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Soviet crisis management as demonstrated in the 1967 Middle East crisis and war

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Soviet crisis management as demonstrated in the 1967 Middle East crisis and war
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Munchausen syndrome by proxy ( jstor )
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Propaganda ( jstor )
Proxy reporting ( jstor )
Proxy statements ( jstor )
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Thesis--University of Florida.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 456-467).
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Vita.
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by John Werner Palm.

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SOVIET CRISIS MANAGEMENT
AS DEMONSTRATED IN THE 1967 MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AND WAR










By

JOHN WERNER PALM
















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY





UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

1978















To Kacl Ludwig Spannuth, my great-gAandfather, who i~ 1864,
on going og6 to fight--and die--orLt the Union said,
"Catoline, i6 I should not tetun, see to it that
the ch.ldten ece.ive a good educatoion."



To Elsa Spannuth Palm, his gtanddaughteA, my mother,
endowed with gyreat courage, spiit and the same
respect 6ot education.



To Beth Palm, my wife, foA
so much--so 6aith6uLty--so long.



To TerAy Alan Palm, my son, witth th ea ning
that his sac/tiice in Vietnam, in July 1970,
may somehow promote AeconcUMation.


and


To my othe. sons:
Larruy, Kitby, John, Bi&l and Paul.














ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


Acknowledgement is made to the following publishers for permission

to quote extensively from these selected sources:

From the book, Embassies in Crisis: Diplomats and Demagogues Behind
the Six-Day War, by Michael Bar-Zohar, (01970, by Michael Bar-
Zohar. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Brecher, Michael. Decisions in Israel's Foreign Policy. New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1975.

Burdett, Winston. Encounter with the Middle East, an Intimate Report
on What Lies Behind the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Copyright
) 1969, by Winston Burdett. Published by Atheneum Publishers,
N.Y., N.Y.

From The Cairo Documents, by Mohamed Heikal. Copyright (c 1971,
1972, 1973, by Mohamed Heikal and the Sunday Telegraph. Used by
permission of Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Howard, Michael and Hunter, Robert E. "Israel and the Arab World:
the Crisis of 1967." Adelphi Papers (London), No. 41 (October
1967).

From the book, Multicrises: Sea Power and Global Politics in the
Missile Age, by Jonathan T. Howe, by permission of the MIT Press,
Cambridge, Mass. Copyright @ 1971 by The Massachusetts Institute
of Technology.

Johnson, Lyndon B. The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency,
1963-1969. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971.

Middle East Record, 1967. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1971.

Atlas World Press Review, "The Soviets, the Puppet," August 1967.
Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 17-20.

Ra'anan, Uri. "Soviet Global Policy and the Middle East." Midstream
(Israel) (May 1969). Reprinted in the Israel-Arab Reader, A
Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, pp. 437-511.
Edited by Walter Laqueur. New York: Citadel Press, 1969.

From Eban, by Robert St. John. Copyright O 1972, by Robert St. John.
Used by permission of Doubleday & Company, Inc.



iii










Tatu, Michel. Power in the Kremlin, from Khrushchev to Kosygin. New
York: Viking Press, Inc., 1967. @ 1968, by William Collins
Sons & Co., Ltd., London.

Young, Oran D. "Intermediaries and Interventionists: Third Parties
in the Middle East Crisis." International Journal 23 (Winter
1967-1968): 52-73.












































iv















TABLE OF CONTENTS



Page


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ---------------------------------------- iii

ABSTRACT ----------------------------------------- vii

CHAPTER

I INTRODUCTION ---------------------------------------- 1

Emergence of Crisis Management ------------------------- 1
Terminology ---------------------------------------- 3
Principles and Techniques of Crisis Management --------- 4
State of the Art -------------------------------------- 12
Dissertation Scope and Purpose ------------------------- 14
Assumptions ---------------------------------------- 16

II IMMEDIATE BACKGROUND (1965-1967) ----------------------- 20

Global Setting ---------------------------------------- 20
Regional Setting -------------------------------------- 24

III CRISIS BUILDUP (ONSET): 9 MAY 4 JUNE 1967 ---------- 45

Prelude to Egypt's Move (9-13 May) --------------------- 45
Egypt's Sinai Move; UNEF Withdrawal (14-18 May) -------- 72
The Aqaba Blockade (19-22 May) ------------------------- 101
From Crisis to War (23 May 4 June) ------------------- 131

IV CRISIS PEAK (HOSTILITIES): 5-10 JUNE 1967 --------- 249

D-Day: Monday 5 June --------------------------------- 249
D-Plus 1: Tuesday 6 June ---------------------------- 269
D-Plus 2: Wednesday 7 June --------------------------- 284
D-Plus 3: Thursday 8 June ----------------------------- 292
D-Plus 4: Friday 9 June ------------------------------- 302
D-Plus 5: Saturday 10 June ---------------------------- 315





v











Page


V CRISIS WINDDOWN (RESOLUTION): 11 JUNE -
22 NOVEMBER 1967 ------------------------------------- 341

Immediate Postwar Recovery Efforts (11-16 June) -------- 341
UN Special Assembly Produces Impasse (17 June -
21 July) ---------------------------------------- 365
Resolution 242 Evolves (22 July 22 November) ---------- 388

VI CONCLUSIONS ---------------------------------------- 403

General ---------------------------------------- 403
Similarities ---------------------------------------- 403
Contrasts ------------------------------------------- 409
Problems of Management by Proxy ------------------------ 413

APPENDIX:

THE DOMESTIC INFLUENCES: SOVIET DECISION-MAKING ------- 421

LIST OF REFERENCES ---------------------------------------- 456

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ------------------------------------- 468



























vi










Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


SOVIET CRISIS MANAGEMENT
AS DEMONSTRATED IN THE 1967 MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AND WAR

By

John Werner Palm

December 1978

Chairman: John W. Spanier
Major Department: Political Science


This research attempts to (1) ascertain whether and to what degree

studies of U.S. crisis management are applicable to the USSR; (2)

ascertain whether earlier findings as to an apparent Soviet three-

stage modus operandi (aggressive in buildup and winddown, prudently

cautious during peak hostilities) under Khrushchev in 1956 were still

demonstrable under the Brezhnev-Kosygin collective leadership in 1967;

and (3) highlight the complexity of crisis management in the turbulent

Middle East arena where each superpower operates through one or more

client-proxies.

The findings of this research are as follows: (1) Both similari-

ties and contrasts to American crisis management principles and per-

formance are revealed; (2) the three-stage performance of Soviet

leadership in crisis management is very clearly demonstrated in this

1967 case; and (3) severe problems of crisis management by proxy--

problems of conflicting motivations, communications and control--are

demonstrated, extending to the question as to whether patron or client

was in effect the primary controller in this crisis.

vii
















CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION


Emergence of Crisis Management


The concept and practice of crisis management may be considered an

inevitable outcome of the conjunction of two post-World War II develop-

ments: the rise to global preeminence of the two competitive super-

powers and the increasing availability to them of awesomely unusable

nuclear weapons.

This new age contrasts with the prenuclear one in which war had

been regarded as a rational instrument at the service of state policy.

Now, suddenly, all-out war became not just overwhelmingly destructive

of the opponent, but suicidal as well; its use had become irrational.

But the nature of the nation-state and the interstate system, with

all their potential for recurring conflict, did not change. Interstate

politics remains essentially anarchic, with no central authority to

control behavior or resolve the inevitable conflicts of interest and

purpose. And while small powers can--and do--use force as before in

their relations with each other, for the superpowers this option has

now been foreclosed.

It is readily apparent from the historical record that nuclear

weapons have greatly strengthened the war (disaster) avoidance restraint

in superpower conflict. But they have not changed the importance these

powers attach to their interests in conflict. They still recognize


1






2




interests to defend and they still make demands upon each other that

must be acquiesced in, resisted, or in some way accommodated. Thus

there has developed a pressing need to find a replacement for war to

resolve nuclear age US-USSR conflicts.

A concern for the successful, reasonably peaceful resolution of

crises, i.e., their effective management, has evolved to serve as an

acceptable war substitute for the superpowers. There has gradually

developed a tacit legitimization of crises as contests of resolve and

"nerve," waged by verbal threats and physical means short of large-

scale violence. Crises are seen as surrogates for war in the nuclear

age when all-out war has become far too risky and potentially costly

(147:707,709).

Crisis occurs in a transition zone between peace and war and has

aspects of both. Crisis behavior proves to be a mixture of coercion

and accommodation. It arises when one state is seen to be pushing its

interests and the other feels constrained to resist. As Oran Young sees

it, "International crises have come increasingly to occupy a critical

position at the juncture between the use of violence and the use of

diplomacy in primarily persuasive situations" (176:310). Therefore,

the successful outcome of crisis management has become a primary objec-

tive of statesmen (and, in their shadow, scholars) equivalent to, and

no less important than, the pursuit of victory on the battlefield in

the prenuclear era.

It was perhaps this realization that caused US Secretary of Defense

Robert McNamara to exult in 1962, in the immediate post-Cuban missile

crisis euphoria, "There is no longer any such thing as strategy, only






3




crisis management" (118:258). Certainly skillful and successful crisis

management is now central to superpower politics, with the prospective

consequences of failure being nuclear disaster.


Terminology


A crisis, as envisaged in this paper, can be described as

a hostile confrontation of two or more nations arising from
conflicting policies toward a geographic or problem area,
which, by virtue of the use or suggested use of force,
engenders a substantial increase in, and high levels of,
tension. (141:470)

As applied to the superpowers, there are also other important char-

acteristics of international crises which require consideration. Such

crises involve high threats to important values and objectives of the

participants. The protagonists act from belief that the outcome of

their crises will have far-reaching import for their future relation-

ship and their future power and status in the international community.

The increased rapidity of events almost inevitably means that decision-

makers will be faced with great uncertainties and imponderables, and

that they will feel a strong sense of urgency. Further, there is evi-

dent a sense of reduced control over events and their effects. One of

the hallmarks of an international crisis--in Thomas Schelling's words--

is "its sheer unpredictability" (169:25-26).

Crisis management, as envisaged in this paper, can be defined as

the art of conducting policy in a crisis not merely so as
to avoid the nuclear catastrophe which both sides wish to
avoid, but also so as to inflict a diplomatic defeat on
the adversary. (23:147)

Crisis management is essentially an attempt to balance and reconcile

a complex mixture of diverse elements: bilateral competition, in which






4




the primary purpose is to attain one's goals, and shared danger, in which

priority is given to the reduction of risks and the avoidance of disaster

(169:29).

The ideal goal of crisis management may also be envisaged as achiev-

ing an optimum mix among four elements appearing in a crisis in a complex

interaction between two sets of goals and constraints: coercion vs.

disaster avoidance, and accommodation vs. loss avoidance. Or, simply,

the entire process may be described as "coercing prudently" or "accom-

modating cheaply," or some combination of both (148:240).


Principles and Techniques of Crisis Management


Systemic Environment and Bargaining Setting

International crises develop and are played out under the influence

of the systemic environment and bargaining setting in which they occur.

Included in the systemic environment are the general structure of the

system (number of major actors and distribution of power among them),

existing alliances and alignments, and the nature of military technology.

These factors may very strongly influence the nature, course, and out-

come of a crisis (148:220).

The historic multipolarity prevailing in the Europe-centered inter-

state system gave way after World War II to a bipolar world in which

only the two superpowers, the US and the USSR, have really counted in

the successive conflicts that developed into crises over the thirty

years since. The effect was to produce a zero-sum attitude, so danger-

ous for crisis management, a fear that a gain for either power, however

minor, inevitably meant a comparable loss for the other. Worse yet,






5




such an outcome tended to develop a fear that a trend was developing--

observable to friend, foe and neutral alike--that would repeat and

magnify the unfavorable outcome for the loser in succeeding crises.

As Glenn Snyder conceives it,

The bargaining setting includes a wide range of back-
ground factors which are more immediate and directly re-
lated to the bargaining process than those in the systemic
environment. These include the conflict of interest which
underlies the crisis, the recent relations between the
parties, the parties' comparative valuation of the stakes
at issue, their relative military capabilities and subjec-
tive fears of war, and precrisis commitments. Also a
part of the bargaining setting are various other asymme-
tries between the parties such as geographical distance
from the crisis area, who is the "aggressor" and who the
"defender," conceptions of the "legitimacy" of the status
quo or the demand to change it, and, most important, the
parties' precrisis "images" of all these things, includ-
ing, consequently, their reciprocal perceptions of each
other's "resolve." (148:221)

The superpowers over the years of their many contending Cold War

crises have developed a complex pattern of interaction that has been

aptly described as a "limited adversary" or "adverse partnership" rela-

tionship. They are at the same time both partners and adversaries, in

varying degrees and with fluctuating intensities. What is involved is

a curious mix of common and conflicting interests, with the common

interest in avoiding nuclear disaster always a pressing one, competing

with the other interests at stake (169:47).

The fine balancing of these complex interests is most apparent when

the crisis at hand is one in which each superpower is somewhat reluc-

tantly waging the crisis by proxy, supporting but also restraining its

more single-minded client. The Formosa Straits crisis of 1958 is an

instructive example, wherein both superpowers no more than partially and






6




reluctantly supported the initiatives and desires of their Chinese

Nationalist and Chinese Communist proxies.


Crises as Tests of Comparative Interest and Resolve

A persuasive case can be made that for some crises the process

develops in its ideal form into a test of comparative interest, in which

the outcome tends to favor the side that demonstrates, both objectively

and subjectively, an asymmetrical predominance of interest at stake over

its opponent.

This process develops as follows. Traditional balance of power is

seen in the superpower context as a combination of balance of capabili-

ties and balance of interests. But in the nuclear age, and especially

as a rough nuclear parity has developed, comparative capabilities have

become imponderable and consequently less meaningful factors. Hence a

crisis tends to turn on the balance of interests; in the various crisis

maneuvers which test resolve, in the ideal case the lesser interest

will tend to show lesser resolve and greater tendency to accommodate

the other.

Two successive crises, in 1961 and 1962, may be used in demonstra-

tion. In the Berlin Wall crisis of August 1961, the US showed lesser

resolve and more willingness to accommodate, even recognizing the

urgency for the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the USSR to halt

the outflow ot East German refugees, and the potentially explosive and

unpredictable dangers both sides faced if this flow was not halted.

A year later, in October 1962, the USSR again initiated a crisis,

this time with the introduction of missiles into Cuba. Here the






7




predominant interest was very much on the side of the US, as the

development of the crisis and its outcome demonstrated.

But not all superpower crises--notable exceptions being those in

the Middle East--have such predictable patterns in which comparative

interests prove asymmetrical and determine the safe outcomes. For

these other crises, firmness to show resolve must be balanced with

caution, so as not to unintentionally and uncontrollably accelerate a

crisis into an intolerable confrontation.


Preserving Freedom of Action

Because the opponent's response, his view of the comparative inter-

ests at stake, and the resolve he will prove to demonstrate are all

imperfectly known factors, the crisis manager attempts to preserve

at all stages a degree of freedom of action, a potential for advance

or retreat, the preservation of some options at his disposal.

This is the area in which crises conducted largely through proxies--

notably in the Middle East--have proved so dangerous. There has been

a tendency for the principal to lose control over his client, partly

due to communication problems, partly due to differing perceptions

of vital needs and interests in their respective roles. Lost control

has led to lost freedom of action, and in the Middle East in 1967

this led to a plunge into war between the proxies.


Interdependence of Commitments

Irrespective of the apparent asymmetry of interests or resolve

which might otherwise dictate the outcome of crises, and increasing

the dangerous unpredictability of their outcomes as a result, has been






8




a concept of interdependence of commitments by the superpowers. Thus

a power's prestige and future global prospects, in relation to friend,

foe and neutral, are seen to some degree to hinge on the outcome of

every superpower crisis.

Such a consideration for interdependence, or linkage, of commitments

and prestige may have grown up on the US side from seeing the apparent

relation of the successive faltering of the Soviet image in Vietnam,

to its setback in the June 1967 Mid-East war, and on to the Eastern

European unrest requiring suppression of the Czech rebellion the next

year. In the final years of the American effort in Vietnam, and in

the immediate aftermath, there was a considerable US effort to avoid

appearing humiliated, using the argument of its effects on future

American global prestige and commitments.

Judging from the public record, there would appear to be appreciably

more concern among US decision-makers than with their Soviet counterparts

for their resolve reputations and this concept of interdependence of

commitments.


Coercion Possibilities Expanded

Statesmen probably fear war a good deal more now than in the

nineteenth century, and this induces a considerable measure of caution

into crisis behavior. But this has at the same time raised the threshold

of challenge or provocation above which statesmen feel themselves willing

or bound to fight. Consequently, it has released, below this threshold,

for coercion purposes, a wide variety of moves which in former times

might have triggered war. The superpowers have been extremely inventive






9




in developing a varied ensemble of physical maneuvers and uses of force

short of war to communicate and test resolve in crises (148:220). Even

limited violence is permissible--especially by proxies--as a means of

crisis coercion. Examples are the 1958 air combat over the Formosa

Straits and the 1967 and 1973 Mid-East wars.

Inventiveness in demonstrative or show-of-force options in crisis

has included calling various levels of alert status for missiles,

dispersal of bombers, putting more bombers into the air on airborne

alert, putting more nuclear submarines out to sea, and, in the conven-

tional weapon area, massing forces at a crisis locale (Cuba, 1962);

dramatically announcing plans for increasing total forces (Berlin,

1961); alerting airborne forces and concentrating air transports for

them (USSR, Mid-East, 1973) (147:707).

The modern military forces of the superpowers may thus have changed

their primary function to one of being threatened and manipulated in

peacetime rather than used in war (169:46).


Need for Effective, Centralized, Prudent Control

Experience with the severe superpower crises of the 1960's and

1970's has demonstrated the requirement for assuring effective, cen-

tralized and prudent control of the successive maneuvers involved in

coping with and resolving a crisis. Thus in 1962 President Kennedy

quickly developed the "Executive Committee" (ExCom) of his most trusted

advisers to help him manage the US through this tense and critical

period. That this was a far cry from the traditional initiative per-

mitted a military theatre commander as recently as in the Korean War






10




is shown by the reluctance with which the Navy acceded to Kennedy's

insistence on detailed control of its blockade execution.

It has been reported similarly from the opposing side that the

normal Kremlin decision-making was bypassed in favor of an inner group

of five or six members of the Presidium who directed Soviet moves

throughout this crisis (157:25).


Importance of Timing, Pacing, Signaling

These techniques and their nuances have proved critical in repeated

crises, and have increased the need for the key crisis manager to con-

trol his moves as directly as possible, rather than have their effect

delayed, distorted or confused by being slowly filtered through the

normal operations of a bureaucracy.

Crisis timing is an option available primarily to the initiator

of a crisis. By selection of a time embarrassing and disconcerting to

the opponent, it may be hoped that he will be thus coerced into an

accommodating mood rather than face up to this new complication to his

leadership burden.

An unusual exploitation of crisis timing occurred at the tail end

of the 1956 Suez crisis when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made his

rocket-rattling threats at a most inopportune moment for President

Eisenhower: a state of confusion and cross-purposes with his primary

NATO allies, the loss of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to cancer

surgery, and preoccupation with his own reelection campaign as the "Man

of Peace!"

Crisis pacing is a matter of not letting urgency and time pressure

in decision-making result in dangerous escalation or hasty,ill-advised moves.











Thus Kennedy, in the early stages of the Cuban missile crisis,

observing that events were moving with dangerous, escalatory rapidity,

deliberately inserted measures to slow down the action, thereby giving

Khrushchev and his advisers more time for consideration of alternatives.

Signaling is the term for what has developed into a highly sophis-

ticated process for communicating threats, responses, accommodations,

pauses and an ensemble of related nuances, all to fill the needs of

superpower crisis management. In contrast to an earlier age when

political and military action were clearly separated, now verbal

diplomacy and military action short of violence tend to merge into a

single, complex communication machine (147:706).

For an example of effective, sophisticated signaling, President

Johnson, during the 1967 Middle East War, while maintaining a calm

and judicious tone in his hotline messages to Kosygin, at the same

time positioned and pointed the Mediterranean Sixth Fleet in ways he

was sure would be understood to demonstrate the intended degree of

resolve, as observed and reported to Moscow by the shadowing Soviet

ships.


Value of Initiative, Surprise, Fait Accompli

The initiation of the international superpower crisis being con-

sidered has generally been taken on the Soviet side and, accompanied

usually by surprise effect, has been designed to be a technique to

realize a fait accompli before the opponent can effectively respond.

The intent is to face the opponent with the unpalatable need to initiate

violence to undo the new situation, and hope that he will prove unwilling

or unable to do so.






12




The building of the Berlin Wall was such a step and it was success-

ful, amid signs of great discomfiture among the US and its NATO allies.

Often, however, the origin of a crisis in the Cold War era has been

such an endeavor to unilaterally effect a change in the status quo, but

one that has been resisted and has therefore in varying degree been a

miscalculation on the part of the initiator. The challenger perceives

his resolve to be superior, and the degree of resistance encountered

is a measure of the extent of his miscalculation of the balance of

resolve and the comparative interests at stake. The Cuban missile

crisis is the most conspicuous example of such a serious miscalculation.

The greatest danger to the initiator of a crisis and his attempted

fait accompli is that his action may sting the adversary into both the

motivation and sense of justification for devising an effective counter-

action, which may well be at a considerably higher level of risk of

gain and loss. Thus Khrushchev's Cuban missile ploy brought on the

American blockade of Cuba and attendant imminent threat of invasion of

Cuba and war. And in 1967 Nasser's bold moves, ejecting United Nations

forces and blockading Israel from the Gulf of Aqaba, ostensibly to

deter a reprisal raid on Syria, resulted in Israel's lightning war

and conquest of all of the Egyptian Sinai, plus key parts of Jordan

and Syria.


State of the Art

Prevailing Bias Toward US Concepts

Most of the literature on crisis management is by Western, largely

American, writers whose findings reflect essentially the thinking of






13




only one superpower, the US. There is a complete absence in Soviet

writing or speeches of any mention of this concept as applicable to

their side. Soviet writings tend to deal with crisis almost exclusively

in unhelpful ideological and propagandistic terms.

Some Western writers do attempt to generalize to include the Soviet

side of crisis management, inferring from Soviet leaders' actions and

pronouncements in and related to crisis that they at least tacitly

recognize and practice (though with apparent exceptions) some of the

principles and techniques discussed above. But these writings to date

are largely impressionistic, speculative and tentative.


Soviet Crisis Management

In its most fundamental aspects, Soviet performance in crisis

demonstrates flexibility, rather than rigid conformance to any pre-

scribed scenario. Also there is an apparent rational means-ends calcu-

lation behind their crisis decisions and maneuverings.

Jan F. Triska and David 0. Finley, in their detailed study of

Soviet foreign policy, analyzed twenty-nine crises, finding that, with

the exception of intramural cases in the Eastern European Soviet

security zone, Soviet crisis management has been marked by notable

caution and low risk. They conclude that

the level and pattern of Soviet risk have been low
and narrow. Soviet crisis behavior was found to be con-
servative rather than radical, cautious rather than
reckless, deliberate rather than impulsive, and rational
(not willing to lose) rather than nonrational. (153:346)

Similarly, Michael P. Gehlen analyzed eleven Soviet crises over an

eleven-year period ending in 1966. He presented his findings in a table






14




of indicators of Soviet risk-taking which shows a striking concentration

of all action--again with the exception of Eastern Europe--on the verbal

end of the scale, with very little action of the show-of-force kind--

mobilization, movement of troops, etc.--and no participation in combat

by Soviet forces. Caution and low risk are his conclusions also (57:111).

0. M. Smolansky, among others, made a study of the seemingly pro-

vocative, aggressive and high-risk performance of the USSR in the 1956

Suez crisis. He concluded that this was a case of low-risk bluff,

with no intent to follow through with action, one that achieved consider-

able propaganda credit for the USSR with tail-end-of-crisis maneuvers

at a time when the British-French effort was already doomed to failure

by open US opposition (146). The soundness of this analysis was sup-

ported by Nasser himself in his public quarrels with Khrushchev in

1958-59, and further enlarged on by the reminiscences of Egyptian

editor and Nasser confidant Muhammad H. Heikal.*


Dissertation Scope and Purpose


This dissertation will endeavor to add to the existing literature

in three areas.

First, an endeavor will be made to more fully document, in a de-

tailed case study, to what degree findings as to US crisis management

principles and practice actually do fit Soviet behavior in these same

crises.



*Some of the most valuable material on the performance of Soviet
leaders in crisis has been gained from Heikal, either first-hand when
he too was present, or second-hand from Nasser's on-the-spot or soon-
after confidences. The most revealing cases are from the 1956 Suez
crisis, the 1958 Lebanon crisis and the 1970 War of Attrition crisis (61).






15




Secondly, for an analytical approach to this crisis, it will be

posited, as Smolansky does in his study of the 1956 Suez crisis, that

the Soviet Union recognizes three stages to a crisis--the buildup,

the peak, and the winddown--and practices markedly contrasting pro-

cedures and techniques with the passing from one stage to another.

In essence, in the buildup the USSR is vocally and demonstrably

aggressive and intransigent, manipulating the crisis with minimum

apparent concern for the prospective dangers involved.

At the peak (in this case, Arab-Israeli hostilities) the Soviet

Union retreats to extreme caution, withdrawing from earlier commitments,

with maximum apparent concern for the dangers at hand.

In the winddown, the USSR returns to vocal aggressiveness, symbolic

acts and demonstrations, and a major effort to reinterpret to both friend

and foe the content and significance of its recent restrained but also

ambiguous performance.

Thirdly, Soviet crisis behavior through client-proxies will be

studied. This aspect is at once more complex and difficult to manage

than the direct bipolar competition usually treated in the literature;

more revealing of the usual Soviet closed hand from the necessity to

work through less secretive intermediaries; and more relevant to the

problems of current and prospective American-Soviet crisis management.

That is, as demonstrated in the recent and current use of a Cuban

presence and troops in Africa as a Soviet client-proxy, this indirect

form of superpower conflict gives evidence of being the pattern for

the future, probably because greater risks can safely be undertaken

through proxy action, and also because retreat, when required, can be

accepted with less concern for the principal's own resolve reputation.






16




Accordingly, the May-June 1967 Mid-East Crisis and War have been

selected for a detailed study of the evidence revealed thereby of

Soviet crisis management, primarily through their Egyptian proxy.

In this superpower crisis, the US was seen as the supporter of Israel,

with its interests threatened as Israel's security became threatened

with the onset of the crisis. The Soviet Union was seen as the backer

of the radical Arab regimes of Egypt and Syria which precipitated the

crisis, with its interests promoted vis-a-vis the US if its clients

prevailed.

With a demonstrable symmetry of interests and restraints operating

on the two superpowers, it might appear that such crises in the Middle

East would not occur, or would be kept safely within mutually acceptable

bounds. But in this volatile region the pattern has been quite the

opposite. Here the two patrons have responsibilities and commitments

without effective controls over their clients, giving the latter con-

siderable freedom of maneuver to pursue provocative and dangerous

measures to advance their own interests.


Assumptions


This research is predicated on two basic assumptions on which crisis

management decisions are considered to be made concerning the Middle

East, on both the Soviet and American sides. The one concerns the

essential symmetry of the motivational ranges within which both sets

of decision-makers appear to operate. The other is the assumption of

a single rational actor model to account for Soviet decision-making,

regardless of the contrast, for example, between the Khrushchev and the






17




Brezhnev-Kosygin styles, and some evidence of varying hardline vs.

moderate influences on the leadership.


Superpower Motivational Symmetry in Mid-East

The essential symmetry of US and Soviet Middle East positions,

within which the recurring crises have been managed, has developed

despite the endeavors by each to claim a predominant role at the-expense

of the other. Constantly repeating the theme of concern for the security

of its nearby southern borders, the USSR has endeavored to portray the

US and its Sixth Fleet as an imperialist interloper that has no rightful

place in the eastern Mediterranean. The US, for its part, influenced

by its NATO ties and strategic and economic interests, has tried with

an unpersuasive and oversimplified containment policy--centered orig-

inally on the ill-fated Baghdad Pact--to exclude the Soviet Union from

any significant Middle East role. Both powers may be said to have been

frustrated in their maximum objectives, to exclude or drive out the

other, while successfully accomplishing their minimum objectives, not

to be driven out, and to see their area clients survive.

French author Andre Fontaine describes the effective limits to

Soviet or US gains or losses in the Mid-East in these terms:

What Washington is determined to prevent is the destruction
of Israel, just as Moscow is committed to preventing the
Egyptian and Syrian regimes from being destroyed.

These parallel commitments--and each side is fully aware
of them--establish the limits within which each power is
free to act. (54:128)

Jacob C. Hurewitz finds that the important, yet nonvital, signifi-

cance of the area to the two powers produces a prudent restraint to






18




their competition for influence:

There is .. an overriding restraint for the superpowers--
the determination to avoid a nuclear confrontation. For
neither superpower is the Middle East an area of supreme
importance. It is therefore not a region in which such
a confrontation is likely to take place. (70:169)

But opposed to this 1972 assessment is the 1975 finding by R. D.

McLaurin that "the possibilities of a superpower confrontation are

greater in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world" (104:147).

The net effect of the above-described motivational restraints is

a crisis relationship bounded by narrow and moderate success-failure

limits, expressed by the needs to "coerce prudently" or "accommodate

cheaply."


Rational Actor Model

The necessary assumption of the Soviet leadership operating as a

single rational actor is an inevitable consequence of the dearth of

the amounts and kinds of information that would permit the utilization

of alternative models, a decision-making one or a bureaucratic one, for

example.

Nevertheless, there is appreciable evidence, including Khrushchev's

memoirs, that the entire Soviet effort and commitment in the Middle

East has persisted from the very beginning as a matter of dissension

and division within the Soviet leadership. This arena represents an

exception to the preferred Soviet pattern for nonvital areas: it may

justifiably and critically be labeled risks associated with presence

and commitment without control. Therefore, despite the paucity of

reliable information from behind the USSR's consistently closed hand,






19




an attempt will be made (in the Appendix) to offer an alternative model,

which may also serve to embellish and enrich the following 1967 case

account with evidence of Soviet decision-making problems, divisions,

and their outcomes.















CHAPTER II
IMMEDIATE BACKGROUND (1965-1967)


Global Setting

Broad Perspective

The Soviet leadership, following its dramatic replacement of the

ebullient Khrushchev in October 1964, was as yet untested in any major

crisis. Yet the ingredients that were to produce the forthcoming Mid-

East crisis were present in the global setting, and simmering.

This was the apparent essence of the Soviet global view: while

making a superficial commitment to detente, the US under President

Johnson's leadership was on the offensive, pushing the USSR around

seemingly at will. Detente did not hinder US invasion of the Dominican

Republic in 1965, or, beginning that same year, a massive escalation in

Vietnam, including intensive bombing of a Soviet client and ally.

Furthermore, in the developing Third World, the USSR had sustained

a succession of stunning defeats in areas it had once so proudly hailed

as victories for the socialist, or at least noncapitalist, camp. There

was Sukarno's downfall in Indonesia, and loss of a considerable Soviet

investment there. There were the overthrows of Ben Bella in Algeria

and Nkrumah in Ghana. And in the Mid-East's center, Nasser himself

was both in decline and suspect as an unreliable and difficult client

who gave repeated evidence of "using" the USSR for his own nationalistic

purposes.


20






21




What better area to select than the Middle East to advance a new

forward strategy, take the heat off North Vietnam (and perhaps achieve

a new coercive bargaining position), face the US with the disagreeable

prospect of a two-front military involvement, answer China's attacks

in the process, and reestablish its leadership of the divided and

quarreling Communist world? The temptation and pressure to take this

decision, in early 1967, were surely considerable.


America Perceived as on a Global Offensive

Many analysts see the Soviet Union, in the spring 1967 prelude to

war, reacting first and foremost to a perceived American global "im-

perialist offensive."

Fritz Ermath, in a RAND analysis, indicates how Soviet leaders'

concern at seemingly unrestrained US escalation in Vietnam moved them

eventually to a defense-motivated but tactically offensive program of

counteraction:

In Vietnam, the conflict did escalate and it became
a test case on which the Soviet position was highly vul-
nerable. First, it proved that neither Soviet military
power at the general nuclear level nor Soviet restraint
in local theaters of conflict could prevent the growing
intervention of the United States. (50:11)

A subsequent comprehensive analysis by American and European

panelists dealing with Soviet trends also took note of the worried,

and angrily defensive, mood of the Kremlin leadership which evidently

encouraged it to embark on a forward, adventurist policy in the Middle

East in May 1967. That is, from a Soviet perspective, the imperialist

West, led by President Johnson, was using detente as a one-way street,

"rolling back" and demoralizing the socialist camp everywhere, spreading






22




confusion and dismay throughout the Third World. Under the cover of

its strategic nuclear superiority, it could use conventional warfare,

most prominently in Vietnam, with a sense of callous immunity from

any effective Soviet counteraction (120:108-109).

From Nasser's view there was a comparable fear of a threatening

American imperialism. The general world picture growing in his mind

was of an American campaign to subdue the more radical antiimperialist

leaders of the Third World and to break their links with Russia, a

campaign in which he felt himself to be marked down as a potential

victim, after Egypt had been isolated by the destruction of the

revolutionary regime in Syria (149:463,466).

In a postwar analysis, Z. Brzezinski also depicts the Soviet

leaders in early 1967 in a state of worried concern (shared with

many foreign Communist leaders) as to how to counter a seemingly

relentless new imperialist offensive led by the US. From their per-

spective, a whole series of global setbacks was all part of a very

deliberate US-engineered political offensive (22:388).


America Perceived to Falter

But if America was indeed perceived to be on a global offensive

track, its efforts also appeared to be suffering severe setbacks by

early 1967. Hence an interrelated view of Soviet motivation toward

Mid-East adventuring is an opportunistic one, based on a conclusion

that the US was bogged down in Vietnam and soured over its global

responsibilities, including those in the Middle East.

The White House was preoccupied heavily with Vietnam War decisions

and pressures as the Middle East crisis began to flare up. President






23




Johnson had a critical month in May for American decisions on Vietnam.

American decision-makers were intensively involved, amid growing

domestic opposition, in discussions on future American strategy in

the War. In the words of an Israeli source: "The overburden of

decision-making was one of the reasons for the American hesitation

on involvement in the Middle East crisis. The US in fact shied

away from any strong initiative" (51:233).

Soviet global-Middle East thinking in the precrisis setting may

well have proceeded as follows. By fostering a major threat to the

American position in the Arab world, the USSR could make political

gains and also serve notice that, if the US persisted in making dif-

ficulty for the Soviet Union in Southeast Asia, the latter could

counter by raising a storm in the Middle East (8:169).

UN Secretary-General U Thant and French President Charles

de Gaulle were two world leaders who also believed the origins of

the June War were interlocked with the US war in Vietnam.

One American analyst goes even further. Herbert Dinerstein,

in 1971 testimony before a House subcommittee looking into Soviet

involvement in the Middle East and the Western response, was critical

of US failure to signal effectively its intent to its Soviet adversary:

"I think that in many ways the United States bears a large share of

the responsibility for the 1967 War precisely because it was unwilling

to make clear that it would support the Israelis" (155:14).


The China Connection

China's role in the Soviet motivation to act in the Middle East

cannot be discounted. Although the West tends to dismiss Chinese






24




pressure as a factor in Soviet decision-making before the 1969 Sino-

Soviet border clashes, before the Six-Day War East European diplomats

in Tel Aviv were convinced this was a factor. Perhaps partly for

this reason there was a special eagerness among Soviet leaders to

save the leftist Syrian regime in 1967, and thereby undercut and

stave off radically leftist Chinese "poaching" in Middle East politics

(13:97-98). In the words of British writer W. A. C. Adie, "China's

prodding from the sidelines forced the Russians to compete in escalat-

ing demonstrations of 'revolutionary commitment'" (1:317).


Improved Soviet Deterrence

Possibly furthering the Soviet leaders' confidence that it was

time to check the American global offensive was the sharply improved

status of their deterrent strategic forces. The post-Khrushchev

leadership had undertaken a substantial buildup of Soviet strategic

forces. In summer and autumn 1966 an accelerated program of ICBM

construction got underway, and by the beginning of 1967 the number

of operational ICBMs was about 400-450, increasing at a rate of more

than 100 a year, compared with the total deployment of fewer than 200

ICBM launchers during the entire Khrushchev period (94:148).


Regional Setting

February 1966: Syrian Coup

In retrospect, one could pinpoint February 1966 as opening the

curtain to the succession of Mid-East events that was to culminate in

the June War. For in this month the perennially unstable Syrian






25




government was once again overthrown, this time by a militantly,

radically leftist Ba'ath regime. The new government immediately

embarked on a domestic and foreign program that both gladdened the

hearts of its Soviet supporters and worried them incessantly because

of the Syrian tendency to willful, unrestrained risk-taking. Particu-

larly in relation to the struggle against Israel for the recovery of

Palestine, Syria eagerly took over the lead, offering her territory

as a base for Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists to

mount raids against Israel, regardless of Israel's declared and

demonstrated strategy to retaliate with force.

An Israeli Communist leader quotes one of the Soviet leaders as

saying: "Now that we have two pillars, Syria and Egypt, we can start

building on them." The jubilant mood in Moscow is also attested to

by other Israeli Communists who happened to be in the Soviet capital

at that time on the occasion of the 23rd Party Congress (49:22-23).

The seemingly imprudent, even irrational, attachment that the

normally pragmatic and calculating Soviet leadership displayed for

Syria, from the latest Ba'ath governmental turnover in February 1966

until the June War, has mystified many observers. The February 1966

coup that brought the radical Ba'athists to power was the eighteenth

attempt in seventeen years. With forthcoming spring 1967 disorders

inside Syria, then, as a prelude for the Mid-East crisis to follow,

the Soviet leaders might well have been concerned that the time for

another turnover was at hand, and that their client state was in con-

siderable danger.

Under the new Ba'ath regime, according to Lester Velie, Communists

were for the first time permitted to function openly and were even






26




taken into the Cabinet, a decided exception to the prevailing Middle

East pattern. The Syrian leaders proved highly receptive to Soviet

guidance in their political, military and economic policies. To the

jubilant Kremlin, Syria was on its way to becoming the first Communist

Arab state. The Russians felt so secure here that they erected a

giant communications and nerve center for Soviet operations in the

Middle East and in Africa. Soviet technicians and intelligence

experts manned the electronic and monitoring equipment. Now the

Soviet Union had a base on the eastern end of the Mediterranean which

could be harnessed to strategic military needs if necessary (160:82-83).


November 1966: Egypt-Syria Pact;
Israeli Reprisal Raid

In November 1966 the Soviet Union felt it had found a happy,

multifaceted solution to its own and its client's problems. It

persuaded Nasser to give up his five-year-long feud with Syria and

sign a mutual defense pact with her. The aim was twofold and seem-

ingly well-designed. Egypt, leader of the joint military organization,

would exert a restraining influence on Syria in the matter of border

provocations, even as Egypt had kept her own borders with Israel

remarkably quiet in the ten years that had elapsed since the 1956

Suez War. But at the same time the Egypt-Syria pact would deter

Israel from any rash reaction to Syrian provocations.

Just prior to this event, in October 1966, the pattern of Arab-

Soviet behavior was a dress rehearsal for what was to erupt into

crisis and war some seven months later. Unable or unwilling to re-

strain its Syrian client, the Soviet Union carried out, largely

through its abrasive Ambassador to Israel, Dmitri S. Chuvakhin, a






27




heavy-handed, intense campaign of denunciation of supposed Israeli

massing of threatening forces on the Syrian border. Despite the

absurdity of the charges, and even their inconsistency with Israel's

reprisal tactics, the Soviet Union persisted to an extraordinary

degree in this endeavor, just as it was to do in 1967.

In retrospect, and in evaluation of Soviet crisis techniques,

there are certain advantages to such an endeavor to avert a crisis

by deterrent intimidation. This action put a small state like Israel

on both the diplomatic and psychological defensive in attempting to

counter Soviet charges, while still preserving what she considered

essential means of retaliation against terrorist attacks. There were

major, serious drawbacks to this technique, however, of which the

Soviet leaders, then and in May 1967, seemed insufficiently aware.

The charges were too easily disprovable, causing confusion in both

regional and world opinion, and easily leading to worldwide sympathy

and support for Israel as the injured party. Even more seriously, this

ploy gave the irresponsible Syrian and PLO clients of the USSR a free

hand and thereby comparably reduced the USSR's own freedom of action.

The result was to tie Soviet fortunes to the provocative and dangerous

tactics these clients continued to pursue.

The Soviet solution to this dilemma was not without merit. It

was accomplished in November 1966, as already noted, with the signing

of the Egypt-Syria defense pact. Now the USSR had a more responsible

proxy to deal with the irresponsible one (a proxy once removed), thus

permitting the USSR to continue pulling the strings while being hope-

fully one safe stage removed from apparent responsibility for any un-

comfortable or unexpected outcomes.






28




Winston Burdett has discussed this Soviet tactic as an instrument

of policy, not only a cautionary weapon against the Israelis but a

means of political incitement to the Arabs. The special danger in

the Middle East of thus dealing in misinformation--both as propaganda

and as sign language--was the problem of control; for Arab society

is "so naturally permeated by misinformation on so many levels and

so receptive to it, so easily and warmly seized with fantasy" (24:165-166).

On 5 November the Soviet Union vetoed a mild UN Security Council

censure of a Syrian provocation that was approved by ten other nations.

As Burdett records this event, "If it did not set the course of events

for the following months, it at least sharpened their pace." For

Syria now took the veto as a green light to unrestrained provocation

of Israel, while Israel lost any hope for deterring Syria except

through her own retaliatory measures. Nowhere in the record is there

evidence of Soviet leadership concern that its freedom of action was

being severely circumscribed, that it had become the voluntary captive

of its client (24:174).

Israel--frustrated by the veto-bound UN Security Council--then

retaliated with a massive raid against es Samu village in Jordan.

This action appeared to the world excessively destructive in both

human life and material, and brought down onto Israel a UN censure,

inasmuch as the attack appeared seriously misdirected. King Hussein

was a Middle East moderate, astride a shaky throne, hated equally with

Israel by the Arab radicals. The bloody Israeli attack led to wide-

spread riots in Jordan, shook Hussein on his throne, and thus incited

Hussein to counterattack--along with the PLO--by baiting Nasser for

his inactivity.






29




Nasser's Dilemma

Alex Benson has effectively portrayed Nasser's plight in the

spring of 1967 as a desperate one. Political rivalries had eroded

his power and prestige. The Egyptian economy was more disastrous

than even its normal state. The standard of living in Egypt was

lower than in any other North African or Middle Eastern nation except

stone-age Yemen. One-sixth of Egypt's army was bogged down in a

costly, bloody, demoralizing, endless war in Yemen. Proud and sensi-

tive Nasser was being taunted by his rivals as "a weakling chief of

a weakling state" (17:119).

Perhaps inadequately appreciated by Israel, as she sought means

to deter or contain Syria's provocations, were these compelling pres-

sures building up on Nasser to act. Given his plight as just described,

may he not have concluded that, if he would not rush to Syria's aid

if she should be attacked by Israel, he would remain alone in the

Arab world, ostracized and powerless (12:5)?

Eventually it would be argued by Nasser apologists that, contrary

to the above analysis, Syria had misled Nasser into the June War

disaster. But the whole, long record of distrustful Nasser-Syria

relations belies this argument.

As the American Embassy in Cairo forecast early in 1967, it seemed

certain that sometime in that year Nasser would strike back. Besieged

by frustrations on every front, he would seek to redress his fortunes

by some impetuous counteraction. The leader was at bay and in a mood

to break out; his isolation in the Arab world would impel him to find

the means and the occasion to seize the initiative (24:193).






30




From such sources as PLO leader Ahmad Shuqairy's memoirs, it is evi-

dent that Nasser was alive to the danger posed by the Syrian Ba'ath-

ists' adventurism. He repeatedly--but in vain--asked the Syrians to

desist from encouraging fedayeen (terrorist) activities which might

provoke Israel into a war for which the Arabs were not ready. These

warnings reportedly continued as late as April 1967.


UNEF Role

Ever since the 1956 Suez War settlement, a United Nations Emer-

gency Force (UNEF) had been stationed in Sinai to separate and maintain

peace between the Egyptians and Israelis. Though the forthcoming

abrupt UNEF withdrawal was to stun Israel and the world, the idea for

this action was not new; it had been repeatedly demanded of Nasser by

his rivals. It was especially used by Jordan to taunt Nasser after

the es Samu reprisal attack by Israel in November 1966. Jordan was

reported to have even suggested officially in the Arab Defense Council

meetings in early January that Egypt should ask the UNEF to withdraw.

King Hussein had also made this suggestion in an interview in U.S.

News and World Report at the end of December. Hussein complained

that the presence of the UNEF prevented Egypt's forces from having

any deterrent effect and so allowed the Israelis to increase their

pressure on other fronts (149:464). Judged by his earlier experience

in a similar minicrisis in 1960 (in which Egyptian troops had entered

Sinai without affecting the presence or role of UNEF), Nasser seems

to have been of the same mind.






31




US Presence

While all this was occurring and impending, what role was being

played by the US presence and interests?

American-Egyptian relations, after a warming interlude under Presi-

dent Kennedy, had steadily deteriorated since 1965. American aid to

the UAR had virtually ceased, and by the onset of 1967 President Nasser

apparently believed that the United States had written off the UAR

in its Arab policies and was determined to undermine his position.

US inattention was aggravating the region's recurring tendency

toward instability and crisis eruption. US aid to the UAR was finally

suspended in February. The next month Ambassador Battle left Cairo.

His replacement did not arrive until the Crisis onset, in late lay.

In the intervening months, an unpleasant incident occurred in the

Yemen, when two Americans were arrested on contrived charges. Secre-

tary of State Rusk was extremely annoyed, and diplomatic relations

with the UAR were nearly broken (130:518-519).

America's Vietnam preoccupation seemingly contributed to deteriora-

tion in the Middle East situation. US diplomat and scholar John Badeau

has described how, since 1963, the war in Vietnam had demanded in-

creasingly more and more of the country's resources and absorbed the

major part of the Administration's attention. Senior policy-makers

were impatient with the problems of other areas; in 1966-67 it was

increasingly difficult to get sustained high-level attention for any

but the most dramatic crises in Arab affairs (8:156). Understandably,

America would not seek, rather would avoid even at considerable cost,

another war on top of Vietnam.






32




Soviet Perspective

In embarking on their May Middle East effort, the Soviet leaders

may well have foreseen an attractively optimistic scenario that went

somewhat as follows. If the successful Soviet role in protecting

Syria in 1955 and 1957 could be repeated, several important Soviet

objectives would be served at once. The USSR would gain credit for

having "saved" Syria by its timely warning; Nasser's militant but

more responsible stance in the Arab-Israeli conflict would be

strengthened over that of the more extreme Syrians; and Israel would

be deterred.

The tangled history of the events leading up to the Six-Day War

includes the extraordinarily solicitous concern of the USSR to deter

Israel from retaliation for border provocations. An important explana-

tion was the Soviet realization that, due to the nature of the topog-

raphy on Israel's northern border, small-scale retaliation against

Syria was out of the question. Any attempt to cope with the en-

trenched Syrian hillside fortifications meant a relatively large-

scale punitive incursion. Its probable success would surely threaten

the survival of their insecure client regime and jeopardize their new

and highly prized stake in Syria. Thus, as analyzed by Robert Scheer,

the USSR was forced to support the Syrians, even though they were

pursuing what the Soviet leaders elsewhere would have rejected as a

policy of adventurism. From past irritation with Nasser's unpredict-

able and independent "nonaligned" style, the USSR seems to have been

attracted by the Syrian trademarks: a doctrinaire party and a revo-

lutionary vocabulary (140:95).






33




Syrian Instability and Irresponsibility

In the immediate prelude to the May crisis, the Syrian responsi-

bility (or, rather, irresponsibility) for the June War developed as

follows. Both the Soviet leaders and Nasser had apparently thought

that the Egypt-Syria treaty would restrain the Syrians, but it had

the opposite effect. Under the umbrella of the treaty, with (as they

thought) the Egyptian Army at their beck and call, the Syrians could

roar and posture in a manner that would otherwise have been too rash

even for them. It was clear by early May that they, not Nasser, had

the initiative.

A revealing, first-person insight into the madness that was

Syria on the verge of crisis is provided by Miles Copeland, a former

CIA agent in the Middle East:

Although I had no contact with the Syrians, Egyptian
friends who met with Syrian leaders during the buildup
period have assured me that the Syrians really wanted
war and that they were confident that they would win
it--with the help of the Egyptians, of course. At the
same time, I disagree with the numerous writers who say
that the Egyptians also estimated themselves strong
enough to defeat the Israelis. Nasser told me himself
of a conversation with Field Marshal Amer, only a week
before the war started, in which he berated Amer for
being "ten years behind the times" and for the Egyptian
Army's not being capable of defeating a lot of Yemeni
hopheads, let alone a modern, well-trained army like
the Israelis'. (30:280-281)

Of his major allies and opponents in the 1967 debacle, Nasser

seemed, afterwards, most bitterly critical of Syria's role in this

prelude to war, according to PLO chief Shuqairy's memoirs. Nasser

told Shuqairy that, while he had publicly declared several times his

full responsibility for the debacle, it was the Ba'ath party of Syria






34




which in fact bore the greatest responsibility. It was they who

poked at the Israeli border settlements, they who utilized the

enthusiasm of the Palestinian youth and encouraged them to carry out

guerrilla activities before Arab military preparations were completed

(72:146).

A mission to Syria at the beginning of May, headed by the commander

of the Egyptian air force, provided more evidence for questioning any

Soviet reliance on Syria as a client-ally.

It was shocked by the state of the Syrian Army, no-
tablyby the low standard of its officers. This was not
surprising, for each of the frequent revolutions had
liquidated an entire level of commanders, dispatching
some to the gallows and others to prison. Indeed,
the corruption that usually attended the revolutions
in Syria was such that when officers of lower rank re-
volted against their superiors--often the ones who had
been the latest to seize power--it was freely remarked
that this was obviously the most effective way to secure
promotion. (125:225)


New Soviet Initiative

There is conflicting evidence as to when the new Soviet initiative

in the Middle East--soon to erupt in crisis and war--was decided and

acted upon.

As early as 20 November 1966, King Hussein of Jordan charged that

there was sufficient evidence of a new Soviet plan for this area,

the result of setbacks the Communists have suffered at several points

around the world, in Asia and Africa" (88:33).

However, as late as 2 February 1967, a dispatch from Beirut re-

ported that the USSR was maintaining the status quo in the Middle East,

and was making a cool response to Syrian requests for a war of






35




liberation. This is consistent with other evidence that the forward,

adventurist Middle East plan was decided on closer to 1 April, or

perhaps even after the 7 April Syria-Israel air battle (163, 3 Feb.

1967:A21).


1 April: Gromyko's Mid-East Visit

In retrospect, the April 1967 sequence of Middle East events

accelerated and intensified the momentum toward the May Crisis and the

June War.

The still mysterious, sudden visit of Soviet Foreign Minister

Andrei Gromyko to Cairo from 29 March to 1 April 1967 invites close

attention for its possible planning relation to the crisis which

developed six weeks later. Gromyko held talks with President Nasser,

Foreign Minister Mahmud Riyad and Presidential Adviser on Foreign

Affairs Mahmud Fawzi. A joint communique issued on 1 April said that

Gromyko's "friendly official visit" had been undertaken at the initia-

tive of the Egyptian government. This visit, which was announced only

two days before it took place and was preceded by a "series of unex-

plained meetings" among top Egyptian military men, was the object of

considerable speculation in the international press. Most observers

believed that, although the joint communique of 1 April made no men-

tion of it, the real purpose of the visit was to hold talks on the

situation in Yemen. According to a Lebanese paper, Gromyko told

Nasser that the USSR would not risk a conflict with the US over Yemen.

When Nasser replied that he could not retreat from Yemen without

causing trouble both there and in Egypt, Gromyko reportedly declared






36




that nothing was impossible in politics. He warned that a continued

Egyptian presence in the Arabian Peninsula would place a great strain

on Egypt, and that the Soviet Union could provide neither the food nor

the money that Egypt needed to wage war in that region (110:22).

The usually well-informed Yugoslav news agency Tanyug had this

to say on the visit: "Official quarters are reticent as seldom before.

The only concrete detail leaked out in the Cairo press is that

Gromyko will also discuss the problems of the UN peacekeeping force

in Gaza." This is the only published evidence that a possible move

of the Egyptian army into Sinai, with its obvious implications regard-

ing the UN force, was discussed by the Russians and the Egyptians as

early as the first week of April 1967 (84:51-52).

The reported Nasser-Gromyko exchange over "the impossible in poli-

tics" warrants special attention. Suppose that the retreat from Yemen

could be portrayed instead as an advance into Sinai, thus serving a

useful purpose for both the USSR and Egypt on both ends of the line!

It is reasonable to conjecture that, because of its timing, the

principals, and surrounding circumstances, Gromyko and Nasser did dis-

cuss, and plan in general terms, the forthcoming Sinai move scenario,

including the problem with the intervening UNEF.

In a 1975 study, Yaacov Ro'i observed that Gromyko was concerned

most of all with the urgency of a total Egyptian evacuation from Yemen.

He concluded that the USSR had apparently worked out an elaborate stra-

tegic plan to enable Egypt to leave Yemen without harming its prestige,

the main facet of which was a demonstration of the need of a large

Egyptian force in the Sinai Peninsula (135:437).






37




The design was indeed brilliant: to extricate Egyptian forces

from Yemen and interject them into Sinai, all the while appearing to

support Syria by threatening Israel! The critical flaw--soon to be

revealed--lay in its inept, ultimately disastrous execution.

Supporting the evidence of important decisions flowing from Gro-

myko's trip, Walter Laqueur's postwar study revealed that soon after

this visit both Nasser and Syria embarked on a more strident anti-West

tone (92:18).


7 April: Air Clash

On 7 April occurred the second--and last--of the major border

clashes, the Israeli-Syrian air battle, that developed into the May

Crisis and the June War. (The first was the es Samu reprisal raid in

November.)

Unlike the usual small-scale border clash, the one on 7 April

rapidly escalated from its initial exchange of small-arms fire to

artillery and tanks. Next Israeli air force fighters intervened, to

be followed by Syrian air force fighters, which proved hopelessly

outclassed. In a few minutes the Israelis shot down six Syrian

MiG-21s with no losses of their own. Some of the Israeli planes then

flew on the fifty-odd miles to Damascus to stage a victory demonstration

over the Syrian capital. The humiliation was a triple one: to the

Syrian air force for its poor showing; to the USSR for its training

and its MiG-21 combat performance; and to Nasser for not intervening

to protect Syria.

Jordan intensified the Arab humiliation and disarray by taunting

Syria with its dismal performance, inviting foreign military attaches






38



to inspect the wreckage of the Syrian planes that had fallen on Jor-

danian territory. Furthermore, a Jordanian spokesman said that an

investigation by Jordanian experts showed that the Syrian planes had

been armed with dummy wooden rockets! The Jordanian newspaper

Al-Quds commented that this was so because the Syrian regime lived in

constant fear of revolution by disaffected elements within its own

armed forces (110:177)!

This time the Arab sense of outrage would not be stilled, and did

not simmer down into smoldering frustration. Outlets and scapegoats

were needed. Al-Quds ran a headline reading, "What steps had Cairo

taken?" In biting words, the editor pointed out that Nasser was willing

to fight Arabs in Yemen but not Zionists in Palestine. Egypt was hiding

behind the glass wall of the UNEF in Sinai, safe from the Israelis

and free to criticize King Hussein's moderation. In November he had

done nothing during the Israeli retaliation raid on es Samu. Now he

had once again done nothing. He remained the leader of the new Arab

world, but Al-Quds implied that such a position entailed responsibili-

ties. Nasser had to put up or shut up, to stop mocking Jordan's

passivity while he maneuvered in safety. At one of his most vulner-

able moments, Nasser was challenged (15:404-405).

Even more than the es Samu raid, this air battle demonstrated

Israel's ability and willingness to react, indeed to overreact, to

provocations of the kind which the Syrians had no intention of dis-

continuing. And like the es Samu raid it showed the disunity that

still obtained among Israel's principal enemies. Both Syria and

Jordan complained loudly of the Egyptian failure to do anything to






39




help them. Considering that Hussein refused to allow Egyptian units

on his territory and that Syria refused Egypt's offer to establish

an air base on her soil, they really had little cause for complaint.

But Nasser could not stand by indefinitely and watch his allies suffer

such humiliating reversals; and more important, neither could the

Russians (67:13-14).


7-25 April: Moscow Hesitates

Considering what the USSR was eventually to make of this engage-

ment ("dangerous Israeli aggression," etc.), it appears remarkable

that there was a considerable delay in registering any Soviet reaction

at all. The battle took place on 7 April. The Soviet denunciation

of Israel appeared on 25 April, after a first, lower-key, oral com-

plaint to Israel's Ambassador in Moscow on 21 April. With Nasser

already twice humiliated for his inaction, surely he made representa-

tions to Moscow, which was at least equally with Nasser anxious for

the survival of its shaky client in Damascus.

That Moscow was still of two minds as to instigating the forth-

coming crisis is apparent from the record of Israel's attempts during

this period to mend relations with the Soviet Union, partly by per-

suading it to restrain Syrian border provocations. Thus, even after

the strong Soviet Note of 21 April there were moderating developments.

Gideon Rafael, newly appointed Permanent Representative of Israel to

the UN, on a stopover in Moscow to acquaint himself with Soviet diplo-

mats, had what he viewed as useful if frank exchanges with both Deputy

Foreign Minister Semyonov on 26 April and Director of the Middle East

Department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry Shchiborin on 27 April.






40



To compound the problem of evaluating late April Soviet policy,

and changes thereto, on 27 April Moscow published its 21 April Note

to Israel, which excluded the harder line of 25 April with its accusa-

tions of troop massings.

All of this evidence appears to add up to a still ambivalent

Soviet policy toward the forthcoming Mid-East events throughout most

of April.


21 April: Coup in Greece

Pro-Nasser writers, for example Anthony Nutting, Maxime Rodinson,

and Jean Lacouture (one British and two French authors), give important

attention to another Mediterranean event on 21 April 1967 as influenc-

ing Nasser's approach to his subsequent moves, namely, the military

coup in Greece.

Nutting, Nasser's biographer, considers that the army coup in

Greece, which installed a right-wing dictatorship, represented yet

another development of the "imperialist" offensive in the Middle East.

In the new American strategy Greece was evidently to join Turkey as

the rear base, while Israel acted as the vanguard in an operation

designed to achieve Washington's long-sought aim of making Syria,

like Jordan, an American satellite, thus isolating Egypt and forcing

the submission of her leaders as well (122:396). French sociologist

Rodinson professes to see the US in the Greek affair closing in on

Nasser like an octopus, requiring an all-out "protective reaction"

(134:185). Lacouture counts the Greek coup as a major motive for

Nasser's May move (89:294-295).






41



24-26 April: Communist Parties' Conference

Certain telltale events point to the key decisions for the new

Soviet forward strategy, with a Middle Eastern focus, being taken

in late April-early May 1967.

A long-planned, and first-ever, conference of European Communist

parties took place at Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, from 24 to 26

April 1967, with Leonid Brezhnev making the keynote speech. Delega-

tions from twenty-five of Europe's thirty-one parties attended.*

Brezhnev's speech reflected the apparent Soviet forward-look decision,

with a focus on a new, harder anti-US line in the Middle East. Per-

haps significantly, hardliner and leadership competitor Alexander

Shelepin was included in the Soviet delegation, although he had no

known competency or Party role in foreign affairs. The conference

itself, after long and persistent planning, was apparently designed

to rally the disarrayed Communist parties around Soviet positions

and to prepare to discipline or isolate the Chinese heresy. In a

wideranging global review and assertion of Soviet positions, with

condemnation of US imperialism--especially in Vietnam--these were

the noteworthy words of challenge to the US in the Middle East:

The time has come for the demand that the US Sixth Fleet be

withdrawn from the Mediterranean to ring out at full strength" (158)

(20:9).

This Brezhnev speech seemed to signal a new, more militant Soviet

policy for both the Middle East and the Far East regions, in the



*Rumania and Yugoslavia were conspicuous among the six absentees.






42




prelude to the May-June crisis. In both the Mediterranean and its

Pacific equivalent, the Sea of Japan, Soviet ships began a policy of

deliberate harassment of US Navy ships, of a type already familiar

in the Baltic and Black Seas, which the Soviet Union had long claimed

were "closed seas" (101:346).


1 May: Nasser's Speech

Just before the onset of the May crisis, in his May Day speech,

Nasser warned Israel, but in a way to indicate that the Sinai move

had not yet been decided on. He felt obligated to defend himself

against the charge that he had betrayed the Palestinian cause. He

explained that his fighter planes did not have the range to reach

the Syrian border. He was willing to send Egyptian planes and pilots

to be stationed in Syria, but the offer had been turned down. There

was no specific promise of aid to the Syrians. His speech, in fact,

tended to overlook the Israeli question (140:96).

It is possible, of course, that this May Day speech was deliber-

ately deceptive, to cover the forthcoming, already agreed-upon crisis

scenario.

Even now, long after the Six-Day War, it is remarkable how

quickly and irreversibly Nasser abandoned his long-standing policies,

and his apparent greater concern for inter-Arab politics than the

problem of Israel. This major May Day speech gave no warning whatsoever

of the momentous crisis that now lay only ten days off.






43




Curtain Rising

Is the explanation for this mystery, then, of Soviet entanglement

with such a weak client as Syria, that perhaps normally cool-headed

and pragmatic Kremlin leaders were ideologically, desperately in need

of some Third World client who would really prove to follow the

socialist path to Communism? If so, such success might atone for

recent, disappointing failures and setbacks throughout the Third World.

But surely there was also the haunting memory of being used and

then discarded in the past by bourgeois nationalists, notably Kemal

Ataturk in Turkey in 1920 and most of all Chiang Kai-shek in China

in 1926 ("national reformists" turned "traitor" in Soviet eyes).

And Syria was such a fragile, unstable, uncontrollable reed to lean

on, and her Marxist, nationalist but non-Communist leadership could

be banked on only by what Soviet leadership is not noted for--a

great deal of naive optimism!

As to Nasser, an assessment that in the forthcoming move he in-

tended to support and hopefully stabilize Syria is hard to accept.

For it implies an attachment for Syria that simply did not exist,

recalling the long 1961-66 period of ruptured relations, and Nasser's

well-documented suspicion of and hostility to Syria's Ba'ath leaders.

Whatever the complex Soviet-Egyptian motivations, Syria left them

no time for more sober reconsideration, as the number of border provo-

cations with Israel escalated. As if impelled by a relentless destiny,

unsobered by the experience of the 7 April air clash, Syria seemed in

the first ten days of May to literally plunge into disaster. David

Kimche and Dan Bawly set the stage for the onrushing crisis.






44




Hardly a day passed without a new incident. .
In the first ten days of May eleven incidents were re-
corded, more than during the whole of the preceding
month. The list was impressive. By 7 May the Egyptians
were virtually certain that there would be some sort of
Israeli retaliation, and urgent talks were held at army
headquarters. They decided to await developments, and
be ready for instant action. (84:87)














CHAPTER III
CRISIS BUILDUP (ONSET):
9 MAY 4 JUNE 1967


Prelude to Egypt's Move (9-13 May)


The following detailed analysis of the Six-Day War will focus on

a day-to-day unfolding of events and their developing sequence, in-

cluding the perceptions and relevant actions of the Soviet Union and

the closely interrelated other significant crisis managers: Egypt,

Israel and the United States. The main advantages of this approach

are the attempt to recreate the environment prevailing at the time the

decisions were made, operating, as a decision-maker must inevitably

do in a crisis, under time pressures, with incomplete or incorrect

information, domestic and international pressures to act or refrain

from acting, and suffering the physical and psychological exhaustion

from subjection to extended, heavy stress (most notably evident in

this case in Israeli Defense Chief Rabin's breakdown on the eve of

the war and Nasser's erratic and confusing press conference comments

on 28 May).

In selecting the somewhat arbitrary date of 9 May as the beginning

of the crisis buildup, it is acknowledged that, if the domestic Syrian

disorders are treated as critical, this would move the date well back

to their origin on 25 April. This date in turn had its Mid-East

environment closely connected to the Syrian-Israeli air battle on

7 April.


45






46




In the other direction, at the beginning of this research a later

date of 14 or 15 May was envisaged for the crisis opening. These

commonly used dates mark Nasser's move of his troops into Sinai, and

reflect his claim that, until the day before, 13 May, he "had no such

plan." This research throws considerable doubt on this assertion as

more than a partial truth. It will be maintained and demonstrated

herein that active Egyptian preparations were underway well before

this; that a Soviet-Egyptian scenario had in all likelihood been

agreed upon beforehand; that only a convenient pretext was awaited;

and that a supposed, somewhat plausible, but highly fictitious Israeli

massing for attack on Syria provided this pretext.

Here, then, from D-minus 27 to the 5 June D-Day is the day-by-day

unfolding of the June War crisis buildup, and the crisis management

associated therewith.


D-Minus 27: Tuesday 9 May

Syrian disorders

The onset of the May crisis, which may not have needed this addi-

tional pretext if the assumption of a preplanned Soviet-Nasser scenario

holds up under analysis, surely got a timely sendoff from the tumul-

tuous events in Syria. Independently of, or in conjunction with, the

increasing likelihood of an Israeli reprisal attack on Syria for her

border provocations, this event may well have stirred Syrian leaders

into panic and the Kremlin into protective reaction.

On 25 April, the Syrian army's newspaper carried a strong atheistic

article ridiculing Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Although the






47




Damascus regime was militaristic and radical, it had until then never

dared attack Islam or offend the religious susceptibilities of its

religious Moslems. The Islamic leaders rose up, called protest meet-

ings, and harangued the worshippers in the mosques, calling for a

firm stand against the "godless Communists." One of the chief "Ulama"

(Islamic theologians) was arrested and his property confiscated. But

this led only to increased rioting against the government and more

violence in the large cities.

The Syrian authorities arrested the article's author, Ibrahim

Khalas, who supposedly admitted that he was persuaded to write his

inflammatory article by unnamed "foreigners," with no country of

origin being identified. The Syrian authorities announced that they

had uncovered a plot "prepared by the intelligence services of the

United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan"--a curious conglomera-

tion!

Although this development may well be labeled, "This is where it

all began," it does appear confusing and melodramatic beyond belief

that one man should have "started it all," the crisis and war. This

was probably simply more inept Syrian bungling and cover-up. But if

there were a plot to stir up Syria, either to bring down the government,

or for the crisis initiation that these disorders eventually served,

an assessment of probable origin may be attempted. Surely Syria,

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia may be eliminated as lacking the motive

or the intelligence capability to concoct such a plan. Of the three

remaining possibilities, all capable of utilizing "departments of

disinformation" for this purpose, the likely order of probable origin






48




is the USSR, Israel and the US. For the USSR, there was a tempting

combination of appearing to "save" Syria without much risk, rescuing

Nasser from Yemen and his doldrums, tying Egypt and Syria closer to-

gether, putting down Israel, and embarrassing the US. Israel had

sufficient motive, but perhaps lacked the will. The US, despite the

convenient "whipping boy" charge by Syria of CIA origin, would appear

to have lacked both the motive and the will, engrossed as it was in

Vietnam, unless the CIA was acting highly independently of White House

guidance.

On 6 May, a general protest strike broke out in Damascus. The

strike spread the following day to most other Syrian cities, espe-

cially to Aleppo, where several thousand arrests were reported. By

this 9 May Syrian-Israeli crisis opening date, the Lebanese newspaper

al Nahar concluded that the current internal Syrian crisis was unprece-

dented since the Ba'ath Party had seized power four years previously

(93:92-93).

The pro-Soviet Syrian government now appeared to be in danger of

collapse. If it were to be brought down by religiously incited mobs,

an anti-Soviet regime would probably take its place. The USSR clearly

had to take action. Moscow's apparent solution was to persuade Nasser

to come to the aid of Damascus (64:35).

A Middle East authority, Theodore Draper, saw the Syrian perspective

at this critical moment as follows. A weak, unpopular regime was re-

sorting to an oft-proven device, a foreign-war scare, to bolster its

shaky power. The strike involved not only most of the middle class

of shopkeepers and artisans, but also the intensely discontented






49



orthodox Sunni Moslem majority, opposing the main leaders of the regime,

who belonged to the minority Alaouite sect. Such a regime would

understandably be vulnerable to Soviet "guidance," and to the tempta-

tion to substitute foreign adventures for domestic popularity and

security (43:57-58).

Syria's governments rose and fell with remarkable frequency,

and if the Israeli threat were invoked in this case to save a totter-

ing regime by diversion, and unification around an external threat,

it would not be the first or last time a government--or its protector--

had resorted to such survival tactics.


Soviet reaction

Laqueur surmises that next the Russians were consulted and that

Moscow may well have counselled a diversion. The Russians could have

been more acutely aware of the dangers facing the Syrian regime than

the Ba'ath leadership itself.

To call in Nasser, just as the recent Syrian-Egyptian defense

treaty envisaged, must have seemed both a promising, and a safe

enough, course (93:94-95).

Unless the above incentive led to sudden policy change in Moscow,

the Soviet use of Syria to set off the Mid-East crisis appears strange.

Mizan's editor David Morison recalled a recent, 19 April, Soviet

criticism of Syria-type regimes as evidence that caution about Syria's

irresponsibility was uppermost in the minds of at least some Soviet

leaders:

In relation to Israel, it may well be that the Soviet
Union was relieved at the thought that the belligerent
ardours of the Syrians might now be cooled by the more






50




circumspect counsels of Cairo. A recent Soviet remark
about the besetting sins of present Arab regimes is
not without relevance: "undue haste, Leftist adven-
turism and excess" is one of them, and "bourgeois in-
fluences on the new society and its resultant petrifi-
cation" the other. Damascus and Cairo, respectively,
would immediately spring to the mind of the informed
Soviet reader. The "bourgeois influences" in Cairo
the Russians might regard with distaste; but the "ad-
venturism" of Damascus may have given ground for more
serious concern. (114:102)

This New Times analysis as to "besetting sins" could in the wake

of the war be considered an accurate forecast of why the Syrian and

Egyptian adventure would come to grief.

In any case, Moscow did decide to move. According to Eric Rouleau,

a French, pro-Nasser Middle East expert, on 8 May Syrian intelligence

reported to Nasser personally that Israel was about to launch a large-

scale military operation aimed at toppling the Ba'ath regime. Nasser

responded by seeking Moscow's view on this report. According to

Rouleau, Nasser was moved to action when "the Soviet information ser-

vices confirmed that indeed Israel intends to attack Syria" (19:321).

Yet with all Moscow's "intelligence" findings and subsequent

Egyptian reactions thereto, its own attitude toward supposed Israeli

troop massings opposite Syria was curiously ambivalent. That they were

not taken overseriously in Moscow is indicated by the fact that not

until 16 May did Pravda mention them, although Nasser by then had

already made his Sinai war move. And Moscow's declaration on the

crisis on 23 May alluded only very discreetly to the troop concentra-

tions (151:534).

It seems apparent that the USSR chose the threat of the "phantom

Israeli brigades" over and over again as a more useful propaganda






51




device for its purposes than the less tangible and not easily identifi-

able threat from the actual methods Israel consistently used to mount

reprisals.

An unnamed reporter for the leftist French journal, Le Nouvel

Observateur, interviewed a high Soviet official in Moscow in the wake

of the June War. The contents, under the title, "Why Moscow let Nasser

down," are most interesting and will be quoted several times hereafter.

They must be treated with caution, however, for several reasons:

the anonymity of both the source and the reporter; the rare, and hence

suspicious, openness for a high Soviet official; the similarity to

two other sympathetic-to-USSR Westerners' interviews (Rouleau and

Werth) about this time, also with a "high Soviet official"; and the

likelihood that the information may have been inspired because it

supports Moscow's felt need to explain away its apparent cowardly

abandonment of its clients.

This Soviet official's explanation for the first, joint Soviet-

Nasser move at the crisis onset went as follows. Soviet intelligence

was disturbed to learn that Israel planned to make a raid into Syria,

destroy the Palestine commandos, and then push on to Damascus to over-

throw the Syrian regime. Hence the USSR approved of Nasser's forth-

coming deterrent move to mass his troops opposite Israel's Sinai

border (128:17-18).


Egyptian reaction

There is both suspicion and much evidence that Nasser's claim,

to have made his whole Sinai move based on intelligence received a day






52




or two earlier, namely, on 13 May, is not correct, that preparations

were made earlier. For example, after the Egyptian move into Sinai

on 15 May, news agencies reported from Cairo that foreign observers

had concluded from the smooth transfer of units through Cairo to Sinai

that it must have been prepared some time earlier.

The following Egyptian reports seem also to support serious early

intentions with respect to the Sinai move. On 8 May General Fawzi,

Chief of Staff of the UAR army, visited the troops stationed in Sinai.

On 10 May, General Murthagi, Commander of the UAR Land Forces, reviewed

UAR troop maneuvers in Sinai. Special meetings of the top military

commanders at GHQ, headed by Field Marshal Amer, were reported on 4,

7, 10 and 11 May (110:184).

If doubt is thrown on Nasser's claim to have had no plan prior

to 13 May, then, by implication, this adds strength to the theory of

an advance conspiracy among the USSR, Egypt and Syria to trigger off

their concoction at an opportune time.

Israeli denials

Knowledgeable observers have always scoffed at the content of

the charges of huge Israeli troop concentrations opposite the Syrian

border. Israel's Prime Minister Levi Eshkol's biographer, Terence

C. F. Prittie, dismisses these charges with the scornful remark that

the thought of such concentrations which were invisible to the Syrian

observation posts would be patently absurd. There was not enough

cover in the whole area to hide a couple of brigades, let alone 11

to 13 (129:249).






53



Even more significant is the substance of this postwar denial,

under a global spotlight, from Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban's

speech at the UN Special Assembly on 19 June 1967:

By May 9, the Secretary-General of the United
Nations from his own sources on the ground had ascer-
tained that no Israeli troop concentration existed.
This fact had been directly communicated to the Syrian
and Egyptian Governments. The excuse had been shat-
tered, but the allegations still remained .
(46:214)

It is surprising that so little reference is made to this event

in the literature on the onset of the crisis. For its very early

date--in contrast, for example, to U Thant's report of these findings

only a strangely delayed ten days later, on 19 May--seems to demolish

most of the voluminous explanations for the Soviet-Nasser moves on or

about 14 May. Furthermore, the reliability of this statement would

seem to be very high, since it was made by the Israeli Foreign Min-

ister under circumstances of worldwide attention to these UN proceed-

ings; and his references to U Thant and the Syrian and Egyptian govern-

ments seemingly would require their immediate refutation if they disagreed.

In its major 23 May statement on the Middle East situation, the

USSR went back to this 9 May date for an event it claimed to see as

important in triggering the crisis:

The Defense and Foreign Policy Commission of the
Knesset (Parliament) on 9 May granted the Government
powers to carry out military operations against Syria.
Israeli troops deployed on the Syrian borders were
alerted. Mobilization was proclaimed in the country.
(94:241-242)

No other substantiation of this supposed authorization for attack

on Syria has been noted. But the charge was repeated by Soviet Premier






54




Aleksei Kosygin in his postwar (19 June) speech to the UNGA Emergency

Special Session.

In any case, given Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol's known personal

caution--as well as the earlier adverse world reaction to the November

1966 es Samu reprisal raid--authorization would not of itself inevit-

ably mean action, or dictate what type or degree. And the Soviet

running together of the 9 May authorization with a mobilization that

followed Nasser's Sinai move a week later is deliberately misleading,

and constitutes a weak case.


Alternative pro-Arab views

Nutting, Nasser's biographer, professes to see a deep Israeli

plot--rather than a Soviet-Syrian-Egyptian one--in the onset of the

May crisis. He argues that the Israeli hawks, due to a combination

of factors, including an economic slump, had overridden Eshkol's normal

caution and were determined to "bring Nasser to battle," out from

behind his UNEF protection. In this scenario, the depth and duration

of their strike into Syrian territory would depend on how long it

took to produce the required Egyptian reaction. To this end, they

would have deliberately set out to persuade the Russians, and hence

the Egyptians, that a major assault on Syria was imminent. By a clever

combination of calculated leakage, for the benefit of the Soviet

Embassy in Tel Aviv, and fictitious radio messages which they rightly

assumed would be picked up and relayed to Cairo by Russian ships

patrolling in the eastern Mediterranean, they made sure that Nasser

would be immediately informed that his Syrian ally was about to be

invaded (122:397-398).






55




While all this is conceivable, it seems highly implausible in being

so far removed from the findings of so many other accounts, including

pro-Arab ones. For one thing, it would take remarkably clever play-

acting to simulate the evidence of surprise, dismay and confusion that

were so apparent in Israeli domestic politics as Nasser made his UNEF

and Aqaba moves.

It should also be noted that, whereas this type charge might appeal

to the Arabs, the USSR would hardly relish it in such form, for it

implies foolish gullibility on the part of Soviet intelligence.

Rodinson makes a comparably complex, ultra-Machiavellian case--

but also a conceivable one--that behind the Soviet-Syrian-Egyptian

plot was an even deeper Israeli one, to lead their enemies into a trap.

Citing an anonymous source, a French general who appeared to have pri-

vate sources of information, he suggests that Israel deliberately

planted false information by means of radio messages exchanged by a

fictitious operational network, and intercepted by Soviet ships patrol-

ling in the Mediterranean and by Syrian and Egyptian listening posts.

He views with suspicion as naivety the supposed purely defensive jus-

tification for this Israeli action, to frighten the Syrians, and by

this means cut off support for the Palestinian commando raids once and

for all.

Rodinson then falls back on a subsidiary hypothesis: that the

situation was stirred up by the Israeli activist clique as part of a

maneuver to provoke an Arab reaction which would force Israel to assume

an "energetic" policy and bring them back into power (134:188).






56




D-Minus 26: Wednesday 10 May

Nasser's intelligence reception, interpretation, reaction

Pro-Nasser spokesmen give this date as the one in which he received,

and began to react to, the Soviet warning that Israel had timed a swift

strike at the Syrian regime for the end of May, "in order to crush it

and then carry the fighting over into the territory of the UAR." Presi-

dent Nasser apparently believed--and subsequent timing of his moves

gives some support to such a belief--that the Israeli attack would take

place within the next few days, on or about 17 May (143:23).

