Title: Policy background.
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Title: Policy background.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00072554
Volume ID: VID00039
Source Institution: The Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica
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P O L I C Y B A C K G R D U N D


THE SOVIET-EGYPTIAN WAR OF ATTRITION AGAINST ISRAEL


EMBASSY OF ISRAEL

Washington, D.C.


June 3, 1970








THE SOVIET-EGYPTIAN WAR OF ATTRITION AGAINST ISRAEL

1. The present stage of Soviet military strategy in the Middle East
is to protect and intensify Egypt's war of attrition against Israel.
The strategy currently pursued is calculated to release the Egyptian
armed forces for offensive action, Russia itself assuming responsi-
bility for the defense of the Egyptian rear, at least until further
notice.
Under the protection of the Soviet military umbrella, the
Egyptian armed forces have, since April, sharply increased their
artillery barrages, air strikes and commando raids. The escalation
began concurrently with the Russian deployment of SA-III missiles
around Egyptian military targets at the end of March, and intensified,
again concurrently, with the appearance in mid-April of Russian pilots
flying in a combat role over Egyptian skies. In May, the consolida-
tion of the Soviet military involvement was paralleled by further
escalation along the Suez front.


Casualty Indicator

2. The resumption of the war of attrition comes after a period of
some six months of relative Egyptian military restraint. It will be
recalled that Nasser announced his attrition policy in the late spring
of '69. By the end of July, the war was taking a heavy toll of
Israeli casualties, and it uas at this juncture that the Israeli
airforce stepped in. Its effect was immediate, and during the latter
part of 1969 Nasser was compelled to deescalete to a point where it
appeared that he might find it advantageous to opt for restoration of
the cease-fire. This gradual deescalation was reflected clearly in
the Israeli casualty figures for that period. (With Israel's
2,500,000 population, each casualty is the equivalent of about 80
if measured against the size of the American population.)


Month Total Casualties Killed Wounded

3uly '69 115 39 76

(At the end of July, Israel commenced its air response)

August '69 65 11 54
September '69 47 19 28
October '69 56 10 46
November '69 39 12 27
December '69 30 12 18










POLICY BACKGROUND


Renewal of Attrition Policy

3. It was at this time, however, in January 1970, that Nasser made
his secret trip to meet with Soviet leaders to press for the direct
military support that would enable him to resume his attrition war,
rather than accept the Israeli offer of a cease-fire. The positive
response he received from his Sovi.t backers immediately began to be
reflected in a new boldness along the Suez fronc which heightened
with each new phase of direct Soviet involvement. Their rear echelons
safeguarded by Russian missiles and pilots, their lines of supply
secured and their military installations protected, the Egyptian armed
forces were ready by mid-fpril to resume their war with renewed vigor.
The rise in Israeli casualties illustrates the sharp escalation that
has taken place as an immediate result of the Soviet involvement:

Month Total Casualties Killed Wounded

January '70 39 7 32
February '70 51 18 33
March '70 47 9 38
April '70 89 27 62
May '70 94 31 63

The new situation along the Canal uas soon attended by
increased military activity on every other border.


Soviet Self-Interest

4. Present Soviet strategy is hardly one calculated to provide
defense for Egypt, but rather to equip, staff and cover the Egyptian
offensive designs. The Soviet Union is an active partner in Nasser's
war of attrition which the Egyptian President and his spokesmen have
openly declared to be the conditioning process for a subsequent
frontal assault across the Suez Canal. This is the issue which is
presently being contested along the Suez Canal. The Soviets have so
far not directly engaged in this crucial battle, but they have pro-
vided all of the ingredients that would enable Nasser to assume his
latest offensive againar Israel's defenses. There could be a cease-
fire on the Canal today and perhaps a transition towards a process
of peace-making were it not for the simple fact that the Soviet Union
considers it to be in its self-interest to foment Arab-Israel war
rather than work for Arab-Israel peace. In so doing, it has involved
itself in this conflict to an already alarming degree.


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JUNE 3, 1970




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