helpen. Dat zou Mussolini enkel in de handen drijven van zijn evenzo anti-communistische Duitse collega.

De Britse regering wilde zich onpartijdig opstellen in Spanje tenminste totdat duidelijk werd welke zijde de overwinning zou behalen. Zo zou men beter goede relaties met de winnaar kunnen aangaan dan wanneer men eerst een kant steunde die mogelijk later de verliezer zou blijken te zijn.

Een welwillende houding van Spanje tegenover Groot-Brittannië was van groot belang gezien haar ligging op het kruispunt van de Atlantische Oceaan en de Middellandse Zee waar Britse schepen doorheen voeren om koloniën als India te bereiken. Bij een Republikeinse overwinning zou de gehate USSR te veel invloed in Spanje kunnen krijgen terwijl de Britse regering meende dat de Nationalisten de Italianen en Duitsers van zich af zouden houden. Toch waren de Chefs van Staven enigszins bezorgd over Italië's sterke positie in het Middellandse Zee-gebied en haar steeds grotere rol in Spanje waar Mussolini de meest nadrukkelijke steun verleende aan de opstandelingen. Echter, de hoge officieren vonden dat niets gedaan moest worden dat Mussolini in het harnas kon jagen.

Spoedig na het ondertekenen van het NIV bleek dat Italië, Duitsland en de USSR toch wapens en troepen stuurden naar Spanje. Veel Britten waren verontwaardigd en wilden dat de Republikeinen weer de gelegenheid kregen Britse wapens te kopen. Sir Neville Chamberlain, die sinds mei 1937 de Conservatieve Premier was, hield vast aan het embargo. Hij had een sterke positie in de regering en hij had, ondanks Spanje, de steun van de bevolking. Eden veranderde wel zijn mening over de Burgeroorlog en kreeg in de loop van 1937 een voorkeur voor de Loyalisten.

Eind 1936 bleek de Duitse dreiging in Europa groter dan eerst gedacht. Het kabinet geloofde dat Groot-Brittannië en Frankrijk niet sterk genoeg waren om het Duitse en Japanse expansionisme te stoppen. Chamberlain wilde volgens zijn strategie toegeven aan Hitler's wensen tot 1942: dan zouden volgens plan de Britse economie en strijdkrachten voldoende kracht hervonden hebben om Duitsland af te schrikken. De eerste minister verwachtte overigens dat als een aantal van Hitler's ambities waren verwezenlijkt, de vrede sowieso bewaard zou blijven, ook omdat de dictator, in Chamberlain's overtuiging, net zoals ieder mens redelijk was. Het was niettemin belangrijk om Mussolini te vriend te houden zodat men zich op Duitsland en Japan kon concentreren en Hitler in Europa werd geïsoleerd. Mussolini moest dus zijn gang kunnen gaan in Spanje.

Eden had grote twijfels over de appeasement-politiek maar zag geen directe methode om Hitler van zijn plannen af te houden. Om Duitse machtsuitbreiding in te dammen pleitte hij voor grotere samenwerking met andere landen. Italië had hij echter niet op het oog. Hij vertrouwde Mussolini niet; echte vriendschap was onmogelijk en ook daarom zou Italië een weinig waardevolle bondgenoot zijn. Eden geloofde dat Italië niet zo sterk was als het kabinet dacht en vond dat zijn land minder zwak was als werd voorgesteld. I.p.v. achter Mussolini aan te lopen moest Groot-Brittannië haar kracht laten zien. Zo zou Italiaanse expansie worden afgeschrikt, zou Duitsland gewaarschuwd zijn en zouden andere landen, waarvan sommigen zich al aangetrokken voelden tot de kracht van Duitsland en Italië, zien dat Groot-Brittannië en Frankrijk nog steeds waardevolle bondgenoten konden zijn. Spanje gaf de mogelijkheden om Italië te intimideren. Een overwinning van de Loyalisten was een nederlaag voor de fascisten en Nazis. De Britse bevolking zag zo'n uitkomst ook liever. Er zijn echter geen duidelijke aanwijzingen dat Eden's politiek tot doel had zijn populariteit te vergroten. Wat zijn anti-fascistische meningen wel zou kunnen hebben verscherpt was de haat die hij voelde voor Mussolini.

In het kabinet vonden Eden's ideeën geen steun, zelfs niet toen Italiaanse onderzeeërs in Nationalistische kleuren aanvallen uitvoerden op buitenlandse schepen, inclusief Britse, die naar Republikeinse havens voerden. Eden's voorstellen om naleving van het NIV af te dwingen, om transport van Spaanse erts naar Duitsland te verhinderen en represailles te nemen tegen de aanvallen werden eveneens getorpedeerd. In september 1937 kreeg hij het toch gedaan dat Britse en Franse oorlogsbodems rond Spanje patrouilleerden. De aanvallen stopten maar omdat de patrouilles enkel hiertegen gericht waren en de Italiaanse materiële steun aan Franco doorging, profiteerde de Republiek er weinig van. Frankrijk smokkelde wat wapens naar de Loyalisten, op persoonlijk advies van Eden. Hij dacht ook aan het opheffen van het embargo tegen de Republiek maar Italië en Duitsland hadden grotere voorraden zodat zij een wapenwedloop in Spanje zouden winnen. Begin 1938 trad hij af, vooral vanwege zijn geïsoleerde positie in de regering waardoor zijn plannen niet tot hun recht kwamen.

In 1938 zocht Chamberlain toenadering tot Mussolini en sloot een onbeduidend verdrag terwijl Italiaanse aanvallen op schepen waren hervat. Lord Halifax, Eden's opvolger, begon te twijfelen aan appeasement, kreeg een betere indruk van de Republiek en vroeg zich af of de aanvallen niet vergeld moesten worden en of de Loyalisten niet gesteund moesten worden. Hij was echter bang dat dit tot een grote oorlog zou leiden. Maar die is toch gekomen.