The discrepancy between "the end of May" and "17 May" may be ac-

counted for by another report that had the Israeli armed forces

authorized to conduct their strike in the ten-day period beginning

17 May (145, 12 September 1967:6).


U.S. Navy ships harassed

Another bit of evidence indicates that the onset of the Middle

East crisis, on or about this date, was part of a Soviet-directed

global and regional scenario. For there was a sudden rash of extremely

provocative acts of harassment of US Navy ships in both the Mediterranean

and the western Pacific. On 10 and 11 May two different Soviet de-

stroyers tried so hard to interfere with joint US-Japanese antisub-

marine exercises in the Sea of Japan, within two hundred miles of the

Soviet coast and the main Pacific Fleet naval base of Vladivostok,

that they caused minor collisions with the destroyer USS Walker. The

New York Times attributed to US officials concern centering largely on

the possible Soviet political motives, which remained unclear. They






57




tended to doubt that the incidents reflected a Soviet political strategy

to increase East-West tension as a way to counter the widening American

involvement in Vietnam (63:93-94). However, initial Soviet commentary

complained of US flights over ships "sailing to countries which are in

great need of aid in the struggle against US aggression" and that

Seventh Fleet ships were "systematically shelling the DRV [Democratic

Republic of Vietnam]" (68:27).

The deliberate character of this wave of harassment is further

testified to by a closely related Soviet interview with Fleet Admiral

Gorshkov, published on 18 May in the Soviet press (31, No. 20:18-19).

Of particular interest in this interview is the aggrieved, truculent

tone and wording of the Admiral, consistent with the supposition--

expressed in the opening global setting of this paper--that the Soviet

leaders were embarking on a new, defensively motivated, aggressive

stance.


D-Minus 25: Thursday 11 May

The Israeli-Egyptian-Syrian-Soviet entanglement

At a time when Israel was interested in deterring Syria's provoca-

tions, and seemingly had no awareness of the storm brewing for her in

the next few days, she took a succession of steps, in part related to

her approaching 15 May Independence Day, that would unwittingly lend

support to the concerted charges about to spill forth from Syria, the

USSR and Egypt.

On 11 May the Syrian government stepped up its propaganda campaign

and this time explicitly accused Israel of preparing to attack Syria.






58




The Syrians were aided by Israel, which on this same day sent a memo-

randum to the UN Security Council, saying that Syria was launching

armed attacks on Israel and that Israel might be forced to respond.

Also on this same day, Prime Minister Eshkol told a Mapai Party meeting

that because of Syrian support of the fedayeen, it might be necessary

"to take action not less drastic than on 7 April" (34:210).

Israel's need to overstate her warnings, in order to deter Syria,

and the leaders' political need to make domestically flavorful, patri-

otic statements marking the approaching Independence Day, had an unfor-

tunate cumulative effect of

1. perhaps alarming the Syrians, Egyptians and Russians if they

really did suspect and fear an Israeli attack on Syria; and/or

2. providing a considerable and useful anti-Israeli propaganda

base if they were merely setting the stage for the forthcoming

Egyptian Sinai move.

Premier Eshkol in his speech on this date solemnly warned Syria

that unless it ceased its acts of aggression the Israeli army would

strike back hard, in a manner, place and time of its own choosing. His

speech in toto was much less aggressive than might appear from the

excerpts published in the press the following morning. Following the

speech, one of the Premier's aides handed out extracts to the press,

choosing the most aggressive parts of the speech. Later that night he

realized that his choice might have an untoward effect and phoned the

various night editors to soften the tone. All complied, except one,

who for technical reasons did not get the message. It was this paper's

report which the news agencies picked up and dispatched to the world,






59




causing widespread alarm and adverse reactions at the UN and in Washing-

ton, in addition to its effects on Israel's adversaries.

According to Kimche/Bawly, this Israeli warning came hot on the

heels of two urgent Soviet messages warning of imminent Israeli attack.

The second was most specific, pinpointing the Israeli attack to the

hour of 0400 on 17 May (84:88-89).

It is, of course, possible that the Soviet leaders too may have

been trying to curb the reckless Syrian terror attacks with these

warnings. But it appears far more likely that they were primarily

trying to deter Israel and get Nasser to move at this stage, and to

"save" rather than deter the uncontrollable Syrians. The selection of

such a precise, near-at-hand time and date for the Israeli attack,

whether manufactured by the KGB's notorious "department of disinforma-

tion," or based on an exposed Israeli plan or contingency plan, cer-

tainly could be expected to persuade Nasser that he had to act at

once, without time for reflection or, perhaps, adequate verification.

This time and date, early 17 May, should be kept in mind in what

was to prove to be frantic Egyptian army activity, in relation to

UNEF, in the late evening of 16 May.

Ro'i's documentary study includes an analysis of the strange role

of the Egyptian parliamentary delegation in Moscow (headed by Anwar

Sadat) as a supposed messenger to Nasser of Soviet intelligence warn-

ings. Ro'i states that at a farewell reception on 11 May Presidium

Chairman Podgorny told this delegation that Israeli troops were being

concentrated on the border for an attack on Syria (135:437). This is

the only known instance in which the intelligence source, time and

setting are so pinpointed.






60




This casual, unhurried approach and rather careless manner for

transmitting such supposedly vital intelligence adds considerable

support for the suspicion that this was merely a prearranged signal

for Nasser to make his Sinai move.

It should be noted that at least this account is more credible

than that of Heikal, who would have us believe that Sadat was informed

by Kosygin in Moscow on 29 April of the Israeli troop massing, that he

sat on this vital intelligence until reporting back to Nasser on his

return to Cairo fifteen days later, and that Nasser was so alarmed he

moved his troops into Sinai the very next day (61:240)! This is not

only theatrics, it is children's theatrics!


Israel warns Syria via UN, foreign attaches, US

In addition to the UN action referred to above, Israel on this

date used two other media to relay her warnings of dwindling patience

with Syrian border provocations.

A briefing was given to foreign military attaches in terms which

they understood to augur a major assault in the coming days. But

again, Israel may well have been trying to deter, not attack, Syria;

in a highly security-conscious nation, a foreign military attach6

audience suggests a calculated leak rather than a shared secret!

The other route involved consultation with the less than attentive

US. Israeli Ambassador to the US, A. Harman, met with the Assistant

Secretary of State for the Middle East, Lucius Battle (until very

recently Ambassador to Cairo), and stressed that Israel could not

allow her current situation to continue (19:360).






61




Perhaps in response to Israel's complaint-warning to the UN, U

Thant on this same date made a rare and critical, though restrained,

public comment on Arab border provocations (110:180). This was a

distressing development from the Arab perspective, highly inconsistent

with their self-image and the developing scenario. Hence it would

quickly produce an aggrieved complaint from Syria.

D-Minus 24: Friday 12 May

The presumed opening of the June War crisis, on or about this date,

has been the subject of fascinated inquiry by many, many journalists,

historians, diplomats, and scholars. It does not merit such exhaustive

treatment if the conclusion of this paper is accepted, that the basic

scenario was agreed upon in advance by Nasser and Soviet leaders, and

only a suitable pretext awaited. Nevertheless, as a lesson in the

techniques of crisis management--and mismanagement--in both the Soviet

and Arab cases, and in Israel's as well, the details are instructive,

as is the rapid development of serious cross-purposes between Soviet

patron and Egyptian client.


Nasser/Kosygin on crisis opener

After the Egyptian defeat, Nasser twice referred to the warnings

provided to the Sadat delegation in Moscow by high-level Soviet leaders.

He gave two versions of what was said. He presented the following ver-

sion in his resignation speech on the night of 9 June:

We all know how the crisis began in the first half of
May. The enemy was devising a plan to invade Syria, and
the statements by his politicians and his military com-
manders declared that frankly. The evidence was ample.






62




The sources of our Syrian brothers and our own reliable
information were categorical on this. Even our friends
in the Soviet Union informed the parliamentary delegation
which was visiting Moscow early last month that Israel
had a calculated intention against Syria. We deemed it
our duty not to remain with hands folded. It was a duty
of Arab solidarity, and also a guarantee for our
national security. (24:200-201)

Egyptian government sources later revealed that the Soviet friend

who transmitted this warning was Kosygin.

On 23 July 1967, the fifteenth anniversary of the Egyptian Revolu-

tion, Nasser returned to the subject of his Soviet information. To

his earlier speech he added that Syria had reported a mobilization

of eighteen Israeli brigades on her border, and that Egypt's investiga-

tion confirmed "no less than thirteen" such brigades (24:200-201).

On 19 June Kosygin repeated to the UN General Assembly what he

had told the Egyptian parliamentarians in Moscow:

In those days, the Soviet Government, and I believe others,
too, began receiving information to the effect that the
Israeli Government had timed for the end of May a swift
strike at Syria in order to crush it and then carry the
fighting over into the territory of the United Arab
Republic. (24:201-202)

It has been suggested in some quarters that the USSR may have

gained access to an Israeli contingency plan and, mistakenly or delib-

erately, treated it as a scheduled operational plan. But for such sup-

posed "hard intelligence" all the details included in the various

charges are so vague and contradictory: dates vary from 17 May to

Kosygin's "end of May"; Syria alone is the target in most charges,

but Kosygin made Egypt the second step; the "phantom brigades" are

always dramatically (and unrealistically) massing, the number varying;

Nasser even "confirms" Syria's eighteen-brigade figure as "no less than

13."






63




Role of garbled UPI dispatch

A garbled UPI dispatch, in reporting the most aggressive version of

Eshkol's 11 May speech, was leaned on heavily in subsequent Arab charges

as to an Israeli attack threat (110:187).

While with volatile Arab politics anything is apparently possible--

including the seemingly irresponsible act of taking major war-provoking

steps on the basis of an unverified press report--a more likely explana-

tion is that the Syrian-Egyptian-Soviet combination was alert for and

seized on a pretext for the scenario unrolling.

The UPI dispatch was datelined Jerusalem, 12 May, and reported

that "a highly placed Israeli source said here today that if Syria

continued the campaign of sabotage in Israel it would immediately

provoke military action aimed at overthrowing the Syrian regime."

The dispatch added that Israeli action would fall short of all-out

hostilities, and that Israel was ready to risk possible Egyptian

intervention, although Cairo was too deeply committed elsewhere to

take on additional obligations.

The impact of this dispatch was sufficient to cause U Thant seri-

ous concern at the UN. The Paris press and the New York Times reported

it at length (93:89).

Had Israel been at all aware of the scenario about to be launched,

she might have been disposed not to make what she had intended as a

strong deterrent to Syrian provocations, but which proved--largely

because of its off-the-record and garbled dissemination--to be

treated by the Arabs and the USSR in conjunction as an aggression/

invasion threat.






64




Eshkol's 11 May speech and its garbled version were only part of

the problem of Israeli utterances on this eve of crisis. As the anni-

versary of Israeli independence approached, almost all members of the

Cabinet were making speeches and giving interviews. With the wisdom

of hindsight, Eban, in an interview in 1968, remarked drily and some-

what ruefully that

There were some who thought that these warnings may
have been too frequent and too little coordinated. .
If there had been a little more silence the sum of human
wisdom would have remained substantially undiminished.
(19:359)


Nasser's pride pricked

The Israeli briefing officer's analysis of Egypt's handicapped

status may have helped trigger Nasser's move, because of the affront

it contained to his sensitive pride. The "high Israeli source" cited

in the 12 May dispatch repeatedly described the United Arab Republic

(UAR) as too weak to help Syria, particularly because her forces were

tied down in Yemen, and as not sufficiently "ready to create a casus

belli." The briefing officer, therefore, expected Egyptian leaders to

try to restrain the Syrians. For Nasser these statements could have

meant not only a blow to his prestige but also a warning that his posi-

tion in the area and his power of deterrence were rapidly declining.

Therefore, he might have felt compelled to act in a way exactly the

opposite of what had been expected of him; namely, to order a demon-

stration of force (110:192).

This incident demonstrates one of the niceties of effective crisis

management: in an attempt to deter with strength and will, one must






65




not produce a degree of humiliation in the opponent such as to stimu-

late an emotional, strike-back, "spasm" response. This insult to

Nasser is one example. Another had Khrushchev, in embarking on his

Cuban missile crisis gamble, responding like a cornered bear to the

Kennedy Administration's boasting of its missile superiority and the

political rewards it expected to reap therefrom (118:264).

On the 22 May occasion of his announcement of the Aqaba blockade,

Nasser, in an exultant "I showed them" mood, also revealed his anger

and hurt pride at Israel. Referring to the 12 May Israeli statement,

he bridled, "Anyone who reads this statement must agree that these

people are so boastful and arrogant that it is impossible to remain

silent." He scorned commentators for saying that Israel considered

Egypt could not make a move because of being tied up in Yemen (75:538).


Flaws in Arab case

Among a variety of critics, Burdett's assessment of all this

Israeli verbal activity--with no border moves in substantiation--is

that "it won't wash" as an excuse for Nasser's Sinai move. Neither

the menacing speeches nor the menacing troops bear up under investiga-

tion. Not only UN observers but American military representatives from

the Embassy in Tel Aviv inspected the border areas and returned with

negative reports. There was clearly a danger, however--if border

raids persisted--of a punitive hit-and-run raid in some strength

against some designated Syrian target, but not a threat to Damascus

(24:209-211).

Charles W. Yost also has provided an assessment, judiciously bal-

anced, of responsibility for the crisis initiation. He adds the






66




interesting possibility that Israel may even have been attempting to

warn and deter Syria by using Moscow as an intermediary! Eastern

European sources accordingly defended the Soviet warnings to Syria

and Egypt on the grounds that Israel was advising Soviet representa-

tives--as well as saying publicly--that, if the El Fatah terror raids

continued, she would take drastic punitive measures against Syria

(174:310,308).


Israel invites border inspection

On this date Israel made one of three reported prewar attempts to

blunt the troop massing charges by inviting Soviet representatives to

inspect her borders. Following a prolonged cold blast of polemical

allegations in Pravda, Arye Levavi, The Director General of the Israeli

Foreign Ministry, received Chuvakhin on this date. The latter pro-

ceeded to accuse Israel of massing an invasion force opposite the

Syrian border. Levavi renewed Eshkol's offer of the previous autumn

and proposed that the Ambassador visit the area to see for himself.

Chuvakhin, again adhering to the information he had received from

Moscow, declined the invitation (24:211).


President Johnson intervenes

President Johnson in his 1971 memoirs reported that the US took

early but unsuccessful action to try to squelch the lurid reports of

Israeli troopsmassing on Syria's borders, and get at the Soviet insti-

gation behind such reports. After investigating and finding these

reports to be untrue, Johnson said the US so informed the Russians

and the nations bordering Israel. The State Department also took up






67




with the Soviet Embassy in Washington reports that "Moscow had prom-

ised unlimited support to the Syrians." The Russians denied all knowl-

edge of any such promise and stated that Soviet policy was to keep

the Middle East "calm" (78:289).

Any such Soviet "promise of unlimited support to the Syrians"

would be a matter for considerable concern in Washington and Tel Aviv;

also, from past experience with Syrian temperament and performance,

it should have been cause for serious reservations in Moscow and Cairo

as well.


D-Minus 23: Saturday 13 May

Syria plunges on

Syria, now feeling protected by both Egypt and the USSR, and in

any case uncontrollable under its radical Ba'ath leadership, showed

no signs of abating its provocation of Israel. On 13 May, the Syrian

Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that it had summoned the

representatives of the Security Council member states and explained to

them "the plot which is being concocted by Imperialist and Zionist

quarters against Syria and the prearranged role which Israel is

preparing to carry out within the framework of this plot." The Syrian

UN delegate, G. Tu'ma, met with Secretary-General U Thant and discussed

the latter's statement of 11 May, which Tu'ma claimed had encouraged

Israel to continue with her threats against Syria. Tu'ma later stated

that Israel's open threats to go to war against Syria were creating a

very dangerous situation.






68




Egyptian newspapers gave prominence to the Syrian reactions and

Egyptian comment took up the Syrian arguments (110:180).

Although the picture is not entirely clear, the first Egyptian

"intelligence" as to an Israeli plan to attack Syria on 17 May seems

to have come from Syria on this date, though the original source is

widely suspected to have been Moscow. President Nasser, in his speech

of 22 May, also said that the date of the Syrian message was 13 May.

A thorough analysis of related events, and their timing, leads to

a strong suspicion that Syria knew it was calling for Egyptian help

based on a manufactured threat. The Syrians should have known from

the UN and other sources, it is argued, that there were no Israeli

troop concentrations. Furthermore, they had begun to alarm the UAR

and the Arab world with the Israeli threat a day or more before they

received reports of the Israeli statements that were later cited as

the justification for alarm. Accordingly, rather than responding to

genuine fears, the Damascus regime employed allegations of an impend-

ing attack from Israel as a conscious instrument of policy (110:188).


Nasser immediately responds

In Nasser's long and aggressive, advanced air base speech of 22

May, announcing the Strait of Tiran blockade,he pinpointed this date

as the one on which he received intelligence on Israel's plans that

prompted him to move.

On 13 May we received definite information to the effect
that Israel was concentrating huge armed forces of about
11 to 13 brigades on the Syrian frontier. .. We also
learned that the Israeli decision taken at this time was
to carry out an attack on Syria starting on 17 May. .
(75:539)






69



For a man so distrustful of Syrian attempts to manipulate him, this

prompt Nasser response, in a way that was soon to be his undoing, sug-

gests that this was the signal or pretext he was awaiting. His indig-

nant reaction to Syria's "intelligence" about Israeli troop massing on

her borders would appear more bona fide if there were not so much evi-

dence over the years, including quite recently, of Nasser's suspicion,

even hostility, toward such crude Syrian attempts to embroil him with

Israel, and, of course, in the process "pull their chestnuts out of the

fire."

Credibility of this supposed "intelligence" is very weak. The

weight of evidence strongly points to a scenario for which the players

had inadequately rehearsed their lines.


Israeli actions/motives analyzed

The evidence for a concentration of the kind described by Nasser

is so tenuous as to be entirely unconvincing. But in discounting it

two other hypotheses cannot be entirely excluded: first, that an

attack of some sort was intended; and, second, that the Israeli govern-

ment, for the deterrent reasons discussed above, wished such an inten-

tion to be generally believed at home and abroad, and encouraged rumors

accordingly (67:16).

It is instructive to contemplate this picture of both Israel and

the USSR becoming trapped in a complex pair of "plots": the USSR pre-

tending it had uncovered intelligence of an Israeli massing for an

attack, in order to move Nasser and deter Israel; while Israel may have

told the USSR it would have to attack, in order to move the USSR to

restrain Syria's border raids!






70



On a subsequent occasion (22 May), a Soviet official in Moscow

did seem to acknowledge, in response to protests from the Israeli

Ambassador, that the repeated charge of Israeli troop massings on

Syrian borders was a convenient, useful and dramatic equivalent of

the known or suspected Israeli attack plans, which were less tangible

and useful for propaganda and alert purposes (32:213). This may have

seemed to the Soviet leaders to be an acceptable, even noncontroversial

political-military device to employ, but they seemed to overlook its

serious drawbacks. Such massing of troops could be easily disproved

and was patently absurd to the well-informed. Hence this Soviet-

Egyptian-Syrian device ended up producing confusion even on their own

side and enough resulting suspicion about their entire position as

to devalue the very probably real threat of an impending Israeli re-

prisal attack in some strength.

Because of this weakness of the Soviet-inspired scenario, Israeli

Foreign Minister Eban could be rhetorically triumphant and eloquent

in his speech at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on

19 June. He denounced the troop concentration alarms as "a monstrous

fiction" and reminded the members how neither Syria nor the USSR had

accepted repeated offers by both UN authorities and Israel herself for

reciprocal inspections of the Israel-Syria frontier (93:425).


Adverse reactions to Israeli threats

Partly in response to the garbled UPI dispatch of 12 May, and also

to the cumulative effect of the various, uncoordinated Israeli speeches

threatening Syria with retaliation, a reaction set in at the UN, in






71



Washington and elsewhere. The New York Times described the statements

reportedly made by Israel as "stronger than those usually heard in

responsible quarters." Le Monde reported from Jerusalem that tension

was increasing in the area and that an Israeli raid across the Syrian

border was believed to be only a matter of time. Washington officials

expressed concern to Israeli representatives and called on Israel to

exercise restraint (110:188).

U Thant's office tried to restrain Israel and mollify Arab, espe-

cially Syrian, sensitivity to U Thant's 11 May caution about Arab

border provocations. On 13 May a UN spokesman said in reply to a

question that U Thant's 11 May statement could not be interpreted as

condoning the resort to force by any party. The spokesman also said

that the Secretary-General was repeating his appeal to all sides to

honor the armistice agreements (110:180).


Nasser's eve-of-crisis mood

Robert Stephens, in his well-informed and respected biography,

Nasser, finds significant a statement by the Egyptian leader on this

eve of his so-unexpected move into Sinai to support threatened Syria.

Something of the tortured state of Nasser's mind at this vital junc-

ture may be gauged from a message he sent to a Palestine Day rally of

Arab students in Britain on 14 May. In it he repeated more clearly than

ever before his theme that the "Arab Revolution" was faced by a coor-

dinated conspiracy in which "imperialism," meaning the US and Britain,

was acting together with both Israel and "Arab reaction." He alleged

that there was a "coordination between Israel and the Jordanian






72




government in their pressure on Syria and in trying to involve Arab

forces in premature battle." This conspiracy was not confined to the

Arab world but was part of a counterrevolution, led by the United

States, "against aspirations for freedom, progress and prosperity

in our nation and in the entire Third World." The question, said

Nasser, "is no longer one of Palestine alone but of the entire Arab

destiny. It is a question of confronting all our enemies at once."

It was against such a melodramatic, almost paranoid picture of

the world that Nasser judged what seemed to be a new and serious threat

by Israel to Syria. For him what was at stake was not merely the fate

of this particular Ba'athist regime in Damascus, which he had no

special reason to love, nor even only the immediate military security

of Egypt. It was rather the morale of the whole Arab revolutionary,

nationalist movement that he had come to symbolize, the readiness of

the Arabs to assume mastery of their own fate and to stand up to

pressure from the Great Powers. He saw a military humiliation of

Syria by Israel as a victory not just for Israel but also for the

United States in its supposed design to isolate the UAR, the main

powerhouse of Arab nationalism (149:470-471).


Egypt's Sinai Move;
UNEF Withdrawal (14-18 May)

D-Minus 22: Sunday 14 May

Israel's perspective

All the various Israeli pronouncements in the week from 7 to 14

May at best provided the Soviet-Arab cause a stronger-than-otherwise






73




pretext for launching its planned crisis scenario, and at worst may

possibly have persuaded Nasser and Syria (although most certainly not

the USSR) that a major Israeli assault on Syria was planned (110:179).

In Israel's defense, no evidence of such a planned assault, par-

ticularly of a scope to penetrate to and threaten Damascus, has ever

been revealed. The more likely explanation has considerable evidence

to support it: a mixture of a felt need--for domestic as much as

international purposes--to deter the increasing Syrian terror attacks,

and as part of the customary Independence Day speechmaking. The

speeches by various Israeli leaders were largely uncoordinated, and

the possibility of misreading them not assessed in time.


Soviet perspective

A. L. Horelick's excellent, summary analysis of the Soviet connec-

tion to Nasser's move on this date reasons as follows. Whether or not

Moscow specifically recommended Nasser's initial move, the conspicuous

dispatch of Egyptian infantry and armor into Sinai, beginning this date,

met with prompt Soviet approval as an appropriate tactical measure and

a healthy symbol of radical Arab solidarity. Soviet behavior during

the preceding weeks had clearly been designed to encourage Nasser to

make some kind of deterrent move that would draw Israeli pressure from

Syria, preventing possible Israeli military action which, even if

limited in scope, might have had disastrous political consequences for

the Syrian regime and embarrassed its Soviet patron. With Egyptian

forces poised on Israel's border, it would be hard for Nasser not to

come to the assistance of the Syrians. The Israelis would know this






74




too, and would therefore be deterred from striking. During the first

few days after Egyptian forces began moving across the Canal into the

desert, both Nasser and the Soviet leaders may have looked forward to

sharing the credit for a relatively cheap political victory over Israel

and the Western sponsors of the "plot" against Syria (13:48).


Egypt moves

The outburst of Egyptian crisis onset activity--the scope of which

proved finally to be irreversible without war--came on this date.

Radio Cairo, referring to recent warnings directed at Syria by

Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol and Foreign Minister Eban, and to reports

of Israeli troop concentrations on the Syrian border, declared that if

Israel dared to commit aggression she would face not Syria alone but

both signatories of the UAR-Syria Joint Defense Pact. The station

reported that several important meetings of the military high command,

presided over by Field Marshal Amer, took place on 14 May to discuss

the arrangements required to put the Joint Defense Pact into effect.

General Fawzi, Chief of Staff of the UAR army, flew to Damascus on 14

May to coordinate Syrian and UAR actions. Upon his arrival in Damascus,

he met with Syrian Defense Minister Assad and the Syrian Chief of Staff,

General Suwaydani (110:185-186).

According to Nasser's blockade speech of 22 May, he made his Sinai

move on this day, from which all else in the ensuing crisis and war

flowed. He justified his move on intelligence ("definite information")

received the day before, on 13 May.






75




There is some evidence, from Egyptian War Minister Badran's post-

war trial, that Nasser had indeed doubted the Syrian and Soviet infor-

mation on Israeli troop concentrations, and that a very short time

after UAR troop movements began he knew for certain that it was false.

One of the tasks of General Fawzi's visit to Damascus was to find out

whether the Israeli concentrations existed. Fawzi returned with the

report that they did not, and that the Soviet leaders "must have been

having hallucinations" (110:191).

Nevertheless, Nasser may still have been influenced by the Soviet

warnings. He may have interpreted them as an expression of Soviet

backing for a move that he wished to make to serve his own broader

purposes, especially to revive his declining prestige in the Arab

world (13:47-48).

Egypt's abrupt move this date not only accents the doubt that

Nasser should suddenly believe what he had not believed for a year,

but also reflects a holiday, nonserious air to the affair.*


D-Minus 21: Monday 15 May

Nasser moves his armor

On this day the Egyptian Army began to move, in an obvious and

spectacular fashion. Convoys, converging on Cairo from camps farther

south, passed through the city for hours, causing major traffic



*This could well have been the mood with which it began; there
had been a similar but temporary Sinai demonstration in support of
Syria in February 1960 which had faded away shortly.






76




dislocation on their way, and headed out in the direction of Alexandria

and Ismailia. Crowds cheered the passing troops. Cairo was executing

what it later called "Operation Dissuasion." Thus began the buildup in

Sinai, where Egyptian strength had been drained by the Yemen war to

a low of 30,000 men (67:16; 15:407). Foreign reporters estimated

that the equivalent of one division, consisting mostly of armor, was

moved to Sinai. At the same time MiG fighter planes landed at Sinai air

bases. Field Marshal Amer and commanders of the Forward HQ of the

Air Force held a meeting in Sinai while the former maintained uninter-

rupted contact with General Fawzi in Damascus. UAR forces were

ordered to reach the stage of full alert at 6 a.m. on 16 May.

Nasser's rapid and showy--even cocksure--deployment of his army

(perhaps mocking Israel's nineteenth anniversary parade in Jerusalem

the same day?), later turning to deadly seriousness, is dramatically

portrayed by Burdett, who was in Cairo at the time. Periodically the

Egyptian armor moving through Cairo made a demonstrative detour past

the gates of the American Embassy. To the puzzled onlookers, the

question persisted all day: was it a show or a mobilization? What

was especially remarkable was how smoothly the operation went; the

Egyptian staff work had been excellent. By nightfall foreign military

attaches were convinced it was more than a show (24:212).


Syria accuses Israel/US

Syria took a somewhat surprising step, complaining to the UN

Security Council and to the US, as the Middle East crisis began to

unfold. On this date, in a Note to the Security Council, she called






77




attention to threats of war against Syria made by Eshkol and Eban and

said that these threats revealed the provocative role assigned to

Israel by the CIA as part of a wider plan. The Syrian-Israeli border

situation was nearing an explosion. On the same day, the Syrian

charg6 d'affaires in Washington met with Assistant Secretary of State

Battle. In a statement following the meeting, he accused the US of

encouraging Israel in her plans to attack Syria. He stressed that

Syria could not prevent the Palestinians from continuing their struggle

to regain their homeland (110:180).

This action gives evidence of being prompted by the concealed hand

of Syria's protector, the USSR. For in instigating a crisis, a useful

technique is to appear to be responding to aggression, rather than bear

the onus of initiating same.


Syrian disorders and Yemen war forgotten

Meanwhile, what had become of the serious internal Syrian disorders

and the pressing Yemen war by this date?

On 15 May, al-Ahram published an eight-column lead:

An explosion is probable at any moment on the Syrian-Israeli
armistice lines.

The Israeli attack on Syria grows diplomatically and psy-
chologically while Israeli mobilization masses near the
demilitarized zone.

Beginning yesterday, the UAR is making all arrangements
required to put into effect'the joint defense pact with
Syria.

In the following days, as Egyptian troops moved through Cairo, as UNEF

was withdrawn and replaced by Egyptian troops in Sinai and the Gaza






78



Strip, Arab news media paid scant attention to any other event. Yemen

and internal unrest in Syria were forgotten (34:212).

If, then, the border hullabaloo was essentially a diversion from

Syria's domestic turmoil, and Egypt's painful Yemen war, it had suc-

ceeded. But the disproportionate costs were yet to come.


Egypt's risk-taking appears minimal

At this stage one of a chain of Nasser's (and in the background,

the USSR's) calculations/miscalculations may be assessed as follows.

In mobilizing, it is doubtful that the UAR felt it ran too great a

risk of actual conflict, for the lesson it drew from 1956 was that

the world community would not allow another war between Israel and

the Arabs. President Nasser freely expressed this conviction on a

number of occasions, saying that, since the world community had

stopped Israel in her attack against the Arabs in 1956, it would also

stop an Arab attack against Israel. He gave this as one reason why

he opposed plans for a general Arab-Israeli war (9:108).

Guided by this reasoning, Nasser, and probably the Soviet Union

as well, did not apparently feel he had taken any great risk of war

at this point. Nasser's calculation, as he later reported it, was

this: "When we mobilized our forces there was, in my estimation, a

20 per cent possibility of war" (75:622).


Dismayed Israel issues denials

On this same eventful day, Israel's Independence Day parade was

held in Jerusalem, despite United Nations protests. To minimize






79




tensions, the Israeli government had decided that no heavy equipment

would be displayed. But the suspicious assumed that the invisible

tanks and artillery were being deployed elsewhere.

Some of Israel's discomfiture with handling Nasser's charges lay

in that she surely was planning some kind of reprisal attack in force

against Syria, and perhaps had various contingency plans in readiness,

involving considerable punishment for Syria. To this end, Israel had

made a great effort to prepare world opinion by depicting the Syrian-

supported border incursions as intolerable. Hence, although she was

not massing troops on Syria's borders, and surely no invasion even

approaching Damascus was planned, nevertheless Israel must have felt

off balance and defensive at the unexpected charges and associated

Nasser movements, when deterrence was her primary objective. She had

not counted at all on any serious Egyptian intervention and was there-

fore completely surprised when Nasser marched his troops into Sinai

(137:288-289).

Informed of the state of alert in the Egyptian Army--while occu-

pied with their own Independence Day celebrations--Israel's leaders

held immediate consultations and concluded that these moves were

demonstrative only. Egypt was assured, however, with UN Secretary-

General U Thant as the intermediary, that Israel had no intention of

initiating any military action. U Thant passed this message on to the

Egyptians (43:52). Israel cautioned Egypt that Syria was plotting to

drag her into hostilities against Israel (19:362).

If--as seems likely--Nasser and the Soviet leadership were again

employing a favorite and devious scenario, one that had been used in






80




almost identical fashion in October 1966, then such Israeli efforts

were bound to prove fruitless.


Moscow warns Israel

Meanwhile an Israeli official, in Moscow as the Moscow-Nasser

scenario got its sendoff, encountered "stonewalling" treatment in con-

trast to the late April ambivalence there. Minister of Labor Yigal

Allon, who happened to be attending an international congress in

Moscow, met Deputy Foreign Minister Semyonov at the Independence Day

party in the Israeli Embassy and used the opportunity to explain

Israel's stand once more. Semyonov repeated the thesis that foreign

forces were trying to bring down the Syrian government and endeavoring

to use Israel as their tool. He charged that there were circles in

Israel that wanted war and warned that the government of Israel would

do well to heed the Soviet warnings (32:211).


D-Minus 20: Tuesday 16 May

Egypt and Israel mobilize; crisis escalates

As of this date, a state of emergency was proclaimed for the Egyp-

tian armed forces. "If Israel attempts to fulfill its foolish threats,"

quoted Cairo Radio from the newspaper al-Akhbar, "it will find forces

ready to face it, forces specially maintained for this purpose. Mea-

sures laid down by the joint Syrian-UAR defense agreement are already

being implemented" (67:16).

For a crisis that had only clearly appeared a day or two earlier,

various Egyptian actions this date contributed a considerable expansion

and escalation.






81




Amer met in Cairo on the morning of 16 May with the military high

command, including General Fawzi, who had meanwhile returned from

Damascus. He also participated in a military staff meeting with

Minister of War Badran and General Murthagi, the Commander of Land

Forces. General Murthagi was appointed Comnander of the Sinai Front

in the event of the outbreak of hostilities (110:186).

Radio Cairo exhorted its listeners:

We are fully ready and prepared to face racialist
Zionism. The UAR will enter the battle against
Israel if Syria faces any aggression. If Israel,
backed by Imperialism and reaction, believes that the
time has come to undermine the great Arab cause and
the whole Arab revolutionary movement, it will be met
with .. .an explosion which will destroy [it] and
eliminate it from the area forever. (110:186)

Radio Cairo commentator Ahmad Sa'id boasted and threatened:

From Cairo we openly declare that our enemy--all
our enemies--will not merely suffer the defeat of
1956; this time it is all-out war; this time we have
prepared for it; Eshkol, Rabin, agents, Imperi-
alists, we await you on the frontier. (110:186)

On 16 May the UAR's decision to take action if Israel attacked

Syria was conveyed to several states through their representatives in

Cairo and in personal letters from President Nasser. Badran met with

the Soviet Ambassador and military attache. The US charge d'affaires

was also notified. Personal letters from Nasser were sent to Syria,

Iraq, Algeria, Yemen, Yugoslavia, India "and other friendly nations"

(110:186).

Israel also decided on an immediate partial mobilization of mili-

tary reserves on this date (19:363).






82




PLO inflames

Journalist Scheer, based on an immediate postwar visit to Cairo,

has described the pressure and provocation, to both Egypt and the

USSR, being provided by the Chinese-influenced PLO and Syrian forces.

Shuqairy, head of the PLO, became prominent once more, mobilizing Gaza

and broadcasting his wild messages over Cairo's Voice of Palestine.

Moving about with the Chinese Ambassador at his side, he emphasized

his movement's close ties with the Chinese People's Republic, barely

mentioning Egypt and ignoring the USSR, both of which had disregarded

him (140:98).


Egypt demands UNEF withdrawal

But it was the surprise, still controversial events beginning late

in this day that marked it as the point where, in retrospect, the

crisis went irrevocably out of control.

In Cairo on this 16 May, Egyptian Foreign Minister Riyad had

received the Soviet Ambassador and military attach6. In Gaza that

evening, at 10 p.m. local time, the Indian Commander of UNEF, Major-

General Rikhye, was called to the office of Brigadier Mokhtar, the

Egyptian field commander, who handed him a letter in broken English

from the chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces. The key sentence

of this startling, confusingly worded letter read: "For the sake of

complete security of all UN troops which install OPs along our border,

I request that you issue your orders to withdraw all these troops

immediately" (24:215-216).






83




Cryptic, peremptory, ungrammatical, Fawzi's letter was also for-

mally unacceptable. Rikhye did not take his orders from the Egyptians.

He took orders from no one but U Thant. Why was the message addressed

to him? Perhaps, he thought, because he had always maintained such

cordial relations with the Egyptian liaison staff; and so the Egyp-

tians may have supposed there was a good chance of immediate compliance.

In that case he would have to disappoint them. Fawzi's request did

not mention Sharm el Sheikh, the seaside post at the mouth of the

Gulf of Aqaba. It referred only to the UN observation posts along

the Sinai frontier, and it was the troops manning these posts that

he evidently wanted Rikhye to withdraw and regroup inside the Gaza

Strip.

Fawzi's letter, it turned out, was only the beginning. Mokhtar

made known several urgent requests of his own. He told Rikhye that

UNEF must evacuate Sharm el Sheikh and the Yugoslav desert camp at

El Sabha, as well as all its posts along the international frontier,

by first light the next morning. These troops were to pull back into

Gaza. Mokhtar pressed for an immediate answer and immediate compliance,

and dwelt on the danger of clashes if the UN troops were still on

the scene by the time the Egyptians arrived. He made a great point of

El Sabha, a bleak prominence more than four thousand feet high, dominat-

ing the central east-west road that cuts across Sinai from Israel to

the Suez Canal at Ismailia. There was no doubt in Rikhye's mind that

Mokhtar was talking about the evacuation of the entire Emergency Force

from the entire Sinai Peninsula. The UNEF Commander said he could not

comply. He would have to report the matter to U Thant and await his

instructions.






84




After the formal discussion in Mokhtar's office, there was the

ritual coffee. Conversation relaxed and the Egyptians confided their

worry. They had directed their message to Gaza rather than New York

because they feared that, if they sent it to U Thant, the Israelis at

United Nations headquarters would be certain to hear about it and

would beat them to the punch. Israeli troops would occupy the two

key posts, at Sharm el Sheikh and El Sabha, before Egyptian contin-

gents were able to get there. A few days later at a meeting in Cairo,

Nasser told Rikhye that this conspiratorial decision had been taken

on the Cabinet level--by Nasser himself (24:216-217).

In elaboration of this confusingand disputed sequence of events,

M. A. Gilboa has reported that Nasser sent a liaison officer to

General Rikhye the same night to soften the impact of the telegram.

The officer explained to Rikhye that Egypt did not actually plan to

withdraw the UNEF as a cushioning force between Israel and Egypt.

All it wanted to do, he said, was to stage a modest "show" before the

eyes of the Arab world. Gilboa gives no source, and there is no con-

firmation from other sources, but most observers feel that the very

careful wording of the Egyptian telegram substantiates the "show"

interpretation. Brecher concludes for undisclosed reasons that

Mokhtar's oral request about the evacuation of Sharm el Sheikh was

probably unauthorized (19:363-364).

But it is difficult to accept this Brecher conclusion. How could

such an important step be taken without authorization? What does seem

more than likely is that Nasser knew he was indulging in a "show," but

for cover purposes did not wish to tell his officers, and perhaps could






85




not practically do so either; for his officers were restive and itching

for a fight and took this challenge to Israel seriously.


U Thant's reaction

Secretary-General Thant received General Rikhye's report at 5:30

p.m. New York time that same evening and an hour and a quarter later

at his urgent request received the UAR representative to the UN,

Ambassador el-Kony, to whom he presented the following views:

1. General Rikhye could not take orders from anyone but
the Secretary-General.

2. If General Fawzi was asking for temporary withdrawal
of UNEF from the Line this was unacceptable because
UNEF "cannot be asked to stand aside in order to
enable the two sides to resume fighting." (174:311)

The implication of U Thant's first point is an important one,

though this is rarely mentioned in the accounts of this bizarre

affair. Egypt was not so new and raw at foreign affairs as not to

know it could not properly order General Rikhye and his UNEF force

around as it saw fit. If, then, General Fawzi appeared to do just

that, it could only have been because this short-cut approach was

deliberate. And one can find two good and sufficient reasons for so

doing, in addition to the above-described worry about alerting Israel.

For one, the initial time/date for the supposed assault on Syria by

Israel has regularly been given as 4 a.m., 17 May, early the next

morning; there was a need for haste (note the 10 p.m. delivery of the

letter), with no time to go through formal UN channels if Egypt's

forces were to be in position for action or effective deterrence.

Whether Nasser believed the intelligence on the Israeli attack or not,






86



he surely did not inform his restive generals that this was merely a

step in a political scenario enactment. For his officers are shown

during this period as lusting for battle with Israel, wanting to

use their "shiny Soviet war toys," and impatient with Nasser's politi-

cal maneuverings. Secondly, reflecting U Thant's second objection,

by keeping the negotiations at the field level, Nasser may well have

intended--as U Thant seemed to suspect--to "have his cake and eat it

too," to order UNEF aside just enough to permit him to threaten Israel

(for inter-Arab prestige purposes mostly) without losing its protection

for his own borders and forces. U Thant's sensitive, quick reaction

seemed to reflect advance knowledge or suspicion that such action might

be attempted. His resistance is understandable, for such an action,

if acceded to, would have been a grossly unneutral manipulation of the

UNEF, which could only bring discredit to it and UN peacekeeping

efforts in general.


U Thant's role controversy

The case against U Thant--even to the extent of calling the sub-

sequent events "U Thant's War"--goes substantially as follows. U

Thant's immediate response was that the UAR was entitled to request

withdrawal; such action would have to be total, not partial; if so

requested, he would immediately comply. This reaction has been widely

criticized ever since--for its haste, for the lack of prior consulta-

tion with Israel and/or other states involved in the 1956-57 UNEF

commitments, and for his overreaction, that is, complete withdrawal,

in response to Egypt's request for partial withdrawal. However much






87




he may have been justified in his actions on purely legal-procedural

grounds--and serious doubts have been raised about this aspect as

well--in substantive terms he could well have decided otherwise and

more wisely. There is no doubt that his actions contributed to the

process of escalation. They were totally unexpected, even by Nasser,

and, as some commentators note, may have been the catalyst that marked

the point of irreversibility of the crisis (19:364-365).

But a temporary or a partial withdrawal would have meant, in

effect, that the UNEF was being manipulated to serve Nasser's at-

tempted coercion of Israel. This would have been an impossible posi-

tion for a peacekeeping organization. As for Nasser's feigned surprise,

it is presumptuous to accept at face value such innocence in what

emerges as a preplanned, if ragged, scenario. It would have well

fitted Nasser's purposes, especially later, to appear to have had

his hand forced.

There has been prolonged controversy as to what Nasser intended,

and whether U Thant unpredictably forced his hand. U Thant subse-

quently responded with a vigorous and detailed justification. The

essentials are as follows. The official Egyptian request for "with-

drawal of the force as soon as possible" was two days in the making,

following U Thant's rejection of the initial local demand in Gaza for

its withdrawal. The Egyptian representative at the UN informed the

Secretary-General of strong feelings of resentment in Cairo at what

was there considered to be attempts to exert pressure and to make the

UNEF an "occupation force." With deep misgivings as to the likely

disastrous consequences of UNEF withdrawal, U Thant indicated his






88




intention to appeal urgently to Nasser to reconsider his decision.

Back came Nasser's response the same day, urgently advising against

such an appeal, announcing in advance that it would be "sternly

rebuffed" (75:214).

This indignation by Nasser, even to receiving a request for re-

consideration, hardly fits the air of injured innocence he and his

supporters affected after the war to explain the UNEF withdrawal.


Egypt-India-Yugoslavia conspiracy?

Almost all of the extensive debate over U Thant's role in the

UNEF withdrawal ignores the evidence of an advance Egypt-India-

Yugoslavia understanding--possibly even a conspiracy--as to the with-

drawal scenario. Such an understanding may well have been informed

by known U Thant feelings and intentions with respect to the various

contingencies considered, discussed and threatened over the ten

years of UNEF's history.

As the strange, confused, yet apparently calculated and premedi-

tated UNEF dismissal escalation stage approached, here is one informed

assessment as to Nasser's outlook: the backbone of the force of 3393

soldiers were the contingents of 978 Indians and 580 Yugoslavs. The

latter not only kept watch along the entire Sinai border, but held

the vital gate to Israel's sea access at Sharm el Sheikh, the isolated

outpost overlooking the Strait of Tiran at the southern tip of the

Sinai Peninsula. From informal advance inquiries in Belgrade and New

Delhi--according to Burdett--Nasser learned that, though his two neu-

tralist friends counselled prudence with regard to the UNEF, they






89




nevertheless made it clear that they would not maintain their contin-

gents on Egyptian territory once their withdrawal was requested

(24:208-209).

What is often overlooked in accounts of the events of 16-18

May is the highly unneutral pro-Nasser tendencies, then and later,

of these two nations, India and Yugoslavia, providing the UNEF

commander and almost half the UNEF troops, including key Yugoslav

contingents in the path of the advancing Egyptians.

The evidence surely warrants a strong suspicion of collusion,

either tacit or agreed upon, among India, Yugoslavia and Egypt,

involving the maneuvering of the UNEF beginning this date. An Indian

author, writing some seven years later--while essentially defending

India's performance--at the same time provides added support for this

suspicion. India and Yugoslavia insisted to U Thant on prompt with-

drawal, and resisted referral of the issue to the General Assembly.

Nand Lal acknowledges that "India and Yugoslavia were charged with

having a special friendly relationship with the UAR: the three coun-

tries regarded themselves as forming a triumvirate heading the non-

aligned nations. "

Furthermore, in response to the requirement for timely advance

notice to the Secretary-General of the intended withdrawal of a con-

tingent, Lal states that, when Egypt asked U Thant to withdraw UNEF,

"India notified the Secretary-General, in advance, of its decision to

pull out of the UNEF" (90:314-316).

The use of the words "in advance" seems to imply that India and

Yugoslavia had thus discharged their legal obligations. But Lal is






90




ignoring the significance of the requirement, "so that alternative

arrangements could be made," and attempting to provide a legalistic

claim that an advance notice, without the required timeliness, and

in fact presented to U Thant more as an ultimatum than a notice, was

a proper step.

In any event, Lal seems to find India, unflatteringly, a helpless

prisoner of Nasser policy, however dangerous that policy might be.

.If India had counselled President Nasser not to demand
withdrawal of the UNEF from the United Arab Republic, it
might have postponed the crisis of June 1967, but it was
obvious that any criticism by India of the United Arab
Republic would have been considered by the United Arab
Republic and other Arab countries as an unfriendly act,
and alienation of Arab opinion was something that India
could ill afford for obvious reasons. (90:322)

It is an ironic commentary on the role of morality in politics

that, if Indian General Rikhye had been a less honorable man, or had

been both briefed and persuaded by his most unneutral, pro-Nasser

government, Nasser's plan might well have succeeded: the gesture

successfully made to appease Syria, Jordan, the PLO and his own gen-

erals; the UNEF maneuvered quietly but temporarily out of the way;

and the reinforcing troops again withdrawn after it could be claimed

that Israel had been successfully deterred. If the supposed 17-27 May

Israeli attack plan was in fact a creation of the KGB Department of

Disinformation, as has been alleged, and with Nasser's knowledge, all

the better. Then both Nasser and the Soviet Union could have been

making a characteristic, almost riskless ploy: denouncing a non-

existent threat, taking action against it, then claiming credit when

the threat did not materialize.






91




Nasser "doctors" the record

Three years later, inan apparent retrospective endeavor to "doctor"

the record for the sake of a more palatable history, in an interview

with U.S. News and World Report, Nasser said

In 1967 when we asked UN forces to withdraw, we cited
specifically the area from Rafah to Elath. We did not
ask UN troops to withdraw from Sharm el Sheikh, nor from
all other areas. Because they did withdraw, this
created a problem. (139:150)


Nasser aware and in command

With the deployment of his troops to Sinai, Nasser and his mili-

tary leaders were in a hurry to get the UN troops out of the way. De-

spite much heated controversy since, a careful reading of the record

provides strong evidence that Nasser knew precisely what he was doing

and in fact was particularly determined to occupy Sharm el Sheikh

promptly. For, as discussed above, he feared that Israel--whose strong

reaction was of course foreseen--would get wind of these plans and

beat the Egyptians to this critical Aqaba control point.

Apologists for Nasser after his debacle would like to show that

U Thant forced Nasser's hand, that the Egyptian leader did not expect

to end up in control of Sharm el Sheikh and thus seemingly be forced

to close the Strait to Israel. But Nasser at the time was never more

forcefully or boldly or ruthlessly in command. Burdett provides a

most persuasive and critical analysis. There was the haste of the

Egyptian army in its pell-mell rush to the border. There was the

arrival of an Egyptian advance party at Sharm el Sheikh before the

official withdrawal request came to U Thant. The methods Nasser used,

Burdett charges,






92




were brutal--a combination of political blackmail, mili-
tary ultimatums and obfuscation to keep the Secretariat
on the run, the dark hints of possible violence to UN
troops, the warnings that any appeal would be an inad-
missible affront. Nasser's fierce sensitivity to any
slight to Egyptian sovereignty was well known and so
was his capacity to mobilize emotion on the issue.
He dictated the rules of the game from Cairo, and the
Secretariat accepted them.

Burdett adds that the Nasser apologists also ignore the experience

of American diplomats in Cairo during the UNEF crisis. There was "the

flushed and fearless mood of Egyptian government officials, the exul-

tant crescendo, the defiance of Israel." Plainly, the dissolution of

UNEF was not subject to discussion (24:228-229).

Testimony at the postwar trial of the rebellious Egyptian military

leaders provides added evidence that Nasser and they knew they were

provoking Israel and risking war with their removal of UNEF. The

Court President, Hussein Shafei, testifying in an attempt to shield

Nasser, stated that the UNEF withdrawal decision was taken at a

meeting of Nasser with Field Marshal Amer. Nasser acknowledged that

the action would increase the probability of Israeli reaction from 50

to 80%. Amer expressed full agreement. Shafei adds a revealing sen-

tence, "The operation was not a sudden one" (24:230-231).

Shafei unfortunately neglected to reveal the date of this meeting.

Presumably it took place no later than 16 May.

If Shafei's account is accepted then, there was no lack of coordina-

tion between Nasser and his military leaders on the question of removing

UNEF. Nasser and his generals appear to have moved in concert to

secure the total evacuation of UNEF and the Egyptians did not, after

all, suddenly and to their great surprise find themselves at Sharm el

Sheikh.






93




If a jump from 50 to 80% chance of war was Nasser's assessment,

surely this was not a lightly taken decision!

In contrast to his postdisaster attempts at reconstructing the

record, Nasser in his 22 May blockade speech included a forceful

approval of U Thant's role and added:

Quite naturally, and I say this today quite frankly,
if the Emergency Force had been turned aside from its
proper task and worked for the aims of imperialism, we
should have regarded it as a hostile force and forcibly
disarmed it. (75:539)

This is a far cry from his postwar wail: "We fell into the trap

which had been laid for us" (136:1).

It would appear more fitting to at least acknowledge that: "We

leaped into the trap that we had laid for ourselves!"


Nasser as reactive, opportunistic, gambling

In his postwar 23 July speech, Nasser acknowledged that his two

major provocative escalations both were "practical consequences" of

the Sinai move as well as responses to long-standing Arab pressures.

Similarly, in an official 1968 Israel Ministry of Defense account

of the war, General Yitzhak Rabin gives Nasser credit (or discredit

perhaps) for having no planned scenario on 14 May, but, instead,

beginning this date with his UNEF action, simply doing his characteris-

tic improvising and reacting to events. Rabin concludes that even a

demonstrative action develops a logic of its own and obliges the

originators to commit acts beyond the original scope of their inten-

tions (74:8).

From Nutting's biography of Nasser, there is a description of

the Cabinet's nonparticipation in Nasser's thinking or decision-making




Full Text
15
Secondly, for an analytical approach to this crisis, it will be
posited, as Smolansky does in his study of the 1956 Suez crisis, that
the Soviet Union recognizes three stages to a crisis--the buildup,
the peak, and the winddown--and practices markedly contrasting pro
cedures and techniques with the passing from one stage to another.
In essence, in the buildup the USSR is vocally and demonstrably
aggressive and intransigent, manipulating the crisis with minimum
apparent concern for the prospective dangers involved.
At the peak (in this case, Arab-Israeli hostilities) the Soviet
Union retreats to extreme caution, withdrawing from earlier commitments,
with maximum apparent concern for the dangers at hand.
In the winddown, the USSR returns to vocal aggressiveness, symbolic
acts and demonstrations, and a major effort to reinterpret to both friend
and foe the content and significance of its recent restrained but also
ambiguous performance.
Thirdly, Soviet crisis behavior through client-proxies will be
studied. This aspect is at once more complex and difficult to manage
than the direct bipolar competition usually treated in the literature;
more revealing of the usual Soviet closed hand from the necessity to
work through less secretive intermediaries; and more relevant to the
problems of current and prospective American-Soviet crisis management.
That is, as demonstrated in the recent and current use of a Cuban
presence and troops in Africa as a Soviet client-proxy, this indirect
form of superpower conflict gives evidence of being the pattern for
the future, probably because greater risks can safely be undertaken
through proxy action, and also because retreat, when required, can be
accepted with less concern for the principal's own resolve reputation.


449
the facts available about him and his abrupt and unrecovered fall
from power in the wake of the June plenum, plus the caustic
Political Diary references to him, hardly fit Whetten's idealistic
assessment of him as a man "pressing for a higher quality of life
for Soviet citizens" (168:366-367).
Dr. Zhores Medvedev, Soviet biologist, elaborated from London,
in a personal communication dated 16 August 1976, on Political Diary's
assessment of Yegorychev's role in the hardliners' group and the
20-21 June postwar debate in the Central Committee on Soviet Mid-East
policy (English smoothed out but content unchanged in this quote):
Yegorychev criticized my two books in his speech
at the Ideological Plenum in June 1963 and so I fol
lowed his fate too. . .
He was fired because he insisted on Soviet direct
interference during the Six-Day War and strongly criti
cized Brezhnev for inefficiency. I do not think that
Yegorychev could 1ead Nasser, but he was a much
stronger supporter of Nasser policy than others, and
Nasser's defeat led Yegorychev first to demand that
the Soviet army must be sent to help Nasser, and then
to blame Brezhnev for "hesitation." When it became
clear that Nasser took some actions without consulta
tion with Soviet military advisers, all blame for the
defeat was put on him, and Yegorychev was dismissed
as well, [emphasis added]
Zhores Medvedev acknowledges that "of course Roy would answer
better," referring to his brother, the primary editor of Political
Diary and the more politically involved of these two brothers. Yet
Zhores Medvedev's comment above carries the ring of authority, is
consistent with other available material, and adds appreciably to the
published record toward a resolution of the debate among Western
writers as to the "affair of Yegorychev."


271
US Uncertain Attitude Toward Israel's Attack
There was also some temporary uncertainty on the US side as to
how far to go in meeting the Soviet demand for Israel's withdrawal
as part of a cease-fire resolution. In discussing this conflict
point, so crucial as to whether 1956 was to be repeated, Howe con
cludes that apparently there was strong feeling in some parts of the
government that Israel had rejected American advice not to attack
and therefore should not be rewarded for her actions. She had not
waited a fortnight, or until the Arab emissary had come to Washington,
before attacking. But at the same time President Johnson was deter
mined not to repeat what he considered to be American errors in 1956
and 1957 (68:97).
Severe Soviet Problems with Their Arab Clients
To Moscow's chagrin, Egyptian political astuteness and foresight
edness were not as sharp or detached (understandably) as Moscow's.
Had a Soviet-Egyptian decision been made to return to the precrisis
(15 May) positions, the US would have been hard pressed not to go
along--and Israel would have been hard pressed to justify a refusal
to go along.
This was a hard, hard day in Moscow, and for Fedorenko at the UN.
One detailed account, while perhaps built somewhat on speculation,
portrays the Moscow scene as follows. The Politburo now had no
illusions; the Arab air forces were destroyed and the Egyptian and
Jordanian frontiers overrun. At the UN the Soviet mission was exas
perated by the Arabs' refusal to cut their losses by accepting an


291
annihilation. Strike at the nests of aggression! Crush the Zionist
gang!"
Of Eshkol's special four-man "advisory cabinet" on the war, only
one opposed an assault on Syria. But this dissenting voice was a
powerful one, that of Defense Minister Dayan. Dayan feared the sensi
tivity of the Soviet Union to the fate of its most cherished protg.
Israel had already accomplished her major war aims: defeat of Nasser,
destruction of the Egyptian army and reopening of the Tiran Strait.
As Velie posed the question which temporarily postponed the Syrian
campaign, "Why bait the Russian bear beyond endurance?" (161:41-42).
Soviet Press Reflects Unreality
As a sign of disarray in Moscow, and unpreparedness for Arab
defeat, the Soviet press reports were embarrassingly out of touch
with reality. On 7 June Pravda still described attacks of UAR forces
on the ground and in the air and bombings of Israeli territory by UAR,
Jordanian and Syrian air forces. The Syrian air force was said to
have attacked the Haifa oil refineries, and Tel Aviv was reported
"bombed several times." This report was published when the Arab air
forces had been almost completely destroyed and Israeli forces had
advanced to the Jordan River and the Suez Canal (173:265). While
part of this result is explainable by the time lag between writing and
publishing, still a more cautious and realistic approach would seem to
have called for being more noncommittal until the fog of battle had
dissipated somewhat. The discrepancy this date between press and
reality does provide evidence that the USSR suffered somewhat from


412
Bluffing Tendency
The Soviet tendency to bluff is probably inherent in the combina
tion of the mystification this country and power typically engenders
in the West; the advancing of anti-status quo positions from a state
of strategic and conventional inferiority vis-a-vis the US; and proven
reluctance to engage their own forces outside Soviet borders.
But this bluffing may entail considerable costs over time.
Thus in 1956 Khrushchev's rocket-rattling diplomacy during the Suez
Crisis entailed little cost then, and gained the Soviet Union much
credit that rightfully belonged to the US for stopping the tripar
tite invasion of Egypt. But Israel eventually concluded that the
USSR had indeed been bluffing, the USSR paid the price in 1967 when
Israel successfully ignored all Soviet threats of counteraction to
the new Israeli conquest.
As part of and to cover its bluffing, the USSR also has demon
strated, especially in 1967, a considerable overuse of threat. Israel
became inured and in effect immune to this device, so that when the
Israeli attack actually was impending, the USSR was left without any
credibility to its warnings.
Use of Mystification and Deception
Profiting from a reputation in the West of being imponderable
and mysterious, even in Tsarist days, and with a closed society and
controlled communications, now as well as then, it is inevitable
that Soviet leaders will take every advantage of this reputation in
their management of crisis.


167
advanced no concrete suggestions for satisfying Israeli grievances.
Given the Egyptian faits accomplis of 18 and 22 May, the Soviet
Union's admonition to both Nasser and Eshkol not to open hostilities
objectively favored the Arab cause (13:50-52).
If effective diplomacy has a role to play in crisis communica
tions, then the Soviet Union was ill-served in its ambassador to
Israel, whose personality surely played a role in the exacerbation
of Soviet-Israeli relations. Chuvakhin was aggressively hostile,
abrasively arrogant, menacing and downright rude in his contacts with
Israeli leaders--an "ugly Russian." Even in private, off-the-record
contacts with leading members of the Opposition, obviously undertaken
to achieve some understanding for Soviet aims, he was deaf to all
views contrary to his interpretation of the official Soviet line.
He did absolutely nothing to ease the pressure or achieve some
rapprochement with Israeli leaders during this crisis buildup period.
Kosygin had the misfortune to use the worst possible channel for
his major gesture of conciliation on 27 May. Most crucial of all,
"Chuvakhin failed in one of his primary duties--reporting reality.
He grievously misunderstood Israel's will or capability to fight"
(19:394-395).
Had there been a firmer hand on the tiller in Moscow, or a more
sensitive and understanding Soviet Ambassador, here might well have
been a chance to make a move away from, rather than a continuing
drift toward, the forthcoming war.
As Eshkol's biographer Prittie summarizes the 3 a.m. meeting
described earlier,


155
tactic in that it represented confused, discordant signaling subject
to a wide range of interpretation. Thus, while constantly escalating
his public rhetoric, Nasser privately assured both U Thant and the
Soviet Ambassador that he would not strike the first blow (67:24).
Nasser loses balance, perspective, reason
Who was "minding the store" in Moscow at this critical point?
Had Nasser been prompted to engage in softer talk, had he hinted at
concessions, etc., Israel might have been hard put to justify opting
for war, and Nasser might have preserved at least a partial victory.
The clearest head on the Arab-Soviet side as to what was impending
as of this date--still ten days away from war--was al-Ahram's publisher
and Nasser's confidant, Heikal. Where were the Nasser-Soviet ears
when he was accurately forecasting the compulsion of events that would
dictate an Israeli attack? In his widely read weekly column in
al-Ahram, Heikal predicted that Israel would be compelled to react
to the blockade for reasons that were primarily psychological. War
was certain. The gravest factor for Israel in the Aqaba blockade,
he pointed out, was its fait accompli and the issue of who can impose it
and who has the force to protect it. "It is not the Gulf of Aqaba.
. . It is the philosophy of Israeli security on which . her
survival hangs. For this reason Israel must take up arms. . .
The armed clash between the UAR and the Israeli foe is inescapable."
Apparently accepting the need to concede to Israel the first blow,
Heikal exhorted his readers to be ready to buffer the blow and deliver
"the death blow" in return (24:280-281).


39
help them. Considering that Hussein refused to allow Egyptian units
on his territory and that Syria refused Egypt's offer to establish
an air base on her soil, they really had little cause for complaint.
But Nasser could not stand by indefinitely and watch his allies suffer
such humiliating reversals; and more important, neither could the
Russians (67:13-14).
7-25 April: Moscow Hesitates
Considering what the USSR was eventually to make of this engage
ment ("dangerous Israeli aggression," etc.), it appears remarkable
thattherewas a considerable delay in registering any Soviet reaction
at all. The battle took place on 7 April. The Soviet denunciation
of Israel appeared on 25 April, after a first, lower-key, oral com
plaint to Israel's Ambassador in Moscow on 21 April. With Nasser
already twice humiliated for his inaction, surely he made representa
tions to Moscow, which was at least equally with Nasser anxious for
the survival of its shaky client in Damascus.
That Moscow was still of two minds as to instigating the forth
coming crisis is apparent from the record of Israel's attempts during
this period to mend relations with the Soviet Union, partly by per
suading it to restrain Syrian border provocations. Thus, even after
the strong Soviet Note of 21 April there were moderating developments.
Gideon Rafael, newly appointed Permanent Representative of Israel to
the UN, on a stopover in Moscow to acquaint himself with Soviet diplo
mats, had what he viewed as useful if frank exchanges with both Deputy
Foreign Minister Semyonov on 26 April and Director of the Middle East
Department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry Shchiborin on 27 April.


373
To a question as to how to reduce the existing international ten
sion, Kosygin with a straight face suggested that the Assembly adopt
the completely one-sided anti-Israel Soviet draft resolution.
To an Arab question as to Soviet-Arab relations he responded,
in part, also with a straight face: "We have very good relations
with the Arab world. The Soviet Union has the trust of the Arabs
and Arab states, while Arab states have the trust of the Soviet
peoples. . ." (75:124).
There is a revealing example, from this New York press conference,
of how the USSR, during this critical maneuvering stage, tried to
tiptoe safely between a private, realistic approach to a Middle East
settlement and a public one pleasing to the Arabs, completely one
way, hence hopelessly unrealistic. A significant difference appeared
between the reported transcript of the conference and the version
published in Izvestia. Kosygin had agreed, among other similar,
compromise-minded statements, to "urge the Arabs to accept an all-
embracing settlement in the Middle East in exchange for US pressure
on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories." Izvestia,
however, had deleted all these moderate, compromising remarks and
instead had Kosygin stating that only Israeli withdrawal could solve
the problem of averting a new outbreak of hostilities in the Middle
East.
It seems clear, as The Guardian concluded, that the Soviet censor
had attempted to adapt Kosygin's statement to official Soviet policy
and to present it in a manner calculated to please Arab governments
(110:40).


259
estimated it would take three days for the group to reach Egyptian
or Israeli ports. When asked if the US was trying to tell the
Russians something by sending the Marines on liberty, Admiral Wylie
remarked, "Not only the Russians--but anyone in the world who wanted
to look. Sending men on liberty is a good way to make your intentions
known" (68:70).
Meanwhile the US use of its Sixth Fleet on the war's outbreak
was also one of cautious alertness. At the outbreak of hostilities
the fleet reportedly was near Crete and evidently planned to remain
there. The ships were put into an advanced state of readiness. But
ships and pilots were ordered not to approach within two hundred miles
of the area of conflict in order to "maintain a position of noninter
vention" (68:93).
As was to continue to prevail throughout the week's hostilities,
Israel was effectively "taking the US off the hook." As she prevailed
in the war, the US could well afford a restrained, prudent "watchful
waiting" of the type described above, while unrestrained havoc was
being wreaked on the hapless Soviet pawns in the Arab world.
Hurewitz reports, without citing his authority, or how and when
such agreement was arrived at, that a mutual military restraint kept
both US and Soviet forces out of the combat zone. In a 1970 RAND
study he states that, on the Kremlin's hotline initiative, both
superpowers kept their naval vessels an agreed distance of 300 miles
from the combat theatre. He adds that the nearby presence of the
Soviet fleet "inhibited the actions of the Sixth Fleet." He observes,
however, paradoxically, that at 300 miles the Soviet fleet was at least


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
0. R. McQuown
Professor of Political Science
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion
it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and
is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the
degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
>' Av/icj 9 '?Hc? c-
^
J. F. Morrison
iy Associate Professor of Political Science


94
that seems to fit often-made charges as to his reckless, dangerously
irresponsible mismanagement of this crisis. In discussing a Cabinet
meeting in the middle of May, after the Prime Minister, Sidky Suleiman,
had returned from a visit to the Golan Heights on the Syrian-Israeli
border, Nutting described how Nasser refused to be drawn into any
discussion of such critical issues--worriedly posed by "a former
close friend"--as the likelihood of American intervention if Egypt
attacked Israel, and the significance of Suleiman's admission that
on his trip neither he nor his accompanying Syrian staff officers
were able to detect any sign of Israeli troop concentrations. Nasser,
meeting this same colleague later in private, "refused all entreaties
to back down, replying, as he had done ... in 1956, that if he
kept his nerve everything would turn out all right" (122:410) [emphasis
added].
This is also another bit of evidence that, quite early in the
crisis--but perhaps only after he felt committed in Sinai--Nasser
knew there were no Israeli troops massing to threaten Syria. This
incident, including Nasser's uncommunicative behavior to his own
Cabinet, strengthens the impression that Nasser knew all along that
this charge was only an agreed-upon Soviet-Egyptian code signal for a
political scenario launching.
What is likely from the record, and at the same time the source
of much confusion, is that Nasser knew his was a political move to
counter a nonexistent Israeli threat, but that his generals did not.
The latter, in their eagerness and nervousness, went beyond Nasser's
intent in hastily "clearing the decks for action." It should be


393
resisted strongly, Nasser told Shuqairy, reminding him of his quarrel
with Khrushchev.
The Soviet arms Egypt had in her possession were defensive and
not offensive, Nasser complained; the Americans had supplied Israel
with superior weapons. Now the Saudi radio was asking Egypt to relin
quish its friendship with the Russians. He was ready to do this;
but who was to supply him with arms, even if they were only defensive?
Nasser expressed confidence, however, that from now on he would get
better arms from the USSR (72:146).
Here, already in 1967, is the precursor of many frustrating
Nasser and Sadat endeavors to get a reluctant Soviet Union to prepare
them for the next, fourth round of war (October 1973). Sadat's even
tual reopening to America, as a preferred support for Egypt's objec
tives, can be foreseen here as well.
A month later, in a Cairo Radio broadcast analyzing Soviet conduct,
Egyptian editor He ika1 also showed great insight into and understand
ing of the limits to Soviet support of the Arabs. Yet his frank words
and mood of resigned tolerance must have infuriated the Soviet leaders
in their ongoing, strenuous efforts to spread a curtain of fog over
their own Middle East objectives and their recent, nonhelpful per
formance. These are some pointed extracts from Heikal:
It is unfair to say--as some elements trying to sow
doubts claim--that the Soviet Union and the United States
agreed at the Glassboro meeting to divide the world be
tween them. . But it is fair to say . that the
two superpowers agreed at Glassboro to try hard to pre
vent the Middle East crisis from turning into a direct
nuclear confrontation between them. . .


416
the start and pulled the USSR in after them. The disunity and dis
harmony then existing in the Soviet leadership left them especially
vulnerable to such bold but risky manipulation. Tatu criticizes a
series of Soviet "nondecisions'1 in response to Nasser's actions,
observing that "inaction is the most probable result of contrary
impulses" (151:534-536).
Timing, Pacing, Signaling Confusion
As discussed in the "Similarities" section, centralized, effec
tive control of these important crisis ingredients becomes impossible
with a proxy who is going his own way, not coordinating measures with
his principal. Thus the US and Israel became increasingly aroused
and fearful from the discordant combination of Soviet and Arab moves
and voices.
Lacouture's report of Kosygin's criticism of Nasser's "regrettable
errors" and the moderating steps he advised is consistent with both
the Soviet style and much evidence of Soviet problems with Nasser's
erratic performance (89:305). Another version (Heikal's) of the same
Kosygin-Badran exchanges has Kosygin unsuccessfully advising (as of
28 May) that "it is time now to compromise, to work politically"
(61:242).
Control of One Proxy by Another
The Soviet plan to control one less responsible proxy, Syria,
through another, Egypt, was innovative in design and intended to pro
duce unity and stability in this duo in the pursuit of Soviet objectives


391
Nasser's Belated Anger at Syria
The state of Egyptian-Syrian relations, and the bitterness and
disarray in the Arab world which the USSR had to cope with during
this resolution phase of the crisis, can be gathered from PLO chief
Shuqairy's memoir account of his conversation with Nasser on 24 July.
In this meeting Nasser spoke bitterly about the part the Ba'athists
of Syria had played in the whole disastrous affair. On 5 June, after
the Israeli attack, Nasser had phoned Syrian Premier Atassi and had
appealed to him to open up operations against Israel. But "the
Ba'thists did not want to fight," says Shuqairy, "and they carried
out some minor skirmishes." When the Israelis had finished with
Egypt, they turned against Syria. "But the Ba'thists had pulled
the army from the Golan Heights to protect their regime. The casual
ties of the Syrian army in the whole war with Israel [according to
Heikal, no more than 100] were fewer than those who had died in the
fighting before President Hafez's house" (72:145-146).*
This account of Syrian faithlessness to its allies, as well as
plain cowardice, is consistent with Hussein's account of Syrian
failure to support his right flank in conformance with the unified
Arab plan. As a consequence he suffered alone, on 6 and 7 June, a
most devastating assault from Israel.
What is incredible, even beyond incredible, in all this is why
any of the principals involved--the USSR and Egypt most of all,
*This reference is to the Damascus coup which brought these radi
cal Ba'thists to power in February 1966, an event to which the June
War is often traced in a seemingly inescapable chain.


9
in developing a varied ensemble of physical maneuvers and uses of force
short of war to communicate and test resolve in crises (148:220). Even
limited violence is permissible--especially by proxies--as a means of
crisis coercion. Examples are the 1958 air combat over the Formosa
Straits and the 1967 and 1973 Mid-East wars.
Inventiveness in demonstrative or show-of-force options in crisis
has included calling various levels of alert status for missiles,
dispersal of bombers, putting more bombers into the air on airborne
alert, putting more nuclear submarines out to sea, and, in the conven
tional weapon area, massing forces at a crisis locale (Cuba, 1962);
dramatically announcing plans for increasing total forces (Berlin,
1961); alerting airborne forces and concentrating air transports for
them (USSR, Mid-East, 1973) (147:707).
The modern military forces of the superpowers may thus have changed
their primary function to one of being threatened and manipulated in
peacetime rather than used in war (169:46).
Need for Effective, Centralized, Prudent Control
Experience with the severe superpower crises of the 1960's and
1970's has demonstrated the requirement for assuring effective, cen
tralized and prudent control of the successive maneuvers involved in
coping with and resolving a crisis. Thus in 1962 President Kennedy
quickly developed the Executive Committee" (ExCom) of his most trusted
advisers to help him manage the US through this tense and critical
period. That this was a far cry from the traditional initiative per
mitted a military theatre commander as recently as in the Korean War


153
During the June War some evidence was uncovered of supposed Egyp
tian attack plans, but these appear to have been more in the nature
of contingency plans. Charges have been made also that Israel fabri
cated this evidence to justify her own preemptive attack. Whatever
the facts in this matter, the weight of evidence appears to be that
Egypt had conceded the first blow to Israel, from fear of US reaction,
from awareness of its own weakness, and in order to reap the benefits
anticipated--recal1ing 1956--from Soviet and worldwide support, and
expected UN compulsion for Israel to disgorge any gains she might make.
Nasser was wont to say, in the buildup stage of this crisis, that
1967 was not 1956. He was right, but, oh, so wrong in the ways in
which it was different. Much of this difference--unhappily for the
Arab cause--he contributed to himself.
Eban visit discord
Both in Washington and in Tel Aviv the Eban visit--with its mutual
misunderstandings and its disarray of multiple, confusing deterrent
warnings--left a trail of discord in its wake. Some of this discord
persisted throughout the crisis and for years afterwards.
For one element, the State Department could not locate for a time
its copy of the 1957 Israel-US memorandum of understanding and Eban
was kept waiting during the search!
Johnson appeared to equivocate with Eban, citing his problems with
Congress, for example. Even then, one of his expressions of commit
ment reported back by Eban was soon to be disavowed by a Presidential
aide.


323
. . Israel had done her utmost, made a supreme
effort, to end the campaign before finding herself in
grave conflict with resolutions of the UN--and she had
in fact succeeded. (35:123,82)
The Soviet Union's Note to Israel of 10 June, severing relations,
included a threat of sanctions which, according to Kimche and Bawly,
caused considerable apprehension in Israel, with some sort of Soviet
action against Israel being "half-expected." But, in contrast to the
aftermath of the Suez War, "when Soviet threats had been largely
instrumental in obtaining an Israeli withdrawal, this time Israel
decided to ignore them."
Thus the USSR could ruefully conclude that it had to pay in 1967
the costs of a successful bluff in 1956. For Kimche and Bawly add
that Israeli leaders have declared that their fear of Great Power
sanctions after the 1956 Suez War was "a gross miscalculation on
their part." They became convinced that "the Russians were bluffing
then," even as they presumed they were now in 1967 (84:284-285).
Laqueur emphasizes the forlorn nature of the Soviet last-ditch
endeavor to scare Israel, and the shattered credibility resulting from
Israel's successful defiance of all the Russian threats. In view
of the mounting dissatisfaction with Moscow in the Arab world, and
the unrealized Arab expectations as to Soviet protective behavior,
the severing of relations, along with a strong but ambiguous threat,
was the very least the Russians could do.
The Note threatened that, if Israel did not immediately withdraw
to her former frontiers, the USSR and its allies would initiate sanc
tions, "with all their possible consequences." But--in Laqueur's


274
smashing victory meant for the US only the easy decision to continue
not to intervene and to restrain the USSR. But the latter had to
decide whether to continue to watch the Arab disaster or to intervene
in some effective, but surely difficult and dangerous, way.
One certain reason that the superpower tension this date was so
high, and the temptation for the USSR either to intervene or otherwise
deter Israel's onslaught so great, stems from a major defect of Soviet
crisis management in this type setting. The constant presentation of
a one-sided view of an aggressor, Israel, and an innocent Soviet client,
Nasser, had a certain utility up until the point where the "innocent"
Soviet client was being smashed by the "aggressor," backed by the
"imperialist" US, and was frantically yelling for help, with the
entire world closely watching.
This problem, and its painful dilemma, had been faced by the
USSR before, in Korea, as Robert Jervis relates in his provocative
study, The Logic of Images in International Relations:
... At the outbreak of the Korean War the Soviets
responded to President Truman's plea that they help re
store the status quo ante by claiming that South Korea
was the aggressor. This version of events gave them
at least an excuse for not restraining the North Koreans.
. . Once the United States intervened with mili
tary force, this version of the Soviets' beliefs had
grave drawbacks. It implied that they now thought an
innocent friendly regime was being attacked by the
Americans. If the Soviets did not go to their aid it
would seem that they were publicly admitting their un
willingness to prevent imperialist aggression. (77:207)
Now, as in Korea, the Soviet leaders had defined the situation
in extravagantly unreal terms with the effect that they had boxed
themselves into a corner; they had to intervene or admit, facing
"imperialist aggression," that they would not--and they did not--


305
while they officially supported the Arab cause, there was active
opposition from their people in general, from intellectuals, and
from parts of their armed forces.
In Poland there were spontaneous demonstrations in favor of Israel.
A number of high officials, even some Polish ministers, refused to
consider Israel the aggressor. Some high army officers steadfastly
refused to disseminate propaganda on the theme of "Israeli aggression"
among their troops. General Mankiewicz, Commander-in-Chief of the
Air Force, Brigadier-General Dombakovski, Chief of Staff, and his
assistant, Brigadier-General Staniavski, refused to circulate anti-
Israel propaganda in their air bases.*
In Czechoslovakia reporters and editorial writers refused to
sign petitions condemning Israel or to publish articles against Israel
in the daily papers.
The Rumanian government, unlike its "sister nations," openly re
fused to take an anti-Israel position. Serious crises also shook
the divided Communist parties of Western Europe (11:253-254).
It might well be noted here that much of this worldwide sympathy
for Israel--and condemnation of the Arab world--was due to the gross
Soviet-Arab mismanagement of the crisis in its buildup stage, and the
comparably astute Israeli crisis management--in notable contrast to
Suez in 1956.
*After the war they were relieved of their commands for this
refusal.


