Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) served as president of Egypt from 1954-1970. Nasser did much to modernize Egypt's economy and military. He sought to build a nation which could compete with the other nations of the Middle East.
Although the Egyptian terrorist organization, The Muslim Brotherhood, helped Nasser organize a coup to take over the Egyptian government, they soon became disgruntled by some of his secular ideals. In October 1954 the Muslim group attempted to assassinate Nasser, the attempt wounded a guard but missed the president. His popularity rose when after the gunshots, Nasser shouted to the crowed, "Let them kill Nasser! What is Nasser but one among many? I am alive, and even if I die, all of you are Gamal Abdul Nasser!"
In 1956, Nasser seized the Suez Canal from the French and British companies that controlled it. His plan was to nationalize the canal to raise money to build the Aswan Dam, and needed cash after the Americans and British withdrew a pledge to help fund it. But Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal created the “Suez Crisis” for a week because many nations, including Israel, relied on the Canal for shipping. The British and French provided air support for an invasion by Israeli troops into the Sinai peninsula, which easily overcame Egyptian resistance which had pulled back most of their forces to protect the canal. But then the Soviet Union threatened to intervene on behalf of Egypt, creating a wider conflict and a risk of a world war. Nasser was allowed to keep the canal, and international pressure by the United States caused Britain, France and Israel to back off. The Aswan dam was built, in part with Soviet economic aid.
In the years that followed the Suez Canal crisis, Soviet arms shipments caused Egypt to become the most powerful Arab nation in the Middle East. Nasser relished the role of being the spokesperson for the Arab world and used Egyptian power outside of his borders, being military involved in the war in Yemen.
- The Looming Tower, al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11 (book), by Lawrence Wright