Presidency: Oct. 15, 1970 – Oct. 6, 1981
Anwar Sadat joined the military in 1938 where he met Gamal Abdel Nasser and would become one of the founding members of the Free Officers Movement. Sadat, vice president at the time of Nasser’s death, assumed the role of the country's leader.
Sadat ran in two presidential elections — unopposed — winning more than 90 percent of the vote in 1970 and 99.9 percent in 1976.
Sadat dedicated much of his presidency to a "corrective revolution" — reversing Nasser’s pan-Arabism; breaking ties with the Soviets; forging trust with the United States; and opening Egypt’s economy to private investment. Sadat reversed Nasser’s clampdown on Islamists by releasing them from prison. In return, they became a significant pillar in his power base.
War and peace with Israel defined Sadat’s presidency. On Oct. 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria stunned Israel with surprise offensives to recapture land occupied during the 1967 war. A military standstill eventually ended with a cease-fire brokered by the United States, the Soviet Union and the U.N. Security Council.
In 1977, Sadat became the first Arab leader to make an official visit to Israel where he addressed Knesset on his plan for peace. The next year, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords at the White House, ahead of signing a peace treaty in 1979 that ended hostilities between the two nations and returned control of the Sinai to Egypt.
A major element in the peace deal was a U.S. promise to aid and modernize Egypt's military. Since 1979, Egypt has received more than $1 billion annually from the U.S., making its military one of the strongest in Africa and the Middle East, and untouchable within the country.
The rest of the Arab world excoriated Sadat for making peace with Israel without solving the twin problems of the Palestinian conflict and Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights in Syria.
Sadat’s defining moment eventually led to his death. On Oct. 6, 1981, soldiers loyal to Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, who were angry about the peace treaty with Israel, assassinated Sadat during an annual parade. Eleven others were killed in the assault including a Cuban ambassador and general from Oman.
Vice President Hosni Mubarak succeeds Sadat as president.