154
In partial explanation, Howe's interview two years later with his
"informed White House source" elicited this explanation: "He [Johnson]
was trying to keep Israel from going to war. Johnson tried to hold
them back" (68:362).
In Johnson's own memoirs, he dismissed to Eban the likelihood of
an imminent Egyptian attack, adding that, "All of our intelligence
people are unanimous that if the UAR attacks, you will whip hell out
of them. ..." (78:293)
Egypt at political/military cross-purposes
Among Nasser's (and Soviet) blunders in managing the crisis buildup
was an inconsistency between Nasser's political intentions and his
military moves, with a resultant confusion in signaling. On the one
hand, Arab military pressure on the Israeli borders continued to in
crease. Israel's military command was especially disturbed by the
movement of Egypt's strategic reserve, the Fourth Division, into the
Bir Gafgafa and Mitla areas in Sinai on 26 May and the continued
pullout of troops from Yemen. The bulk of the Egyptian army had been
moved to the Israeli front into dispositions that, as Heikal admitted,
were clearly offensive rather than defensive. In response the Israeli
military persisted in demanding action to forestall an Egyptian attack.
Egypt may meanwhile have decided not to strike the first blow, but
Israel could not be sure. As Draper concludes, "The contradiction
between Egyptian strategic intentions and Egyptian tactical maneuvers
provoked the Israelis and paralyzed the Egyptians" (43:94-95).
Furthermore, Howard and Hunter have noted how Nasser affected
contrasting public vs. private positions, a debatable crisis management


347
but more likely to cover up the recent Soviet nonsupport in war with
floods of invective likely to appeal to Arab emotions and restore
the tattered Soviet Middle East position. As Laqueur recounts, it
was the aim of Soviet policy after the Six-Day War to isolate Israel,
and to compel her eventually to give up the conquered territories.
Less than a week after the war's end, Israel began to feel the full
blast of Soviet displeasure, expressed in a sustained propaganda
campaign almost unprecedented in its ferocity. Seldom has a small
country been given so much publicity in the Soviet mass media, which
asserted that there had been few examples in history of such trea
cherous aggression as that of Israel against the Arab states. Israel
was accused of barbaric war crimes (94:57).
As an understandable expression of Soviet chagrin, rage and
frustration, in the wake of the June War, Velie reported that as
Soviet Ambassador to Israel Chuvakhin packed his bags to leave Israel
he roared at a Western diplomat: "This little nation can't defy the
Soviet Union! It must be punished!" (160:201).
Characteristically Strong Soviet Postwar Posturing
Although this winddown stage properly begins by calendar with
11 June, this account of certain Moscow developments the day before
is instructive. For evidence of characteristic Soviet return to
bluster and threat after the peak is passed and the real danger is
over, the mobilization of Moscow mobs is especially noteworthy, and
reminiscent of 1956. Israeli Ambassador to the USSR Katz was called
to an emergency meeting at the Foreign Ministry, where he was read the


230
protestations later of his foresight--nearly everywhere effective.
The world--apparently including the USSR--at this moment preferred
to heave a collective sigh of relief that the crisis was seemingly over.
At his first press conference as Defense Minister, Dayan was
memorably enigmatic. When asked about the diplomatic mess Israel had
become mired in since the closing of the Strait, he replied that
at present, it is either much too soon or much too late.
Too late to take military action against the closing of
the Strait of Tiran and too soon to draw conclusions as
to what diplomatic action should be taken in respect to
that matter. (11:188)
According to Bar-Zohar, incidents in three involved capitals,
amid an evening's false calm, contrasted starkly with the Israeli
Cabinet meeting this same evening that decided to go to war.
The Soviet Ambassador in Cairo visited Nasser and told him his
government believed the crisis over, and that Israel would not attack.
Chuvakhin in Tel Aviv cabled Moscow his opinion that Israel would
not start anything for two weeks.
In Washington Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin cabled home that diplo
matic efforts to solve the crisis would last at least another week.
And in the same capital W. W. Rostow had Israeli Ambassador Evron
to dinner and advised him, "Wait until the end of next week before you
decide to act." To which Evron said nothing (11:189).
Lessons of 1956 applied
The concern that Israel's leaders, especially Eban, showed, to be
sure the US would at least tolerate their going to war, reflected their
unhappy memories of 1956. Then, at the moment of their complete triumph


248
USSR surprised by war?
The Soviet leaders' immediate prewar absence from Moscow almost
adds up to leader "escapism"; did they hope to quiet down the Middle
East, or restrain Nasser, by appearing "cool" and detached in Moscow?
Or did they not care that much about Nasser or the Arabs? Or did they
grossly misjudge the possibility of war?
Or, as has been suggested in some quarters, was Moscow washing
its hands of Nasser, putting detached distance between itself and
him, knowing the deluge was coming, and that it had been unable to
restrain him from provoking it? If so, it would prove nowhere near
as successful in separating itself from its clients as Stalin was--
according to Khrushchev's memoirs--in separating himself from the
North Korean invasion of South Korea (82:370).
On this eve of war, Oded Eran and Jerome Singer find Moscow
glaringly unready for what it had done so much to unleash.
The Soviet assumption appears clearly to have been
that the US would restrain Israel from going to war.
Not only did the Soviets appear to have explicitly
assured their Eastern European allies of this, but
their own consternation and confusion at the outbreak
of the war and the simultaneous absence from Moscow
of all three members of the ruling triumvirate, Pod-
gorny, Kosygin, Brezhnev, in the days preceding the
war's outbreak, are strong circumstantial evidence
of their misjudgment in this respect. (49:24)
Yet some doubt still persists over this question: did Moscow
not know, or suspect, Israel's 5 June plans? If knowledgeable, did
Soviet leaders feel either helpless at this point or resigned to a
"let-it-go" attitude? It is perhaps significant that K. Vishnevetsky
in Izvestia on this date was somehow able to conjure up a somber
symbolism: "black crows circling" over what would prove on the morrow
to be for Moscow's Arab clients a dark and bloody battleground (132:6).


CHAPTER IV
CRISIS PEAK (HOSTILITIES):
5-10 JUNE 1967
D-Day: Monday 5 June
Israel Masks Her Preemptive Attack
Israel, for political and morale reasons--somewhat reminiscent
of North Korea's claim in June 1950 to be responding to an attack--
attempted to cover her well-planned aerial assault as a "defensive
step." According to Fred Khouri's critical analysis, Israel claimed
that the Arabs had actually started the war by directing artillery
fire on Israeli border villages and by sending Egyptian tanks and
planes "toward" the border. Subsequently it became clear that
Israel--fol 1 owing tactics similar to those successfully employed in
the Negev and Galilee sectors in October and December 1948, and in
the Sinai War in 1956--again used alleged provocations as an excuse
to initiate an all-out military attack, which caught the Arabs com
pletely by surprise (81:259).
Initial Confrontation Danger Passes
The first US actions, communications with Moscow and a public
announcement, both preceded the more publicized initiation of hotline
exchanges. At about 5:30 a.m. on 5 June, following consultations
between the Secretary of State and the President, a message was sent
through normal channels by Secretary Rusk indicating that the United
States was "astonished that fighting had commenced" and was "ready to
249


227
2. A significant diplomatic victory for Nasser, who would
have undone what Israel had accomplished in 1956 in
the Suez War.
3. Continuation of an Arab military ring around Israel
under Nasser's leadership.
4. Indefinite continuation of Israel's state of mobiliza
tion, with its severe economic costs.
5. A likely decline in Israeli morale, as the crisis
dragged on without resolution, with attendant increas
ing pressure on Eshkol to act.
The other choice, going to war, meant
1. By all Western estimates, an assured, decisive, quick
victory.
2., Opening the gulf for Israeli use immediately.
3. Humiliating, or even eliminating, Nasser.
4. Destroying the Arab military ring.
5. Acquiring new, strategically valuable territory.
6. Revitalizing Western sympathies for the "underdog"
Israel, in the form of financial contributions and
increased Jewish immigration. (139:156)
Ex-CIA agent Copeland's assessment of Israel's decision is matter-
of-fact, in excerpts from his now-it-can-be-told expos of CIA activity
in the Middle East. He recounts the approach of Israel's patience to
the breaking point, with her conclusion, in early 1967, that "we can't
go on like this indefinitely; we must make the break sooner or later,
so we'd better grab the first opportunity." She had, after all, been
rehearsing her assault for years, and never again would she get such
favorable circumstances in which to launch it (30:272-273,277).
An important element in comparative crisis management, accumulating
throughout the crisis buildup, is that, as the Arabs were by their


365
UN Special Assembly Produces Impasse (17 June 21 July)
Major Soviet Effort to Mobilize General Assembly Forum
Pressed hard from all sides, and needing to show a lot of apparent
activity, the USSR saw potential value in a maneuver to shift the
debate from the stalemated Security Council to the more Third World-
weighted General Assembly.
In response to the Soviet request of 13 June, U Thant had con
ducted a poll of the Assembly's 122 delegates. By 15 June he had
received the concurrence of sixty-one members, the required majority
(the US responded negatively), and the Special Emergency Session was
accordingly convened in New York on 17 June (88:121).
Foiled in the Security Council, the Soviet Union, embittered and
humiliated, thus attempted the ploy (reminiscent of Korea in 1950,
with a reversal of US-USSR roles) of shifting the debate to a highly
publicized, propaganda session of the General Assembly, with Kosygin
himself in attendance.*
It soon became apparent, despite the ocean of words that ensued,
that sympathy for Israel and alienation from the Arab cause were
likewise the case in the General Assembly. No resolution, despite
varied and valiant efforts, by Western, pro-Soviet, or uncommitted
forces, or combinations of same, could win the necessary votes.
Nevertheless, the Soviet high-level effort, extending from 17 June
*This high-level participation again was surely a propaganda
ploy, as was Mikoyan's attendance on Castro in 1962 in the after-
math of the Cuban missile retreat, to disguise the stink of
failure.


317
that Israeli forces were moving on and bombing Damascus. Rafael
denied both these charges and countered that Israeli settlements were
still being shelled (110:240).
Subsequently, the "move on Damascus" was again demonstrated to
be a case of Syrian (and Soviet) crying wolf for dramatic propaganda
and deterrent effect. It seems unlikely that Rafael would have so
positively denied, the day before and this day, the march on Damascus
if he had felt any such action was contemplated. As to Quneitra, it
was subsequently taken by Israel in one of the last actions of the war,
but late enough that Rafael could plausibly maintain that his denial
was accurate at the time.
Soviet Performance: Threat or Bluff?
Although the USSR had resolved--in characteristic fashion--to
put cool distance between itself and its collapsed Arab allies, there
seemingly were limits to the extent of the Israeli victory--especially
on the Syrian front--it was prepared to swallow. Or, more aptly, it
had to make a final, extra effort at deterring the US-Israel combina
tion as Israel showed signs of extending her victory to the conquest
of the Syrian capital itself. Bar-Zohar, in relating the climactic
events, notes however that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Wheeler was unmoved. "We have nothing to fear from Soviet
action," he told one of his friends that morning. "The Soviets have
no large mobile units to put into action at once in the Middle Eastern
war. They have alerted their paratrooper divisions, but they know how


343
Nasser's Initial Move a Threat to Soviet Stake
That the Soviet-Arab debacle of the June War would leave the
Soviet position in disarray was strongly indicated already on 9 June,
when Nasser made his resignation announcement and designated his
pro-American (right wing) Vice-President, Zakariya Mohieddin--rather
than Ali Sabry, the pro-Soviet (left wing) one--as his successor.
That this was no coincidence, and that Nasser at that moment saw
Egypt's future in the American rather than the Soviet direction
(although not as positively as Sadat was to do later) is indicated
by these words in Nasser's long speech to the opening of the new
session of the National Assembly some five months after the war.
He then described his 9 June mood of black despair:
I thought that the people would lose faith in our
ability to endure and to resist after our armed forces
had suffered such a rapid military defeat.
I thought that because of this our people would be
ready to accept a peaceful settlement whether with the
United States of America or with the other Western
countries that were hostile to us. (75:702)
That Nasser on 9 June already felt abandoned by the USSR, with
Egypt's future pointing in another direction, is thus indicated by
his choice of his successor. For he had earlier kept his options
open, to a degree, and his own leadership staff balanced.
With Nasser's retention of the Presidency the next day, subsequent
massive Soviet rebuilding aid, and an awareness that the US direction
held little promise, Nasser reversed himself and again used Sabry as
his go-between to Moscow. But another reversal was to come in the
future, when in 1971 Sadat purged Sabry and his leftist faction, to
Moscow's chagrin, and by stages reopened an option toward the US
(49:28-29).


294
There is no evidence that this Liberty affair particularly con
cerned the Soviet side, or that it should have. Hence Johnson's
memoir account appears to have appreciably overstated the significance
of the use of the hotline for this event. He comments with obvious
satisfaction that "Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson reported, after his
return to Moscow, that this particular exchange had made a deep im
pression on the Russians. ..." (78:301)
This hotline exchange over the Liberty attack, while confirming
US-USSR restraint, evoked a bitter reaction from Nasser. Describing
the Arab leader's reasoning, Jon Glassman says the Egyptians saw
the Kosygin message regarding the Liberty as part of an American
double-cross effort. Nasser felt that, because the message was trans
mitted through Kosygin, "it was directed at the Russians in an effort
to neutralize the Soviet Union, blinding them against an operation
being conducted against Egypt" (58:55).
Communist bloc writers Jan Dziedzic and Tadeusz Walichnowski,
voicing an appropriately bizarre explanation for the bizarre Liberty
incident, suggest that "the Israelis had done it at the request of
CIA to disprove Egyptian-inspired claims of collusion between Israel
and the United States" (45:63).
Nasser Yields
The belated acknowledgement by Nasser of disaster--after much
Soviet urging and in the face of clear Soviet refusal to help mili
ta ri 1y--came finally on this Thursday, the fourth day of the war.
Following the previous night's cross-purposes between Egypt and the


97
pointed out forcefully, and, as it proved, accurately, what was likely
to happen if the force was withdrawn, and advised delay. The Indians
and the Yugoslavs insisted that Egypt was acting within her rights
and that they must comply with her request (67:18).
One more point: surely the need for haste by these two nations
was not justified by fears for the safety of their own men in UNEF.
Nasser and his generals were hardly likely to do harm to these troops,
whose leaders were so closely linked with his policies!
Egyptian military alert
In his postwar General Assembly speech giving Israel's view of
the crisis buildup, Eban included this item for this date:
... On May 17, 1967, at 6 in the morning, Radio Cairo
broadcast that Field-Marshal Amer had issued alert or
ders to the Egyptian armed forces. Nor did he mention
Syria as the excuse. This announcement reads:
1. The state of preparedness of the Egyptian armed
forces will increase to the full level of prepared
ness for war, beginning 14.30 hours last Sunday.
2. Formations and units allocated in accordance with
the operational plans will advance from their
present locations to the designated positions.
3. The armed forces are to be in full preparedness
to carry out any combat tasks on the Israel front
in accordance with developments. (46:214)
It is possible that Amer was responding to the original Soviet
designation of this date, 17 May, as its intelligence-based predic
tion as to when Israel would attack Syria. Such a military reaction,
especially if Nasser had not confided in Amer that these "intelligence"
reports were a fabricated propaganda and scenario tool, could also
explain the rapid--and by some accounts unauthorized--army efforts to
get the UNEF out of the way on late 16 and on 17 May.


106
faction) absent in the hospital. Though the official press announce
ment above says "transfer to other work," Political Diary says this
was banishment to the Ukraine for "failures of Soviet intelligence"
and "making a great ado over trifles" (106, No. 33:243-244).*
Amplifying material relevant to this development is provided in
the Appendix.
Nasser's Tiran dilemma
In the twilight area between the UNEF withdrawal and the Tiran
Strait closure, pro-Arab Rodinson professes to see that the crisis
might somehow have been halted in time. The Egyptian forces in
Sinai did not yet present a grave threat to Israel. U Thant's
peace mission to Cairo included prospects for a revival of the
Egyptian-Israeli Armistice Commission. PLO Chief Shuqairy stated
that he had placed his troops in Gaza under Egyptian command, and
that furthermore King Hussein of Jordan would have to be overthrown
before there could be any thought of a war of liberation against
Israel. But the crucial problem was the Strait of Tiran: Nasser
now had no pretext for not blockading it against Israel (134:191).
*Reliability of information or its fundamental source is unfor
tunately not verifiable, except that this monthly periodical is
reputed to have circulated among fairly highly placed Party members;
the editors were and are prominent and informed dissident Soviet
intellectuals, the Medvedev brothers, Roy and Zhores, then living
and working within the Soviet system and probably with ties at that
time to sources close to the political leadership.


348
text of the Soviet decision to sever relations with Israel and asked
to leave the USSR "the earliest possible." On his return to the
Embassy, he found that a police cordon had been placed around the
building and that a crowd was gathering outside. In Bar-Zohars
words,
... At a given signal the mob began to shout anti-
Israel slogans and to brandish placards and banners.
As if in an ecclesiastical ritual, three lines of
policemen took their places at the door of the embassy.
The crowd took their cue from this balletic procedure
and surged gently against the policemen, who locked
arms to restrain them. After an hour had passed one
of the policemen looked at his watch and gave an order.
The crowd moved peacefully away. (11:260-261)*
The well-known theatrical talent of the Russians is put to good
use in the streets when crisis management so dictates!
Noted historian Ulam perceptively records the characteristic
Soviet immediate posthostilities phase in its posturing and fog
spreading:
. . News of the war was contained in the back
pages of Soviet papers. And not until the actual cease
fire did the "righteous wrath" of the Soviet people
erupt; mass meetings in support of the Arab victims,
etc. were then featured. . .
Ulam goes on to chronicle a series of subsequent Soviet actions
and pronouncements as reminiscent of Khrushchev: an impressive
diplomatic and propaganda display intended to mask Soviet discomfi
ture (154:748-749).
*From the book, Embassies in Crisis: Diplomats and Demagogues
Behind the Six-Day War, by Michael Bar-Zohar. (c) 1970, by Michael
Bar-Zohar. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.


199
in Washington, Cairo, or any of the other involved decision centers.
One analysis of its effect, in relation to all that had preceded it,
is J. B. Bell's.
Of all the signals sent out during the crisis, the vital one,
Eshkol's definition of the blockade as an act of aggression, was
largely overlooked in the key world capitals. For Israel the central
question was whether Nasser could be persuaded to abandon the blockade
of Aqaba by diplomatic means. If not, war was inevitable. Bell con
cludes that
As the days passed, the international communities' sense
of urgency seemed to decline in direct proportion to
Israel's rising anxiety. Within the government a
majority, not including Eshkol, pinned its hopes on a
diplomatic solution until the moment that King Hussein
flew to Cairo. At that point the scales tipped the
other way. (15:412)
The principle of effective crisis management most clearly vio
lated at this stage involved Nasser's failure to slow down the escala
tion, to call a pause, to permit political reflection and consideration.
Had he done so at this stage, Israel might still have gone to war, but
probably less unified and surely with less US and worldwide backing.
Instead, Nasser plunged on, like a man obsessed, into disaster.
In their analysis, Howard and Hunter see two developments as
important, in Nasser's handling of the crisis, for their effects on
Israel's decision to go to war:
The first was the buildup of Egyptian forces in
Sinai after the closing of the Strait. Within a week
seven divisions had been rushed into the area, two of
them armored; and although their positions could indi
cate a defensive posture, many of them were concen
trated too far forward on the frontier to be given the
benefit of the doubt; and there was an armored force


233
who, according to Lacouture, maintained that the first to strike would
be the victor (89:308).
Lawrence Whetten cites Badran's trial testimony in 1968 for evidence
Nasser was warned by America this date of the impending Israeli attack.
But the Egyptian High Command remained split over the decision whether
to strike first or await the Israeli blow (168:42-43).
An American tipping off Nasser, and, for balance, another American
advising Israel to "go," remain two of the intriguing mysteries of
the June War.
Nasser's preassault setting analyzed
As Israel consolidated her last steps before embarking on war,
one assessment of Nasser sees him combining a profound misjudgment
of the Israeli temper under siege with an inability to control the
forces that led him over the brink. Flapan, an editor of the Israeli
New Outlook, is here responding to Isaac Deutscher's quite contrasting,
critical judgment of Israel:
Once the Arab enemies collapsed under the devastating Israeli
assault, it is easy to reassess the pre-5 June Arab threat as an
enormous and hollow bluff. But the concentrated Egyptian force of
1200 tanks and hundreds of bombers and missiles, had they struck the
first blow and/or scored any sort of initial success (as was to happen
in 1973), would have represented an extremely serious danger for Israel.
Victory was possible, Flapan avers, "because the people fought with a
determination and a courage which can only be inspired by a deep and
real fear." And war became inevitable, not only because Israel would


272
unconditional cease-fire. About noon, the Egyptian, Syrian and Jor
danian Ambassadors appeared at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow to
charge that US and British aircraft had participated in the Israeli
assault. But the Soviet leaders vigorously rejected these charges
as untrue. The Arab Ambassadors then called a press conference and
repeated the charges, but TASS received orders not to publish the
story. Egyptian Ambassador Ghaleb saw Kosygin again, but the Soviet
position on aid was unchanged. Kosygin felt that the Arabs and the
USSR should work together in the UN for a cease-fire. In another,
more threatening exchange with Johnson, Kosygin found the US position
also unchanged. Fedorenko meanwhile informed Moscow that the Arabs
remained fiercely opposed to the type resolution the US wanted; they
demanded unconditional Israeli withdrawal (11:228-229).
While Nasser and Hussein in their desperate situation seemed to
see much potential gain to be derived from accusing the US and Britain
of participation in the Israeli attack, they were either unaware or
unconcerned as to (or even relished?) the bind this charge put the
Russians into. Burdett describes the Russians as enraged by the
announcement and for many good reasons. In the eyes of the entire
Arab world, they were reneging on their promises of "resolute resist
ance" to aggression, while the Americans were loyally rushing to the
aid of their Israeli friends. Worse than that, Moscow was being pro
voked to take a hand. The Soviet reaction, sharp and immediate, was
the opposite of what Nasser had apparently bargained for (24:321).
The British journal Economist described this tense day in Moscow
as follows:


307
reported that Tito of Yugoslavia sponsored this gathering and led
the demands ("like a prosecutor") (11:253-254) for effective Soviet
aid to his beleaguered friend Nasser, whom incidentally Tito had
helped put into this fix by Yugoslavia's ill-considered pressure on
U Thant to withdraw UNEF. It is further reported that the agreed-
upon Soviet aid at this conference was sabotaged by the USSR, first
by pretending to Nasser that Tito was responsible, and then, when
Tito in anger opened his country wide to Soviet resupply efforts,
by falling back on technical problems to delay the effort until
after the war, when the 20-21 June plenum of the CPSU decided future
Soviet Mid-East policy.
Buried in black despair on this date of his resignation speech,
Nasser, then and subsequently, was only indirectly critical of his
Soviet "protector" for failure of support during the June War. This
could be for politically calculated reasons, rather than reflection
of his convictions: an awareness of the new and critical need for
Soviet rebuilding help and the need, for unity's sake, not to feed
Arab tendencies to disorderly scapegoating. Also, he may well have
been aware that he had moved on UNEF and Aqaba without consulting the
Soviet leaders and perhaps even against their advice. Then, too,
failure of Egyptian arms and alertness were even more prominent
than failure of Soviet help.
But, if Nasser had been misled by expectations as to Soviet sup
port, it is strange that he gambled so much without consulting the
history of Soviet (and before that, Russian) performance in similar
situations. There is a sober lesson for any Soviet client in this


408
complex, multifaceted design was brilliant in concept: to get Egypt
out of Yemen and into Sinai, and thus end a wasteful, pointless war;
save Syria; deter Israel; and unify the Arab world behind Nasser.
In design it was indeed a testimonial to Gromyko's assurance to a
doubting Nasser that "anything is possible in politics" (110:22).
That the Soviet leaders also recognize their own vulnerability
to a determined fait accompli in reverse, and accept it when necessary,
was demonstrated first in Kennedy's 1962 Cuban blockade, and here in
Israel's preemption and devastating six-day conquest of her three
major enemies. As both Tatu and Dinerstein have pointed out in the
latter case, a collective Soviet leadership is especially vulnerable
in finding it difficult to come to prompt decisions under the pres
sure of events. Thus effective measures to cope with Israel's fait
accompli were only attempted in the less pressured winddown phase
after the war.
Ability to Learn from Past Crises
Finally, it is encouraging both for those who must deal with the
USSR, and for the world's safety, that the USSR obviously studies and
learns from past crises such as its 1967 Mid-East debacle. The Soviet
leaders accelerated establishing and augmenting as required both their
strategic nuclear forces and their conventional, mobile regional forces,
so that they would not feel obliged to back down in future crises in
the face of US determination, supported by these two evident superiori
ties .
In making an enormous second investment in the Arab countries,
they also exacted a price which improved both their capability and


265
The June 1967 issue of the dissident Soviet intellectuals' journal,
Political Diary, displays a mixture of scorn and fascination at the
appalling Arab unreadiness for the Israeli attack. In an article
entitled "Conflict in the Near East and the Intelligentsia," their
version of the Egyptian unreadiness goes as follows. Soviet intelli
gence forewarned the Arabs of the attack preparations and even gave
advance warning of the 5 June date. Soviet military advice as to
precautionary, defensive aircraft patrols was ignored. Nasser visited
the advance Sinai forces on 3 June and added his warnings. General
Mahmud assured Nasser that his air force was in full battle readiness.
But that very night he arranged a great banquet in honor of his
daughter's betrothal. The banquet lasted so late that many officers
did not get back to their posts until morning. Furthermore, most
Egyptian pilots were away from their airdromes on 4 June on twenty-
four-hour home leave. General Mahmud himself got to sleep only in
early morning, ordering that he not be awakened until 10:30 a.m.
These Russian authors conclude, ruefully, "It is not surprising
that almost all the Egyptian air power was put out of action in the
very first hours of the war" (106, No. 33:244-245).
With all due respect for Israel's skill in her air assault, still
much of the Egyptian debacle must be credited to Nasser's ill-founded--
and apparently i 11-informed--confidence in the competence of the Egyp
tian army. From his immediate postwar, on-the-scene inquiries, Scheer
provides startling amplification of the Egyptian army's nonreadiness
for battle. The army, he concluded, had existed over the fourteen
years of the new regime's life as a continuous mockery of the hopes


370
military intelligence network in the Middle East, it was said, had
"come under fire for its false appraisals of Arab prowess" (110:17).
France Indicts Both US and Israel
The postwar disarray was not, of course, confined to the Soviet-
Arab side of the Middle East alignments. In the UN debate, France
ranged itself on the Arab-Soviet side, and against Israel and the
US, and displeased America by finding the root causes of the war in
the model of violent solutions being pursued by the US in Vietnam.
On 21 June, in a major statement to his Cabinet, President de Gaulle
accused Israel of starting the war. He held that the Middle East
conflict stemmed from the war that "was started in Vietnam through
American intervention." He explained that the violence of the South
east Asian conflict could not but "spread disorder not only on the
spot but far away" (88:150-151).
The Vietnam problem for the USSR was certainly a factor in Soviet
Mid-East calculations. But how important a one is less clear.
Israel had lost its long-standing support from France in the
buildup stage of the crisis, and France proved to be unforgiving and
prominently in the Arab-Soviet camp. Its chagrin was great, however,
in that its Four-Power conference proposals won small attention or
support, and the USSR humiliated de Gaulle by treating France as a
propaganda sideshow of secondary importance, or less.
USSR Reacts Strongly to Criticism
The Soviet Union was sensitive to the postwar criticism that
came its way, and vigorously counterattacked in its characteristic


135
It may be observed, with the Soviet Note of this same date as a
striking example, that the Soviet approach to crisis signaling was
quite the opposite: a threatening rather than mild tone, and impre
cise language that permitted the USSR, as was to be demonstrated in
this case, to back away from what appeared to the Arabs to be a
commitment.
Heikal recalls that the US applied a double pressure on Nasser
this date, as well as an apparent warning to Israel. First, Ambassa
dor Nolte gave Riyad a message from Johnson to Nasser, stating that
his "transcendent objective" should be the avoidance of hostilities.
On the same day this message was delivered, the Egyptian Ambassador
in Washington was called to a meeting with Under Secretary Eugene
Rostow at the State Department. The burden of that meeting was the
same: the avoidance of hostilities and the immediate stopping of
war if it once started. Rostow said that the United States had told
Israel frankly that "they would resist any attack against any Arab
state" (61:243).
These warnings proved eventually to have a serious deterrent
effect on Nasser, in debates with his generals as to preemptive
attack, but did not deter Israel from her own preemption on 5 June.
Hence these warnings are the source of both the credit given to
Johnson for astute crisis management, and the considerable Arab
bitterness at their "perfidious betrayal" by the United States and
Israel.


38
to inspect the wreckage of the Syrian planes that had fallen on Jor
danian territory. Furthermore, a Jordanian spokesman said that an
investigation by Jordanian experts showed that the Syrian planes had
been armed with dummy wooden rockets! The Jordanian newspaper
Al-Quds commented that this was so because the Syrian regime lived in
constant fear of revolution by disaffected elements within its own
armed forces (110:177)!
This time the Arab sense of outrage would not be stilled, and did
not simmer down into smoldering frustration. Outlets and scapegoats
were needed. A1-Quds ran a headline reading, "What steps had Cairo
taken?" In biting words, the editor pointed out that Nasser was willing
to fight Arabs in Yemen but not Zionists in Palestine. Egypt was hiding
behind the glass wall of the UNEF in Sinai, safe from the Israelis
and free to criticize King Hussein's moderation. In November he had
done nothing during the Israeli retaliation raid on es Samu. Now he
had once again done nothing. He remained the leader of the new Arab
world, but A1-Quds implied that such a position entailed responsibili
ties. Nasser had to put up or shut up, to stop mocking Jordan's
passivity while he maneuvered in safety. At one of his most vulner
able moments, Nasser was challenged (15:404-405).
Even more than the es Samu raid, this air battle demonstrated
Israel's ability and willingness to react, indeed to overreact, to
provocations of the kind which the Syrians had no intention of dis
continuing. And like the es Samu raid it showed the disunity that
still obtained among Israel's principal enemies. Both Syria and
Jordan complained loudly of the Egyptian failure to do anything to


451
later (on 26 September) Shelepin was dismissed from the important
post of Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee as well (110:18).
Though he remained a member of the Politburo and made some periodic
partial recoveries of status, his power base had been permanently
eroded; he was finally dropped from the Politburo in 1975.
Thus the leader of the hardliners shared the downgrading of his
faction that began with the removal of Semichastny as KGB chief on
18 May and continued with the sharp demotion of Yegorychev on 28 June.
In this case, the humiliation and the lesson for all to heed were
the more clear and public in that Shelepin was banished from the
center of power into the same innocuous position of trade union chief
from which Grishin had been elevated on 28 June to replace Yegorychev.
It seems abundantly clear that Grishin had spoken at the 20 June
plenum in favor of the Brezhnev-Kosygin cautious, moderate Middle
East policies, and had been as publicly rewarded, as Yegorychev
had been publicly punished for speaking in opposition to these same
policies.
In the shakeups following the June War debacle, Shelepin was
thus relieved of all his Party functions except membership in the
Presidium and his government post as Deputy Prime Minister. His asso
ciates, including Semichastny and Yegorychev, were similarly ousted
and given posts of little importance. The militant Komsomol youth
organization was subsequently given an oldline Party boss--instead
of a graduate of the Komsomol apparatus--and brought under tighter
control of the central Party (87:140-141).


387
While engaging in contacts with the US delegation, but particu
larly after the agreement of 19 July, the Soviet delegation made
repeated efforts to induce the Arabs to accept the US-Soviet draft,
which would call not only for Israeli withdrawal but in fact also
for an end to Arab bel 1igerency.
On 20 July Gromyko asked Goldberg for a recess of another twenty-
four hours before reconvening the Assembly in order to make a final
effort at "convincing the Arabs." Gromyko failed, however, in the
words of a Western observer, to make the Arabs "face the reality of
their military defeat and grant lip-service, at least, to the fact
of Israeli existence." In a three-hour discussion with Gromyko on
20 July, Algerian Foreign Minister Boutefliqa reportedly said that
"acceptance of the US-Soviet draft would amount to total betrayal
of the Arab cause."
On 21 July, the Arab UN delegations met and decided unanimously
to reject the US-Soviet draft resolution. As a result, the Soviet
Union gave up its plans to cosponsor the draft, and it was therefore
not introduced when the General Assembly reconvened the same day
(110:83).
General Assembly Fails and Gives Up
Like the Council, the Assembly was unable to find an acceptable
solution. It received seven resolutions between 19 June and 3 July.
Only two were adopted: a Pakistani resolution declaring Israel's 28
June reunification of Jerusalem invalid, and a Swedish resolution
urging assistance to the war's victims. The Assembly adjourned on


282
events to come. Arab Ambassadors in Moscow held a press conference
for Soviet correspondents at the Algerian Embassy, where the Moroccan
Ambassador, in the name of his colleagues, read a statement "express
ing the gratitude of the Arab countries for the support given by the
Soviet government and people in the just cause of the Arabs." But
only the TASS service in English reported this truly strange gather
ing (133:1-2).
Nasser Meets Disaster
Heikal reminisces in poignant terms, in his post-Nasser book,
about the war's outbreak and the overwhelming disaster for Nasser.
He maintains that Nasser "saw defeat coming. He foresaw that the
Israelis would start the war by striking at Egypt's air fields, and
he constantly warned the Air Force to be on their guard against a
surprise attack. . ."
In an atmosphere of panic at General Headquarters the first morn-
ing--according to Heikal--Nasser tried to bolster his generals' morale,
urging them to fight on until, as at Suez, international forces of
world order would come to their aid and force the Israelis to abandon
their conquest. But events moved too quickly (61:28).
Even given Heikal's devotion to Nasser's memory, the words, "He
saw defeat coming," are difficult to reconcile with the aggressive
self-confidence with which he had repeatedly escalated the crisis
and taunted Israel, without and even against the advice of his Soviet
protector.


118
the Suez Canal northbound into the Mediterranean. Also on this date,
as Nasser made his fateful announcement of the closing of the Strait
of Tiran, the USSR took a step to augment its Mediterranean fleet by
giving the required eight days' notification to the Turkish government
of the impending transits of the Dardanelles by ten ships. One
observer felt this move may have been a response to the ordering of
Sixth Fleet carrier task forces toward the eastern Mediterranean
(68:149,77).
The inadequacy of this measure, if designed to cope with the
Sixth Fleet's attack forces; the mixed, largely auxiliary composition
of this augmentation; and the likelihood that it may even have been
a summer training deployment unrelated to the crisis, detract con
siderably from its significance. In fact, its subsequent passage
into the Mediterranean in the crucial prehostilities week in June
may well have given the Arabs unwarranted confidence. In the sub
sequent lightning war none of these ten ships, or any of the others
already there, played any meaningful role.
Unbridled Arab euphoria
Although Nasser had proved in his preceding career that he could
be a calculating gambler as well as a spellbinding orator, the climate
of euphoria surrounding him on this date may have adversely affected
his capacity for cool judgment. Burdett records that in the Arab
nations "a swell of applause and jubilation had lifted Nasser to the
heights." He was once again in his favorite role of hero to the Arab
nation. Friends and foes alike had been swept along into the frenzied


184
policy as pressure mounted from the military, the public, and the
opposition. An editorial appearing the following day summed up the
situation, stating, "What the nation wishes to hear are clear guide
lines from its leaders."
Another vote was taken on the war alternative and the Cabinet
was still deadlocked, with Eshkol refusing to break the tie. The
division was not between those who favored war immediately and those
who opposed it indefinitely. There were, roughly, three viewpoints:
that Israel had "missed the boat" by waiting too long; that it was
necessary to fight without further delay, and that it was necessary
to exhaust all other possibilities before going to war. The third
was not so much a "peace party" as a "not-yet-war" party. For this
group, of whom Prime Minister Eshkol was the central figure, the main
inhibition came from President Johnson's request to let the US and
the "maritime powers" open the Strait for Israel.
While Soviet and Arab propaganda was accusing the US of inciting
the Israelis, the latter were being held back for fear of giving
offense to the President of the United States! If Soviet pressure
succeeded in restraining the Egyptians in the early morning hours
of 27 May, US influence accomplished much the same thing on the Israeli
side the following day (162:79-80).
In retrospect, this two-day period represents the time during
the crisis when the US and USSR were working most in harmony, so that
this date may well have represented the last chance for the crisis to
pass away without war. There was a moment here of a sort of equilib
rium between war and peace, equivalent to the medical concept of a


257
at the UN, contended, even after hostilities had started, that the
gravity of the Middle East situation was being exaggerated (93:280).
While other authorities do not agree as to whether the USSR really
expected success for Arab arms, nor as to how soon the leadership
realized the developing disaster, respected orientalist Bernard Lewis,
testifying in 1971, felt that the Soviet UN performance this day was
built on an illusion, that the Russians were confident that their
proteges would win if left alone. He noted how the Soviet represen
tative at the Security Council at first fought hard to delay the
cease-fire, so as to give the Arabs time to complete their victory
(98:196).
Signs of confusion in Soviet expectations and propaganda appear
in the Soviet weekly New Times article, "Aggression against the Arab
World," dated 14 June 1967, but seemingly written on either 5 or 6
June, before the Egyptian collapse was apparent to the writer. It
would have seemed safer and less embarrassing to avoid discussing
the war's progress or predicting its results at this early stage,
especially considering that the New Times is generally reputed to
represent the views of the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Moreover, the
final two paragraphs of the article appear to have been added on,
a belated--perhaps by phone call to the presses--recognition of the
Egyptian disaster (2:1-3).
Initial UN Action: Impasse
The tension and diplomatic drama at the UN this day developed as
follows. The president of the fifteen-member Security Council for


116
inaugurated this scenario? This failure is the more striking in that
some reports credit Soviet Army intelligence with having been given
the go-ahead by the Politburo to plan and implement this Mid-East
adventure.
USSR on another tack, ambivalent
In fact, Moscow on this date was out of step with Nasser, and
still concentrating on the Syrian border tale. Israeli Ambassador
Katz called on Shchiborin in Moscow to protest against the false
information in the Soviet press regarding Israel's policy toward
Syria. The revealing answer he received was: what difference did
it make if from time to time the Soviet press published reports
"without stenographic precision"? All that mattered was the inten
tion appearing in declarations made by Israeli leaders, and the
Soviet government warned Israel against exactly that intention.
"We cannot be responsible for what is happening in the atmosphere
which was poisoned by your leaders' statements." When Katz objected,
saying that the Soviet government well knew the Arab intentions against
Israel but was doing nothing about them, Shchiborin did not react
(32:213).
Laqueur also looks at the domestic Soviet scene and sees evidence
throughout the Middle East crisis of an ambivalence as to how to play
it. For example, the demonstration by Arab students in Moscow, re
ported under 21 May, was not given publicity in the domestic Soviet
media. And, Laqueur adds, "There were no solidarity demonstrations
with Egypt and Syria throughout the Soviet Union until after the war"
(93:199).


443
hardline views.* It is presumed, therefore, that these two men spoke
against the Brezhnev policies and perhaps for tougher, more active
support of the Arabs, even at higher risk. Yegorychev was to be
abruptly demoted from his prestigious position, and out of political
work, in an announcement one week later, and his place taken with
much press fanfare by Grishin, #3, who is therefore presumed to have
spoken in favor of the policies that prevailed, Brezhnev's.**
As to the fate of the #1 plenum speaker, hardliner Shelest, a
1974 Kremlinology study, referring to military-centered opposition
to Soviet dtente policies (just before Brezhnev's summer 1973
summit trip to Washington), concluded that the dispute was resolved
by dropping Shelest and another conservative from the Politburo and
replacing them with the apparently more acceptable "institutional
hawks," defense chief Marshal Grechko and secret police chief
Andropov (177:15).
Soviet Rearming of Arabs: Domestic Implications
Glassman sees the massive arms resupply effort beginning this
date as a response, not only to Arab needs and feelings, but also
to hardliners in the Politburo:
*Shelepin was himself demoted a few weeks later to the position
from which #3 on this list, V. V. Grishin, was advanced to replace
Yegorychev.
**Grishin was subsequently advanced even higher, to the Politburo,
of which he is presently (1978) a member.


218
It might also be concluded that Moscow meanwhile was attempting to
consolidate its and Nasser's victory by "sweet-talking" the Israelis
into accepting the fait accompli. If so, its 5 June shock must have
been all the greater.
Although Israel, and Dayan himself, made some deceptive endeavors
to mask its significance, Dayan's appointment this date as Israel's
Defense Minister was greeted in Israel with unanimous relief. Abroad,
it was widely seen as a sign that the government had resolved on war
(67:26).
How Israel settled on her war decision, with Dayan's entry into the
Cabinet the unifying prerequisite, is discussed by Wagner. Most
authorities consider that after the 30 May meeting of Hussein and
Nasser, there really was no further question. An official government
version published five years later designated 2 June as the date of
the formal vote for war. But in fact Dayan's inclusion in the Cabinet
was a surrogate decision to launch the war. No further decision re
mained; the question of timing was left to Dayan and the military
(162:84-85).
"The unleashing" and "the unleashed"
As the prospects for an international naval force to open Aqaba
faded, a subtle sense in Washington of "unleashing" and in Israel of
"being unleashed," began to pervade the US-Israel relationship. In
Washington on 1 June Ambassador Harman decided to fly home to report
his judgment that the proposal for a maritime force was no longer valid
because the rush of events did not allow time to bring it to fulfillment
(24:302).


268
they realized the extent of Israel's initial victories, it is unlikely
that they would have prolonged matters as they did (67:31).
Soviet-Egyptian Disarray at End of First Day
Lacking reliable information, always well behind the developing
drama, unable to depend on Arab information or--as it developed--
Arab performance, the Soviet delegate to the UN, Fedorenko, had the
first of many anguished days that must have brought many satisfied
smirks to those who had suffered his air of detached, supercilious
boredom just a few days previously. According to Burdett, by that
first night in New York the results of the air war were known but the
progress of the land war was not. The Arabs were stunned and the
Russians bewildered. Fedorenko and his delegation were apparently
clueless, uncertain what to do and lacking precise instructions.
At this stage the Russians, helplessly tied to developing Arab
misfortune, felt constrained to support the Arab demand for a cease
fire with return to the 4 June borders. Completely unacceptable to
Israel or the US, this meant not only a return to the old lines but
the maintenance of the Tiran blockade and the threatening Egyptian
mobilization in Sinai. The Russians indicated they had no choice but
to go along with the Arabs, and at one helpless point suggested that
the Americans try to talk to el-Kony themselves (24:329).
President Johnson in his memoirs provides additional perspective
to this first day's developments. The US was willing to accept either
a cease-fire in place (which would have been moderately favorable to
Israel on this opening day) or a withdrawal to the pre-15 May (not


166
What became especially evident to Eban and other Israeli leaders
on this and succeeding days--but does not seem to have occurred to
Nasser or his Soviet "protector--was that the very reluctance of
the US to get involved in a second area, other than Vietnam, would
also stimulate the wish for, or at least the unspoken tolerance of,
a militarily superior Israel "going it alone." Especially evident
in the Pentagon--as opposed to White House--thinking, according to
Laqueur, was this line of reasoning: precisely because the Pentagon
was so strongly opposed to American intervention, and because it
realized that something ought to be done, it was prepared to take
a more lenient view of any possible military action by Israel (93:155).
D-Minus 9: Saturday 27 May
Apparent Soviet change of heart examined
While the prompt Soviet response to the US appeal for restraint
stands out in sharp contrast to general Soviet behavior, both before
and after this affair, on analysis the departure from the norm may
not be as significant as commonly supposed. True, in urging restraint
on both sides, the Soviet Union was acting in concert with the United
States, at American request. But the USSR had every reason to support
the American effort to avert military hostilities in the region so
long as the new status quo created by Nasser's moves during the pre
ceding week remained frozen, pending a "nonmilitary" solution of some
unspecified type at some indeterminate time. The moderately worded
Soviet note presented to Eshkol by Soviet Ambassador Chuvakhin said
it was necessary to resolve the conflict by "nonmilitary means," but


306
USSR Casts Arabs Adrift
This entire research is an application of the same concept of
Soviet crisis management to the 1967 Mid-East War as was so incisively
and conclusively applied to the 1956 Suez War by Smolansky in 1965.
When hostilities are actually underway, the USSR characteristically
puts distance as well as fog between itself and both its hapless
clients and its previous, strongly worded but now revealed to be
ambiguously hollow, commitments. One favorite device is to spread
the responsibility, as it were, by impassioned invocations to other
nations, political resolutions, talk of "volunteers," protest meetings,
etc., which will confuse and use up precious time to mask the Soviet
decision not to act in any concrete, risk-taking way. Smolansky
describes the 1956 Soviet performance, when the USSR was back-
pedaling at full speed, as follows (in contrast to its four-day-
later rocket-rattling threats when it knew from US actions that it
was safe to do so!):
... On November 1, one day after units of the
British and French air forces began bombing Egyptian
targets, Bulganin appealed to Nehru while Soviet
President Voroshilov asked Sukarno to mobilize the
Bandung nations behind a political offensive to rein
state peace in Egypt. In the United Nations Moscow
supported the United States-sponsored draft resolution
adopted by the Special Session of the General Assembly
on November 2. (146:588-589)
On this 1967 date, the USSR similarly shifted the responsibility
and attention from itself to the gathering of East European Communist
nations in Moscow. This hastily assembled group produced a noble but
belated statement of Arab support, and the severing of relations with
Israel, surely a tolerable punishment! Furthermore, it is reliably


70
On a subsequent occasion (22 May), a Soviet official in Moscow
did seem to acknowledge, in response to protests from the Israeli
Ambassador, that the repeated charge of Israeli troop massings on
Syrian borders was a convenient, useful and dramatic equivalent of
the known or suspected Israeli attack plans, which were less tangible
and useful for propaganda and alert purposes (32:213). This may have
seemed to the Soviet leaders to be an acceptable, even noncontroversial
political-military device to employ, but they seemed to overlook its
serious drawbacks. Such massing of troops could be easily disproved
and was patently absurd to the well-informed. Hence this Soviet-
Egyptian-Syrian device ended up producing confusion even on their own
side and enough resulting suspicion about their entire position as
to devalue the very probably real threat of an impending Israeli re
prisal attack in some strength.
Because of this weakness of the Soviet-inspired scenario, Israeli
Foreign Minister Eban could be rhetorically triumphant and eloquent
in his speech at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on
19 June. He denounced the troop concentration alarms as "a monstrous
fiction" and reminded the members how neither Syria nor the USSR had
accepted repeated offers by both UN authorities and Israel herself for
reciprocal inspections of the Israel-Syria frontier (93:425).
Adverse reactions to Israeli threats
Partly in response to the garbled UPI dispatch of 12 May, and also
to the cumulative effect of the various, uncoordinated Israeli speeches
threatening Syria with retaliation, a reaction set in at the UN, in


16
Accordingly, the May-June 1967 Mid-East Crisis and War have been
selected for a detailed study of the evidence revealed thereby of
Soviet crisis management, primarily through their Egyptian proxy.
In this superpower crisis, the US was seen as the supporter of Israel,
with its interests threatened as Israel's security became threatened
with the onset of the crisis. The Soviet Union was seen as the backer
of the radical Arab regimes of Egypt and Syria which precipitated the
crisis, with its interests promoted vis-ci-vis the US if its clients
prevailed.
With a demonstrable symmetry of interests and restraints operating
on the two superpowers, it might appear that such crises in the Middle
East would not occur, or would be kept safely within mutually acceptable
bounds. But in this volatile region the pattern has been quite the
opposite. Here the two patrons have responsibilities and commitments
without effective controls over their clients, giving the latter con
siderable freedom of maneuver to pursue provocative and dangerous
measures to advance their own interests.
Assumptions
This research is predicated on two basic assumptions on which crisis
management decisions are considered to be made concerning the Middle
East, on both the Soviet and American sides. The one concerns the
essential symmetry of the motivational ranges within which both sets
of decision-makers appear to operate. The other is the assumption of
a single rational actor model to account for Soviet decision-making,
regardless of the contrast, for example, between the Khrushchev and the


419
going to war, with obvious expectation of US support in the event
of miscalculation. Thus both superpowers had to some degree failed
at client control and had in effect involuntarily entrusted their
fates and the world's safety to the hands and decisions of their
proxies. Not a comforting thought or an attractive prospect for
repeating!
This Brecher conclusion is even more negative: "A unique feature
of the crisis was the intense efforts made by the superpowers to con
trol their client states, and their total failure to do so. . .
(19:433) [emphasis added].
Crisis Avoidance as Preferred Superpower Strategy
A close look at the June War, with its engagement of superpower
proxies, might well lead to a prudent conclusion that crisis avoidance
should be the joint objective for both powers to work toward. Con
sider, for example, Drapers sobering evaluation of superpower crisis
management in the Six-Day War. He cautions how the attractions for
this development of war by proxy disguise how difficult and treacherous
this new genre is. Draper acknowledges that, by not implicating the
armed forces of a great power directly, this power is enabled to ex
tricate itself more gracefully than would otherwise be possible.
"But," he then warns, "the war by proxy still remains the most dangerous
game of armed conflict the great powers are playing today" (43:136).
R. E. Hunter foresees developing a shared desire to preserve
regional stalemates, such as began in Europe, to decrease the value
to each superpower of trying to offset a "loss" in one area (USSR in


375
Soviet Navy Used to Demonstrate Support
Already a week after the war's end the USSR beefed up its Mediter
ranean squadron with a characteristic return to showmanship once the
real shooting crisis was over. In this case it was also an essential
recovery operation for both Arab morale and Soviet prestige. On
18 June three cruisers, five destroyers and two auxiliaries entered
the Mediterranean. Although these ships numerically replaced ten
others being withdrawn, the replacements represented a considerable
increase in power. The succeeding visits of Soviet ships to Arab
ports, emulating the pattern of twenty years of US Sixth Fleet opera
tions, received tremendous publicity (68:300-301).
An incident in Port Said, in which a Soviet squadron's presence
was portrayed as deterring the Israelis, gave the USSR a special
opportunity to demonstrate the bluff-and-bluster role that charac
terizes its buildup and winddown stages of a crisis. The incident
also gave the Arabs some much-needed, inexpensive, symbolic expression
of support.
On 10 July an impressive detachment of twelve Soviet warships
paid visits to Egypt, eight to Port Said and four to Alexandria.
It was a little risky to send the eight ships into Port Said, for the
Israeli forces across the Suez Canal were still flushed with victory,
and only a month had passed since the aggressive attack on America's
Liberty. But--coincident with an alert following PT boat clashes
between the Arabs and Israelis shortly after the ships' arrival--
Soviet Admiral Igor N. Molokhov, in a widely reported press conference,


327
Another argument has been made. In addition to Soviet unreadi
ness to commit its troops to such a forlorn last-stage cause, it is
very possible, considering Israel's triumphant feat of arms, that the
untried and unprepared, perhaps even low morale, Soviet forces would
have been quickly and humiliatingly defeated in any kind of limited
feasible application of force at this distance from Soviet borders.
At this stage, what Soviet pride and prestige did not need was a
military defeat of Soviet forces at Israel's hands. There was the
memory of Finland in 1939-40. And US problems with Vietnam, despite
massive application of force, were a sober warning: small powers do
not necessarily concede anything to the Greats!
Various steps by the USSR and its satellites on this and succeed
ing days are treated herein, by calendar date, as if they belonged to
the peak stage of the crisis, the hostilities, which ended this date.
But the nature of the "action," its substitute of smoke and rhetoric
and threat for action, mark it more as belonging to the first violent
propaganda stage of the winddown phase.
Rumania Defies Soviet Union
With the USSR straining in this tense and difficult period to
achieve some sort of deterrence of Israel, without involving its own
forces, it surely must have taken exceptional courage for Rumania to
refuse to sign the Soviet-sponsored Communist denunciation of Israel.
Benson (in noting that Rumania also has the largest Jewish population
in East Europe outside of the USSR itself) considers that the reluc
tance of Moscow to use its muscle in the Middle East may have encouraged


CHAPTER III
CRISIS BUILDUP (ONSET):
9 MAY 4 JUNE 1967
Prelude to Egypt's Move (9-13 May)
The following detailed analysis of the Six-Day War will focus on
a day-to-day unfolding of events and their developing sequence, in
cluding the perceptions and relevant actions of the Soviet Union and
the closely interrelated other significant crisis managers: Egypt,
Israel and the United States. The main advantages of this approach
are the attempt to recreate the environment prevailing at the time the
decisions were made, operating, as a decision-maker must inevitably
do in a crisis, under time pressures, with incomplete or incorrect
information, domestic and international pressures to act or refrain
from acting, and suffering the physical and psychological exhaustion
from subjection to extended, heavy stress (most notably evident in
this case in Israeli Defense Chief Rabin's breakdown on the eve of
the war and Nasser's erratic and confusing press conference comments
on 28 May).
In selecting the somewhat arbitrary date of 9 May as the beginning
of the crisis buildup, it is acknowledged that, if the domestic Syrian
disorders are treated as critical, this would move the date well back
to their origin on 25 April. This date in turn had its Mid-East
environment closely connected to the Syrian-Israeli air battle on
7 April.
45


24
pressure as a factor in Soviet decision-making before the 1969 Sino-
Soviet border clashes, before the Six-Day War East European diplomats
in Tel Aviv were convinced this was a factor. Perhaps partly for
this reason there was a special eagerness among Soviet leaders to
save the leftist Syrian regime in 1967, and thereby undercut and
stave off radically leftist Chinese "poaching" in Middle East politics
(13:97-98). In the words of British writer W. A. C. Adie, "China's
prodding from the sidelines forced the Russians to compete in escalat
ing demonstrations of 'revolutionary commitment'" (1:317).
Improved Soviet Deterrence
Possibly furthering the Soviet leaders' confidence that it was
time to check the American global offensive was the sharply improved
status of their deterrent strategic forces. The post-Khrushchev
leadership had undertaken a substantial buildup of Soviet strategic
forces. In summer and autumn 1966 an accelerated program of ICBM
construction got underway, and by the beginning of 1967 the number
of operational ICBMs was about 400-450, increasing at a rate of more
than 100 a year, compared with the total deployment of fewer than 200
ICBM launchers during the entire Khrushchev period (94:148).
Regional Setting
February 1966: Syrian Coup
In retrospect, one could pinpoint February 1966 as opening the
curtain to the succession of Mid-East events that was to culminate in
the June War. For in this month the perennially unstable Syrian


6
reluctantly supported the initiatives and desires of their Chinese
Nationalist and Chinese Communist proxies.
Crises as Tests of Comparative Interest and Resolve
A persuasive case can be made that for some crises the process
develops in its ideal form into a test of comparative interest, in which
the outcome tends to favor the side that demonstrates, both objectively
and subjectively, an asymmetrical predominance of interest at stake over
its opponent.
This process develops as follows. Traditional balance of power is
seen in the superpower context as a combination of balance of capabili
ties and balance of interests. But in the nuclear age, and especially
as a rough nuclear parity has developed, comparative capabilities have
become imponderable and consequently less meaningful factors. Hence a
crisis tends to turn on the balance of interests; in the various crisis
maneuvers which test resolve, in the ideal case the lesser interest
will tend to show lesser resolve and greater tendency to accommodate
the other.
Two successive crises, in 1961 and 1962, may be used in demonstra
tion. In the Berlin Wall crisis of August 1961, the US showed lesser
resolve and more willingness to accommodate, even recognizing the
urgency for the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the USSR to halt
the outflow ot East German refugees, and the potentially explosive and
unpredictable dangers both sides faced if this flow was not halted.
A year later, in October 1962, the USSR again initiated a crisis,
this time with the introduction of missiles into Cuba. Here the


204
all necessary measures and to act alone if need be, was rejected by
the American officials as a misunderstanding.
Israeli sources have also revealed that at the same time Meir Amit,
then chief of Israel's intelligence (as discussed earlier), was sent
to Washington to find out exactly what the American commitments and
intentions had been and were. Amit, too, eventually reported that
there was no chance of the US acting unilaterally or getting involved
in a military action to reopen the Strait for Israeli shipping (110:200)
Delayed Soviet reaction to Nasser blockade
The first expression of Soviet support for Nassers closure of
the Strait came only on this date, eight days late, in a broadcast
over Radio Moscow.
While this delay has been subsequently pointed to as evidence of
nonknowledge and even disapproval of Nasser's provocative move, another
interpretation is that approval could serve in the future to prejudice
Russia's own case for free exits from the Black and Baltic Seas, now
under other powers' controls (110:203).
Ro'i, however, considers this delayed Soviet approval of the Strait
closure as evidence they were now somewhat relaxed as to war danger
and felt their and Nasser's political triumph was within reach (135:440)
D-Minus 5: Wednesday 31 May
Nasser's overplay analyzed
Here is how perceptive author and retired British diplomat Sir
Richard Allen feels Nasser lost control of events, and, in his wake,
the Soviet Union too:


321
The President expressed confidence that Kosygin would get and
understand the meaning of the Fleet move, that "the United States
was prepared to resist Soviet intrusion in the Middle East."
Of the succeeding hotline messages that morning, Johnson's version
is at some variance with Velie's in reporting that "Kosygin's messages
later in the morning became more temperate" (78:301-303).
It may be noted here that some Israeli sources have amusedly
pointed out that the US was as intemperately determined to persuade
Israel to call off her attack on Syria as it had been to urge such
an attack only a day or two earlier!
In his July-August 1967 visit to the Soviet Union, long-time
USSR resident-author Werth reported that a "high Foreign Office
official," while acknowledging that the Israeli attack of 5 June was
not entirely unprovoked, nevertheless stated that, if the Israelis
had captured Damascus, Soviet armed forces would have intervened
one way or another (167:427).
The trouble with this kind of supposed "unofficial leak," from
someone in such a prominent position, is that it fits too well into
the Soviet pattern of an officially inspired "leak" of information,
including some "doctoring" of the historical record, that for some
reason (in this case, Arab sensitivities) the leaders do not wish
to state officially. It is also suspicious that at least three dif
ferent sources during this immediate postwar period report similar
conversations with an "unnamed high Foreign Office official"; all
three could therefore be the same person; in any case they might re
flect the same party line.


234
not consent to the blockade, but also because Nasser proved incapable
of ending the crisis by any political compromise whatsoever. Unwit
tingly, he had lost all his freedom of action, for this was now his
desperate dilemma:
In the face of the enormous army which impatiently
awaited the order to march, of the Palestinians with their
itching trigger-finger who roared for revenge, of the
whole Arab world that had fallen prey to a hysterical
war frenzy, Nasser could not possibly draw back, even
if he had wanted to. He was caught in his own net.
If he had tried to stop midway, he would have been
swept away. . (52:82-84)
Nutting interviewed Nasser on this date and found him apparently
a strange mixture of outward bravado--and perhaps inner panic? He
rejected Nutting's friendly warnings as to Israel's impressive capa
bilities. He insisted that his Soviet planes were more than a match
for Israel's. Not even Nasser's Cabinet colleagues--with their warnings
as to his risk-taking--were able to make any impression on him. Not
only had they not been consulted in any way about recent decisions,
but the Cabinet had discussed this critical issue on only one occasion
(122:409-410).
To the degree that this report is accurate, it represents a carica
ture of effective decision-making and crisis management: a closed mind,
nonconsultation with key advisers, reliance on emotional "instinct,"
and high--as well as blind--risk-taking.
Also demonstrating profound unreality, on this day the Commander-
in-Chief of Egyptian land forces, General Murthagi, made this impas
sioned declaration to his troops:
The historic moment has arrived. . You must put your
heart and your body into the holy war in which you are
about to engage for the restoration of the plundered
Arab rights in Arab Palestine. (107:19)


92
were brutal--a combination of political blackmail, mili
tary ultimatums and obfuscation to keep the Secretariat
on the run, the dark hints of possible violence to UN
troops, the warnings that any appeal would be an inad
missible affront. Nasser's fierce sensitivity to any
slight to Egyptian sovereignty was well known and so
was his capacity to mobilize emotion on the issue.
He dictated the rules of the game from Cairo, and the
Secretariat accepted them.
Burdett adds that the Nasser apologists also ignore the experience
of American diplomats in Cairo during the UNEF crisis. There was "the
flushed and fearless mood of Egyptian government officials, the exul
tant crescendo, the defiance of Israel." Plainly, the dissolution of
UNEF was not subject to discussion (24:228-229).
Testimony at the postwar trial of the rebellious Egyptian military
leaders provides added evidence that Nasser and they knew they were
provoking Israel and risking war with their removal of UNEF. The
Court President, Hussein Shafei, testifying in an attempt to shield
Nasser, stated that the UNEF withdrawal decision was taken at a
meeting of Nasser with Field Marshal Amer. Nasser acknowledged that
the action would increase the probability of Israeli reaction from 50
to 80%. Amer expressed full agreement. Shafei adds a revealing sen
tence, "The operation was not a sudden one" (24:230-231).
Shafei unfortunately neglected to reveal the date of this meeting.
Presumably it took place no later than 16 May.
If Shafei's account is accepted then, there was no lack of coordina
tion between Nasser and his military leaders on the question of removing
UNEF. Nasser and his generals appear to have moved in concert to
secure the total evacuation of UNEF and the Egyptians did not, after
all, suddenly and to their great surprise find themselves at Sharm el
Sheikh.


342
For these reasons, this five-and-one-half-month period is con
sidered essentia] to this research study. And it may be considered
a classic of crisis management for this stage in that the Soviet
Union, from the June debacle to November, not only recovered its
earlier position but probably improved and strengthened it in rela
tion to the United States. Indeed, some writers have found this
turn of affairs so astounding, and so unpalatable, that they have
developed dark suspicions that the Arab disaster had actually been
a diabolical Soviet plot, rather than a defeat inflicted on the
USSR.
This chapter will attempt to see how June to November could pro
duce such a drastic turnaround.
Arab Resentment Against USSR
According to Nutting there were ugly rumblings of public resent
ment against the Russians for betraying Egypt, with armed gangs
threatening the Soviet Embassy in Cairo for several days after the
war ended (122:420). Protest demonstrations took place in front of
the Soviet Embassies in Beirut, Baghdad and Khartoum as well.
French journalist Rouleau reported a bitter postwar mood in
Cairo. The Egyptians were infuriated by the fact that, as a result
of the Russians' advice, Egypt had refrained from opening hostilities.
They also asked why the USSR had not come to the help of the Egyptian
army. Just as they were convinced that the Sixth Fleet would inter
vene on behalf of Israel should the need arise, it seemed natural to
them that Soviet troops would land in Egypt to aid the Egyptian forces
(110:16).


129
itself only to neutralizing the United States; that is, it would re
spond with an escalation equal to any escalation on the part of
Washington--and its support would not go beyond this (42:47).
From here on, from the Aqaba blockade until his devastating defeat
by Israel, there is considerable evidence that Nasser was aware that
the US and the USSR would probably neutralize each other and both
keep out of impending hostilities; and that these hostilities would
therefore depend for their outcome on the combat ability of the
combined Arab arms vis--vis Israel. What is baffling to analysts
is the source of Nasser's confidence in provoking Israel. Was he
a hallucinated victim of his own and the prevailing Arab rhetoric?
Or did he feel trapped in it and unable to extricate himself without
severely endangering his own position and cause? What is so hard
to accept about his provocative behavior is that until very recently
he had been so realistic as to the inadequacy of Arab military
strength, and had forcefully resisted Syrian, PLO and Jordanian
taunts for his inaction.
US warnings, increased involvement
President Johnson's memoirs report his message to Kosygin this
date; this is sometimes cited as evidence that the US and USSR agreed
in advance to avoid a confrontation in the event of war. Johnson
urged a joint effort at calming the Middle East situation, noting
that the area was now "close to major violence." He added the mutu
ally sobering warning that "Your and our ties to nations of the area
could bring us into difficulties which I am confident neither of us
seeks."


29
Nasser's Dilemma
Alex Benson has effectively portrayed Nasser's plight in the
spring of 1967 as a desperate one. Political rivalries had eroded
his power and prestige. The Egyptian economy was more disastrous
than even its normal state. The standard of living in Egypt was
lower than in any other North African or Middle Eastern nation except
stone-age Yemen. One-sixth of Egypt's army was bogged down in a
costly, bloody, demoralizing, endless war in Yemen. Proud and sensi
tive Nasser was being taunted by his rivals as a weakling chief of
a weakling state" (17:119).
Perhaps inadequately appreciated by Israel, as she sought means
to deter or contain Syria's provocations, were these compelling pres
sures building up on Nasser to act. Given his plight as just described,
may he not have concluded that, if he would not rush to Syria's aid
if she should be attacked by Israel, he would remain alone in the
Arab world, ostracized and powerless (12:5)?
Eventually it would be argued by Nasser apologists that, contrary
to the above analysis, Syria had misled Nasser into the June War
disaster. But the whole, long record of distrustful Nasser-Syria
relations belies this argument.
As the American Embassy in Cairo forecast early in 1967, it seemed
certain that sometime in that year Nasser would strike back. Besieged
by frustrations on every front, he would seek to redress his fortunes
by some impetuous counteraction. The leader was at bay and in a mood
to break out; his isolation in the Arab world would impel him to find
the means and the occasion to seize the initiative (24:193).


214
It is relevant also to note that it was at this time that Soviet
journalists at the UN, according to reports from New York, were in
creasingly seeking information among UN officials on the possibility
of a compromise (132:5-6).
As the outbreak of war approached, Soviet procrastination at the
UN was conspicuous--in apparent endeavor to safeguard and insure, with
time passage, the political success of Nasser's fait accompli.
Moscow resigned, detached?
By this date a strange detachment seemed to pervade Moscow, a
sense of having worn itself out with warning and advising and watching
a feeling seemingly of, "Now let the chips fall." Laqueur feels that,
in these final prewar days, Moscow was aware that time was running out
The underlying hope in Moscow must have been that, nevertheless, the
existing situation could be frozen. The Western blockade breaking
would be unsuccessful, and Israel, alone, would not dare to challenge
Nasser and the Syrians. But the Israeli Cabinet changes were an omi
nous sign. The situation was highly explosive (93:202-203).
US falters
The observant Israeli Ambassador in Washington, and other inter
ested and concerned Israeli officials and their friends, must have
noted the progressive weakening of Washington's capacity and will to
open the Strait since the conferences with Eban on the 26th, and even
since the President's urgent call on the 28th for Israel to wait.
In the Pentagon, where the military plans were taking shape, officials
made no secret of their misgivings. They were haunted by the prospect


To KoaI Ludwig Spannuth, my gAeat-gAandfiatheA, who in 1864,
on going of to ight--and die--{¡on the Unton Aid,
"CanoZine, i{ I 4hould not Aet.uAn, ee to it that
the. chiZdnen Ae.ce.ive a good edu.ca.tLon."
To EZa Spannuth Palm, hi gnanddaughten, my motheA,
endowed with gAexit counage, piAit and the ame
Aepect {¡oa education.
To Beth Palm, my wi{e, {oa
o much--o {\aith{uily--o Zong.
To TeAAy AZan Palm, my on, with the yeaAning
that hi acni{ice in Vietnam, in July 1970,
may omehow pAomote AeconciliaXion.
and
To my otheA on:
Loaalj, KiAby, John, Bill and Paul.


368
difficulty to repair, or even resolve its own attitude toward. It
was determined to support the Arab cause in order to rebuild its own
position there; but the Arabs were more impossibly one-sided and
unrealistic than before their defeat. And the European and world
wide Socialist movement was too important to be lightly disregarded.
Considerable discontent with Soviet Middle East policy was re
portedly voiced within party and governmental circles both in the
USSR and in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, in the period immediately
after the war, one source said, "in one Middle Eastern capital
after another, Russian diplomats were advising Moscow against wasting
more MiGs or money on the Arabs" (110:17-18).
All this summer a new Eastern European crisis was developing out
of Soviet failures and pro-Arab one-sidedness in and following the
June War. In the special case of Rumania, her bold independence,
in such a world forum as the UN General Assembly, surely caused much
Moscow gnashing of teeth, and presaged the disorders that were to
sweep through East Europe the next year. Speaking at the Assembly's
23 June session, Rumanian Premier Maurer supported Israel's call
for direct Arab-Israeli negotiations and refrained from asking for
condemnation of Israel as an aggressor. The Rumanian position was
thus in complete disagreement with the views expressed by the Soviet
Union and other Communist delegations to the Assembly. Furthermore,
Rumania voted against a Soviet draft resolution condemning Israel
and actively campaigned with the nonaligned nations. Back home
Rumanian editorials called for "active coexistence" between the
belligerents and a settlement without outside interference. Finally,


376
made a bold declaration that "we are ready to cooperate with Egyptian
armed forces to repel any aggression."
The Soviet ship move received a rare public announcement in the
Soviet press, and a Soviet Embassy spokesman in Egypt, when asked what
the ships were doing in the war zone, responded, "He are not quite on
a picnic" (68:301). According to MccGwire, there were also Soviet
claims that their ships were to provide cover against Israeli air
attack; this step presaged the progressively extended use of Egyptian
facilities, including airfields (101:346).
Originally announced as a one-week visit, the twelve Soviet ships
stayed more than five weeks. The visit received extensive coverage
in the Egyptian news media; Soviet sources reported that the visit
had been interpreted as "a gesture of support for the Arabs at a
critical time" (110:26).
James Cable's assessment is that the visit, including Molokhov's
public declaration, achieved its objective:
. . Whether or not the Israelis had ever intended a
further advance, none was made, and some of the credit
earlier lost by the Soviet Union in Arab eyes was re
gained. Indeed, this seemingly trivial intervention
probably had more immediate impact than the intrin
sically more important deliveries of arms, because
the Soviet Union was seen by the Arabs as at last
having actually displayed some resolution.
Cable makes an apt comparison of this Soviet visit and declaration
to Eisenhower's explanation in 1958 for the US landings in Lebanon
(following the 1956 Western humiliation at Suez): "Sentiment had
developed in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, that we were afraid
of Soviet reaction if we attempted military action." Cable observes


47
Damascus regime was militaristic and radical, it had until then never
dared attack Islam or offend the religious susceptibilities of its
religious Moslems. The Islamic leaders rose up, called protest meet
ings, and harangued the worshippers in the mosques, calling for a
firm stand against the "godless Communists." One of the chief "Ulama"
(Islamic theologians) was arrested and his property confiscated. But
this led only to increased rioting against the government and more
violence in the large cities.
The Syrian authorities arrested the article's author, Ibrahim
Khalas, who supposedly admitted that he was persuaded to write his
inflammatory article by unnamed "foreigners," with no country of
origin being identified. The Syrian authorities announced that they
had uncovered a plot "prepared by the intelligence services of the
United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan"--a curious conglomera
tion!
Although this development may well be labeled, "This is where it
all began," it does appear confusing and melodramatic beyond belief
that one man should have "started it all," the crisis and war. This
was probably simply more inept Syrian bungling and cover-up. But if
there were a plot to stir up Syria, either to bring down the government,
or for the crisis initiation that these disorders eventually served,
an assessment of probable origin may be attempted. Surely Syria,
Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia may be eliminated as lacking the motive
or the intelligence capability to concoct such a plan. Of the three
remaining possibilities, all capable of utilizing "departments of
disinformation" for this purpose, the likely order of probable origin


363
dispatch from Damascus, printed in Pravda on 15 June, mentioned that
the anti-Soviet campaign had "failed to mislead people" (133:5).
The USSR gradually developed a reinterpretation of the June War
to help soothe its Arab client feelings. According to Laqueur, the
Israelis, of course, remained the chief villains. They had defeated
the Arab armies mainly by means of the element of surprise. To
believe Soviet writers Igor Belyayev and Evgeniy Primakov, who pro
vided the first detailed and authoritative Russian commentary, the
attack had come more or less like a bolt from the blue. The Israelis
were also better equipped. There were some hints of more direct
military cooperation between Israel and America, but this was a sen
sitive area into which Soviet commentators preferred not to delve.
The Israelis, it was further maintained, had succeeded because,
like the Germans under Hitler, they were fanatical, cruel, chauvinis
tic, and imperialistic (94:59).
USSR Rushes into Security Council Defeat
As Dagan summarizes it, between 6 and 14 June the Soviet Union
made strenuous efforts in vain, including increasingly vituperative
attacks on Israel, to persuade the UN Security Council to condemn
Israel as an aggressor and force her withdrawal to the pre-5 June
line. It must have increased Russia's mortification that--in contrast
to its successes at crisis management in 1956 at Suez--it was gross
Soviet and Arab mismanagement of the buildup stage this time that had
attracted worldwide support and steady US backing for Israel, with
general condemnation of the Arabs and their superpower patron (32:240).


104
some 30,000 Egyptian troops from the civil war in Yemen to the Sinai
(162:69-70).
It will be recalled that a graceful exit for Egyptian troops from
the morass of Yemen was one of the purported motives for the Soviet-
Egyptian Sinai operation.
Eban's 1972 biographer, Robert St. John, describes the uniquely
abrasive performance of Soviet Ambassador Chuvakhin, one man whose
role during the crisis, and before,, did nothing to develop any Israeli-
Soviet rapport. In their meeting this date, according to Eban, Chu-
vakhin's demeanor expressed "an almost sadistic delight in Israel's
predicament" (138:413). Eban's fruitless exchange of positions with
the Soviet Ambassador included this David-to-Goliath warning: "There
will be no war if the Egyptians do not attack Israeli territory or
do not interfere with Israel's freedom of navigation" (32:212).
At this point in time there were still two days before what was
to prove to be Nasser's disastrous closing of the Tiran Strait to
Israel. Why did the USSR leaders not forewarn Nasser? Did they not
believe Israel? Her reputation for threat credibility should have been
high. Did they believe the warning unnecessary--inasmuch as they were
to claim full surprise at Nasser's forthcoming bold move? Or, did
they perhaps caution Nasser and have him proceed despite their warning?
By this date Nasser was riding the crest of a tidal wave, and
Israel was set back, divided, uncertain, and worried.
Johnson-Kosyqin exchange
The letter from Eshkol (referred to under 18 May) apparently stimu
lated President Johnson to his first direct exchange with Kosygin over


252
This day, Monday, then, presaged no great strain on the superpowers
as they seemed to agree on mutual nonintervention (161:38).
In terms of USSR-US crisis management, the outbreak of the war
brought important changes. In the words of one high official in the
Johnson Administration, "As soon as the war started it stopped being
a game of chicken between the UAR and Israel and became a game of
chicken between the US and the Soviet Union instead" (39:93).
Coral Bell, dealing with "the adverse partnership" concept, noted
that the immediate hotline consultation between the superpowers repre
sented a progressive development in their twenty-one-year Cold War
history of managing crises. That is, if the Azerbaidjan crisis of
1946 is regarded as the first true adversary crisis of the postwar
system, it was twenty-one years (to this Middle East crisis of 1967)
before the evolution of the system had made consultation between the
nuclear powers a first reaction in time of crisis (14:31).
Of even greater significance is this prompt evidence that Premier
Kosygin was the key man in managing the now explosive crisis for Mos
cow, and that, whatever Brezhnev's inconspicuous role would prove to
be during this entire period, at least the hardline promoters of the
crisis had been shoved aside. This might have been already apparent
(but was little appreciated in the West) in the KGB shakeup on or just
prior to 19 May. The shift to a restrained conservatism, embodied in
Kosygin's leadership, was, unfortunately, considerably obscured by
Nasser's unbridled behavior and his 29 May boast of Kosygin's promise
of "standing with us in this battle." But the true import of Kosygin's
actual message, as another Egyptian present at the Moscow conference


295
USSR, strong pressures were exerted on Nasser, in both Cairo and
Moscow, to concede defeat. Radio Moscow meanwhile broadcast no more
bulletins about Arab victories; instead it now broadcast official
announcements from the Israeli army. The USSR showed particular
alarm at reports the Israeli army was approaching the Suez Canal;
it obviously feared an advance on Cairo. With the appeals to Nasser
to accept the cease-fire were consistent, unwavering refusals by the
Soviet Union to intervene.
Nasser finally yielded. His army had been annihilated in the
Sinai, and he had no effective troops left for resistance (11:247).
Soviet Failure to Rescue Nasser
A graphic and revealing account of Nasser's plight, and charac
teristic Russian immobility during this dangerous hostilities phase,
is provided by Nutting. Nasser's state of mind, and his perspective
on the Soviet role, were revealed by his friend Boghdady, who visited
him during these hours of desolation. When asked as to the Soviet
attitude after Israel attacked, Nasser replied that they had been
"frozen into immobility by their fear of a confrontation with America."
When reminded of Badran's supposedly euphoric report from Moscow only
ten days earlier, he had no answer. Boghdady then asked why the
Russians had not at least flown in some replacement aircraft to give
the Egyptian army in Sinai some air cover. Nasser could only reply
that they had been "too scared of getting involved with the American
Sixth Fleet." At one point, in response to his desperate appeals,
they had agreed to send some replacements via Yugoslavia, provided Tito


385
But for all of Kosygin's care with such matters of appearance,
and the Soviet press "doctoring" of some of his press statements to
make them more palatable to the Arabs, China bitterly denounced what
it called this evidence of American-Soviet collusion!
Opposing UN Resolutions Come to Naught
In essence the General Assembly's work, and its stalemate, were
a mirror copy of the earlier effort in the Security Council. The
emergency session was marked during 20-30 June by the submission of
four peace resolutions by the US, Albania, Yugoslavia and a group of
eighteen Latin-American nations. There were also major policy state
ments delivered by Britain and France. Much interest centered on a
heretical Rumanian statement calling for direct Arab-Israeli negotia
tions, a position departing sharply from the Soviet bloc position
on the Middle East crisis.
The US vigorously opposed the Soviet (Yugoslav) resolution, which
its authors must clearly have intended for show before the Arabs and
other Third World audiences, for it contained no recipe for compromise
(88:124).
USSR Urges Arabs to Accept Political Settlement
In the week prior to the Assembly's 21 July admission of failure,
the USSR made an intensive effort to negotiate a political settlement
of the Middle East conflict. Perhaps the Soviet leaders were fearful
of the negative backwash from prospective failure, after expending
so much propaganda effort on this General Assembly scene. Two separate


22
confusion and dismay throughout the Third World. Under the cover of
its strategic nuclear superiority, it could use conventional warfare,
most prominently in Vietnam, with a sense of callous immunity from
any effective Soviet counteraction (120:108-109).
From Nasser's view there was a comparable fear of a threatening
American imperialism. The general world picture growing in his mind
was of an American campaign to subdue the more radical anti imperialist
leaders of the Third World and to break their links with Russia, a
campaign in which he felt himself to be marked down as a potential
victim, after Egypt had been isolated by the destruction of the
revolutionary regime in Syria (149:463,466).
In a postwar analysis, Z. Brzezinski also depicts the Soviet
leaders in early 1967 in a state of worried concern (shared with
many foreign Communist leaders) as to how to counter a seemingly
relentless new imperialist offensive led by the US. From their per
spective, a whole series of global setbacks was all part of a very
deliberate US-engineered political offensive (22:388).
America Perceived to Falter
But if America was indeed perceived to be on a global offensive
track, its efforts also appeared to be suffering severe setbacks by
early 1967. Hence an interrelated view of Soviet motivation toward
Mid-East adventuring is an opportunistic one, based on a conclusion
that the US was bogged down in Vietnam and soured over its global
responsibilities, including those in the Middle East.
The White House was preoccupied heavily with Vietnam War decisions
and pressures as the Middle East crisis began to flare up. President


13
only one superpower, the US. There is a complete absence in Soviet
writing or speeches of any mention of this concept as applicable to
their side. Soviet writings tend to deal with crisis almost exclusively
in unhelpful ideological and propagandists terms.
Some Western writers do attempt to generalize to include the Soviet
side of crisis management, inferring from Soviet leaders' actions and
pronouncements in and related to crisis that they at least tacitly
recognize and practice (though with apparent exceptions) some of the
principles and techniques discussed above. But these writings to date
are largely impressionistic, speculative and tentative.
Soviet Crisis Management
In its most fundamental aspects, Soviet performance in crisis
demonstrates flexibility, rather than rigid conformance to any pre
scribed scenario. Also there is an apparent rational means-ends calcu
lation behind their crisis decisions and maneuverings.
Jan F. Triska and David 0. Finley, in their detailed study of
Soviet foreign policy, analyzed twenty-nine crises, finding that, with
the exception of intramural cases in the Eastern European Soviet
security zone, Soviet crisis management has been marked by notable
caution and low risk. They conclude that
the level and pattern of Soviet risk . have been low
and narrow. Soviet crisis behavior was found to be con
servative rather than radical, cautious rather than
reckless, deliberate rather than impulsive, and rational
(not willing to lose) rather than nonrational. (153:346)
Similarly, Michael P. Gehlen analyzed eleven Soviet crises over an
eleven-year period ending in 1966. He presented his findings in a table


389
voting for a resolution which adjourned the General Assembly "tem
porarily" and requested the Security Council to resume, "as a matter
of urgency . its consideration of the tense situation in the
Middle East" (81:274-275).
Arabs Decry US-Israeli Collusion
Nasser's fifteenth anniversary speech, on 23 July 1967, six
weeks after the disaster, is full of agonized reminiscences and
reconstruction of events, partly to explain, partly to justify,
partly to weep over. Some of the suspicion, then and later, that
the Arabs had been tricked by the US, that Israel had been secretly
"unleashed," must have further embittered both Egypt and the USSR,
and further poisoned relations between them, in their mutual need
for scapegoats. Here are some extracts of Nasser's speech:
... We were the victims of a piece of diplo
matic fraud, of an operation of political deceit so
grave that we could never have imagined that a great
power could condescend to practice it. The political
deceit was on the part of America--the letters of
the American President and the appeals of the Ameri
can President. . .
After a series of US-Egyptian exchanges, Nasser said that Egypt
proposed 6 June for the visit of his Vice-President to Washington.
But, he now complains, "as we all know, the aggression began on 5
June. What does this mean? It means that there was wide-scale
political and diplomatic activity which entitled us to believe that
the explosion was not close at hand. ..."
Yet Nasser admits reservations, for "in spite of all this, we
were not entirely happy. We knew that something was being cooked up,
and that it would not be long in coming to light. ..."


