Sadat was an active participant in the 23 July 1952 coup against King Farouk engineered by the Free Officers Group. Farouk abdicated and left Egypt on 26 July 1952. When Egypt was declared a republic in June 1953, Major General Mohammad Naguib became its president, and Nasser became vice president. In October 1954, after an attempt on Nasser's life, Naguib was removed from office, while Nasser consolidated his power. In February 1955 Nasser became prime minister and seven months later became president. Sadat, meanwhile, served loyally under Nasser, acting as his chief spokesman and one of his closest personal confidants and advisors.
In 1964 Sadat became vice president of Egypt and then president upon Nasser's death in September 1970. When Sadat became president, Egypt's relationship with the Soviet Union, once robust, was showing signs of serious strain. At the time of his death, in fact, Nasser had been moving away from the Soviet Union. Part of the reason for this had been the reduction in equipment that the Soviets were willing to sell to Egypt. On 18 July 1972, Sadat ordered all Soviet advisors to leave the country, to be followed by pilots and other army technicians.
On 6 October 1973, Sadat led Egypt, along with Syria, into a war with Israel with the goal of reclaiming the Sinai Peninsula lost in the 1967 Six-Day War. Although Egypt was defeated in the war, initial military successes and Sadat's determination earned him great respect among his people and lifted the morale of the nation, which had been badly shaken by Nasser's heavy-handed rule and economic difficulties. At war's end, the United States and the Soviet Union both were concerned about the balance of power in the Middle East and thus negotiated a cease-fire agreement that was generally favorable to Egypt, allowing Sadat to claim a victory of sorts.
Realizing that only the United States could elicit any substantive concessions from Israel, Sadat completely severed relations with the Soviet Union in March 1976 and began working with the Americans toward a peace settlement with the Israelis. In a courageous move, Sadat became the first Arab leader to officially visit Israel in November 1977, meeting with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and even addressing the Israeli Knesset. In September 1978, Sadat signed the Camp David Accords, ushering in a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel. The accords were highly unpopular in the Arab world, however, especially among fundamentalist Muslims.
Although the Camp David Accords were, in the long run, beneficial for Egypt, many in the Arab world saw them as a great betrayal and viewed Sadat as a traitor. In September 1981, Sadat's government cracked down on extremist Muslim organizations and radical student groups, in the process arresting more than 1,600 people. Sadat's strong-arm tactics angered many in the Arab community and only exacerbated his problems, which included economic stagnation and charges that he had quashed dissident voices through force.
On 6 October 1981, Sadat was assassinated in Cairo while reviewing a military parade commemorating the Yom Kippur War. His assassins were radical fundamentalist army officers who belonged to the Islamic Jihad organization, which had bitterly denounced Sadat's peace overtures with Israel and his suppression of dissidents the month before. Sadat was succeeded in office by Hosni Mubarak.
Dallace W. Unger Jr.
Finklestone, Joseph. Anwar Sadat: Visionary Who Dared. Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1996.; Hirst, David, and Irene Beeson. Sadat. London: Faber and Faber, 1981.; Sadat, Anwar. In Search of Identity: An Autobiography. New York: Harper and Row, 1978.