No 10’s casualties of war

Anthony Eden and Tony Blair made disastrous foreign policy decisions in Suez in 1956 and Iraq in 2003. Roger Hardy questions why the West seems never to learn

The World Today Published 28 September 2016 Updated 26 November 2020 4 minute READ

Roger Hardy

was for more than 20 years a Middle East analyst, BBC World Service

Sixty years ago, in October 1956, Anthony Eden conspired with France and Israel to invade Egypt in an ill-fated attempt to overthrow its ruler and seize control of the Suez Canal. Four decades later Tony Blair joined forces with George W Bush to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein.

At first glance the two prime ministers have little in common, the Tory grandee with the cut-glass accent and the ambitious young apostle of New Labour. Eden was a veteran statesman and committed imperialist who had studied Arabic and Persian and who understood, or thought he understood, the Middle East. Blair was, by comparison, a foreign-policy novice thrust into an international crisis for which he was ill-prepared.

Yet these two prime ministers, so very different in background and temperament, were responsible for the two greatest disasters in British foreign policy since the Second World War.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.