308
entire analysis of Soviet/Russian crisis management principles and
practices.*
Syria Provokes; Israel Attacks
Although he was now in the process of changing his mind abruptly--
even precipitously, to Prime Minister Eshkol's irritation--Defense
Minister Dayan, as discussed earlier, at first vigorously opposed
including Syria in Israel's attack plans in the June War.
But Syria was apparently unable to avoid provoking Israel at a
time when--having observed the lightning conquest of Egypt and
Jordan--her leaders might have been expected to be more circumspect
and avoid giving Israel any new incentive to attack. In Howe's evalu
ation (perhaps giving more credit to Moscow's control over Syria
than the record will support), it remains a mystery why the shelling
of Israel from the Golan Heights was intensified on the fourth day
*In particular, only five years earlier, Nasser's fellow Third
World client had had a similar, intensely distressing experience,
as James A. Nathan recounts, in his 1975 reevaluation of the 1962
Cuban missile crisis:
On the Soviet side, it was equally apparent that
Russian interests would not be sacrificed to sister
socialist states. Castro was plainly sold out. The
weak promise tendered by the Kennedy Administration
not to invade the island was probably cold comfort as
Castro saw his military benefactors beat a hasty re
treat from American power. Embarrassingly, Castro
began to echo the "capitulationist" theme of Chinese
broadcasts. Privately Castro said that if he could,
he would have beaten Khrushchev to within an inch of
his life for what he did. Soviet Foreign Minister
Mikoyan was dispatched to Cuba and stayed there for
weeks, not even returning to the bedside of his dying
wife, but Castro's fury was unabated. (118:279)
The image of a Castro, fervently wishing that he could have beaten
Khrushchev to within an inch of his life, should have been both vivid
and sobering to Nasser, especially on his major escalation moves of
16 and 22 May.


256
USSR Unready, Confused, Dangerously Indecisive
Indian author Mohammed S. Agwani concluded from his study that
the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war apparently caught the Soviet
Union unawares, with despair, confusion, and indecision characterizing
Moscow's reactions in the early phase of the conflict (3:229).
Howe's interview with his "informed White House source" shows
there was as much caution as confidence in the US leadership's manage
ment of this crisis. Herein is also a sober reminder that a badly
divided, uncertain and fumbling opponent may represent a special
danger of unexpected, even irrational acts:
Q. Were we confident prior to the fighting of Soviet
intentions not to intervene?
A. No. We were not confident. What the Soviets did
would depend, we thought, on how things went. They
might have intervened if Israel took over Syria.
They at least planted some stories to this effect--'
that they would not permit Syria to be taken over.
We had some conflicting indications of what the
Soviets might be up to, and the most disconcerting
sign seemed to be that they hadn't necessarily
agreed among themselves what to do. (68:363-364)
The moral is--as Kennedy learned so well in the Cuban missile
crisis--that in the nuclear age no win should be pursued to the
point of encouraging desperate Samson-like measures in the opponent.
Did or did not the Soviet leaders have any intelligence notice
of the war's outbreak? Israel's security is noted for being tight,
but there were signs to the alert. Also, both Nasser and Hussein
claim to have predicted the outbreak two days or more in advance.
Laqueur has concluded that the outbreak of the war took the Soviet
leaders by surprise. He states that Fedorenko, the Soviet representative


160
shows in this account of his private, urgent attempt the day before
to stop all fedayeen activities for a month or two! This implies
a realistic sense of a precarious, temporary triumph that could only
be consolidated with the most skillful politics in the coming days.
Yet Nasser himself proceeded to make a series of speeches and hold a
press conference in the next several days that did much to alienate
world opinion, rally support for Israel, and provoke Israel's pre
emptive attack, while also making it appear justified!
Sixth Fleet deterrence; NATO alert
A sure sign of Soviet awareness of and concern for the crisis
value of the US Sixth Fleet are the following reactions to its move
ments to date, which they were obviously following with close atten
tion. The theme begun in April, to free the Mediterranean of this
deterrent to Soviet freedom of action, is repeated. It seems diffi
cult to accept that--on the very day that NATO forces were put on
alert (93:183)--they really expected such a campaign to succeed,
although they may have counted on slow and long-term erosion of the
Sixth Fleet's acceptability and viability in the eastern Mediterranean.
An Izvestia commentary allegedly showed the hypocrisy of the
American protestations that Washington was "alarmed" by the develop
ment of events in the Near East. "While American diplomacy is shed
ding crocodile tears about the hotbed of tension in the eastern
Mediterranean, the American military are getting up steam on their
warships and putting Marines on board." A TASS release of 25 May
commented that


215
of a "second Vietnam" in the Middle East, for which they were totally
unprepared. Moreover, the Administration was making no effort to
prepare American public opinion for such a dire eventuality (43:107).
Final US-Eq,ypt negotiations
Yost was in Cairo, making a belated US effort to avoid the deluge.
On this morning he finally met Riyad, who was full of smiles, apologies
and compliments. The Egyptian Foreign Minister repeated that Israel
was preparing to attack Syria. But he assured Yost that the USSR
warned us in time, and we have taken the necessary precau
tions. Then events caught up with us. We were compelled
to demand that the UN force, which we had asked merely to
return to its encampments, be completely withdrawn. We
had no alternative. We did not want to occupy Sharm el
Sheikh or to close the Strait, but the army had gone too
far, much farther than the government wished, and had
seized Sharm el Sheikh. As it was therefore in our hands,
we were obliged to close the Strait, [emphasis added]
"Is there any possibility of a compromise?" Yost asked.
Riyad gave him to understand that indeed there was. The Egyptians
were not considering war with the Israelis. The matter of the Strait
might well be settled, though Riyad did not say how.
Unconvinced, Yost believed that his mission had failed. He never
theless cabled the United States that it would be advisable to give
Nasser a way out* (11:167).
Heikal leaves the impression, in his detailed Cairo Documents
account, that events on this first day of June were moving toward a
crisis relaxation and deescalation (61:245).
*From the book, Embassies in Crisis: Diplomats and Demagogues
Behind the Six-Day War, by Michael Bar-Zohar. (c) 1970, by Michael
Bar-Zohar. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.


310
he also thought Israel should not take too much time at this objective,
to avoid the possibility of "Soviet intimidation."
The Golan assault, like the 5 June assault, was made on a techni
cality, that, despite Syrian agreement to a cease-fire, Syrian guns
were still in action. Eban estimated to the Cabinet that Israel
would have twenty-four hours in which to achieve her objective without
colliding head-on with the Security Council or dishonoring the recipro
cal cease-fire. He also felt the USSR would not become involved unless
Damascus was threatened (138:461-462).
Again, this type of US advice has provided material for subsequent
charges of US-Israeli collusion.
Here again is Eban's evaluation that a quick fait accompli is an
effective crisis management tool in dealing with the USSR.
In her two-day war with Syria beginning this date, Israel's manage
ment of crisis and communication conditions to accomplish her goals,
with tacit approval of the US (which was hard put to conceal its
distaste for Syria and its provocative role in collapsing the Mid-
East's house of cards) was the subject of a complaint by Syrian
President Atassi in the later June-July emergency session of the
General Assembly. Atassi contended that Israeli forces had invaded
Syria on 9 June after Damascus had advised U Thant that Syria had
accepted the UN cease-fire order. "The Israeli invasion," Atassi
asserted, "was coupled with a deliberate delaying tactic" of the US
and Britain in the UN Security Council debate on the cease-fire resolu
tion (88:126).
Velie recounts the Israeli race against time in the conquest of
Syria, where vengeance meant more than against the other two Arab


431
authors, this move was "with a view to securing the present leadership
of the Central Committee from any sort of jeopardy" (106, No. 33:243-244).
This is an intriguing supposition, that Brezhnev would take his
main leadership rival along on an important and lengthy trip to insure
the safety of his own position back home! If this is the kind of
Kremlin suspicion and disunity from which the Middle East venture
was launched, one need not be surprised that it rapidly ran off the
skids!
21 April: Delayed Soviet Reaction to 7 April Air Clash
There is still unresolved uncertainty as to the most likely
explanation for the two-week delay in Soviet reaction to the 7 April
air battle between Israel and Syria. But the delay does surely re
flect indecision and division in the Politburo. And the eventual
hardline reaction, coupled with Brezhnev's Mediterranean policy
expression of 25 April at Karlovy Vary, represents an apparent deci
sion to--in Tatu's words--"advance a pawn." Unfortunately, as it
developed, unlike Khrushchev, this collective leadership proved too
indecisive and leaderless to effectively withdraw the pawn when
such a move became warranted (151:533-534).
This confusing late April series of events and Motes seems to
reflect an initial mild Soviet interest in the air clash and a
relatively soft line, followed by a change of policy to a very hard
line indeed. Emotional Arab representations from the aroused Middle
East scene may be part of the answer. Or, the first reaction may
have been a temporizing one, reflecting policy divisions in the


83
Cryptic, peremptory, ungrammatical, Fawzi's letter was also for
mally unacceptable. Rikhye did not take his orders from the Egyptians.
He took orders from no one but U Thant. Why was the message addressed
to him? Perhaps, he thought, because he had always maintained such
cordial relations with the Egyptian liaison staff; and so the Egyp
tians may have supposed there was a good chance of immediate compliance
In that case he would have to disappoint them. Fawzi's request did
not mention Sharm el Sheikh, the seaside post at the mouth of the
Gulf of Aqaba. It referred only to the UN observation posts along
the Sinai frontier, and it was the troops manning these posts that
he evidently wanted Rikhye to withdraw and regroup inside the Gaza
Strip.
Fawzi's letter, it turned out, was only the beginning. Mokhtar
made known several urgent requests of his own. He told Rikhye that
UNEF must evacuate Sharm el Sheikh and the Yugoslav desert camp at
El Sabha, as well as all its posts along the international frontier,
by first light the next morning. These troops were to pull back into
Gaza. Mokhtar pressed for an immediate answer and immediate compliance
and dwelt on the danger of clashes if the UN troops were still on
the scene by the time the Egyptians arrived. He made a great point of
El Sabha, a bleak prominence more than four thousand feet high, dominat
ing the central east-west road that cuts across Sinai from Israel to
the Suez Canal at Ismailia. There was no doubt in Rikhye's mind that
Mokhtar was talking about the evacuation of the entire Emergency Force
from the entire Sinai Peninsula. The UNEF Commander said he could not
comply. He would have to report the matter to U Thant and await his
instructions.


270
forces against Israel, there was the risk of being coun
tered by Israel. If they sent an ultimatum, a meaning
ful ultimatum, it might involve them in a global con
frontation. (President Johnson made it quite clear to
Premier Kosygin that both powers must refrain from inter
vention, and in support of his words he sent the Sixth
Fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean.) The speed of the
Israeli action, however, denied the Russians sufficient
time to maneuver or to redeem the situation.
This was repeated on the Syrian front a few days
later. (5:151)
Thus is demonstrated the role of time pressure and fait accompli
influence in crisis management, successfully on the offensive in
Israel's case, and unsuccessfully on the defensive in the USSR's.
The Soviet press, on this and the next day in particular, seemed
out of step with fast-breaking developments as they became known to
Soviet leaders. For example, as the Egyptian disaster became clear,
nevertheless the Soviet press was replete with claims of Arab suc
cesses, derived mainly from Arab sources (173:265).
Burdett's version of the Russians' unhappy lot on the morning of
6 June has them
not merely harried and perplexed but totally adrift,
floundering and alarmed as no one at the United
Nations had seen them since the Cuban missile crisis
of 1962. . All their options were disastrously
unpinned.
Reversing their stand, the Russians now expressed interest in a
simple cease-fire. With the entire Arab "revolutionary" world in
collapse, the Russians had good reason to be alarmed. The Israelis
in their devastating advance were blasting the prestige of Soviet
arms, Soviet friendship and Soviet commitments (24:329-330).


213
specific being verifiable or attributable then or from any subsequent
historical inquiries! As has been stated earlier, crises--like Suez
in 1956--leave long and often bitter and powerful memories influencing
the next crisis, as the Russians were unhappily to learn from the
US-Israeli performance in 1967.
Amit's first cable from Washington suggested Israel should wait
a few days to give the maritime force a chance, even though he had
quickly gathered that it was "running into heavier water every hour."
Eban then reported directly to the military leaders that he now
withdrew his objections to a military solution. "The waiting period
had achieved its purpose: Israel would not be isolated as in 1956.
Nothing was to be gained from further waiting."
Five years later Eban revealed that Amit had appended this to
his first report: "There is a growing chance for American political
backing if we act on our own" (19:417).
D-Minus 4: Thursday 1 June
USSR hoping to profit from delay
Was Moscow belatedly both attempting to dampen the crisis and help
Nasser consolidate his political gains? In Pravda Mayevsky again
attacked the "irresponsibility" of Tel Aviv's "extremist circles,"
which he contrasted with Cairo's "constructive proposals": restoration
of the truce agreement and the reestablishment of the UN Truce Super
vision Organization (UNTSO). "The impression is created," Mayevsky
wrote, "that somebody is ready to take dangerous steps and kindle the
fire of war in the Middle East for the question of whether or not two
or four ships will sail through the Strait of Tiran. ..."


5
such an outcome tended to develop a fear that a trend was developing--
observable to friend, foe and neutral alike--that would repeat and
magnify the unfavorable outcome for the loser in succeeding crises.
As Glenn Snyder conceives it,
The bargaining setting includes a wide range of back
ground factors which are more immediate and directly re
lated to the bargaining process than those in the systemic
environment. These include the conflict of interest which
underlies the crisis, the recent relations between the
parties, the parties' comparative valuation of the stakes
at issue, their relative military capabilities and subjec
tive fears of war, and precrisis commitments. Also a
part of the bargaining setting are various other asymme
tries between the parties such as geographical distance
from the crisis area, who is the "aggressor" and who the
"defender," conceptions of the "legitimacy" of the status
quo or the demand to change it, and, most important, the
parties' precrisis "images" of all these things, includ
ing, consequently, their reciprocal perceptions of each
other's "resolve." (148:221)
The superpowers over the years of their many contending Cold War
crises have developed a complex pattern of interaction that has been
aptly described as a "limited adversary" or "adverse partnership" rela
tionship. They are at the same time both partners and adversaries, in
varying degrees and with fluctuating intensities. What is involved is
a curious mix of common and conflicting interests, with the common
interest in avoiding nuclear disaster always a pressing one, competing
with the other interests at stake (169:47).
The fine balancing of these complex interests is most apparent when
the crisis at hand is one in which each superpower is somewhat reluc
tantly waging the crisis by proxy, supporting but also restraining its
more single-minded client. The Formosa Straits crisis of 1958 is an
instructive example, wherein both superpowers no more than partially and


388
21 July and returned the discussion of the crisis to the Security
Council (88:120).
And so the historic emergency session of the General Assembly
ground to a frustrated halt.
The resolution to adjourn was adopted by a vote of 63 in favor,
26 against and 27 abstentions. Both the US and the USSR voted in
favor. All Arab states voted against (110:84).
Thus even the vote to adjourn showed the US-USSR reality, con
trasted to characteristic, willful Arab intransigence.
Resolution 242 Evolves (22 July 22 November)
Assembly's Deadlock Assessed
The General Assembly, called into emergency session by the Soviet
Union to escape the deadlocked Security Council, had proved equally
unable to escape this deadlock. The result was more frustration for
the Arabs and their Soviet champion, in their efforts to undo the
June battlefield results. While disappointed with the USSR's failure
to obtain passage of a resolution demanding an unconditional Israeli
withdrawal, the Arabs' bitterest feelings were directed at the
United States, for they held it primarily responsible for the defeat
of the Yugoslav draft. The Arabs, led by Algeria and Syria, emphat
ically rejected the US-Soviet compromise draft because they considered
its language even less satisfactory than that used in the Latin-
American proposal. As soon as the Soviet Union realized that this
move had merely offended the Arabs, it quietly put aside the new
proposal and joined the United States, despite Arab opposition, in


372
Security Council. Nevertheless--^ accordance with crisis management
principles they give every evidence of adherence to--it was necessary
to smother the mood of disillusionment and scapegoat-hunting despair
in the Arab world with a great deal of bluster and time-tried Soviet
theatrics (18:190)!
In the various high-level Soviet leader visits to the Arab
countries during this period--to show concern and promise aid, and
of course cover up the recent abandonment in "their darkest hour"--
there is demonstrated another Soviet crisis management characteristic
in this winddown stage.*
As the Soviet Union faced successive political defeats in its
blustering attempts to win back in the UN what the Arabs had lost
on the battlefield, it covered up its lack of success characteris
tically with extravagant demands that had no chance of accomplishment,
and extravagant claims that were very far from reality. Examples of
each may be found in the replies Kosygin gave at a major news con
ference in New York.
*Castro was similarly let down, and not even consulted, in the
US-USSR settlement of the Cuban missile crisis. But, in seeming
compensation, in dealing with an outraged Castro--according to Fon-
taine--"Mikoyan stayed twenty-four days in Havana without even return
ing to Moscow for the funeral of his wife, who had died in the mean
time." And Castro explained to French correspondent Claude Julien
(Le Monde, 22 March 1963) the Cuban complaint which apparently re
quired such strenuous, high-level but rear-guard Soviet effort:
Khrushchev ought not to have removed his missiles
without consulting us. Cuba does not want to be a pawn
on the world chess board. ... We are not a satellite.
. . The Cuban people were very hostile to Khrushchev's
decision. (55:458-459)


21
What better area to select than the Middle East to advance a new
forward strategy, take the heat off North Vietnam (and perhaps achieve
a new coercive bargaining position), face the US with the disagreeable
prospect of a two-front military involvement, answer China's attacks
in the process, and reestablish its leadership of the divided and
quarreling Communist world? The temptation and pressure to take this
decision, in early 1967, were surely considerable.
America Perceived as on a Global Offensive
Many analysts see the Soviet Union, in the spring 1967 prelude to
war, reacting first and foremost to a perceived American global "im
perialist offensive."
Fritz Ermath, in a RAND analysis, indicates how Soviet leaders'
concern at seemingly unrestrained US escalation in Vietnam moved them
eventually to a defense-motivated but tactically offensive program of
counteraction:
In Vietnam, . the conflict did escalate and it became
a test case on which the Soviet position was highly vul
nerable. First, it proved that neither Soviet military
power at the general nuclear level nor Soviet restraint
in local theaters of conflict could prevent the growing
intervention of the United States. (50:11)
A subsequent comprehensive analysis by American and European
panelists dealing with Soviet trends also took note of the worried,
and angrily defensive, mood of the Kremlin leadership which evidently
encouraged it to embark on a forward, adventurist policy in the Middle
East in May 1967. That is, from a Soviet perspective, the imperialist
West, led by President Johnson, was using dtente as a one-way street,
"rolling back" and demoralizing the socialist camp everywhere, spreading


420
Vietnam in 1967) with a "gain" in another (USSR in Middle East in
1967) (69:141). In other words, Middle East instability should be,
and perhaps is now--after one more dangerous war in 1973 in the
process of being converted into a European-type standoff stability.
Otherwise the unpredictable and uncontrollable in the crisis by
proxy complexity may some day engulf the superpowers in the most
dreaded prospect for each: nuclear confrontation.
This final, most sobering thought, applicable to a degree to all
superpower crisis management, but in particular to crisis by proxy
in the turbulent and volatile Middle East, invokes the memory and
wisdom of the pioneer in political teaching, in this excerpt from
his "On Fortune, Chance":
The world is a stupendous machine, composed of
innumerable parts, each of which being a free agent,
has a volition and action of its own; and on this
ground arises the difficulty of assuring success in
any enterprise depending on the volition of numerous
agents. We may set the machine in motion, and dis
pose every wheel to one certain end; but when it
depends on the volition of any one wheel, and the
correspondent action of every wheel, the result is
uncertain. (48:178)
--Niccolo Machiavelli


324
words--"Israel did not withdraw, and there were no consequences,
other than more radio broadcasts and newspaper articles" (93:281).
In the last stages of the bitter UN debate, Fedorenko's anger
showed his comprehension of Israel's pursuit of a fait accompli on
the Syrian front under cover of the cease-fire confusion. Fedorenko
accused Rafael of lying and attempted to prevent him from being given
the floor. Rafael protested against being treated by Fedorenko as
an accused in the dock (110:241).
The entire, obviously long-planned Israeli assault on her sur
rounding enemies, but especially her last two days of furious activity
against Syria--with one ear tuned to the New York UN Security Council
debates--was surely informed by an essential understanding, acceptance
and exploitation of the findings reported by Triska and Finley in
their study of Soviet foreign policy. The essence of these findings,
for twenty-nine crises studied, is that the USSR in a crisis is con
servative rather than radical, cautious rather than reckless,
deliberate rather than impulsive, and rational rather than nonrational.
More pertinent to Israel's concept of a lightning war in pursuit
of a fait accompli is the finding that, with respect to time, "Soviet
decisions in crises tend to take days rather than hours or minutes"
(153:348).
It might be added that, compared to the Khrushchev period, this
last observation would be particularly fitting for a divided, essen
tially leaderless Politburo, a situation clearly prevailing during
the 1967 Middle East Crisis.


364
Whereas the US was reluctant, for prestige purposes, to push a
Security Council vote on its own resolution to certain defeat, the
USSR apparently felt so pressured by its Arab clients that it per
sisted, as Khouri recounts. Insisting on a Council vote, on 14 June
the Soviet Union could muster only four (of fifteen) votes (USSR,
Bulgaria, Mali and India) for a paragraph "condemning Israeli aggres
sion." Ethiopia and Nigeria joined these four in voting for a second
operative paragraph demanding an immediate and unconditional Israeli
withdrawal. But the US led the opposition within the Council to the
Soviet proposal and was largely responsible for its defeat (31:266).
USSR Shifts from Unresponsive Council to Assembly
Rebuffed by decisive votes on each of its successive revisions
of its uncompromisingly pro-Arab Security Council resolutions, the
Soviet Union decided on a new tack. It called on 15 June for an
"immediate convening of an emergency special session of the General
Assembly to consider the question of liquidating the consequences of
Israel's aggression against the Arab states and the immediate with
drawal of Israeli troops behind the armistice lines" (109:178-179).
This action shows how rapidly and furiously (and with how much
commotion) the USSR was attempting to cover its recent and glaring
failure to aid its clients. The majority of the Council members by
their dissenting votes clearly recognized that the USSR was not serious
or realistic with its resolutions. The Soviet Union then decided that
the General Assembly would make a better, broader, perhaps more re
ceptive, certainly more public arena for its all-out, rear-guard, pro-
Arab, anti-Israel campaign.


88
intention to appeal urgently to Nasser to reconsider his decision.
Back came Nasser's response the same day, urgently advising against
such an appeal, announcing in advance that it would be "sternly
rebuffed" (75:214).
This indignation by Nasser, even to receiving a request for re
consideration, hardly fits the air of injured innocence he and his
supporters affected after the war to explain the UNEF withdrawal.
Egypt-Indi a-Yugos!avia conspiracy?
Almost all of the extensive debate over U Thant's role in the
UNEF withdrawal ignores the evidence of an advance Egypt-India-
Yugoslavia understanding--possibly even a conspiracy--as to the with
drawal scenario. Such an understanding may well have been informed
by known U Thant feelings and intentions with respect to the various
contingencies considered, discussed and threatened over the ten
years of UNEF's history.
As the strange, confused, yet apparently calculated and premedi
tated UNEF dismissal escalation stage approached, here is one informed
assessment as to Nasser's outlook: the backbone of the force of 3393
soldiers were the contingents of 978 Indians and 580 Yugoslavs. The
latter not only kept watch along the entire Sinai border, but held
the vital gate to Israel's sea access at Sharm el Sheikh, the isolated
outpost overlooking the Strait of Tiran at the southern tip of the
Sinai Peninsula. From informal advance inquiries in Belgrade and New
Delhi--according to Burdett--Nasser learned that, though his two neu
tralist friends counselled prudence with regard to the UNEF, they


122
Nasser defies, forestalls U Thant
Burdett has taken a penetrating and critical look at the decision
making process that led to the Tiran blockade. Nasser's appetite
seemed to be whetted by his winnings, so that he escalated his objec
tives in an extraordinary hurry. He did seem to feel that U Thant's
mission would represent some sort of undesirable pressure on him to
exercise restraint.
Burdett concludes that
U Thant was puzzled by Nasser's air of blissful con
fidence. Nasser declared that what he had done was to
restore the situation to "pre-1956"; he intended to take
no warlike steps. But, U Thant objected, by mobilizing
in Sinai and by blockading Tiran he was, in fact, greatly
increasing the dangers of war. "We are ready," Nasser
replied serenely. (24:272-273)
According to another source Nasser took no notice of U Thant's
specific appeal to him to abstain from any new measures prior to the
latter's arrival in Cairo (107:16).
Nasser's calculated disregard for U Thant's prestige and mission
is the more brazen in that U Thant had incurred heavy and continuing
criticism for promptly and respectfully complying with Nasser's wishes
as regards UNEF.
Nasser provokes war
While the world and Israel still hesitated even to consider the
possibility, Nasser took this boldest escalatory action, and, as it
turned out, the fatal one. In the light of its relation to the subse
quent war, and the Egyptian disaster, his announcement of the closing
of the Strait of Tiran to Israel--a pronounced casus belli to Israel


89
nevertheless made it clear that they would not maintain their contin
gents on Egyptian territory once their withdrawal was requested
(24:208-209).
What is often overlooked in accounts of the events of 16-18
May is the highly unneutral pro-Nasser tendencies, then and later,
of these two nations, India and Yugoslavia, providing the UNEF
commander and almost half the UNEF troops, including key Yugoslav
contingents in the path of the advancing Egyptians.
The evidence surely warrants a strong suspicion of collusion,
either tacit or agreed upon, among India, Yugoslavia and Egypt,
involving the maneuvering of the UNEF beginning this date. An Indian
author, writing some seven years later--while essentially defending
India's performance--at the same time provides added support for this
suspicion. India and Yugoslavia insisted to U Thant on prompt with
drawal, and resisted referral of the issue to the General Assembly.
Nand Lai acknowledges that "India and Yugoslavia were charged with
having a special friendly relationship with the UAR: the three coun
tries regarded themselves as forming a triumvirate heading the non-
al igned nations. ..."
Furthermore, in response to the requirement for timely advance
notice to the Secretary-General of the intended withdrawal of a con
tingent, Lai states that, when Egypt asked U Thant to withdraw UNEF,
"India notified the Secretary-General, in advance, of its decision to
pull out of the UNEF" (90:314-316).
The use of the words "in advance" seems to imply that India and
Yugoslavia had thus discharged their legal obligations. But Lai is


439
be an irreversible step--like the 1914 European mobilization--from
which there appeared to be no escape except through war.
Tatu--not alone--is very pointed in treating with reservation
Moscow's subsequent pious protests, largely through hints and leaks,
that Nasser acted on the blockade issue without its approval:
After the disaster, the Soviet leaders hastened
to state--that is, they intimated orally to rank-
and-file Party members, since it was awkward to
admit it publicly--that Nasser had not consulted
Moscow about the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba.
The easy way out was not to resist the pleasure
of helping Nasser win a diplomatic victory and later
claiming credit for it. They had probably not ruled
out negotiations but contemplated their being con
ducted much later at a slow pace, on the basis of
Nasser's gains and his new positions of strength.
(151:534-535) [emphasis added]
It may be appropriate here to make further reference to the
"mystery man" of the 1967 war, Yegorychev, who had headed up the April
Central Committee delegation visit to Egypt, and whose disagreement
with Brezhnev over Middle East policy was to cost him a drastic and
permanent fall from power on 28 June. Is it not only possible, but
likely, that his pro-Arab zeal (the origin of which is also a mystery)
was causing him and his faction to be giving Nasser the green 1ight
just as the Soviet Ambassador in Cairo was reportedly doing--witn
such actions as a fully supportive Central Committee letter, while
at the higher Politburo level Kosygin was flashing at most a yellow
caution light?
Such a state of affairs, beyond the ken of unsophisticated gen
eralizations as to how the Soviet leadership operates, would be
strikingly consistent with this informed and perceptive analysis by
Tatu of the subsequent downfall of Yegorychev:


360
We know that our prestige has suffered terribly among
the Arabs. The most intelligent will come to understand
that it was impossible for us to act otherwise. When
reason finally prevails over emotions, the progressive
Arab leaders will have to admit that if the Americans
are now the target of spontaneous, vigilant hatred in
the Arab world, there is only one great power that can
help the Arabs recover from the disaster--the Soviet
Union. . .
He could not resist a parting shot at one of the far-off insti
gators of the recent leftist adventure:
One may say that the big winner in this crisis has been
Mao Tse-tung. But let's be serious: Who can pull
Egypt and Syria out of the hornet's nest, and, to start
with, rebuild their air forces? The Chinese? (128:19-20)
In a like vein, Arab scholar Elias Sam'o quotes a Soviet diplo
mat as stating, several weeks after the war, that "our position is
stronger not weaker. True, the Arabs have suffered a defeat, but
the defeat has brought them closer to us--not driven them farther
away" (139:159-160).
USSR Enjoys Notable Success at Postwar Recovery
Isaac Deutscher chronicles the remarkable success for the
humiliated Soviet leaders in finding the route to recover their
position with the Arabs after the June War:
"The Russians have let us down!" was the bitter
cry that came from Cairo, Damascus, and Beirut in
June. . "The Soviet Union will now sink to the
rank of a second or fourth-rate power," Nasser was
reported to have told the Soviet ambassador. . .
The debacle aroused an alarm in Eastern Europe as
well. "If the Soviet Union could let down Egypt like
this, may it not also let us down when we are once
again confronted by German aggression?" the Poles and
Czechs wondered. . .
The Soviet leaders had to do something. The fact
that the intervention of the Arab masses had saved the
Nasser regime unexpectedly provided Moscow with fresh


413
In this crisis, the Yemen-to-Sinai move was part of the employ
ment of this asset. And until 5 June when the scenario collapsed,
both the US and Israel were kept off balance and on the defensive
by uncertainty as to whether Nasser's boldness was indeed backed by
the USSR's might and resolve.*
Problems of Management by Proxy
Particularly applicable to the turbulent, unstable environment
of the Middle East in 1967, but with relevance to other times and
areas as well, is a variety of problems in dealing with crises by
proxy that were exposed during the May-June 1967 events.
Lack of Control of Proxy
This critical deficiency surfaced almost immediately, was predict
able from Nasser's previous performances, and proved to be beyond
the Soviet ability to control or adjust to.
In his quieter, more private moments Nasser seemed aware of the
dangers of loss of control of the crisis, for example in his urgent
25 May advice to Syria to cease all terrorist raids "for a month or
two," and in his prewar berating of Amer for the Egyptian army's low
capability. But in public he seemed a man possessed and unrestrained,
spokesman for his army hotheads and Arab mob frenzy.
*It may be noted that the open American society and political
system do not offer any similar advantage. The one notable attempt,
at the Bay of Pigs, an operation dubbed "the perfect failure" by
Irving L. Jam's, would appear to demonstrate this point decisively
(76:Chap. 2).


57
tended to doubt that the incidents reflected a Soviet political strategy
to increase East-West tension as a way to counter the widening American
involvement in Vietnam (63:93-94). However, initial Soviet commentary
complained of US flights over ships "sailing to countries which are in
great need of aid in the struggle against US aggression" and that
Seventh Fleet ships were "systematically shelling the DRV [Democratic
Republic of Vietnam]" (68:27).
The deliberate character of this wave of harassment is further
testified to by a closely related Soviet interview with Fleet Admiral
Gorshkov, published on 18 May in the Soviet press (31, No. 20:18-19).
Of particular interest in this interview is the aggrieved, truculent
tone and wording of the Admiral, consistent with the supposition--
expressed in the opening global setting of this paper--that the Soviet
leaders were embarking on a new, defensively motivated, aggressive
stance.
D-Minus 25: Thursday 11 May
The Israeli-Egyptian-Syrian-Soviet entanglement
At a time when Israel was interested in deterring Syria's provoca
tions, and seemingly had no awareness of the storm brewing for her in
the next few days, she took a succession of steps, in part related to
her approaching 15 May Independence Day, that would unwittingly lend
support to the concerted charges about to spill forth from Syria, the
USSR and Egypt.
On 11 May the Syrian government stepped up its propaganda campaign
and this time explicitly accused Israel of preparing to attack Syria.


189
These are significant extracts of Nasser's speech:
In our relations with the Soviet Union--and I have been
dealing with them since 1 955they have never asked us for
anything. I have never received a single request from
them, they have never interfered in our affairs or our
ideology; under no circumstances do they try to interfere
in our internal affairs. This is how we have always found
the Soviet Union. . .
When I met Shams Badran yesterday, he gave me a letter
from the Soviet Prime Minister, Mr. Kosygin, in which he
says that the Soviet Union supports us in this conflict,
and will allow no country to interfere until the situation
returns to what it was before 1956. . .
In the name of the people of the United Arab Republic
I thank the peoples of the USSR for their magnificent at
titude and true friendship. This is the attitude we want,
and, as I said yesterday, we have not asked the Soviet
Union or any other country to intervene, because we do
not want a confrontation that might lead to a world war.
(75:565)
The last sentence quoted may indeed reflect Nasser's uneasy aware
ness of being warned by Kosygin, and of being alone if it came to war.
There is possibly even a revelation of strain in his strangely effusive
thanks for past "unconditional" aid, wholly ignoring his charges to
the contrary in his bitter exchanges with Khrushchev in 1957 and 1958.
There are many interpretations of this event (first discussed
above under 28 May), in the light of subsequent developments. It has
been suggested that Nasser deliberately misstated and overstated Kosy
gin's message, so that what was actually a disclaimer of support and
a caution to Nasser was utilized for quite the contrary effect. It
has also been averred that the messenger, Badran, provided his own
militant modification, as part of the battle-hungry military clique's
concern that Nasser not weaken or back down.
Whether Badran intentionally misled Nasser, to encourage his
aggressiveness, or whether Nasser himself overstated this Soviet


467
170. Wilson, Evan M. "The American Interest in the Palestine
Question and the Establishment of Israel." In America and
the Middle East, pp. 64-73. Edited by Parker T. Hart. The
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Mo. 401 (May 1972).
171. Windsor, Philip and Roberts, Adam. Czechoslovakia 1968:
Reform, Repression and Resistance. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1969.
172. Wolfe, Thomas W. "The USSR and the Arab East." RAND No.
P-4194 (September 1969).
173. Yodfat, Aryeh. Arab Politics in the Soviet Mirror. Jerusalem
Israel Universities Press, 1973. New York: Halsted Press,
1973.
174. Yost, Charles W. "The Arab-Israeli War, How It Began."
Foreign Affairs 46 (January 1968):304-20.
175. Young, Oran D. "Intermediaries and Interventionists: Third
Parties in the Middle East Crisis." International Journal
23 (Winter 1967-68):52-73.
176. The Politics of Force, Bargaining During Interna
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177. Zorza, Victor. "The Kremlin Power Struggle." Radio Liberty
dispatch, 1 February 1974.


400
Security Council Resolution 242 Finally Emerges
Frustrated in the Assembly, the Middle East debate shifted back
again, on 24 October, to the Security Council, where eventually,
aided by inspired diplomatic footwork, especially on Britain's part,
the famed Resolution 242 of 22 November 1967 emerged, to cap five
months of stalemate. The "inspiration" lay in achieving a wording
that could win a unanimous Security Council vote. This was of course
only possible because there were key "weasel words" included, so that
the resolution truly "meant all things to all men." The Middle East
problem remained unsolved, and the resolution essentially unimple
mented, "even unto this day," as the Bible would say, despite the
occurrence of the 1973 October War since (32:246).
To "get the monkey off its back," the Security Council thus found
a formula that could get a unanimous vote, essentially because it
was (and so proved itself) meaningless, subject to widely varying
interpretations. The whimper that ended what began in such all-out
fury back in June may be summarized briefly. In private consultation
through the rest of October, and following public debate in November,
the Council finally agreed to a plan which coupled Israeli withdrawal
from captured Arab territories with an end to Arab belligerency.
But, despite the unanimous Council vote, this solution was not accepted
by either the Israelis or the Arabs (88:120).
Soviet June-to-November Crisis Management Assessed
The entire Soviet Mid-East policy from 11 June to 22 November was
summarized briefly by Robert McNamara, former US Secretary of Defense,
as "primarily diplomatic gestures to recoup political defeats" (32:240).


117
The cross-purposes apparently developing between Nasser and his
protector are recounted by Michael Bar-Zohar in connection with
Nasser's appointment this date with the Soviet Ambassador Podyedyeev:
The meeting was cordial. The Ambassador informed Nasser
of the exchange of messages between Johnson and Kosygin
and then emphasized that the Soviet Union had not changed
its view. Nasser did not mention the long conference in
his office the day before or the serious decision that
had been its outcome. (11:67)*
It is not clear how Bar-Zohar is so certain that Nasser kept the
USSR in the dark as to his imminent Aqaba coup.
Egyptian Navy anticipates decision?
According to the New York Times,
Reliable witnesses report seeing an Egyptian cruiser,
four torpedo boats and two subs moving south through
the Suez Canal in the last few days. . The war
ships could be used to block Israeli shipping to and
from Elath [Eilat]. (121, 22 May 1967:1)
If this was indeed the purpose of this movement, then it indi
cates an earlier decision, or at least an anticipated one, to blockade
the Strait of Tiran. This would tie in the Sinai movement, 14-16
May, the UNEF withdrawal, 16-19 May, and the Aqaba blockade, 22 May,
so closely as to add strength to the supposition that a prearranged
scenario was being followed.
British/Soviet Mediterranean fleet moves
On this date the British aircraft carrier Victorious, soon to
figure in the Western Mediterranean fleet deterrent, passed through
*From the book, Embassies in Crisis: Diplomats and Demagogues
Behind the Six-Day War, by Michael Bar-Zohar. 1970, by Michael
Bar-Zohar. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.


297
searching for reasons not to act, rather than the opposite. For
aircraft resupply only took place, massively and rapidly, after the
war was over!
No wonder rumors arose and persist that Moscow conspired in and
welcomed the Arabs' disaster!
In support of this picture--surprisingly well hidden--of Russian
panic, and cowardice even, when hostilities are actually upon them,
there is Khrushchev's account of Stalin's 1950 pell-mell withdrawal
of all his advisers from North Korea, severing all connections there,
when the Korean War erupted (82:370). Also, in Egypt in 1956, the
USSR made every effort to get its advisers and planes and other
military hardware out of the action, rather than engage them in it
(102:185-86;21:129).
The high Soviet official of Le Nouvel Observateur reports a tenta
tive Soviet move to intervene as a last-minute effort to save Nasser
and recover their own position. While this near-action is reported
in relation to Nasser's fate, it seems more consistent with the sub
sequent last-ditch hardened Soviet threats on 10 June in relation to
the Syrian defeat:
As Nasser continued his desperate struggle, we
became aware that the Arab world and a large part of
the Third World, not to mention the Chinese, disap
proved of the inadequacy of our support to Egypt.
Suddenly, some of our leaders began thinking of taking
the risk of limited military action on behalf of Egypt
within the framework of a "prudent challenge" to the
United States. However, this solution was finally
rejected. (As elsewhere, the pressure of Jewish opin
ion made its weight felt in the USSR right up to the
leading circles.) (128:19)


32
Soviet Perspective
In embarking on their May Middle East effort, the Soviet leaders
may well have foreseen an attractively optimistic scenario that went
somewhat as follows. If the successful Soviet role in protecting
Syria in 1955 and 1957 could be repeated, several important Soviet
objectives would be served at once. The USSR would gain credit for
having "saved" Syria by its timely warning; Nasser's militant but
more responsible stance in the Arab-Israeli conflict would be
strengthened over that of the more extreme Syrians; and Israel would
be deterred.
The tangled history of the events leading up to the Six-Day War
includes the extraordinarily solicitous concern of the USSR to deter
Israel from retaliation for border provocations. An important explana
tion was the Soviet realization that, due to the nature of the topog
raphy on Israel's northern border, small-scale retaliation against
Syria was out of the question. Any attempt to cope with the en
trenched Syrian hillside fortifications meant a relatively large-
scale punitive incursion. Its probable success would surely threaten
the survival of their insecure client regime and jeopardize their new
and highly prized stake in Syria. Thus, as analyzed by Robert Scheer,
the USSR was forced to support the Syrians, even though they were
pursuing what the Soviet leaders elsewhere would have rejected as a
policy of adventurism. From past irritation with Nasser's unpredict
able and independent "nonaligned" style, the USSR seems to have been
attracted by the Syrian trademarks: a doctrinaire party and a revo
lutionary vocabulary (140:95).


424
Immediate Background (1965-1967)
Persistent Hardline Tendencies
During the 1965-66 period, there could be discerned a developing
"hard line" among the Soviet military leaders, an appearance of not
fearing nuclear war. This was the view of the dogmatist group, sup
ported in the political leadership by Suslov, Shelepin and others.
However, it appears that the more moderate and flexible Brezhnev-
Kosygin majority reasserted itself in 1966. But instability along
this moderate/hardline division continued.
A persuasive case could be made for the hardline view, as Robert
Conquest has expressed it:
A policy of detente, the Soviet hardline military
have argued, serves the capitalists' interests by less
ening their fears and giving them a margin for "aggres
sive" initiative in the Third World; at the same time
it undermines the unity and the revolutionary dynamism
of the Communist countries. This is a serious argument,
and to some degree a sound one from the Communist point
of view. (28:736-737)
It is not difficult to visualize the hardliners, in early 1967,
applying this argument to the Middle East and the need for a forward
policy there, to support Syria, rescue Nasser and Third World forces
in general from their quarrel-ridden misfortunes, and recapture some
global initiative vis--vis the United States.
There was a report by Dr. Zuayen, the Syrian Prime Minister,
during the crisis prelude, which supports other evidence of hardline-
moderate dissension within the Soviet leadership. Zuayen, heading a
mission to the USSR, reported that there were differences of opinion
in Moscow between Soviet military and civilian leaders about the


105
the developing crisis. According to some reports Johnson sought urgent
contact with Kosygin to coordinate diplomatic action, before the
situation got out of control. In his reply Kosygin declared that the
Soviet Union was firmly interested in preserving the peace (19:368).
American dismay at Nasser's UNEF action stimulated a variety of
other responses. The US and Britain were reported to be seeking ways
to salvage the UN's peacekeeping role in the area. The US maintained
contacts with both parties; Israel was advised to exercise restraint
and was reassured as to the American stand on free navigation in the
Tiran Strait. American diplomats sought contacts with their Soviet
counterparts but the latter's attitudes were evasive.
Kremlin shakeup
Identical, deceptively brief announcements appeared in Pravda
on 19 May on page 6 and in Izvestia on 20 May on page 4:
The Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet has relieved
Comrade V. Ye. Semichastny of his duties as Chairman of
the USSR Council of Ministers State Security Committee
in connection with his transfer to other work. (31,
No. 20:21)
It is not only inviting but literally compelling to attempt to trace
the relation of this important action to the accelerating Middle East
crisis, where Nasser had unexpectedly dismissed the UNEF in the period
16-18 May (purportedly without consulting or even informing his Soviet
patron!). Also relevant is Political Diary's account of this affair,
reporting that Semichastny was dismissed abruptly--after only a few
minutes' discussion--at a Politburo meeting at which his close friend
and fellow hardliner, Shelepin, was conveniently (for the Brezhnev


84
After the formal discussion in Mokhtar's office, there was the
ritual coffee. Conversation relaxed and the Egyptians confided their
worry. They had directed their message to Gaza rather than New York
because they feared that, if they sent it to U Thant, the Israelis at
United Nations headquarters would be certain to hear about it and
would beat them to the punch. Israeli troops would occupy the two
key posts, at Sharm el Sheikh and El Sabha, before Egyptian contin
gents were able to get there. A few days later at a meeting in Cairo,
Nasser told Rikhye that this conspiratorial decision had been taken
on the Cabinet level--by Nasser himself (24:216-217).
In elaboration of this confusing and disputed sequence of events,
M. A. Gilboa has reported that Nasser sent a liaison officer to
General Rikhye the same night to soften the impact of the telegram.
The officer explained to Rikhye that Egypt did not actually plan to
withdraw the UNEF as a cushioning force between Israel and Egypt.
All it wanted to do, he said, was to stage a modest "show" before the
eyes of the Arab world. Gilboa gives no source, and there is no con
firmation from other sources, but most observers feel that the very
careful wording of the Egyptian telegram substantiates the "show"
interpretation. Brecher concludes for undisclosed reasons that
Mokhtars oral request about the evacuation of Sharm el Sheikh was
probably unauthorized (19:363-364).
But it is difficult to accept this Brecher conclusion. How could
such an important step be taken without authorization? What does seem
more than likely is that Nasser knew he was indulging in a "show," but
for cover purposes did not wish to tell his officers, and perhaps could


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
SOVIET CRISIS MANAGEMENT
AS DEMONSTRATED IN THE 1967 MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AND WAR
By
John Werner Palm
December 1978
Chairman: John W. Spanier
Major Department: Political Science
This research attempts to (1) ascertain whether and to what degree
studies of U.S. crisis management are applicable to the USSR; (2)
ascertain whether earlier findings as to an apparent Soviet three-
stage modus operandi (aggressive in buildup and winddown, prudently
cautious during peak hostilities) under Khrushchev in 1956 were still
demonstrable under the Brezhnev-Kosygin collective leadership in 1967;
and (3) highlight the complexity of crisis management in the turbulent
Middle East arena where each superpower operates through one or more
cl ient-proxies.
The findings of this research are as follows: (1) Both similari
ties and contrasts to American crisis management principles and per
formance are revealed; (2) the three-stage performance of Soviet
leadership in crisis management is very clearly demonstrated in this
1967 case; and (3) severe problems of crisis management by proxy--
problems of conflicting motivations, communications and control--are
demonstrated, extending to the question as to whether patron or client
was in effect the primary controller in this crisis.
vi i


201
The continuing trend toward war could have been detected in some
very hard-line warnings by normally more diplomacy-oriented Israeli
Foreign Minister Eban, in a news conference this date. He described
free navigation in the Strait of Tiran as "a central and vital national
interest that will under no circumstances whatever be surrendered or
abandoned," the kind of national interest "for which a nation stakes
all that it has . and for which it is ready to assume all responsi
bility and to undertake every sacrifice."
Eban concluded with a touch of his characteriStic humor that should
have done little to disguise the seriousness of this warning to Egypt:
The Israeli defense preparations are serious prepara
tions, and if I were the president of Egypt--I agree it
is a most unlikely possibility--! would look at them with
respect. If I were he, I would look at them with re
spect, remembering what has happened in the past. (75:28)
From the rhetoric-steeped Arab world such threats would merit
little attention or concern. But from Israel's Foreign Minister, a
most precise and careful diplomat, these words deserved--but did not
elicit in the Soviet or Arab leadership--either an active movement
toward compromise, or a full alert for the war now only six days away.
Nasser forewarned
King Hussein of Jordan, in his 1969 reminiscences, claims to have
foreseen and forewarned Nasser of impending Israeli attack. These are
his words:
I had already alerted Nasser against an Israeli attack
at our meeting in Cairo on May 30. I had explained my
view that, if Israel decided to attack, its first objec
tive would be the Arab air forces, and that its first
assault would quite naturally be directed against the
Egyptian air force.
Nasser had answered: "That's obvious. We expect it.
. ." (159:55)


109
D-Minus 15: Sunday 21 May
Arabs pressure Nasser over Aqaba
Even had Nasser not intended to blockade Aqaba, Arab world pres
sures were acting powerfully to force his hand. Amman Radio taunted
Nasser, in very typical fashion, with the dilemma he now faced:
This is the question all Arabs are asking: Will
Egypt restore its batteries and guns and close its terri
torial waters in the Tiran Strait to the enemy? Logic,
wisdom, and nationalism make it incumbent on Egypt to
do so. . If she fails to do so, what value would
there be in military demonstrations? (67:19)
A critical, yet fascinated, observer nearby, King Hussein of Jor
dan, watched the swelling tide moving his old enemy Nasser to the
heights, and ultimately propelling Hussein himself into a fateful
action that--scarcely so evaluated in Moscow or Washington--was to
transform Israel from a divided state to one choosing unanimously
for war. Burdett's account traces this development thus. At first
the King's radio in Amman scoffed at the Sinai movement as a "parading
demonstration." When UNEF was dismissed Amman again jeered and chal
lenged Nasser to prove he was not bluffing by closing Tiran to Israeli
shipping. "Unless this is done," Amman Radio said, "the Arab cause
will be denied the fruits of the UNEF evacuation" (24:238-239).
Mobilization escalation
An ominous mobilization escalation was now going on. As Israel
proceeded with a "full mobilization," Egyptian forces completed their
takeover of the UNEF positions and were installed along the entire
border from Gaza to Sharm el Sheikh. The UAR ordered "total


49
orthodox Sunni Moslem majority, opposing the main leaders of the regime,
who belonged to the minority Alaouite sect. Such a regime would
understandably be vulnerable to Soviet "guidance," and to the tempta
tion to substitute foreign adventures for domestic popularity and
security (43:57-58).
Syria's governments rose and fell with remarkable frequency,
and if the Israeli threat were invoked in this case to save a totter
ing regime by diversion, and unification around an external threat,
it would not be the first or last time a government--or its protector--
had resorted to such survival tactics.
Soviet reaction
Laqueur surmises that next the Russians were consulted and that
Moscow may well have counselled a diversion. The Russians could have
been more acutely aware of the dangers facing the Syrian regime than
the Ba'ath leadership itself.
To call in Nasser, just as the recent Syrian-Egyptian defense
treaty envisaged, must have seemed both a promising, and a safe
enough, course (93:94-95).
Unless the above incentive led to sudden policy change in Moscow,
the Soviet use of Syria to set off the Mid-East crisis appears strange.
Mizan's editor David Morison recalled a recent, 19 April, Soviet
criticism of Syria-type regimes as evidence that caution about Syria's
irresponsibi1ity was uppermost in the minds of at least some Soviet
leaders:
In relation to Israel, it may well be that the Soviet
Union was relieved at the thought that the belligerent
ardours of the Syrians might now be cooled by the more


241
To Israel: "We are face to face with you, and burning with enthu
siasm for the fight, so that we may avenge the perfidy of 1956. ..."
(75:578).
On the morrow, and on many succeeding long and bitter morrows,
Nasser would have much cause to rue all these brave words.
On this day President Boumedienne of Algeria broadcast in a simi
lar vein from Radio Algiers: "The true freedom of the entire homeland
must be won through the liquidation of the Zionist state" (107:20).
From Algeria's distant and safe location, such belligerence against
Israel was not very considerate of the imminently pressing problem for
the more exposed nations of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
Israel1s war decision
The essence of the decision that propelled Israel to war--seemingly
inadequately appreciated by the Egyptians or their Soviet protectors,
but brilliantly foreseen by al-Ahram editor Heikal in his column a
few days earlier--is pinpointed by Burdett, who observed that the
ultimate consideration for Israel was not military but political and
moral. The alternative to war was a political triumph for Nasser that
would enable him to proceed to the progressive curtailment of Israel's
national being. Tiran was therefore a symbol of Israel's very national
existence.
Thus the real choices for Israel in the final prewar week were
just three: capitulation and slow death; the awful destruction of an
Egyptian first strike; or her own preemptive plunge into war (24:270-271).
After all the tension and turmoil of the three weeks' buildup of
the Mid-East crisis, Brecher records Israel's formal war decision on


2
interests to defend and they still make demands upon each other that
must be acquiesced in, resisted, or in some way accommodated. Thus
there has developed a pressing need to find a replacement for war to
resolve nuclear age US-USSR conflicts.
A concern for the successful, reasonably peaceful resolution of
crises, i.e., their effective management, has evolved to serve as an
acceptable war substitute for the superpowers. There has gradually
developed a tacit legitimization of crises as contests of resolve and
nerve," waged by verbal threats and physical means short of large-
scale violence. Crises are seen as surrogates for war in the nuclear
age when all-out war has become far too risky and potentially costly
(147:707,709).
Crisis occurs in a transition zone between peace and war and has
aspects of both. Crisis behavior proves to be a mixture of coercion
and accommodation. It arises when one state is seen to be pushing its
interests and the other feels constrained to resist. As Oran Young sees
it, "International crises have come increasingly to occupy a critical
position at the juncture between the use of violence and the use of
diplomacy in primarily persuasive situations" (176:310). Therefore,
the successful outcome of crisis management has become a primary objec
tive of statesmen (and, in their shadow, scholars) equivalent to, and
no less important than, the pursuit of victory on the battlefield in
the prenuclear era.
It was perhaps this realization that caused US Secretary of Defense
Robert McNamara to exult in 1962, in the immediate post-Cuban missile
crisis euphoria, "There is no longer any such thing as strategy, only


126
On the other hand, some observers claim that the Soviet-Egyptian
contacts of 22 May in Cairo focussed on the very subject of an Aqaba
blockade, with the Soviet representatives either concurring in Nasser's
intentions or making no efforts to block them (110:196).
It would not be inconceivable, of course, in the complex world of
crisis management by proxy, for the USSR to attempt to have it both
ways: privately advise caution but pub!i cly share the credit if
Nasser "got away with" his bold move.
The Nouvel Observateur1s "high Soviet official" source, interviewed
in the immediate wake of the Egyptian disaster, reportedly saw Nasser
and Soviet views as separating already with the UNEF move. He stated
that Nasser took both the UNEF and the Aqaba actions on his own and
only then informed the USSR. The Soviet leaders warned him that by
so doing he ran the risk of "unpredictable reactions." He was warned
that the Soviet commitment was limited to neutralizing the United
States; support beyond this would not be forthcoming. Nasser, knowing
the Soviet reservations, promised not to be the first to attack. But,
according to this source, "he was partially a victim of his own propa
ganda, which claimed that the Tel Aviv Government was merely Washington's
pawn. He did not want to believe that this pawn might act on its
own" (128:18).
This can be at least acknowledged to be a plausible rendition of
Soviet positions at the various stages of the crisis buildup.
In what he describes as "a remarkably candid two-hour conversation
with a high official of the Soviet Foreign Office," British writer
Alexander Werth, popular in Russia for his World War II and later,


Tat, Michel. Power in the Kremlin, from Khrushchev to Kosygin. New
York: Viking Press, Inc., 1967. @ 1968, by William Collins
Sons & Co., Ltd., London.
Young, Oran D. "Intermediaries and Interventionists: Third Parties
in the Middle East Crisis." International Journal 23 (Winter
1967-1968): 52-73.
IV


460
62. Heikal, Muhammad H. The Road to Ramadan. New York: Quandrangle
1 975.
63. Herrick, Robert W. Soviet Naval Strategy: Fifty Years of Theory
and Practice. Annapolis: US Naval Institute, 1968.
64. Hirschmann, Ira A. Red Star Over Bethlehem; Russia Drives to
Capture the Middle East. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971.
65. Hoffman, Stanley. Gulliver's Troubles. New York: McGraw-Hill,
1968.
66. Holsti, Ole R. Crisis Escalation War. London: McGi11-Queens
University Press, 1972.
67. Howard, Michael and Hunter, Robert E. "Israel and the Arab
World: The Crisis of 1967." Adel phi Papers (London), No. 41
(October 1967).
68. Howe, Jonathan T. Multicrises: Sea Power and Global Politics
in the Missile Age. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971.
69. Hunter, Robert E. "In the Middle in the Middle East." Foreign
Policy 5 (Winter 71-72):137-50.
70. Hurewitz, Jacob C. "Superpower Rivalry and the Arab-Israeli
Dispute, Involvement or Commitment?" In the USSR and the Middle
East, pp. 155-69. Edited by Michael Confino and Shimon Shamir.
New York: Halsted Press, 1973.
71. "Superpowers and Changing Military Perspectives in
the Middle East." RAND, No. RM-6355 (February 1970).
72. Husry, Khaldun S. Review of The Great Defeat: With the Kings
and Presidents, by Ahmad Shuqairy. Journal of Palestine
Studies (Beirut) 3 (Winter 1974):142-46.
73. Review of Nasser, by Anthony Nutting. Journal of
Palestine Studies (Beirut) 2 (Winter 1973):135-38.
74. Israel Defense Forces, The Six Day War, Official Account.
Israel Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1968.
75. Jabber, Fuad, ed. International Documents on Palestine, 1967.
Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1970.
76. Jam's, Irving L. Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological
Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascos. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1972.


379
on the demoralized Middle East--required an all-out, rear-guard effort
to salvage whatever was salvageable in the Soviet Middle East position
(and its East European and worldwide positions as well). By this date
it must have been abundantly clear that Israel would not withdraw
and that neither in the Security Council nor in the General Assembly
could the USSR-Arab combination get the necessary support to force
her withdrawal.
That this plenary session also marked the defeat and loss of
power of the hardline Middle East faction in the Soviet leadership
is revealed in more detail in the Appendix.
Podgorny Embarks on Crucial Mid-East Aid Survey
Coincident with the Soviet party resolution on 21 June of its
severe policy conflict, the USSR embarked on a top-level survey of
the Middle East disarray, both to show support and concern, and to
consider needed repairs, a "Where do we go from here?" reassessment.
President Podgorny headed this important mission, stopping to confer
with Tito on 20 June before a 21 to 23 June visit to Egypt, followed
by another stopover with Tito on 24 June on his return.
French correspondent Rouleau has provided a fascinating view of
how Podgorny in his negotiations with Nasser had to impose Soviet
views of reality on a considerably different and vengeful, "fight
back" plan of Nasser's. According to this account, Nasser began on
a highly emotional and daring note. He invoked the example of the
Soviet Union in World War II, when its armies suffered awful defeats
and retreated before the Nazi invaders but continued to fight, recovered,


98
Johnson restrains Israel
Meanwhile, what of Israel? Already at this early date President
Johnson acted to deter Israel from what he must have felt would be an
immediate inclination to go to war. The key sentence in his cable,
which was to cause Israeli leaders much anxiety during the course of
the crisis buildup, read: I am sure you will understand that I
cannot accept any responsibility on behalf of the United States for
situations which arise as the result of actions on which we are not
consulted" (78:290).
D-Minus 18: Thursday 18 May
UNEF is withdrawn
The concluding act of the 16-18 May UNEF withdrawal process was
an untidy one. On the morning of the 18th the Egyptians forced Yugo
slav troops out of their positions at El Amr and El Kuntilla, and at
noon the commander of the contingent at Sharm el Sheikh was given
fifteen minutes to withdraw his forces--an ultimatum he rejected.
That night, however, instructions reached General Rikhye from the
Secretary-General to withdraw UNEF as requested. He complied at
once. Israeli and Egyptian forces again confronted each other
directly in the Sinai Desert and the Gaza Strip (67:18).
Egypt's aggressive stance
Criticism of U Thant for his "too hasty" withdrawal of UNEF,
particularly in combination with subsequent attempts to soften the
record of Nasser's May actions, seems misdirected. There is ample


36
that nothing was impossible in politics. He warned that a continued
Egyptian presence in the Arabian Peninsula would place a great strain
on Egypt, and that the Soviet Union could provide neither the food nor
the money that Egypt needed to wage war in that region (110:22).
The usually well-informed Yugoslav news agency Tanyug had this
to say on the visit: "Official quarters are reticent as seldom before.
. . The only concrete detail leaked out in the Cairo press is that
Gromyko will also discuss the problems of the UN peacekeeping force
in Gaza." This is the only published evidence that a possible move
of the Egyptian army into Sinai, with its obvious implications regard
ing the UN force, was discussed by the Russians and the Egyptians as
early as the first week of April 1967 (84:51-52).
The reported Nasser-Gromyko exchange over "the impossible in poli
tics" warrants special attention. Suppose that the retreat from Yemen
could be portrayed instead as an advance into Sinai, thus serving a
useful purpose for both the USSR and Egypt on both ends of the line!
It is reasonable to conjecture that, because of its timing, the
principals, and surrounding circumstances, Gromyko and Nasser did dis
cuss, and plan in general terms, the forthcoming Sinai move scenario,
including the problem with the intervening UNEF.
In a 1975 study, Yaacov Ro' i observed that Gromyko was concerned
most of all with the urgency of a total Egyptian evacuation from Yemen.
He concluded that the USSR had apparently worked out an elaborate stra
tegic plan to enable Egypt to leave Yemen without harming its prestige,
the main facet of which was a demonstration of the need of a large
Egyptian force in the Sinai Peninsula (135:437).


164
of his position to Israeli Ambassador Evron. The President concluded
with the observation that Israel was a sovereign and independent
nation and he could not tell her what to do. The ultimate decision
lay with her (24:255).
While to the world Israel presented a picture of a besieged nation
valiantly struggling to preserve herself (e.g., the panicky wail of
Eban on this date in Washington that in two days Israel would be
attacked and destroyed), much subsequent evidence has shown, and much
of the politically sophisticated and intelligence-informed world at
the time understood, that the problem was more a debate between Is
rael 's military and political leaders as to when the political climate
would be favorable for a war option. The Israeli government appar
ently resolved to lay the groundwork for American political support
before Israel achieved a military victory. Eban was determined to
prevent a repetition of the 1956 situation, "when a military victory
was squandered because there was not sufficient political prepara
tion" (68:59).
As early as 9 June Prime Minister Eshkol acknowledged that the
essence of the debate with Washington had been how long after the
Aqaba casus belli Israel must wait before attacking--hardly the
image of a nation "about to be destroyed"! Premier Eshkol explained
that "we were first asked to wait two days. Then we sent Mr. Abba
Eban to the US--and we were asked to wait a further fortnight." Eban
felt an essential distinction between 1956 and 1967 had been made
when President Johnson allegedly told him during their 26 May meeting
that "the American people and I believe that Israel is a victim of
arbitrary lawlessness."


232
alert readiness all the more damaging to their military and political
prestige.
At 2 p.m. on 3 June, Saturday, Hussein held a press conference in
Amman at the Royal Palace before a hundred foreign and Jordanian corre
spondents. At one point he left the conference to take a call from
Nasser, who informed him of Iraq's adherence to the anti-Israel mili
tary pact. Hussein then announced that Iraqi troops would be stationed
in Jordan, opposite the Israeli border, as an added element to the
encircling force.
To an American journalist's question, Hussein responded that he
expected war to be initiated by Israel within the next forty-eight
hours. (The. attack actually came forty-two hours later!) ( 1 59:54-55).
Another view has Nasser knowing the blow was coming, but satisfied
to wait it out, in contrast to the worried Marshal Amer. Forty-eight
hours before the war's outbreak Nasser once again convened his mini
sters and his military advisers and told them that the Israeli govern
ment changes meant war was now inevitable. Amer and some other offi
cers thereupon urged on Nasser again their special plan for a preemptive
air strike at Israel, but without success. As Kimche and Bawly see it,
the Egyptian strategic plan for some time had been:
Once their army was ready to overcome the Israelis, they
should goad the Israelis into beginning the war, and
they would then smash the Israeli army in a massive coun
teroffensive. (84:110-111)
Nasser, in the waning hours of the prehostilities phase, installed
himself on 3 June in a general staff bunker in Heliopolis, a suburb
of Cairo. But he continued to resist the pressure of Amer and Badran,


369
Rumania refused to participate in the second Communist summit and
attended the third meeting only with the assurance that no statement
injurious to Rumanian-Israeli relations would be issued (168:368).
The entire Soviet postwar obsession with restoring its Middle
East position may be seen as an example of how an intensive shoring
up of one problem area may provoke a whole new crisis elsewhere.
In Poland, meanwhile, the Communist choice of the Arab side
brought much resentment and opposition from Jews and their supporters.
In response, Party First Secretary Gomulka warned Polish Jews on 19
June against supporting Israel. Speaking in Warsaw, Gomulka said,
"We do not want a fifth column in our country," and "We have made
no difficulty for Polish citizens of Jewish nationality in emigrating
to Israel if they wished to do so. But we maintain that all Polish
citizens should have only one fatherland--People1s Poland" (88:119).
It was inevitable, considering all the military assistance and
advice the Soviet military had provided the Arabs over the preceding
ten years, that a search for military scapegoats would take place.
Arab sources reported that, a few days after the cessation of hostili
ties, a group of Soviet officials including Defense Minister Grechko
had accused former Defense Minister Malinovsky (who had died in office
on 31 March 1967) of overestimating Arab military strength and under
estimating that of Israel. A Western source reported at the same time
that Soviet Chief of Staff Marshal Zakharov had criticized both Grechko
and Soviet Navy Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Gorshkov, for delivering
"favorable reports on Arab fighting capacity similar to the over-
optimistic verdicts of the Soviet General Staff." The entire Soviet


415
required Nasser's future behavior to be subject to firm and effective
Soviet control. President Podgorny's postwar comment is worthy of
repeating here, to attest to the Soviet view of Nasser as an uncon
trolled crisis proxy in Hay and June:
Everywhere I arrived, I found men expecting me to supply
them with the means to start the war all over again as
soon as possible. Everywhere I left, I left men whom
I had quieted down. And everywhere we wi11 keep our
hands on the key to the arms that we are giving them.
(110:20) [emphasis added]
The subsequent six years of what Nasser and Sadat called, in
intense frustration, the Soviet "no war, no peace" policy, attest
to how emphatically the USSR had learned the need to control a rash
and exuberant proxy.
Vulnerability to Countermanipulation by Proxy
Inherent in the concept of crisis by proxy is the consideration
that the principal manipulates the client from his greater power,
independence and safer position. But the extreme result of the lack
of control of a proxy just discussed is that an aggressive and skill
ful and bold client may indeed manipulate its patron against the
latter's wishes and recognized best interests. Thus Nasser's bold
declaration of a Soviet pledge, that Kosygin had said, "The USSR
stands with us in this battle," while never repudiated publicly, gives
every evidence of having been a distortion by Nasser of more cautious
Soviet advice, to serve his own purposes. He tried again--in even
more dangerous fashion--to embroil the USSR in his war by falsely
claiming US and British participation in the Israeli air assault.
Tatu in essence concludes that the Egyptians had the initiative from


384
disagreed on both the timing and the extent of the Israeli withdrawal,
as well as on Israel's future borders. They agreed only that, in
Johnson's words, "every state has a right to live, that there should
be an end to war in the Middle East and that in the right circumstances
there should be withdrawal of troops" (135:459).
Kosygin's performance in his New York activities, including this
meeting with President Johnson in Glassboro, provided revealing evi
dence of a tightrope balancing performance between a realistic approach
to a solution (which Kosygin probably knew was not then in the cards)
and the public posture of outraged denunciation of Israeli-American
sinfulness, which would solve nothing but be balm to bruised Arab ears
and egos.
Ulam's observation pinpoints the Soviet dilemma:
If one reads the American accounts of this meeting, one
receives the impression that great cordiality prevailed.
In Pravda, on the other hand, Soviet readers were fros
tily informed that the first meeting took place at
Johnson's request and that Kosygin read a stern lesson
to him [unimaginable!] about Israel, Vietnam, and other
assorted American misdeeds. (154:749)
There were also amusing aspects to these meetings. The site was
picked to be mathematically equidistant from New York and Washington,
so that neither leader would appear to be coming to the other!*
*Many years before, Napoleon and Alexander I had solved this
ticklish question by meeting on a raft; and William Penn had designed
a round conference room with a separate entry door for each partici
pant, so that no dignitary had to follow another; and, more recently,
the Vietnam peace conference could not move forward until the selec
tion of a round table sufficiently confused the picture as to member
ship and numbers and positions of participants ( 1 54:749).


177
To Canada's good fortune, Egypt's action helped get her troops
home safely in time. To add to other elements in India's discomfi
ture over this entire affair, her own troops suffered painful casual
ties when they found themselves in the Gaza Strip battle zone on
5 June. And one Indian writer has suggested that the Indians had
lingered in Egypt partly in expectation of becoming a newly consti
tuted UNEF force, a prospect completely contrary to Nasser's new
hard line (90:321-322).
Badran mystery: did USSR warn or encourage?
A most relevant expos of crisis mismanagement involves the
question of fact and responsibility for the content of the message
Egyptian War Minister Badran now brought back from Kosygin in Moscow,
following special support consultations there the past three days.
In a bold speech the next day, Nasser performed another stage of
crisis escalation, at a critical moment when Israel was moving
toward a war decision, when he exulted over Kosygin's pledge that
"the USSR stands with us in this battle."
While subsequently Soviet sources were anxious to point out
where Nasser did not consult them in his actions, or even ignored
their advice, it seems revealing of weakness and indecision in the
Soviet leadership that they either ignored for a time, or supported
feebly, some of Nasser's more aggressive and controversial decisions
and statements. Nor did they ever publicly correct extravagant Arab
interpretations of Soviet support. For a particular example, this
exultant interpretation by Nasser of Kosygin's message to him seems
to have been a case of either serious misunderstanding or brazen bluff.


182
Nasser's obsession with reconstructng--and grossly misinterpret-
inghis humiliation from Israel's 1 956 conquest seems to be the basis
for his confidence that, with the Great Powers kept out, the Arab
armies would be more than a match for Israel.
Questions from assembled correspondents elicited vehement, uncom
promising responses, often repeated, even more extravagantly, a second
time, or to a follow-up question. For example,
We accept no basis for coexistence with Israel. . .
The peacekeeping forces are finished, gone for good. . .
As regards an attack by Israel, we expect it daily. . .
The mere existence of Israel is an aggression. . .
(75:552-553,557,561-563)
In reply to another question, he invoked Soviet support, but in
general and ambiguous terms:
The USSR has supported us and issued a statement say
ing that the Arab countries will not be alone, and that
the USSR will resist any interference. (75:556)
One can almost feel cautious Soviet moderates like Kosygin wincing
at such ill-considered provocations--even invitations--to preemptive war.
Burdett's comment on the Nasser press conference is that, "He
seemed at times a sleepwalker speaking in an exalted trance of fatal
ism" (24:281).
Pro-Nasser Lacouture's portrayal is of a leader quite out of con
trol of either himself or the events in which he is caught up:
. . None of those who had known him and who saw him
that day will ever forget the changes worked in that
steely character by the crisis in which he was caught.
This was no longer nervousness, but feverishness. His
ravaged face had aged brusquely. His hands trembled as
he lit up cigarette after cigarette. Was it the feeling
of the inexorable, the awareness that nothing more could
be done to "stop the movie projector"? (89:305-306)


115
In assessing the reasons for Nasser's Aqaba blockade, Simcha Flapan
points out a problem of crisis management that makes it an art more
than a science, one calling for considerable skill. Why does an
attempt at moderation, low-keyed, and nonprovocative--as practiced
by Eshkol now, and the US repeatedly in dealing with Nasser--boomerang?
That is, it may not be interpreted as intended, as a laudable attempt
to defuse a crisis, but exultantly, as a sign of the opponent's weak
ness, to be taken instant and full advantage of.
What is clear is that Nasser misinterpreted Eshkol's
caution and moderation: he took them for signs of fear
and weakness. In later speeches he was to reveal some
of his reactions, based on the experience of 1956. In
1955, Ben-Gurion had not reacted immediately to the
blockade of the straits, but had waited for a whole
year for a military pact to be concluded with England
and France, providing the vulnerable Tel Aviv region
with an air umbrella. This time, Israel had no allies.
France was neutral and even showed itself sympathetic
to the Arabs. England was not ready to act. The United
States could be neutralized by pressure on the oil lobby.
Eshkol was not Ben-Gurion. The Egyptian Army was more
powerful and better equipped. (52:82)
UNEF-Tiran dilemma foreseen
Much has been made of supposed Soviet leaders' "shock" at Nasser's
blocking the Strait of Tiran without consulting them, and thus provok
ing Israel's response to what she had always maintained would be a
casus bel 1 i. Yet, according to Badran, he and Amer had recommended
removal of UNEF and occupation of Sharm el Sheikh several months
earlier; also Badran had foreseen--unlike Amer--that blockading Aqaba
would inevitably follow.
The question arises: why were Soviet advisers and Soviet intelli
gence not aware of this already-considered sequence of events when they


359
and offered fertile ground for exploitation by anti-Soviet elements.
The Soviet leaders must have been acutely alive to the danger that
the collapse of their allies--most prominently Nasser--in the Arab
countries would very probably have led to a gradual erosion of Soviet
influence in the entire Third World, not to mention the even more
crucial implications for Eastern Europe (49:24-25).
In a subsequent speech in 1970, President Nasser reported the
early Soviet promise to rebuild his shattered armed forces, revealing
evidence of their concern then for his regime's survival:
I can now say that I received on June 12 a message
from Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny saying that they
undertook to support the Arab people and undertook
to rearm the armed forces as they were, free of charge.
They asked that we hold fast in facing this ordeal so
that we could build the armed forces. (117:28)
The "high Soviet official" interviewed by Le Nouvel Observateur
sounds reasonably calm and detached about Soviet prospects until the
end of his commentary. When he contemplates the dismal prospect of
restoring the Arab-Soviet position, however, he shows both anger
and vengefulness toward Israel, an accurate preview of what Soviet
policy was to prove to be. He acknowledged that the forthcoming
political and diplomatic struggle--alongside the Arabs--would be
difficult. "As for the Americans, we shall exploit to the utmost
the blackmailing of their oil interests and navigation through the
Suez Canal."
The official then vowed that the USSR would fight at all the
conference tables to force the Israelis to evacuate the territories
they had conquered. Finally, he foresaw the recovery route for the
USSR in these words:


121
Professor Laqueur says, "The Syrians and Nasser should have
known that making threats from a position of weakness is a
dangerous policy," but I think that this is exactly what
the Syrians and Nasser do not know--inasmuch as, after
all, they have been doing this effectively for years.
(30:280)
In his resignation speech on 9 June, Nasser went over the ground
of the crisis and war to give his retrospective evaluation. One sen
tence is of special interest: "The passage of ships flying the enemy
flag through the Strait within sight of our forces could not be tol
erated" (75:597). This comment indicates that, what Badran had pre
dicted months earlier, but Marshal Amer could not appreciate, was
indeed correct: once Egyptian troops were again free to act in Sinai,
there would be no way to resist the pressures to blockade Israel in
Aqaba.
In the debate as to premeditation vs. improvisation, to explain
the Aqaba blockade, many observers maintain that Nasser simply impro
vised as he went along. Marshal Amer was quoted as saying as late as
20 May that Tiran would not be closed. Various sources agree that the
final blockade decision was taken only about one day before its imple
mentation.
According to the subsequent testimony of the then Minister of War
Badran, Nasser decided to achieve a fait accompli before Thant, who
was on his way to Cairo, arrived there possibly to forestall him. The
weak and ineffective reaction of the UN and the Western powers to his
previous actions had probably encouraged him. He may also have counted
on some form of at least passive Soviet support (110:195).


156
Instead of paying heed to Heikal's uncanny perception--recognized
with respect by Israel's 1eaders--Nasser increased his belligerence
and upped his demands, thereby goading Israel with threats and demands
into the attack that eventually took place. That morning he addressed
the central committee of the Arab trade unions:
In ten years, the Arab people have changed. The
Arab people now want to fight and recover the rights
of the people of Palestine. ... If Israel attacks
Syria or Egypt, we will all declare war against her,
and our ultimate objective will be the destruction
of Israel. Four or five years ago, I could not have
said this. But I do not promise what I cannot de
liver. Now I am convinced that we will win. Egypt
is waiting the attack of the Israelis at any minute,
and then we will destroy Israel. (11:119-120)
Intoxicated with his success in the previous few days, Nasser was
sure of victory. Just a few weeks earlier he had spoken in more re
served tones, saying that it might be years before Egypt would be a
match for Israel. But the sight of his huge forces concentrated in
the Sinai peninsula distorted his vision. Hundreds of tanks and
planes, tens of thousands of soldiers, Arab mobs so dizzy with
excitement that they were dancing in the streets, promises of support
from the Arab capitals, irresolution among the great powers, Soviet
support, France's pro-Arab policy--a11 these elements had clouded
his judgment (11:119-120).
After his Strait-closing triumph, Nasser could not seem to rest
on his laurels. "His appetite grew with the eating," as Burdett
put it. Nor was the Soviet potential for a prudent restraining hand
anywhere in evidence (24:280).
Apparent during these late May speeches is Nasser's penchant for
raising his demands and objectives in the most provocative manner.