Het Suez Kanaal was gegraven en beheerd door de Suez Kanaal Maatschappij dat in naam Egyptisch was en vooral geleid werd door Fransen en Britten. Egypte was in naam onafhankelijk maar was sinds de verovering in 1882 in feite onderdeel van het Britse rijk. In 1936 veranderde dit hoewel Egypte in geval van oorlog Groot-Brittannië moest steunen en Britse troepen in de Suez Kannal Zone bleven gestationeerd. In 1954 onderhandelde Eden, die weer minister van buitenlandse zaken was, over volledige terugtrekking. Hij wilde een verbetering van de relatie tussen Londen en Cairo zodat Egypte meer geneigd zou zijn de Britten te steunen om de Soviets uit het Midden Oosten te weren. Resultaat van de onderhandelingen was dat de Britse troepen in 1956 zouden zijn teruggetrokken en dat ze mochten terugkomen als Egypte of een ander land in de regio werd aangevallen.

De betrekkingen met Cairo bekoelden echter snel. De leider van Egypte, kolonel Gamal Abdul Nasser wilde dat zijn land en de Arabische wereld vrij zouden zijn van iedere buitenlandse inmenging en dat ze neutraal waren in de Koude Oorlog. Groot-Brittannië had nog steeds een sterke politieke en militaire positie in het Midden Oosten en was ondertussen bezig met het opzetten van een alliantie in het gebied tegen de USSR. Egyptische propaganda was anti-Brits en volgens Britse bronnen zette Cairo andere Arabische landen op tegen Londen. Nasser kocht in 1955 Russische wapens, vooral omdat ze zo goedkoop waren. Vervolgens ontstonden er meer contacten tussen Egypte en het Soviet-blok. Britten en Amerikanen vreesden dat Egypte, bewust of onbewust, onder de invloed van het Kremlin kwam te staan. Londen was bang dat het Midden Oosten voor het NAVO-kamp verloren zou gaan en mogelijk zelfs een Soviet bondgenoot zou worden. Deze regio was strategisch gelegen op het kruispunt van drie continenten en de olie was volgens de regering van absoluut vitaal belang voor Europa. In maart 1956 gaf Eden, nu premier, persoonlijk opdracht aan de geheime dienst om Nasser, die hij inmiddels haatte als Mussolini, ten val te brengen. Drie maanden later verlieten de laatste Britse troepen desondanks Egypte.

Op 26 juli nationaliseerde Nasser de Suez Kanaal Maatschappij. Eden was vastbesloten hiertegen op te treden; als politieke middelen niet voldeden, dan moest Groot-Brittannië militair ingrijpen. Het doel was om het Suez Kanaal onder een internationaal bestuur te plaatsen. Als Cairo algehele controle had over de inkomsten die het Kanaal opleverde, dan zou dat geld, zo vreesde het kabinet, voor binnenlandse doeleinden gebruikt kunnen worden i.p.v. voor onderhoud en verdieping van de vaargeul. Aan bepaalde landen zou geen toegang verleend worden, wat in het geval van een anti-Britse en pro-Soviet regering bijzonder nadelig was.

Door krachtdadig optreden wilde Eden voorkomen dat andere landen strategisch belangrijke bedrijven zouden nationaliseren. Hij vond dat Groot-Brittannië haar autoriteit moest laten zien. Als Nasser op zijn nummer zou worden gezet dan zou zijn regering dat niet lang overleven, zo verwachtte men in Londen.

Veel Britten waren razend toen ze hoorden van de nationalisatie. Groot-Brittannië dekoloniseerde, maar op zo'n moment deed de teloorgang van het rijk bijzonder pijn. Eden kon het niet over zijn hart krijgen om niet krachtig op te treden. Toen Eden in 1954 het verdrag sloot over Britse terugtrekking uit Egypte werd hij hevig bekritiseerd door een aantal Tories die hem voor 'appeaser' uitmaakten. Hij kon hier waarschijnlijk niet goed tegen en misschien ook daarom stelde hij zich hard op tegen Nasser.

Ondanks de woede in de eerste dagen van de crisis wilden de meeste Britten een diplomatieke, geen militaire oplossing. Een paar ministers dachten er ook zo over maar Eden en de anderen vonden dat de zaak zo ernstig was dat de publieke opinie zonodig getrotseerd moest worden. Dat gold eveneens voor de opinies van buitenlandse regeringen die in meerderheid een militaire oplossing afkeurden. Terwijl Frankrijk meteen troepen beschikbaar stelde, wezen de VS interventie af. President Eisenhower vond dat een overdreven reactie die landen in de 'Derde Wereld' een slechte indruk zou geven van het Atlantische kamp. De pro-Britse regeringen in het Midden Oosten adviseerden Londen om hard en snel in te grijpen en Nasser ten val te brengen. Heel belangrijk was echter dat dit gedaan moest worden zonder enige deelname van Israel. De Arabische landen zonder Britse vriendschapsbanden en Egypte waren in staat om als tegenreactie op interventie de olietoevoer naar Europa te beëindigen.

Tijdens een conferentie van 22 zeevarende landen in augustus was een meerderheid voor internationaal bestuur van het Suez Kanaal en sancties als bepaalde landen de toegang werd ontzegd. Nasser accepteerde dit niet. Vervolgens probeerde Londen andere landen over te halen geen tol te betalen aan Cairo. Nasser zou dan gezichtsverlies lijden of hij zou schepen tegenhouden wat de Britten een excuus gaf om in te grijpen. De VS en andere landen waren tegen. In oktober werd Suez besproken bij de VN. Tijdens persoonlijke gesprekken met de Britten en Fransen accepteerde Egypte samenwerking tussen Cairo en een internationale raad om het Kanaal te beheren. Cairo bleef onduidelijk over sancties maar Eden was toch positief over de voorlopige resultaten.

