Lessons from Sadat’s Assassination – Editorial

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Yesterday 48 years ago, on October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel and sparked the Yom Kippur War, an earthquake whose aftershocks would shake Israel and the region for decades.

Although Israel quickly regained a foothold and positioned itself within striking distance of Cairo and Damascus three weeks later, this war pierced the aura of the country’s invincibility.

The country suddenly saw itself and was viewed by its enemies as vulnerable, a perception that shaped both Israel’s policies and those of others toward it for years to come.

But October 6th is not just the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. On the same day eight years later – in fact at a military parade in Cairo to commemorate the Memorial Day, which is still viewed as a great victory in Egypt – Islamic radicals shot and killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

This event was also an earthquake whose aftershocks are still shaking the region, but which is often viewed through too narrow a lens as “just” a reflection of the hatred of Israel and the fierce opposition to Sadat’s signing of a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Sadat’s assassination certainly reflected these two violent anti-Israel sentiments, but there was more to it than that. His assassination was also a natural continuation of what broke out in Iran two years earlier when Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the Shah and ushered in the Islamic Republic; the seizure of the Great Mosque in Mecca by Islamic radicals that same year, killing hundreds; and the Islamization process that changed Pakistan.

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Anwar Sadat (left) and Prime Minister Menachem Start a deep conversation at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The assassination of Sadat was obviously about Israel, but not just Israel. It was also a vivid manifestation of this radical, violent Islam that fundamentally opposed the West. It was a portent for much worse things.

As journalist Kim Ghattas wrote in her 2020 book “Black Wave”, in which she records the “rivalry that is unraveling the Middle East” between Iran and Saudi Arabia, at the time of Sadat’s assassination there were those in Egypt who Had “awesome the Iranian revolution“, hypnotized by the masses on the street and the sight of human power at work, bringing down a tyrant, a traitor …. [their] People and to Palestine. “

In other words, what happened in Iran did not stay in Iran. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 unleashed a radicalization of Islam and gave a powerful tailwind to the violent Islamists who killed Sadat and continue to stir up the region.

The first foreign leader to visit Tehran after the revolution and to meet with Khomeini in 1979 was PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who did so while Egyptian and Israeli officials worked on a peace deal at Camp David. Arafat and Khomeini forged strong links between Palestinian terrorists and Tehran that continue to this day.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was one of the leaders of the cell that included Sadat’s assassins. Sadat is gone, but Zawahiri is still here, now supposed to be the head of al-Qaeda, an organization he co-founded. The Egyptian president, who wanted his country away from the Soviet Union to the USA and peace with Israel, no longer exists, while the one who refused all of this is still fighting 40 years later.

Unlike the assassination of John F. Kennedy, for example, Sadat’s assassination was not a one-time deal, but part of a larger, pernicious trend that has poisoned the region and continues to poison it.

This is the bad news. The good news is that there is another camp in the region, a camp that Sadat gave birth to and that – although it seemed much of the stagnation over the past four decades – has recently picked up speed thanks to the Abrahamic Accords . This is a camp that encompasses modernity and peace with Israel.

On the 40th anniversary of Sadat’s assassination, at a time when some want to throw a lifeline to an Iran still styled after Khomeini’s image, to get him back into the 2015 nuclear deal, it is up to the world, led by the US to ponder Sadat’s legacy; not just what he did to forge peace with Israel, but how to keep the forces that killed him – forces that were inspired by Iran then and now – from growing stronger.


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