124
As to crowd pressure, Rabin observed that it was possible that
"the excitement of the Egyptian crowds had infected the highest levels
of Egyptian government and blinded them to reality."
Rabin concluded that
From the moment that Nasser had decided he had the
power to defeat Israel, it was clear that he could not
withstand the temptation, plus the mounting pressure of
Arab public opinion, to "solve the Palestine problem
once and for all." (74:8)
In all this movement and euphoria, there was no sign of character
istic Soviet caution and even sound military/political advice. For
example, concentrating all the Egyptian forces in Sinai would indeed
provide the maximum deterrent to Israeli action against Syria in the
north. But it was not a defensive disposition. It thus provided
evidence for the charge that Egypt was planning to attack, hence jus
tification for Israel's 5 June preemption. Even more serious, as it
developed, was the resulting "all eggs in one basket" disposition of
forces. Egypt had set herself up for a Pearl Harbor-type vulnerability,
wherein her entire military force could be surrounded and annihilated,
leaving no second line of defense. And so it turned out. On 9 June
1967, after the lightning Israeli conquest of Sinai--as Nasser admitted
five months later--the road to Cairo lay open and undefended!
Even if Israel had found it tolerable to endure the Aqaba blockade
(there was never any evidence that she would) the adverse effects of
such a psychological defeat were not lost on her, or on Nasser, as
his progressive rhetorical escalations were to show. Adam B. Ulam,
historian of Soviet foreign policy, observed that, were Israel to
acquiesce in Nasser's blockade, she would soon have become the object
of additional Arab encroachments and attacks (154:746).


441
area in the Middle East, as had the secret service and
the hard core of the party. . The "hawk" bloc had
thought the Vietnam War had paralyzed the United States
and would prevent it from taking an active role in the
Middle East. The much more cautious Kosygin wanted the
Soviet Union to avoid at whatever cost slipping into
armed conflict. The Americans' moderate policy on June
5 was similar to Kosygin's own, and strengthened his
position. (11 :214-215) *
Crisis Winddown (Resolution): (11 June 22 November 1967)
11-19 June Disarray
Prior to the reestablishment of the Brezhnev-Kosygin faction in
full control and the downgrading or dismissal of its "Young Turk" oppo
sition, there is evidence of policy confusion and disarray in the Soviet
Union and its propaganda outlets. Some voices--echoing the Algerian
and Syrian mi 1itants--were demanding a Vietnam-type popular war against
the Israeli conquest. Voices in opposition to the Soviet Establishment
were suggesting that the USSR favor Algerian President Boumedienne
rather than Nasser in the postwar rebuilding. The Novosti news agency,
apparently close to the critics of the official line, said that the
UAR could not continue "its hitherto dominant role in the Arab world."
Novosti specifically praised Boumedienne as "well suited to comprehend
and confront" Arab problems (135:447).
Kosygin's June-July UN Performance
Soviet leaders and diplomats are commonly described in the West
as colorless, uniform followers of some sort of sacredly inviolate
*From the book, Embassies in Crisis: Diplomats and Demagogues
Behind the Six-Day War, by Michael Bar-Zohar. (c) 1970, by Michael
Bar-Zohar. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.


35
liberation. This is consistent with other evidence that the forward,
adventurist Middle East plan was decided on closer to 1 April, or
perhaps even after the 7 April Syria-Israel air battle (163, 3 Feb.
1967:A21).
1 April: Gromyko's Mid-East Visit
In retrospect, the April 1967 sequence of Middle East events
accelerated and intensified the momentum toward the May Crisis and the
June War.
The still mysterious, sudden visit of Soviet Foreign Minister
Andrei Gromyko to Cairo from 29 March to 1 April 1967 invites close
attention for its possible planning relation to the crisis which
developed six weeks later. Gromyko held talks with President Nasser,
Foreign Minister Mahmud Riyad and Presidential Adviser on Foreign
Affairs Mahmud Fawzi. A joint communiqu issued on 1 April said that
Gromyko's "friendly official visit" had been undertaken at the initia
tive of the Egyptian government. This visit, which was announced only
two days before it took place and was preceded by a "series of unex
plained meetings" among top Egyptian military men, was the object of
considerable speculation in the international press. Most observers
believed that, although the joint communiqu of 1 April made no men
tion of it, the real purpose of the visit was to hold talks on the
situation in Yemen. According to a Lebanese paper, Gromyko told
Nasser that the USSR would not risk a conflict with the US over Yemen.
When Nasser replied that he could not retreat from Yemen without
causing trouble both there and in Egypt, Gromyko reportedly declared


186
of the domestic crisis and, with and integral to it, the external one.
This account shows the Cabinet attaching great meaning to one sentence
of President Johnson's advice, seeing it as an "unleashing" nod. This
analysis does seem to reflect an anti-Eban bias, however, to credit
him with both sharing this view and concealing it from the Cabinet
for two days in order to press his own diplomatic solution.
Eshkol failed to perceive, until very late in the crisis, that
his indecision was leading to rapidly declining public morale. When
he tried to rectify things with a radio speech, a combination of
reasons caused him to come across like a "bumbling idiot" (in Wagner's
words), so that Israeli public morale plummeted even further.
Wagner criticizes Eban as "the eternal optimist," with a policy
bias that diplomacy is the solution to all problems. Eban supposedly
continued to see the Tiran Strait as the major problem when the rest
of the Cabinet had shifted to the Egyptian Army threat.
But the strongest criticism was this, that
. . for two days Eban failed to report to the Israeli
Cabinet a remark by Johnson that "in the end the final
decision is yours."
This remark was perceived by most of the others as a tip-off of
American support for an Israeli strike. But, Wagner charges, "John
son's remark was deleted by Eban because of his bias in favor of a
diplomatic solution" (162:48).
Though Eshkols nationwide address this evening was domestically
and in the Israeli military's view a demoralizing failure, reflecting
lack of time for preparation, his personal exhaustion, and the imme
diately preceding indecisive 9-9 and 1-17 Cabinet votes postponing a


300
overwhelming Israeli fait accompli. A knowledgeable crisis manager
like the USSR recognizes, but in the circumstances could hardly be
expected to appreciate, a master stroke of crisis management achieved
against itself!
Fedorenko at the UN tried unsuccessfully to force a resolution
through the Security Council that would have vigorously condemned
Israel for failing to halt her military activities in accordance
with the Security Council resolutions. He would have instructed
Israel to cease forthwith all such military activity against Arab
states and withdraw behind the armistice lines.
By now Fedorenko had obviously forgotten all the rules of diplo
matic language. He called Israel's army military hordes," asserted
that "the responsibility of the Israeli aggressors will not be
wiped clean by any quibbles," and lashed out against Foreign Minister
Eban in a manner unparalleled in the history of the Security Council
except for certain Arab speakers (32:232).
US Marines Move Toward Combat Arena
The US Amphibious Marines put to sea from Malta this date and
proceeded in an easterly direction, but still in the Ionian Sea (68:150).
The crisis management motive behind this increased readiness and
somewhat threatening move is not clear, based on events of this or the
preceding day. Nor does it seem likely that the new, intense 10 June
crisis to come, over Israel's attack on Syria, was being anticipated.
General Dayan, in fact, still opposed an Israeli attack on Syria as of
this date.


4
the primary purpose is to attain one's goals, and shared danger, in which
priority is given to the reduction of risks and the avoidance of disaster
(169:29).
The ideal goal of crisis management may also be envisaged as achiev
ing an optimum mix among four elements appearing in a crisis in a complex
interaction between two sets of goals and constraints: coercion vs.
disaster avoidance, and accommodation vs. loss avoidance. Or, simply,
the entire process may be described as "coercing prudently" or "accom
modating cheaply," or some combination of both (148:240).
Principles and Techniques of Crisis Management
Systemic Environment and Bargaining Setting
International crises develop and are played out under the influence
of the systemic environment and bargaining setting in which they occur.
Included in the systemic environment are the general structure of the
system (number of major actors and distribution of power among them),
existing alliances and alignments, and the nature of military technology.
These factors may very strongly influence the nature, course, and out
come of a crisis (148:220).
The historic multipolarity prevailing in the Europe-centered inter
state system gave way after World War II to a bipolar world in which
only the two superpowers, the US and the USSR, have really counted in
the successive conflicts that developed into crises over the thirty
years since. The effect was to produce a zero-sum attitude, so danger
ous for crisis management, a fear that a gain for either power, however
minor, inevitably meant a comparable loss for the other. Worse yet,


11
Thus Kennedy, in the early stages of the Cuban missile crisis,
observing that events were moving with dangerous, escalatory rapidity,
deliberately inserted measures to slow down the action, thereby giving
Khrushchev and his advisers more time for consideration of alternatives.
Signaling is the term for what has developed into a highly sophis
ticated process for communicating threats, responses, accommodations,
pauses and an ensemble of related nuances, all to fill the needs of
superpower crisis management. In contrast to an earlier age when
political and military action were clearly separated, now verbal
diplomacy and military action short of violence tend to merge into a
single, complex communication machine (147:706).
For an example of effective, sophisticated signaling, President
Johnson, during the 1967 Middle East War, while maintaining a calm
and judicious tone in his hotline messages to Kosygin, at the same
time positioned and pointed the Mediterranean Sixth Fleet in ways he
was sure would be understood to demonstrate the intended degree of
resolve, as observed and reported to Moscow by the shadowing Soviet
ships.
Value of Initiative, Surprise, Fait Accompli
The initiation of the international superpower crisis being con
sidered has generally been taken on the Soviet side and, accompanied
usually by surprise effect, has been designed to be a technique to
realize a fait accompli before the opponent can effectively respond.
The intent is to face the opponent with the unpalatable need to initiate
violence to undo the new situation, and hope that he will prove unwilling
or unable to do so.


410
and regional inferiority it must make up for these deficiencies with
apparent greater determination and risk-taking to test and hopefully
best US resolve.
In the second, peak, hostilities stage of a crisis, the USSR must
be--and is--far more ready to retreat, pull back, and abandon clients
than the US. (Otherwise its aggressive performance in the first stage
would prove threatening to its vital security interests.) This is
seen by Soviet leaders as a truly dangerous phase (the other two are
evidently not so seen), and there is apparent fear of loss of control
of the people and events manipulated during the buildup.
Examples prior to 1967 are the retreat from North Korea's 1950
invasion of South Korea, well documented by Khrushchev, and the aban
donment of the Cuban missile operation in 1962. In this June War
case, both Egypt and Syria and the immense Soviet investment, plus
prestige in the Middle East and the Third World, were simply abandoned
rather than confront the threatening American power and will. In
China's scornful words, "The USSR did not lift even a finger to save
them" (124,31:26).
That such flexibility and readiness to swallow pride--in contrast
to the US--is a significant asset in crisis management for the Soviet
Union, and indirectly for the US too in escaping confrontations, is
insufficiently recognized and acknowledged. As Nathan C. Leites puts
it, in appreciation of the value of a fairly calm Russian acceptance
of temporary defeat in the long view of civilization's sweep: "After
all, history moves in ebbs and flows, and today's retreat prepares the
way for tomorrow's advance" (96:iv).


228
performance circumscribing and even nullifying their own freedom of
action, they were at the same time expanding and strengthening Israel's.
Unleashing accomplished
The gradual American move toward the unleashing of Israel, as 5
June approached, provides one of the more intriguing, and--from the
Soviet-Arab view--maddening, stages of this case of mutual-but-
separate crisis management. This is how, as of this date, the stage
was being set. As Washington's frustration with achieving a peaceful
solution increased, the attraction of unleashing Israel more and more
asserted itself. The easiest way out of the dilemma was to let the
Israelis handle it themselves. America could not find a way out, but
Israel could. The possibility of an Israeli initiative could not, in
any case, be excluded. And for this prospect the Administration was
fortified by the stout advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed
by reference to other intelligence agencies as well, that Israel would
win in short order, whatever happened, and would win on her own. Hence,
neither the need nor the risk of American intervention would be faced
if war came.
But of course, notes Burdett, "Washington could not unleash Jeru
salem. The Americans could not give a green light any more than Israel
could ask for it." The American position at the end was what it had
been in the beginning: war must be averted, and to press for restraint
(though in tones somewhat less peremptory). The US also accepted, and
passed on to the Russians, Israel's assurances she would not, for the
time being, take action, and advised the Soviet leaders on this basis
that America did not expect an Israeli attack (24:314-315).


335
Israel's Mastery of Time-Fait Accompli Relation
Nowhere in history has the importance of speed in securing a
fait accompli been more strikingly demonstrated than in the June War
by Israel in the positive, successful sense, and in 1956 by Britain
and France in the same arena in the negative, disastrous sense.
As in 1956, Israel knew and had thoroughly rehearsed what she
must do. Howard and Hunter, in an excellent, perceptive analysis,
effectively summarize the lessons of client crisis management in
the face of superpower nuclear standoff. Israel observed a principle
which appears in few military textbooks but which armed forces neglect
at their peril: the Clausewitzian principle of political context,
which the British ignored so disastrously in 1956. The Israeli High
Command appreciated that it was not operating in a political vacuum.
It worked on the assumption that it would have three days to complete
its task before outside pressures compelled a cease-fire. In fact,
it had four, and needed five. The general disapproval even in the
West of the Israeli offensive against Syria shows the narrowness of
the margin on which she worked.
The lesson is clear, say Howard/Hunter:
So long as there remains a tacit agreement between the
superpowers to cooperate in preventing overt conflicts
which threaten international peace and security, a nation
using open force to resolve a political problem must do
so rapidly, if it is to succeed at all. Once it has suc
ceeded, the reluctance of the Great Powers to countenance
a second confl ict means that it is likely to preserve its
gains. The lesson is a sombre one, placing as it does
a premium on adventurism and preemption. (67:39,41)
Their laconic description: Israel assumed she would have three
days, had four, and needed five, certainly must have subsequently


52
or two earlier, namely, on 13 May, is not correct, that preparations
were made earlier. For example, after the Egyptian move into Sinai
on 15 May, news agencies reported from Cairo that foreign observers
had concluded from the smooth transfer of units through Cairo to Sinai
that it must have been prepared some time earlier.
The following Egyptian reports seem also to support serious early
intentions with respect to the Sinai move. On 8 May General Fawzi,
Chief of Staff of the UAR army, visited the troops stationed in Sinai.
On 10 May, General Murthagi, Commander of the UAR Land Forces, reviewed
UAR troop maneuvers in Sinai. Special meetings of the top military
commanders at GHQ, headed by Field Marshal Amer, were reported on 4,
7, 10 and 11 May (110:184).
If doubt is thrown on Nasser's claim to have had no plan prior
to 13 May, then, by implication, this adds strength to the theory of
an advance conspiracy among the USSR, Egypt and Syria to trigger off
their concoction at an opportune time.
Israeli denials
Knowledgeable observers have always scoffed at the content of
the charges of huge Israeli troop concentrations opposite the Syrian
border. Israel's Prime Minister Levi Eshkol's biographer, Terence
C. F. Prittie, dismisses these charges with the scornful remark that
the thought of such concentrations which were invisible to the Syrian
observation posts would be patently absurd. There was not enough
cover in the whole area to hide a couple of brigades, let alone 11
to 13 (129:249).


428
From Heikal's account, Nasser appears very much in charge, and
very understanding of the Soviet leaders' vulnerability due to their
past and then prevailing commitments to Egypt and the entire Arab
world. In response to their request for a day's respite to consider,
Nasser backed them into a mere 10-minute recess so they could consult
among themselves. The step being considered was so critical that the
leaders felt it had to be put before the whole Politburo. They were
accordingly assembled on an urgent basis, including, Heikal says, the
twelve Soviet marshals--for the first time in peace time--to share
the deliberations.
This is Heikal's account of Brezhnev's report to Nasser of the
Kremlin's decision (with Heikal present):
"Comrade Nasser, the Soviet Union has today taken
a decision fraught with grave consequences. It is a
decision unlike any we have ever taken before. It
will need your help in carrying out, and it will call
for restraint on your part."
He could all sense the changed atmosphere in this
meeting--the marshals and politicians on the whole
enthusiastic about the decision, but among some of
them, particularly Kosygin, the confirmed pessimist,
enthusiasm tempered with uneasiness. (62:87-88)
[emphasis added]
This scene reveals not only Kosygin's impact on outsiders, and
comparative stance in regard to risk-taking, but also the difficulty
this collective leadership has in coming to any high-risk decision.
Furthermore, although the Brezhnev-Kosygin team is generally
viewed in the West as a moderate force, even between these two men
there is evidence of Kosygin playing "dove" to Brezhnev's "hawk"
(171:69).


236
information of an imminent Israeli attack. Despite Nasser's warnings
to his air force commanders, unexplainably the urgency of this message
failed to get through. A witness at Badran's trial was later to testify
"Military intelligence informed the Armed Forces on 3 June that an
attack could be expected within forty-eight hours. But nobody did
anything" (24:319) [emphasis added],
Soviet and French warnings
Israel received, for the second successive day, a strongly worded
warning from France not to start a war (110:201). But in the light of
de Gaulle's clear abandonment of the Israeli cause ten days earlier
for a "neutral" stance, his influence with Israel's leadership was
surely close to zero!
With Dayan now Defense Minister in Israel's National Unity Cabinet,
and informed opinion everywhere certain this meant a decision for war,
the major governments and the world in general were strangely calm,
seemingly surfeited with crisis, unable to rouse themselves one more
time to deterrent activity. But Riollot reports that at least one
Soviet commentary seemed alive to the danger: Izvestia warned that
"the political barometer" in the Middle East was fast reaching the
"danger point" (132:6).
Werth's report of his July-August 1967 interview with a "high
Foreign Office official" has this description of the last reported
prewar warning to Nasser: "We Soviets warned Nasser on June 3 against
attacking Israel while de Gaulle gave a similar warning to Israel"
(167:427).


80
almost identical fashion in October 1966, then such Israeli efforts
were bound to prove fruitless.
Moscow warns Israel
Meanwhile an Israeli official, in Moscow as the Moscow-Nasser
scenario got its sendoff, encountered "stonewalling" treatment in con
trast to the late April ambivalence there. Minister of Labor Yigal
Allon, who happened to be attending an international congress in
Moscow, met Deputy Foreign Minister Semyonov at the Independence Day
party in the Israeli Embassy and used the opportunity to explain
Israel's stand once more. Semyonov repeated the thesis that foreign
forces were trying to bring down the Syrian government and endeavoring
to use Israel as their tool. He charged that there were circles in
Israel that wanted war and warned that the government of Israel would
do well to heed the Soviet warnings (32:211).
D-Minus 20: Tuesday 16 May
Egypt and Israel mobilize; crisis escalates
As of this date, a state of emergency was proclaimed for the Egyp
tian armed forces. "If Israel attempts to fulfill its foolish threats,"
quoted Cairo Radio from the newspaper al-Akhbar, "it will find forces
ready to face it, forces specially maintained for this purpose. Mea
sures laid down by the joint Syrian-UAR defense agreement are already
being implemented" (67:16).
For a crisis that had only clearly appeared a day or two earlier,
various Egyptian actions this date contributed a considerable expansion
and escalation.


303
were to blame for Nasser's resignation. Others chanted anti-Soviet
slogans outside the Soviet Embassy, but here police hastened to
disperse them. Some demonstrators demanded that the USSR make its
position clear on the imperialist conspiracy against the Arab nation
and provide the Arabs with active military, political and economic
support (110:554,16).
Soviet/East European Attempt to Threaten
Israel, Appease Arabs
This was the date of the USSR-East European Communist Parties'
Moscow meeting and statement. (This approach itself is suggestive
of Soviet nonaction, a tactic of spreading responsibility and muddying
the waters, as was previously evidenced in the 1956 Suez crisis during
the comparable "lie low" hostilities stage.) Both Kosygin and Brezh
nev attended, and the Communist central committees promised a "reso
lute rebuff" if "Israel does not stop the aggression" (68:116).
In a rare display of independence, and Communist disharmony,
Rumania opted out of the joint Communist Parties' statement of this
date. The Rumanians, who throughout the Middle East crisis had taken
an attitude independent of the other Communist countries, objected to
the strong denunciation of Israel, and refused to put their signature
to the joint statement (84:284).
This action marked the beginning of an accelerating process of
disaffection and disunity in East Europe, which was to explode the
next year in the Czechoslovak uprising. The whole East European
problem, of far greater, more primary security concern to the USSR
than the Middle East, must subsequently have been assessed in Moscow


170
contemplated an attack on Syria, she was now no doubt effectively de
terred. The Russians has shown themselves wise counsellors, and
Nasser a loyal ally.
But--there was Arab public opinion. By 27 May all thirteen mem
bers of the Arab League had declared their solidarity in aiding any
of their members threatened by Zionist aggression; and in their van
was the PLO, whose radio stations in Cairo poured out against Israel
an uninterrupted stream of threats and abuse. The feeling was clearly
general that a crisis was at hand, that the whole question of Palestine
was once more reopened, and that here was an opportunity to reverse
the settlement of 1956, if not indeed that of 1949. It was a feeling
that Nasser came quickly to share; even if he had not, it was too
strong to be ignored or suppressed (67:17).
Johnson-Eisenhower consultation: significance
Another step taken by President Johnson should have given an
alert Soviet intelligence serious pause, for it tied the present
Administration to the 1956 one in not abandoning--in humiliating
fashion--the one key remnant of her military conquest eleven years
earlier that Israel had been permitted to retain.
Furthermore, did the USSR know that, as Senate Majority Leader
in 1956, Johnson was known to have felt (along with other leaders and
observers) that the Eisenhower Administration had made some serious
mistakes in handling the 1956 crisis? Crisis management is a contin
ual learning process, and a sornetimes-evident tendency to alternate
"wins" and "losses" in the superpower confrontations of the Cold War


75
There is some evidence, from Egyptian War Minister Badran's post
war trial, that Nasser had indeed doubted the Syrian and Soviet infor
mation on Israeli troop concentrations, and that a very short time
after UAR troop movements began he knew for certain that it was false
One of the tasks of General Fawzi's visit to Damascus was to find out
whether the Israeli concentrations existed. Fawzi returned with the
report that they did not, and that the Soviet leaders "must have been
having hallucinations" (110:191).
Nevertheless, Nasser may still have been influenced by the Soviet
warnings. He may have interpreted them as an expression of Soviet
backing for a move that he wished to make to serve his own broader
purposes, especially to revive his declining prestige in the Arab
world (13:47-48).
Egypt's abrupt move this date not only accents the doubt that
Nasser should suddenly believe what he had not believed for a year,
but also reflects a holiday, nonserious air to the affair.*
D-Minus 21: Monday 15 May
Nasser moves his armor
On this day the Egyptian Army began to move, in an obvious and
spectacular fashion. Convoys, converging on Cairo from camps farther
south, passed through the city for hours, causing major traffic
*This could well have been the mood with which it began; there
had been a similar but temporary Sinai demonstration in support of
Syria in February 1960 which had faded away shortly.


108
There have been in the past few days persistent reports
about troop movements and concentrations, particularly on
the Israel side of the Syrian border. These have caused
anxiety and at times excitement. The Government of Israel
very recently has assured me that there are no unusual
Israel troop concentrations or movements along the
Syrian line, that there will be none and that no military
action will be initiated by the armed forces of Israel
unless action is first taken by the other side. Reports
from UNTSO Observers have confirmed the absence of troop
concentrations and significant troop movements on both
si des of the 1ine~) (42:32)
But, as in previous cases, the USSR, Egypt, Syria and the Arab
world in general ignored this finding; a relaxed border did not suit
their developing scenario.
Egypt's Tiran preparations
The prel iminaries to Nasser's explosive 22 May announcement on
the Strait of Tiran occurred already on this date, when a UAR para-
troop battalion was dropped over Sharm el Sheikh and was deployed in
the area. The next day, the evacuation of the UNEF contingent from
the area was completed. Several UAR naval units, including two sub
marines, were reported to have passed through the Suez Canal the fol
lowing night, heading in the direction of Sharm el Sheikh (110:194).
USSR pursues Vietnam connection
The preoccupation of Soviet propaganda with connecting the Middle
East crisis to Vietnam continued to demonstrate a divergence between
principal and client policies. On 20 May Izvestia suggested that the
Middle East crisis was "a means for Washington to divert attention from
the new criminal escalation of aggression in Vietnam" (43:54).


195
With these speeches, maintains Heikal, Nasser was "making a public
pledge to President Johnson and the Soviet Union not to start a war"
(61:245).
If this was Nasser's intent, then the existing confrontation tension,
plus other parts of these speeches and their tone, permitted a contrary
interpretation, worldwide as well as in Israel, as continued stages
of dangerous crisis escalation.
It might be mentioned here that Nasser sympathizer Love puts a
different interpretation on Nasser's words and actions. At this point
in the crisis, when each day seemed to bring a speech representing a
new escalation, and Nasser was the heroic figure riding the tidal wave
of Arab euphoria, Love's rather weak explanation is that, "Nasser, for
one, was merely putting a bold face over his fears in the vain hope
of scaring Israel off" (100:680).
America's resolve weakens
How much steam had gone out of the US plan for breaking Nasser's
blockade, in the few days since Eban's visit to Washington, is indi
cated by the Times (London) correspondent's report for this date that
Anglo-American contingency planning for the naval escort
of ships through the Strait of Tiran is still going for
ward but clearly Mr. Johnson has decided against an
early forcing of the passage. (42:47)
Yost mission to Cairo
Partly to compensate for the somewhat ineffective initial perfor
mance of his new Ambassador to Cairo, Nolte, President Johnson sent
experienced diplomat Charles Yost as a special emissary to Nasser.
Four days had been enough to make Washington lose faith in Ambassador


138
Defense leaders were haunted by the prospect of a second Vietnam in
the Middle East, for which they were unprepared. There was a great
strain on Navy readiness in the Mediterranean, including deficiencies
in planes, pilots, experience levels and supplies, because Vietnam
was given top priority. However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according
to Howe, lacked enthusiasm for a conflict in the Middle East, not
primarily because of reduced capability, but because they saw no
advantages for the US in a military intervention there (68:56-57).
It was this obsession with Vietnam, and therefore aversion for
additional Middle East trouble, that the Soviet leaders may have
mistakenly counted on for success in their Middle East ploy.
Nadav Safran's analysis found a strong US policy, supporting
Israel, prevailing from President Johnson's statement this date
through about 26 May. After that, wavering and uncertainty permitted
both the USSR and Nasser to act more aggressively and take more risks,
thus accelerating their plunge into the June disaster.
In addition to the President's forceful statement of 23 May,
a strong verbal note delivered in Cairo by the new ambassador Nolte
the next day was in essence an ultimatum to return to the status quo
ante pending negotiations. The US also made it clear that it did not
rule out the use of force if Egypt insisted on applying the Aqaba
blockade (137:296).
British diplomatic-military reactions
On this date Great Britain was galvanized into shocked action by
Nasser's Strait blockade. Among other measures, Foreign Secretary


225
Washington's frustration/Israel's opportunity
Because of the strong US distaste for involvement in the Middle
East crisis, it is difficult to understand why the Soviet leaders
did not more readily foresee that this mood, plus complete confidence
in Israel's military capability, would lead the US almost inevitably
to at least tolerate a "go it alone" move by Israel.
D-Minus 2: Saturday 3 June
US wavers
There was a considerable wavering and falling back in the US sup
port of Israel between 23 May and this date. On 1 June Vice-President
Humphrey, Defense Secretary McNamara, and Secretary of State Rusk
informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the US had no
immediate plan for breaking the blockade by force or for acting alone,
and preferred to find a solution within the framework of the UN. The
significance of this change in American attitude is fully apparent on
comparison of the 23 May "ultimatum" presented by the new American
Ambassador in Cairo, Nolte (and rejected by Foreign Minister Riyad),
with the terms reached by special envoy Yost on 3 June with the same
minister. On the earlier date the US demanded (1) UNEF to remain;
(2) no Egyptian force to occupy Sharm el Sheikh without assuring free
shipping for all; and (3) Egyptian troops to withdraw from Gaza and
Israel's borders. Now on 3 June tentative terms called for (1)
diplomatic efforts aimed at a peaceful solution; (2) the Strait dispute
to be submitted to the Hague International Court; and (3) Vice-President
Mohieddin to visit Washington to discuss further arrangements (52:78).


113
Confusion in US Embassy Cairo
Washington was i 11-prepared, from its Cairo Embassy end, for effec
tive crisis-dampening, or even intelligence gathering on the crisis.
State Department embarrassment was exposed at a critical time. As
the crisis began, the ambassadorial post had been empty for three
months, during which time no American official had talked to Nasser.
The new Ambassador, a respected student of Islamic culture but lacking
diplomatic experience, immediately got into a demeaning public dispute
with the acting charge as to whether a crisis impended (42:39).
Mystery of Nasser's Tiran calculation
Nasser's blockade act surely remains the central mystery of the
whole crisis, for it represented a considerable, dangerous, and com
pounded escalation, from which, like the 1914 European mobilization,
there proved to be no escape except through war. As Michael Howard
and Robert Hunter see it,
The Israelis had given repeated warnings that they
would regard such an act as a casus belli. They had
done so in 1956; the growth of the port of Eilat made
it still more probable that they would again in 1967.
Such a step would transform the Egyptian actions from
a massive deterrent demonstration--and one which had
probably served its purpose--into a deliberate chal
lenge to war against an adversary who had twice with
in the past twenty years defeated them in the field.
By what calculations and by what stages President
Nasser decided to take this step is still obscure.
. . (67:19)
D-Minus 14: Monday 22 May
Of all the dates of the crisis buildup, this one has gained the
most attention in the accumulated crisis literature.


434
a small group of Russian intellectuals (primary editor Roy Medvedev),
has provided some valuable additional material on the May 1967 tur
moil in the Kremlin leadership. Included therein is the apparent
fall from grace of Shelepin's hardline group, beginning with the
abrupt dismissal (taking "in all only a few minutes"), on or about
18 May, of the head of the KGB, Semichastny, while Shelepin, Polit
buro member and preceding KGB chief, was conveniently laid up in
the hospital:
. . Semichastny was relieved in connection with
failures of Soviet intelligence and for "making a
great ado over trifles." He was sent to work in
the Ukraine. Shelepin was absent from this session
of the Politburo. Rumor has Shelepin the leader of
the dogmatic-conservative course in our Party leader
ship. In 1965 Shelepin clearly aspired to the post
of First Secretary of the Central Committee of the
CPSU, and evidently he has not renounced these
aspirations even at the present date. Semichastny
is an old friend and confederate of Shelepin's.
. . Not long before this session of the Politburo
Shelepin entered a hospital with some sort of diag
nosis; he stayed there several days, in the course
of which the question of the dismissal of Semichastny
was decided. (106, No. 33:243-244)
One would fervently wish for more detail from this normally
voluble journal. What "failures of intelligence" and what "trifles"?
And does the author wish to imply with his "some sort of" (S Kakim-to)
diagnosis that Shelepin was "encouraged into" the hospital for con
sultation? Such medico-political conjecture seems the stuff of
novels, and too melodramatic for history. Yet it has been repeatedly
demonstrated--in cases such as those involving Trotsky, Frunze,
Ordzhonikidze, Kirov and Nagy, as well as in Stalin's notorious, con
trived "doctor's plot"--to be also the stuff by which internal Kremlin
crises are sometimes resolved.


328
Rumania to believe that it could afford to incur Soviet wrath without
risking a Budapest-type response (17:135).
The action of Rumania, in breaking away from the joint Soviet-
East European condemnation of Israel, and some follow-up aspects,
surely were upsetting to the USSR's attempt to present its camp in
a united front. The Rumanian Party's First Secretary, Micolae
Ceausescu, and Prime Minister, Ian Maurer, who were present at the
Moscow meeting, took exception to the Communist declaration.
Ceausescu was reported to have criticized the decision to sever
diplomatic relations with Israel and to have asked the Soviet leaders
why they maintained relations with the US despite its aggression
against North Vietnam. By the end of 1967, the Rumanians were saying
that this Soviet step had prevented the USSR from exercising diplomatic
pressure on the Israeli Government, such as would have been useful
for the Arabs (135:443).
Question of US-Israel Collusion
Some normally well-informed journalistic sources provided grounds
for Arab/Soviet suspicion, then and later, that Israel and the US were
performing a team effort in this crisis. James Reston's 11 June account
in the New York Times stated that
The United States ... is asking for a detailed and
verified report on "the facts" in the Israeli-Syrian War,
which it knows will give the Israelis time to knock out
the Syrian guns and bring the last of the Arab states
into line by threatening the capital of Damascus.
(81:402)


64
Eshkol's 11 May speech and its garbled version were only part of
the problem of Israeli utterances on this eve of crisis. As the anni
versary of Israeli independence approached, almost all members of the
Cabinet were making speeches and giving interviews. With the wisdom
of hindsight, Eban, in an interview in 1968, remarked drily and some
what ruefully that
There were some who thought that these warnings may
have been too frequent and too little coordinated. . .
If there had been a little more silence the sum of human
wisdom would have remained substantially undiminished.
(19:359)
Nasser's pride pricked
The Israeli briefing officer's analysis of Egypt's handicapped
status may have helped trigger Nasser's move, because of the affront
it contained to his sensitive pride. The "high Israeli source" cited
in the 12 May dispatch repeatedly described the United Arab Republic
(UAR) as too weak to help Syria, particularly because her forces were
tied down in Yemen, and as not sufficiently "ready to create a casus
belli." The briefing officer, therefore, expected Egyptian leaders to
try to restrain the Syrians. For Nasser these statements could have
meant not only a blow to his prestige but also a warning that his posi
tion in the area and his power of deterrence were rapidly declining.
Therefore, he might have felt compelled to act in a way exactly the
opposite of what had been expected of him; namely, to order a demon
stration of force (110:192).
This incident demonstrates one of the niceties of effective crisis
management: in an attempt to deter with strength and will, one must


406
And when Nasser talked bravely of resuming the war forthwith, invoking
the memory of Stalingrad and its defenders, Podgorny cut him down
with the cold-water comment that Soviet behavior at Brest-Litovsk
in 1918 (surrender, with painful concessions) would provide a better
model for Egypt at this stage (137:411)!
Recognized Importance of Timing, Pacing, Signaling
Again, the demonstrated gross violation of the essential tech
niques of timing, pacing and signaling in this crisis should not
obscure the fact that these were proxy Arab violations of accepted
Soviet patterns, which earned the disapproval and displeasure--
though privately expressed--of the Soviet leadership.
Already in earlier crises, the closing down of access to Berlin
in 1948 and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, for example,
the evidence shows Soviet concern for step-by-step pacing and
pauses to test US responses before implementing their entire plans.
Even in this runaway 1967 crisis, where the Soviet-Arab record re
mains in many key areas confused or obscure, the emergency 3 a.m.
deterrent warnings to both Egypt and Israel on 26 May and Kosygin's
reported--though disputed--slowdown advice to Nasser via Badran,
testify to the more characteristic Soviet style.
Then too--and this may well be why the moderates reasserted them
selves so early in the crisis--Nasser proved almost immediately as
unreceptive to restraining guidance as the earlier, bitter Khrushchev-
Nasser exchanges of 1957 and 1958 show him to have been then. Khrush
chev's caution about Nassers rashness and impetuousness, as the USSR


206
ten ships were miscellaneous types, not primarily combatant and not
primarily amphibious landing types, which would have been more threaten
ing. It is even conceivable, perhaps likely, that this move was a
routine summer training deployment.
Also noteworthy in this regard is the important fact that the US
Sixth Fleet was vastly superior. The USSR apparently acknowledged this
in using its ships largely for a marginally deterrent shadowing, harass
ing, intelligence role--one that, incidentally, the US was to prove
grateful for when on 6 June Nasser and Hussein falsely charged the
US with participating in Israel's aerial assault.
Several Soviet warships were assigned to shadow the Sixth Fleet
carriers, the Intrepid, and British naval vessels.*
Soviet actions indicate crisis over
An optimistic view from Moscow of the crisis as of this date,
with an apparent glowing Arab victory in the making, would have had
these elements. The Moscow-Cairo initiative had scored impressive
gains. The Arabs were now in the strongest political bargaining
position against Israel that they had ever enjoyed. They had estab
lished a combined military command, eliminated the deterrent effect
of UNEF, splintered Western opposition, and gained a vital bargaining
lever by securing control of the Strait of Tiran (168:42).
*The USSR evidently was taking no chances on the Intrepid' s
maneuvers. A Soviet cruiser and three destroyers were sighted
following the carrier's movements before it passed through the Suez
Canal, outbound to Vietnam (68:76-77).


461
77. Jervis, Robert. The Logic of Images in International Relations.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970.
78. Johnson, Lyndon B. The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the
Presidency, 1963-1969. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston,
1971.
79. Kennan, George F. Russia and the West under Lenin and Stalin.
New York: Mentor Books, 1960.
80. Kerr, Malcolm H. "The Middle East Conflict." Headline Series,
No. 191 of Foreign Policy Association (October 1968).
81. Khouri, Fred J. The Arab-Israeli Dilemma. Syracuse: Syracuse
University Press, 1968.
82. Khrushchev, Nikita S. Khrushchev Remembers. Translated and
Edited by Strobe Talbott. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1970.
83. Khrushchev Remembers, The Last Testament. Translated
and Edited by Strobe Talbott. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.,
1974.
84. Kimche, David and Bawly, Dan. The Sandstorm: The Arab-Israeli
War of 1967: Prelude and Aftermath. New York: Stein & Day,
1968.
85. Kimche, Jon. There Could have been Peace. New York: Dial
Press, 1973.
86. Knox, William E. "Close-up of Khrushchev During a Crisis."
New York Times Magazine (18 Nov. 1962):32, 128, 129.
87. Kohler, Foy D. Understanding the Russians. New York: Harper
& Row, 1970.
88. Kosut, Hal, ed. Israel and the Arabs: The June 1967 War.
New York: Facts on File, 1968.
89. Lacouture, Jean. Nasser, A Biography. New York: Knopf, 1973.
90. Lai, Nand. "India and the Withdrawal of the United Nations
Emergency Force, 1967." International Studies (Bombay) 13
(Apri1-June 1974):309-23.
91. La11, Arthur. The UN and the Middle East Crisis, 1967, rev.
New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.
92. Laqueur, Walter. "The Hand of Russia." The Reporter, 29 June
1967, p. 18.


96
one as to Israeli border threats. India, Yugoslavia and Egypt acted
in close unison in their policies, before, during and after this
crisis. It is so untypical of an ambassador, skilled in caution,
to act immediately and not refer a matter of such import back to
his government. Yet both in Cairo, and at the UN in immediate pres
sures put on U Thant, these two nations--well aware that their near
50% contribution to the UNEF forces gave them in effect a veto hold
on its operations--acted in concert as if by prearranged understanding.
Such a precipitate decision by Yugoslavia and India was hardly
supportive of the Secretary-General in coping with this critical prob
lem; rather, it served to undercut and foreclose consideration of any
other delaying options U Thant might otherwise have had. Furthermore,
there is an ironic twist to this tale. A major withdrawal argument
(one known to weigh heavily on U Thant) was concern for safety of
the UN troops in a developing Arab-Israeli confrontation. But in
this respect subsequent Indian performance is highly inconsistent
and even bizarre. The war did not break out for almost three more
weeks. Canada, which had vigorously opposed the UNEF withdrawal,
and encountered Egyptian hostility as a result, nevertheless promptly
evacuated its troops by air from the danger zone. But India dawdled,
so that when war did break out her troops were caught in the midst
of hostilities, suffering many tragic casualties.
In New York, India and Yugoslavia seem to have been highly influ
ential in their pressure on U Thant's decision for an immediate with
drawal, as he consulted informally with the representatives of the
countries providing contingents for UNEF. The Canadian representative


454
the US in 1967 desist in Vietnam, where it was so heavily committed,
materially and psychologically? Worse from the Soviet point of view,
taking on the US in a second region where it had commitments, the
same strategic superiority, and a clear regional superiority (the
Sixth Fleet and Israel), invited a second setback worse than the one
being fashioned in Vietnam. And so it developed. And far from
quieting critics like China, it brought on new twin charges of adven
turism and capitulationism!
The Yegorychev-Sabry talks in Egypt in April were probably central
to the emerging crisis instigation. Both men's passionate leftist
reputations should have acted to instill considerable caution into
the normally hardheaded Soviet leadership, before following their
advice. But such caution came belatedly.
Following Syria in her irresponsible, pseudoideological adven
turism was surely an aberration in Soviet behavior.
Also a liability to effective crisis management were the probable
ideological blinders with which the USSR evaluated the respective mili
tary capabilities of Israel and her Arab enemies. In both cases the
Soviet distortion was immense and unreasonable. No wishful thinking
should have disguised the corruption, inefficiency and ineptitude
of the Arab armies. That unrealistically favorable reports of Soviet
advisers and trainers over the preceding ten years added to Soviet
self-deception is more evidence of ideological contamination of policy
making. And in Israel's case, scorn for such a small nation and its
Western orientation, plus resentment at its ideological appeal for
Russian Jews, blinded the USSR to both the capability and independent
will that Israel displayed in her lightning war.


48
is the USSR, Israel and the US. For the USSR, there was a tempting
combination of appearing to "save" Syria without much risk, rescuing
Nasser from Yemen and his doldrums, tying Egypt and Syria closer to
gether, putting down Israel, and embarrassing the US. Israel had
sufficient motive, but perhaps lacked the will. The US, despite the
convenient "whipping boy" charge by Syria of CIA origin, would appear
to have lacked both the motive and the will, engrossed as it was in
Vietnam, unless the CIA was acting highly independently of White House
guidance.
On 6 May, a general protest strike broke out in Damascus. The
strike spread the following day to most other Syrian cities, espe
cially to Aleppo, where several thousand arrests were reported. By
this 9 May Syrian-Israeli crisis opening date, the Lebanese newspaper
al Nahar concluded that the current internal Syrian crisis was unprece
dented since the Ba'ath Party had seized power four years previously
(93:92-93).
The pro-Soviet Syrian government now appeared to be in danger of
collapse. If it were to be brought down by religiously incited mobs,
an anti-Soviet regime would probably take its place. The USSR clearly
had to take action. Moscow's apparent solution was to persuade Nasser
to come to the aid of Damascus (64:35).
A Middle East authority, Theodore Draper, saw the Syrian perspective
at this critical moment as follows. A weak, unpopular regime was re
sorting to an oft-proven device, a foreign-war scare, to bolster its
shaky power. The strike involved not only most of the middle class
of shopkeepers and artisans, but also the intensely discontented


447
to unravel the mystery of how such a rising, capable yet paradoxical
figure as Yegorychev could fall so abruptly and permanently from
power. Here are some key extracts:
Bearing in mind this revolutionary mentality of
Yegorychev, it is not so difficult to imagine that
he rejoiced at the prospect of the opening-up by
Nasser of a "second anti-imperialist front" in the
Middle East if he did not actually contribute to it
during his stay in Egypt in April of this year.
All the greater must have been his disappointment
and confusion when this "second front" collapsed
within six days. It is conceivable that this was
the "emotional" basis for the dispute in which
Yegorychev seems to have involved himself in the
Middle East debate at the Central Committee plenum
and which is thought to have led to his dismissal
as Moscow's First Party Secretary. Even so, it
seems very doubtful indeed that Yegorychev would
have advocated any kind of direct Soviet inter
vention in the conflict. It would seem more likely
that he criticized the inadequate political and
military preparations made on the Soviet side,
the half-hearted support given to Nasser and, per
haps, also the "restraint" recommended by Moscow
as regards Egyptian wishes for a preventive military
strike against Israel. . (44:7,8,11)
Yegorychev appears again, some three years later, in the April
1970 issue of Political Diary, which reported that, having worked
since 1967 as deputy minister of the auto tractor industry, he had
then been designated Ambassador to Denmark. This same article men
tioned rumors of the possibility of the dismissal of the Secretary
of the Central Committee for questions of ideology, P. Demichev, a
man "close in the past to Shelepin and Yegorychev" (106, No. 67:659).
This material is interesting on several counts. It is apparent
confirmation of Yegorychev's post-1967 June War downfall. This would
appear to have been not only a demotion, but a move from an important,
highly political post to a modest, primarily industrial management one.


452
Nevertheless, Shelepin's hard line, and his espousal of it,
obviously have a persistent appeal among the leadership, judged by
how frequently he has bounced back from demotions. He was so resil
ient that by November 1967 one source had his status restored to a
place actually one number higher in the Politburo than it had been
in May (127:62)!*
Conclusions
Overall Assessment of Leadership Performance
In the puzzle as to what power conflicts and other pressures
within the Soviet leadership gave rise to the Middle East initiative,
here is a likely scenario: Shelepin and his fellow "hawks" probably
reached the conclusion that a more militant foreign policy was needed;
greater risks should be taken in the confrontation with America.
And as chief of the Soviet internal security and intelligence appa
ratus, prior to 18 May, Semichastny was certainly in a good position
to influence the course of events. Similarly Yegorychev, touring
Egypt from 11 to 26 April and dealing with Egypt's leaders, was in
a good position to coordinate the developing adventurist scheme with
Semichastny and his field agents (93:202).
As the crisis and war developed, Brezhnev skillfully turned the
painful outcome to his personal advantage. Shelepin and what remained
*It may be relevant that November marked the final collapse of
the moderates' strenuous five months' campaign to recover the lost
Arab lands through the political UN route.


158
be stopped and searched at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba if they
wished to proceed to Israel.
Although Shuqairy's reliability as a source is a matter of some
question, nevertheless his memoirs of two important meetings with
Nasser, one before and one after the June War, are of particular
interest. The one this date he had requested since mid-May, but
Nasser had been too busy to see him. Shuqairy began this meeting
with Nasser by telling him that he had asked to see him so as to
be reassured. Are we ready for war this year? Is this the time we
have chosen for the battle? Nasser responded that the Arabs were
not ready to wage any war for the liberation of Palestine. It would
take a very long time, he told him; but a defensive confrontation
which had been imposed on the Arabs now had to be faced. If Israel
chose to attack, then it could be held back. It was Israel which
moved first and massed her troops on the Syrian border. Reliable
information was obtained from different sources that Israel planned
to occupy Damascus.*
By the concentration of Egyptian forces in Sinai and the with
drawal of UN troops, Israel's plans had been frustrated, Nasser told
Shuqairy. Three major successes had been peacefully obtained: Israeli
pressure on the Syrian front had been relieved and Israel had realized
*In an earlier meeting with Marshal Amer, Shuqairy was told that
the Israelis had massed eleven brigades on the Syrian border and
that it was the Russians who had drawn the attention of the Egyptians
to the seriousness of Israeli motives and that they informed them
that Israel planned to attack Syria and overthrow the Syrian regime.


278
In responding promptly but moderately to Kosygin's threat, but
simultaneously heading the Sixth Fleet toward the combat area, the
President was demonstrating that he had learned with Kennedy a key
principle in Soviet crisis management. Schlesinger recounts President
Kennedy's exasperated, pungent complaint about Khrushchev: "That
son of a bitch won't pay any attention to words. He has to see you
move!" (66:224).
The President's use of the Sixth Fleet, as a signal of US deter
mination, apparently had its intended effect. Howe's research shows
that at noon on 6 June, during the tense hotline sparring over a
cease-fire, a Soviet broadcast complained that the Western powers,
while "declaring neutrality in the war," were "in fact giving active
help to Israel," that the Sixth Fleet had "approached the coasts of
the Arab countries and taken up a threatening position there" (68:118).
While he provides no details, Israel leader Peres concludes there
was division in Moscow during the fighting phase as to whether to
indulge in more risk-taking action than was eventually settled on.
He asserts that "there were voices in Moscow calling for another
course," but that "the Soviet leadership finally decided to leave the
fighting to the local states themselves" (125:140).
By evening, according to Velie, Kosygin came through with another
tough hotline message as the Kremlin, apparently in an all-night
session this 6-7 June night, agonized over its various, but all un
palatable, options. This second message of the day arrived at 6:20
p.m. (1:20 a.m., Moscow time). Kosygin now repeated his earlier
demands and added that, if not complied with, the USSR "would have to


163
they enumerated the various courses that might be undertaken and came
to this conclusion: "In sum, it seems that there are only two solu
tions for the United States: first, organize a multinational naval
force; second, leave Israel to act alone." (This latter became known
as the "unleashing Israel" alternative.) Rusk recommended the former
(11 :118).
The subsequent fading away of interest in and support for the
multinational naval force was bound gradually to leave Israel,
through her own intelligence and many friendly high-level contacts
in America, with the feeling she was being "unleashed"!
The problem, a fine and sensitive one in the subtle area of
mutually developing understanding, is gingerly covered or dismissed,
oversimply, in the literature. But it is concentrated on in this
analysis, for it involves a possible master stroke in American crisis
management: to appear to be valiantly restraining Israel, but to
be gradually and beneath the surface "unleashing" her!
Trend to unleash Israel
Beginning with Eban's conferences in Washington this date, there
were bits and pieces encouraging Israel to feel she was being effec
tively "unleashed." These considerations influenced the debates
whether to go to war on the 28th, when the decision was negative,
and in the days immediately before the 5th, when the "go ahead" was
decided.
One of the key bits and pieces which Israel's Cabinet was even
tually to focus on hungrily was a quotation from Johnson's presentation


157
True, the Arab world was listening and cheering wildly. But Israel and
the US and much of a critical world were listening too. Nasser seemed
completely unaware how "generously" he was providing Israel an accept
able motive for preemptive war.
In a speech this date, Nasser included these significant comments
related to his recent, dramatic UNEF and Aqaba moves:
We have at last felt that we are strong enough, and
that in any battle with Israel we shall, with God's help,
be victorious. . .
On UNEF,
I once said that as soon as we were prepared we could
get rid of the Emergency Force in a half-hour, and
this is what has now happened.
On Sharm el Sheikh,
. . One day we should be ready, and . then we
should go to Sharm el Sheikh and establish our rights.
In fact, I was charged by the Higher Executive Commit
tee to do this when a favorable opportunity arose,
and such a favorable opportunity came with the threats
of aggression against Syria, [emphasis added]
On the USSR,
The attitude of the USSR has also been a splendid
one; she has supported the Arabs and the Arab nation,
and even said that she will resist, with the Arabs
and the Arab nation, any interference and any aggres
sion. (75:547-548)
In his speeches at this stage, Nasser was continuing to escalate,
at least in rhetoric. And, although this may be a reconstructive
account of what was in fact improvised as he went along, his words
at least indicated a premeditated plan.
Another incident for this date shows that Nasser was being grat
ingly provocative in varied directions over his Strait blockade. The
UAR Foreign Minister warned the United Kingdom that its ships would


87
he may have been justified in his actions on purely legal-procedural
grounds--and serious doubts have been raised about this aspect as
well--in substantive terms he could well have decided otherwise and
more wisely. There is no doubt that his actions contributed to the
process of escalation. They were totally unexpected, even by Nasser,
and, as some commentators note, may have been the catalyst that marked
the point of irreversibility of the crisis (19:364-365).
But a temporary or a partial withdrawal would have meant, in
effect, that the UNEF was being manipulated to serve Nasser's at
tempted coercion of Israel. This would have been an impossible posi
tion for a peacekeeping organization. As for Nasser's feigned surprise,
it is presumptuous to accept at face value such innocence in what
emerges as a preplanned, if ragged, scenario. It would have well
fitted Nasser's purposes, especially later, to appear to have had
his hand forced.
There has been prolonged controversy as to what Nasser intended,
and whether U Thant unpredictably forced his hand. U Thant subse
quently responded with a vigorous and detailed justification. The
essentials are as follows. The official Egyptian request for "with
drawal of the force as soon as possible" was two days in the making,
following U Thant's rejection of the initial local demand in Gaza for
its withdrawal. The Egyptian representative at the UN informed the
Secretary-General of strong feelings of resentment in Cairo at what
was there considered to be attempts to exert pressure and to make the
UNEF an "occupation force." With deep misgivings as to the likely
disastrous consequences of UNEF withdrawal, U Thant indicated his


183
Extended Israeli war debate
Israel nearly decided for war on this day, but desisted and post
poned action, as an informed study by Brecher reveals. All but one
of the Cabinet activists were persuaded to delay a decision for war
because of a series of notes received on the morning of 28 May. A
cable from Johnson included a threatening communication from Kosygin;
a dispatch from Rusk dealt with Eban's discussions with the President.
There were also communications from de Gaulle and Wilson. An addendum
to Rusk's note, delivered several hours later, may have been the most
decisive input into the day's final decision: to wait and see whether
the international flotilla to force the blockade would become a reality.
Reportedly the Soviet message relayed by Johnson was this response
to intelligence that Israel was planning military action: "The USSR
states that if Israel starts military action, the Soviet Union will
extend help to the attacked States." The President reportedly added
his own admonition: "As your friend, I repeat even more strongly
what I said yesterday to Mr. Eban; Israel just must not take preemp
tive military action and thereby make itself responsible for the initia
tion of hostilities" (19:398).
The letter from de Gaulle confirmed what was perceived already,
that France was advising Israel to acquiesce in Nasser's fait accompli;
the British Prime Minister's message was more sympathetic.
With the war now a bare week away, Israel's Cabinet wrestled with
its own internal divisions as to how to gear up for the decisions
ahead and their outcomes. In what now began to look like a marathon
session, the Israeli government was trying to formulate some coherent


352
Heika1 credits Tito with the strongest role--in fact, pressuring
a reluctant Soviet leadership--in saving Nasser in the last stages of
the June War and in the unstable, demoralized rebuilding period after
wards. When the Russians procrastinated at resupply with their huge
Antonov transport planes, explaining that they lacked essential land
ing rights in Yugoslavia for refueling, Tito, in exasperation--
according to Heikal--picked up the telephone and gave the order,
"Open everything to the Antonovs: no restrictions; as far as Egypt
is concerned I am no longer nonaligned." Tito did all he could to
help Nasser, coming to Cairo later in August 1967, then going on
to Damascus and Baghdad to rouse Arab resistance to the Israelis
and support for Nasser (61:270).
Rumania, in stark contrast, refused to sign the anti-Israel
Communist parties' statement, and was the only socialist country not
to break off diplomatic relations with Israel (59:319).
To manage the difficult winddown of the June War crisis, the
USSR attempted to impose on its East European satellites the same
extremely one-sided anti-Israel view of Mid-East affairs it was main
taining to its own people. That this caused disaffection and unrest,
eventually winding up in the 1968 Czechoslovakia crisis, is amply
demonstrated by Ra'anan. Writing in 1969, he finds that what was
clearly regarded as an unmitigated Soviet debacle became a convenient
symbol or battleflag in the struggle against Soviet domination of
East Europe. In the heyday of Czech liberalism, in April of 1968,
Prague Radio's well-known commentator, Vera Stovickova, made some
significant revelations. Hinting broadly at the outside pressure


464
126. Pipes, Richard. "Operational Principles of Soviet Foreign
Policy." Survey 19 (Spring 1973):41-61.
127. Ploss, Sidney, ed. The Soviet Political Process, Aims,
Techniques, and Examples of Analysis. Waltham, Mass.:
Ginn, 1971.
128. "Pourquoi Moscou A LSch Nasser" [Why Moscow Let Nasser Down].
Le Nouvel Observateur (Paris) 135 (14-20 June 1967).
129. Prittie, Terence C. F. Eshkol : The Man and The Nation. New
York: Pitman, 1969.
130. Quandt, William B. "US Policy in the Middle East: Constraints
and Choices." In Political Dynamics in the Middle East, pp.
489-552. Edited by P. Y. Hammond and S. S. Alexander. New
York: American Elsevier, 1972.
131. Ra'anan, Uri. "Soviet Global Policy and the Middle East."
Midstream (Israel) (May 1969). Reprinted in The Israel-Arab
Reader, A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict,
pp. 497-511. Edited by Walter Laqueur. New York: Citadel
Press, 1969.
132. Riollot, Jean. "The Middle East Crisis: The Soviet Role and
Soviet Media Reactions Prior to the Outbreak of Hostilities."
Radio Liberty dispatch, 19 June 1967.
133. "The Middle East Crisis: The Soviet Role and Soviet
Media Reactions Since the Outbreak of Hostilities." Radio
Liberty dispatch, 28 July 1967.
134. Rodinson, Mxime. Israel and the Arabs. New York: Pantheon,
1968.
135. Ro'i, Yaacov. From Encroachment to Involvement: A Documentary
Study of Soviet Policy in the Middle East, 1945-1973. New York
John Wiley & Sons, 1975.
136. Rouleau, Eric. "Interview with Nasser." Le Monde (Paris), 19
April 1970.
137. Safran, Nadav. From War to War: The Arab-Israeli Confronta
tion, 1948-1967. New York: Pegasus, 1969.
138. St. John, Robert. Eban. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1972.
Sam'o, Elias, ed. The June 1967 Arab-Israeli War: Miscalcu
lation or Conspiracy? Wilmette, Ill.: Medina University
Press International, 1971.
139.


150
Unleashing of Israel begins
From this date forward the idea of breaking the Aqaba blockade, as
a way of solving the Middle East crisis, became progressively less
popular with both Israel and America, though for different reasons.
Sensitive and alert Soviet observers of the Washington scene should
have detected the developing mutual distaste for a blockade-breaking
armada; for this change of mood represented a severe threat to them
and their Arab clients.
In Howe's evaluation of this development, by 25 May breaking the
blockade became as unpopular with Israel as it was with Egypt. For
it would have removed a promising casus bel 1i for Israel, whose major
concern shifted to the hostile armies massing near her borders.
From the US perspective, forcing the blockade also became progres
sively less appealing with time. Such an action would have infuriated
Nasser, caused a serious crisis in America's relations with Arab
countries, and almost surely led to economic (oil) retaliation.
Only the Netherlands, Australia and Great Britain showed interest
in participating in such a force, and British support remained at
most lukewarm (68:66-67).
Along with the growing American distaste for blockade-breaking,
with all its problems, there grew in Washington an awareness of, and
receptivity to, Israel's gathering preemptive tendencies. The New
York Times reporter at the White House, for example, was told Israel
could be held back for "only a matter of days" (138:426).


438
Semichastny, in this early stage of the crisis, and the other,
Yegorychev, in the aftermath of the war.
If the reliability of the Political Diary report is accepted as
to the abrupt dismissal of Semichastny from his powerful post, it may
be conjectured that the Brezhnev faction had misgivings as to the
Middle East Nasser-centered scenario in its early stages, and per
haps tried to reverse what proved to be irreversible. It seems
significant that Nasser made his first major escalation, after the
troop move into Sinai--purportedly without consulting the USSR--with
his 16-18 May dismissal of UNEF. The cryptic and unadorned announce
ment of Semichastny1s dismissal appeared in the Soviet press on 19
May while, according to Political Diary, his powerful sponsor,
Shelepin, was absent in the hospital for "some kind of diagnosis."
In summary, then, at this crucial mid-May point in the USSRs
Middle East crisis management, with the crisis scenario already
irrevocably underway, the head of the Soviet secret police was
abruptly dismissed, in a most unusual move, especially at the onset
of what was to prove such a flaming crisis. Soon thereafter, moderate
Kosygin was seen to be in charge of the developing crisis. He so
remained throughout the war and the weeks and months of frantic,
UN-centered postwar diplomacy.
22 May: Nasser Institutes Aqaba Blockade
This was the date of Nassers second major crisis escalation
purportedly without the consent, or even knowledge, of his Soviet
protector. The closing of Aqaba by Egypt furthermore turned out to


93
If a jump from 50 to 80% chance of war was Nasser's assessment,
surely this was not a lightly taken decision!
In contrast to his postdisaster attempts at reconstructing the
record, Nasser in his 22 May blockade speech included a forceful
approval of U Thant's role and added:
Quite naturally, and I say this today quite frankly,
if the Emergency Force had been turned aside from its
proper task and worked for the aims of imperialism, we
should have regarded it as a hostile force and forcibly
disarmed it. (75:539)
This is a far cry from his postwar wail: "We fell into the trap
which had been laid for us" (136:1).
It would appear more fitting to at least acknowledge that: "We
leaped into the trap that we had laid for ourselves!"
Nasser as reactive, opportunistic, gambling
In his postwar 23 July speech, Nasser acknowledged that his two
major provocative escalations both were "practical consequences" of
the Sinai move as well as responses to long-standing Arab pressures.
Similarly, in an official 1968 Israel Ministry of Defense account
of the war, General Yitzhak Rabin gives Nasser credit (or discredit
perhaps) for having no planned scenario on 14 May, but, instead,
beginning this date with his UNEF action, simply doing his characteris
tic improvising and reacting to events. Rabin concludes that even a
demonstrative action develops a logic of its own and obliges the
originators to commit acts beyond the original scope of their inten
tions (74:8).
From Nutting's biography of Nasser, there is a description of
the Cabinet's nonparticipation in Nasser's thinking or decision-making


7
predominant interest was very much on the side of the US, as the
development of the crisis and its outcome demonstrated.
But not all superpower crises--notable exceptions being those in
the Middle East--have such predictable patterns in which comparative
interests prove asymmetrical and determine the safe outcomes. For
these other crises, firmness to show resolve must be balanced with
caution, so as not to unintentionally and uncontrollably accelerate a
crisis into an intolerable confrontation.
Preserving Freedom of Action
Because the opponent's response, his view of the comparative inter
ests at stake, and the resolve he will prove to demonstrate are all
imperfectly known factors, the crisis manager attempts to preserve
at all stages a degree of freedom of action, a potential for advance
or retreat, the preservation of some options at his disposal.
This is the area in which crises conducted largely through proxies
notably in the Middle East--have proved so dangerous. There has been
a tendency for the principal to lose control over his client, partly
due to communication problems, partly due to differing perceptions
of vital needs and interests in their respective roles. Lost control
has led to lost freedom of action, and in the Middle East in 1967
this led to a plunge into war between the proxies.
Interdependence of Commitments
Irrespective of the apparent asymmetry of interests or resolve
which might otherwise dictate the outcome of crises, and increasing
the dangerous unpredictability of their outcomes as a result, has been


143
Israel rejected by de Gaulle
Israeli Foreign Minister Eban began his crucial trip to the
French, British, and American capitals, to test a political solution
that would reopen Aqaba. This was the very disappointing day of his
interview with de Gaulle in Paris. To Israel's dismay, de Gaulle in
effect took the Arabs' side and washed his hands of Israel.
The eventual outcome, it should be noted, was not what it appeared
then. De Gaulle's grand design was soon to meet frustration and
humiliation. And Israel, deprived of former French support, was to
appear beleaguered and besieged, attracting enormous world-wide
support, thus more easily justifying her devastating preemptive
attack on the Arabs.
USSR maintains original Israel-Syria line
In his 24 May speech to the UN Security Council, Soviet represen
tative Nikolai Fedorenko fell back on these words in charging Israel
with instigation of the crisis:
The Defense and Foreign Policy Committees of the
Knesset on May 9 granted the Government powers for
military operations against Syria. Israeli troops,
moved to the frontiers of Syria, were alerted. Mobili
zation was proclaimed in the country. (18:188)
The Soviet leaders seemed to be stubbornly clinging to their original
scenario, although by now it was threadbare, and largely irrelevant
to the prevailing conditions of the crisis.
British/US fleet movements
The British Admiralty in London announced on 24 May that British
warships passing through the Mediterranean were being "held over" there


276
the USSR was sure to receive this signal promptly. This was probably
the most dangerous and sensitive point in the entire June War crisis--
the nearest to American-Soviet confrontation. Only 10 June (and this
later date perhaps only by US overreaction) competed with this date
for high point in danger. For it was only on this day that the extent
and completeness of the Egyptian-Jordanian rout became fully apparent,
along with the US unreadiness to agree to force Israel to retreat to
its 4 June positions (which, if this preserved the UNEF withdrawal
and the Gulf of Aqaba blockade, would represent a Nasser victory of
the 1956 model--something President Johnson was determined not to
repeat).
US Mediterranean Navy moves are shown on Figure 2 for the 5-10
June period of hostilities, as ascertained and depicted by Howe.
Johnson's memoirs cover this day's hotline exchanges and other
events in rather routine fashion. He makes no mention of moving the
Sixth Fleet forward, as was done, although this move is credited by
Howe and others with helping deter an anguished USSR from intervening
on this date. (Instead, the President seemingly considered 10 June,
in relation to Syria, as the day of greatest danger of direct US-
Soviet involvement in the war.) The evidence is mixed, the Soviet
record still largely undisclosed.
What Johnson emphasizes for this day is that the USSR, in the
face of the unrelenting Israeli advance, decided to accept a simple
UN cease-fire resolution. The Security Council accordingly adopted
such a resolution, and an appeal to stop the fighting went out to
Israel and the Arab states (78:299).


319
confined to Israeli forces on Syrian territory. Even this might have
incited an American counterintervention. In any case, Israel had full
control of the air, so that any Soviet intervention would have been
extremely hazardous.
In a subsequent interview with Howe, Secretary of State Rusk com
mented, "It was pretty complicated for them to bring forces to bear.
We didn't think they would. It was a long way away and they had no
easy means of access with Turkey and Iran in the way. ..."
Despite the prevailing American tendency to discount the Soviet
threats, there were other indications, according to Howe--probably
provided by intelligence sources--as well as the threatening tone
on the hotline, that the Soviet leaders might be seriously considering
intervention.
Johnson coupled his tough fleet movement response with a balancing,
bland hotline reply to Kosygin, saying that "so far as we knew, Israel
was preparing to observe the cease-fire. ..." (68:104-108).
The very timing of the maximum Soviet threat, just when the White
House felt it could relax over the war's imminent end, appears sus
picious in respect to the threat's credibility. This is a character
istic Soviet winddown performance, especially marked at Suez in 1956
(from Smolansky's expert treatment of this affair) (146). Vet John
son's memoir account appears to indicate that he took the Soviet
threats at face value, while being at the same time determined, in
Howe's words, not to "let the Russians get away with it" (68:104-108).
Having finally, at 3 a.m. on 10 June, using "every diplomatic
resource," gotten Israel to agree to implement the cease-fire resolution,


255
expectations, the Soviet Union sent its troops into Cuba into a likely
US confrontation situation in 1962.
Particularly in the forthcoming 10 June Israeli assault on Syria,
the most geographically and ideologically sensitive of the three
Israeli victims, the USSR seemed on the verge of intervention. But
critics of the evident American near-panic over this possibility feel
there was never any likelihood of anything other than more Soviet
posturing; that the USSR had not only no intention, but, far more of
a deterrent, no capability of effective intervention. That is (as
occurred in the wel1-remembered case of Finland in 1939-40), in at
least the initial tactical hostilities on the local scene, Israel
would surely, in her triumphal advance, have humiliatingly defeated
any conventional Soviet forces that could have been brought to bear.
Initial Soviet Press Treatment Conventional
In Moscow on 5 June, official broadcasts throughout the day
stressed "resolute support" for the Arabs and demanded that Israel
pull back her troops (99:69).
On this first day of the war, the USSR also issued a hardline
statement denouncing Israel, surely unaware of how hollow it would
soon ring in the wake of the Arab debacle and Soviet inaction. Ex
tracts worthy of note follow:
In condemning Israel's aggression, the USSR govern
ment demands, as the first, pressing step to halt the
military conflict, that the Israeli government imme
diately and unconditionally cease hostilities against
the United Arab Republic, Syria, Jordan and the other
Arab countries and withdraw its troops beyond the armi
stice line.
The Soviet government reserves the right to take all
steps that may be necessitated by the situation. (75:57)


Page
V CRISIS WINDDOWN (RESOLUTION): 11 JUNE -
22 NOVEMBER 1967 341
Immediate Postwar Recovery Efforts (11-16 June) 341
UN Special Assembly Produces Impasse (17 June -
21 July) 365
Resolution 242 Evolves (22 July 22 November) 388
VI CONCLUSIONS 403
General 403
Similarities 403
Contrasts 409
Problems of Management by Proxy 413
APPENDIX:
THE DOMESTIC INFLUENCES: SOVIET DECISION-MAKING 421
LIST OF REFERENCES 456
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 468
vi


197
leaning on the Arabs--or the Israelis." The movements of Marine am
phibious forces, which would spearhead any use of American troops,
according to Howe "clearly indicated Washington's desire to avoid
military involvement." These Marines remained on liberty in Naples
until 25 May, when they were moved toward Malta for, in Howe's words,
"a previously scheduled training exercise." Although this placed the
Marines closer to the scene of possible conflict, they were still
some 600 miles farther away from the trouble spot than the aircraft
carriers (68:68,70).
The above phrase of Howe's, "clearly indicated Washington's desire
to avoid military involvement," appears appreciably overstated. A
more apt assessment would be, "a firm but careful increase in readi
ness while avoiding any appearance of provocation." As for the "pre
viously scheduled training exercise," this phrase is so commonly used
as a cover for US Navy movements designed for other purposes as to
be almost devoid of credibility!
The US Marine Amphibious Force, which as stated above left Naples
the 25th, arrived off the coast of Malta this date (68:149).
Israel stiffens/warns
Inasmuch as an extended debate the day before had produced a tie
vote--and only temporarily postponed a war decision--Prime Minister
Eshkol's warning in his Knesset statement this date should have sig
naled alarm to both Nasser and the USSR, and perhaps stimulated some
compromise concession, or at least inexpensive moves toward negotiation.
Eshkol warned: "It is clear to us--and I feel that it is now clear to


435
If the Political Diary report is accepted, it would appear that
the kickoff of the 1967 June War scenario, Shelepin's hospital stay
and consequent absence from leadership decisions, and the abrupt
dismissal of his close friend Semichastny from the powerful KGB
post all took place in succession in the approximate ten-day period
immediately preceding 19 May.
In speculatim in similar fashion as to the fortuitous, medico-
politically suspicious 1963 heart attack that removed Kozlov from the
leadership succession only a year before Khrushchev's fall, Conquest
makes an observation that fits equally well the crisis prelude situa
tion prevailing in May 1967, i.e., that "the stability of a political
situation in the USSR may be destroyed at any minute by minor, as
well as by major, unexpected events" (29:115-116).
As evidence that not only Westerners, but informed Russians as
well, are suspicious of Soviet medical reports and diagnoses involving
political leaders, Political Diary had an interesting entry in its
April 1970 issue. Following a discussion of serious divisions then
prevailing in the Politburo, the article's author referred to rumors
involving the reported simultaneous sicknesses of several members
of the Politburo: Suslov, Podgorny, Shelepin and Kosygin. But--
citing the known illnesses or ailments affecting these men--the
author concluded that "it is entirely possible that all these members
of the Politburo actually were sick" (106, No. 67:658) [emphasis added].
Police/Army Involvement in Mid-East Policy
In looking at the Soviet leadership in the onset to the May crisis,
it may be instructive to recognize that at least one Kremlinologist


66
interesting possibility that Israel may even have been attempting to
warn and deter Syria by using Moscow as an intermediary! Eastern
European sources accordingly defended the Soviet warnings to Syria
and Egypt on the grounds that Israel was advising Soviet representa-
tives--as well as saying publicly--that, if the El Fatah terror raids
continued, she would take drastic punitive measures against Syria
(174:310,308).
Israel invites border inspection
On this date Israel made one of three reported prewar attempts to
blunt the troop massing charges by inviting Soviet representatives to
inspect her borders. Following a prolonged cold blast of polemical
allegations in Pravda, Arye Levavi, The Director General of the Israeli
Foreign Ministry, received Chuvakhin on this date. The latter pro
ceeded to accuse Israel of massing an invasion force opposite the
Syrian border. Levavi renewed Eshkol's offer of the previous autumn
and proposed that the Ambassador visit the area to see for himself.
Chuvakhin, again adhering to the information he had received from
Moscow, declined the invitation (24:211).
President Johnson intervenes
President Johnson in his 1971 memoirs reported that the US took
early but unsuccessful action to try to squelch the lurid reports of
Israel i troops massing on Syria's borders, and get at the Soviet insti
gation behind such reports. After investigating and finding these
reports to be untrue, Johnson said the US so informed the Russians
and the nations bordering Israel. The State Department also took up


411
In the winddown stage the USSR abruptly returns to a behavior
closely akin to that of the buildup. With the maximum danger past,
it resorts to bluster and bluff and a great deal of diversionary
effort if a setback has been suffered. There is resort to mobilized
demonstrations in the USSR and elsewhere, talk of volunteers, much
posturing at the UN. The effort is designed to recoup where and
what it can, reinterpret what it must.
In the area of reinterpretation, and utilizing its considerable
resources in propaganda and communications, the USSR aims for what
Jervis has described as the unquestioned advantage in moving quickly,
confidently and consistently to redefine an ambiguous situation so
that the new, selected reinterpretation becomes to a considerable
degree "reality" to the targeted audience.
Another effective tactic in the winddown from a failure is to
take maximum credit for saving someone from a nonexistent threat.
Thus, following the June War, the USSR took generous credit for
threatening Israel, ending the war, and saving Damascus, though the
weight of evidence is that Israel stopped herself when all of her
objectives had been achieved.
By the Soviet exercise of persistence and skill in what was a
most difficult time for both the Arabs and the USSR, the end of
the winddown found the US generally hated and scorned in the Middle
East, with the Soviet position restored and enhanced, their area
clients now in a state of ful 1 dependence on them!


28
Winston Burdett has discussed this Soviet tactic as an instrument
of policy, not only a cautionary weapon against the Israelis but a
means of political incitement to the Arabs. The special danger in
the Middle East of thus dealing in misinformation--both as propaganda
and as sign 1anguage--was the problem of control; for Arab society
is "so naturally permeated by misinformation on so many levels and
so receptive to it, so easily and warmly seized with fantasy" (24:165-166).
On 5 November the Soviet Union vetoed a mild UN Security Council
censure of a Syrian provocation that was approved by ten other nations.
As Burdett records this event, "If it did not set the course of events
for the following months, it at least sharpened their pace." For
Syria now took the veto as a green light to unrestrained provocation
of Israel, while Israel lost any hope for deterring Syria except
through her own retaliatory measures. Nowhere in the record is there
evidence of Soviet leadership concern that its freedom of action was
being severely circumscribed, that it had become the voluntary captive
of its client (24:174).
Israel--frustrated by the veto-bound UN Security Counci 1--then
retaliated with a massive raid against es Samu village in Jordan.
This action appeared to the world excessively destructive in both
human life and material, and brought down onto Israel a UN censure,
inasmuch as the attack appeared seriously misdirected. King Hussein
was a Middle East moderate, astride a shaky throne, hated equally with
Israel by the Arab radicals. The bloody Israeli attack led to wide
spread riots in Jordan, shook Hussein on his throne, and thus incited
Hussein to counterattack--along with the PL0--by baiting Nasser for
his inactivity.


222
The USSR in making its warning perhaps read accurately, possibly
resignedly, the changes in Israel's Cabinet the day before as an omi
nous step toward war. If so, the Soviet leaders were in an uncomfor
table, inflexible position from a crisis management point of view.
They had cried wolf too often, when they knew better; they had
threatened so heavily and so abusively so often, for devious propa
ganda purposes, that now when there actually was a real threat from
Israel, they had nothing left in their diplomatic or propaganda arsenal
to cope with the situation!
In Moscow, Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko summoned the Israeli
Ambassador to the Ministry and reproached him for a statement by
Israeli Foreign Minister Eban that seemed to indicate that Israel
intended to open the blockaded Strait of Tiran with her own forces.
After Gromyko's initial reproach, he shifted to a more friendly tone
and advised the Israeli government to exercise restraint. In Gromyko's
words, "We are working for peace" (58:42-43).
Of course, Israeli tolerance of the Nasser-Soviet fait accompli
in Aqaba-Sinai would represent a considerable political victory for
the latter. Hence, attempting to consolidate their joint victory was
hardly a. "peaceful" move on the Soviet-Arab side.
Gromyko's "friendly" advice recalls Khrushchev's advice to Kennedy
during the early stages of the Cuban missile crisis. Khrushchev com
pared Kennedy and the missiles to a man having to live with a stinking
goat. "You won't like it," he advised, "but you'll learn to live with
it" (86:128).