Echter, op 14 oktober presenteerden de Fransen aan Eden een geheim plan. Israel zou Egypte aanvallen en het Suez Kanaal naderen. Groot-Brittannië en Frankrijk zouden dan tussenbeide komen en de Kanaalzone bezetten, zogenaamd om oorlogsschade te voorkomen. Hun troepen zouden blijven tot Cairo een adequate regeling omtrent Suez accepteerde. Eden en Israel gingen in het geheim akkoord met het voorstel. Slechts een paar ministers en ambtenaren in Londen wisten ervan.

Vooral onder de laatsten waren er veel tegen het plan. Echter, gedurende zijn premierschap was het contact tussen Eden en zijn adviseurs verminderd. Zijn soms radicale ideeën werden zo van minder kanten belicht terwijl hij tijdens de Suez Crisis juist vaak sprak met de Fransen die het liefst meteen aanvielen. Daarbij kwam dat Eden's ziekten, die met velerlei chemische middelen werden behandeld, zijn ordelingsvermogen kunnen hebben aangetast.

Toch had Eden zijn redenen. Het was binnen afzienbare tijd niet meer goed mogelijk Egypte binnen te vallen, vooral vanwege militair technische redenen. Onderhandelingen met Cairo leidden misschien tot niets en Eden vond dat de laatste kans om in te grijpen dus beter genomen moest worden. Bovendien zou een militaire nederlaag de val van Nasser kunnen betekenen. De premier was het niet eens met de bezwaren van zijn medewerkers. Hij gaf toe dat het scenario niet helemaal geloofwaardig was en dat pro-Britse Arabische regeringen door binnenlandse oppositie in moeilijkheden zouden kunnen komen maar met Nasser aan de macht liepen ze uiteindelijk nog meer gevaar. Als de operatie snel verliep, dan zouden anti-Britse reacties minder kans hebben. Dit gold ook voor buitenlandse reacties in het algemeen. Bovendien waren de VN langzaam en zouden de Britse bevolking en Washington de interventie steunen als het moment daar was. Volgens het volkenrecht was de geplande invasie illegaal maar Eden vond het toestaan van Nasser's nationalisatie onrechtvaardig en hij was van mening dat het doel de middelen heiligde.

Op 29 oktober viel Israel Egypte aan. Op de 31ste verwierp Cairo het ultimatum om het Suez Kanaal onder bescherming van Britse en Franse troepen te plaatsen waarop doelen in Egypte werden gebombardeerd. Een minderheid van de Britten was het met de aanval eens en manifestaties ontstonden. De olietoevoer stokte door het plaatsen van wrakken in het Suez Kanaal en het sluiten van de oliepijpleiding door Syrië. Washington verzocht Londen het Kanaal zo snel mogelijk te veroveren om de wereld voor een voldongen feit te plaatsen. De Britten wilden echter het scenario niet nog ongeloofwaardiger maken. De VN riepen op de interventie te staken en aanvaardden een plan voor een troepenmacht om een staakt-het-vuren te surveilleren. In het Britse kabinet wilden een paar ministers uitstel of afstel van de grondoorlog. Een meerderheid wilde doorgaan en op 5 november landden parachutisten in Port Said. De leiders van het Kremlin dreigden met ingrijpen maar Eden vond het bluf. De volgende dag werd de stad veroverd. Enkele minsters waren wel onder de indruk van de Russische dreigementen en van de Britse oppositie. Sommigen vreesden VN-sancties. Amerikaanse druk was het zwaarst. Olieen financiële reserves slonken tot een gevaarlijk peil terwijl Eisenhower weigerde hulp te verlenen. Eden stemde uiteindelijk in met een staakt-het-vuren.

Gedurende de Spaanse Burgeroorlog en de Suez Crisis, zoals waarschijnlijk ook gedurende andere crises en oorlogen, werd de interpretatie door beleidsmakers van feiten, situaties, ervaringen en andere informatie beïnvloed door emoties zoals nationalisme en haat, vooroordelen, overtuigingen en ideeën over buitenlandse zaken in het algemeen, het openstaan voor de meningen van anderen, karaktereigenschappen en vastberadenheid. Het beleid was (en is) voor een groot deel gebaseerd op veronderstellingen en hoop; de wens was vaak vader van de gedachte.

Ondanks de onderling grote verschillen moest de Britse regering zowel tijdens de Spaanse Burgeroorlog als de Suez Crisis rekening houden met expansionisme van potentiële vijanden, oorlogsdreiging, het handhaven of verstevigen van vriendschapsbanden, militaire en economische strategische belangen, de militaire mogelijkheden om in te grijpen en binnenlandse verdeeldheid en oppositie. Bij overweging van al deze aspecten concludeerde de Britse regering dat er niet in Spanje moest worden ingegrepen en wel in Egypte. Daarbovenop kwamen persoonlijke belangen. Waarschijnlijk hebben die geen grote rol gespeeld bij Chamberlain en Eden, die tegen de wil van de meeste Britten voor interventie in Egypte koos. De laatste zag misschien wel zo de kans zijn reputatie van anti-appeaser te herstellen. Verder speelde mee dat Brits prestige in het geding was tijdens Suez terwijl men dat niet vond toen de oorlog in Spanje uitbrak. Anti-communistische sentimenten pakten waarschijnlijk nadelig uit voor de Republiek en Nasser.

Eden en Chamberlain waren zelfverzekerd en domineerden hun kabinetten; het gevolg kan zijn geweest dat ze argumenten tegen hun beleid niet hoorden of niet wilden horen. Ze waren vastbesloten hun doelen te bereiken en daarbij risico's te nemen. Chamberlain had daarbij in gedachten dat ieder mens redelijk was terwijl Eden vond dat veel mensen enkel onder de indruk zijn van kracht.

