Nasser's Gamble: How Intervention in Yemen Caused the Six-Day War and the Decline of Egyptian Power

Princeton University Press
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Nasser's Gamble draws on declassified documents from six countries and original material in Arabic, German, Hebrew, and Russian to present a new understanding of Egypt's disastrous five-year intervention in Yemen, which Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser later referred to as "my Vietnam." Jesse Ferris argues that Nasser's attempt to export the Egyptian revolution to Yemen played a decisive role in destabilizing Egypt's relations with the Cold War powers, tarnishing its image in the Arab world, ruining its economy, and driving its rulers to instigate the fatal series of missteps that led to war with Israel in 1967.

Viewing the Six Day War as an unintended consequence of the Saudi-Egyptian struggle over Yemen, Ferris demonstrates that the most important Cold War conflict in the Middle East was not the clash between Israel and its neighbors. It was the inter-Arab struggle between monarchies and republics over power and legitimacy. Egypt's defeat in the "Arab Cold War" set the stage for the rise of Saudi Arabia and political Islam.


Bold and provocative, Nasser's Gamble brings to life a critical phase in the modern history of the Middle East. Its compelling analysis of Egypt's fall from power in the 1960s offers new insights into the decline of Arab nationalism, exposing the deep historical roots of the Arab Spring of 2011.

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About the author

Jesse Ferris is vice president for strategy at the Israel Democracy Institute and a historian of the modern Middle East.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 23, 2012
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781400845231
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Middle East / General
History / Military / General
History / Modern / 20th Century
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Yom Kippur War pitted Israel against Syria in the north and Egypt in the south in October 1973. Caught by surprise and surrounded by enemies, Israel relied on the flexibility and creative thinking of its senior field commanders. After Israeli forces halted the Egyptian troops on the Sinai Peninsula, Major General Ariel Sharon seized the opportunity to counterattack. He split the Egyptian army and cut off its supply lines in a maneuver known as Operation Stouthearted Men. Sharon's audacious, controversial decision defied his superiors and produced a major victory, which many believe helped win the war for Israel.

At the Decisive Point in the Sinai is a firsthand account of the Yom Kippur War's most intense engagement by key leaders in Sharon's division. Jacob Even, deputy division commander of the 143rd Division, and Simcha Maoz, a staff officer, recount the initial stages of the Suez crossing, examine the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) response to Egypt's surprise attack, and explain Sharon's role in the transition from defense to offense. They detail Sharon's struggle to convince his superiors of his plan and argue that an effective division commander is revealed not only by his leadership of subordinates, but also by his ability to influence his senior officers.

The strategic failure of the Israeli high command during the Yom Kippur War has been widely studied, but At the Decisive Point in the Sinai is one of the few works to examine the experiences of field-level commanders. Even and Maoz challenge students of military leadership by offering a case study on effective generalship.

In surprise attacks on Israel in October 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights, igniting what became known as the Yom Kippur War. In the north, Israel succeeded in blocking the Syrian advance, but in the south, it failed to achieve an operational decision in the defense campaign. In Soldier in the Sinai, mobile and armored warfare expert Major General Emanuel Sakal analyzes the operational and strategic decisions made by Israel's political and military leadership and assesses the causes of the defense's first-phase failure.

Prior to the conflict, the government approved the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) strategy, dubbed "the regulars will hold." This plan assumed that the IDF regulars on the front lines, supported by the Israeli Air Force, would effectively counter the Arab attack even if deterrence failed. Employing operations research, simulation, and computerized war games, Sakal examines the virtual results of an alternative approach by the Israeli military and explains how ineffective air support, an inadequate tank strategy, and a delay in mobilizing its reserves crippled the country's air force.

An intriguing and detailed evaluation of Israel's flawed defense, Soldier in the Sinai offers a firsthand account of military strategy from a general who commanded a regular tank battalion that fought in the most desperate battles of the conflict. Based on extensive research, including interviews with the principal officers involved, this book provides a meticulous critique of the faulty assumptions and lack of planning that contributed to the disastrous early battles of the Yom Kippur War.