338
writer K. Timofeyev, in New Times, on the subject of "Navies in
Imperialist Policy":
. . The US 6th Fleet provided cover for the
Anglo-French attempt to invade Egypt in 1956, and
brought the Marines to the Lebanon and Jordan
in the summer of 1958. The US Navy supported the
invasion and blockade of Cuba. It was also used
to strangle liberation movements in the Philippines
and the Dominican Republic, and played a far from
minor role in connection with the Israeli aggression
against the Arabs in 1967. (152:101)
The 1956 reference is completely divorced from reality in that
Eisenhower actually discussed use of the Sixth Fleet to stop the
British-French invasion fleet (53:828). But by making this false
tie-in of 1956 and 1967 Sixth Fleet activities, the undesirable
impact is avoided of what is closer to reality: the Sixth Fleet
played no role in the Western Suez debacle because the US was opposed
to that action; but it contributed significantly to the Egyptian
disaster and Israeli triumph in 1967, by deterring Soviet inter
vention, because it was in favor of Israel's action.
Johnson's Evaluation of Hotline in Crisis
In winding up his coverage of the tense hotline exchanges on
this last day of the War, President Johnson made an observation of
interest in considering the advantages of such rapid, secure communi
cations to effective crisis management:
The hotline proved a powerful tool not merely, or
even mainly, because communications were so rapid. The
overriding importance of the hotline was that it engaged
immediately the heads of government and their top ad
visers, forcing prompt attention and decisions. There
was unusual value in this, but also danger. We had to
weigh carefully every word and phrase. I took special
pains not only to handle this crisis deliberately but
to set a quiet, unhurried tone for all our discussions.
(78:303)


337
Navies as Political-Military Deterrents
In the maneuverings of the American and Soviet Mediterranean
fleets during, and in the preceding onset to, the June War, a state
of mutual deterrence appears to have prevailed. With Israel conquer
ing decisively on her own, such a situation of course heavily favored
the US, with almost none of the risks or costs of any possible inter
vention.
The Soviet awareness of this role of a navy, and its obvious
equivalent counter, are revealed in a subsequent, significant series
of articles under the title, Navies in War and Peace, by Navy Commander-
in-Chief Sergei S. Gorshkov, appearing in a Soviet Navy professional
journal in 1972.
Particularly relevant to the May-June Arab-Israeli crisis and war
are the second and third of five fundamental theses to Gorshkov's
argument:
2. Despite the introduction of nuclear weapons and
the advent of detente, the armed forces have not
lost their historic importance as instruments of
state policy in either wartime or peacetime (if
anything, the political influence of demonstrably
superior military potential has increased).
3. Given the increasing economic (and hence political)
importance of the oceans, and the Navy's special
political features, the peacetime utility and
importance of the Navy are increasing, which gives
it a unique position--compared to the other branches
of the armed forces--as an instrument of foreign
policy. (165:56)
An oblique appreciation of the deterrent role of the US Sixth
Fleet, on this date as well as earlier, during both the buildup and
the hostilities phases, was provided on 28 November 1969 by Soviet


72
government in their pressure on Syria and in trying to involve Arab
forces in premature battle." This conspiracy was not confined to the
Arab world but was part of a counterrevolution, led by the United
States, "against aspirations for freedom, progress and prosperity
in our nation and in the entire Third World." The question, said
Nasser, "is no longer one of Palestine alone but of the entire Arab
destiny. It is a question of confronting all our enemies at once."
It was against such a melodramatic, almost paranoid picture of
the world that Nasser judged what seemed to be a new and serious threat
by Israel to Syria. For him what was at stake was not merely the fate
of this particular Ba'athist regime in Damascus, which he had no
special reason to love, nor even only the immediate military security
of Egypt. It was rather the morale of the whole Arab revolutionary,
nationalist movement that he had come to symbolize, the readiness of
the Arabs to assume mastery of their own fate and to stand up to
pressure from the Great Powers. He saw a military humiliation of
Syria by Israel as a victory not just for Israel but also for the
United States in its supposed design to isolate the UAR, the main
powerhouse of Arab nationalism (149:470-471).
Egypt's Sinai Move;
UNEF Withdrawal (14-18 May)
D-Minus 22: Sunday 14 May
Israel1s perspective
All the various Israeli pronouncements in the week from 7 to 14
May at best provided the Soviet-Arab cause a stronger-than-otherwise


229
A final touch to this developing drama was the President's letter,
delivered to Israeli Ambassador Evron on this Saturday afternoon,
replying to Eshkol's letter of 30 May. Was a signal therein intended?
Was one in any case detected, by the alert and anxious Israeli leaders?
Evron studied the letter intently, carefully noting what it did and
did not say. He assessed it as a document for the historical record,
confirming that America was still handling the crisis along the
accepted lines, and establishing that there had been no collusion.
The significance to Evron was in the omissions. True, there were still
the cautionary words as to the grave consequences of unilateral Israeli
action. But in the body of the letter the imperative call for restraint
was not repeated.
In Burdett's summation, "The red light, perhaps, was shading to
amber" (24:315).
The record shows that the final Israeli war decision was made
after midnight this date, in consultations between Eshkol and his
inner "kitchen cabinet." The possible reactions of the US and the
USSR were analyzed. Defense Minister Dayan, engaging in a kind of
euphemistic double talk, predicted that "the Egyptians might start
the war against Israel on Monday morning [5 June]." This meeting was
described by some observers as the decisive step which led to the
Israeli operation thirty-two hours later (110:201).
Israel's deceptive cover effective
With Israel's leaders on the verge of the plunge into war, the
cover for the attack was well calculated and--despite Nasser's


173
latter had, in fact, expected Israel to take unilateral action and
had therefore tried to avoid the Israeli Foreign Minister in order
to prevent the appearance of collusion; the meeting which Eban had
actually forced on him inevitably produced more American advice to
show restraint.
On the other hand, the defenders of Eban's mission maintained that,
in view of the strong American and international commitments to Israel's
right of passage through the Strait, it was only logical to demand their
implementation; that Israel, as a small nation and facing Soviet
threats, had to exhaust all the diplomatic avenues before resorting
to the military one, especially if she expected to be allowed to capi
talize on victory (remembering the bitter lessons of 1956-57). It
was also argued that the inevitability of Israel's action and victory
had actually been foreseen, from the very beginning, and that the
government's policy was guided simply by the need to wait, in spite
of all the difficulties involved, for the optimal political condi
tions (110:197).
On the basis that "nothing succeeds like success," Eban would seem
to have fared well from the crisis outcome. Israel was ready for the
war while the Arabs were not; and she scored a remarkably low-cost
victory. And the US and other major powers had had the chance and
had proved incapable and/or unwilling to effect a political solution.
As was mentioned earlier under 25 May, despite the strong Israeli
Cabinet trend now to opt for war, they had maneuvered the US into an
action that resulted in binding themselves. As Eban's biographer de
scribes it,


414
Khrushchev in his memoirs, proud of his own performance at managing
the Suez Crisis in 1956, is critical of his successors in 1967:
"Given our influence with Nasser, given our ability to exert pressure
on Egypt, we should have restrained the Egyptians from demonstrating
their belligerence" (83:343-5). Perhaps. But Khrushchev had had
his own serious and persistent troubles with Nasser's exuberance.
And the divided collective leadership in 1967, as Tatu so aptly
observes, was unable to effectively advance or retreat, afraid of
Nasser's boldness, yet unwilling or unable to deter him in the light
of his apparent initial success (151:533-534).
The USSR thus found itself tied to a dangerous adventurism by
proxy, such as it is too prudent to indulge in on its own. The near
est equivalent the US has faced, though on a reduced scale, was its
distressed reaction to Chiang Kai-shek's 1958 provocation of Mainland
China with a massive, militarily and politically unwarranted reinforce
ment of the offshore islands within range of Red China's artillery.
It was touch-and-go for awhile, especially since the Republicans in
the 1952 Presidential campaign had made such a domestic political
issue of "unleashing" Chiang. Fortunately for the US, Khrushchev
showed little interest in backing China; China herself proved dis
creet in her crisis responses; and the US quietly managed to use
its assets and influence to "re-leash" Chiang. But both the USSR
and the US have learned how distressing it can be to be hostage to
their clients' lack of restraint in a crisis.
That the Soviet leadership knew what it had to do to avoid a
repeat of 1967 is demonstrated by the determination with which it


243
produced a perilous three hundred thirty miles of Jordanian-Israeli
border to defend.
On 4 June, the Cabinet decided, in Velie's version, "that Israel's
armed forces would take advantage of the next provocation to launch
an 'anticipatory counteroffensive,' i.e., a preemptive first strike"
(160:100-101).
President Johnson's unheeded "Wait!," which did result in some
grumbling at Israel in Washington on and after 5 June, is better seen
in the context of an illuminating and fascinating item from the post-
Suez history of that painful British debacle. Dulles is reputed, on
his recovery from his hospitalization, to have appeared uncharacteris
tically critical of US policy1argely led by Eisenhower himself--
during Dulles' incapacitation. In an exchange with the British
Foreign Secretary, Lord Selwyn Lloyd, Dulles is reported to have
asked, with reference to Suez, why the British had given in. The
Foreign Secretary, taken aback, protested, "But you put pressure on
us!" "Yes," responded Dulles, "but the decision to yield to pressure
is your sovereign decision" (138:317).
Israel's sophisticated leaders were surely not only familiar with
this story but understanding of the complex and delicate nuances of
crisis management by proxy behind it.
One is reminded of a now-old-fashioned definition of a nice girl:
one who knows how to refuse a kiss without being deprived of it.
Surely--whatever the apparent facts may prove to be--both President
Johnson and his top aides were capable of publicly denying Israel her
victory without being deprived of its benefits to both of them!


264
Egypt's Unreality, Disorder and Incompetence at War
Contributing to the delay in Soviet response to the debacle--
according to Bar-Zohar--was Nasser's incredible, crippling isolation
from reality on 5 June. He spent the whole morning in his office,
poring over maps and studying military reports. The telephone kept
him in touch with developments, but did not give him any bad news.
Toward the end of the morning he wired King Hussein that the Egyptian
forces, after repulsing the Israeli attack, expanded into Israeli
territory. As the afternoon radio reported such triumphant news as
the downing of eight-six Israeli planes to the loss of only two Egyp
tian ones, the street mobs were beside themselves with joy.
It was not until 4 p.m. that an air force officer came into
Nasser's office and said, slowly, "I have come to tell you that we
no longer have an air force" (11:217).
One interesting sidelight on the unreadiness of the Egyptian
air force for Israel's attack is the earlier unsuccessful effort by
Nasser to remove General Mahmud for incompetence. Khaldun Husry com
ments, in his review of Nutting's Nasser, '
... as Nutting records, Nasser tried twice (once
after the Suez war and another time in 1962) to remove
some of the commanders of the army whom he had found
wanting in competence, among them being the none too
efficient Sidki Mahmud, the commander of the air force
in 1967; but Amer had resisted Nasser's demands and had
pleaded for his officer friends, who were eventually
given a second chance. (73:137)
One could wonder why the Soviet advisers to the Egyptian air force,
who were investing so much of material help and their own prestige in
Egyptian battle readiness, did not prove a strong ally for Nasser in
removing the likes of Mahmud.


99
evidence of Nasser's and his generals' determination to sweep UNEF
out of the way, and so rapidly as to forestall any preventive Israeli
action. Accordingly, they were aggressively intolerant of any UN
suggestion for delay or reconsideration.
Draper's account makes a persuasive case that U Thant's much-
criticized UNEF withdrawal was more a recognition of an Egyptian
fait accompli than a case in which he had any other viable choices.
Draper concludes that by the night of 18 May U Thant did not have to
"withdraw" the force; he could merely recognize that it had already,
for all practical purposes, been withdrawn. The Egyptian troops had
simply shunted the UNEF units aside (43:124-125).
Israeli Foreign Minister Eban, in his postwar 19 June 1967 speech
at the UN General Assembly, reported that the Cairo radio, Saut el
Arab, published an order of the day at midnight this date by the
Sinai commander, General Murthagi, which concluded with these words:
Morale is very high among the members of our armed
forces because this is the day for which they have been
waiting--to make a holy war in order to return the
plundered land to its owners.
In many meetings with army personnel they asked when
the holy war would begin--the time has come to give them
their wish.(46:215) [emphasis added]
This military order, with its emotional appeal for a "holy war,"
would be consistent with other evidence that the Egyptian Army was
itching to fight, ready to attack, and impatient with Nasser's defensive
talk and diplomatic maneuverings.
But Kenneth Love's sympathetic account gives Nasser the benefit
of the doubt:


383
Arabs Concede Dependency on USSR
Obviously inspired by the USSR, an Arab action near the end of
June helped in the Soviet recovery of its position. The heads of
the Arab diplomatic missions in Moscow published a statement express
ing appreciation for the aid rendered by the government and people
of the USSR in the Arab struggle against imperialism and Zionism.
The USSR and the Socialist states, the statement said, had demon
strated in a practical fashion their moral, material and political
support for the Arab peoples (110:16).
Reality was helping the USSR in its Arab relations. As one
Arab diplomat in Beirut remarked,
As long as the Russian political goals are the same as
ours--which means curbing Western and Israeli ambi-
tions--we can work with the Russians. . Moscow
is the only source we can [turn to] for help in rebuild
ing our armies and our economies. (110:16)
Johnson and Kosygin Meet to Disagree
On 23 and 25 June, Johnson and Kosygin met for summit talks in
Glassboro, New Jersey, most of their meetings being devoted to dis
cussion of the Middle East situation. During these futile talks,
Johnson proposed an eleven-point plan for solving the main issues
at stake, of which the principal objective was the linking of
Israel's withdrawal and the solution of the refugee problem with
Arab recognition of Israel, the end of belligerency, freedom of navi
gation for Israel in international waterways and an end to the arms
race in the area. But Kosygin said he would discuss the questions
involved in the plan only after Israel had withdrawn. He and Johnson


405
Another occasion on which ail of Moscow's prudence and control
were needed developed when Nasser and Hussein, in the midst of their
military disaster, tried to embroil the Soviet Union with the US by
insisting that US and British planes had taken part in the Israeli
attack. Kosygin steadfastly refused this bait. The results, in
Arab riots against and closing of Western Embassies, were serious
enough as it was. Had the USSR been imprudent enough to succumb to
this temptation, the adverse crisis outcome that might have ensued
is incalculable.
The early domestic checking of the hardliners' ideological adven
turism proved that, as one writer put it, "The Russians do not like
the unpredictable and uncontrollable" (98:196). The moderate leader
ship fired Semichastny in the early crisis buildup, then in the post
war turmoil first set its own house in order by firing the key problem
man, Yegorychev, before embarking, in orderly fashion, on repairing
and rebuilding its Middle East position.
The winddown stage required such skillful, persistent and patient
direction, and was eventually so successful from any objective evalu
ation, that it might well be considered a positive model for such a
period, to set against the comparably negative model for managing the
crisis buildup. Resisting panic, and pressures from both the right--
to abandon the Arabs--and the left--to resume the war immediately in
guerrilla or other dangerous fashion--the USSR step by step did what
was necessary to recoup its position. Along the way, Kosygin responded
to a radical leftist demand and accusations by the President of Algeria
with the retort, "And what is your view of nuclear war?" (60:359).


74
too, and would therefore be deterred from striking. During the first
few days after Egyptian forces began moving across the Canal into the
desert, both Nasser and the Soviet leaders may have looked forward to
sharing the credit for a relatively cheap political victory over Israel
and the Western sponsors of the "plot" against Syria (13:48).
Egypt moves
The outburst of Egyptian crisis onset activity--the scope of which
proved finally to be irreversible without war--came on this date.
Radio Cairo, referring to recent warnings directed at Syria by
Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol and Foreign Minister Eban, and to reports
of Israeli troop concentrations on the Syrian border, declared that if
Israel dared to commit aggression she would face not Syria alone but
both signatories of the UAR-Syria Joint Defense Pact. The station
reported that several important meetings of the military high command,
presided over by Field Marshal Amer, took place on 14 May to discuss
the arrangements required to put the Joint Defense Pact into effect.
General Fawzi, Chief of Staff of the UAR army, flew to Damascus on 14
May to coordinate Syrian and UAR actions. Upon his arrival in Damascus,
he met with Syrian Defense Minister Assad and the Syrian Chief of Staff,
General Suwaydani (110:185-186).
According to Nasser's blockade speech of 22 May, he made his Sinai
move on this day, from which all else in the ensuing crisis and war
flowed. He justified his move on intelligence ("definite information")
received the day before, on 13 May.


336
provided the material for long and anguished contemplation as the
USSR tried to rebuild its position in the aftermath of the Arab
debacle. Hitler had had a similar plan: invade, capture Moscow and
end the war in four months. But the USSR had then prevailed over
time. Now Israel had accomplished all her objectives and ended the
war in just six days. No wonder that when Nasser tried to invoke
memories of Stalingrad for inspiration, in talks with his Soviet
protectors in the days to come, he was put down with the cold-water
comment that Brest-Litovsk (Lenin's surrender to the Germans in
1918) was a more apt model for him at this stage (137:411)!
White House View of Hostilities Phase
With success achieved from the US point of view, it is educa
tional and sobering nonetheless to note what dangerous uncertainty
prevailed within the White House about the opposing crisis decision
makers, their unity, their stability, their competence. From Howe's
interview with an insider, his "informed White House source":
Q. Did we feel they were sincerely trying to restrain
the Arabs?
A. This is a tough question. One of the big trouble
makers was the Russian ambassador in Cairo. He was
anything but restrained. . .
... I think the Russians were as smart as we were
and their military did not want to see a war since
they knew Egypt would be defeated. On the other hand,
I believe some of the ideologues were urging that the
Arabs should let the Israelis have it. . .
Q. It has been said that the United States and Soviets
agreed prior to the crisis not to intervene. Is this
overstating our understanding with the Soviets?
A.
Yes. (68:364)


398
Cable considers that by this ship movement the Soviet Union man
aged to repeat the favorable effect of its 10 July 1967 naval support
demonstration in this same port. According to Cable, Soviet "propa
gandists claimed, and some Egyptians seem to have believed, that
this prevented a renewed Israeli attack on Egypt" (26:146).
This incident presaged the greater violence to come, with newer,
ever more deadly weapons, both in the 1969-1970 War of Attrition and
in the October 1973 War.
USSR Presses for New Security Council Meeting
Privately the USSR still felt pressure from its Arab clients and
for its Middle East and global needs during this stage. Hence the
21 July UN stalemate, far more clearly to the USSR than to the
Arabs, left Israel consolidating her hold on the occupied territories
into what was to become more and more a fait accompli of the worst
kind for the Soviet-Arab cause--a complete reversal of the 1956
outcome, when the USSR had taken credit, largely undeserved, for
forcing Israel to disgorge.
Responding to this pressure, early in August the USSR reportedly
suggested to the US an exchange of views on the advisability of a
new Security Council meeting. The object of these talks was to be
to "gain the support or at least acquiescence" of Israel and the Arab
states for a joint US-Soviet resolution. The starting point for the
talks was to be the abortive draft resolution agreed to by Gromyko
and Goldberg in July (110:84).


284
Syria was about to encounter its own ordeal with a "reactionary
paper tiger" that would prove far more steel than paper.
On the same date Chou En-lai also addressed Shuqairy, head of
the PLO (himself in ignominious flight), with a similar stirring
message, even more unrealistic, in which he apparently foresaw a
Vietnam-type guerrilla war developing in Palestine. Extracts follow
Today, the oppressed Arab people and the disaster-
ridden Palestinians have stood up. . .
... I believe that having taken up arms, the
revolutionary Arab people of Palestine and the entire
Arab people will not lay down their arms and, like the
heroic Vietnamese people, will fight on unflinchingly,
resolutely and stubbornly until final victory. (75:73)
While Soviet leadership and support were to continue to prevail
after the June War, at this moment such irresponsible Chinese advice
(considering the continuing Arab disaster) was less than helpful in
the hard-pressed Soviet effort to persuade the Arabs to get the best
terms they could out of their collapse.
A similar message of cheer was sent to President Nasser and
must have reached him in the nadir of his defeat and despair!
D-Plus 2: Wednesday 7 June
USSR Urges Unconditional Cease-Fire
The disarray of the Arab-Soviet cause on this Wednesday of War
Week was extensive and conspicuous and painful. That afternoon in
Cairo a desperate Nasser finally acknowledged defeat and via the
Soviet Ambassador requested the USSR to obtain a cease-fire. This
request was promptly translated into action, via Kosygin and Johnson,
with Fedorenko demanding and obtaining an emergency session of the


280
In extreme and prolonged crisis, the physical and mental state
and endurance of the leaders begin to play an important, if largely
indeterminate, part in decision-making, e.g., Eden and Dulles in 1956
and Kennedy's ExCom team over Cuba in 1962. The seven-hour time
difference between Moscow and Washington in this crisis had the
effect of forcing Washington to get up early to respond to Moscow's
messages; but, on the other side, of keeping the Kremlin leaders up
all night (as appears to have happened this date) to respond to
Washington.
USSR Breaks with Arabs over Cease-Fire
A Soviet about-face, finally, on this day--even at the risk of
exposing serious differences with its Arab clients--is spotlighted
by Bar-Zohar thus. At 7:10 p.m. (2:10 a.m., Moscow time), the
Security Council unanimously approved one of the shortest resolutions
in its history. In Israel's responding speech Eban praised the vote
and declared that Israel would comply on condition that the other side
also complied. But when the roll was called, the Arab representatives
declared that they would not accept the resolution. Consequently,
the war continued.
Noteworthy here also is Bar-Zohar's assessment, consistent with
the thesis of this research, that "Soviet policy . ventures to
the very brink of the abyss and then backtracks" (11:232-233).
Especially in this peak, hostilities phase.
Painful though it was to suffer the public exposure, the USSR
found itself at the UN separating itself from the Arab cause, albeit


42
prelude to the May-June crisis. In both the Mediterranean and its
Pacific equivalent, the Sea of Japan, Soviet ships began a policy of
deliberate harassment of US Navy ships, of a type already familiar
in the Baltic and Black Seas, which the Soviet Union had long claimed
were "closed seas" (101:346).
1 May: Nasser's Speech
Just before the onset of the May crisis, in his May Day speech,
Nasser warned Israel, but in a way to indicate that the Sinai move
had not yet been decided on. He felt obligated to defend himself
against the charge that he had betrayed the Palestinian cause. He
explained that his fighter planes did not have the range to reach
the Syrian border. He was willing to send Egyptian planes and pilots
to be stationed in Syria, but the offer had been turned down. There
was no specific promise of aid to the Syrians. His speech, in fact,
tended to overlook the Israeli question (140:96).
It is possible, of course, that this May Day speech was deliber
ately deceptive, to cover the forthcoming, already agreed-upon crisis
scenario.
Even now, long after the Six-Day War, it is remarkable how
quickly and irreversibly Nasser abandoned his long-standing policies,
and his apparent greater concern for inter-Arab politics than the
problem of Israel. This major May Day speech gave no warning whatsoever
of the momentous crisis that now lay only ten days off.


Syrian Instabi1ity and Irresponsibility
In the immediate prelude to the May crisis, the Syrian responsi
bility (or, rather, irresponsibility) for the June War developed as
follows. Both the Soviet leaders and Nasser had apparently thought
that the Egypt-Syria treaty would restrain the Syrians, but it had
the opposite effect. Under the umbrella of the treaty, with (as they
thought) the Egyptian Army at their beck and call, the Syrians could
roar and posture in a manner that would otherwise have been too rash
even for them. It was clear by early May that they, not Nasser, had
the initiative.
A revealing, first-person insight into the madness that was
Syria on the verge of crisis is provided by Miles Copeland, a former
CIA agent in the Middle East:
Although I had no contact with the Syrians, Egyptian
friends who met with Syrian leaders during the buildup
period have assured me that the Syrians really wanted
war and that they were confident that they would win
it--with the help of the Egyptians, of course. At the
same time, I disagree with the numerous writers who say
that the Egyptians also estimated themselves strong
enough to defeat the Israelis. Nasser told me himself
of a conversation with Field Marshal Amer, only a week
before the war started, in which he berated Amer for
being "ten years behind the times" and for the Egyptian
Army's not being capable of defeating a lot of Yemeni
hopheads, let alone a modern, well-trained army like
the Israelis'. (30:280-281)
Of his major allies and opponents in the 1967 debacle, Nasser
seemed, afterwards, most bitterly critical of Syria's role in this
prelude to war, according to PLO chief Shuqairy's memoirs. Nasser
told Shuqairy that, while he had publicly declared several times his
full responsibility for the debacle, it was the Ba'ath party of Syria


344
Nasser Purges His Army
John Scott reported from an extensive Middle East survey trip,
supported by his own extensive experience living and working many
years in the USSR, the effect of the June War debacle on Soviet views
and Soviet-Egyptian relations. He found both the Soviet government
and Soviet citizens shocked and disappointed with the outcome of
the war. The hundreds of Soviet advisers "frothed with frustrated
impotence as Arab armies broke and ran, abandoning their equipment
and exposing themselves to lethal attacks by Israeli air." He reports
hearing of this reaction from a Russian officer in Egypt: "If it
had been our army we would have shot every tenth man, and the rest
would have dug in and fought." In the coming rebuilding effort, the
Soviet Union was to demand and get the power to order summary dis
missal of high officers whom they did not trust (142:118).
Even though the people had reaffirmed their faith in Nasser,
and had kept him in power, there were still severe problems for
the Soviet Union in preserving its Mid-East position built on Nasser.
A threat arose immediately from Nasser's own military leaders as he
began to purge them in order to rebuild an effective army. He de
scribed this crisis subsequently in a November 1967 speech:
The first problem I ran into right after the 10th
was on the 11th. You do not know what took place on
the 11th. On the 11th there was trouble within the
armed forces after I had issued--or rather as a conse
quence of my issuing--an order for the appointment
of a new commander in chief for the armed forces and
for the replacement of all the chiefs of staff at
that time.
. . This situation began to affect the army . .
it began to affect the armed forces and it looked as if
we were heading for civil war and there was danger of a
serious split. . (75:706-707)


U.S. carrier (orces o o o o Soviet fleet U.S. marines o o o British ships
Figure 1. Movements of naval forces in Mediterranean during buildup phase (63:69).
Source: Reprinted from Multicrises: Sea Power and Global Politics in the Missile Age by
Jonathan Trumbull Howe, by permission of The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Copyright 1971 by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


293
Johnson hastened by hotline to reassure the Soviet leaders that
the planes launched to assist were limited to this relief mission.
Kosygin promptly responded and passed the information on to the Egyp
tians (11:246).
It might be added here, in terms of crisis management, that this
attack might make sense were the Israelis ruthless enough to plan and
direct it as a means to put distance between themselves and the US,
in order to isolate both America and the USSR from the imminent Israeli
conquest of the Arab world.
The attack on Liberty was a tense problem for the US, especially
in the initial doubt as to whether the source of the attack might
be Soviet or Egyptian. Howe's account adds some details, while also
adding to the mystery. The resulting Naval Court of Inquiry concluded
that the attack had been unprovoked, and that the Israeli attackers
had had "ample opportunity to identify Liberty correctly." In attempt
ing to arrive at a possible explanation, Admiral Wylie suggested that
the Israeli pilots were "tense, eager and a little trigger happy."
A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official could only add that the
pilots evidently decided to attack "without reference back to head
quarters" (68:103).
In any case the Liberty positioning appears to have been as fool
ishly ill-considered and provocative as in the subsequent Pueblo case,
and potentially explosive had the US reacted too quickly or overreacted
on mistaken assumptions. Howe's comment is apt: it was fortunate that
the attack did not occur until the fourth day of the war during one
of the periods of reduced US-Soviet tension (68:104).


374
Pro-Arab demonstrations were organized in the USSR in early July
and can be considered evidence of the frantic Soviet recovery efforts
in this winddown stage of the crisis. These demonstrations were
often reported at considerably greater length than actual developments
in the Middle East. The New Times wrote, for example, "At thousands
of meetings the workers, collective farmers and intellectuals of the
Soviet Union condemned the Israeli aggressors and their Imperialist
backers, . voiced their solidarity with the embattled Arab peoples"
and organized help to "war victims" (110:17-18).
This is especially interesting for its lack of timeliness. No
such demonstrations appeared during the buildup stage or the actual
fighting. Now, in the disillusioned wake of the war, such demonstra
tions were probably conceived for double propaganda effect: in the
Arab world, and at home, where evidence of popular support for Israel
and scorn for the Arab allies was widely reported.
Nasser's months-later speech (of 23 November 1967) has this segment
that demonstrates that both he and his Soviet mentor must have known
they were indulging in a grandstand, cover-up, morale-building exer
cise, and that Israel was not going to be moved out of her conquests
by or at the UN.
To tell the truth, neither we nor our friends
attached any great hopes to the session, as far as
the elimination of the consequences of the aggression
was concerned. The main thing about the session was
to awaken world public opinion and to goad the inter
national community into action. (75:711)


CHAPTER II
IMMEDIATE BACKGROUND (1965-1967)
Global Setting
Broad Perspective
The Soviet leadership, following its dramatic replacement of the
ebullient Khrushchev in October 1964, was as yet untested in any major
crisis. Yet the ingredients that were to produce the forthcoming Mid-
East crisis were present in the global setting, and simmering.
This was the apparent essence of the Soviet global view: while
making a superficial commitment to dtente, the US under President
Johnson's leadership was on the offensive, pushing the USSR around
seemingly at will. Dtente did not hinder US invasion of the Dominican
Republic in 1965, or, beginning that same year, a massive escalation in
Vietnam, including intensive bombing of a Soviet client and ally.
Furthermore, in the developing Third World, the USSR had sustained
a succession of stunning defeats in areas it had once so proudly hailed
as victories for the socialist, or at least noncapitalist, camp. There
was Sukarno's downfall in Indonesia, and loss of a considerable Soviet
investment there. There were the overthrows of Ben Bella in Algeria
and Nkrumah in Ghana. And in the Mid-East's center, Nasser himself
was both in decline and suspect as an unreliable and difficult client
who gave repeated evidence of "using" the USSR for his own nationalistic
purposes.
20


200
poised in central Sinai in a position to strike across the
Negev and sever communications with Eilat. And the second,
and far more alarming, development was the spectacular
rapprochement of King Hussein of Jordan and President
Nasser on 30 May. (67:25)
Again, looking over this crisis history, one is forced to wonder:
why did Hussein take this step, so disastrous for him and his country's
self-preservation? Why did Nasser take it, if he was indeed compromise-
minded and now restrained by the USSR? Why was no one seemingly moni
toring the crisis in Moscow? For it was just such a united front of
her enemies in 1956 that had moved Israel to a preemptive attack then,
in accordance with a vital principle in her security concept.
Israel warns
Both public and private warnings from Israel this date revealed
to the perceptive that she was moving toward war. Eban told reporters
that Israel was like a coiled spring; that the period of waiting
could be measured in "days or at most weeks, certainly not months."
That same day Eban helped Eshkol draft a letter to President Johnson
in which he bluntly stated that "the continuation of this position
[of waiting] for any considerable time is out of the question."
By the night of 30 May the possibility that Israel would undertake
unilateral action--and soon--had thus been communicated to the US and
to the world (138:442).
Possibly the USSR had now in effect washed its hands of Nasser,
feeling unable to direct or control him, and, having privately warned
him, wanted to detach itself from developing events. Otherwise, the
setting off at this time of the key Soviet leaders on routine visits
away from Moscow appears incredibly foolish or ill-informed.


358
during their hour of need the Soviet leaders could hope to capitalize
on exacerbated anti-Western sentiments among the Arabs as well as
to emphasize the increased Arab dependence on Soviet political and
military assistance. Young concludes that
A policy of coordination in the aftermath of the 1967
crisis might well have laid the Soviets open to the
twin charges of adventurism and capitulationism within
the Communist movement, thereby evoking unpleasant
memories of the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis
of 1962. (175:61,66-67)
Soviet Postwar Strategy Develops
The postwar Soviet strategy in the winddown stage of the Middle
East crisis could be seen to develop as a blend of two strategies:
a strategy of uncompromising firmness toward the outcome of the war
itself, designed to rebuild Arab morale and prevent Israel's military
victory from becoming a political victory as well; and a strategy of
caution and moderation with regard to the means by which the status
quo ante was to be achieved, designed to discourage fresh, ill-
conceived Arab ventures which could lead to new defeats. The Soviet
leaders were determined that disastrous one-sided engagements like
those in 1956 and 1967 should not be repeated (103:9).
This is Eran and Singer's evaluation of Moscow's policy during
the immediate crisis winddown. The immediate and urgent priority
was to prevent a drastic deterioration of its position in the Arab
world. Its failure to provide concrete, effective assistance to
the Arabs, in accordance with a commitment real or imagined, was a
traumatic experience for the pro-Soviet elements in Arab politics


237
This would seem to indicate that Moscow was on this late date still
so ignorant as to where the source of war danger lay, or else so fool
ishly confident that Israel was about to replay its 1956 attack-
retreat fiasco, that it warned the wrong party to desist!
US and Egypt: sincerity or deception?
Various US-Egypt consultations were underway during these early
June days, but they were probably not bona fide. Rather, they give
evidence of reflecting an Egyptian intention to forestall American
action on the issue of the Strait (110:201). But, as discussed
earlier, they may also have been a case of stalling--not bona fide--
from the US side!
Rodinson, highly sympathetic to the Arab/Nasser viewpoint, pro
vides a description of Yost's mission in the waning days of peace
which stands in incredibly sharp contrast to other accounts. By
his upbeat version, Yost concluded a secret agreement in principle
with Riyad that included maintaining open diplomatic channels; letting
the Tiran question go before the Hague Court; and sending Vice-President
Mohieddin to Washington to negotiate a compromise. He adds that also
"Egypt was inclined to allow oil through the Strait of Tiran." Yost
left Cairo on 3 June, "having given an assurance that Israel would
not attack as long as diplomatic activity was maintained." Both Moscow
and Tel Aviv were informed of this progress at compromise (134:207).
Other accounts either report that Yost was rebuffed, with Nasser
"too busy to see him"--a studied insult to President Johnson, whose
emissary he was--or else label this entire show of minimal reasonableness
by Egypt a calculated device to stall and disrupt US plans to force the
Strait blockade.


176
Under-Secretary Rostow at the State Department, he conferred with
people at the Pentagon, where he must have learned of the doubts
that existed from Secretary McNamara on down about the multilateral
fleet. It seems unlikely that he was told that Israel should strike
on her own, but he no doubt was led to believe that the US would
take no immediate action to reopen the Strait or to convince Nasser
to back down in the Sinai. Amit's subsequent report to the Israeli
Cabinet, it has been asserted, strengthened the forces calling for
war. In Washington, some top-level State Department officials
suspected that the Pentagon was undercutting their policy, but in
the prevailing chaos it was difficult to know what was happening in
different parts of the bureaucracy (130:522-523).
D-Minus 8: Sunday 28 May
UNEF roles: Canada vs. India
On this date Egypt asked the Canadian contingent of the UNEF to
leave Egyptian soil within 48 hours "because of the bellicose state
ments of Canadian officials." Canada complied; her troops arrived
back in Canada on 30 May.
These "bellicose statements" were the Canadian objections to
U Thant's rapid withdrawal of UNEF, which again makes suspect Nasser's
and others' subsequent attempts to put the blame on U Thant. If
Nasser had really not wanted to be pushed into withdrawing UNEF, he
should have encouraged Canada's line, and opposed India's and Yugo
slavia's, instead of the opposite.


SOVIET CRISIS MANAGEMENT
AS DEMONSTRATED IN THE 1967 MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AND WAR
By
JOHN WERNER PALM
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


62
The sources of our Syrian brothers and our own reliable
information were categorical on this. Even our friends
in the Soviet Union informed the pariiamentary delegation
which was visiting Moscow early last month that Israel
had a calculated intention against Syria. We deemed it
our duty not to remain with hands folded. It was a duty
of Arab solidarity, and also a guarantee for our
national security. (24:200-201)
Egyptian government sources later revealed that the Soviet friend
who transmitted this warning was Kosygin.
On 23 July 1967, the fifteenth anniversary of the Egyptian Revolu
tion, Nasser returned to the subject of his Soviet information. To
his earlier speech he added that Syria had reported a mobilization
of eighteen Israeli brigades on her border, and that Egypt's investiga
tion confirmed "no less than thirteen" such brigades (24:200-201).
On 19 June Kosygin repeated to the UN General Assembly what he
had told the Egyptian parliamentarians in Moscow:
In those days, the Soviet Government, and I believe others,
too, began receiving information to the effect that the
Israeli Government had timed for the end of May a swift
strike at Syria in order to crush it and then carry the
fighting over into the territory of the United Arab
Republic. (24:201-202)
It has been suggested in some quarters that the USSR may have
gained access to an Israeli contingency plan and, mistakenly or delib
erately, treated it as a scheduled operational plan. But for such sup
posed "hard intelligence" all the details included in the various
charges are so vague and contradictory: dates vary from 17 May to
Kosygin's "end of May"; Syria alone is the target in most charges,
but Kosygin made Egypt the second step; the "phantom brigades" are
always dramatically (and unrealistically) massing, the number varying;
Nasser even "confirms" Syria's eighteen-brigade figure as "no less than
13."


17
Brezhnev-Kosygin styles, and some evidence of varying hardline vs.
moderate influences on the leadership.
Superpower Motivational Symmetry in Mid-East
The essential symmetry of US and Soviet Middle East positions,
within which the recurring crises have been managed, has developed
despite the endeavors by each to claim a predominant role at the-expense
of the other. Constantly repeating the theme of concern for the security
of its nearby southern borders, the USSR has endeavored to portray the
US and its Sixth Fleet as an imperialist interloper that has no rightful
place in the eastern Mediterranean. The US, for its part, influenced
by its NATO ties and strategic and economic interests, has tried with
an unpersuasive and oversimplified containment policy--centered orig
inally on the ill-fated Baghdad Pact--to exclude the Soviet Union from
any significant Middle East role. Both powers may be said to have been
frustrated in their maximum objectives, to exclude or drive out the
other, while successfully accomplishing their minimum objectives, not
to be driven out, and to see their area clients survive.
French author Andr Fontaine describes the effective limits to
Soviet or US gains or losses in the Mid-East in these terms:
What Washington is determined to prevent is the destruction
of Israel, just as Moscow is committed to preventing the
Egyptian and Syrian regimes from being destroyed.
These parallel commitments--and each side is fully aware
of them--establish the limits within which each power is
free to act. (54:128)
Jacob C. Hurewitz finds that the important, yet nonvital, signifi
cance of the area to the two powers produces a prudent restraint to


149
intervention. They report that Badran received affirmative replies
to both requests (84:116-117).
Pro-Arab Lacouture has a remarkably contrasting version of Badran's
reception in Moscow by Kosygin that, if accepted, could go far toward
supporting Soviet claims to having attempted restraint of Nasser.
This version of the Soviet reaction (subsequently presented in public
by Nasser with quite the opposite interpretation, that of full Soviet
support) would also indict Nasser for the most reckless gambling
from here on to 5 June, as he kept escalating toward disaster! Ac
cording to this version, the Egyptian arms request was rudely rejected.
Kosygin criticized the "regrettable errors" committed by Nasser: the
demonstration of force in Sinai and the Tiran blockade. He also
apparently recommended that petroleum necessary to Israel not be
included in the strategic products blockaded, and he advised the
gradual withdrawal of troops from Sinai (89:305).
What can be made of such a profound discrepancy between these
two versions of this exchange? Badran's visit to Moscow remains
one of the most intriguing elements in the analysis of the respective
Soviet-Egyptian performances at crisis management. For Moscow did
not report the results of this conference; but Nasser did, with
exultation, although other and subsequent reports, in addition to
Lacouture's, state that Kosygin's reaction and message carried almost
the opposite import of Nasser's portrayal. Yet the USSR did not pub
licly repudiate Nasser's widely proclaimed version, despite the commit
ment it at least implied of Soviet support for Nasser's moves.


223
Soviet/Arab confidence
The crisis appeared over to those on the periphery, and perhaps
to those for whom Israel's deception was intended, the Soviet leader
ship especially. Bar-Zohar recounts two of the minor, but revealing,
misperceptions. At a lively Soviet Embassy party in Washington, the
Russians reassured their foreign diplomatic guests that the crisis was
over: "Nasser has won a total victory." And the Soviet military
attache exulted to a group of guest attaches, "Israel has been liqui
dated," meanwhile pressing his palms together and turning them slowly
to indicate the effect of a total crushing (11:181).
In his memoirs Shuqairy, the controversial PLO leader, is very
critical of the various Palestinian groups he nominally represented
and in general headed. Yet on this date Shuqairy was clearly riding
the crest of the wave, not bucking it. He did nothing, in public at
least, to resist the trend. "We will continue guerrilla attacks in
Palestine," he told the correspondent of the Wall Street Journal.
"We expect our actions will lead to reactions from Israel--a chain
reaction. This will definitely lead to war; we know it, we accept
it" (72:144).
Tardy Nasser fears; war alert
There is considerable evidence that Israel's attack on 5 June
should have been expected, Arab forces should have been on maximum
alert, and Nasser should have known he had provoked Israel into
striking. On this date, for example, Heika1 perceptively warned in
his weekly column in al-Ahram that Israel must strike fast to shatter


394
Heikal went on to cite the Soviet citizen demand for more consumer
goods--as opposed to Mid-East adventuring. As a consequence, he recog
nized the leadership's disinterest in outside risks, particularly in
1967 on the eve of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the
Great October Revolution. "In this anniversary year," philosophized
Heikal, "the regime wants to present real achievements to the people,
not to expose itself to risks" (60:359,361).
Soviet Problems with Arab Divisions and Resistance
The Khartoum Arab conference beginning on 29 August not only
showed serious Arab divisions, but left the USSR with the problem
of selling its support for a moderate, political solution--in which
it was conspicuously unsuccessful--to such radicals as Algeria and
Syria.
At the conference, the Saudis and Egyptians accused each other
of causing the Arab defeat, the former maintaining that the dependence
of the "revolutionary" states on the USSR was one of the reasons for
the defeat. The UAR, Syria, Iraq and Algeria in turn charged Saudi
Arabia and Libya with violating the oil boycott, these same states
being themselves divided, however, on the means to be adopted for
eliminating "the consequences of the aggression." The UAR, like Jordan
and Tunisia, sought to employ political means, while Algeria and Syria
advocated the continuation of armed struggle and the initiation of
a popular war against Israel (135:471).
Surveying the enormous problems with reestablishing their col
lapsed Mid-East position, some Soviet leaders must have reflected


353
which had forced Czechoslovakia into an extremely one-sided posture
during the June War, she stated, in part, that the extreme standpoint
was forced
in an utterly undemocratic manner upon the public.
Resistance to this policy thus became first, the
struggle for the right to a just viewing of the
Arab-Israel conflict, and second, it became a part
of the struggle for democratization, against the
dictating of views by those in power. [She left
little doubt that this meant Moscow as well as No
votny.] And so in our country we arrived at the
extraordinary situation in which one's attitude to
the war in the Middle East became the criterion for
one's attitude in the internal crisis. ... My
choice in those times when I could not write the
objective truth . was silence on the subject.
Ra'anan adds that certain Polish Air Force officers gleefully
drank to the health of the victors in the Six-Day War as a way of
expressing their true opinion of the Soviet Union (131:504-505).
USSR Copes with Arab Extremist-Moderate Division
In the winddown period beginning now, it is of interest to note
how the USSR handled the difficult, thorny problem of managing a
policy line between the Arab extremists and moderates.
It soon became clear to the Soviet leaders that the restoration
of the status quo ante was no easy task and that the methods which it
initially chose for this purpose were not adequate. Apparent Soviet
expectations that the US would bring concrete pressure to bear upon
Israel to withdraw proved doomed to disappointment. Moscow failed
to appreciate US reluctance to repeat its post-Suez experience when
American pressure on Israel had unwittingly produced a major Soviet
political victory in the Arab world. Moreover, Moscow discovered to


422
In summary, I think our policy toward Egypt was
unquestionably sound, and it has already repaid us
in full. I'm still convinced my own judgments were
correct--despite the grumbling of those skunks,
those narrow-minded skunks who raised such a stink
and tried to poison the waters of our relations
with Egypt. (82:450)
Former US Ambassador to the USSR Foy D. Kohler has demonstrated
how the 1967 Mid-East bungling may be traced back to the last Soviet
trauma of leader replacement. He calls Khrushchev's overthrow in
1964 a "slick conspiracy" which required payoffs--which were to
prove unwise--in the form of important positions to Shelepin's
police-Komsomol (Communist Youth) group:
... It soon became clear that the top leadership
of both the armed forces and the secret police had
been brought into the operation. ... On the police
side, the head of the KGB, Alexander Shelepin, was
promoted to full membership in the Presidium of the
Central Committee of the Party; and his successor,
Vladimir Semichastny, was, like General Yepishev,
promoted from candidate to full member of the Central
Committee. (87:134)
Semichastny seems to have been both a hardline crony of Shelepin's
and an unintelligent incompetent--a dangerous combination for the
post of secret police chief!*
Another version of the succeeding power alignment has the leader
ship striving for stability--according to a 1964 post-Khrushchev
explanation made by Mikoyan to Party membership--by a balancing of
three age groups and their distinctive attitudes: the elders, in
cluding himself; the middle group, including Brezhnev and Kosygin,
aged (in 1964) about 56; and the younger group, in which he named
*Politica1 Diary editors speak of him with scorn as extremely
narrow-minded, as a man with barely a seventh-grade education, in
contrast to their respect for his successor, Andropov (106, No. 33:
243-244).


152
free navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba. Were he, by attack
ing first, to convert the issue formally into a battle
for the existence of Israel, the whole situation would
be altered. The great leap in the odds for an American
intervention that would occur then could very well scare
the Russians into a passive position, which would in turn
further increase the chances of American intervention to
near certainty. (137:300-301)
Later Nasser was to recall--but perhaps more to throw the blame
for the debacle elsewhere--that President Johnson's late night summons
in Washington to the Egyptian Ambassador, with a serious warning, had
acted to restrain him.
Heikal has recorded, from the Egyptian side, the sobering, deter
rent effect of the Soviet message and its dramatic delivery. Kosygin
urged Nasser not to go ahead with his reported attack plans at first
light (now only a few hours off), because "whoever fired the first
shot would be in an untenable political position." As friends, the
Russians "advised Egypt not to fire that shot" (61:244).
Throughout Nasser's postwar speech of 23 July 1967 there is
acknowledgement that he was deterred by the US (as well as the USSR)
from a preemptive strike, but that Israel was not so restrained by
either superpower. This conclusion must have been a galling one to
Nasser, and surely not one the USSR liked to see aired in a period
of Middle East bitterness and recrimination. These are the telling
words from this address:
... We knew, particularly in view of the international
situation, that we absolutely had to keep from firing
the first shot.
Had we done that we should have exposed ourselves to
disastrous consequences, which it was beyond our power
to endure. The first thing we should have had to face
was direct American military action against us, on the
pretext that it was we who had fired the first shot.
(75:622-623)


54
Aleksei Kosygin in his postwar (19 June) speech to the UNGA Emergency
Special Session.
In any case, given Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol's known personal
caution--as well as the earlier adverse world reaction to the November
1966 es Samu reprisal raid-authorization would not of itself inevit
ably mean action, or dictate what type or degree. And the Soviet
running together of the 9 May authorization with a mobilization that
fol1 owed Nasser's Sinai move a week later is deliberately misleading,
and constitutes a weak case.
Alternative pro-Arab views
Nutting, Nasser's biographer, professes to see a deep Israeli
plot--rather than a Soviet-Syrian-Egyptian one--in the onset of the
May crisis. He argues that the Israeli hawks due to a combination
of factors, including an economic slump, had overridden Eshkol's normal
caution and were determined to "bring Nasser to battle," out from
behind his UNEF protection. In this scenario, the depth and duration
of their strike into Syrian territory would depend on how long it
took to produce the required Egyptian reaction. To this end, they
would have deliberately set out to persuade the Russians, and hence
the Egyptians, that a major assault on Syria was imminent. By a clever
combination of calculated leakage, for the benefit of the Soviet
Embassy in Tel Aviv, and fictitious radio messages which they rightly
assumed would be picked up and relayed to Cairo by Russian ships
patrolling in the eastern Mediterranean, they made sure that Nasser
would be immediately informed that his Syrian ally was about to be
invaded (122:397-398).


380
pushed the enemy back and destroyed him. He boldly offered to sign
a mutual defense treaty with the USSR and proposed that the Russians
should, under its terms, provide air support to his troops in a cam
paign to push Israel back and liberate the conquered Arab territories.
But the Soviet President politely dampened Nasser's ardor. He was
not authorized, he said, to discuss a mutual defense treaty with
Egypt and thought that this was a rather delicate international
matter. Against Nasser's use of the analogy of Russia in World War
II, Podgorny invoked, somewhat indelicately, the analogy of Brest-
Litovsk, when revolutionary Russia realistically submitted to the
German diktat in order to salvage the essential revolution (137:411).
Interestingly, this tension of incompatible purposes--Egyptian
aggressiveness vs. Soviet caution--prevai1ed throughout the remainder
of Nasser's life and through the first three years of Sadat's rule,
until the latter was able to push through a resumption of the war
over a foot-dragging USSR afflicted with long and unpleasant memories
of 1967!
Podgorny was preceded in Egypt by one day by Soviet Army Chief
of Staff Marshal Matvey Zakharov and a large military delegation.
As a result of the Podgorny-Zakharov visit, substantial quantities
of Soviet military equipment were rushed to Egypt. Within one week
of the visit, in a most dramatic move, a reported 130 combat aircraft
had already been air-delivered.
According to Glassman, the Soviet leaders promised to assist
Egypt in rebuilding its armed forces, but "only on the condition that
incompetent and undesirable officers be removed from the Egyptian


450
In response to the author's query, in a follow-up letter dated 15
September 1976, Zhores Medvedev documented more fully and emphatically
his conviction that Yegorychev was more of a tough, hardline risk-
taker than either Whetten or Duevel has evaluated him to be.
As to Yegorychev1s ambassadorial assignment to Denmark in 1970,
Zhores Medvedev commented that the ambassadorial position was not
important, especially in a small country. This "disposal of Yegory
chev" he described as follows: "He was sent abroad and in this way
all his connections with his friends and possible supporters were
cut. ..."
There is much material in these Medvedev responses for serious
consideration in relation to the major findings of this research as
to Soviet crisis management. Should the author feel supported that
Brezhnev's typically cautious, low-risk Soviet policies prevailed--
or uneasy that Yegorychev and his group were seemingly ready to
insist, with unknown degree of support, on Soviet army intervention
in the June War, an action that would surely have blown it up into
an infinitely more dangerous US-Soviet confrontation?
12 July: Hardline Leader Shelepin Demoted
With the Brezhnev-Kosygin moderates again in firm control, the
demotion of hardline leader Shelepin was formalized with the Pravda
announcement on 12 July (two weeks after Yegorychev's downfall) that
he had been "unanimously elected Chairman of the Central Council of
Trade Unions," replacing Grishin (31, Mo. 28:21).
The trade union post was a convenient dumping ground; while pres
tigious it was politically meaningless. Some two-and-a-half months


187
decision for war, nevertheless, given the Israeli habit of making only
highly credible threats, there were elements included that should have
given the Soviet leaders food for serious reflection and urgent consul
tation with Nasser, if they wished to avert the oncoming war. The key
war-peace division of the Cabinet is reflected in these extracts of
Eshkol's speech:
The government of Israel expresses its view that the
blockade of the Straits of Tiran against Israeli shipping
is the equivalent to aggression against Israel. We shall
oppose it at the proper time in accordance with the right
of self-defense vested in every state.
The Government laid down directives for the continua
tion of political action in the world arena which are
designed to stimulate international forces to take effec
tive measures to ensure free international passage in
the Straits of Tiran. (75:23)
USSR persists in Vietnam connection
Under the title, "Soviet Spoor in Mid-East," journalists Rowland
Evans and Robert Novak presented material of considerable interest
which they attributed to an Israeli source reporting on a secret
talk in Moscow between an Israeli diplomat and a middle-level official
from the Soviet Foreign Office. The information was supposedly elicited
in the Israeli diplomat's attempt to determine Moscow's line on the
crisis. The gist was as follows (the article cautions that the Soviet
source "implied" rather than "stated"). Russia did encourage Nasser
to bring the Middle East pot to the edge of a boil, but had no idea
Nasser would move so precipitously. The real reason Moscow wanted
Nasser to make trouble was to bring indirect pressure on the US to
tone down the war in Vietnam. The USSR chose the Middle East because
the ingredients were all there to make the US sweat without directly


309
of the war, and why Russian advisers had not been withdrawn to safer
areas. Firing instructions in Russian were intercepted and some
Russians were captured in the Israeli assault. Perhaps Moscow felt
that the Israelis could be deterred from attacking the heavily forti
fied positions; instead they were further provoked into action. Pos
sibly, if Moscow considered the artillery positions impregnable, using
Soviet advisers to direct the defense made sense; Moscow could salvage
some prestige from the general Arab disaster by claiming to have
saved Syria.
In any case, Israel began her move against the Syrian artillery
positions at 11:30 a.m. (Israeli time) this date, Friday 9 June
(68:116-117).
With the rather sudden Israeli decision to attack Syria as well--
now that Egypt and Jordan were conquered--(cheered on, even egged
on, Israel claimed, by the US) the tension picked up again to a new
peak it was to reach on Saturday, the 10th, the last day of the Six-
Day War.
St. John in the Eban biography contributes valuable information
on the Israeli and US roles in the decision, scope and persistence of
the Israeli assault on Syria in these last two days of the Six-Day
War. Eban reported that important American officials had hinted to
him that it would be what they called "funny11 if Syria, which had
started it all, were to get off scot-free. He had been given the
definite impression in Washington that some action against Syria would
not be received without sympathy if it was limited in time. Eban
argued it was wrong to be too squeamish about going after Syria; but


288
Egypt's Forlorn Hope of Counterattack
Nutting's Nasser throws some light on the confusing Egyptian delay
at the UN in accepting the US-Soviet joint cease-fire proposal, even
after Nasser had supposedly requested it. It seems that el-Kony's
rejection at the UN on 7 June was in response to instructions based
on false information from Amer, who was claiming that his Sinai forces,
far from being defeated, were regrouping for a counterattack. Not
until the next day was even Amer forced to admit that his army was
broken and--abandoning all its arms and equipment--retreating in dis
order and panic across Sinai (122:418-419).
The Soviet impatience with their client's delay in acceptance
can well be imagined, considering that even so they proceeded to act
as if only Israel had refused, whereas only Israel had accepted!
The talk of an Egyptian counterattack built on a mirage could not have
won much Russian respect either!
Sixth Fleet Activity
Meanwhile both superpowers' fleets had been neutralizing each
other in the Mediterranean under conditions of high tension. But with
the passing of the intense crisis of the day before, US Sixth Fleet
attack force movements signaled a relaxation this date. By noon the
carriers had returned to a position about sixty miles south of the
eastern end of Crete and were proceeding westward (68:98).
Johnson Sees Need for Soviet Face-Saving
Some of the President's memoir account for this date warrants
mentioning here. At a National Security Council meeting, assessing


224
the Arab blockade and thus reestablish her psychological security, or
disintegrate from within. Also on this date Egyptian Field Marshal
Amer in his War Command No. 2" alerted his troops and field commanders
to prepare for an impending attack (24:307).
Nasser's testimony as to his predictions of Israel's attack both
weakens any argument as to being treacherously surprised and indicts
him for provoking Israel with his escalating demands and threats.
As of 23 July, in retrospect, Nasser said he knew the Israeli
Cabinet changes increased the war probability--previously estimated
at 80%--to 100%! He added,
On Friday, 2 June, I myself . attended a meeting
at which all the senior officers of the armed forces
were present. . .
At that meeting ... I said that we should expect
the enemy to strike within 48 to 72 hours. . .
... I also said that I expected the aggression to
take place on Monday 5 June, and that the first blow
would be struck at our air force. . (75:623)
Israel plans lightning war
Suez in 1956 had seen the contrast in fait accompli terms between
the Israeli quick thrust and conquest of Sinai and the painfully slow,
poorly conceived British-French attack on Egypt, which permitted world
opinion to be aroused and finally stop the invasion before it could
accomplish its objectives. Always aware of the time element in rela
tion to possible intervention, in the form of resistance, cease-fires,
etc., Eban on this date told his colleagues that, in his opinion, the
shorter the clash, the less likely Soviet intervention will be" (138:446).


418
Soviet leaders must have been especially mortified to have had their
proxies lay the war's groundwork so successfully for the enemy!
Adverse Global Effects of Proxy Failure
on Superpower Prestige
In what is commonly labeled as the linkage or interdependence
problem in superpower prestige and commitments, the failure of its
Mid-East proxies proved to have severe adverse effects for the USSR
in areas beyond the Middle East. China was of course bitterly and
incessantly critical of Soviet performance. Cuba criticized the
Soviet abandonment of its clients to their fate. But most serious
of all, in an area of much greater meaning for Soviet security
interests, Eastern Europe began to show disaffection from Soviet
Arab policies and then Soviet policies in general. Soviet and
satellite government endeavors to suppress the unrest only led to
more severe disorders which culminated in the Czech uprising and
Soviet invasion the next year.
Failure of Both Superpowers at
Crisis Management/War Avoidance
Although the Israeli victory objectively advanced US interests
to such a degree as to squelch any grumbling at the Israeli preemptive
assault, still in retrospect there were elements to give both super
powers grounds for dismay and reconsideration of their policies and
roles in such crises-by-proxy. For the USSR had not prevented its
clients from provoking a disastrous war, with the unrealized expecta
tion of Soviet support; and the US had not prevented its client from


205
A strong presumption is that in the last days of May,
perhaps under the influence of his top generals, Nasser
was seized by a kind of euphoria which spread to all
Egyptians. . Ambition had committed Nasser to
another basic mistake. He had . left the Israelis
no room for maneuver. (4:483,486)
The scope of Egyptian--and by their inaction, Soviet--misealculation
at this point in the crisis buildup is well put by Badeau:
In all this it is clear that the Egyptians were
badly misled when they assumed that the world of 1967
was so like the world of 1956 that hostilities would
be prevented by international action. American-Soviet
cooperation was not possible, as it had been eleven
years earlier. The Soviets were under pressure from
their dispute with China and at odds with the United
States over Vietnam. The problems of the NATO alli
ance, with the defection of France and the weakening
of the British position, made united Western action
highly improbable--as American failure to rally support
against the closing of the Gulf of Aqaba showed. Israel
had strengthened its political and foreign policy of
self-determination and had increased its military
power. 1967 was not 1956, and it was a calamitous
miscalculation to assume that Arabs could confront
Israel with impunity behind the shield of an expected
international intervention. (9:109)
Soviet counter to Sixth Fleet
Because of the sizeable ten-ship Soviet reinforcement of its
Mediterranean fleet beginning this date (perhaps having the unfortu
nate effect on the Arabs of helping to lull them into an unwarranted
sense of security), it may be appropriate to put this movement into
perspective. First of all, it had to have been ordered by 22 May in
order to permit the required eight-day notice to Turkey for Strait
passage. Hence, it may have been a counter, at the time of Nasser's
blockade announcement, to President Johnson's move of the Sixth Fleet
carrier attack forces toward the eastern Mediterranean. Also, these


86
he surely did not inform his restive generals that this was merely a
step in a political scenario enactment. For his officers are shown
during this period as lusting for battle with Israel, wanting to
use their "shiny Soviet war toys," and impatient with Nasser's politi
cal maneuverings. Secondly, reflecting U Thant's second objection,
by keeping the negotiations at the field level, Nasser may well have
intended--as U Thant seemed to suspect--to "have his cake and eat it
too," to order UNEF aside just enough to permit him to threaten Israel
(for inter-Arab prestige purposes mostly) without losing its protection
for his own borders and forces. U Thant's sensitive, quick reaction
seemed to reflect advance knowledge or suspicion that such action might
be attempted. His resistance is understandable, for such an action,
if acceded to, would have been a grossly unneutral manipulation of the
UNEF, which could only bring discredit to it and UN peacekeeping
efforts in general.
U Thant's role controversy
The case against U Thant--even to the extent of calling the sub
sequent events "U Thant's War"--goes substantially as follows. U
Thant's immediate response was that the UAR was entitled to request
withdrawal; such action would have to be total, not partial; if so
requested, he would immediately comply. This reaction has been widely
criticized ever since--for its haste, for the lack of prior consulta
tion with Israel and/or other states involved in the 1956-57 UNEF
commitments, and for his overreaction, that is, complete withdrawal,
in response to Egypt's request for partial withdrawal. However much


266
for the Egyptian revolution. Unaffected by reforms in Egyptian society,
the officers continued to live "a corrupt, feudal and exploitative
existence." Scheer adds that one of Nasser's top generals was found
dead drunk in a Cairo hotel during the first days of the war, and that
the first demand of captured Egyptian officers was that they not be
grouped with their men, and the second that their trunks of clothing
be looked after (140:93)!
While this analysis is a particularly bitter one, the subsequent
Nasser-led, Soviet-prompted reforms in the Egyptian army support a
conclusion that Nasser pushed his confrontation with Israel in May
while "leaning on a reed."
Almost two years later, in a Newsweek interview by Arnauld de
Borchgrave, Nasser gave this version of the cause of Egypt's collapse
on 5 June, and his attitude toward Soviet nonparticipation:
Q. If the events of June 1967 were repeated, what would
happen this time? Would Russia intervene?
A. We were not waiting for Russia last time, and we will
not be waiting for her if there is a next time. We
will defend ourselves. What helped the Israelis the
last time was not so much their cleverness, but the
conceit and complacency of our generals. They felt
Israel would never dare to attack. They overesti
mated their own strength. And because of that, they
failed to take elementary precautions. (156:279)
Israel Effectively Manipulates Battlefield Silence
Counting on Egyptian delay in reporting its bad news, thus giving
her more time to extend her conquest, Israel deliberately kept her
own populace in an agony of doubt by not publishing any communiqus
until early in the morning of 6 June (1 a.m.). As one result, and


202
There is other, supporting evidence that both Nasser and Hussein
had at least six days' notice of Israel's planned attack. Sa'd Jum'ah,
then Jordan's prime minister, related in his memoirs that Hussein told
Nasser on 30 May that he had information from numerous sources, some
of them foreign, that Israel was going to attack the Egyptian airfields
by surprise on 5 or 6 June (41:35).
This is additional evidence that Nasser was not surprised, had
deliberately provoked and now welcomed the attack, came to grief only
because of a colossal misjudgment as to his military prospects in the
war to come.
Nasser and Amer confident
At this stage in the developing crisis then, Nasser and his gen
erals expected and welcomed war with Israel, in a gross misjudgment as
to their military prospects. Draper relates how the then Jordanian
Prime Minister, who accompanied King Hussein to Cairo, heard Field
Marshal Amer say that the fight against Israel would last only a
few days and "be a picnic" (41:36).
Nasser is reported to have declared on this day:
The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are
stationed on the borders of Israel. Behind them stand
the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and the
whole Arab nation. This deed will astound the world.
The hour of decision has arrived. (109:31)
Sixth Fleet deterrence
The US under President Johnson was clearly making deterrent use
of its Mediterranean Fleet, and being firm, yet prudent and restrained,
with this instrument. On this date the US Defense Department announced


3
crisis management" (118:258). Certainly skillful and successful crisis
management is now central to superpower politics, with the prospective
consequences of failure being nuclear disaster.
Terminology
A crisis, as envisaged in this paper, can be described as
a hostile confrontation of two or more nations arising from
conflicting policies toward a geographic or problem area,
which, by virtue of the use or suggested use of force,
engenders a substantial increase in, and high levels of,
tension. (141:470)
As applied to the superpowers, there are also other important char
acteristics of international crises which require consideration. Such
crises involve high threats to important values and objectives of the
participants. The protagonists act from belief that the outcome of
their crises will have far-reaching import for their future relation
ship and their future power and status in the international community.
The increased rapidity of events almost inevitably means that decision
makers will be faced with great uncertainties and imponderables, and
that they will feel a strong sense of urgency. Further, there is evi
dent a sense of reduced control over events and their effects. One of
the hallmarks of an international crisis--in Thomas Sc he1 ling's words--
is "its sheer unpredictability" (169:25-26).
Crisis management, as envisaged in this paper, can be defined as
the art of conducting policy in a crisis not merely so as
to avoid the nuclear catastrophe which both sides wish to
avoid, but also so as to inflict a diplomatic defeat on
the adversary. . (23:147)
Crisis management is essentially an attempt to balance and reconcile
a complex mixture of diverse elements: bilateral competition, in which


168
The Soviet Ambassador brought him no assurance of the
slightest value. An insistent demand for peace [in the
face of the blockade and the massing of Egyptian
troops] could be regarded only as effrontery. (19:338)
On the other hand, this day's early hours' Soviet caution and
admonition to Nasser, as well as to Eshkol, may have reflected sudden
Soviet uncertainty as to the adequacy of their own intelligence and
the degree of their control over Nasser's moves.
USSR both restrains and misleads Nasser
Another interesting element in the Soviet Ambassador's early
hours calls on Nasser was perhaps a false lulling based on serious
misjudgment of Israel. According to an Arab source (Beirut newspaper
al-Hayah editorial), the Soviet Ambassador also assured Nasser that
Israel was neither willing nor able to attack (43:92).
There was a temporary pause, an apparent drawing back, in Soviet
policy on this date, dramatized by this urgent early hours call on
Nasser by the Soviet Ambassador, one of the most intriguing and
debated episodes of the crisis. The implication was that the Soviet
Union considered the international ramifications of an Arab-Israeli
war too explosive to risk setting it off with an Egyptian attack.
By putting pressure on both the Egyptians and the Israelis to abstain
from striking the first blow, the Soviet leaders seemingly tried to
stop in mid-course what they had started with their charge of an
Israeli plan to invade Syria. If they failed, this assurance which
they gave Egypt at the same time may have been largely responsible
(43:100-101).


59
causing widespread alarm and adverse reactions at the UN and in Washing
ton, in addition to its effects on Israel's adversaries.
According to Kimche/Bawly, this Israeli warning came hot on the
heels of two urgent Soviet messages warning of imminent Israeli attack.
The second was most specific, pinpointing the Israeli attack to the
hour of 0400 on 17 May (84:88-89).
It is, of course, possible that the Soviet leaders too may have
been trying to curb the reckless Syrian terror attacks with these
warnings. But it appears far more likely that they were primarily
trying to deter Israel and get Nasser to move at this stage, and to
"save" rather than deter the uncontrollable Syrians. The selection of
such a precise, near-at-hand time and date for the Israeli attack,
whether manufactured by the KGB's notorious "department of disinforma
tion," or based on an exposed Israeli plan or contingency plan, cer
tainly could be expected to persuade Nasser that he had to act at
once, without time for reflection or, perhaps, adequate verification.
This time and date, early 17 May, should be kept in mind in what
was to prove to be frantic Egyptian army activity, in relation to
UNEF, in the late evening of 16 May.
Ro'i's documentary study includes an analysis of the strange role
of the Egyptian pariiamentary delegation in Moscow (headed by Anwar
Sadat) as a supposed messenger to Nasser of Soviet intelligence warn
ings. Ro'i states that at a farewell reception on 11 May Presidium
Chairman Podgorny told this delegation that Israeli troops were being
concentrated on the border for an attack on Syria (135:437). This is
the only known instance in which the intelligence source, time and
setting are so pinpointed.


260
a half-day away from the war's action while the Sixth Fleet, with
its carrier aircraft, was only a half-hour away (71:71-72,79-80).
From considerable political and Navy research into this subject,
and writing about the same time, Howe paints a somewhat different,
more upbeat picture. He records that the limiting distance was 200
miles, not 300, and that this restriction was under White House direc
tion in order to show determination and readiness without provocation.
As to the Soviet squadron, Howe explains that its actions were moti
vated by a defensive endeavor to both watch and hopefully deter the
US forces, that it never showed any inclination to join in the combat
(68:95).
Johnson a Consciously Strong Crisis Manager
The intended effect of the President's firm but restrained signal
ing to the Soviet leaders was almost immediately and seriously counter
balanced by an unfortunate blunder by State Department Press Officer
McCloskey. At a 12:30 p.m. State Department press conference,
McCloskey was asked about the US attitude toward the raging Middle
East conflict. Without adequate reflection he responded with the
flippant words he had heard from Eugene Rostow in an informal setting
early that morning: "We are neutral in word, thought, and deed."
It was serious enough that the remark immediately evoked a storm
of protest to the White House from American Jewish leaders and other
Israeli sympathizers. But more serious still was the possible misin-
terpretation--of American indifference to and isolationism from Israel
fate--that the beset Soviet leaders might read into such a statement.


366
to 21 July, with an all-out propaganda barrage, and much invective
against Israel, probably served the Soviet purpose in buying time,
spreading fog over its failure in the recent war, and permitting
it to make some repairs to its Middle East position (32:240).
True to the Russian flair for theatrics in politics, and highly
in need of such at this stage in its fall-back maneuvering, the level
and degree of Soviet participation in the emergency Assembly session
were designed to be impressive. Premier Kosygin, accompanied by
fifty Soviet officials, flew to New York on 16-17 June in time for
the opening session, after a two-hour stopover to talk with de Gaulle
in Paris (88:121).
The Assembly debate opened with a speech by Kosygin in which
he submitted the same type of resolution just rejected decisively
by the Security Council. In fact, this new version was even more
one-sided and unrealistic, in that it called for Israel also to pay
indemnities to the Arabs (109:182).
Arab Morale Requires Rebuilding
Pravda editor Belyayev and Egyptian correspondent Primakov,
though striking a positive note, and subtly warning the Arabs they
had no one but the USSR to depend on, yet reveal to the discerning
reader the severe morale problem faced by the defeated Arabs, and
the USSR too, in rebuilding during this trying period:
... We do not conceal it, there are pessimists
here too.
. . Israel and the imperialist powers that stand
behind her wanted to take advantage of the situation
to drive a wedge between the Arabs and the Soviet Union.


95
recalled that Soviet intelligence had named the next day, 17 May,
as the expected date of the Israeli attack on Syria.
D-Minus 19: Wednesday 17 May
More unneutral Indian/Yugoslav conduct
In all the controversy that has raged over U Thant's role in the
UNEF withdrawal, the implications of seven ambassadorial conferences
with the Egyptian Foreign Minister in Cairo this date have received
inadequate attention. In a development separate from but related to
those going on at the front lines in Sinai and at the UN in New York,
Draper recounts
. . The Egyptian Foreign Minister called in the ambassa
dors of the seven nations which contributed units to UNEF
and informed them that Egypt wanted UNEF out immediately.
The Yugoslav and Indian ambassadors agreed on the spot.
When Secretary General Thant met with representatives
of the seven countries at 4 p.m. May 17 (New York time),
he was informed of the Yugoslav and Indian decisions;
the other five said that they had not yet received
instructions (43:124) [emphasis added].
Too much of the controversy as to Nasser vs. U Thant responsibility
for the UN withdrawal ignores or passes lightly over the significance
of this meeting of Riyad with the seven ambassadors, as well as the
military actions taking place in the field. Whatever Nasser's attempts
later to imply that his hand was forced, his actions through his
political and military aides fit better his oft-repeated public scorn
for UNEF that, in effect, "They'll be gone in half an hour when we so
decide" (75:547-548). Furthermore, the instant withdrawal assent by
the Indian and Yugoslav ambassadors raises a strong and nagging suspi
cion that here is a conspiracy, in addition to the Soviet-Egyptian-Syrian


445
The key sentences of the report of the Moscow City Party Organi
zation Aktiv read as follows:
Expressing the will and opinion of the Communists
and all the working people of Moscow, the aktdy_ meet
ing unanimously approved the political line and prac
tical activity of the Politburo of the Central Com
mittee aimed at curbing the aggression of Israel.
The meeting of the Moscow Party aktiv proceeded
in an atmosphere of high activeness and complete
unanimity. It once more demonstrated brilliantly
the solidarity of the Communists of the capital be
hind the Leninist Central Committee of the CPSU.
(31, No. 26:34-35)
The reference to "complete unanimity" is particularly amusing in
light of the after shocks surely still being felt in the Moscow City
Party Organization from having had its chief abruptly fired four days
earlier!
In this fascinating and complex tale of Kremlin power politics,
the Soviet "mystery man" of the 1967 crisis and war remains Yegory-
chev, until the Six-Day War of 1967 First Secretary of the Moscow
City Committee of the CPSU--a key political position. While there
is some uncertainty about the circumstances and issues that led to
his ouster, it is clear that far more was involved than a factional
power struggle. Given the minority status--opposed to Brezhnev--
of the Shelepin clique to which Yegorychev belonged, it seems un
likely he would espouse opposition foreign-policy causes unless he
genuinely believed in the policies he stuck up for.
A greater commitment of support to the Arab side, in the setting
of 1967, would appear to be quite congruent with what is known of.
Yegorychev's public pronouncements prior to that time--a record of


340
to bear on the protagonists to stop hostilities. As a
result, active hostilities actually ceased on each of
the three main fronts of the war only when the Israelis
had achieved their desired territorial objectives and
halted their forward motion on their own accord.
(175:61)
While this outcome surely produced Soviet rage and frustration,
even the temporary US satisfaction must have led to some subsequent
disquiet at how little real control America exercised over Israel,
and how the question of a potential nuclear confrontation had been
in effect in Soviet and Israeli hands, and not in America's!


217
Arab euphoria peaks
An example--before the deluge--of euphoric Arab gloating over their
intended victim is an Iraqi statement on this date. Iraqi President
and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Lieutenant-General Arif,
told his air force officers:
Brethren and sons, this is the date of the battle to avenge
your martyred brethren who fell in 1948. It is the day
to wash away the stigma. We shall, God willing, meet in
Tel Aviv and Haifa. (42:35)
He also broadcast this day from Radio Baghdad: "We are resolved,
determined and united to achieve our clear aim of wiping Israel off
the map. . ." (107:20).
In this same vein Ahmad Shuqairy, PLO chief, gave his celebrated
prediction of the Jews' fate. Asked what would happen to native-born
Israelis if the Arab attack succeeded, he answered: "Those who survive
will remain in Palestine. I estimate that none of them will survive"
(42:36).
Israel comes to war decision
As the Israeli decision to attack approached, the USSR--if more
alert and more sensitive and more understanding--might have recognized
a hardline Israeli "clearing of the decks" and "summarizing the record"
in Eshkol's Note to Kosygin, delivered to Ambassador Chuvakhin on 1
June (32:220-223).
There was enough toughness here, and David-to-Goliath-type criticism
of Soviet policy, that Moscow might well have reconsidered its apparent
feeling that the Middle East crisis was over.


65
not produce a degree of humiliation in the opponent such as to stimu
late an emotional, strike-back, "spasm" response. This insult to
Nasser is one example. Another had Khrushchev, in embarking on his
Cuban missile crisis gamble, responding like a cornered bear to the
Kennedy Administration's boasting of its missile superiority and the
political rewards it expected to reap therefrom (118:264).
On the 22 May occasion of his announcement of the Aqaba blockade,
Nasser, in an exultant "I showed them" mood, also revealed his anger
and hurt pride at Israel. Referring to the 12 May Israeli statement,
he bridled, "Anyone who reads this statement must agree that these
people are so boastful and arrogant that it is impossible to remain
silent." He scorned commentators for saying that Israel considered
Egypt could not make a move because of being tied up in Yemen (75:538).
Flaws in Arab case
Among a variety of critics, Burdett's assessment of all this
Israeli verbal activity--with no border moves in substantiation--is
that "it won't wash" as an excuse for Nasser's Sinai move. Neither
the menacing speeches nor the menacing troops bear up under investiga
tion. Not only UN observers but American military representatives from
the Embassy in Tel Aviv inspected the border areas and returned with
negative reports. There was clearly a danger, however--if border
raids persisted--of a punitive hit-and-run raid in some strength
against some designated Syrian target, but not a threat to Damascus
(24:209-211).
Charles W. Yost also has provided an assessment, judiciously bal
anced, of responsibility for the crisis initiation. He adds the


448
The Ambassadorship to Denmark, while a minor one and a long way from
Middle East affairs, does show Yegorychev's apparent continuing in
terest in foreign affairs.
This same source reports the fall from grace of various "neo-
Stalinists" and "conservatives'*--by Political Diary's assessment--
describing their fates as being either retired to a pension (1),
or selected for unimportant (Denmark and Australia) (2), or
undesirable (China) (1)* foreign ambassadorships.
The linking here of Demichev, Shelepin and Yegorychev should
demolish any view of Yegorychev's 20 June plenum position--as it is
sometimes reported in the West--as a liberal one concerned with
reducing Soviet Middle East involvement in the interest of the
suffering Soviet consumer and taxpayer. Political Diary pays par
ticular attention, with scorn, to Demichev as a hardline ideologue,
and comments several times on his efforts to suppress dissent and
rehabilitate Stalin. And it shows Yegorychev earlier, acting to
suppress student dissent and ferment at Moscow State University.
Whetten's contrary account is unsatisfying on several counts.
It includes undocumented speculation that goes well beyond the apparent
evidence. His reference to Yegorychev, in particular, has him re
sponding to a motivation nearly the opposite of that credited to him
by most other writers. While it is acknowledged that no actual quote
of Yegorychev's Mid-East opinions has been uncovered in the literature,
*China refused to accept the man designated, Stepakov.


82
PLO inflames
Journalist Scheer, based on an immediate postwar visit to Cairo,
has described the pressure and provocation, to both Egypt and the
USSR, being provided by the Chinese-influenced PLO and Syrian forces.
Shuqairy, head of the PLO, became prominent once more, mobilizing Gaza
and broadcasting his wild messages over Cairo's Voice of Palestine.
Moving about with the Chinese Ambassador at his side, he emphasized
his movement's close ties with the Chinese People's Republic, barely
mentioning Egypt and ignoring the USSR, both of which had disregarded
him (140:98).
Egypt demands UNEF withdrawal
But it was the surprise, still controversial events beginning late
in this day that marked it as the point where, in retrospect, the
crisis went irrevocably out of control.
In Cairo on this 16 May, Egyptian Foreign Minister Riyad had
received the Soviet Ambassador and military attach. In Gaza that
evening, at 10 p.m. local time, the Indian Commander of UNEF, Major-
General Rikhye, was called to the office of Brigadier Mokhtar, the
Egyptian field commander, who handed him a letter in broken English
from the chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces. The key sentence
of this startling, confusingly worded letter read: "For the sake of
complete security of all UN troops which install OPs along our border,
I request that you issue your orders to withdraw all these troops
immediately" (24:215-216).


181
This was a very long and historic occasion, before an international
assembly of 300 correspondents. It was six days since the blockade
of the Tiran Strait was declared, with all its regional and global
reverberations. It was eight days before the devastating Israeli
preemptive attack was to erupt. It was shortly after both super
powers had counseled caution and restraint, albeit privately in Mos
cow's case. It was the day Israel's Cabinet took its first vote as
to its war option, and deferred action with an ominous (for Egypt)
9-9 tie.
Yet, as the following sampling of his extensive comments will
amply show, Nasser increases his provocative rhetoric, basks in a
seemingly invincible euphoria, and gives no evidence of restraint.
To Israel he shows no possibility of compromise; only war or her
complete destruction are the apparent choices he leaves her. He was
indeed invoking his vaunted machinery of collective Arab hysteria,
applying gasoline to the already spreading Mid-East flames.
On Tiran and blockade breaking,
No power, however mighty--I say this plainly so that all
parties may know where they stand--can impair or get
around Egyptian sovereign rights. . (75:550)
Here he is clearly threatening and showing contempt for US and British
plans to force recognition of Aqaba as international waters.
Here, and in other commentary to follow, he shows no evidence of
prudent willingness, sometimes reported by sympathizers at this stage,
to compromise from his gains.
Israel . has fallen a victim to the bogus victory of
1956. In 1956 we did not fight Israel; we fought Anglo-
French aggression. (75:552)


139
George-Brown flew to Moscow to confer with Kosygin (11:80-81). Also
British forces in the Mediterranean were alerted (68:149).
Soviet crisis mismanagement evaluated at this point
With the repetition of its 23 May statement at the UN on 24 May,
and repetition of the same line in various forms from then on until
war broke out on 5 June, Moscow showed at the very least an inability
to react flexibly to changing events, or to preserve for itself some
essential freedom of action. This may be assumed to reflect at least
in part the divided counsels then prevailing among the Soviet leader
ship. The Soviet statement demonstrated an advance-retreat division
in the Politburo, which surely contributed to Nasser's accelerated
risk-taking and the disaster that was to follow.
Benson makes this excellent related analysis of the final threaten
ing paragraph of the Soviet statement:
At no time did the Soviet government specifically state that it
would send armed forces into the Middle East if war broke out there---
but it implied quite strongly that it might.
The Arab leaders were surely disappointed, but should not have
been. The USSR has a long record of noninvolvement in wars between
its friends and its enemies, including minimal help to the Chinese
Communists in the twenty-two-year-long civil war there; aid and
advice to North Korea and China during the Korean War, but no troops;
likewise for the Vietnam War. Further back, there was a comparable
Stalin caution over the Greek civil war.
Benson concludes, "As Americans learned at the time of the Cuban
missile crisis, the Soviet Union is extremely conservative about armed
confrontation" (17:129-130).