In zeker opzicht handelde de Britse regering naar gewoonte: normaliter intervenieerde Groot-Brittannië enkel in een burgeroorlog als het in haar belang was. In het Midden Oosten hadden de Britten in de 19de eeuw, maar ook nog in 1953, meerdere malen machthebbers afgezet. Groot-Brittannië stond er eveneens om bekend dat ze principes verdedigde. Maar in 1936-39 en 1956 was voor Londen Spaanse democratie, het stoppen van wreedheden en het gehoorzamen aan het volkenrecht niet van het allerhoogste belang. De doelen die Baldwin, Chamberlain en Eden voor ogen stonden waren het handhaven van eenheid in Groot-Brittannië, van vrede, het beschermen van de Britse economie en het trotseren van totalitair expansionisme. Hoezeer zij hierin ook beïnvloed werden door allerlei factoren, zij meenden te handelen in het belang van hun land.

[1] Information for this paragraph is drawn from: Morgan, Kenneth O., ed., The Oxford History of Britain, (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993); Bourne, Kenneth, The Foreign Policy of Victorian England, 1830-1902, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970); Kennedy, Paul, Strategy and Diplomacy, 1870-1945, (London: George Allan & Unwin, 1983); Medlicott, op. cit.; Darwin, The End of the British Empire; Sked, op. cit..

[2] Presseisen, Ernst L., Amiens and Munich: Comparisons in Appeasement, ('s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff, 1978) p. 9.

[3] Information for this paragraph is taken from: McKercher, op. cit.; Punnet, op. cit..

[4] Up until now (1997), all British foreign secretaries were male.

[5] Punnet, op. cit., p. 135.

[6] McKercher, op. cit., p. 17.

[7] Carr, op. cit., p. 28.

[8] Little, op. cit., pp. 37, 65, 71.

[9] Little, op. cit., pp. 184-191.

[10] Little, op. cit., pp. 192-200.

[11] Little, op. cit., pp. 209-215.

[12] Little, op. cit., p. 218.

[13] The British had no foreknowledge of this mutiny. Even Mussolini, who had signed a secret agreement with Spanish monarchists, seems to have been kept in the dark. Coverdale, op. cit., pp. 50, 60, 65.

[14] Edwards, op.cit., pp. 13-14.

[15] Edwards, op. cit., p. 23.

[16] Little, op. cit., p. 253.

[17] Avon, op. cit., p. 405.

[18] Little, op. cit., p. 222.

[19] Edwards, op. cit., p. 106.

[20] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 24, 182.

[21] Thompson, op. cit., p. 119; Edwards, op. cit., p. 181.

[22] Thompson, op. cit., pp. 38-40.

[23] Thompson, op. cit., p. 121; Middlemas, op. cit., pp. 936, 953. For an explanation of Spain's supposed irrelevancy concerning the German and Italian threat, see below, p. 24.

[24] Parker, op. cit., p. 89.

[25] Carlton, Eden, p. 87.

[26] Edwards, op. cit., p. 34.

[27] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 16, 236.

[28] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 16, 17.

[29] Edwards, op. cit., p. 19. For an explanation of Eden's wish to prevent sales, see below, p. 21.

[30] Middlemas, op. cit., p. 962; Edwards, op. cit., p. 11.

[31] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 20-26.

[32] Carlton, Eden, p. 90; Dalton, op. cit., p. 95.

[33] Carr, op. cit., p. 147.

[34] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 27, 28.

[35] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 20, 32, 33.

[36] Parker, op. cit., p. 88.

[37] Thompson, op. cit., p. 115; Carr, op. cit., p. 232.

[38] Carr, op. cit., p. 231.

[39] Dalton, op. cit., p. 97.

[40] Little, op. cit., p. 252.

[41] Parker, op. cit., p. 90.

[42] Middlemas, op. cit., p. 961.

[43] Edwards, op. cit., p. 30.

[44] Hoare was partly right. At least until late 1936, Mussolini wanted good relations with Britain as much as with Germany. Towards France, however, he felt no sympa­thy at all, which was exacerbated by the Civil War. London's strong tie with Paris was a 'major obstacle in the path of Italian rapprochement with England.' Coverd­ale, op. cit., pp. 28-29, 407.

[45] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 23, 24, 33.

[46] Middlemas, op. cit., p. 953; Avon, op. cit., p. 401.

[47] Edwards, op. cit., p. 33; Avon, op. cit., p. 402.

[48] Little, op. cit., p. 245.

[49] Edwards, op. cit., p. 38.

[50] Carr, op. cit., p. 147.

[51] This idea was rather risky, but as Eden admitted in his memoirs, he 'had not yet learnt that it is dangerous to offer such gestures to dictators, who are more likely to misinterpret than to follow them'; Avon, op. cit., p. 403. An important reason for Italian intervention was the early French arms delivery in July. Mussolini feared an anti-fascist Hispano-French alliance as a result of Paris helping the Republic overcome the mutiny; Carr, op. cit., p. 147; Coverdale, op. cit., p. 389. Delbos' arms ban could therefore have influenced Italy's policy if Mussolini had been convinced of French non-intervention. The Italian leader was not and he suspected Soviet inter­vention as well. A British embargo would therefore not have made much difference. Furthermore, it could have given Mussolini the impression that the UK consented to Italy's anti-bolshevist mission, which was true in the case of many Tories but not Eden.

[52] Avon, op. cit., p. 403.

[53] Edwards, op. cit., p. 28.

[54] Ibidem.

[55] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 40-46.

[56] Edwards, op. cit., p. 35.

[57] Edwards, op. cit., p. 34.

[58] Edwards, op. cit., p. 35.

[59] Edwards, op. cit., p. 185.

[60] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 23, 24; Avon, op. cit., p. 405.

[61] Carr, op. cit., p. 236; Edwards, op. cit., p. 64. The British seem to have underesti­mated German financial power. The Reichsmark exchange clearing system had given Berlin great economic influence in Eastern Europe; Crampton, op. cit., p. 36.

[62] Little, op. cit., pp. 239-241, 252; Avon, op. cit., p. 400.

[63] Edwards, op. cit., p. 23; Post, op. cit., p. 260.

[64] Keeble, op. cit., p. 125.

