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By 1956, the Middle East was the cauldron of the growing Cold War between Russia and the United States that would dominate world politics and affairs for the next 30 years. In 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser renationalised the Suez Canal and set off a chain reaction of events that saw the Israelis invade the Sinai and finish 10 miles from the canal, and an invasion by British and French troops. This situation was hatched by the British and the French with Israeli collusion. Whilst it was a military triumph for Ben-Gurion and Israel, it weakened the position of Britain and France who had acted without American knowledge. This event saw them replaced by the United States and Russia as the major players in the region and heralded in the era of the Cold War in the Middle East. Egypt courted Russia for arms and international support, while Israel drew closer to America. Professor Noam Chomsky put it more starkly as a battle for control of oil and resources in the region.
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First broadcast:
29 January 2004

Classroom Ideas

Using an interactive white board, or possibly a large world map and Post-it notes, display a map of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Pupils could add labels and comments, perhaps in red, to show all the reasons they learned from the clip for the importance of the Suez Canal and the 1956 crisis.

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