But even Gaddafi was not able to withstand the tide of popular feeling that had already swept away his two authoritarian neighbours in a momentous year for the Arab world. In the heady days of 1969 – when he seized power in a bloodless military coup – and the early 1970s, Muammar Gaddafi was a handsome and charismatic young army officer. An eager disciple of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt (he even adopted the same military rank, promoting himself from captain to colonel after the coup), Gaddafi first set about tackling the unfair economic legacy of foreign domination. For Nasser, it was the Suez Canal. For Gaddafi, it was oil.