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President of Egypt, 1970-1981
Anwar al-Sadat was born in the Nile Delta village of Mit Abu al-Kawm on December 25, 1918, the son of a poor hospital clerk.
In 1936, Sadat was chosen as one of the first students to attend the Royal Military Academy. In 1938 he entered the army as a Second Lieutenant and was posted in the Sudan. It was there that he met Gamal Abdel Nasser. These two men, along with other young officers, formed the secret, anti-British, anti-monarchy Free Officers revolutionary organization.
Sadat was jailed twice for contacts with Germans during World War II. In 1946 he was tried and acquitted on charges of conspiring to assassinate a pro-British politician. He then spent a few years as a civilian, participating in several business deals before rejoining the revolutionary movement.
On July 23, 1952, the Free Officers Organization staged a coup and overthrew King Farouk. Nasser became President of Egypt, and Sadat became his most trusted lieutenant. Sadat held several public posts under Nasser, including Vice-President in 1964-1966 and 1969-1970.
President of Egypt
Sadat became President upon Nasser's sudden death on September 29, 1970.
With Egypt still smarting from its humiliating defeat at the hands of Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, Sadat openly offered the Israelis a peace treaty in exchange for their return of the Sinai Peninsula; Israel refused the offer, however.
As President, Sadat inherited a relationship with the Soviet Union that was deteriorating because Moscow was not responding to Egyptian requests for economic and military aid. In July 1972, Sadat ordered the immediate withdrawal of the Soviet Union's 5,000 military advisers.
On October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, aiming to reverse losses suffered during the Six-Day War and destroy the Jewish state. The Arabs initially gained much ground, but the Israelis had help from the United States and were able to turn the Arabs back. The so-called Yom Kippur War ended after both the Soviet Union and the United States intervened.
When U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger brokered a truce, Sadat became convinced that good relations with Washington served Egypt's interests better than friendship with Moscow, and in 1976 Sadat abrogated the Soviet-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship.
In 1977, anxious to reduce the heavy burden incurred by four wars with Israel and to improve the plight of his debt-ridden country, Sadat risked the ire of other Arab states by making peace overtures toward Israel. In November he became the first Egyptian leader to address the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset). This breakthrough led to the Camp David talks moderated by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. These talks led to the historic Camp David Peace Treaty, which was signed by Sadat and his Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, on March 26, 1979. In 1978, Sadat and Begin jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sadat's peace overtures made him many friends in the West, especially within the United States. Unfortunately, however, they also made him many enemies within the Arab world, which saw him as a traitor. He was assassinated by Muslim fundamentalists in Cairo on October 6, 1981, while reviewing a military parade commemorating the Yom Kippur War.
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This page was last updated on May 10, 2017.