Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt with his own set of priorities, which frequently put him at odds with those of Europe and the U.S., who still maintained vital interests in the region. He supported the Algerian war for independence against France and undermined Britain’s control in Iraq and Turkey. He frequently played the U.S. and Russia against one another. So when he aligned himself with China, the West decided to call his bluff, and allow him to go to the Soviets, withdrawing funding for the Anwsar dam. In response Nasser took something vital away from the West.
On this day, July 26 in 1956 Nasser called a press conference, announcing he is taking over the Suez canal, which was leased to an international controlling body for 99 years. In effect, Nasser not only made a move to remove Western influence from the Middle East — something even his detractors praised — but put in jeopardy a vital shipping route between Europe and America.
Nasser came to power in Egypt as the Cold War was reaching a zenith — when Russia, China, France, Britain and the U.S. were all competing for influence over the country and the important waterway within its territory. When he nationalized the canal and took over the British and French portions, the two nations made a plan with Israel to stage a takeover. Israel invaded Egypt from the north, giving England and France the pretext for landing paratroopers over the canal, ostensibly to protect it.