Gamal Abdel Nasser the tall, handsome, soft-voiced President of the United Arab Republic, has held power in the Middle East longer than any other ruler.
Gamal Abdel Nasser the tall, handsome, soft-voiced President of the United Arab Republic, has held power in the Middle East longer than any other ruler. He remains, still, the undisputed leader of the Arab world despite the setbacks of the 'Six-day' war and the popularity of the guerrilla movements.
In 1952, a military coup out General Neguib in power as the nominal leader of the Revolutionary Council. The coup was engineered by the "Free Officers" group--with Colonel Nasser as one of its moving spirits. In less than two years he emerged as the unchallenged leader of the Egyptian National Revolution.
President Nasser broke Egypt's alignment with the western powers in 1955 when he bought arms from Czechoslovakia. This purchase caused the withdrawal in 1956, of the western offer to finance the Aswan High Dam. The nationalisation of the Suez Canal followed immediately and this led to an invasion of Egypt by Israel, and the Anglo-French landing at Port Said. In the action the canal itself was blocked with sunken ships.
The failure of the Suez operation left President Nasser as the hero of the Arab world. Egypt's union with Syria broke down in 1961 but President Nasser retained the title United Arab Republic for his country.
When Civil War broke out in the Yemen in 1963 between Royalist and Republican factions, Egypt committed heavy military support to the Republican side. When President Nasser visited the Yemeni Republican capital San'a, two years later, he was greeted by forty-thousand Egyptian troops, who were still there.
Since the Suez episode, President Nasser began to play an increasingly major role as leader of the non-aligned nations. He was host to several conferences and visited the United Nations himself in 1961.
The growing influence of the Soviet in Egyptian affairs began with the Aswan High Dam -- they stepped in when the western powers withdrew the financial aid. This project was crucially important for Egypt: it would permit an expansion by one-third of the area of cultivable land, and, more important, provide the power needed for the creation of a heavy industrial base for the economy. Mr. Khrushchev visited the project during its construction.
The greatest disaster of President Nasser's career came with the collapse of Egypt's military forces in the June war with Israel of 1967. In six days, Egyptian forces were routed and Israeli troops occupied all of the U.A.R.'s territory east of the Suez Canal. For a few critical weeks the whole position of President Nasser as ruler of the U.A.R. and the greatest figure in the Arab world hung in the balance.
In a television broadcast on June 9, one day after accepting the U.N. call for a cease-fire, he offered his resignation. Vast demonstrations in his favour by the people, appeals by officials, and a resolution by the National Assembly persuaded him to stay on as President.
The defeat by Israel proved to be the impetus needed by the Arab nations to unite. The main summit meetings, including the last one in Rabat, Morocco, failed to produce all-embracing Arab collaboration. However, the military revolutions in Libya and Sudan resulted in the forming of a triple alliance with the U.A.R., in Tripoli last December.
President Nasser and Colonel Gaddafi of Libya visited Major-General Nimiery in May of this year to celebrate the first anniversary of Sudan's revolution. The celebrations included a three-hour parade of Sudanese military strength. This, backed by the huge income from Libya's rich oilfields, gives an indication of the potential strength of the alliance.
Of greater importance, on the international scale, is the continuing entente between President Nasser and the leaders of the Soviet Union. The U.A.R.'s depleted military equipment has all been replaced by the Soviet Union, with the addition of Surface-to-Air missiles and Russian advisers. Relations between President Nasser and the Kremlin remain a major factor in the Middle East situation.