Nasser: The Last Arab
Nasser is a fascinating figure fraught with dilemmas. With the CIA continually trying to undermine him, Nasser threw his lot in with the Soviet Union, even though he was fervently anti-Communist. Nasser wanted to build up a military on par with Israel's, but didn't want either the '56 or '67 wars. This was a man who was a dictator, but also a popular leader with an ideology which appealed to most of the Arab people and bound them together. While he was alive, there was a brief chance of actual Arab unity producing common, honest, and incorruptible governments throughout the region.
More than ever, the Arab world is anti-Western and teetering on disaster, and this examination of Nasser's life is tantamount to understanding whether the interests of the West and the Arab world are reconcilable.
Nasser is a definitive and engaging portrait of a man who stood at the center of this continuing clash in the Middle East.
confront his opponents, or settled some of the problems facing him through compromise. His refusal to do either suggests that he enjoyed confrontational politics, despite his claims to the contrary. The effects on his health of the constant state of war which seemed to surround him become understandable. Beginning with the dissolution of the UAR, Nasser lived on painkillers. His diabetic condition led to other health problems and high blood pressure, of which even his family was not aware.24
be a leader, “The man had it, and in droves.”17 Dismissive of Nasser’s failure to create institutions or a political organization, the documentary inevitably judged him by his own words. Like the Saudi taxi driver mentioned in the introduction to this book, Abu Dhabi Television accepted the importance of his “search for dignity,” which Sadat shamelessly used as the title of his book. The strength of the television program was in comparing like with like. It didn’t say that the Arabs would have
Nasser. It was his way of undermining the Rogers Plan. Syria was another problem for Nasser and Rogers. Strategically it was needed to make the plan work. In addition, it was the home of many Palestinian groups, and it openly encouraged them to redouble their activities against Israel. The other Arab states opposed to Rogers—Iraq, Algeria, and Yemen—had less of an impact on what was happening because of their remoteness. But they supported the PLO’s hard line, increased their financial aid to
Iraqi government against Hussein. But though he had read several manifestos which called for Hussein’s removal on the improvised radio of the PLO, in reality Arafat had no specific plan in mind. When it looked as if Hussein was tilting toward using force to discipline the Palestinians, Arafat started attributing the crisis instigated by the hijackings to “outside influences” and pointed the finger at the CIA. At this point, Hussein, possibly with Nasser’s approval, put his own plan into action.
experiencing a pro-USSR, pro-Communist period. Unlike Egypt, it did not have a leader who could befriend the Eastern Bloc yet maintain its independent Arab identity. Moreover, the most impressive Syrian bourgeois politician of his time, Khalid Azm, made common cause with the Communists, the anti-Western and pan-Arabist Ba’ath Party, and the Communist chief of staff of the Syrian army, General Afif Bizri, against any attempts to “subvert” the country into accepting U.S. hegemony. Nasser had