The Egyptian Republic – Modern History of Egypt


The Egyptian Republic.

The Egyptian Republic. The problems confronting the new regime were many but the two greatest obstacles to be negotiated were the status of the Sudan and the Suez Canal. In February 1954, after being accused of dictatorship, Naguib resigned but was restored to power within two days. On 18 April he transferred the premiership to General Abd al-Nasser (one of the dissident officers who staged the coup), but retained the presidency himself. In July 1954 negotiations with the British resulted in an agreement to withdraw all foreign troops within 20 months, although the bases in the Canal Zone were to be kept operational. Accusations of association with the communists and Muslim Brotherhood led to the dismissal of Naguib of 14 November. The relationship with Israel deteriorated severely during 1955.

The last British soldiers left Egypt on 19 June 1956. On 22 June Nasser was elected president and assumed supreme power in a national referendum which also approved a new constitution. For the first time a government concerned for the welfare of the mass of Egyptians was in power. One of the immediate benefits was the redistribution of land among the farmers. One month later Egypt

offered to the USA and Great Britain the opportunity to participate in the construction of the new Aswan Dam. The two powers, however, rejected this gesture with the excuse that they considered the project uneconomic. Nasser’s reply was almost immediate: he announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company to pay for the work. On 29 October Israel, with the support of Britain and France, launched an attack on Egypt. With foreign soldiers on Egyptian soil the UN on 4 November ordered an immediate cease-fire. Under pressure from the USA the aggressors agreed and all invading forces were withdrawn by 22 December and a UN peace-keeping force installed. This action resulted in the fall of the British prime minister Sir Anthony Eden. The canal had been blocked but was reopened in April 1957.

Egypt and Syria announced a union in January 1958, the resultant state to be known as the United Arab Republic with Nasser as president. Created with the best of motives, it was an unhappy marriage and was dissolved amid recriminations in July 1961. Egypt’s involvement in the war in Yemen in 1962 was a great drain on resources without any benefit to Egypt although the medieval regime of the Imam was overthrown. In 1965 the USA terminated economic aid to Egypt and in desperation Nasser turned to the Soviet Union who were pleased to gain a foothold in the Middle East. Israel’s only access to their port of Eilat in the E fork of the Red Sea was via the Gulf of Aqabah, but in May 1967 Nasser ordered the closing of the Straits of Tiran, thus cutting off Israeli shipping to the port, and shortly after demanded the withdrawal of the UN security forces. Egyptian forces were deployed in Sinai to await the outcome. On 5 June the Israelis moved into the Sinai. At the last moment the strategy approved by Nasser was changed by Abd al-Hakim, the commander of the armed forces, and due to his interference the Israeli air force was able to destroy the grounded planes of the Egyptians. By 8 June Israel occupied the whole of Sinai and had reached the E bank of the Suez Canal where they entrenched. In the evening of 9 June Nasser broadcast his resignation but in a demonstration of approval almost the whole population of Egypt took to the streets asking him to remain in control. The National Assembly also refused to accept his resignation and so he decided to stay on. Abd al-Hakim was dismissed on 11 June and Mahmud Fawzi appointed in his place.

Egypt by now had an arms deal with the Soviet Union and began in earnest to train men in their use. Within six months a defensive line had been established along the W. bank of the Suez Canal. From Sept. 1968 sporadic raids were made into the occupied territories and Israel replied with similar incursions into Egypt. Nasser attended the Arab Summit Conference in Morocco on 19 December 1969. Не left as vice-president Anwar el-Sadat, a companion since their days at military college. He had founded the Free Officers’ Committee of dissident military leaders in 1939 and was a member of the Revolutionary Command Council after the coup. Despite his importance as a confidante of Nasser and as holder of the highest posts in his own right he was comparatively unknown in the West.

Skirmishes between Egypt and Israel continued sporadically in January 1970 and Nasser demanded the delivery of SAM-3 missiles promised by the Soviet Union. However the airforce was still deficient and a decision was taken to approach the USA. The Rogers’ Plan for the Israeli withdrawal was formulated. In September 1970 the Arab Summit Conference was held in Cairo. When it broke up Nasser saw the delegates to the aeroplane and returned to his home. The next day, 28 September, he died. He had suffered for a long time with a painful and debilitating diabetic condition. Although he had been the subject of much criticism his death was a great shock to the Arabs, and indeed to the whole world.

Anwar el-Sadat who stayed, with much persuasion, as vice- president was elected president on 15 October 1970. On 15 May 1971 Sadat announced the Second Revolution. The pro—Soviet ministers had been dismissed and the secret control of communications and personnel had ceased. In July 1972 he expelled the Soviet military presence as a threat to the stability of the country. After much planning the Egyptians invaded Israeli—occupied Sinai on 6 October 1973. The campaign was an unprecedented success and revolutionised the tactics of warfare Most important of all it restored Egyptian hope and broke the myth of the invincible Israeli armament. This success gave Sadat freedom to manoeuvre. Shortly after the restrictions on foreign investment and exchange control were lifted; this ‘open-door’ policy allowed greater involvement in Egyptian business by Western companies. Following on the victory in Sinai Sadat took the courageous step of negotiating to appear in the Knesset in Israel on 17 November 1977 and give his address personally. This resulted in the Camp David talks on the withdrawal of Israel from the rest of the occupied Sinai and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

On 6 October 1981, while attending a celebration to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Sinai Campaign, Anwar Sadat was assassinated by a group of religious dissidents. Vice-president Husni Mubarak stepped into the breech and was subsequently elected president. He has committed himself to the completion of President Sadat’s goals, but has already shown that he has an individual style and will doubtless rise in international stature, as did Sadat himself. Thus at present Egypt enjoys a stable relationship with most countries of the world, though most Arab countries have estranged themselves from her. How much they need her, history has already shown.


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