286
There were dramatic and heated discussions in both Cairo and Moscow.
The Egyptians demanded that the Soviet Union immediately replace
their destroyed air force. The Soviet leaders objected on the basis
of lack of safe (from Israel), adequate and readily reachable landing
fields. Interestingly, this source added, "As for sending Soviet
planes into Libya, a few miles from the American base, Wheelus Field,
Washington would regard it as a provocation--and we did not want
war with the United States."
In reporting that the "dialogues" with the Egyptians grew strained,
this Soviet source revealed that "they accused us of abandoning them
in the hour of need. We replied that we had committed ourselves to
supporting them against American action but not against Israel, whose
power they had underestimated."
In defense of the Soviet concurrence in an in-place, uncondi
tional cease-fire, this source explained that at the time Arab posi
tions on the ground were still not catastrophic. To the Egyptian
claim that they would fight back in a long war and win, the Soviet
answeran intriguing choice of words--was that "they were substituting
their wishes for realities since their tanks would be beaten without
air cover." But Nasser did not accept his patron's advice and launched
his counteroffensive, which failed.
The source's closing lament over Nasser was: "He closed the
door on the only reasonable solution. . ." (128:19).
The USSR Threatens Israel--Weakly
Despite the fact that they were in conflict with their Arab
allies in pushing for a cease-fire, the Russians on this day attempted


220
Another cable at the same time reported that Rusk, in a brusque
reply to a question about efforts to keep Israel from precipitate
action, responded, I don't think it is our business to restrain
anyone."
Finally, a survey showed that over the past forty-eight hours no
important American leader had either urged Israel to wait or shown
any real confidence in the prospects of international action (138:444).
Several items here call for comment.
Most important is the ammunition for collusion charges in the
authoritative-sounding advice from "an American close to the Johnson
Administration"; the tone and words suggest someone with considerably
mixed US vs. Israel loyalties. How could this source judge that "time
was running out"?
As to Rusk's untypical comment, it has an "unleashing Israel"
sound that is strikingly comparable to the much-resented responses
of the USSR when urged to restrain Syria!
Eban was able to decide, then, that the diplomatic and political
activities of the past ten days had achieved their maximum result. In
resorting to the military option, this time Israel would not be opposed
by a united and angry world, as in 1956-57 (138:444-445).
Another assessment of Israel's mood as of 1 June, Draper's, is that,
in marked contrast to the either-or hesitancy prevailing just four days
before, on the occasion of the 9-9 tie vote, now only a determined,
dramatic effort on the part of the major powers, especially the United
States and the Soviet Union, could have averted war (43:99).


219
With the National Unity Cabinet formed, the move to war seemed now
to have few restraints, and the earlier Israeli hopes and fears, cen
tered in Washington, had faded into the background. Communications
from the US government, and especially those from the State Department,
still warned Israel against commencing hostilities. But the Israeli
attitude to these warnings was now changing. There was a growing ten
dency to interpret the US position--especially that of the White House--
as basically favorable to Israeli military action, as long as any
appearance of American collusion or any other American involvement
was avoided. There was even some feeling among Israel's leaders that
the US was signaling to Israel to take action in such a way that she
would not be regarded as the first to start shooting (110:201).
Israeli Foreign Minister Eban's shift to a decision for war has
been briefly recorded earlier. But his biographer has provided
amplifying information of value in assessing how this client nation
threaded her way through the existing international maze to arrive at
such a critical and historic decision.
First there was a message from an unnamed American close to the
Johnson Administration which read:
If Israel had acted alone without exhausting political
efforts it would have made a catastrophic error. It would
then have been almost impossible for the United States to
help Israel and the ensuing relationship would have been
tense. . Israelis should not criticize Eshkol and
Eban. They should realize that their restraint and well-
considered procedures would have a decisive influence when
the United States came to consider the measure of its
involvement.
This message concluded that time was running out and that it now
was "a matter of days or even hours."


198
the nations of the world--that so long as the blockade exists, peace
is in danger" (27:99).
In the UN Security Council debate this date Israeli representative
Gordon Rafael reflected the new Israeli firmness about the Aqaba blockade:
I wish to confirm today again in the most solemn terms
that this is the position of the government of Israel:
every interference with the freedom of navigation in these
waters is offensive action and an act of aggression against
Israel, the infringement of the sovereign rights of all
nations to the unimpeded use of this international water
way and a gross violation of international law. (156:149)
But was anyone 1istening--where it counted?
D-Minus 6: Tuesday 30 May
Final war influences on Israel
The most dramatic event of this date was surely one calculated to
move Israel much closer to a decision for war. King Hussein of Jordan
flew his own Caravelle jet to Cairo to embrace Nasser, who three weeks
before had called him a traitor and agent of the CIA. The two signed
a mutual defense pact placing the Jordanian army under Egyptian com
mand. The final action that Israel had long said would serve as
casus belli had been taken (162:83). Nasser emotionally called
Hussein "brother." To complete the portrait of family fealty,
Shuqairy sat beaming by Hussein's side. Then he flew back with him
to Jordan (99:50).
Hussein's surprise concession to Arab pressure, symbolized by
his flight to Cairo, is often seen in retrospect as the event that
triggered the Israeli decision to go to war. If so, it is all the
more remarkable that it was not so considered in Moscow, or apparently


339
Degree of Superpowers* Deterrence of Israel
In this 1967 crisis there was some lingering fear in Israel, espe
cially on Dayan's part, as a consequence of the Sinai withdrawal trauma
of 1956. Brecher notes that the Soviet threat of 1956 led to instinc
tive caution in Israel's Syria campaign on 10 June 1967, affecting
both the timing and the limited objectives of the operation (19:310).
Whetten has seemingly uncovered this evidence, rather marginal,
that Israel was considering an attack on Damascus, as well as the
Golan Heights, but was deterred by America: "General Bar Lev later
confirmed that American pressure had been the determining factor in
halting Israeli forces before they could attack Damascus" (168:44-45).
Although this research covers only in passing the aspect of
client manipulating the patron (Syria and Egypt with the USSR, and
Israel with the US), there is much evidence, amid the Middle East
balance of pressures, forces and wills, that this reverse management
process operates with considerable effectiveness. The more the two
superpowers are intimidated by the fearsome prospect of nuclear con
frontation, the more freedom a bold or desperate client has to
operate seemingly at will.
In this 1967 war progression and outcome, Oran Young pictures
Israel doing a classic job of client crisis management of her patron:
. . With regard to the question of an effective
cease-fire, the two superpowers: entered into a dis
agreement from the outset over an unconditional cease
fire versus a cease-fire with conditions; failed to
agree on any formal cease-fire resolution until the
second day of the war (June 6); were never able to
muster any force or sanctions behind the cease-fire
resolutions of the United Nations; and failed through
out the week of fighting to bring effective pressures


211
House source" as expressing some Pentagon relief once the Intrepid was
through the Canal:
Q. Did we think the blockade-busting idea would be a
success?
A. There were a number of problems. First of all, we
didn't have the power. We had nothing there until we
ran the Intrepid through the canal. The Intrepid at
least gave us some air if we were going to force the
blockade. (68:363)
Israel decides on war
This day marked--apparently unnoticed in Moscow, though surely
not entirely in Cairo--the ending of an exhausting debate in Israel,
and the taking of a decision for war. The Israelis announced that
Moshe Dayan had been named Defense Minister. Israel felt she did not
have the resources for a long campaign or blockade, that she must
either fight a swift war or endure a lingering death. With the
appointment of Dayan, there was strong evidence that she had chosen.
"May 31 is the fateful day," said an Egyptian close to the govern
ment. He continued:
Our papers make it clear the Israelis have brought in a
war cabinet, meant to fight our army. High up among
Nasser's close advisers, they know that there will be
a war. And they know they are not prepared for it.
(99:50)
Marshall shows, in a compact, perceptive analysis, how the develop
ing Soviet-Nasser scenario looked to Israel's leaders, and how they
made their decision for war. And he wonders appropriately why the
managers of the crisis in Moscow and Cairo could not have foreseen
this outcome. His reasoning runs as follows, in essence.


151
D-Minus 10: Friday 26 May
Multiple, confusing deterrent warnings
The warning of an impending attack by Egypt, relayed to America
by Eban from Israel, produced an array of multiple and confusing deter
rent warnings in Washington, Tel Aviv, and Cairo. Although the Presi
dent and his political and military aides were skeptical, with varied
intelligence backups to their estimate of Middle East capabilities and
intentions, they did not want to take chances. Hence, the US woke
up the Egyptian ambassador in Washington and had him deliver a late
night stern deterrent warning to Nasser. The US also advised Moscow
in terms such as to produce a most surprising, prompt and vigorously
cooperative response there. Kosygin dispatched urgent orders to the
Soviet ambassadors in both Egypt and Israel, which moved them to
awaken both Nasser and Eshkol at 3 a.m. for delivery of strong notes
of admonition to both men to desist from any resort to arms!
This dramatic event stands out in the buildup period as the
first and only time the Soviet leadership showed real concern for the
need to dampen the Middle East crisis they had touched off.
This chain of events, set in motion by the Israeli fear they
were about to be attacked, is part of Safran's analysis of why Nasser
felt he could not initiate an attack on Israel:
. . The isolation of Israel, which was one of the
essential conditions for seeking a showdown with it,
was operative only if he did not strike the first
blow. Nasser well knew that the Russian commitment
to neutralize the United States depended on a prior
Russian assessment of America's inclination to inter
vene as weak, and that the weak American inclination
to intervene depended on the issue's appearing to be


386
draft resolutions submitted by the Soviet Union provided for Arab
recognition of Israel as the price for the latter's withdrawal. The
Soviet Ambassador to the UN, Jacob Malik, attended an urgent summit
meeting on 14-15 July of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, and the Sudan
to present the Soviet proposal. But Algeria and Syria demanded
unconditional withdrawal and refused to consider the question of
recognition while Israel occupied Arab territory. According to
Whetten, the Algerian Ambassador to the UN maintained this position
during a reportedly stormy session with Soviet Foreign Minister
Gromyko on 20 July (168:46-47).
US-USSR Agree, but Arabs Intransigent
In mid-July, following the failure of the Special Emergency
Session to adopt any of the resolutions before it, the Soviet and
American delegations made an attempt to formulate a draft resolution
on which they and the sides directly concerned in the Middle East
conflict could agree. Goldberg and Gromyko reached agreement on such
a formula on 19 July, an indication of a strongly felt Soviet need
for a settlement (135:459).
The intensity and painfulness (and thanklessness) of the Soviet
effort to achieve a Middle East settlement on a compromise acceptable
to the US, and also satisfactory to the Arab clients (who would accept
only what was in effect a full surrender by the victor Israel), is
well demonstrated in this display of private US-USSR unity in the
middle of a frustrating summer.


128
Laqueur's inquiries have added to the doubts. Moscow and Cairo
had been cooperating closely and Nasser met the Soviet Ambassador
only a few hours before he made his blockade speech. Could he have
dared not consult Moscow on such an important step? Several Soviet
letters to Nasser during the last days of May have not been published.
Cairo broadcasts announced at the time that they expressed full sup
port for Nasser's course of action (93:109). (But this of course
could be a highly inflated treatment!)
This analysis seems to reflect a fascinating tidbit of devious
crisis management by proxy: egg on your client secretly. If he suc
ceeds, you take the credit. If he fails, disavow him!
It may be noted also that one of the main Soviet hardline policy
statements of support for Nasser was issued the next day. Its rela
tion to the dramatic Aqaba move is confusing, however; for, while its
timing had the effect of backing Nasser's bold step, it did not
mention Aqaba at all.
USSR warned Nasser of its support limits
It should be noted that, in the Nouvel Observateur interview
discussed above, Moscow purportedly warned Nasser that it would commit
which Soviet leaders contemplated any prospective adventuring in com
pany with Nasser:
The Egyptians didn't know what they were up against,
and they had to learn the hard way, poor things. They
were used to fighting on camels, and they couldn't handle
any arms more sophisticated than rifles. (83:343-345).


462
93. Laqueur, Walter. Road to War: The Origin and Aftermath of the
Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1967-68. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
1968.
94. The Struggle for the Middle East, The Soviet Union in
the Mediterranean, 1958-68. New York: Macmillan Co., 1969.
95. Lau-Lavie, Naphta!i. Moshe Dayan: A Biography. London:
Mitchel1, 1968.
96. Leites, Nathan C. "The Kremlin's Horizon." RAND, No. RM-3506
- ISA (March 1963).
97. Lenczowski, George. "Soviet Policy in the Middle East." Current
History 327 (November 1968):269-74, 303-4.
98. Lewis, Bernard. "Conflict in the Middle East." Survival 13
(June 1971):192-98.
99. Lightning Out of Israel: The Six-Day War in the Middle East.
New York: Associated Press, 1967.
100. Love, Kenneth. Suez: The Twice-Fought War: A History. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1969.
101. MccGwire, Michael, ed. Soviet Naval Developments, Capability
and Context. New York: Praeger, 1973.
102. Mackintosh, J. Malcolm. Strategy and Tactics of Soviet Foreign
Policy. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1962.
103. McLane, Charles B. Soviet-Third World Relations, vol. 1:
Soviet-Middle East Relations. London: Central Asian Research
Centre, 1973,
104. McLaurin, Ronald D. The Middle East in Soviet Policy. Lexing
ton, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1975.
105. Marshall, Charles B. "Reflections on the Middle East." Orbis
II (Summer 1967):343-59.
106. [Medvedev, Roy, ed.]. Political Diary I, 1964-1970. Amsterdam:
Alexander Herzen Foundation, 1972.
107. Menace, The Events that Led up to the Six-Day War and Their
Lessons. Israel Information Series. Jerusalem: Israel
Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 1972.
108. Merlin, Samuel, ed. The Big Powers and the Present Crisis in
the Middle East. Rutherford, N. J.: Fairleigh Dickinson
University Press, 1968.


148
toll in Israeli lives. In a meeting that lasted well into the early
morning, Eshkol received a vote of confidence from his party's
Secretariat, but only after agreeing to "include key personalities
in the opposition in policy-making decisions" (162:75).
Mediterranean Sea developments
The US Marine Amphibious Force departed Naples, Italy for sea on
this date, another readiness move signaling US determination and con
cern for the crisis. The British carrier Hermes, rounding the
southern tip of India and heading for the Far East, was turned around
and ordered back to Aden.
These movements had the effect of building up the area deterrent
forces for the US, and also, in the Hermes case, getting needed forces
into position for any contemplated forcing of the Aqaba blockade
(68:84,149).
Badran trip confusion
Wagner portrays Badran's Moscow trip as a response to Nasser's
need for guidance as to his support there; apparently Nasser was
unsure of the exact position of his Soviet ally (162:74).
Nasser may have ended up misguided into disaster from the still-
controversial results of this trip.
Amid the welter of conflicting reports of Badran's trip, Kimche
and Bawly have a straightforward and positive account that Badran
asked for urgent delivery of new military equipment and also Soviet
political support, specifically in neutralizing any American


12
The building of the Berlin Wall was such a step and it was success
ful, amid signs of great discomfiture among the US and its NATO allies.
Often, however, the origin of a crisis in the Cold War era has been
such an endeavor to unilaterally effect a change in the status quo, but
one that has been resisted and has therefore in varying degree been a
miscalculation on the part of the initiator. The challenger perceives
his resolve to be superior, and the degree of resistance encountered
is a measure of the extent of his miscalculation of the balance of
resolve and the comparative interests at stake. The Cuban missile
crisis is the most conspicuous example of such a serious miscalculation.
The greatest danger to the initiator of a crisis and his attempted
fait accompli is that his action may sting the adversary into both the
motivation and sense of justification for devising an effective counter
action, which may well be at a considerably higher level of risk of
gain and loss. Thus Khrushchev's Cuban missile ploy brought on the
American blockade of Cuba and attendant imminent threat of invasion of
Cuba and war. And in 1967 Nasser's bold moves, ejecting United Nations
forces and blockading Israel from the Gulf of Aqaba, ostensibly to
deter a reprisal raid on Syria, resulted in Israel's lightning war
and conquest of all of the Egyptian Sinai, plus key parts of Jordan
and Syria.
State of the Art
Prevailing Bias Toward US Concepts
Most of the literature on crisis management is by Western, largely
American, writers whose findings reflect essentially the thinking of


140
It might be added that, in retrospect, from the perspective of
the Soviet national interest, in each of these cases the single
rational actor model for treatment of Soviet decision-making and
crisis management is confirmed.
Laqueur's summary of the Soviet crisis mismanagement performance,
from Nasser's blockade action on to the war's outbreak, as he found
it to have been experienced in official Washington, runs as follows.
According to his sources, "official circles," the Russians advised
Nasser to hold to his blockade proclamation, apparently counting upon
the US to protest only with words and to restrain Israel from a re
sort to force. Washington tried to impress upon Moscow that this
would be a serious miscalculation. If Israel did move, the USSR
would "face the choice of joining the fight or deserting Cairo at
the worst possible moment" (93:192).
And so it came to pass!
This is poor crisis management, to support a proxy in risk
taking so that, if things go wrong, one is left with two extreme
and equally undesirable choices. This approach also seriously vio
lates the principle of preserving one's freedom of action.
But then, for this stark eventuality to have been foreseen, an
extremely unfavorable military balance between Egypt and Israel would
have to have been recognized. And the record discloses no clear
recognition by the USSR that its ten-year armament and training effort
had produced such complete military ineffectiveness.


281
in the Arabs' own interests, to retrieve what still was salvageable
from the debacle.
In his discussion of the Arabs' rejection of the cease-fire resolu
tion, Burdett comments: "Once again they were clearly resolved to
act too late to serve their interests." He adds, ". . Their Soviet
patron was accepting the Israeli military victory, and they had been
foolish indeed ever to imagine that Moscow would invite the risks of
a nuclear confrontation for their sakes" (24:330-331).
In an excellent article, Oran Young assesses the forces that
operated to deter the Soviet Union from intervening:
... It now appears that this politically costly
decision of the Soviets against physical intervention
was the product of several factors including: Soviet
strategic inferiority vis-S-vis the United States on
the global level, a Soviet fear of American counter
intervention and subsequent escalation, the Soviet
lack of strategic mobility in the Middle East, and
the political disadvantages of intervening while the
Americans were making a show of behaving "innocently."
. . There are strong pressures on the weak
er of two superpowers in a nuclear context to be con
cerned about the dangers of escalation. (175:60)
This is a useful reminder that, in this particular crisis, even
if characteristic Soviet caution and retreat had not been evidenced,
there were powerful factors that might well have deterred even a far
more aggressive national leadership.
Arab Press Conference in Moscow
What Radio Liberty analyst Riollot aptly describes as a "strange
gathering" took place in Moscow this date, its originators and motives
unclear; also unclear is whether it reflected Arab hopes and perhaps
subtle pressure for Soviet help, or only predisaster nonawareness of


159
that she could not attack Arab states one at a time; the United
Nations Emergency Force had been removed; and finally, the problem
of the Gulf of Aqaba had been solved by a return to the status quo
ante 1956 and the tripartite aggression of that year.
Nasser then told Shuqairy that it was essential that the Arabs
should not lose control of the situation and that the tension should
not be increased. The Syrians ought to moderate their enthusiasm;
however, guerrilla activities had been stepped up that week. Nasser
disclosed to Shuqairy that he had sent an urgent message the previous
day to the Syrians asking them to stop terrorist activities altogether
for a month or two.
In the course of this meeting, Nasser also told Shuqairy that the
Americans were in constant touch with him, that they had many prob
lems (i.e., involvement in Vietnam), and did not desire to create
yet another problem for themselves in the Middle East, and that he
believed the US would pressure Israel. The Soviet Union, on the
other hand, stood with the Arabs, and he believed that it would put
pressure on the US to restrain Israel and not allow the situation to
erupt into any war (72:144-145).
This is a plausible view of Nasser's mind at this stage of the
crisis. Whether he had ever believed the Israeli border massing at
all, or believed it momentarily, and now merely felt constrained to
stay with the original story, is not clear. He is unequivocal in
acknowledging Arab unreadiness for war, yet seems to reflect euphoric
confidence, despite all Israel's strong warnings, that three political
successes had been attained. Yet the more calculating Nasser of old


41
24-26 April: Communist Parties' Conference
Certain telltale events point to the key decisions for the new
Soviet forward strategy, with a Middle Eastern focus, being taken
in late April-early May 1967.
A long-planned, and first-ever, conference of European Communist
parties took place at Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, from 24 to 26
April 1967, with Leonid Brezhnev making the keynote speech. Delega
tions from twenty-five of Europe's thirty-one parties attended.*
Brezhnev's speech reflected the apparent Soviet forward-look decision,
with a focus on a new, harder anti-US line in the Middle East. Per
haps significantly, hardliner and leadership competitor Alexander
Shelepin was included in the Soviet delegation, although he had no
known competency or Party role in foreign affairs. The conference
itself, after long and persistent planning, was apparently designed
to rally the disarrayed Communist parties around Soviet positions
and to prepare to discipline or isolate the Chinese heresy. In a
wideranging global review and assertion of Soviet positions, with
condemnation of US imperialism--especially in Vietnam--these were
the noteworthy words of challenge to the US in the Middle East:
". . The time has come for the demand that the US Sixth Fleet be
withdrawn from the Mediterranean to ring out at full strength" (158)
(20:9).
This Brezhnev speech seemed to signal a new, more militant Soviet
policy for both the Middle East and the Far East regions, in the
*Rumania and Yugoslavia were conspicuous among the six absentees.


60
This casual, unhurried approach and rather careless manner for
transmitting such supposedly vital intelligence adds considerable
support for the suspicion that this was merely a prearranged signal
for Nasser to make his Sinai move.
It should be noted that at least this account is more credible
than that of Heikal, who would have us believe that Sadat was informed
by Kosygin in Moscow on 29 April of the Israeli troop massing, that he
sat on this vital intelligence until reporting back to Nasser on his
return to Cairo fifteen days later, and that Nasser was so alarmed he
moved his troops into Sinai the very next day (61:240)! This is not
only theatrics, it is children's theatrics!
Israel warns Syria via UN, foreign attachs, US
In addition to the UN action referred to above, Israel on this
date used two other media to relay her warnings of dwindling patience
with Syrian border provocations.
A briefing was given to foreign military attachs in terms which
they understood to augur a major assault in the coming days. But
again, Israel may well have been trying to deter, not attack, Syria;
in a highly security-conscious nation, a foreign military attache
audience suggests a calculated leak rather than a shared secret!
The other route involved consultation with the less than attentive
US. Israeli Ambassador to the US, A. Harman, met with the Assistant
Secretary of State for the Middle East, Lucius Battle (until very
recently Ambassador to Cairo), and stressed that Israel could not
allow her current situation to continue (19:360).


226
Elements in Israel's war decision
Israel was increasingly confident by this date that she could
cope with Soviet opposition, and that American support would not be
found wanting--both elements in sharp contrast to the wel1-remembered
1956 failures.
These are some of the highlights of the Israeli Cabinet's decision
making. Harman and Amit, both in touch with the US Administration a
day earlier, did not oppose the position that nothing further was to
be gained from waiting. The perceived impression was that, if Israel
took preemptive action against the encircling Arab armies, the US
would not take an unfriendly view, while the USSR would not intervene
militarily.
More than five years later, Eban made this revealing disclosure
in the course of a eulogy to the late President:
After so many days of contact with him. . we could all
well feel that, if Israel took up its own responsibility
and emerged intact, it could count on him not to support
or even to permit a policy of international intimidation.
(19:420-421)
A writer critical of Israel has made a comparative weighing of
Israel's two basic alternatives, showing the weakness of the motive
for restraint, as long as she could be sure of at least tacit American
support.
As regards waiting for a diplomatic opening of Aqaba, this choice
meant
1. Indefinite closing of the gulf until--and uniess--there
was a break-through in negotiations.


299
Israel Chides USSR
In her response to the threatening Soviet declaration of the
day before--flushed with her continuing, fantastic success in battle--
in an invulnerable position behind US deterrent determination, and in
the face of Arab unwillingness to accept the same cease-fire being
demanded of Israel (for which folly the Soviet leaders must have
gnashed their teeth in helpless, angry frustration!) Israel debated
with and lectured the USSR in leisurely, drawing-room fashion while
her army swept on in triumph.
The Israeli reply included these elements. The Soviet statement
was deplored as not contributing to settlement of a crisis brought
on by Arab aggression against Israel. As to the UN resolutions,
Israel expressed astonishment at the Soviet condemnation, inasmuch
as Israel had accepted, while the Arab states had rejected, these
resolutions. In the manner of a school-master's lecture, Israel's
Note concluded:
The cease-fire can be implemented only on a recip
rocal basis. It is surprising that the Soviet Govern
ment's statement should express an approach which is
in fact tantamount to a request that Israel agree to
a cease-fire unilaterally. (32:230-231)
Fedorenko Lashes out at Israel
So recently the USSR had been barely hiding its smiles at Israel's
anguish over Nasser's relatively minor Aqaba fait accompli. At the UN
this date it was evidently intensely maddening to the Russians that
the shoe was now firmly on the other foot; they found themselves helpless
to prevent the collapse of their Middle East stake in the face of an


30
From such sources as PLO leader Ahmad Shuqairy's memoirs, it is evi
dent that Nasser was alive to the danger posed by the Syrian Ba'ath-
ists' adventurism. He repeatedly--but in vain--asked the Syrians to
desist from encouraging fedayeen (terrorist) activities which might
provoke Israel into a war for which the Arabs were not ready. These
warnings reportedly continued as late as April 1967.
UNEF Role
Ever since the 1956 Suez War settlement, a United Nations Emer
gency Force (UNEF) had been stationed in Sinai to separate and maintain
peace between the Egyptians and Israelis. Though the forthcoming
abrupt UNEF withdrawal was to stun Israel and the world, the idea for
this action was not new; it had been repeatedly demanded of Nasser by
his rivals. It was especially used by Jordan to taunt Nasser after
the es Samu reprisal attack by Israel in November 1966. Jordan was
reported to have even suggested officially in the Arab Defense Council
meetings in early January that Egypt should ask the UNEF to withdraw.
King Hussein had also made this suggestion in an interview in U,S.
News and World Report at the end of December. Hussein complained
that the presence of the UNEF prevented Egypt's forces from having
any deterrent effect and so allowed the Israelis to increase their
pressure on other fronts (149:464). Judged by his earlier experience
in a similar minicrisis in 1960 (in which Egyptian troops had entered
Sinai without affecting the presence or role of UNEF), Nasser seems
to have been of the same mind.


37
The design was indeed brilliant: to extricate Egyptian forces
from Yemen and interject them into Sinai, all the while appearing to
support Syria by threatening Israel! The critical flaw--soon to be
revealed--lay in its inept, ultimately disastrous execution.
Supporting the evidence of important decisions flowing from Gro
myko's trip, Walter Laqueur's postwar study revealed that soon after
this visit both Nasser and Syria embarked on a more strident anti-West
tone (92:18).
7 Apri1: Air Clash
On 7 April occurred the secondhand last--of the major border
clashes, the Israeli-Syrian air battle, that developed into the May
Crisis and the June War. (The first was the es Samu reprisal raid in
November.)
Unlike the usual small-scale border clash, the one on 7 April
rapidly escalated from its initial exchange of small-arm.s fire to
artillery and tanks. Next Israeli air force fighters intervened, to
be followed by Syrian air force fighters, which proved hopelessly
outclassed. In a few minutes the Israelis shot down six Syrian
MiG-21s with no losses of their own. Some of the Israeli planes then
flew on the fifty-odd miles to Damascus to stage a victory demonstration
over the Syrian capital. The humiliation was a triple one: to the
Syrian air force for its poor showing; to the USSR for its training
and its MiG-21 combat performance; and to Nasser for not intervening
to protect Syria.
Jordan intensified the Arab humiliation and disarray by taunting
Syria with its dismal performance, inviting foreign military attachs


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
John Werner Palm was born and raised in Defiance, Ohio.
Beginning with a degree of Bachelor of Naval Science from the US
Naval Academy in 1941, his Navy career included specialization in
Naval Intelligence and the Russian language, highlighted with a
1%-year tour of duty as Assistant Naval Attache at the American
Embassy in Moscow (1953-54). While stationed at the Pentagon,
1954-57, he attained the MA degree in International Relations and
Organization from American University, and subsequently taught, for
University of Maryland Overseas in Japan, Soviet Government and
Pol itics.
Since Navy retirement in 1961, Palm has pursued a higher edu
cation career in political science and international studies,
including a second master's degree in counseling and guidance at
the University of Florida in 1967. He is currently (1978) an
instructor in international studies and Soviet affairs at the
University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.
468


356
Kosygin's recorded response was short and blunt:
What is your view of nuclear war? (60:359) [emphasis
added]*
The Algerian weekly el-Mondjahid drew some far-reaching and per
ceptive conclusions from the evident priorities of Soviet policy,
the airing of which must have been unpleasant for Moscow. Referring
to the stance adopted by the Soviet Union, this editorial complained
that, as a result,
. . the USA was able to find the door wide open for
her to achieve her aggressive plans, and she has never
hesitated to resort to bargaining with a world war.
It has become evident, then, that the socialist camp
has put the preservation of peace before every other
consideration. . .
We wonder, then, whether the search for peace at
any price is leading the socialist leaders to relegate
their support for the liberation movements to second
place. Their bargaining over this support on the pre
text that it may lead to world war means that they
are whetting the appetite of the imperialist ag
gressors. . (112:149)
In the immediate postwar disorder in the Soviet-Arab camp,
Algerian President Boumedienne thus took a militant lead, doubly
embarrassing in that, not only did he ask critical and provocative
questions of the USSR, but his recipe for a continuing "people's
war" apparently divided the demoralized Soviet leadership still more.
He called for a continuation of the war on the grounds that although
the armies had been defeated the peoples remained. In the Soviet
*Heikal, it may be emphasized here, is the editor of the influ
ential Cairo newspaper, a 1-Ahram, with the largest circulation in
the Arab world. He was generally considered President Nasser's
unofficial mouthpiece--an Egyptian cross between Kissinger or Lipp-
mann and Boswell. His weekly editorials, like this one, were broad
cast over Cairo Radio.


318
dangerous it would be to put them into action" (11:260).*
The events of the Israeli assault on Syria this date, the new
and intensified Soviet threats of intervention, and the mixed US
reaction of firmness and panic, are not yet fully cleared up. In
desperation, the USSR may indeed have resolved to intervene and
rescue something for its position and credibility. Some US leaders
apparently so believed and so acted. The subsequent view leans to
ward continued Soviet bluff and bluster, with neither intent nor even any
ready capability to stop the triumphant Israelis. As for Israeli
General Dayan, reversing his initial position as to Soviet sensitivity
over Syria, he played his cards coolly and calculatingly, taking ad
vantage of battlefield confusion and delay, and the notorious Syrian
unreliability, to accomplish all the probable Israeli objectives
before accepting the cease-fire.
Howe provides some additional crisis management perspective to
this tense, eventful day.
Israel raced against time, with one ear alert to the proceedings
at the UN, hoping to encircle and block the rear approaches to the
Golan Heights.
Intervention would not have been easy for the USSR. The most
likely possibility was a paratroop landing or the air transport of
troops. Moscow probably felt its intervention would have to be
*Frorn the book, Embassies in Crisis: Diplomats and Demagogues
Behind the Six-Day War, by Michael Bar-Zohar. (c) 1970, by Michael
Bar-Zohar. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.


123
all the way back to 1957is remarkable for its bold and uncompromising
aggressiveness, provocation and seeming acceptance of the probability
of war:
Under no circumstances can we permit the Israeli flag
to pass through the Gulf of Aqaba. The Jews threaten war.
We say they are welcome to war, we are ready for war, our
armed forces, our people, all of us are ready for war,
but under no circumstances shall we abandon any of our
rights. These are our waters. Perhaps war will be an
opportunity for the Jews, for Israel, for Rabin, to try
out their forces against ours, and find out that all they
wrote about the battle of 1956 and the occupation of
Sinai was a lot of nonsense. (75:540)
It has been argued in Nasser's defense that he was carried away
by flights of his own and surrounding Arab rhetoric and euphoria. The
militant setting (there are photos showing him surrounded by eager
young pilots, itching for battle, who were reportedly disappointed by
the tameness of his speech!) supports this observation. But success
ful international relations, especially in the uniquely volatile Middle
East setting, would seem to call for a brand of crisis manager more
soberly and wisely detached from his immediate, emotion-filled surround
ings.
General Rabin of Israel in 1968 assessed Nasser's state of mind
on closing the Strait of Tiran, the military dispositions that gave
him his obvious confidence in confronting Israel, and the perhaps
unforeseen pressure toward escalation from an Arab world roused to a
frenzy. Nasser must have known that blockading Tiran would lead to
war. Hence he must have been fortified by the seven divisions (almost
the entire Egyptian Army), including a thousand tanks, that were now
dug in and concentrated in Sinai opposite Israel.


251
In his apparently well-informed account in Life magazine of the
first day of the- war, from the White House view, including the hotline
activity, Hugh Sidey reported the first message exchange, in which the
two men were obviously feeling each other out. Kosygin spoke of the
terribly dangerous situation which had arisen in the Middle East and
the necessity that the USSR and the US not get involved. The Presi
dent's reply was cautious, echoing Kosygin's position that the two
superpowers should not become involved (144:24B).
In the tense and dangerous crisis management these two men and
their staffs were to indulge in over the next six days, this opening
was already very important in establishing a pattern of mutual expec
tations. That the USSR was the initiator, as well as the moderate
tone utilized, signaled a mutual restraint that was to prevail
throughout--with some notable and dangerous flareup exceptions.
Of course, for the US this called for no great risk or sacrifice,
once it was apparent that Israel was winning (note Rostow's comment
above as to the crucial importance of learning that the Israelis had
gained air superiority), and once the "culprit" in the Liberty affair
turned out to be Israel! (It is unnerving to consider the likely US
response had the offender proved to be Egypt or the USSR, or even
indeterminable for a matter of days.)
From the Soviet side, the continued restraint, generally, as seen
from the White House, in the face of the awful disaster to its helpless
clients, surely must have masked the anguish, frustration and stormy
debates the Kremlin was undergoing.


69
For a man so distrustful of Syrian attempts to manipulate him, this
prompt Nasser response, in a way that was soon to be his undoing, sug
gests that this was the signal or pretext he was awaiting. His indig
nant reaction to Syria's "intelligence" about Israeli troop massing on
her borders would appear more bona fide if there were not so much evi
dence over the years, including quite recently, of Nasser's suspicion,
even hostility, toward such crude Syrian attempts to embroil him with
Israel, and, of course, in the process "pull their chestnuts out of the
fire."
Credibility of this supposed "intelligence" is very weak. The
weight of evidence strongly points to a scenario for which the players
had inadequately rehearsed their lines.
Israeli actions/motives analyzed
The evidence for a concentration of the kind described by Nasser
is so tenuous as to be entirely unconvincing. But in discounting it
two other hypotheses cannot be entirely excluded: first, that an
attack of some sort was intended; and, second, that the Israeli govern
ment, for the deterrent reasons discussed above, wished such an inten
tion to be generally believed at home and abroad, and encouraged rumors
accordingly (67:16).
It is instructive to contemplate this picture of both Israel and
the USSR becoming trapped in a complex pair of "plots": the USSR pre
tending it had uncovered intelligence of an Israeli massing for an
attack, in order to move Nasser and deter Israel; while Israel may have
told the USSR it would have to attack, in order to move the USSR to
restrain Syria's border raids!


322
Israel's Mastery of Fait Accompli
The historically unparalleled speed of conquest of three heavily
armed enemy nations in a total of six days deserves comment from a
crisis management as well as a military point of view. To achieve
a fait accompli and severely circumscribe and deter effective counter
action by an opponent, speed of accomplishment is the most essential
asset. Examples in addition to Israel's in this war are the Soviet
actions in Hungary (1956), the Berlin Wall (1961) and Czechoslovakia
(1968). Conspicuous failures were the invasion of South Korea (1950),
Suez invasion (1956), where the British-French were incredibly slow
(whereas Israel's part was another brief and complete victory), and
Cuba (1962), the missile crisis.
That General Dayan, who was the Israeli hero of 1956, had learned
from that experience, and understood Soviet crisis management char
acteristics and vulnerabilities very well, is indicated by his evalu
ation during the Suez crisis of the threat of Soviet "volunteers."
He recalls in his Diary of the Sinai Campaign,
... I gave it as my judgment that: 1. The shorter
the campaign, the greater the chances that no "volunteers"
will come; 2. If they do come, they are likely to be
Czechs or Poles but not Russians. (35:33)
Also from Dayan's Diary, surely attentively noted long ago by
Soviet pol itical-mil itary leaders, were these iterns--a forecast of
the same performance by Dayan in succession against Jordan, Egypt
and Syria in this 1967 war:
... As for us, if we can succeed in dragging out
the negotiations for a cease-fire another two or three
days, we shall manage in the meantime to capture Sharin-
e-Sheikh, and since this will mark the completion of the
conquest of Sinai, we can agree to a cease-fire.


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19
an attempt will be made (in the Appendix) to offer an alternative model,
which may also serve to embellish and enrich the following 1967 case
account with evidence of Soviet decision-making problems, divisions,
and their outcomes.


458
31. Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. 19, 17 May-19 July
1967.
32. Dagan, Avigdor. Moscow and Jerusalem, Twenty Years of Rela
tions between Israel and the Soviet Union. London: Abelard-
Schuman, 1970.
33. Dallin, Alexander. "Domestic Factors Influencing Soviet
Foreign Policy." In the USSR and the Middle East, pp. 31-58.
Edited by Michael Confino and Shimon Shamir. New York: Hal-
sted Press, 1973.
34. Dawn, C. Ernest. "The Egyptian Remilitarization of Sinai, May
1967." Journal of Contemporary History 3 (July 1968):201-24.
35. Dayan, Moshe. Diary of the Sinai Campaign. New York: Harper
& Row, 1966.
36. Deutscher, Isaac. "On the Israeli-Arab War." In The June 1967
Arab-Israeli War: Miscalculation or Conspiracy?, pp. 47-62.
Edited by Elias Sam'o. Wilmette, Ill.: Medina University Press
International, 1971.
37. Diab, Zuhair, ed. International Documents on Palestine, 1968.
Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971.
38. Dinerstein, Herbert S. "Soviet Policy in the Middle East."
Middle East Institute, 1972 Panel Series. Panel 1, the Nature
of Soviet Aims and Interests in the Middle East, pp. 1-3.
39. Donovan, Robert J. and the Staff of the Los Angeles Times.
Six Days in June; Israel's Fight for Survival. New York:
New American Library, 1967.
40. Dornberg, John. Brezhnev: The Masks of Power. New York:
Basic Books, 1974.
41. Draper, Theodore. "From 1967 to 1973: The Arab-Israeli Wars."
Commentary 56 (December 1973):31-45.
42. "Israel and World Politics." Commentary 44 (August
1967):19-48.
43. Israel and World Politics, Roots of the Third Arab-
Israeli War. New York: Viking Press, 1968.
44. Duevel, Christian. "The Political Credo of N. G. Yegorychev."
Munich: Radio Liberty Research Paper No. 17, 1967.
45. Dziedzic, Jan and Walichnowski, Tadeusz. Background of the
Six-Day War. Warsaw: Interpress Publishers, 1969.


427
East in advance of the forthcoming crisis utilized this official who
is regularly associated with hardline and deceptive maneuvers.*
In the light of the subsequent shift to Kosygin prominence in
the Soviet crisis retreat, a tentative thesis emerges for considera
tion. Its essence is that there will be a fundamental difference in
Soviet crisis management performance, and its degree of risk-taking,
depending on whether a Kosygin or a Gromyko appears to be in charge.
Kosygin is convincingly depicted by a careful observer, Egyptian
editor and Nasser confidant, Heikal, for example, as cautiously
conservative even when the rest of the Soviet political-military
leadership is enthused. Heikal's most striking example of this
Kosygin trait is from his account of the bold 1970 decision to pro
tect Nasser by putting Soviet air defense forces into Egypt.
Nasser was at this time desperate at Israel's success in the War
of Attrition and her humiliating, deep-penetration raids over Egypt.
On an emergency visit to Moscow, he forced the Soviet leaders to
intervene with their own forces, despite their obvious reluctance,
by using a crisis management tactic designed for only the skillful,
bold, and desperate--and Nasser at this moment was all three. By
threatening to resign and publicly recommend that his successor
surrender to the Americans, who "were obviously the masters of the
world!," he galvanized the Soviet leadership into considering and
taking this unprecedented action.
*His Cuban missile crisis attempt to disarm President Kennedy
with soothing, blatant lies is one memorable example.


357
Union, too, voices were being heard calling for the conduct of a
popular war against Israel as part of a campaign to liquidate what
the Arabs came to refer to as "the consequences of the aggression."
Simultaneously, the policy of supplying the Arabs with large quanti
ties of war material which they were unable to put to good use was
being subjected to criticism within the Soviet Establishment (135:447).
Soviet Need for Noncooperation with US in War's Wake
As the winddown phase of the crisis began, Oran Young has pro
vided a perceptive analysis as to why the US was more inclined than
the USSR to cooperate in an overall settlement. The striking victory
of the Israelis, coupled with the basic cross-purposes plaguing
American policy in the Middle East, made this phase appear opportune
for accommodation from the American perspective. But the Arab defeat
produced a situation in which the political costs of accommodation
would be likely to fall especially heavily on the USSR. Faced with
this situation, the Soviet leadership chose to ignore the longer-term
common Mid-East interests of the superpowers, which had been high-
1 ightedby the crisis, and to move quite decisively away from Soviet-
American coordination.
Soviet failure to stand by the Arabs in the crunch produced a
strong backlash effect in forcing the USSR to go to extraordinary
lengths to support the Arabs on most other issues. There is even
some evidence to suggest that the Soviet leaders hoped to reap
political gains in the aftermath of the crisis from the very defeat
of the Arabs. By coming out strongly in support of the Arabs now


269
pre-4 June) lines, so as to separate the sides in Sinai again and open
the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping. This latter solution would
have been only mildly pro-Israel (in fact, Israel would surely have
been pained if forced to accept it) but deeply, unacceptably humiliat
ing to Nasser.
At Fedorenko's suggestion, US delegate Goldberg met with the UAR
representative, el-Kony, and urged him to accept what might be the
last chance for a quick settlement and a mutual withdrawal from Sinai.
But, in Johnson's words,
Cairo was not prepared to make commitments on June
5. The Arabs hoped to obtain a ceasefire and withdrawal
of Israeli forces only. They pushed Moscow hard to work
for that, and that alone. So there was no action in the
United Nations on the first day of war. (78:298)
Egypt's unrealistic demand had the effect of changing what might
then have been a moderate defeat into a full-scale disaster. On the
other hand, following his aggressive performance in the crisis up
to this point, was Nasser in any way free to call a halt short of
either a victory or--as did happen--total collapse?
D-Plus 1: Tuesday 6 June
Soviet Union Flounders in Indecision
Yigal Allon, then Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, made this
analysis of the Soviet position on this second, critical day of the war
When, after the first day of the Six-Day War, the ex
tent of the Egyptian defeat became evident to Moscow, the
Soviets were faced with a dilemma much greater than that
which had confronted them after the 1956 Sinai Campaign.
If they allowed the Egyptian army to collapse completely,
they would be accused of desertion by the Egyptians and
the Arabs in general. If they intervened with limited


395
that Molotov and other opponents of the initial Soviet venture into
the Middle East in 1955 (referred to by Khrushchev in his memoirs
as "skunks") may have been very wise and farsighted!
On 30 August Algiers Radio reported a speech of President
Boumedienne which reveals how strongly-~with only a thin disguise--
he was resisting and criticizing the Soviet line:
There are those who are warning us against policies
which, as they put it, have an adventurous character,
and who want political solutions instead. . .
Our reply today and at all times ... is that
there are two courses. The course which we choose is
to go on with the struggle and to employ all methods,
mainly the eradication of the imperialists in the Arab
homeland. . All other courses are tantamount to
surrender, submission, shirking of responsibility and
the liquidation of the Palestine question once and for
all. (113:217)
D. C. Watt, reporting on "The Arab Summit Conference and After,"
sees a demoralized Arab world in psychological shock:
Everything in which Arab opinion had been taught
to believe has collapsed on them. . They believed
that the Soviet Union was their friend and ally. . .
The Soviet Union proved more anxious to concert
her policy with that of the United States than with
that of the Arab world. A plethora of Arab ministerial
visitors to Moscow produced nothing. . (164:445-446)
But in the last analysis Nasser--the foremost Arab 1eader--bowed
to reality. Because he knew he had to depend on the USSR totally,
for his own position and for Egypt's recovery, and perhaps because
he recognized that Soviet leaders had cautioned and tried to restrain
him while he was overstating their support during the crisis buildup,
Nasser did not join the general Arab clamor at Soviet faithlessness.
In his 23 November review of the postwar recovery and look-ahead, he
was remarkably generous in dealing with his patron thus:


101
consultations with the US about further Israeli moves. Eshkol's an
swer, sent the same day, indicated Israel's grave concern about the
possible blockade of the Tiran Strait and asked that the US clarify
its position in the conflict, in view of the Arab claim that the USSR
identified itself with them (19:368).
Here is interesting evidence of how early in a crisis involving
superpower interests in conflict the moves of one power through its
proxy induce the opposing proxy to call in its own protector for help.
UNEF move surprises USSR
Although Moscow has indicated, as discussed earlier, that it
approved Nasser's move of his troops into Sinai as a deterrent to
Israel's purported plans to attack Syria, there is evidence, and
there are admissions of various types, that Moscow was uninformed of,
and surprised by, the UNEF move. From his vantage point at the UN,
Indian diplomat Arthur La 11 asserts that Soviet diplomats assiduously
inquired from all who might have some special knowledge of Arab inten
tions why Nasser had taken this step and how far he was prepared to
go (91:30).
The Aqaba Blockade (19-22 May)
D-Minus 17: Friday 19 May
Inflammatory Arab rhetoric
There was considerable Arab rhetoric that inflamed the crisis,
provided justification for the eventual Israeli attack, and alienated
much of the world opinion from the Arab cause--despite wails -of Arab


44
Hardly a day passed without a new incident. . .
In the first ten days of May eleven incidents were re
corded, more than during the whole of the preceding
month. The list was impressive. By 7 May the Egyptians
were virtually certain that there would be some sort of
Israeli retaliation, and urgent talks were held at army
headquarters. They decided to await developments, and
be ready for instant action. (84:87)


216
This is hardly a credible view of the prevailing sentiment at this
stage, in Egypt or in Israel. For it conflicts with statements by
Nasser later (also by King Hussein of Jordan) that he knew he was
about to be attacked and so warned his generals.
A September 1967 interview with ex-US Ambassador to the UAR Nolte
helps explain the reasons for the widely varying sentiments among
writers as to progress in a US-Egyptian compromise settlement, with
attendant Israeli dismay, in the week before the war's outbreak.
Some--especially Arab--sources report this as a genuine Nasser move
toward settlement that was betrayed by Israel's 5 June attack, with
US collusion. Most others give this effort scant attention, consider
ing Nasser as scornfully trying at best to stall off the proposed US
plan to break the Aqaba blockade. From the US side, these same writers
feel the US was wavering on its commitment to Israel and looking for a
mutually face-saving way out, A more Machiavellian version of this
latter explanation has the US, with no illusions about Nasser's objec
tives, or nonexistent American influence on him, simply stalling until
Israel "pulled its chestnuts out of the fire" by preempting (145, 12
September 1967:6).
Egypt declares existence of state of war
According to Israeli Foreign Minister Eban, on this date the Egyp
tian government notified other states in writing that the ground for
the Tiran blockade was the existence of a state of war (109:31).
This step was hardly consistent with a supposed Nasser move toward
compromise.


144
"in readiness against any eventuality" (88:55). The planned movement
of the US carrier Intrepid through the Suez Canal and on to Vietnam
during the Mid-East crisis buildup began to cause problems of intent
and appearance for both sides of the conflict (68:70-71).
Frustration at the UN
The Soviet Union subsequently adopted an air of injured innocence
at Nasser's 22 May action in closing the Strait of Tiran. But its
actions at the time, especially at the UN, hardly showed an awareness
or concern that Israel considered this an intolerable casus bel 1 i, and
had so stated and acted, beginning with and ever since her Sinai with
drawal in 1957.
Continued evidence of a lack of effective crisis direction in Mos
cow was the studied, consistent negativeness of the Soviet support of
the Arab cause at the UN. In U Thant's absence on his futile trip
to Cairo to consult Nasser, Canada and Denmark had moved to involve
the UN Security Council. But their mild resolution ran into abuse
from Egypt and the USSR, plus apathy from the uncommitted nations.
They could not obtain the nine votes necessary to secure acceptance
of their motion, or even persuade their colleagues to enter into
private discussions about it. The representatives of India, Ethiopia,
Nigeria, and Mali broadly supported the line taken by the USSR (67:22).
Both the USSR and Egypt maintained that there was no reason for
the meeting, that the situation was being dramatized. During and
after the June War, they were to have these negative reactions thrown
back at them repeatedly.


457
15. Bell, J. Bowyer. The Long War: Israel and the Arabs since
1946. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
16. Belyayev, Igor and Primakov, Yevgeniy. "When War Stands at
the Threshold." Za Rubezhom (Moscow) 27 (1967), pp. 7,8.
Translated by Current Digest of the Soviet Press 19, No. 26
(19 July 1967), pp. 6-8.
17. Benson, Alex, ed. The 48-Hour War: The Arab-Israeli Conflict.
New York: IN Publishing Corp., 1967.
18. Bose, Tarun C. The Superpowers and the Middle East. London:
Asia Publishing House, 1972.
19. Brecher, Michael. Decisions in Israel's Foreign Policy. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1975.
20. Brezhnev, Leonid. Izvestia (Moscow), 26 April 1967, and
Pravda (Moscow), 26 April 1967, pp. 1-3. Translated by Current
Digest of the Soviet Press 19,17 (17 May 1967), p. 9.
21. Brornberger, Merry and Serge. Secrets of Suez. London: Sidg-
wick and Jackson, 1957.
22. Brzezinski, Zbigniew. "Peace and Power." Survival (London)
10 (December 1968):386-96.
23. Bull, Hedley. "World Order and the Super Powers." In Super
powers and World Order, pp. 140-54. Edited by C. Holbraad.
Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1971.
24. Burdett, Winston. Encounter with the Middle East, An Intimate
Report on What Lies Behind the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New
York: Atheneum, 1969.
25. Byford-Jones, W. The Lightning War. Indianapolis: Bobbs-
Merrill, 1968.
26. Cable, James. Gunboat Diplomacy: Political Applications of
Limited Naval Forces. London: Chatto & Hindus, 1971.
27. Christma, Henry M., ed. The State Papers of Levi Eshkol. New
York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969.
28. Conquest, Robert. "The Limits of Detente." Foreign Affairs
46 (July 1968):733-42.
29. Russia after Khrushchev. New York: Praeger, 1965.
30.
Copeland, Miles. The Game of Nations: The Amorality of Power
Politics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970.


465
140. Scheer, Robert. "A Nasser Thesis: The Story of Two Wars."
Part 1. Ramparts 6 (November 1967):85-98.
141. Schwartz, David C. "Decision Theories and Crisis Behavior:
An Empirical Study of Nuclear Deterrence in International
Political Crisis." Orbis II (Summer 1967):459-90.
142. Scott, John. Middle East at War: A Report to the Publisher
of Time. New York: Time, 1970.
143. Sharabi, Hisham. "Prelude to War: The Crisis of May-June
1967." Arab World 16 (special issue 1967):23-29.
144. Sidey, Hugh. "The Presidency: Over the Hot LineThe Middle
East." Life, 16 June 1967, p. 24B.
145. Smith, Hedrick. "Ex-US Envoy to Cairo Thinks Soviet Spurred
Nasser Challenge to Israel." New York Times, 12 September
1967, p. 6.
146. Smolansky, Oles M. "Moscow and the Suez Crisis, 1956, A
Reappraisal." Political Science Quarterly 80 (1965):581 -605.
147. Snyder, Glenn H. "Conflict and Crisis in the International
System." In World Politics, an Introduction, pp. 682-720.
Edited by J. R. Rosenau, et al. New York: The Free Press,
1 976.
148. "Crisis Bargaining." In International Crises:
Insights from Behavioral Research, pp. 217-56. Edited by
Charles F. Hermann. New York: The Free Press, 1972.
149. Stephens, Robert. Nasser: A political Biography. New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1972.
150. Stoessinger, John G. Nations in Darkness: China, Russia and
America, 2d ed. New York: Random House, 1975.
151. Tatu, Michel. Power in the Kremlin, from Khrushchev to Kosygin.
New York: Viking Press, 1967.
152. Timofeyev, K. "Navies in Imperialist Policy." New Times
(Moscow) (28 Nov. 1969). Reprinted in Survival (London) 12
(March 1970):101-3.
153. Triska, Jan F. and Finley, David 0. Soviet Foreign Policy.
New York: Macmillan Co., 1968.
154. Ulam, Adam B. Expansion and Coexistence, Soviet Foreign
Policy 1917-73, 2d ed. New York: Praeger, 1968.


134
Israel's cardinal mistake ten years before had been
to pay too much attention to the threats of the great
powers, and in particular to those of the Soviet Union.
The Russians, he said, had been bluffing. Their threats
to intervene in force would not have been implemented
if the bluff had been called. (93:143)
While the Israeli political leadership hesitated, temporized and
debated a long time before voting the 5 June attack, there was con
sistent, determined, sometimes angry and bitterly critical demand
from Israel's military leadership for a preemptive military solution.
But the immediate outcome of the political-mi 1itary division on this
date, after Nasser's Strait closure, was that the Israeli government
rejected the plea of its military command for immediate action and
decided to send Foreign Minister Eban to Paris, London, and Washington
for consultations.
US reacts strongly
Beginning this date, America, and President Johnson in particular,
knew from the belligerent Nasser Aqaba closure announcement that the
crisis was of a war-impending acuteness. While many other scholars
and analysts have been critical of the President's crisis performance,
Burdett portrays him as very much in command. From 23 May until the
end of the June War, US relations with the Soviet leadership were
governed by direct messages from the White House. The President's
diplomatic style was carefully balanced to combine mildness of language
with crystalline clarity. Quietly but unmistakably and unwaveringly
he made it clear that Soviet intervention in the event of war would
be intolerable" (24:274-275).


85
not practically do so either; for his officers were restive and itching
for a fight and took this challenge to Israel seriously.
U Thant's reaction
Secretary-General Thant received General Rikhye's report at 5:30
p.m. New York time that same evening and an hour and a quarter later
at his urgent request received the UAR representative to the UN,
Ambassador el-Kony, to whom he presented the following views:
1. General Rikhye could not take orders from anyone but
the Secretary-General.
2. If General Fawzi was asking for temporary withdrawal
of UNEF from the Line this was unacceptable because
UNEF "cannot be asked to stand aside in order to
enable the two sides to resume fighting." (174:311)
The implication of U Thant's first point is an important one,
though this is rarely mentioned in the accounts of this bizarre
affair. Egypt was not so new and raw at foreign affairs as not to
know it could not properly order General Rikhye and his UNEF force
around as it saw fit. If, then, General Fawzi appeared to do just
that, it could only have been because this short-cut approach was
deliberate. And one can find two good and sufficient reasons for so
doing, in addition to the above-described worry about alerting Israel.
For one, the initial time/date for the supposed assault on Syria by
Israel has regularly been given as 4 a.m., 17 May, early the next
morning; there was a need for haste (note the 10 p.m. delivery of the
letter), with no time to go through formal UN channels if Egypt's
forces were to be in position for action or effective deterrence.
Whether Nasser believed the intelligence on the Israeli attack or not,


46
In the other direction, at the beginning of this research a later
date of 14 or 15 May was envisaged for the crisis opening. These
commonly used dates mark Nasser's move of his troops into Sinai, and
reflect his claim that, until the day before, 13 May, he "had no such
plan." This research throws considerable doubt on this assertion as
more than a partial truth. It will be maintained and demonstrated
herein that active Egyptian preparations were underway well before
this; that a Soviet-Egyptian scenario had in all likelihood been
agreed upon beforehand; that only a convenient pretext was awaited;
and that a supposed, somewhat plausible, but highly fictitious Israeli
massing for attack on Syria provided this pretext.
Here, then, from D-minus 27 to the 5 June D-Day is the day-by-day
unfolding of the June War crisis buildup, and the crisis management
associated therewith.
D-Minus 27: Tuesday 9 May
Syrian disorders
The onset of the May crisis, which may not have needed this addi
tional pretext if the assumption of a preplanned Soviet-Nasser scenario
holds up under analysis, surely got a timely sendoff from the tumul
tuous events in Syria. Independently of, or in conjunction with, the
increasing likelihood of an Israeli reprisal attack on Syria for her
border provocations, this event may well have stirred Syrian leaders
into panic and the Kremlin into protective reaction.
On 25 April, the Syrian army's newspaper carried a strong atheistic
article ridiculing Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Although the


210
In his recollections, Johnson recognizes this possible motive for
Israel's option for war on 5 June:
. . The Israelis may also have been afraid that further
diplomatic moves would erode their position on Aqaba. I
did not share that judgment, because I was determined to
honor President Eisenhower's 1957 pledge on Aqaba.
(78:296-297)
Mediterranean fleet moves
Howe professes to see the movement of the attack carrier Intrepid
through the Suez Canal and on toward Vietnam this date as somehow
reassuring to Moscow and Cairo. But this appears a presumptuous and
unwarranted conclusion, in the state of high tension existing in the
Middle East. For this carrier could easily have been designed to add
air power in the Red Sea area, either to threaten the Aqaba blockade
or to flank the area of threatening hostilities. In fact, Nasser did
subsequently make reference to this passage as a brazen threat, espe
cially in that, menacingly to him, all the planes were exposed on
deck and the crew all carefully hidden below decks (61:246).
The Intrepid passage was marked by considerable tension
and crowd hostility. One source reported that "Egyptians
hooted at it from the shore [with shoes held aloft in
derision]. The Pentagon denied she was heading for Aqaba.
..." (99:51)
Furthermore, the British aircraft carrier Hermes, having been
turned around on 25 May in the Indian Ocean, arrived back in Aden
this date, to add air power to the Red Sea region for general readi
ness or blockade-breaking purposes.
At another point in his study, Howe seems aware of this potential
interpretation of the Intrepid1s move. He quotes his "informed White


367
Mot only is this a vile game, it is very subtly calcu
lated. The US and Britain would like to leave the
Arabs without friends or allies. But the imperialists
did not succeed in this foul design. The UAR people
and all the Arab peoples consider the Soviet Union and
all the other socialist countries their faithful friends.
. . (16:8)
China Thunders from the Left
Throughout this period Peking kept up a drumfire of bitter criti
cism of the Soviet "sellout." On 22 June Peking Review charged that
the US and the Soviet Union "had worked hand-in-glove to impose a
cease-fire on the Arab countries." The speeches on 19 June by Presi
dent Johnson and by Kosygin at the UN special session, China warned,
constituted "a prologue to the dirty deals they have in the offing."
Again on 30 June Peking warned of the USSR's attempt to sell out
the revolutionary interests of the people in Vietnam, the Arab
states and Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the recent June
War, said the Peking Review, the Soviet leadership revealed "its
true features of sham support but real betrayal of the Arab people"
(124,27:14,7).
While this is extreme propaganda, little related to reality,
which Moscow itself indulges in regularly, nevertheless the USSR
apparently could neither accept nor ignore such criticism and lashed
back regularly in response to these attacks.
Problems Within Communist World over Arab Policy
In various areas within and outside the Socialist bloc, the June
War caused tensions and splits which Moscow found itself in great


329
Arab Anger Vented at Soviet Union
The USSR had reason for considerable concern at the bitter denoue
ment of its sadly miscalculated scenario. The preceding background
led many Arabs to expect firm Soviet action in the event of an Israeli
attack. That such action did not materialize caused much disappoint
ment in the Arab world. Moscow's subsequent endorsement of the
Security Council resolution for an unconditional cease-fire turned
Arab disappointment into frank indignation. For the first time
since 1955 an anti-Soviet demonstration was held outside the Soviet
Embassy in Cairo, on 10 June; and some leading columnists of the
government-controlled UAR Press sharply taunted Moscow for doing
next to nothing "to repel the new tripartite aggression" (3:229).
In Cairo, Nasser had accomplished a virtual miracle in his 9
June resignation and resumption of office on this, the following day,
amid a massive outpouring of Egyptian emotion. There was a truly
strange case of scapegoating in Cairo, as Benson reports:
In the streets of the Egyptian capital, the sense of
shock that had hung in the air earlier in the week was
turning to anger. While much of this rage was directed
toward Israel and America, hostility to the Soviet Union
was rapidly developing. Street mobs shouted: "Death
to Eshkol! Death to Johnson! Death to Wilson! Death
to Kosygin! The only figure who did not come in for
hate chants was the man who had led his nation to its
most ignominious defeat since the Red Sea swallowed up
Pharaoh's armies. If Nasser's resignation speech was
a ploy, it seemed to have worked. (17:67)
It did not take the Arabs long to show Moscow, after the disaster,
how mean and ungrateful they could be. Items like this, from the New
York Times this date, were to tell the USSR over and over again what
an immense repair effort for its Mid-East position lay ahead:


242
this date substantially as follows. At a seven-hour meeting, broken
up from time to time for group consultations, the Cabinet reviewed the
situation once more before deciding finally to go to war. The meeting
heard Eban's final evaluation of the international situation, including
the latest letter from President Johnson. Eban emphasized that he
believed the Americans were now committed to the extent at least that
the humiliating 1956 experience would not be repeated. Israel would
not be isolated after an armed clash. As for the USSR, Eban expected
it to remain hostile politically, but there were no indications of
armed intervention.
Eshkol called for a formal vote at the end of the meeting. Nine
teen members voted for the resolution immediately, two others after
consultations, making the historic vote a unanimous 21-0. The resolu
tion stated:
The Government resolves to take military action in
order to liberate Israel from the stranglehold of
aggression which is progressively being tightened
around Israel. (19:421-423)
Velie provides some noteworthy amplification to the procedures
and deliberations by which proxy Israel decided on war, with her hesi
tant patron behind her and the threatening Arab states, with their
glowering Soviet patron, menacingly ahead of her.
David Ben-Gurion, then eighty-one, who had led Israel in her last
two wars, now argued against war. In those earlier trials, Israel had
had the support of Great Powers. Now, she was not only alone, but a
superpower threatened to intervene on the other side.
A strong influence in the war decision was the accession of Jordan
to the Egypt-Syria pact. Now this Arab unity--never before achieved--


58
The Syrians were aided by Israel, which on this same day sent a memo
randum to the UN Security Council, saying that Syria was launching
armed attacks on Israel and that Israel might be forced to respond.
Also on this same day, Prime Minister Eshkol told a Mapai Party meeting
that because of Syrian support of the fedayeen, it might be necessary
"to take action not less drastic than on 7 April" (34:210).
Israel's need to overstate her warnings, in order to deter Syria,
and the leaders' political need to make domestically flavorful, patri
otic statements marking the approaching Independence Day, had an unfor
tunate cumulative effect of
1. perhaps alarming the Syrians, Egyptians and Russians if they
really did suspect and fear an Israeli attack on Syria; and/or
2. providing a considerable and useful anti-Israeli propaganda
base if they were merely setting the stage for the forthcoming
Egyptian Sinai move.
Premier Eshkol in his speech on this date solemnly warned Syria
that unless it ceased its acts of aggression the Israeli army would
strike back hard, in a manner, place and time of its own choosing. His
speech in toto was much less aggressive than might appear from the
excerpts published in the press the following morning. Following the
speech, one of the Premier's aides handed out extracts to the press,
choosing the most aggressive parts of the speech. Later that night he
realized that his choice might have an untoward effect and phoned the
various night editors to soften the tone. All complied, except one,
who for technical reasons did not get the message. It was this paper's
report which the news agencies picked up and dispatched to the world,


326
Fog-spreading to Cover Soviet Inaction
In addition to the vagueness of their roundhouse threats, and a
revealing public reference to "these difficult hours for the States
of the Arab East," the Soviet Union did not have an easy time of it
at the Moscow war strategy conference, from both extremes, represented
by Yugoslavia and Rumania. Tito, for once on the Soviet side, in a
desperate attempt to save his friend and fellow neutralist Nasser,
tried to goad the USSR into meaningful action and make it feel respon
sible for inciting the Arabs and then abandoning them. On the other
hand, Rumania, already restive at Soviet bonds, refused to sign the
joint statement and was a conspicuous and soon to be much-publicized
dissenter, to the certain, severe discomfiture of the Soviet leaders.
It has been suggested in some analyses that the USSR did indeed
contemplate belated action for fear Israel would continue to advance
on Damascus in an attempt to bring down the government that was so
much responsible for the initial crisis that led to the War. The
US, as discussed earlier, having cheered Israel on to attack Syria,
showed evidence of fear, seemed to accept the seriousness of Soviet
threats, and anxiously pressured Israel to call a halt. A more
likely explanation is that the USSR knew what Israel's probable limits
were. (Damascus was a highly impractical target in any case, and
Israel had shown no disposition to cross the Suez Canal and advance
on helpless Cairo, or to move on Jordan's equally defenseless capital
Amman either.) The USSR was probably setting the stage for the wind-
down phase, again reminiscent of 1956, wherein it could take credit for
threats which no longer had meaning in that hostilities were effectively
over.


417
for the region. It still appears somewhat incredible how completely
it developed in reverse; Syria pulled the normally more prudent Egypt
into its maelstrom of radical Arab politics, and the Soviet Union was
pulled in after them both. The attraction of the concept perhaps
masked the complexity and difficulty of its successful execution.
Superpower Gain Without Risk,
Through Proxy, Overrated
One seeming advantage of conducting a crisis by proxy is the
apparent advantage of sharing the proxy's successes while standing
aloof from his failures. In reality such a desirable outcome may
prove to be an unattainable will-o'-the-wisp, as the Soviet experi
ence in this crisis demonstrates. Though near the war's outbreak
the USSR seemed to try to put distance between itself and Nasser,
in fact the fallout from the Arab disaster spread out in consider
able measure over the Soviet Union too, which suffered recriminations
and lost prestige from friend and foe alike.
Propaganda Blunder in Agressor-Defender Labels
Stanley Hoffman in Gulliver's Troubles aptly observes that in
a crisis "each belligerent convinces himself that he is on the defen
sive, or he cleverly tries to put himself there" (65:24). What Nasser,
the Syrians, the PLO and the Arab world in general had accomplished
by their earlier performance, by the war's outbreak, was to reverse
considerably the roles of aggressor and defender in the world's eyes
from what might otherwise have developed from Israel's devastating
assault on the Arabs. For such professed masters of propaganda, the


261
At the President's indignant and concerned insistence, clarifying
and reclarifying statements were hurriedly issued to the press. The
exact relationship of the US to Israel was not easy to put into
proper wording, however, involving an ambiguous position somewhere
between "neutrality" and "belligerency" (11:220-221).
From a crisis management point of view, the danger to Johnson's
efforts in such a statement, as indicated above, was that it could
easily be misinterpreted as a signal to the watchful but possibly
panicky Soviet leaders that they could intervene at will against Israel.
President Johnson also realized that any obvious deference to a
divided, worried and balky Congress during these hostilities could
dangerously encourage the USSR in the eyebal1-to-eyebal1 confronta
tions that were likely to come. He accordingly held the Congress off
at arm's length, keeping his hand closed and making no commitments
to it, retaining Executive freedom of action. Senator J. W. Ful-
bright stated subsequent to the crisis that the Administration's
witness at a meeting on the crisis was "unwilling to answer either
yes' or 'no' to the question of whether he was prepared to assure
the committee that the President would not take the US into war in
the Middle East without the consent of Congress" (68:127).
Israel Manipulates USSR
Having laid the groundwork in a Note to Kosygin on 1 June, the
war's outbreak found Eshkol sending another letter to Kosygin, which
was at the same time deceptive (the preemptive air strike by Israel
of course not acknowledged) and designed to reverse the tables and


382
in particular, to offset the American presence, Heikal reports that
Podgorny's survey visit did not go well.
The Russians were angry over the loss to the Americans, via the
Israelis, of some of their most sophisticated arms. They also thought
Egyptian demands for new arms were excessive. Trouble developed from
the Egyptian side as well. Podgorny requested in succession a naval
post in Alexandria, then a repair shop there, then Russian marine
guards for both, then Soviet possession of these facilities. While
these requests were under consideration, Podgorny went one step
further and asked that the USSR be authorized to raise the Red Flag
over this whole area. At this, according to Heikal, Nasser lost
his temper. "This is just imperialism. It means we shall be giving
you a base." Podgorny backed down, but the damage had been done
(62:46-48).
Purge of Nasser's Army
Werth reports an October 1967 talk with Marshal Zakharov, Soviet
Chief of Staff, at the Soviet Embassy in Paris, in which Zakharov
recalled his visit to the Arab countries after the disaster. Zak
harov had gone there, as he now freely admitted, to get Nasser to
purge the Egyptian army and air force. As regards the Egyptian offi
cers and generals, Marshal Zakharov said they were nearly all the
wrong kind of people; they belonged to the feudal class of Egyptian
landlords (166:216).


