A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, February 10, 2011

General Saad al-Shazly, 1922-2011

At a moment of supreme crisis in Egypt, it has ironically lost a war hero and military commander who also became a prominent dissident and spent years in exile. General Saad al-Shazly, (also see this link), Chief of Staff during the 1973 war and architect of "the crossing" — Operation Badr to cross the Suez Canal and breach the Bar-Lev line — but who was removed by Anwar Sadat and named as Ambassador to London, has died, on February 9 in Egypt, at age 88. In the picture above left, he is to the left of Sadat (Sadat's own right) during the war. Later (after Shazly became a dissident) Sadat claimed he was fired for wanting to withdraw troops and that he had had a breakdown. Shazly denied those claims, which were not made at the time, but years later.

Shazly was named Ambassador to London and later, Portugal. (The photo at right is from his diplomatic days.) After the Camp David Accords, Shazly broke with Sadat. He was dismissed and went into exile. His 1980 book The Crossing of the Suez told his side of the story, but led to charges of writing a book without permission (which he didn't deny) and revealing military secrets (which he denied)., and conviction in absentia.

After years in exile, he returned to Egypt in 1992 and served half of his three-year sentence.

Shazly had apparently been seriously ill for some time. If Egypt were not preoccupied by other events, it would be interesting to see how he was remembered. At least, Al-Ahram noted his passing. Though it fudges the exile (saying only that he left Egypt in 1978 and returned in 1992) and fails to mention the jail time, at least it was noted.

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