[65] Keeble, op. cit., pp. 126, 130; James, op. cit., pp. 144, 145.

[66] Wark, op. cit., pp. 228-230.

[67] Post, op. cit., p. 265.

[68] Post, op. cit., p. 258. For the treaty with Egypt, see below, p. 45.

[69] Medlicott, op. cit., p. 144; Post, op. cit., p. 258; Edwards, op. cit., p. 104.

[70] Post, op. cit., pp. 92, 257.

[71] Post, op. cit., p. 257.

[72] Edwards, op. cit., p.36.

[73] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 36, 37.

[74] Ibidem.

[75] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 64-67.

[76] Avon, op. cit., pp. 404-407, 412.

[77] Avon, op. cit., p. 401.

[78] Middlemas, op. cit., p. 967.

[79] Harvey, op. cit., p. 52; Edwards, op. cit., p. 191.

[80] Parker, op. cit., pp. 89, 90.

[81] Fuchser, op. cit., pp. 31, 32, 80, 119-124.

[82] See below, pp. 33-36.

[83] Edwards, op. cit., p. 11; Carlton, Eden, p. 100; Parker, op. cit., p. 108.

[84] Edwards, op. cit., p. 190.

[85] Edwards, op. cit., p. 93.

[86] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 82, 164; Coverdale, op. cit., pp. 153-155.

[87] James, op. cit., p. 168; Harvey, op. cit., p. 34.

[88] Wark, op. cit., pp. 230-232.

[89] Carlton, Eden, p. 94.

[90] Fuchser, op. cit., p. 49.

[91] Post, op. cit., p. 298; Carlton, Eden, p. 117.

[92] Fuchser, op. cit., pp. 23, 33, 34.

[93] Post, op. cit., p. 254; Carlton, Eden, pp. 116-119; James, op. cit., pp. 164, 176.

[94] Post, op. cit., p. 252.

[95] Edwards, op. cit., p. 110; James, op. cit., pp. 164, 170, 177; Carlton, Eden, p. 114.

[96] James, op. cit., p. 178; Avon, op. cit., p. 428; Harvey, op. cit., p. 65.

[97] Harvey, op. cit., p. 65.

[98] Avon, op. cit., p. 570; James, op. cit., p. 192; Post, op. cit., pp. 258, 263.

[99] Post, op. cit., p. 274.

[100] Carlton, Eden, pp. 95, 96; Post, op. cit., pp,. 263, 264.

[101] Crampton, op. cit., p. 160; Edwards, op. cit., p. 153.

[102] Carlton, Eden, pp. 116-118.

[103] Post, op. cit., p. 298; Thompson, op. cit., p. 45; James, op. cit., pp. 178, 189.

[104] Parker, op. cit., p. 84.

[105] Harvey, op. cit., p. 244; Roberts, op. cit., p. 85.

[106] Harvey, op. cit., pp. 49-54.

[107] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 189, 192.

[108] Harvey, op. cit., p. 412.

[109] Avon, op. cit., p. 434.

[110] Edwards, op. cit., p. 111.

[111] Edwards, op. cit., p. 56.

[112] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 88, 89.

[113] Harvey, op. cit., p. 37; Parker, op. cit., p. 88.

[114] Southworth, Herbert Rutledge, Guernica! Guernica!: A Study of Journalism, Diplomacy, Propaganda and History, (Berkeley: California UP, 1977) p. 209.

[115] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 120, 121.

[116] Parker, op. cit., p. 111; Edwards, op. cit., p. 122.

[117] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 124, 125.

[118] Mussolini had ordered the end of the attacks already a few days before the conference. He feared British or French retaliatory action after the unintentional attack on a British warship. Furthermore, the operations had been a partial succes. It is, however, probable that the suspension of the attacks lasted because of Nyon. Coverdale, op. cit., p. 316.

[119] Macmillan, Harold, Winds of Change, 1914-1939, (London: Macmillan, 1966) p. 476.

[120] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 125, 163; Coverdale, op. cit., p. 319.

[121] Edwards, op. cit., p. 156; Coverdale, op. cit., pp. 322, 323.

[122] Harvey, op. cit., pp. 49-53; Edwards, op. cit., pp. 156-158.

[123] Avon, op. cit., p. 409.

[124] Thomas, Hugh, The Spanish Civil War, (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1961) p. 502.

[125] Harvey, op. cit., pp. 49-52.

[126] Harvey, op. cit., pp. 83, 86, 91.

[127] Carlton, Eden, pp. 128, 129; Harvey, op. cit., p. 92; Fuchser, op. cit., p. 104.

[128] Edwards, op. cit., p. 168.

[129] Coverdale, op. cit., p. 353; Edwards, op. cit., p. 169.

[130] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 169, 178; Roberts, op. cit., p. 98; Coverdale, op. cit., p. 353.

[131] Roberts, op. cit., p. 128.

[132] Harvey, op. cit., p. 158; Edwards, op. cit., p. 130.

[133] Edwards, op. cit., p. 206.

[134] Wark, op. cit., p. 232.

[135] The Spanish Prime Minister, Dr. Juan Negrín, issued 'Thirteen Points', designed to give his country a strong and pluralist democracy. He responded to British tastes by pledging independence from foreign powers and, if the UK helped the Republic, from local Communists, by his intention to improve Hispano-Italian relations and by considering the restoration of monarchy. Edwards, op. cit., pp. 200-202.

[136] Edwards, op. cit., pp. 200-205.

[137] Edwards, op. cit., p. 209.

[138] Azeau, op. cit., pp. 25-30; Kyle, op. cit., p. 138.

[139] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 12, 13, 15; Azeau, op. cit., pp. 41-45.

[140] The other powers were: Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary.

[141] Kyle ,op. cit., p. 16; Azeau, op. cit., p. 46.

[142] Kyle, op. cit., p. 17; Wilson, op. cit., p. 61; Mansfield, op. cit., pp. 188, 189.

[143] Wilson, op. cit., p. 70.

