Abdel Latif Boghdadi (politician)

Abdel Latif Boghdadi

Boghdadi, February 1958
Vice-President of the United Arab Republic
In office
7 March 1958  29 September 1961
Minister of Defense
In office
8 June 1953  7 April 1954
President Gamal Abdel Nasser
Preceded by Mohamed Naguib
Succeeded by Hussein el-Shafei
Personal details
Born 20 September 1917
El Mansoura, Egypt[1]
Died 9 September 1999(1999-09-09) (aged 81)
Cairo, Egypt
Nationality Egyptian
Political party Arab Socialist Union
Occupation Defense Minister (1953–54)
Municipal Affairs Minister (1954)
Speaker of the National Assembly (1956)
Communications Minister (1957)
Vice President of UAR (1958–1961)
Vice President of Egypt (1962–64)
Religion Sunni Islam
Military service
Allegiance  Kingdom of Egypt
Service/branch Egyptian Air Force
Rank Wing Commander
Battles/wars 1948 Arab–Israeli War
Egyptian Revolution of 1952
Suez War

Abdel Latif Boghdadi or Abd el-Latif el-Baghdadi (20 September 1917 – 9 September 1999) (Arabic: عبد اللطيف البغدادي) was an Egyptian politician, senior air force officer, and judge. An original member of the Free Officers Movement which overthrew the monarchy in Egypt in the 1952 Revolution, Boghdadi later served as Gamal Abdel Nasser's vice president. The French author Jean Lacouture called Boghdadi "a robust manager" who only lacked "stature comparable to Nasser's."[2] The two leaders had a fallout over Nasser's increasingly socialist and pro-USSR policies and Boghdadi subsequently withdrew from political life in 1964, although he mended ties with Nasser before the latter's death in 1970.

Early life

Boghdadi was born in El Mansoura on 20 September 1917. He is known to have excelled at Egypt's military academy in 1938 and, later on, its air force academy.[2] He rose to the rank of wing commander in the Egyptian Air Force and was sent by the Egyptian government under Prime Minister Mustafa el-Nahhas to fight alongside the Arab Liberation Army (ALA) at the onset of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, prior to the arrival of the Egyptian Army.[3]

Free Officers and the revolution

Four men in military uniform, wearing buttoned jackets, wide-rimmed hats, black shoes, and carrying briefcases. They are ascending the stairs of a building.
The Free Officers in Cairo, 1952. Boghdadi is shown on the left next to Nasser.

Boghdadi later became one of the original ten members of the Free Officers Movement. During the 1952 revolution led by the Free Officers, Boghdadi commanded jet fighter units to circle around Cairo to prevent possible outside interference in the coup against King Farouk.[4] After the Free Officers assumed power, Gamal Abdel Nasser—the principal leader of the coup and the new Prime Minister of Egypt—made Boghdadi chairman of a special court established to try members of the monarchy, sentencing former general Hussein Sirri Amer and a Wafd party leader Fouad Sarrag Eddine, among others, to long-term prison sentences. Most sentences were commuted, however.[5]

Boghdadi also became a member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).[5] In 1953, he was appointed inspector-general of the revolution's first political organization, the Liberation Rally.[6] To remove and replace Muhammad Naguib, the President of Egypt who had been installed by the Free Officers, with Nasser, Nasser replaced the defense minister, a pro-Naguib officer, with Boghdadi for a brief period from 1953 to 1954.[7] When Naguib was removed from his post and arrested in late 1954, Nasser was still prime minister and transferred Boghdadi to municipal affairs minister. During this time, he was responsible for the construction of the Nile Corniche road in Cairo, as well as the construction of many other new roads throughout the Egypt. For this reason Boghdadi was sometimes referred to sarcastically by his rivals as Abdel Rassif al-Boghdadi, rassif meaning "pavement" in Arabic.[6]