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER KAI BIRD’S fascinating memoir of his early years spent in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon provides an original and illuminating perspective into the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Weeks before the Suez War of 1956, four-year-old Kai Bird, son of a garrulous, charming American Foreign Service officer, moved to Jerusalem with his family. They settled in a small house, where young Kai could hear church bells and the Muslim call to prayer and watch as donkeys and camels competed with cars for space on the narrow streets. Each day on his way to school, Kai was driven through Mandelbaum Gate, where armed soldiers guarded the line separating Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem from Arab-controlled East. He had a front-seat view to both sides of a divided city—and the roots of the widening conflict between Arabs and Israelis.

Bird would spend much of his life crossing such lines—as a child in Jerusalem, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and later, as a young man in Lebanon. Crossing Mandelbaum Gate is his compelling personal history of growing up an American in the midst of three major wars and three turbulent decades in the Middle East. The Zelig-like Bird brings readers into such conflicts as the Suez War, the Six Day War of 1967, and the Black September hijackings in 1970 that triggered the Jordanian civil war. Bird vividly portrays such emblematic figures as the erudite George Antonius, author of The Arab Awakening; Jordan’s King Hussein; the Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled; Salem bin Laden, Osama’s older brother and a family friend; Saudi King Faisal; President Nasser of Egypt; and Hillel Kook, the forgotten rescuer of more than 100,000 Jews during World War II.

Bird, his parents sympathetic to Palestinian self-determination and his wife the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, has written a masterful and highly accessible book—at once a vivid chronicle of a life spent between cultures as well as a consummate history of a region in turmoil. It is an indispensable addition to the literature on the modern Middle East.
The recent revolution in Egypt has shaken the Arab world to its roots. The most populous Arab country and the historical center of Arab intellectual life, Egypt is a linchpin of the US's Middle East strategy, receiving more aid than any nation except Israel. This is not the first time that the world and has turned its gaze to Egypt, however. A half century ago, Egypt under Nasser became the putative leader of the Arab world and a beacon for all developing nations. Yet in the decades prior to the 2011 revolution, it was ruled over by a sclerotic regime plagued by nepotism and corruption. During that time, its economy declined into near shambles, a severely overpopulated Cairo fell into disrepair, and it produced scores of violent Islamic extremists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atta. In The Struggle for Egypt, Steven Cook--a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations--explains how this parlous state of affairs came to be, why the revolution occurred, and where Egypt might be headed next. A sweeping account of Egypt in the modern era, it incisively chronicles all of the nation's central historical episodes: the decline of British rule, the rise of Nasser and his quest to become a pan-Arab leader, Egypt's decision to make peace with Israel and ally with the United States, the assassination of Sadat, the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, and--finally--the demonstrations that convulsed Tahrir Square and overthrew an entrenched regime. Throughout Egypt's history, there has been an intense debate to define what Egypt is, what it stands for, and its relation to the world. Egyptians now have an opportunity to finally answer these questions. Doing so in a way that appeals to the vast majority of Egyptians, Cook notes, will be difficult but ultimately necessary if Egypt is to become an economically dynamic and politically vibrant society.
The nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956 triggered one of the gravest international crises since the Second World War. The fiftieth anniversary of the Suez crisis in 2006 presented an ideal opportunity to re-visit and reassess this seminal episode in post-war history. Although much has been written on Suez, this study provides fresh perspectives by reflecting the latest research from leading international authorities on the crisis and its aftermath. By drawing on recently released documents, by including previously neglected aspects of Suez, and by reassessing its more familiar ones, the volume makes a key contribution to furthering research on - and understanding of - the crisis. The volume explores the origins of the crisis, the crisis itself and the aftermath all from a broad perspective. An introduction by the editor presents the current state of the historiography and provides an overview of the debates surrounding the crisis, while the conclusion by Scott Lucas not merely draws the themes of the book together, but also explores the crisis in its regional and international context. Within the overall context of focussing on the international and military aspects of the crisis, it is an explicit intention to embody in the contributions the multifaceted nature of Suez. Although Britain, as in many ways the principal actor, is strongly represented, there are also highly original chapters on both the regional and international dimensions to the crisis, and crucially the interaction between the two. As well as exploring the role of the main protagonists, essays also deal with American, Jordanian and Turkish reactions to the invasion. The overall result is an innovative, thought-provoking, and wide-ranging reassessment of Suez and its aftermath, which at a time when the Middle East once again holds the world's attention, is particularly appropriate.
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