[144] Mansfield, op. cit., p. 198; Wilson, op. cit., pp. 70, 71; Kyle, op. cit., p. 18.

[145] The celebrated Mohammed Ali, an Albanian soldier who had managed to become the ruler of Egypt in the 1810s, had challenged his suzerain, the Turkish Sultan and encroached upon the latter's possessions. Britain helped the Sultan defeat the powerful vasal in 1841. Mansfield, op. cit., pp. 48, 58, 59.

[146] Wilson, op. cit., pp. 99, 100.

[147] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 30, 37; Wilson, op. cit., pp. 126, 127; Darwin, Britain and Decolonisation, p. 207.

[148] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 36-38.

[149] Darwin, Britain and Decolonisation, pp. 207, 208; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 40, 41.

[150] Kyle, op. cit., p. 42; Louis, op. cit., p. 52.

[151] Louis, op. cit., p. 55; Kyle, op. cit., p. 50.

[152] Louis, op. cit., pp. 47, 52, 53, 67, 70; Darwin, Britain and Decolonization, p. 209; Carlton, Eden, p. 326; Kyle, op. cit., p. 52, 53.

[153] Carlton, Eden, p. 358; Kyle, op. cit., p. 54.

[154] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 43, 44, 57, 59.

[155] Kyle, op, cit., pp. 56, 57.

[156] Kyle, op. cit., p. 61; James, op. cit., p. 398.

[157] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 69, 70.

[158] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 70-74; Carlton, Suez, p. 27.

[159] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 81, 84, 85; Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 306.

[160] Carlton, Eden, pp. 391, 392; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 89-91; Mansfield, op. cit., p. 255; Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 327.

[161] Carlton, Suez, pp. 28, 29; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 93, 94.

[162] Carlton, Suez, p. 30; Kyle, op. cit., p. 95; James, op. cit., pp. 431, 432; Shuck­burgh, op. cit., p. 345.

[163] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 96-99; Carlton, Eden, p. 403; Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 345.

[164] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 101-103.

[165] see above, p. 53.

[166] James, op. cit., pp. 452, 457; Shuckburgh, op. cit., pp. 338, 339.

[167] Like the UK, the American and French democracies have been friendly to vain megalomaniacs and murderous dictators. To name but a few: Mobutu, Ceausescu, Batista, Bokassa, Galtieri, Saddam Hussein.

[168] Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 214.

[169] Kyle, op. cit., p. 81.

[170] See above, p. 27.

[171] Kyle, op. cit., p. 93; James, op. cit., p. 431; Carlton, Eden, p. 403; Shuckburgh, op. cit., pp. 294, 295, 355; Mansfield, op. cit., p. 260.

[172] Lucas, op. cit., p. 117.

[173] James, op. cit., p. 400; Lucas, op. cit., p. 116; Kyle, op. cit., p. 84.

[174] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 84, 85; Shuckburgh, op. cit,, p. 305.

[175] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 72, 75, 78.

[176] Kyle, op. cit., p. 73; Lucas, op. cit., p. 117.

[177] Keeble, op. cit., pp. 250, 253; Lafeber, Walter, America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1971, 2nd ed., (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1972) pp. 175, 176; Shuckburgh, op. cit., pp. 294, 295, 333; James, op. cit., p. 431.

[178] These are abbreviations of respectively: CENtral Treaty Organization, South-East Asia Treaty Organization and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

[179] Kyle, op. cit., p. 60; Lundestad, Geir, *East West North South: Major Develop­ments in International Politics, 1945-1986*, (Oslo: Norway UP, 1986) p. 82; Wilson, op. cit., pp. 149, 150.

[180] James, op. cit., p. 439; Horne, op. cit., p. 419.

[181] James, op. cit., p. 457; Kyle, op. cit., p. 11.

[182] Lloyd, op. cit., pp. 68, 70; Kyle, op. cit., p. 127.

[183] James, op. cit., p. 448.

[184] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 124, 125; Thomas, op. cit., p. 30.

[185] Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 356; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 126, 130.

[186] Kyle, op. cit., p. 126.

[187] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 127-134.

[188] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 135, 136.

[189] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 123, 146; Kyle, op. cit., p. 147.

[190] Kyle, op. cit., p. 139.

[191] Ibidem.

[192] Home was later known as Sir Alec Douglas-Home; ibidem.

[193] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 121, 122, 138.

[194] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 119, 121, 138.

[195] Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 352, Kyle, op. cit., pp. 121, 146.

[196] Wilson, op. cit., p. 85.

[197] Macmillan did not seem impressed by the possibilities of supertankers. The first of these vessels was launched in 1956 and could transport oil round the Cape at lower costs than other tankers travelling through the Suez Canal. Lucas, op. cit., p. 211; Wilson, op. cit., pp. 86, 87, 148.

[198] Thomas, op. cit., p. 49; Kyle, op. cit., p. 136.

[199] Kyle, op. cit., p. 181.

[200] Kyle, op. cit., p. 227; Horne, op. cit., p. 419.

[201] Wilson, op. cit., p. 150; Kyle, op. cit., p. 122.

[202] Horne, op. cit., p. 412.

[203] See below, p. 70.

[204] Kyle, op. cit., p. 272.

[205] Lloyd, op. cit., pp. 109, 120; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 323, 324; Horne, op. cit., p. 420.

[206] Lucas, op. cit., p. 215.

[207] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 224, 225.

[208] Darwin, The End of the British Empire, p. 31.

[209] James, op. cit., p. 456.

[210] He probably refered to Holland's past as a great naval power like England and to her present status of an alleged third rank power; Carlton, Eden, p. 413; Horne, op. cit., pp. 405, 423; Kyle, op. cit., p. 155.

[211] Lloyd, op. cit., p. 50; James, op. cit., pp. 86, 87, 352, 353; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 43, 44; Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 214.

[212] Sked, op. cit., p. 125; James, pp. 404, 405.

