1. The Extreme British Plan to Punish a Troublesome Egyptian Ruler by Blocking the Nile
Egypt was a British client state and protectorate from 1882 to 1952, and Britain-based troops there to protect her interests. Most important of those interests was safeguarding the Suez Canal, of which the British government was a majority shareholder. Then in 1952, nationalist Egyptian officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew Egypt’s pro-British king. The new government demanded that British troops leave Egypt, and in 1956, nationalized the Suez Canal. Nasser infuriated British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who was determined to put the Egyptian upstart in his place. So secret plans were drawn for an extreme solution: cut off the Nile’s flow of water.
Britain controlled Uganda, where the Owen Falls Dam lay astride the White Nile, a main source of the river flowing into Egypt. The idea was cut off the flow in Uganda, thus reducing the Nile’s water volume by seven eighths by the time it reached Egypt. The plan was ultimately rejected because it would deprive other countries between Uganda and Egypt of water, would take too long, and would produce a PR nightmare. Instead, Eden opted for a direct military intervention. The result was the 1956 Suez Crisis, which ended with Britain forced into a humiliating climb down, and the wrecking of Anthony Eden’s political career.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading