Title: Policy background.
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Title: Policy background.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00072554
Volume ID: VID00035
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POLICY BACKGROUND


NASSER'S WAR OF ATTRITION
AND THE SOVIET DIMENSION


. 0FF.


EMBASSY OF ISRAEL
WASHINGTON, D.C.
February 4, 1970








NASSER'S WAR OF ATTRITION AND THE SOVIET DIMENSION


1. The Soviet Union has reportedly delivered notes to Washing:-

ton, Paris, and London accusing Israel of violating the cease-fire

agreement, charging Israel with aggression against Egypt and serv--

ing notice that Russia will further arm the I.rabs if Israel con-

tinues its military pressure on Egypt.

Seen in broad perspective, the current situation about

which the USSR is complaining is largely one of its own making,

just as the purpose of the note is an attempt to save President

Nasser from the consequences of Russia's and his own miscalcula-

tions. From what has been published, it appears that the note

fails to address itself to the various facts and factors that led

to the present juncture and the predicaments arising from it.

This paper is an attempt to fill that gyp.



2. Nasser's Three-Stage Strategy

Following the Six Day War, Russia sabotaged the prospects

of peace by swiftly rearming its Arab client states, particularly

Egypt, giving unstinting political support to President Nasser's

refusal to engage in peace talks. By the late summer of 1968,

the Egyptian war machine was sufficiently strong to enable Nasser

to embark on his campaign of limited offense against Israel. This

campaign was to be phase--two of a three-stage strategy desigiad

to bring Israel to its knees in war. As Nasser himself explained

to his people in an address delivered on September 14, 1968:

"We said that we would face the stages of steadfastness,
deterrent defense and liberation respectively. Thanks
to God, the stage of achieving steadfastness has ended."

This statement was hardly an empty threat, as was demon--

strated by an ensuing massive artillery barrage along the entire

length of the Suez Canal. By the spring of 1969, this "deterrent

defense" stage had developed into a daily cycle of shelling,

sniping and sabotage, resulting in a mounting toll of Israeli

casualties.








FEBRUARY 4, 1970


3. Nasser Repudiates Cease-Fire Agreement

On Lay 1, 1969, Nasser escalated the intensity of the battle

and publicly repudiated the cease-fire agreement, In a 1lay Day

address at Helwan he declared:

".t the beginning of last month, our armed forces said
they were prepared, W/e have been aware and have learned
from the statements of Israeli leaders that the Israelis
seek complete calm on the front... therefore, our armed
forces have begun to implement their plan. They began
implementing it at the beginning of i.arch. The armed
forces' objective has been to destroy the Bar Lev Line
... Israel must withdraw from the occupied territory
or there will be continuous fighting, There are no
politics on this subject. le cannot resort to political
maneuvering."

Throughout the summer, aggression along the cease-fire line in-

creased in severity to the point where thousands' of shells we're

being lobbed across it each day. UN observers on the spot cata-

logued the daily 'gyptian openings of fire which were duly filed

in New York,



4. Nasser Declares W'ar of Attrition

On July 24, 1969, Nasser declared quite accurately that what

was now at hand was a "war of attrition" against Israel. In an

address to the Arab Socialist Union he said:

"W'e are prepared for a long battle to exhaust the
enemy. The policy of all Arab States should be to
exhaust, A continuous war between us and Israel
exists. .'e have superiority in manpower but we
must mobilize everything for the battle."

ind he went on to state that the third and final stage of his

three-stage strategy, "liberation", was fast approaching if not

imminent:

"Brothers, the various stages, as all of you know,
have proceeded apace: the stages of active defense,
deterrence, attacking the enemy and then crossing
the Canal from the west to the east bank. As we
have said, we are now ei.barking on the liberation
operation."

On August 25 the true meaning of the "liberation" phase

was also made public. It was to be, in Nasser's words, "the

battle of purification to purify Palestine."


POLICY BACKGROUND


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POLICY BACKGROUND


5. An Effort to Bleed Israel


By the end of November 1969 Israel had suffered, within a

matter of months, 113 dead and 330 wounded in the Suez Canal sec-

tor. There was evidence that Nasser was deadly serious in his

resolve to implement the third stage of his strategy by means of

a full-scale assault against Israel and the launching of total war.

Nasser's war of attrition was the softening or conditioning

process purposely calculated to bleed Israel to the maximum as a

preliminary to invasion. On April 10, 1969, Hasanayn Haykal,

Nasser's confidant and editor of Al-Aharam, the regime's mouth--

piece, wrote:

"In simple and general terms Egypt has to be engaged
in a battle that would destroy two or three Israeli
divisions, annihilate between 10,000 and 20,000
Israeli soldiers and force the Israeli army to retreat
from the positions it occupies to other positions,
even if only a few kilometers back."

By the closing months of 1969 Israel was suffering some 50

casualties a week and a weekly average of 14 dead.



