The dramatic days of October 1973 brought together an extraordinary collection of military and political leaders. Some saw their power grow after the war, while others were hobbled by the result.
After a long career as a pilot and officer in the Syrian Air Force, Assad became his country’s minister of defense in 1966 and then president in 1971. His role in the October War won him acclaim in the Arab world and helped establish the power base from which he would rule until 2000. Assad bequeathed a legacy of brutality against his own people to his son and heir, Bashar, who today is fighting a vicious civil war.
Israel’s minister of defense from 1967 to 1974, Dayan had fought in the 1948 War of Independence and led Israel’s armed forces to spectacular triumph in the Six-Day War. “Moshe Dayan symbolized the national and military rebirth and the revitalization of Jewish strength, the myth of the Jewish fighter,” military historian Yossi Argaman has written. Reviled by the Israeli press and public after the October War, Dayan resigned. He returned to government in 1977 as foreign minister and helped negotiate the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace.
Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Prudent and reformist, the Saudi Arabian king was one of the first Middle Eastern leaders to realize the political power of his country’s oil wealth. He was assassinated in 1975, perhaps to avenge a family death or as a protest to his secular reforms. Some Arabs claim he was killed by outside forces in retaliation for the 1973–1974 oil boycott.
One of the most celebrated figures in modern Israeli history, the tough and pragmatic Meir served as prime minister from 1969 to 1974. She was firm and wise during the darkest days of the October War but was strongly criticized for the military’s unpreparedness. She resigned in 1974, feeling that she had lost the confidence of the Israeli people.
The architect of the war, Sadat had become president in 1970. Thanks to the perceived Arab triumph against the mighty Israelis, he emerged from the conflict as a major player in the international scene and led the quest for peace. He was assassinated in 1981 by the first wave of Islamic extremists who terrorize the world today.
Revered inside Israel as a brilliant military commander and powerful politician, Sharon is equally despised in the Arab world. After his strike into Egypt at the end of the October War, he was heralded as “King of Israel.” He later held several high-ranking positions, including minister of defense (1981–1983) and prime minister (2001–2006). A stroke has left him in a deep coma for the past seven years.
Outspoken and controversial, Sadat’s chief of staff opposed some of the president’s key decisions in the war. Though a gifted tactician and strategist, the general was removed from the military after the war and given diplomatic assignments. Thanks to a falling-out with Sadat—he criticized the treaty with Israel, among other things—he was forced into exile. He spent the years before his 2011 death in an Egyptian prison, where he had been sentenced for allegedly revealing military secrets in a book he wrote about the October War.