[213] Sked, op. cit., p. 126; James, op. cit., pp. 404, 405; Kyle, op. cit., p. 68.

[214] Kyle, op. cit., p. 95; Sked, op. cit., pp. 126-128; Carlton, Eden, pp. 385, 386.

[215] Shuckburgh, op. cit., pp. 151, 318, 345.

[216] Thomas, op. cit., p. 45.

[217] See above, pp. 54-60.

[218] Kyle, op. cit., p. 68; Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 148.

[219] Kyle, op. cit., p. 68.

[220] Sked, op. cit., p. 125; Kyle, op. cit., p. 89.

[221] Kyle, op. cit., p. 184.

[222] Nasser might be moved to accept such control more easily if all major water­ways around the globe would come under an international authority. However, Turkey and NATO would oppose this vehemently regarding the Dardanelles and the USA regarding the Panama Canal. Kyle, op. cit., p. 159; Lucas, op. cit., p. 164; Louis, op. cit., pp. 176, 177.

[223] Kyle, op. cit., p. 148.

[224] Lucas, op. cit., p. 181; Horne, op. cit., p. 407.

[225] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 149, 150, 202, 210; Lucas, op. cit., pp. 194, 195.

[226] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 213, 227.

[227] Kyle, op. cit., p. 191.

[228] Horne, op. cit., p. 406; Kyle, op. cit., p. 146.

[229] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 187, 250, 261; Horne, op. cit., p. 420.

[230] Louis, op. cit., p. 293.

[231] Kyle, op. cit., p. 137.

[232] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 137, 138, 163.

[233] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 138, 164, 165.

[234] Kyle, op. cit., p. 189.

[235] Ibidem.

[236] Kyle, op. cit., p. 226.

[237] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 226, 243; Horne, op. cit., p. 426.

[238] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 187, 204; James, op. cit., p. 505.

[239] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 201, 213.

[240] Horne, op. cit., p. 401; Kyle, op. cit., p. 199; Louis, op. cit., p. 141.

[241] Kyle, op. cit., p. 197.

[242] Kyle, op. cit., p. 138.

[243] James, op. cit., pp. 479, 480.

[244] There are two other cases mentioned, viz. action against former Axis powers, taken as a result of World War II and action by regional agencies like the Organizati­on of American States. The former was obsolete and had, of course, nothing to do with Suez and the latter needed UN authorization; Akehurst, op. cit., pp. 261, 266, 267.

[245] Kyle, op. cit., p. 214.

[246] Louis, op. cit., p. 288, 293; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 156-159.

[247] Kyle, op. cit., p. 158; Louis, op. cit., pp. 184, 185, 262, 263.

[248] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 157, 158; Louis, op. cit., pp. 174-177.

[249] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 185, 186.

[250] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 201, 205, 213, 215.

[251] Kyle, op. cit., p. 191.

[252] Azeau, op. cit., pp. 125, 147.

[253] Azeau, op. cit., p. 147; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 145, 178.

[254] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 168, 169, 175, 462.

[255] James, op. cit., p. 352; Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 19.

[256] Kyle, op. cit., p. 40; Carlton, Eden, pp. 287, 291, 349, 350; Carlton, Suez, pp. 4-6.

[257] Horne, op. cit., p. 416; Lloyd, op. cit., 131; Kyle, op. cit., p. 101.

[258] Carlton, Eden, p. 304, 380, 381; Horne, op. cit., p. 381; Kyle, op. cit., p. 49.

[259] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 49, 66, 99, 100; Carlton, Suez, pp. 380, 381.

[260] James, op. cit., p. 474; Lucas, op. cit., p. 145; Carlton, Eden, p. 414; Kyle, op. cit., p. 155.

[261] Horne, op. cit., p. 432.

[262] For Eden's letter, see above, p. ; James, op. cit., p. 506.

[263] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 45, 161, 276, 277; Horne, op. cit., pp. 431, 432.

[264] Azeau, op. cit., pp. 209, 210; Kyle, op. cit., p. 229; Lucas, op. cit., p. 250; Horne, op. cit., pp. 427, 428.

[265] Kyle, op. cit., p. 277.

[266] Horne, op. cit., p. 431; Kyle, op. cit., p. 258.

[267] Lloyd, op. cit., pp. 109, 120; Horne, op. cit., p. 403.

[268] Lloyd, op. cit., p. 123; Azeau, op. cit., pp. 134, 155, 156.

[269] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 147, 170-174, 178.

[270] Horne, op. cit., pp. 418, 419.

[271] Kyle, op. cit., p. 190; Lucas, op. cit., p. 181.

[272] Horne, op. cit., p. 435.

[273] Kyle, op. cit., p. 153.

[274] Apart from the UK and Egypt, these were: France, Turkey, the USSR, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Pakistan, Iran, Ethiopia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Greece, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and Indonesia. This total of 24 countries consisted of the signatories of the Constantinople Convention and countries who were dependant on or major users of the Suez Canal. The selection of this latter group of countries was somewhat arbitrary. Kyle, op. cit., pp. 163, 183, 185.

[275] Louis, op. cit., pp. 179, 180; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 193, 194.

[276] Kyle, op. cit., p. 194.

[277] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 217, 218.

[278] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 219, 222.

[279] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 223, 231; James, op. cit., pp. 510-513; Lucas, op. cit., pp. 188, 200; Louis, op. cit., p. 204.

[280] Lucas, op. cit., p. 191.

[281] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 187, 231.

[282] James, op. cit., p. 514; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 244, 245.

[283] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 251, 252.

[284] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 202, 207; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 246, 252-254.

[285] Kyle, op. cit., p. 250.

[286] Kyle, op. cit., p. 249.

[287] Kyle, op. cit., p. 144, 249, 250.

[288] Kyle, op. cit., p. 250.

[289] Kyle, op. cit., p. 166.

[290] Louis, op. cit., p. 291.

[291] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 207, 213.

[292] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 261, 272.

[293] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 272, 279; Lucas, op. cit., p. 220.