6. Israel's Responee

The point was reached where a response could no longer be

delayed. Its aim was two-fold: a) carry attrition to the other

side with the intention of stopping the carnage along the Canal

and restoring the cease-fire; and b) eliminate Nasser's option

for full-scale attack.

Because of its gross disadvantage in terms of manpower and

weapon strength, Israel could not afford to permit Egypt to dic-

tate the tactical course of the confrontation. To do so, to per-

mit a situation in which Agypt would be enabled to employ to ad-

vantage its superior numbers and arsenal (which was largely the

case during the ceaseless shellings that began in the spring of

1969) would be to render Israel handicapped. Israel was hardly

obliged to act according to Nasser's imposed rules. The tactical

thrust was thus shifted to an arena in which the tables of attri-

tion could be effectively turned against him.


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FEBRUARY 4, 1970








POLICY BACKGROUND


7. In taking to the air, Israel's first goal has been to reduce

its losses by destroying military installations along the west

bank of the Canal and their sources of supply in Egypt proper.

And to the extent that air control is a crucial factor in any

Aideast war, Israel has been seeking to demonstrate with maximum

impact to the Egyptian High Command that their overwhelming air

superiority in numbers cannot be taken to mean automatic superi--

ority in fact. Israel has endeavored by this means to eliminate

the prospect of a disastrous Arab miscalculation of the kind that

occurred in iuay-June 1967. The greatest threat of war in recent

months has lain in Nasser's own overestimation of his military

capacity. It is his war policies which Israel has sought to

'undelrmtitn, not the Egyptian people he seeks to lead into yet

another war.



8. Israel Ready to Restore Cease-Fire

Israel's immediate objective is the restoration of the cease-

fire regime. Israel will desist from all military acts once the

other side shows that it, too, is ready to respect its cease-'fire

agreement. So long as this is not the case Israel has no alterna-

tive but to do all in its power to bring home the truth to the

Egyptian people and leadership that Nasser's present war of attri-

tion does not pay and his much coveted next total war cannot be

won.



9. Nasser's address in Cairo earlier this week was in many re-

spects a bitter cry of frustration over the failure of his war

policy. While asserting that "Eglypt and her allies were ready

for battle," he blamed everyone but himself for Egypt's plight.

He accused "mankind" for failing to impose justice, and singled

out the United States as the one "which bears the largest respon-

sibility for what is happening in our area." According to Nasser's

brand of logic, it was the fault of the U.S. that the tables had


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FEBRUARY 4, 1970







POLICY BACKGROUND


been turned against him. It was, in any event, 'bailing out'

time again for President Nasser.



10. The Soviet Dimension

The recent Soviet notes delivered in Washington, Paris and

London are calculated to achieve just that, to bail him out of

his present predicament. They are also meant to justify the con-

tinued supply of Soviet weapons to Egypt while attempting to

block a further purchase by Israel of US planes, crucial to the

maintenance of an arms balance into 1971 and 1972, Russia seeks

now to guarantee the conditions that will eventually upset the

balance in favor of its Egyptian client. Yet another purpose of

the Soviet note is to generate again an atmosphere of interna-

tional gloom as a means to stimulate Four Power action for a

4set1:sameht', ofI Rausidai-UAiR vti&tegag tb' b6 Impoded oh. Isw1l.,



11. This is the crux of the present Soviet effort. In itself

it demonstrates once more how heavily Moscow relies on Nasser in

its effort to convert the Middle East into a Soviet sphere of in-

fluence, The technique is not one of direct thrust but by proxy,

through President Nasser, the Soviet mainstay in the Middle East

today, Theirs is a classical alliance of opportunism.



12. It was consummated in 1955, and has been marked ever since

by Russian unstinting support for Nasser's adventurism coupled

with a supply of vast quantities of weaponry necessary for its

execution. The Egyptian arms agreement ,cohCLuded with Moscow in

1955 set off the biggest arms race in the history of the Middle

East. The extent of the pre-June 1967 supply of armaments to

Egypt and its staggering waste are attested to by the fact that

in Sinai alone the Egyptian equipment and offensive weapons of

Soviet manufacture found abandoned or destroyed had an estimated

value of 2 billion dollars. Since June 1967 the USSR has already
....-..-1IJM.A O?_... ...J 4-In nananf *.i ..1Ai< a+ 0 0 li4ll14i .Illr w


FEBRUARY 4, 1970


-5-








POLICY BACKGROUND


13. Nasser's three phase strategy "steadfastness", "deter-

rent defense", "liberation" are, in fact, euphemisms for the

three stages of armaments supply whereby Russia has refurbished

and greatly increased Egypt's arsenal. The first phase came in

the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War when Russia airlifted

and shipped armaments and advisers to Egypt. By September 1968

when Nasser announced his policy of "deterrent defense" this

first stage was over, Egypt having regained its pre-June 1967

strength. The second stage came in the early spring of 1968

when a new arms deal was signed enabling Nasser to repudiate the

cease-fire and announce his war of attrition. The third stage

of supply is still on and has already brought Egypt's air and

armour strength to 170 percent of its pre-Six Day War dimension.

