Saturday, November 27, 2010


The plot devised by Great Britain, France, and Israel to seize control of the strategic, Anglo-French-owned and British-administered Suez Canal, recently nationalized by Egyptian leader Abdel Nasser, resulted in a tripartite invasion of Egypt in October 1956 code-named STRAGGLE. Although the United States was not a participant and was preoccupied by the opportunistic simultaneous Soviet invasion of Hungary to suppress an uprising in Budapest, the Central Intelligence Agency continued to supply intelligence to the Secret Intelligence Service, including  U-2 imagery of Egyptian forces. The decision by the disapproving President Dwight D. Eisenhower, then in the middle of an election campaign, to withdraw support for the pound precipitated a financial crisis that forced Great Britain to evacuate its troops.
The Suez Crisis had been prompted by SIS reports from a source code-named LUCKY BREAK that Colonel Nasser was falling under increasing Soviet influence and joining the Communist Bloc. Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s first demand, which was to cause Selwyn Lloyd’s minister of state, Sir Anthony Nutting, to resign, was for the SIS to  assassinate the troublesome Egyptian leader; the second, which was to split the country, was to collude with Israel and France to invade and regain control of the canal.
The crisis was exacerbated by the SIS’s lack of assets in the field, the Mukhabarat having rolled up the main British network, organized by local expatriates, weeks before the invasion. Even worse, a source considered one of the SIS’s most valuable revealed himself to have been long controlled by the Mukhabarat. Dogged by ill health and the knowledge that the French and Israelis had retained copies of the secret Sèvres Agreement which had set out the plan in detail and had been negotiated and signed on Eden’s behalf by the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Sir Pat Dean, Eden resigned, citing the need to recover from a botched operation which had severed his bile duct.