[294] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 280, 281.

[295] Kyle, op. cit., p. 282.

[296] Lucas, op. cit., p. 223.

[297] Kyle, op. cit., p. 286.

[298] Egypt was not a member of the Council but, being a party to the dispute, could participate in the debates without the right to vote; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 288, 289.

[299] Kyle, op. cit., p. 287; Lucas, op. cit., p. 224.

[300] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 224, 225; Kyle, op. cit., p. 289.

[301] In Egypt the invasion of 1956 is known by this name.

[302] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 263-266; Lucas, op. cit., pp. 229-231.

[303] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 296, 297; Lucas, op. cit., pp. 227, 228.

[304] Kyle, op. cit., p. 302.

[305] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 316, 317, 327.

[306] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 318-321, 328, 329.

[307] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 565, 566.

[308] Kyle, op. cit., p. 304.

[309] Lucas, op. cit., p. 249; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 322, 323, 326, 327, 333-336.

[310] Kyle, op. cit., p. 302.

[311] Kyle, op. cit., p. 301.

[312] Lucas, op. cit., p. 290; Kyle, op. cit., p. 406.

[313] Kyle, op. cit., p. 389.

[314] Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 300.

[315] Shuckburgh, op. cit., p. 333.

[316] Carlton, Eden, p. 428; Carlton, Suez, pp. 20, 63, 64; Kyle, op. cit., p. 557.

[317] Kyle, op. cit., p. 321.

[318] See e.g. Shuckburgh, op. cit., pp. 138, 146, 226, 286.

[319] Shuckburgh, op. cit., pp. 300, 330, 331.

[320] Kyle, op. cit., p. 301.

[321] Thomas, op. cit., pp. 45, 181; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 113, 114, 144.

[322] Lucas, op. cit., p. 214.

[323] Kyle, op. cit., p. 286.

[324] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 312, 322.

[325] Kyle, op. cit., p. 307; Lucas, op. cit., pp. 225, 226.

[326] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 305, 306, 326.

[327] Kyle, op. cit., p. 295; Carlton, Suez, p. 61.

[328] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 266, 324.

[329] Kyle, op. cit., p. 334.

[330] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 326, 327.

[331] See the following section, when the intervention had started: ‘Washington gave the British to understand that they should reach their objectives rapidly and expected them to do so by 1 November.’

[332] Kyle, op. cit., p. 289.

[333] James, op. cit., pp. 533, 537.

[334] Lucas, op. cit., p. 239.

[335] Horne, op. cit., pp. 441, 442.

[336] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 246, 250.

[337] Horne, op. cit., p. 451; Lucas, op. cit., p. 250.

[338] Kyle, op. cit., p. 467; Lucas, op. cit., p. 36.

[339] Lucas, op. cit., p. 238.

[340] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 350, 352, 415.

[341] Horne, op. cit., pp. 446, 447.

[342] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 363, 364.

[343] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 370, 377-379.

[344] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 382, 383, 417, 418, 484.

[345] Kyle, op. cit., p. 406.

[346] Lucas, op. cit., p. 284.

[347] Lucas, op. cit., p. 269; Kyle, op. cit., pp. 393, 395.

[348] Kyle, op. cit., p. 397.

[349] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 399, 400.

[350] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 262, 278.

[351] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 386, 426; Lucas, op. cit., pp. 269, 270.

[352] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 270, 275.

[353] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 388, 389.

[354] The UK, France, Israel, Australia and New Zealand voted against. Canada, South Africa, Laos, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands abstained; Kyle, op. cit., p. 403.

[355] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 428, 429.

[356] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 415, 416, 421-423, 435; Lucas, op. cit., p. 280-283.

[357] Kyle, op. cit., p. 429.

[358] Lucas, op. cit., p. 283.

[359] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 436, 438.

[360] Kyle, op. cit., p. 439.

[361] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 439, 440.

[362] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 440, 441.

[363] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 441-443.

[364] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 456, 457; Lucas, op. cit., p. 290.

[365] Kyle, op. cit., p. 458; Lucas, op. cit., p. 293.

[366] Carlton, Eden, pp. 452, 453.

[367] Kyle, op. cit., p. 465; Carlton, Eden, p. 453.

[368] Lucas, op. cit., pp. 292-295; Kyle, op. cit., p. 464; Horne, op. cit., p. 450.

[369] Lloyd, op. cit., p. 209; Kyle, op. cit., p. 468; Carlton, op. cit., p. 453.

[370] Carlton, op. cit., pp. 453, 454; Kyle, op. cit., p. 468.

[371] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 466, 467, 473-476, 481.

[372] Kyle, op. cit., p. 481.

[373] Kyle, op. cit., p. 506.

[374] On the Anglo-French side, 23 men did not survive the assault; Kyle, op. cit., p. 502.

[375] Kyle, op. cit., p. 504.

[376] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 513, 514, 522; James, op. cit., p. 585.

[377] Carlton, Eden, pp. 463-465; Carlton, Suez, pp. 92-94; Kyle, op. cit., p. 491.

[378] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 533, 534.

[379] Kyle, op. cit., pp. 540, 545.

[380] Akehurst, op. cit., pp. 284, 285.

[381] See above, p. .

[382] Roberts, op. cit., p. 85.

[383] Fuchser, op. cit., p. 80.

[384] Middlemas, op. cit., p. 961.

[385] One may speculate therefore that if there had been no Red or Brown menace in Europe, the UK would still not have intervened in Spain.

[386] Sked, op. cit., p. 136.

[387] The atrocities committed during the war in Yugoslavia (to name but one bloody conflict of the 1990s) were shocking as well. One may wonder which considerations in favour of non-intervention in Bosnia weighed heavier than the duty to make every effort to stop the suffering. There seems to have been no danger to the economy and European defence, no totalitarian menace, no threat to the unity of the populati­on at home. Maybe then, this policy was chosen for no particular reason, because many governments were overcome by sloth and sluggishness.