It must also be mentioned that the equipment delivered now is of

a considerably improved quality as compared with May 1967.



14. Russian Record of Provocation

From the USSR viewpoint, Nasser is a convenient tool pre-

cisely because his and Soviet policy closely converge, namely the

establishment of their joint hegemony over the area. Nasser has

been the pace-maker and the USSR has faithfully supplied him with

the wherewithal, applying its own provoking touch at the appro-

priate junctures aiding and abetting him, fomenting discord

among the Arabs themselves, mobilizing the radicals against the

moderates., and the Arabs generally against Israel. The result

has been a decade-and-a-half of conflict, carnage and wastage,

reaching its highest point in hay and June 1967. To this day no

one knows the nature of the visit which the Soviet Foreign blinis-

ter Gromyko made to Egypt in April 1967. What is known is that

on May 14, 1967, things inexplicably began to happen in quick

succession. Between 14 May and 5 June, Egypt, Syria and Jordan,

joined by Iraq, embarked on a policy of immediate and total aggre-


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FEBRUARY 4, 1970




POLICY BACKGROUND -7- FEBRUARY 4, 1970



sion. On 18 May, Nasser called for the total removal of the UN

Emergency Force and on 23 May he reimposed his blockade over

the Gulf of Aqaba. Egyptian concentrations amounting to 900

tanks and 100,000 troops were arrayed along Israel-"s south'tefii

frontier. On May 24 and on succeeding days, the Security Coun-

cil conducted a desultory debate which sometimes reached a

point of levity. The Soviet representative asserted that he saw

no reason for discussing the Middle East situation at all. This

was the day after the imposition of the blockade over the

Straits of Tiran'



15. Arab sources themselves attest to the provocative role the

Soviet Union played in helping to generate the events that led

up to the Six Day War. The lie of Israel troop concentrations

on the Syrian border which Nasser later used as the pretext for

his own behavior emanated directly from Moscow. On June 9, 1967

President Nasser revealed:

"Our friends in the USSR warned the visiting parliamentary
delegation in Moscow at the beginning of last month that
there exists a plan to attack Syria."

An announcement by TASS on 23 May 1967 invented this dispatch:

"The Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of the Knesset
(Israeli Parliament) have accorded the Cabinet on May 9
special powers to carry out war operations against Syria.
Israel's forces concentrating on the Syrian border have
been put in a state of alert for war. General mobiliza-
tion has also been proclaimed in the country."

--all of which was a complete forgery.



16. Russian License for Aggression

Soviet support of the Arab military machine is matched by

an equal irresponsibility in the political field. Its blind po-

litical backing for anything .Nasser or any of the Arabs might

elect to perpetrate has turned the Security Council into a farce,

Russia having converted its veto power into an automatic instru-

ment of Arab policy. Time after time Russia has applied its veto





POLICY BACKGROUND


to frustrate any and every resolution even mildly displeasing

to the Arabs. The Soviet use of the veto has had the effect of

paralyzing the Council from taking any constructive action in

disputes between Arab states and Israel because of the certain

knowledge that the veto would be applied in what was deemed to

be the Arab interest. By this means Russia has given literal

license to Arab aggression and terrorism and has given sanction

to the Arab repudiation of existing agreements, be they the ar-

mistice agreements of the past or the cease-fire of the present.



17. Russia Disqualified as Peace-baker

These are the weapons the military and the political -

which the Soviet Union has wielded over the past 15 years to

destroy the fragile fabric of order in the hliddle East and to

create the conditions inwhich Soviet expansionism might thrive.

This Russian record casts the gravest doubts on that country's

qualifications as a peace-maker now. It has pursued its own in-

terests in complete disregard of the interests of the peoples

in the area, Arab and Jew alike. Only when the Arabs begin to

realize the disastrous consequences of Soviet policy for them

can the conditions of true peace germinate. Meanwhile, a situa-

tion persists in which even far-reaching concessions of the Uni-

ted States which, verify L saelt considers i'nimicail to. t

vital interests are rebuffed by the Soviets who, in classical

style, retreat back to petrified and traditional positions, ne-

gating any plan that fails to give their clients all that they

ask.



18. As for Nasser and Egypt, Israel has not embarked on its re-

cent actions in order to bring about a change in the Government

of Egypt. It has been compelled to act in order to drive home

to the Egyptians that if it is a war of attrition their leaders


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FEBRUARY 43, 1970





POLICY BACKGROUND


want, Israel will respond as best it might to defend itself and

thwart the prospect of full-scale war.

Israel's position has been clearly enunciated: Let the

Egyptians make peace and the warfare will end once and for all.

If this is too much to ask of them now, let the Egyptian leader-

ship call off its war of attrition and agree to the restoration

of the cease-fire as a hopeful preliminary to eventual genuine

peace efforts. Israel is ready to carry out its side of the

agreement the moment the other side does the same.


FEBRUARY 4, 1970




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