The Israelis struck first, on October 26, 1956. Two days later, British and French military forces joined them. Originally, forces from the three countries were set to strike at once, but the British and French troops were delayed.
Behind schedule, but ultimately successful, the British and French troops took control of the area around the Suez Canal. However, their hesitation had given the Soviet Union–also confronted with a growing crisis in Hungary–time to respond. The Soviets, eager to exploit Arab nationalism and gain a foothold in the Middle East, supplied arms from Czechoslovakia to the Egyptian government beginning in 1955, and eventually helped Egypt construct the Aswan Dam on the Nile River after the United States refused to support the project. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) railed against the invasion and threatened to rain down nuclear missiles on Western Europe if the Israeli-French-British force did not withdraw.
The response of President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration was measured. It warned the Soviets that reckless talk of nuclear conflict would only make matters worse, and cautioned Khrushchev to refrain from direct intervention in the conflict. However, Eisenhower (1890-1969) also issued stern warnings to the French, British and Israelis to give up their campaign and withdraw from Egyptian soil. Eisenhower was upset with the British, in particular, for not keeping the United States informed about their intentions. The United States threatened all three nations with economic sanctions if they persisted in their attack. The threats did their work. The British and French forces withdrew by December; Israel finally bowed to U.S. pressure in March 1957.
In the aftermath of the Suez Crisis, Britain and France found their influence as world powers weakened.