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Posts tagged ‘Blue Nile’

Statesman of Egypt – Gamal Abdel Nasser

Born on Jan. 15, 1918: A graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Gamal Abdel Nasser first rose to prominence as an officer in the first Arab-Israeli war, where he gained recognition for holding out for three weeks in 1948 while his battalion was surrounded in what came to be known as the “Faluja Pocket”. While serving in the army, Nasser become the leader of a covert organization called the Free Officers whose goal was to overthrow the hereditary Egyptian royalty and free Egypt from British influence. These goals were accomplished in a 1952 coup d’etat which ended with King Farouk’s exile after Nasser vetoed his execution. Though he was the real leader of the new government, Nasser remained unknown to the public media until 1954 when he assumed the role of Prime Minister and published his book “Philosophy of the Revolution”, a call for pan-Arab resistance to imperialism. In 1956, Nasser proclaimed the adoption of “Arab Socialism” in Egypt and was elected almost unanimously to the office of Egyptian President. Later that year, Egypt nationalized the British-run Suez Canal to pay for a massive public works project, the Aswan High Dam. This invited an invasion of the Sinai Peninsula by Israel and the decimation of Egypt’s air force by British and French bombers, but also won Nasser the respect of many leaders of the “nonaligned” nations – countries which were allied with neither the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact nor the United States-headed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Further, the prevention of a full-scale British invasion by both a Soviet threat of nuclear war and a United States warning of further reprisals set the tone for “Third World” affairs for years to come, as Nasser had established that weaker states could keep their independence by playing NATO and the Warsaw Pact against each other. Nasser would continue as a major leader of the nonaligned states until his death in 1970; among his efforts at “small power” independence were his support of Kenya’s Mau Mau movement in the late 1950s and the periodic rallying of Arab states against foreign domination. As president, his record of success was decidedly mixed: he finally finished the Aswan High Dam with Soviet assistance in 1968, but was constantly frustrated in his struggle against Israel, including an embarrassing defeat in the Six-Day War of 1967. Though he is almost unanimously regarded as a hero in the Arab world (he was the recipient of one of the largest state funerals in the region’s history).

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