Role in Suez Crisis

When Israeli forces backed by British and French fighter planes drove out Egyptian forces from the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal—which had been nationalized by Nasser—in 1956, the commander of the Egyptian armed forces, Abdel Hakim Amer, panicked and suggested surrendering. Nasser refused and put Boghdadi in charge of organizing Egyptian resistance along the canal.[8] After the Suez War, he was appointed general administrator for reconstruction of the canal area and according to author Said Aburish, "performed admirably."[9] He was also made minister of communications and along with Zakaria Mohieddine and Amer, was placed on a committee that would screen the candidates of the newly established 350-member National Assembly.[10] Boghdadi was elected as Speaker of the First National Assembly.[11]

Resignation and aftermath

Boghdadi (third from left) with President Gamal Abdel Nasser (second from left) and Ba'ath Party founders Michel Aflaq (first from left) and Salah al-Din al-Bitar (fourth from left) in Syria, 1963

Boghdadi accompanied Nasser on his trip to Damascus on 24 February 1958, after the unification of Syria and Egypt to form the United Arab Republic (UAR).[12] His role in the new republic was, along with Amer, vice president of the Egypt province.[13] In this period in the early 1960s Boghdadi held the additional post of planning minister.[2] In 1962, shortly after the UAR's collapse, Nasser adopted a more Soviet (USSR)-style economic system for Egypt to which Boghdadi disapproved. He was utterly opposed to the extensive socialist measures and the new system altogether. He declared his resignation, claiming Nasser's behavior amounted to a loss of direction. Boghdadi also preferred closer relations with the United States (US), rather than the USSR.[14] In 1963 Boghdadi warned Nasser about Amer—whose relationship with Nasser was particularly close, but eroding at the time—wiretapping his and Nasser's telephones, a situation which he blamed Nasser for allowing.[15]

Boghdadi submitted his resignation again on 16 May 1964,[16] after disagreeing with Nasser's decision to send Egyptian troops to North Yemen to support Nasser's partisans in the civil war.[6] He referred to the war as "Nasser's Vietnam." Boghdadi also wanted a more circumspect policy of "Egypt first."[2] In response to his resignation, Nasser put Boghdadi's brother Saad under house arrest and prevented his brother-in-law from traveling to the United Kingdom to complete his doctorate. Nasser also claimed Boghdadi was implicated in illegal Muslim Brotherhood activities.[16]

Later life and death

As a result of the fallout, Boghdadi withdrew from political life, although the rift between him and Nasser was reconciled before 1970.[2] In his memoirs, Boghdadi states that Nasser had planned to appoint him as vice president immediately before his death in September 1970, in order to prevent then Vice President Anwar el-Sadat's succession to power.[6] According to Nasser's close associates, Nasser requested Boghdadi rejoin the government and become his second-in-command because he considered Sadat a liability. Due to Boghdadi's previous resignation concerning the close relationship to the USSR, he asked Nasser at first hand the nature of the new Egypt-Soviet informal alliance (which came about as a result of Egypt's decisive loss in the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel). They both agreed that Boghdadi visit the USSR alone to ensure there were not any differences in perception of what the new relationship between the two countries meant.[17]

In 1972, during Sadat's presidency, Boghdadi and nine other prominent former members of the Egyptian government sent a note to Sadat, criticizing his government for "over-dependence on the Soviet Union."[2] Boghdadi opposed Sadat's peace treaty with Israel in 1978, as did all the other then-living former RCC members.[6]

On 8 September 1999 Boghdadi was hospitalized for complications from liver cancer. He was pronounced dead at the age of 81 the next day. A state funeral for Boghdadi was held on 10 September in a Cairo suburb. The ceremonies were attended by Egypt's then president, Hosni Mubarak, and other high-ranking government figures. Mubarak issued a statement saying that Boghdadi had "served his country with devotion."[2]

List of published works



Political offices
Preceded by
Muhammad Naguib
Minister of War
18 June 1953 – 18 April 1954
Succeeded by
Hussein el-Shafei
New title
United Arab Republic created
Vice President of the United Arab Republic
Served alongside 11 other vice presidents for varying periods
De facto Vice President of Egypt from 28 September 1961 on Syria's secession from UAR

7 March 1958 – 23 March 1964
Succeeded by
Abdel Hakim Amer
As First Vice President
Preceded by
Minister of Planning (Central)
8 October 1958 – 19 September 1960
Succeeded by
Nur al-Din Kahala
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