178
Far different version of Badran's Moscow message
In his revealing memoirs, Heikal's account is a far different
rendition than what Nasser claimed--and the Soviet leaders let go
uncorrected:
Kosygin in Moscow told Egypt's Minister of War,
Shams el Din Badran: "We are going to back you. But
you have gained your point. You have won a political
victory. So it is time now to compromise, to work
politically."
But Badran appears to have misunderstood Kosygin.
He gave Nasser the impression that the Russians were
prepared to back Egypt to the hilt. However, Ahmed
Hassan el Fekki, the Under Secretary of State for For
eign Affairs, took minutes of the meeting with Kosygin,
and after Nasser had made a speech in which he spoke
of Russian support he sent the minutes to the Presi
dent with a note saying, please read them. (61:242)
It may be noted also that such Kosygin caution is consistent
with his known character and leadership, as portrayed earlier (and
elaborated on in the Appendix).
Though others fault Badran as the source of Nasser's misinterpre
tation, Burdett concludes that Badran did deliver a sober, but dis
regarded, dash of reality to Nasser from Moscow, namely, that if war
came and anything went wrong, Egypt and her Arab allies would be on
their own. On no account would the USSR intervene with its own forces.
A similar firm warning was also delivered to the Syrians (24:307).
Although his sources are kept anonymous, Stephens's reputation
is such that this account of Soviet caution to both Egypt and Syria,
at about the same time Badran was getting his disputed message from
Kosygin in Moscow, is worthy of attention:
According to French sources, the Russians told the
Egyptians and Syrians through their ambassadors in Mos
cow not only that they would not support them if they


425
policy to be followed in the Middle East. The former argued in
closed session that, while they agreed with Syrian policy vis-a-vis
Israel, not all their colleagues shared their view. The Arab leaders
would have to pursue a more militant line to show that they were
really serious. While error in his interpretation is at least pos-
sibleif not probable--Zuayen definitely gained the impression that
a more aggressive Syrian line would meet the approval of some influ
ential circles in the Soviet capital (93:206).
Collective Leadership Weakness
RAND analyst Dinerstein in 1972 presented a description of
Soviet decision-making highly consistent with evidence herein of
leadership performance in the period immediately before, during and
after the 1967 Mid-East War. In discussing some of the elements in
the formulation of Soviet policy toward the Near East, Dinerstein
stated:
First, it is policy made by a very weak government.
I don't mean that the USSR cannot execute foreign pol
icy effectively and even brutally but I mean weakness
in the sense of coming to decisions with great diffi
culty. The Politburo represents a coalition of con
flicting forces that can be thrown out at any time.
So they're always jockeying to represent a spectrum
of forces that constitute the preponderance of power.
As far as we know--and our information is pretty good
on this--every major decision made in the Soviet Union
is made by a very narrow majority. The decision to
invade Czechoslovakia was made by a very narrow
majority, and the major domestic decisions are simi
larly made. Such governments don't make decisions
until events force them. And I think if you look at
the whole pattern of Soviet policy in the Near East
that emerges as the dominant characteristic. (38:2)
[emphasis added]


SOVIET CRISIS MANAGEMENT
AS DEMONSTRATED IN THE 1967 MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AND WAR
By
JOHN WERNER PALM
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

To KoaI Ludwig Spannuth, my gAeat-gAandfiatheA, who in 1864,
on going of to ight--and die--{¡on the Unton Aid,
"CanoZine, i{ I 4hould not Aet.uAn, ee to it that
the. chiZdnen Ae.ce.ive a good edu.ca.tLon."
To EZa Spannuth Palm, hi gnanddaughten, my motheA,
endowed with gAexit counage, piAit and the ame
Aepect {¡oa education.
To Beth Palm, my wi{e, {oa
o much--o {\aith{uily--o Zong.
To TeAAy AZan Palm, my on, with the yeaAning
that hi acni{ice in Vietnam, in July 1970,
may omehow pAomote AeconciliaXion.
and
To my otheA on:
Loaalj, KiAby, John, Bill and Paul.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Acknowledgement is made to the following publishers for permission
to quote extensively from these selected sources:
From the book, Embassies in Crisis: Diplomats and Demagogues Behind
the Six-Day War, by Michael Bar-Zohar, 01970, by Michael Bar-
Zohar. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Brecher, Michael. Decisions in Israel's Foreign Policy. New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1975.
Burdett, Winston. Encounter with the Middle East, an Intimate Report
on What Lies Behind the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Copyright
0 1969, by Winston Burdett. Published by Atheneum Publishers,
N.Y., N.Y.
From The Cairo Documents, by Mohamed Heikal. Copyright 0 1971,
1972, 1973, by Mohamed Heikal and the Sunday Telegraph. Used by
permission of Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Howard, Michael and Hunter, Robert E. "Israel and the Arab World:
the Crisis of 1967." Adelphi Papers (London), No. 41 (October
1967).
From the book, Multicrises: Sea Power and Global Politics in the
Missile Age, by Jonathan T. Howe, by permission of the MIT Press,
Cambridge, Mass. Copyright @ 1971 by The Massachusetts Institute
of Technology.
Johnson, Lyndon B. The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency,
1963-1969. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971.
Middle East Record, 1967. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1971.
Atlas World Press Review, "The Soviets, the Puppet," August 1967.
Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 17-20.
Ra'anan, Uri. "Soviet Global Policy and the Middle East." Midstream
(Israel) (May 1969). Reprinted in the Israel-Arab Reader, A
Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, pp. 437-511.
Edited by Walter Laqueur. New York: Citadel Press, 1969.
From Eban, by Robert St. John. Copyright 1972, by Robert St. John.
Used by permission of Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Tat, Michel. Power in the Kremlin, from Khrushchev to Kosygin. New
York: Viking Press, Inc., 1967. @ 1968, by William Collins
Sons & Co., Ltd., London.
Young, Oran D. "Intermediaries and Interventionists: Third Parties
in the Middle East Crisis." International Journal 23 (Winter
1967-1968): 52-73.
IV

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii
ABSTRACT vii
CHAPTER
I INTRODUCTION 1
Emergence of Crisis Management 1
Terminology 3
Principles and Techniques of Crisis Management --- 4
State of the Art 12
Dissertation Scope and Purpose 14
Assumptions . 16
II IMMEDIATE BACKGROUND (1965-1967) 20
Global Setting 20
Regional Setting 24
III CRISIS BUILDUP (ONSET): 9 MAY 4 JUNE 1 967 45
Prelude to Egypt's Move (9-13 May) 45
Egypt's Sinai Move; UNEF Withdrawal (14-18 May) 72
The Aqaba Blockade (19-22 May) 101
From Crisis to War (23 May 4 June) 131
IV CRISIS PEAK (HOSTILITIES): 5-10 JUNE 1967 249
D-Day: Monday 5 June 249
D-Plus 1: Tuesday 6 June 269
D-Plus 2: Wednesday 7 June 284
D-Plus 3: Thursday 8 June 292
D-Plus 4: Friday 9 June 302
D-Plus 5: Saturday 10 June 315
v

Page
V CRISIS WINDDOWN (RESOLUTION): 11 JUNE -
22 NOVEMBER 1967 341
Immediate Postwar Recovery Efforts (11-16 June) 341
UN Special Assembly Produces Impasse (17 June -
21 July) 365
Resolution 242 Evolves (22 July 22 November) 388
VI CONCLUSIONS 403
General 403
Similarities 403
Contrasts 409
Problems of Management by Proxy 413
APPENDIX:
THE DOMESTIC INFLUENCES: SOVIET DECISION-MAKING 421
LIST OF REFERENCES 456
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 468
vi

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
SOVIET CRISIS MANAGEMENT
AS DEMONSTRATED IN THE 1967 MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AND WAR
By
John Werner Palm
December 1978
Chairman: John W. Spanier
Major Department: Political Science
This research attempts to (1) ascertain whether and to what degree
studies of U.S. crisis management are applicable to the USSR; (2)
ascertain whether earlier findings as to an apparent Soviet three-
stage modus operandi (aggressive in buildup and winddown, prudently
cautious during peak hostilities) under Khrushchev in 1956 were still
demonstrable under the Brezhnev-Kosygin collective leadership in 1967;
and (3) highlight the complexity of crisis management in the turbulent
Middle East arena where each superpower operates through one or more
cl ient-proxies.
The findings of this research are as follows: (1) Both similari
ties and contrasts to American crisis management principles and per
formance are revealed; (2) the three-stage performance of Soviet
leadership in crisis management is very clearly demonstrated in this
1967 case; and (3) severe problems of crisis management by proxy--
problems of conflicting motivations, communications and control--are
demonstrated, extending to the question as to whether patron or client
was in effect the primary controller in this crisis.
vi i

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
Emergence of Crisis Management
The concept and practice of crisis management may be considered an
inevitable outcome of the conjunction of two post-World War II develop
ments: the rise to global preeminence of the two competitive super
powers and the increasing availability to them of awesomely unusable
nuclear weapons.
This new age contrasts with the prenuclear one in which war had
been regarded as a rational instrument at the service of state policy.
Now, suddenly, all-out war became not just overwhelmingly destructive
of the opponent, but suicidal as well; its use had become irrational.
But the nature of the nation-state and the interstate system, with
all their potential for recurring conflict, did not change. Interstate
politics remains essentially anarchic, with no central authority to
control behavior or resolve the inevitable conflicts of interest and
purpose. And while small powers can--and do--use force as before in
their relations with each other, for the superpowers this option has
now been foreclosed.
It is readily apparent from the historical record that nuclear
weapons have greatly strengthened the war (disaster) avoidance restraint
in superpower conflict. But they have not changed the importance these
powers attach to their interests in conflict. They still recognize
1

2
interests to defend and they still make demands upon each other that
must be acquiesced in, resisted, or in some way accommodated. Thus
there has developed a pressing need to find a replacement for war to
resolve nuclear age US-USSR conflicts.
A concern for the successful, reasonably peaceful resolution of
crises, i.e., their effective management, has evolved to serve as an
acceptable war substitute for the superpowers. There has gradually
developed a tacit legitimization of crises as contests of resolve and
nerve," waged by verbal threats and physical means short of large-
scale violence. Crises are seen as surrogates for war in the nuclear
age when all-out war has become far too risky and potentially costly
(147:707,709).
Crisis occurs in a transition zone between peace and war and has
aspects of both. Crisis behavior proves to be a mixture of coercion
and accommodation. It arises when one state is seen to be pushing its
interests and the other feels constrained to resist. As Oran Young sees
it, "International crises have come increasingly to occupy a critical
position at the juncture between the use of violence and the use of
diplomacy in primarily persuasive situations" (176:310). Therefore,
the successful outcome of crisis management has become a primary objec
tive of statesmen (and, in their shadow, scholars) equivalent to, and
no less important than, the pursuit of victory on the battlefield in
the prenuclear era.
It was perhaps this realization that caused US Secretary of Defense
Robert McNamara to exult in 1962, in the immediate post-Cuban missile
crisis euphoria, "There is no longer any such thing as strategy, only

3
crisis management" (118:258). Certainly skillful and successful crisis
management is now central to superpower politics, with the prospective
consequences of failure being nuclear disaster.
Terminology
A crisis, as envisaged in this paper, can be described as
a hostile confrontation of two or more nations arising from
conflicting policies toward a geographic or problem area,
which, by virtue of the use or suggested use of force,
engenders a substantial increase in, and high levels of,
tension. (141:470)
As applied to the superpowers, there are also other important char
acteristics of international crises which require consideration. Such
crises involve high threats to important values and objectives of the
participants. The protagonists act from belief that the outcome of
their crises will have far-reaching import for their future relation
ship and their future power and status in the international community.
The increased rapidity of events almost inevitably means that decision
makers will be faced with great uncertainties and imponderables, and
that they will feel a strong sense of urgency. Further, there is evi
dent a sense of reduced control over events and their effects. One of
the hallmarks of an international crisis--in Thomas Sc he1 ling's words--
is "its sheer unpredictability" (169:25-26).
Crisis management, as envisaged in this paper, can be defined as
the art of conducting policy in a crisis not merely so as
to avoid the nuclear catastrophe which both sides wish to
avoid, but also so as to inflict a diplomatic defeat on
the adversary. . (23:147)
Crisis management is essentially an attempt to balance and reconcile
a complex mixture of diverse elements: bilateral competition, in which

4
the primary purpose is to attain one's goals, and shared danger, in which
priority is given to the reduction of risks and the avoidance of disaster
(169:29).
The ideal goal of crisis management may also be envisaged as achiev
ing an optimum mix among four elements appearing in a crisis in a complex
interaction between two sets of goals and constraints: coercion vs.
disaster avoidance, and accommodation vs. loss avoidance. Or, simply,
the entire process may be described as "coercing prudently" or "accom
modating cheaply," or some combination of both (148:240).
Principles and Techniques of Crisis Management
Systemic Environment and Bargaining Setting
International crises develop and are played out under the influence
of the systemic environment and bargaining setting in which they occur.
Included in the systemic environment are the general structure of the
system (number of major actors and distribution of power among them),
existing alliances and alignments, and the nature of military technology.
These factors may very strongly influence the nature, course, and out
come of a crisis (148:220).
The historic multipolarity prevailing in the Europe-centered inter
state system gave way after World War II to a bipolar world in which
only the two superpowers, the US and the USSR, have really counted in
the successive conflicts that developed into crises over the thirty
years since. The effect was to produce a zero-sum attitude, so danger
ous for crisis management, a fear that a gain for either power, however
minor, inevitably meant a comparable loss for the other. Worse yet,

5
such an outcome tended to develop a fear that a trend was developing--
observable to friend, foe and neutral alike--that would repeat and
magnify the unfavorable outcome for the loser in succeeding crises.
As Glenn Snyder conceives it,
The bargaining setting includes a wide range of back
ground factors which are more immediate and directly re
lated to the bargaining process than those in the systemic
environment. These include the conflict of interest which
underlies the crisis, the recent relations between the
parties, the parties' comparative valuation of the stakes
at issue, their relative military capabilities and subjec
tive fears of war, and precrisis commitments. Also a
part of the bargaining setting are various other asymme
tries between the parties such as geographical distance
from the crisis area, who is the "aggressor" and who the
"defender," conceptions of the "legitimacy" of the status
quo or the demand to change it, and, most important, the
parties' precrisis "images" of all these things, includ
ing, consequently, their reciprocal perceptions of each
other's "resolve." (148:221)
The superpowers over the years of their many contending Cold War
crises have developed a complex pattern of interaction that has been
aptly described as a "limited adversary" or "adverse partnership" rela
tionship. They are at the same time both partners and adversaries, in
varying degrees and with fluctuating intensities. What is involved is
a curious mix of common and conflicting interests, with the common
interest in avoiding nuclear disaster always a pressing one, competing
with the other interests at stake (169:47).
The fine balancing of these complex interests is most apparent when
the crisis at hand is one in which each superpower is somewhat reluc
tantly waging the crisis by proxy, supporting but also restraining its
more single-minded client. The Formosa Straits crisis of 1958 is an
instructive example, wherein both superpowers no more than partially and

6
reluctantly supported the initiatives and desires of their Chinese
Nationalist and Chinese Communist proxies.
Crises as Tests of Comparative Interest and Resolve
A persuasive case can be made that for some crises the process
develops in its ideal form into a test of comparative interest, in which
the outcome tends to favor the side that demonstrates, both objectively
and subjectively, an asymmetrical predominance of interest at stake over
its opponent.
This process develops as follows. Traditional balance of power is
seen in the superpower context as a combination of balance of capabili
ties and balance of interests. But in the nuclear age, and especially
as a rough nuclear parity has developed, comparative capabilities have
become imponderable and consequently less meaningful factors. Hence a
crisis tends to turn on the balance of interests; in the various crisis
maneuvers which test resolve, in the ideal case the lesser interest
will tend to show lesser resolve and greater tendency to accommodate
the other.
Two successive crises, in 1961 and 1962, may be used in demonstra
tion. In the Berlin Wall crisis of August 1961, the US showed lesser
resolve and more willingness to accommodate, even recognizing the
urgency for the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the USSR to halt
the outflow ot East German refugees, and the potentially explosive and
unpredictable dangers both sides faced if this flow was not halted.
A year later, in October 1962, the USSR again initiated a crisis,
this time with the introduction of missiles into Cuba. Here the

7
predominant interest was very much on the side of the US, as the
development of the crisis and its outcome demonstrated.
But not all superpower crises--notable exceptions being those in
the Middle East--have such predictable patterns in which comparative
interests prove asymmetrical and determine the safe outcomes. For
these other crises, firmness to show resolve must be balanced with
caution, so as not to unintentionally and uncontrollably accelerate a
crisis into an intolerable confrontation.
Preserving Freedom of Action
Because the opponent's response, his view of the comparative inter
ests at stake, and the resolve he will prove to demonstrate are all
imperfectly known factors, the crisis manager attempts to preserve
at all stages a degree of freedom of action, a potential for advance
or retreat, the preservation of some options at his disposal.
This is the area in which crises conducted largely through proxies
notably in the Middle East--have proved so dangerous. There has been
a tendency for the principal to lose control over his client, partly
due to communication problems, partly due to differing perceptions
of vital needs and interests in their respective roles. Lost control
has led to lost freedom of action, and in the Middle East in 1967
this led to a plunge into war between the proxies.
Interdependence of Commitments
Irrespective of the apparent asymmetry of interests or resolve
which might otherwise dictate the outcome of crises, and increasing
the dangerous unpredictability of their outcomes as a result, has been

8
a concept of interdependence of commitments by the superpowers. Thus
a power's prestige and future global prospects, in relation to friend,
foe and neutral, are seen to some degree to hinge on the outcome of
every superpower crisis.
Such a consideration for interdependence, or linkage, of commitments
and prestige may have grown up on the US side from seeing the apparent
relation of the successive faltering of the Soviet image in Vietnam,
to its setback in the June 1967 Mid-East war, and on to the Eastern
European unrest requiring suppression of the Czech rebellion the next
year. In the final years of the American effort in Vietnam, and in
the immediate aftermath, there was a considerable US effort to avoid
appearing humiliated, using the argument of its effects on future
American global prestige and commitments.
Judging from the public record, there would appear to be appreciably
more concern among US decision-makers than with their Soviet counterparts
for their resolve reputations and this concept of interdependence of
commitments.
Coercion Possibilities Expanded
Statesmen probably fear war a good deal more now than in the
nineteenth century, and this induces a considerable measure of caution
into crisis behavior. But this has at the same time raised the threshold
of challenge or provocation above which statesmen feel themselves willing
or bound to fight. Consequently, it has released, below this threshold,
for coercion purposes, a wide variety of moves which in former times
might have triggered war. The superpowers have been extremely inventive

9
in developing a varied ensemble of physical maneuvers and uses of force
short of war to communicate and test resolve in crises (148:220). Even
limited violence is permissible--especially by proxies--as a means of
crisis coercion. Examples are the 1958 air combat over the Formosa
Straits and the 1967 and 1973 Mid-East wars.
Inventiveness in demonstrative or show-of-force options in crisis
has included calling various levels of alert status for missiles,
dispersal of bombers, putting more bombers into the air on airborne
alert, putting more nuclear submarines out to sea, and, in the conven
tional weapon area, massing forces at a crisis locale (Cuba, 1962);
dramatically announcing plans for increasing total forces (Berlin,
1961); alerting airborne forces and concentrating air transports for
them (USSR, Mid-East, 1973) (147:707).
The modern military forces of the superpowers may thus have changed
their primary function to one of being threatened and manipulated in
peacetime rather than used in war (169:46).
Need for Effective, Centralized, Prudent Control
Experience with the severe superpower crises of the 1960's and
1970's has demonstrated the requirement for assuring effective, cen
tralized and prudent control of the successive maneuvers involved in
coping with and resolving a crisis. Thus in 1962 President Kennedy
quickly developed the Executive Committee" (ExCom) of his most trusted
advisers to help him manage the US through this tense and critical
period. That this was a far cry from the traditional initiative per
mitted a military theatre commander as recently as in the Korean War

10
is shown by the reluctance with which the Navy acceded to Kennedy's
insistence on detailed control of its blockade execution.
It has been reported similarly from the opposing side that the
normal Kremlin decision-making was bypassed in favor of an inner group
of five or six members of the Presidium who directed Soviet moves
throughout this crisis (157:25).
Importance of Timing, Pacing, Signaling
These techniques and their nuances have proved critical in repeated
crises, and have increased the need for the key crisis manager to con
trol his moves as directly as possible, rather than have their effect
delayed, distorted or confused by being slowly filtered through the
normal operations of a bureaucracy.
Crisis timing is an option available primarily to the initiator
of a crisis. By selection of a time embarrassing and disconcerting to
the opponent, it may be hoped that he will be thus coerced into an
accommodating mood rather than face up to this new complication to his
leadership burden.
An unusual exploitation of crisis timing occurred at the tail end
of the 1956 Suez crisis when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made his
rocket-rattling threats at a most inopportune moment for President
Eisenhower: a state of confusion and cross-purposes with his primary
NATO allies, the loss of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to cancer
surgery, and preoccupation with his own reelection campaign as the "Man
of Peace!"
Crisis pacing is a matter of not letting urgency and time pressure
in decision-making result in dangerous escalation or hasty, ill-advised moves.

11
Thus Kennedy, in the early stages of the Cuban missile crisis,
observing that events were moving with dangerous, escalatory rapidity,
deliberately inserted measures to slow down the action, thereby giving
Khrushchev and his advisers more time for consideration of alternatives.
Signaling is the term for what has developed into a highly sophis
ticated process for communicating threats, responses, accommodations,
pauses and an ensemble of related nuances, all to fill the needs of
superpower crisis management. In contrast to an earlier age when
political and military action were clearly separated, now verbal
diplomacy and military action short of violence tend to merge into a
single, complex communication machine (147:706).
For an example of effective, sophisticated signaling, President
Johnson, during the 1967 Middle East War, while maintaining a calm
and judicious tone in his hotline messages to Kosygin, at the same
time positioned and pointed the Mediterranean Sixth Fleet in ways he
was sure would be understood to demonstrate the intended degree of
resolve, as observed and reported to Moscow by the shadowing Soviet
ships.
Value of Initiative, Surprise, Fait Accompli
The initiation of the international superpower crisis being con
sidered has generally been taken on the Soviet side and, accompanied
usually by surprise effect, has been designed to be a technique to
realize a fait accompli before the opponent can effectively respond.
The intent is to face the opponent with the unpalatable need to initiate
violence to undo the new situation, and hope that he will prove unwilling
or unable to do so.

12
The building of the Berlin Wall was such a step and it was success
ful, amid signs of great discomfiture among the US and its NATO allies.
Often, however, the origin of a crisis in the Cold War era has been
such an endeavor to unilaterally effect a change in the status quo, but
one that has been resisted and has therefore in varying degree been a
miscalculation on the part of the initiator. The challenger perceives
his resolve to be superior, and the degree of resistance encountered
is a measure of the extent of his miscalculation of the balance of
resolve and the comparative interests at stake. The Cuban missile
crisis is the most conspicuous example of such a serious miscalculation.
The greatest danger to the initiator of a crisis and his attempted
fait accompli is that his action may sting the adversary into both the
motivation and sense of justification for devising an effective counter
action, which may well be at a considerably higher level of risk of
gain and loss. Thus Khrushchev's Cuban missile ploy brought on the
American blockade of Cuba and attendant imminent threat of invasion of
Cuba and war. And in 1967 Nasser's bold moves, ejecting United Nations
forces and blockading Israel from the Gulf of Aqaba, ostensibly to
deter a reprisal raid on Syria, resulted in Israel's lightning war
and conquest of all of the Egyptian Sinai, plus key parts of Jordan
and Syria.
State of the Art
Prevailing Bias Toward US Concepts
Most of the literature on crisis management is by Western, largely
American, writers whose findings reflect essentially the thinking of

13
only one superpower, the US. There is a complete absence in Soviet
writing or speeches of any mention of this concept as applicable to
their side. Soviet writings tend to deal with crisis almost exclusively
in unhelpful ideological and propagandists terms.
Some Western writers do attempt to generalize to include the Soviet
side of crisis management, inferring from Soviet leaders' actions and
pronouncements in and related to crisis that they at least tacitly
recognize and practice (though with apparent exceptions) some of the
principles and techniques discussed above. But these writings to date
are largely impressionistic, speculative and tentative.
Soviet Crisis Management
In its most fundamental aspects, Soviet performance in crisis
demonstrates flexibility, rather than rigid conformance to any pre
scribed scenario. Also there is an apparent rational means-ends calcu
lation behind their crisis decisions and maneuverings.
Jan F. Triska and David 0. Finley, in their detailed study of
Soviet foreign policy, analyzed twenty-nine crises, finding that, with
the exception of intramural cases in the Eastern European Soviet
security zone, Soviet crisis management has been marked by notable
caution and low risk. They conclude that
the level and pattern of Soviet risk . have been low
and narrow. Soviet crisis behavior was found to be con
servative rather than radical, cautious rather than
reckless, deliberate rather than impulsive, and rational
(not willing to lose) rather than nonrational. (153:346)
Similarly, Michael P. Gehlen analyzed eleven Soviet crises over an
eleven-year period ending in 1966. He presented his findings in a table

14
of indicators of Soviet risk-taking which shows a striking concentration
of all action--again with the exception of Eastern Europe--on the verbal
end of the scale, with very little action of the show-of-force kind--
mobilization, movement of troops, etc.--and no participation in combat
by Soviet forces. Caution and low risk are his conclusions also (57:111).
0. M. Smolansky, among others, made a study of the seemingly pro
vocative, aggressive and high-risk performance of the USSR in the 1956
Suez crisis. He concluded that this was a case of low-risk bluff,
with no intent to follow through with action, one that achieved consider
able propaganda credit for the USSR with tai 1-end-of-crisis maneuvers
at a time when the British-French effort was already doomed to failure
by open US opposition (146). The soundness of this analysis was sup
ported by Nasser himself in his public quarrels with Khrushchev in
1958-59, and further enlarged on by the reminiscences of Egyptian
editor and Nasser confidant Muhammad H. Heikal.*
Dissertation Scope and Purpose
This dissertation will endeavor to add to the existing literature
in three areas.
First, an endeavor will be made to more fully document, in a de
tailed case study, to what degree findings as to US crisis management
principles and practice actually do fit Soviet behavior in these same
crises.
*Some of the most valuable material on the performance of Soviet
leaders in crisis has been gained from Heikal, either first-hand when
he too was present, or second-hand from Nasser's on-the-spot or soon-
after confidences. The most revealing cases are from the 1956 Suez
crisis, the 1958 Lebanon crisis and the 1970 War of Attrition crisis (61).

15
Secondly, for an analytical approach to this crisis, it will be
posited, as Smolansky does in his study of the 1956 Suez crisis, that
the Soviet Union recognizes three stages to a crisis--the buildup,
the peak, and the winddown--and practices markedly contrasting pro
cedures and techniques with the passing from one stage to another.
In essence, in the buildup the USSR is vocally and demonstrably
aggressive and intransigent, manipulating the crisis with minimum
apparent concern for the prospective dangers involved.
At the peak (in this case, Arab-Israeli hostilities) the Soviet
Union retreats to extreme caution, withdrawing from earlier commitments,
with maximum apparent concern for the dangers at hand.
In the winddown, the USSR returns to vocal aggressiveness, symbolic
acts and demonstrations, and a major effort to reinterpret to both friend
and foe the content and significance of its recent restrained but also
ambiguous performance.
Thirdly, Soviet crisis behavior through client-proxies will be
studied. This aspect is at once more complex and difficult to manage
than the direct bipolar competition usually treated in the literature;
more revealing of the usual Soviet closed hand from the necessity to
work through less secretive intermediaries; and more relevant to the
problems of current and prospective American-Soviet crisis management.
That is, as demonstrated in the recent and current use of a Cuban
presence and troops in Africa as a Soviet client-proxy, this indirect
form of superpower conflict gives evidence of being the pattern for
the future, probably because greater risks can safely be undertaken
through proxy action, and also because retreat, when required, can be
accepted with less concern for the principal's own resolve reputation.

16
Accordingly, the May-June 1967 Mid-East Crisis and War have been
selected for a detailed study of the evidence revealed thereby of
Soviet crisis management, primarily through their Egyptian proxy.
In this superpower crisis, the US was seen as the supporter of Israel,
with its interests threatened as Israel's security became threatened
with the onset of the crisis. The Soviet Union was seen as the backer
of the radical Arab regimes of Egypt and Syria which precipitated the
crisis, with its interests promoted vis-ci-vis the US if its clients
prevailed.
With a demonstrable symmetry of interests and restraints operating
on the two superpowers, it might appear that such crises in the Middle
East would not occur, or would be kept safely within mutually acceptable
bounds. But in this volatile region the pattern has been quite the
opposite. Here the two patrons have responsibilities and commitments
without effective controls over their clients, giving the latter con
siderable freedom of maneuver to pursue provocative and dangerous
measures to advance their own interests.
Assumptions
This research is predicated on two basic assumptions on which crisis
management decisions are considered to be made concerning the Middle
East, on both the Soviet and American sides. The one concerns the
essential symmetry of the motivational ranges within which both sets
of decision-makers appear to operate. The other is the assumption of
a single rational actor model to account for Soviet decision-making,
regardless of the contrast, for example, between the Khrushchev and the

17
Brezhnev-Kosygin styles, and some evidence of varying hardline vs.
moderate influences on the leadership.
Superpower Motivational Symmetry in Mid-East
The essential symmetry of US and Soviet Middle East positions,
within which the recurring crises have been managed, has developed
despite the endeavors by each to claim a predominant role at the-expense
of the other. Constantly repeating the theme of concern for the security
of its nearby southern borders, the USSR has endeavored to portray the
US and its Sixth Fleet as an imperialist interloper that has no rightful
place in the eastern Mediterranean. The US, for its part, influenced
by its NATO ties and strategic and economic interests, has tried with
an unpersuasive and oversimplified containment policy--centered orig
inally on the ill-fated Baghdad Pact--to exclude the Soviet Union from
any significant Middle East role. Both powers may be said to have been
frustrated in their maximum objectives, to exclude or drive out the
other, while successfully accomplishing their minimum objectives, not
to be driven out, and to see their area clients survive.
French author Andr Fontaine describes the effective limits to
Soviet or US gains or losses in the Mid-East in these terms:
What Washington is determined to prevent is the destruction
of Israel, just as Moscow is committed to preventing the
Egyptian and Syrian regimes from being destroyed.
These parallel commitments--and each side is fully aware
of them--establish the limits within which each power is
free to act. (54:128)
Jacob C. Hurewitz finds that the important, yet nonvital, signifi
cance of the area to the two powers produces a prudent restraint to

18
their competition for influence:
There is . an overriding restraint for the superpowers--
the determination to avoid a nuclear confrontation. For
neither superpower is the Middle East an area of supreme
importance. It is therefore not a region in which such
a confrontation is likely to take place. (70:169)
But opposed to this 1972 assessment is the 1975 finding by R. D.
McLaurin that "the possibilities of a superpower confrontation are
greater in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world" (104:147).
The net effect of the above-described motivational restraints is
a crisis relationship bounded by narrow and moderate success-failure
limits, expressed by the needs to "coerce prudently" or "accommodate
cheaply."
Rational Actor Model
The necessary assumption of the Soviet leadership operating as a
single rational actor is an inevitable consequence of the dearth of
the amounts and kinds of information that would permit the utilization
of alternative models, a decision-making one or a bureaucratic one, for
example.
Nevertheless, there is appreciable evidence, including Khrushchev's
memoirs, that the entire Soviet effort and commitment in the Middle
East has persisted from the very beginning as a matter of dissension
and division within the Soviet leadership. This arena represents an
exception to the preferred Soviet pattern for nonvital areas: it may
justifiably and critically be labeled risks associated with presence
and commitment without control. Therefore, despite the paucity of
reliable information from behind the USSR's consistently closed hand,

19
an attempt will be made (in the Appendix) to offer an alternative model,
which may also serve to embellish and enrich the following 1967 case
account with evidence of Soviet decision-making problems, divisions,
and their outcomes.

CHAPTER II
IMMEDIATE BACKGROUND (1965-1967)
Global Setting
Broad Perspective
The Soviet leadership, following its dramatic replacement of the
ebullient Khrushchev in October 1964, was as yet untested in any major
crisis. Yet the ingredients that were to produce the forthcoming Mid-
East crisis were present in the global setting, and simmering.
This was the apparent essence of the Soviet global view: while
making a superficial commitment to dtente, the US under President
Johnson's leadership was on the offensive, pushing the USSR around
seemingly at will. Dtente did not hinder US invasion of the Dominican
Republic in 1965, or, beginning that same year, a massive escalation in
Vietnam, including intensive bombing of a Soviet client and ally.
Furthermore, in the developing Third World, the USSR had sustained
a succession of stunning defeats in areas it had once so proudly hailed
as victories for the socialist, or at least noncapitalist, camp. There
was Sukarno's downfall in Indonesia, and loss of a considerable Soviet
investment there. There were the overthrows of Ben Bella in Algeria
and Nkrumah in Ghana. And in the Mid-East's center, Nasser himself
was both in decline and suspect as an unreliable and difficult client
who gave repeated evidence of "using" the USSR for his own nationalistic
purposes.
20

21
What better area to select than the Middle East to advance a new
forward strategy, take the heat off North Vietnam (and perhaps achieve
a new coercive bargaining position), face the US with the disagreeable
prospect of a two-front military involvement, answer China's attacks
in the process, and reestablish its leadership of the divided and
quarreling Communist world? The temptation and pressure to take this
decision, in early 1967, were surely considerable.
America Perceived as on a Global Offensive
Many analysts see the Soviet Union, in the spring 1967 prelude to
war, reacting first and foremost to a perceived American global "im
perialist offensive."
Fritz Ermath, in a RAND analysis, indicates how Soviet leaders'
concern at seemingly unrestrained US escalation in Vietnam moved them
eventually to a defense-motivated but tactically offensive program of
counteraction:
In Vietnam, . the conflict did escalate and it became
a test case on which the Soviet position was highly vul
nerable. First, it proved that neither Soviet military
power at the general nuclear level nor Soviet restraint
in local theaters of conflict could prevent the growing
intervention of the United States. (50:11)
A subsequent comprehensive analysis by American and European
panelists dealing with Soviet trends also took note of the worried,
and angrily defensive, mood of the Kremlin leadership which evidently
encouraged it to embark on a forward, adventurist policy in the Middle
East in May 1967. That is, from a Soviet perspective, the imperialist
West, led by President Johnson, was using dtente as a one-way street,
"rolling back" and demoralizing the socialist camp everywhere, spreading

22
confusion and dismay throughout the Third World. Under the cover of
its strategic nuclear superiority, it could use conventional warfare,
most prominently in Vietnam, with a sense of callous immunity from
any effective Soviet counteraction (120:108-109).
From Nasser's view there was a comparable fear of a threatening
American imperialism. The general world picture growing in his mind
was of an American campaign to subdue the more radical anti imperialist
leaders of the Third World and to break their links with Russia, a
campaign in which he felt himself to be marked down as a potential
victim, after Egypt had been isolated by the destruction of the
revolutionary regime in Syria (149:463,466).
In a postwar analysis, Z. Brzezinski also depicts the Soviet
leaders in early 1967 in a state of worried concern (shared with
many foreign Communist leaders) as to how to counter a seemingly
relentless new imperialist offensive led by the US. From their per
spective, a whole series of global setbacks was all part of a very
deliberate US-engineered political offensive (22:388).
America Perceived to Falter
But if America was indeed perceived to be on a global offensive
track, its efforts also appeared to be suffering severe setbacks by
early 1967. Hence an interrelated view of Soviet motivation toward
Mid-East adventuring is an opportunistic one, based on a conclusion
that the US was bogged down in Vietnam and soured over its global
responsibilities, including those in the Middle East.
The White House was preoccupied heavily with Vietnam War decisions
and pressures as the Middle East crisis began to flare up. President

23
Johnson had a critical month in May for American decisions on Vietnam.
American decision-makers were intensively involved, amid growing
domestic opposition, in discussions on future American strategy in
the War. In the words of an Israeli source: "The overburden of
decision-making was one of the reasons for the American hesitation
on involvement in the Middle East crisis. . The US in fact shied
away from any strong initiative" (51:233).
Soviet global-Middle East thinking in the precrisis setting may
well have proceeded as follows. By fostering a major threat to the
American position in the Arab world, the USSR could make political
gains and also serve notice that, if the US persisted in making dif
ficulty for the Soviet Union in Southeast Asia, the latter could
counter by raising a storm in the Middle East (8:169).
UN Secretary-General U Thant and French President Charles
de Gaulle were two world leaders who also believed the origins of
the June War were interlocked with the US war in Vietnam.
One American analyst goes even further. Herbert Dinerstein,
in 1971 testimony before a House subcommittee looking into Soviet
involvement in the Middle East and the Western response, was critical
of US failure to signal effectively its intent to its Soviet adversary
"I think that in many ways the United States bears a large share of
the responsibility for the 1967 War precisely because it was unwilling
to make clear that it would support the Israelis" (155:14).
The China Connection
China's role in the Soviet motivation to act in the Middle East
cannot be discounted. Although the West tends to dismiss Chinese

24
pressure as a factor in Soviet decision-making before the 1969 Sino-
Soviet border clashes, before the Six-Day War East European diplomats
in Tel Aviv were convinced this was a factor. Perhaps partly for
this reason there was a special eagerness among Soviet leaders to
save the leftist Syrian regime in 1967, and thereby undercut and
stave off radically leftist Chinese "poaching" in Middle East politics
(13:97-98). In the words of British writer W. A. C. Adie, "China's
prodding from the sidelines forced the Russians to compete in escalat
ing demonstrations of 'revolutionary commitment'" (1:317).
Improved Soviet Deterrence
Possibly furthering the Soviet leaders' confidence that it was
time to check the American global offensive was the sharply improved
status of their deterrent strategic forces. The post-Khrushchev
leadership had undertaken a substantial buildup of Soviet strategic
forces. In summer and autumn 1966 an accelerated program of ICBM
construction got underway, and by the beginning of 1967 the number
of operational ICBMs was about 400-450, increasing at a rate of more
than 100 a year, compared with the total deployment of fewer than 200
ICBM launchers during the entire Khrushchev period (94:148).
Regional Setting
February 1966: Syrian Coup
In retrospect, one could pinpoint February 1966 as opening the
curtain to the succession of Mid-East events that was to culminate in
the June War. For in this month the perennially unstable Syrian

25
government was once again overthrown, this time by a militantly,
radically leftist Ba'ath regime. The new government immediately
embarked on a domestic and foreign program that both gladdened the
hearts of its Soviet supporters and worried them incessantly because
of the Syrian tendency to willful, unrestrained risk-taking. Particu
larly in relation to the struggle against Israel for the recovery of
Palestine, Syria eagerly took over the lead, offering her territory
as a base for Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists to
mount raids against Israel, regardless of Israel's declared and
demonstrated strategy to retaliate with force.
An Israeli Communist leader quotes one of the Soviet leaders as
saying: "Now that we have two pillars, Syria and Egypt, we can start
building on them." The jubilant mood in Moscow is also attested to
by other Israeli Communists who happened to be in the Soviet capital
at that time on the occasion of the 23rd Party Congress (49:22-23).
The seemingly imprudent, even irrational, attachment that the
normally pragmatic and calculating Soviet leadership displayed for
Syria, from the latest Ba'ath governmental turnover in February 1966
until the June War, has mystified many observers. The February 1966
coup that brought the radical Ba'athists to power was the eighteenth
attempt in seventeen years. With forthcoming spring 1967 disorders
inside Syria, then, as a prelude for the Mid-East crisis to follow,
the Soviet leaders might well have been concerned that the time for
another turnover was at hand, and that their client state was in con
siderable danger.
Under the new Ba'ath regime, according to Lester Velie, Communists
were for the first time permitted to function openly and were even

26
taken into the Cabinet, a decided exception to the prevailing Middle
East pattern. The Syrian leaders proved highly receptive to Soviet
guidance in their political, military and economic policies. To the
jubilant Kremlin, Syria was on its way to becoming the first Communist
Arab state. The Russians felt so secure here that they erected a
giant communications and nerve center for Soviet operations in the
Middle East and in Africa. Soviet technicians and intelligence
experts manned the electronic and monitoring equipment. Now the
Soviet Union had a base on the eastern end of the Mediterranean which
could be harnessed to strategic military needs if necessary (160:82-83).
November 1966: Egypt-Syria Pact;
Israeli Reprisal Raid
In November 1966 the Soviet Union felt it had found a happy,
multifaceted solution to its own and its client's problems. It
persuaded Nasser to give up his five-year-long feud with Syria and
sign a mutual defense pact with her. The aim was twofold and seem
ingly well-designed. Egypt, leader of the joint military organization,
would exert a restraining influence on Syria in the matter of border
provocations, even as Egypt had kept her own borders with Israel
remarkably quiet in the ten years that had elapsed since the 1956
Suez War. But at the same time the Egypt-Syria pact would deter
Israel from any rash reaction to Syrian provocations.
Just prior to this event, in October 1966, the pattern of Arab-
Soviet behavior was a dress rehearsal for what was to erupt into
crisis and war some seven months later. Unable or unwilling to re
strain its Syrian client, the Soviet Union carried out, largely
through its abrasive Ambassador to Israel, Dmitri S. Chuvakhin, a

27
heavy-handed, intense campaign of denunciation of supposed Israeli
massing of threatening forces on the Syrian border. Despite the
absurdity of the charges, and even their inconsistency with Israel's
reprisal tactics, the Soviet Union persisted to an extraordinary
degree in this endeavor, just as it was to do in 1967.
In retrospect, and in evaluation of Soviet crisis techniques,
there are certain advantages to such an endeavor to avert a crisis
by deterrent intimidation. This action put a small state like Israel
on both the diplomatic and psychological defensive in attempting to
counter Soviet charges, while still preserving what she considered
essential means of retaliation against terrorist attacks. There were
major, serious drawbacks to this technique, however, of which the
Soviet leaders, then and in May 1967, seemed insufficiently aware.
The charges were too easily disprovable, causing confusion in both
regional and world opinion, and easily leading to worldwide sympathy
and support for Israel as the injured party. Even more seriously, this
ploy gave the irresponsible Syrian and PLO clients of the USSR a free
hand and thereby comparably reduced the USSR's own freedom of action.
The result was to tie Soviet fortunes to the provocative and dangerous
tactics these clients continued to pursue.
The Soviet solution to this dilemma was not without merit. It
was accomplished in November 1966, as already noted, with the signing
of the Egypt-Syria defense pact. Now the USSR had a more responsible
proxy to deal with the irresponsible one (a proxy once removed), thus
permitting the USSR to continue pulling the strings while being hope
fully one safe stage removed from apparent responsibility for any un
comfortable or unexpected outcomes.

28
Winston Burdett has discussed this Soviet tactic as an instrument
of policy, not only a cautionary weapon against the Israelis but a
means of political incitement to the Arabs. The special danger in
the Middle East of thus dealing in misinformation--both as propaganda
and as sign 1anguage--was the problem of control; for Arab society
is "so naturally permeated by misinformation on so many levels and
so receptive to it, so easily and warmly seized with fantasy" (24:165-166).
On 5 November the Soviet Union vetoed a mild UN Security Council
censure of a Syrian provocation that was approved by ten other nations.
As Burdett records this event, "If it did not set the course of events
for the following months, it at least sharpened their pace." For
Syria now took the veto as a green light to unrestrained provocation
of Israel, while Israel lost any hope for deterring Syria except
through her own retaliatory measures. Nowhere in the record is there
evidence of Soviet leadership concern that its freedom of action was
being severely circumscribed, that it had become the voluntary captive
of its client (24:174).
Israel--frustrated by the veto-bound UN Security Counci 1--then
retaliated with a massive raid against es Samu village in Jordan.
This action appeared to the world excessively destructive in both
human life and material, and brought down onto Israel a UN censure,
inasmuch as the attack appeared seriously misdirected. King Hussein
was a Middle East moderate, astride a shaky throne, hated equally with
Israel by the Arab radicals. The bloody Israeli attack led to wide
spread riots in Jordan, shook Hussein on his throne, and thus incited
Hussein to counterattack--along with the PL0--by baiting Nasser for
his inactivity.

29
Nasser's Dilemma
Alex Benson has effectively portrayed Nasser's plight in the
spring of 1967 as a desperate one. Political rivalries had eroded
his power and prestige. The Egyptian economy was more disastrous
than even its normal state. The standard of living in Egypt was
lower than in any other North African or Middle Eastern nation except
stone-age Yemen. One-sixth of Egypt's army was bogged down in a
costly, bloody, demoralizing, endless war in Yemen. Proud and sensi
tive Nasser was being taunted by his rivals as a weakling chief of
a weakling state" (17:119).
Perhaps inadequately appreciated by Israel, as she sought means
to deter or contain Syria's provocations, were these compelling pres
sures building up on Nasser to act. Given his plight as just described,
may he not have concluded that, if he would not rush to Syria's aid
if she should be attacked by Israel, he would remain alone in the
Arab world, ostracized and powerless (12:5)?
Eventually it would be argued by Nasser apologists that, contrary
to the above analysis, Syria had misled Nasser into the June War
disaster. But the whole, long record of distrustful Nasser-Syria
relations belies this argument.
As the American Embassy in Cairo forecast early in 1967, it seemed
certain that sometime in that year Nasser would strike back. Besieged
by frustrations on every front, he would seek to redress his fortunes
by some impetuous counteraction. The leader was at bay and in a mood
to break out; his isolation in the Arab world would impel him to find
the means and the occasion to seize the initiative (24:193).

30
From such sources as PLO leader Ahmad Shuqairy's memoirs, it is evi
dent that Nasser was alive to the danger posed by the Syrian Ba'ath-
ists' adventurism. He repeatedly--but in vain--asked the Syrians to
desist from encouraging fedayeen (terrorist) activities which might
provoke Israel into a war for which the Arabs were not ready. These
warnings reportedly continued as late as April 1967.
UNEF Role
Ever since the 1956 Suez War settlement, a United Nations Emer
gency Force (UNEF) had been stationed in Sinai to separate and maintain
peace between the Egyptians and Israelis. Though the forthcoming
abrupt UNEF withdrawal was to stun Israel and the world, the idea for
this action was not new; it had been repeatedly demanded of Nasser by
his rivals. It was especially used by Jordan to taunt Nasser after
the es Samu reprisal attack by Israel in November 1966. Jordan was
reported to have even suggested officially in the Arab Defense Council
meetings in early January that Egypt should ask the UNEF to withdraw.
King Hussein had also made this suggestion in an interview in U,S.
News and World Report at the end of December. Hussein complained
that the presence of the UNEF prevented Egypt's forces from having
any deterrent effect and so allowed the Israelis to increase their
pressure on other fronts (149:464). Judged by his earlier experience
in a similar minicrisis in 1960 (in which Egyptian troops had entered
Sinai without affecting the presence or role of UNEF), Nasser seems
to have been of the same mind.

31
US Presence
While all this was occurring and impending, what role was being
played by the US presence and interests?
American-Egyptian relations, after a warming interlude under Presi
dent Kennedy, had steadily deteriorated since 1965. American aid to
the UAR had virtually ceased, and by the onset of 1967 President Nasser
apparently believed that the United States had written off the UAR
in its Arab policies and was determined to undermine his position.
US inattention was aggravating the region's recurring tendency
toward instability and crisis eruption. US aid to the UAR was finally
suspended in February. The next month Ambassador Battle left Cairo.
His replacement did not arrive until the Crisis onset, in late May.
In the intervening months, an unpleasant incident occurred in the
Yemen, when two Americans were arrested on contrived charges. Secre
tary of State Rusk was extremely annoyed, and diplomatic relations
with the UAR were nearly broken (130:518-519).
America's Vietnam preoccupation seemingly contributed to deteriora
tion in the Middle East situation. US diplomat and scholar John Badeau
has described how, since 1963, the war in Vietnam had demanded in
creasingly more and more of the country's resources and absorbed the
major part of the Administration's attention. Senior policy-makers
were impatient with the problems of other areas; in 1966-67 it was
increasingly difficult to get sustained high-level attention for any
but the most dramatic crises in Arab affairs (8:156). Understandably,
America would not seek, rather would avoid even at considerable cost,
another war on top of Vietnam.

32
Soviet Perspective
In embarking on their May Middle East effort, the Soviet leaders
may well have foreseen an attractively optimistic scenario that went
somewhat as follows. If the successful Soviet role in protecting
Syria in 1955 and 1957 could be repeated, several important Soviet
objectives would be served at once. The USSR would gain credit for
having "saved" Syria by its timely warning; Nasser's militant but
more responsible stance in the Arab-Israeli conflict would be
strengthened over that of the more extreme Syrians; and Israel would
be deterred.
The tangled history of the events leading up to the Six-Day War
includes the extraordinarily solicitous concern of the USSR to deter
Israel from retaliation for border provocations. An important explana
tion was the Soviet realization that, due to the nature of the topog
raphy on Israel's northern border, small-scale retaliation against
Syria was out of the question. Any attempt to cope with the en
trenched Syrian hillside fortifications meant a relatively large-
scale punitive incursion. Its probable success would surely threaten
the survival of their insecure client regime and jeopardize their new
and highly prized stake in Syria. Thus, as analyzed by Robert Scheer,
the USSR was forced to support the Syrians, even though they were
pursuing what the Soviet leaders elsewhere would have rejected as a
policy of adventurism. From past irritation with Nasser's unpredict
able and independent "nonaligned" style, the USSR seems to have been
attracted by the Syrian trademarks: a doctrinaire party and a revo
lutionary vocabulary (140:95).

Syrian Instabi1ity and Irresponsibility
In the immediate prelude to the May crisis, the Syrian responsi
bility (or, rather, irresponsibility) for the June War developed as
follows. Both the Soviet leaders and Nasser had apparently thought
that the Egypt-Syria treaty would restrain the Syrians, but it had
the opposite effect. Under the umbrella of the treaty, with (as they
thought) the Egyptian Army at their beck and call, the Syrians could
roar and posture in a manner that would otherwise have been too rash
even for them. It was clear by early May that they, not Nasser, had
the initiative.
A revealing, first-person insight into the madness that was
Syria on the verge of crisis is provided by Miles Copeland, a former
CIA agent in the Middle East:
Although I had no contact with the Syrians, Egyptian
friends who met with Syrian leaders during the buildup
period have assured me that the Syrians really wanted
war and that they were confident that they would win
it--with the help of the Egyptians, of course. At the
same time, I disagree with the numerous writers who say
that the Egyptians also estimated themselves strong
enough to defeat the Israelis. Nasser told me himself
of a conversation with Field Marshal Amer, only a week
before the war started, in which he berated Amer for
being "ten years behind the times" and for the Egyptian
Army's not being capable of defeating a lot of Yemeni
hopheads, let alone a modern, well-trained army like
the Israelis'. (30:280-281)
Of his major allies and opponents in the 1967 debacle, Nasser
seemed, afterwards, most bitterly critical of Syria's role in this
prelude to war, according to PLO chief Shuqairy's memoirs. Nasser
told Shuqairy that, while he had publicly declared several times his
full responsibility for the debacle, it was the Ba'ath party of Syria

34
which in fact bore the greatest responsibility. It was they who
poked at the Israeli border settlements, they who utilized the
enthusiasm of the Palestinian youth and encouraged them to carry out
guerrilla activities before Arab military preparations were completed
(72:146).
A mission to Syria at the beginning of May, headed by the commander
of the Egyptian air force, provided more evidence for questioning any
Soviet reliance on Syria as a client-ally.
It was shocked by the state of the Syrian Army, no
tably by the low standard of its officers. This was not
surprising, for each of the frequent revolutions had
liquidated an entire level of commanders, dispatching
some to the gallows and others to prison. Indeed,
the corruption that usually attended the revolutions
in Syria was such that when officers of lower rank re
volted against their superiors--often the ones who had
been the latest to seize power--it was freely remarked
that this was obviously the most effective way to secure
promotion. . (125:225)
New Soviet Initiative
There is conflicting evidence as to when the new Soviet initiative
in the Middle East--soon to erupt in crisis and war--was decided and
acted upon.
As early as 20 November 1966, King Hussein of Jordan charged that
". . there was sufficient evidence of a new Soviet plan for this area,
the result of setbacks the Communists have suffered at several points
around the world, in Asia and Africa" (88:33).
However, as late as 2 February 1967, a dispatch from Beirut re
ported that the USSR was maintaining the status quo in the Middle East,
and was making a cool response to Syrian requests for a war of

35
liberation. This is consistent with other evidence that the forward,
adventurist Middle East plan was decided on closer to 1 April, or
perhaps even after the 7 April Syria-Israel air battle (163, 3 Feb.
1967:A21).
1 April: Gromyko's Mid-East Visit
In retrospect, the April 1967 sequence of Middle East events
accelerated and intensified the momentum toward the May Crisis and the
June War.
The still mysterious, sudden visit of Soviet Foreign Minister
Andrei Gromyko to Cairo from 29 March to 1 April 1967 invites close
attention for its possible planning relation to the crisis which
developed six weeks later. Gromyko held talks with President Nasser,
Foreign Minister Mahmud Riyad and Presidential Adviser on Foreign
Affairs Mahmud Fawzi. A joint communiqu issued on 1 April said that
Gromyko's "friendly official visit" had been undertaken at the initia
tive of the Egyptian government. This visit, which was announced only
two days before it took place and was preceded by a "series of unex
plained meetings" among top Egyptian military men, was the object of
considerable speculation in the international press. Most observers
believed that, although the joint communiqu of 1 April made no men
tion of it, the real purpose of the visit was to hold talks on the
situation in Yemen. According to a Lebanese paper, Gromyko told
Nasser that the USSR would not risk a conflict with the US over Yemen.
When Nasser replied that he could not retreat from Yemen without
causing trouble both there and in Egypt, Gromyko reportedly declared

36
that nothing was impossible in politics. He warned that a continued
Egyptian presence in the Arabian Peninsula would place a great strain
on Egypt, and that the Soviet Union could provide neither the food nor
the money that Egypt needed to wage war in that region (110:22).
The usually well-informed Yugoslav news agency Tanyug had this
to say on the visit: "Official quarters are reticent as seldom before.
. . The only concrete detail leaked out in the Cairo press is that
Gromyko will also discuss the problems of the UN peacekeeping force
in Gaza." This is the only published evidence that a possible move
of the Egyptian army into Sinai, with its obvious implications regard
ing the UN force, was discussed by the Russians and the Egyptians as
early as the first week of April 1967 (84:51-52).
The reported Nasser-Gromyko exchange over "the impossible in poli
tics" warrants special attention. Suppose that the retreat from Yemen
could be portrayed instead as an advance into Sinai, thus serving a
useful purpose for both the USSR and Egypt on both ends of the line!
It is reasonable to conjecture that, because of its timing, the
principals, and surrounding circumstances, Gromyko and Nasser did dis
cuss, and plan in general terms, the forthcoming Sinai move scenario,
including the problem with the intervening UNEF.
In a 1975 study, Yaacov Ro' i observed that Gromyko was concerned
most of all with the urgency of a total Egyptian evacuation from Yemen.
He concluded that the USSR had apparently worked out an elaborate stra
tegic plan to enable Egypt to leave Yemen without harming its prestige,
the main facet of which was a demonstration of the need of a large
Egyptian force in the Sinai Peninsula (135:437).

37
The design was indeed brilliant: to extricate Egyptian forces
from Yemen and interject them into Sinai, all the while appearing to
support Syria by threatening Israel! The critical flaw--soon to be
revealed--lay in its inept, ultimately disastrous execution.
Supporting the evidence of important decisions flowing from Gro
myko's trip, Walter Laqueur's postwar study revealed that soon after
this visit both Nasser and Syria embarked on a more strident anti-West
tone (92:18).
7 Apri1: Air Clash
On 7 April occurred the secondhand last--of the major border
clashes, the Israeli-Syrian air battle, that developed into the May
Crisis and the June War. (The first was the es Samu reprisal raid in
November.)
Unlike the usual small-scale border clash, the one on 7 April
rapidly escalated from its initial exchange of small-arm.s fire to
artillery and tanks. Next Israeli air force fighters intervened, to
be followed by Syrian air force fighters, which proved hopelessly
outclassed. In a few minutes the Israelis shot down six Syrian
MiG-21s with no losses of their own. Some of the Israeli planes then
flew on the fifty-odd miles to Damascus to stage a victory demonstration
over the Syrian capital. The humiliation was a triple one: to the
Syrian air force for its poor showing; to the USSR for its training
and its MiG-21 combat performance; and to Nasser for not intervening
to protect Syria.
Jordan intensified the Arab humiliation and disarray by taunting
Syria with its dismal performance, inviting foreign military attachs

38
to inspect the wreckage of the Syrian planes that had fallen on Jor
danian territory. Furthermore, a Jordanian spokesman said that an
investigation by Jordanian experts showed that the Syrian planes had
been armed with dummy wooden rockets! The Jordanian newspaper
Al-Quds commented that this was so because the Syrian regime lived in
constant fear of revolution by disaffected elements within its own
armed forces (110:177)!
This time the Arab sense of outrage would not be stilled, and did
not simmer down into smoldering frustration. Outlets and scapegoats
were needed. A1-Quds ran a headline reading, "What steps had Cairo
taken?" In biting words, the editor pointed out that Nasser was willing
to fight Arabs in Yemen but not Zionists in Palestine. Egypt was hiding
behind the glass wall of the UNEF in Sinai, safe from the Israelis
and free to criticize King Hussein's moderation. In November he had
done nothing during the Israeli retaliation raid on es Samu. Now he
had once again done nothing. He remained the leader of the new Arab
world, but A1-Quds implied that such a position entailed responsibili
ties. Nasser had to put up or shut up, to stop mocking Jordan's
passivity while he maneuvered in safety. At one of his most vulner
able moments, Nasser was challenged (15:404-405).
Even more than the es Samu raid, this air battle demonstrated
Israel's ability and willingness to react, indeed to overreact, to
provocations of the kind which the Syrians had no intention of dis
continuing. And like the es Samu raid it showed the disunity that
still obtained among Israel's principal enemies. Both Syria and
Jordan complained loudly of the Egyptian failure to do anything to

39
help them. Considering that Hussein refused to allow Egyptian units
on his territory and that Syria refused Egypt's offer to establish
an air base on her soil, they really had little cause for complaint.
But Nasser could not stand by indefinitely and watch his allies suffer
such humiliating reversals; and more important, neither could the
Russians (67:13-14).
7-25 April: Moscow Hesitates
Considering what the USSR was eventually to make of this engage
ment ("dangerous Israeli aggression," etc.), it appears remarkable
thattherewas a considerable delay in registering any Soviet reaction
at all. The battle took place on 7 April. The Soviet denunciation
of Israel appeared on 25 April, after a first, lower-key, oral com
plaint to Israel's Ambassador in Moscow on 21 April. With Nasser
already twice humiliated for his inaction, surely he made representa
tions to Moscow, which was at least equally with Nasser anxious for
the survival of its shaky client in Damascus.
That Moscow was still of two minds as to instigating the forth
coming crisis is apparent from the record of Israel's attempts during
this period to mend relations with the Soviet Union, partly by per
suading it to restrain Syrian border provocations. Thus, even after
the strong Soviet Note of 21 April there were moderating developments.
Gideon Rafael, newly appointed Permanent Representative of Israel to
the UN, on a stopover in Moscow to acquaint himself with Soviet diplo
mats, had what he viewed as useful if frank exchanges with both Deputy
Foreign Minister Semyonov on 26 April and Director of the Middle East
Department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry Shchiborin on 27 April.

40
To compound the problem of evaluating late April Soviet policy,
and changes thereto, on 27 April Moscow published its 21 April Note
to Israel, which excluded the harder line of 25 April with its accusa
tions of troop massings.
All of this evidence appears to add up to a still ambivalent
Soviet policy toward the forthcoming Mid-East events throughout most
of April.
21 April: Coup in Greece
Pro-Nasser writers, for example Anthony Nutting, Mxime Rodinson,
and Jean Lacouture (one British and two French authors), give important
attention to another Mediterranean event on 21 April 1967 as influenc
ing Nasser's approach to his subsequent moves, namely, the military
coup in Greece.
Nutting, Nasser's biographer, considers that the army coup in
Greece, which installed a right-wing dictatorship, represented yet
another development of the "imperialist" offensive in the Middle East.
In the new American strategy Greece was evidently to join Turkey as
the rear base, while Israel acted as the vanguard in an operation
designed to achieve Washington's long-sought aim of making Syria,
like Jordan, an American satellite, thus isolating Egypt and forcing
the submission of her leaders as well (122:396). French sociologist
Rodinson professes to see the US in the Greek affair closing in on
Nasser like an octopus, requiring an all-out "protective reaction"
(134:185). Lacouture counts the Greek coup as a major motive for
Nasser's May move (89:294-295).

41
24-26 April: Communist Parties' Conference
Certain telltale events point to the key decisions for the new
Soviet forward strategy, with a Middle Eastern focus, being taken
in late April-early May 1967.
A long-planned, and first-ever, conference of European Communist
parties took place at Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, from 24 to 26
April 1967, with Leonid Brezhnev making the keynote speech. Delega
tions from twenty-five of Europe's thirty-one parties attended.*
Brezhnev's speech reflected the apparent Soviet forward-look decision,
with a focus on a new, harder anti-US line in the Middle East. Per
haps significantly, hardliner and leadership competitor Alexander
Shelepin was included in the Soviet delegation, although he had no
known competency or Party role in foreign affairs. The conference
itself, after long and persistent planning, was apparently designed
to rally the disarrayed Communist parties around Soviet positions
and to prepare to discipline or isolate the Chinese heresy. In a
wideranging global review and assertion of Soviet positions, with
condemnation of US imperialism--especially in Vietnam--these were
the noteworthy words of challenge to the US in the Middle East:
". . The time has come for the demand that the US Sixth Fleet be
withdrawn from the Mediterranean to ring out at full strength" (158)
(20:9).
This Brezhnev speech seemed to signal a new, more militant Soviet
policy for both the Middle East and the Far East regions, in the
*Rumania and Yugoslavia were conspicuous among the six absentees.

42
prelude to the May-June crisis. In both the Mediterranean and its
Pacific equivalent, the Sea of Japan, Soviet ships began a policy of
deliberate harassment of US Navy ships, of a type already familiar
in the Baltic and Black Seas, which the Soviet Union had long claimed
were "closed seas" (101:346).
1 May: Nasser's Speech
Just before the onset of the May crisis, in his May Day speech,
Nasser warned Israel, but in a way to indicate that the Sinai move
had not yet been decided on. He felt obligated to defend himself
against the charge that he had betrayed the Palestinian cause. He
explained that his fighter planes did not have the range to reach
the Syrian border. He was willing to send Egyptian planes and pilots
to be stationed in Syria, but the offer had been turned down. There
was no specific promise of aid to the Syrians. His speech, in fact,
tended to overlook the Israeli question (140:96).
It is possible, of course, that this May Day speech was deliber
ately deceptive, to cover the forthcoming, already agreed-upon crisis
scenario.
Even now, long after the Six-Day War, it is remarkable how
quickly and irreversibly Nasser abandoned his long-standing policies,
and his apparent greater concern for inter-Arab politics than the
problem of Israel. This major May Day speech gave no warning whatsoever
of the momentous crisis that now lay only ten days off.

43
Curtain Rising
Is the explanation for this mystery, then, of Soviet entanglement
with such a weak client as Syria, that perhaps normally cool-headed
and pragmatic Kremlin leaders were ideologically, desperately in need
of some Third World client who would really prove to follow the
socialist path to Communism? If so, such success might atone for
recent, disappointing failures and setbacks throughout the Third World.
But surely there was also the haunting memory of being used and
then discarded in the past by bourgeois nationalists, notably Kemal
Ataturk in Turkey in 1920 and most of all Chiang Kai-shek in China
in 1926 ("national reformists" turned "traitor" in Soviet eyes).
And Syria was such a fragile, unstable, uncontrollable reed to lean
on, and her Marxist, nationalist but non-Communist leadership could
be banked on only by what Soviet leadership is not noted for--a
great deal of naive optimism!
As to Nasser, an assessment that in the forthcoming move he in
tended to support and hopefully stabilize Syria is hard to accept.
For it implies an attachment for Syria that simply did not exist,
recalling the long 1961-66 period of ruptured relations, and Nasser's
wel1-documented suspicion of and hostility to Syria's Ba'ath leaders.
Whatever the complex Soviet-Egyptian motivations, Syria left them
no time for more sober reconsideration, as the number of border provo
cations with Israel escalated. As if impelled by a relentless destiny,
unsobered by the experience of the 7 April air clash, Syria seemed in
the first ten days of May to literally plunge into disaster. David
Kimche and Dan Bawly set the stage for the onrushing crisis.

44
Hardly a day passed without a new incident. . .
In the first ten days of May eleven incidents were re
corded, more than during the whole of the preceding
month. The list was impressive. By 7 May the Egyptians
were virtually certain that there would be some sort of
Israeli retaliation, and urgent talks were held at army
headquarters. They decided to await developments, and
be ready for instant action. (84:87)

CHAPTER III
CRISIS BUILDUP (ONSET):
9 MAY 4 JUNE 1967
Prelude to Egypt's Move (9-13 May)
The following detailed analysis of the Six-Day War will focus on
a day-to-day unfolding of events and their developing sequence, in
cluding the perceptions and relevant actions of the Soviet Union and
the closely interrelated other significant crisis managers: Egypt,
Israel and the United States. The main advantages of this approach
are the attempt to recreate the environment prevailing at the time the
decisions were made, operating, as a decision-maker must inevitably
do in a crisis, under time pressures, with incomplete or incorrect
information, domestic and international pressures to act or refrain
from acting, and suffering the physical and psychological exhaustion
from subjection to extended, heavy stress (most notably evident in
this case in Israeli Defense Chief Rabin's breakdown on the eve of
the war and Nasser's erratic and confusing press conference comments
on 28 May).
In selecting the somewhat arbitrary date of 9 May as the beginning
of the crisis buildup, it is acknowledged that, if the domestic Syrian
disorders are treated as critical, this would move the date well back
to their origin on 25 April. This date in turn had its Mid-East
environment closely connected to the Syrian-Israeli air battle on
7 April.
45

46
In the other direction, at the beginning of this research a later
date of 14 or 15 May was envisaged for the crisis opening. These
commonly used dates mark Nasser's move of his troops into Sinai, and
reflect his claim that, until the day before, 13 May, he "had no such
plan." This research throws considerable doubt on this assertion as
more than a partial truth. It will be maintained and demonstrated
herein that active Egyptian preparations were underway well before
this; that a Soviet-Egyptian scenario had in all likelihood been
agreed upon beforehand; that only a convenient pretext was awaited;
and that a supposed, somewhat plausible, but highly fictitious Israeli
massing for attack on Syria provided this pretext.
Here, then, from D-minus 27 to the 5 June D-Day is the day-by-day
unfolding of the June War crisis buildup, and the crisis management
associated therewith.
D-Minus 27: Tuesday 9 May
Syrian disorders
The onset of the May crisis, which may not have needed this addi
tional pretext if the assumption of a preplanned Soviet-Nasser scenario
holds up under analysis, surely got a timely sendoff from the tumul
tuous events in Syria. Independently of, or in conjunction with, the
increasing likelihood of an Israeli reprisal attack on Syria for her
border provocations, this event may well have stirred Syrian leaders
into panic and the Kremlin into protective reaction.
On 25 April, the Syrian army's newspaper carried a strong atheistic
article ridiculing Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Although the

47
Damascus regime was militaristic and radical, it had until then never
dared attack Islam or offend the religious susceptibilities of its
religious Moslems. The Islamic leaders rose up, called protest meet
ings, and harangued the worshippers in the mosques, calling for a
firm stand against the "godless Communists." One of the chief "Ulama"
(Islamic theologians) was arrested and his property confiscated. But
this led only to increased rioting against the government and more
violence in the large cities.
The Syrian authorities arrested the article's author, Ibrahim
Khalas, who supposedly admitted that he was persuaded to write his
inflammatory article by unnamed "foreigners," with no country of
origin being identified. The Syrian authorities announced that they
had uncovered a plot "prepared by the intelligence services of the
United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan"--a curious conglomera
tion!
Although this development may well be labeled, "This is where it
all began," it does appear confusing and melodramatic beyond belief
that one man should have "started it all," the crisis and war. This
was probably simply more inept Syrian bungling and cover-up. But if
there were a plot to stir up Syria, either to bring down the government,
or for the crisis initiation that these disorders eventually served,
an assessment of probable origin may be attempted. Surely Syria,
Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia may be eliminated as lacking the motive
or the intelligence capability to concoct such a plan. Of the three
remaining possibilities, all capable of utilizing "departments of
disinformation" for this purpose, the likely order of probable origin

48
is the USSR, Israel and the US. For the USSR, there was a tempting
combination of appearing to "save" Syria without much risk, rescuing
Nasser from Yemen and his doldrums, tying Egypt and Syria closer to
gether, putting down Israel, and embarrassing the US. Israel had
sufficient motive, but perhaps lacked the will. The US, despite the
convenient "whipping boy" charge by Syria of CIA origin, would appear
to have lacked both the motive and the will, engrossed as it was in
Vietnam, unless the CIA was acting highly independently of White House
guidance.
On 6 May, a general protest strike broke out in Damascus. The
strike spread the following day to most other Syrian cities, espe
cially to Aleppo, where several thousand arrests were reported. By
this 9 May Syrian-Israeli crisis opening date, the Lebanese newspaper
al Nahar concluded that the current internal Syrian crisis was unprece
dented since the Ba'ath Party had seized power four years previously
(93:92-93).
The pro-Soviet Syrian government now appeared to be in danger of
collapse. If it were to be brought down by religiously incited mobs,
an anti-Soviet regime would probably take its place. The USSR clearly
had to take action. Moscow's apparent solution was to persuade Nasser
to come to the aid of Damascus (64:35).
A Middle East authority, Theodore Draper, saw the Syrian perspective
at this critical moment as follows. A weak, unpopular regime was re
sorting to an oft-proven device, a foreign-war scare, to bolster its
shaky power. The strike involved not only most of the middle class
of shopkeepers and artisans, but also the intensely discontented

49
orthodox Sunni Moslem majority, opposing the main leaders of the regime,
who belonged to the minority Alaouite sect. Such a regime would
understandably be vulnerable to Soviet "guidance," and to the tempta
tion to substitute foreign adventures for domestic popularity and
security (43:57-58).
Syria's governments rose and fell with remarkable frequency,
and if the Israeli threat were invoked in this case to save a totter
ing regime by diversion, and unification around an external threat,
it would not be the first or last time a government--or its protector--
had resorted to such survival tactics.
Soviet reaction
Laqueur surmises that next the Russians were consulted and that
Moscow may well have counselled a diversion. The Russians could have
been more acutely aware of the dangers facing the Syrian regime than
the Ba'ath leadership itself.
To call in Nasser, just as the recent Syrian-Egyptian defense
treaty envisaged, must have seemed both a promising, and a safe
enough, course (93:94-95).
Unless the above incentive led to sudden policy change in Moscow,
the Soviet use of Syria to set off the Mid-East crisis appears strange.
Mizan's editor David Morison recalled a recent, 19 April, Soviet
criticism of Syria-type regimes as evidence that caution about Syria's
irresponsibi1ity was uppermost in the minds of at least some Soviet
leaders:
In relation to Israel, it may well be that the Soviet
Union was relieved at the thought that the belligerent
ardours of the Syrians might now be cooled by the more

50
circumspect counsels of Cairo. A recent Soviet remark
about the besetting sins of present Arab regimes is
not without relevance: "undue haste, Leftist adven
turism and excess" is one of them, and "bourgeois in
fluences on the new society and its resultant petrifi
cation" the other. Damascus and Cairo, respectively,
would immediately spring to the mind of the informed
Soviet reader. The "bourgeois influences" in Cairo
the Russians might regard with distaste; but the "ad
venturism" of Damascus may have given ground for more
serious concern. (114:102)
This New Times analysis as to "besetting sins" could in the wake
of the war be considered an accurate forecast of why the Syrian and
Egyptian adventure would come to grief.
In any case, Moscow did decide to move. According to Eric Rouleau,
a French, pro-Nasser Middle East expert, on 8 May Syrian intelligence
reported to Nasser personally that Israel was about to launch a large-
scale military operation aimed at toppling the Ba'ath regime. Nasser
responded by seeking Moscow's view on this report. According to
Rouleau, Nasser was moved to action when "the Soviet information ser
vices confirmed that indeed Israel intends to attack Syria" (19:321).
Vet with all Moscow's "intelligence" findings and subsequent
Egyptian reactions thereto, its own attitude toward supposed Israeli
troop massings opposite Syria was curiously ambivalent. That they were
not taken overseriously in Moscow is indicated by the fact that not
until 16 May did Pravda mention them, although Nasser by then had
already made his Sinai war move. And Moscow's declaration on the
crisis on 23 May alluded only very discreetly to the troop concentra
tions (151:534).
It seems apparent that the USSR chose the threat of the "phantom
Israeli brigades" over and over again as a more useful propaganda

51
device for its purposes than the less tangible and not easily identifi
able threat from the actual methods Israel consistently used to mount
reprisals.
An unnamed reporter for the leftist French journal, Le Nouvel
Observateur, interviewed a high Soviet official in Moscow in the wake
of the June War. The contents, under the title, "Why Moscow let Nasser
down," are most interesting and will be quoted several times hereafter.
They must be treated with caution, however, for several reasons:
the anonymity of both the source and the reporter; the rare, and hence
suspicious, openness for a high Soviet official; the similarity to
two other sympathetic-to-USSR Westerners' interviews (Rouleau and
Werth) about this time, also with a "high Soviet official"; and the
likelihood that the information may have been inspired because it
supports Moscow's felt need to explain away its apparent cowardly
abandonment of its clients.
This Soviet official's explanation for the first, joint Soviet-
Nasser move at the crisis onset went as follows. Soviet intelligence
was disturbed to learn that Israel planned to make a raid into Syria,
destroy the Palestine commandos, and then push on to Damascus to over
throw the Syrian regime. Hence the USSR approved of Nasser's forth
coming deterrent move to mass his troops opposite Israel's Sinai
border (128:17-18).
Egyptian reaction
There is both suspicion and much evidence that Nasser's claim,
to have made his whole Sinai move based on intelligence received a day

52
or two earlier, namely, on 13 May, is not correct, that preparations
were made earlier. For example, after the Egyptian move into Sinai
on 15 May, news agencies reported from Cairo that foreign observers
had concluded from the smooth transfer of units through Cairo to Sinai
that it must have been prepared some time earlier.
The following Egyptian reports seem also to support serious early
intentions with respect to the Sinai move. On 8 May General Fawzi,
Chief of Staff of the UAR army, visited the troops stationed in Sinai.
On 10 May, General Murthagi, Commander of the UAR Land Forces, reviewed
UAR troop maneuvers in Sinai. Special meetings of the top military
commanders at GHQ, headed by Field Marshal Amer, were reported on 4,
7, 10 and 11 May (110:184).
If doubt is thrown on Nasser's claim to have had no plan prior
to 13 May, then, by implication, this adds strength to the theory of
an advance conspiracy among the USSR, Egypt and Syria to trigger off
their concoction at an opportune time.
Israeli denials
Knowledgeable observers have always scoffed at the content of
the charges of huge Israeli troop concentrations opposite the Syrian
border. Israel's Prime Minister Levi Eshkol's biographer, Terence
C. F. Prittie, dismisses these charges with the scornful remark that
the thought of such concentrations which were invisible to the Syrian
observation posts would be patently absurd. There was not enough
cover in the whole area to hide a couple of brigades, let alone 11
to 13 (129:249).

53
Even more significant is the substance of this postwar denial,
under a global spotlight, from Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban's
speech at the UN Special Assembly on 19 June 1967:
... By May 9, the Secretary-General of the United
Nations from his own sources on the ground had ascer
tained that no Israeli troop concentration existed.
This fact had been directly communicated to the Syrian
and Egyptian Governments. The excuse had been shat
tered, but the allegations still remained. . .
(46:214)
It is surprising that so little reference is made to this event
in the literature on the onset of the crisis. For its very early
date--in contrast, for example, to U Thant's report of these findings
only a strangely delayed ten days later, on 19 May--seems to demolish
most of the voluminous explanations for the Soviet-Nasser moves on or
about 14 May. Furthermore, the reliability of this statement would
seem to be very high, since it was made by the Israeli Foreign Min
ister under circumstances of worldwide attention to these UN proceed
ings; and his references to U Thant and the Syrian and Egyptian govern
ments seemingly would require their immediate refutation if they disagreed.
In its major 23 May statement on the Middle East situation, the
USSR went back to this 9 May date for an event it claimed to see as
important in triggering the crisis:
. . The Defense and Foreign Policy Commission of the
Knesset (Parliament) on 9 May granted the Government
powers to carry out military operations against Syria.
Israeli troops deployed on the Syrian borders were
alerted. Mobilization was proclaimed in the country.
(94:241-242)
No other substantiation of this supposed authorization for attack
on Syria has been noted. But the charge was repeated by Soviet Premier

54
Aleksei Kosygin in his postwar (19 June) speech to the UNGA Emergency
Special Session.
In any case, given Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol's known personal
caution--as well as the earlier adverse world reaction to the November
1966 es Samu reprisal raid-authorization would not of itself inevit
ably mean action, or dictate what type or degree. And the Soviet
running together of the 9 May authorization with a mobilization that
fol1 owed Nasser's Sinai move a week later is deliberately misleading,
and constitutes a weak case.
Alternative pro-Arab views
Nutting, Nasser's biographer, professes to see a deep Israeli
plot--rather than a Soviet-Syrian-Egyptian one--in the onset of the
May crisis. He argues that the Israeli hawks due to a combination
of factors, including an economic slump, had overridden Eshkol's normal
caution and were determined to "bring Nasser to battle," out from
behind his UNEF protection. In this scenario, the depth and duration
of their strike into Syrian territory would depend on how long it
took to produce the required Egyptian reaction. To this end, they
would have deliberately set out to persuade the Russians, and hence
the Egyptians, that a major assault on Syria was imminent. By a clever
combination of calculated leakage, for the benefit of the Soviet
Embassy in Tel Aviv, and fictitious radio messages which they rightly
assumed would be picked up and relayed to Cairo by Russian ships
patrolling in the eastern Mediterranean, they made sure that Nasser
would be immediately informed that his Syrian ally was about to be
invaded (122:397-398).

55
While all this is conceivable, it seems highly implausible in being
so far removed from the findings of so many other accounts, including
pro-Arab ones. For one thing, it would take remarkably clever play
acting to simulate the evidence of surprise, dismay and confusion that
were so apparent in Israeli domestic politics as Nasser made his UNEF
and Aqaba moves.
It should also be noted that, whereas this type charge might appeal
to the Arabs, the USSR would hardly relish it in such form, for it
implies foolish gullibility on the part of Soviet intelligence.
Rodinson makes a comparably complex, ultra-Machiavellian case--
but also a conceivable one--that behind the Soviet-Syrian-Egyptian
plot was an even deeper Israeli one, to lead their enemies into a trap.
Citing an anonymous source, a French general who appeared to have pri
vate sources of information, he suggests that Israel deliberately
planted false information by means of radio messages exchanged by a
fictitious operational network, and intercepted by Soviet ships patrol
ling in the Mediterranean and by Syrian and Egyptian listening posts.
He views with suspicion as naivety the supposed purely defensive jus
tification for this Israeli action, to frighten the Syrians, and by
this means cut off support for the Palestinian commando raids once and
for all.
Rodinson then falls back on a subsidiary hypothesis: that the
situation was stirred up by the Israeli activist clique as part of a
maneuver to provoke an Arab reaction which would force Israel to assume
an "energetic" policy and bring them back into power (134:188).

56
D-Minus 26: Wednesday 10 May
Nasser's intelligence reception, interpretation, reaction
Pro-Nasser spokesmen give this date as the one in which he received,
and began to react to, the Soviet warning that Israel had timed a swift
strike at the Syrian regime for the end of May, "in order to crush it
and then carry the fighting over into the territory of the UAR." Presi
dent Nasser apparently believed--and subsequent timing of his moves
gives some support to such a belief--that the Israeli attack would take
place within the next few days, on or about 17 May (143:23).
The discrepancy between "the end of May" and "17 May" may be ac
counted for by another report that had the Israeli armed forces
authorized to conduct their strike in the ten-day period beginning
17 May (145, 12 September 1967:6).
U.S. Navy ships harassed
Another bit of evidence indicates that the onset of the Middle
East crisis, on or about this date, was part of a Soviet-directed
global and regional scenario. For there was a sudden rash of extremely
provocative acts of harassment of US Navy ships in both the Mediterranean
and the western Pacific. On 10 and 11 May two different Soviet de
stroyers tried so hard to interfere with joint US-Japanese antisub
marine exercises in the Sea of Japan, within two hundred miles of the
Soviet coast and the main Pacific Fleet naval base of Vladivostok,
that they caused minor collisions with the destroyer USS Walker. The
New York Times attributed to US officials concern centering largely on
the possible Soviet political motives, which remained unclear. They

57
tended to doubt that the incidents reflected a Soviet political strategy
to increase East-West tension as a way to counter the widening American
involvement in Vietnam (63:93-94). However, initial Soviet commentary
complained of US flights over ships "sailing to countries which are in
great need of aid in the struggle against US aggression" and that
Seventh Fleet ships were "systematically shelling the DRV [Democratic
Republic of Vietnam]" (68:27).
The deliberate character of this wave of harassment is further
testified to by a closely related Soviet interview with Fleet Admiral
Gorshkov, published on 18 May in the Soviet press (31, No. 20:18-19).
Of particular interest in this interview is the aggrieved, truculent
tone and wording of the Admiral, consistent with the supposition--
expressed in the opening global setting of this paper--that the Soviet
leaders were embarking on a new, defensively motivated, aggressive
stance.
D-Minus 25: Thursday 11 May
The Israeli-Egyptian-Syrian-Soviet entanglement
At a time when Israel was interested in deterring Syria's provoca
tions, and seemingly had no awareness of the storm brewing for her in
the next few days, she took a succession of steps, in part related to
her approaching 15 May Independence Day, that would unwittingly lend
support to the concerted charges about to spill forth from Syria, the
USSR and Egypt.
On 11 May the Syrian government stepped up its propaganda campaign
and this time explicitly accused Israel of preparing to attack Syria.

58
The Syrians were aided by Israel, which on this same day sent a memo
randum to the UN Security Council, saying that Syria was launching
armed attacks on Israel and that Israel might be forced to respond.
Also on this same day, Prime Minister Eshkol told a Mapai Party meeting
that because of Syrian support of the fedayeen, it might be necessary
"to take action not less drastic than on 7 April" (34:210).
Israel's need to overstate her warnings, in order to deter Syria,
and the leaders' political need to make domestically flavorful, patri
otic statements marking the approaching Independence Day, had an unfor
tunate cumulative effect of
1. perhaps alarming the Syrians, Egyptians and Russians if they
really did suspect and fear an Israeli attack on Syria; and/or
2. providing a considerable and useful anti-Israeli propaganda
base if they were merely setting the stage for the forthcoming
Egyptian Sinai move.
Premier Eshkol in his speech on this date solemnly warned Syria
that unless it ceased its acts of aggression the Israeli army would
strike back hard, in a manner, place and time of its own choosing. His
speech in toto was much less aggressive than might appear from the
excerpts published in the press the following morning. Following the
speech, one of the Premier's aides handed out extracts to the press,
choosing the most aggressive parts of the speech. Later that night he
realized that his choice might have an untoward effect and phoned the
various night editors to soften the tone. All complied, except one,
who for technical reasons did not get the message. It was this paper's
report which the news agencies picked up and dispatched to the world,

59
causing widespread alarm and adverse reactions at the UN and in Washing
ton, in addition to its effects on Israel's adversaries.
According to Kimche/Bawly, this Israeli warning came hot on the
heels of two urgent Soviet messages warning of imminent Israeli attack.
The second was most specific, pinpointing the Israeli attack to the
hour of 0400 on 17 May (84:88-89).
It is, of course, possible that the Soviet leaders too may have
been trying to curb the reckless Syrian terror attacks with these
warnings. But it appears far more likely that they were primarily
trying to deter Israel and get Nasser to move at this stage, and to
"save" rather than deter the uncontrollable Syrians. The selection of
such a precise, near-at-hand time and date for the Israeli attack,
whether manufactured by the KGB's notorious "department of disinforma
tion," or based on an exposed Israeli plan or contingency plan, cer
tainly could be expected to persuade Nasser that he had to act at
once, without time for reflection or, perhaps, adequate verification.
This time and date, early 17 May, should be kept in mind in what
was to prove to be frantic Egyptian army activity, in relation to
UNEF, in the late evening of 16 May.
Ro'i's documentary study includes an analysis of the strange role
of the Egyptian pariiamentary delegation in Moscow (headed by Anwar
Sadat) as a supposed messenger to Nasser of Soviet intelligence warn
ings. Ro'i states that at a farewell reception on 11 May Presidium
Chairman Podgorny told this delegation that Israeli troops were being
concentrated on the border for an attack on Syria (135:437). This is
the only known instance in which the intelligence source, time and
setting are so pinpointed.

60
This casual, unhurried approach and rather careless manner for
transmitting such supposedly vital intelligence adds considerable
support for the suspicion that this was merely a prearranged signal
for Nasser to make his Sinai move.
It should be noted that at least this account is more credible
than that of Heikal, who would have us believe that Sadat was informed
by Kosygin in Moscow on 29 April of the Israeli troop massing, that he
sat on this vital intelligence until reporting back to Nasser on his
return to Cairo fifteen days later, and that Nasser was so alarmed he
moved his troops into Sinai the very next day (61:240)! This is not
only theatrics, it is children's theatrics!
Israel warns Syria via UN, foreign attachs, US
In addition to the UN action referred to above, Israel on this
date used two other media to relay her warnings of dwindling patience
with Syrian border provocations.
A briefing was given to foreign military attachs in terms which
they understood to augur a major assault in the coming days. But
again, Israel may well have been trying to deter, not attack, Syria;
in a highly security-conscious nation, a foreign military attache
audience suggests a calculated leak rather than a shared secret!
The other route involved consultation with the less than attentive
US. Israeli Ambassador to the US, A. Harman, met with the Assistant
Secretary of State for the Middle East, Lucius Battle (until very
recently Ambassador to Cairo), and stressed that Israel could not
allow her current situation to continue (19:360).

61
Perhaps in response to Israel's complaint-warning to the UN, U
Thant on this same date made a rare and critical, though restrained,
public comment on Arab border provocations (110:180). This was a
distressing development from the Arab perspective, highly inconsistent
with their self-image and the developing scenario. Hence it would
quickly produce an aggrieved complaint from Syria.
D-Minus 24: Friday 12 May
The presumed opening of the June War crisis, on or about this date,
has been the subject of fascinated inquiry by many, many journalists,
historians, diplomats, and scholars. It does not merit such exhaustive
treatment if the conclusion of this paper is accepted, that the basic
scenario was agreed upon in advance by Nasser and Soviet leaders, and
only a suitable pretext awaited. Nevertheless, as a lesson in the
techniques of crisis management--and mismanagement--in both the Soviet
and Arab cases, and in Israel's as well, the details are instructive,
as is the rapid development of serious cross-purposes between Soviet
patron and Egyptian client.
Nasser/Kosygin on crisis opener
After the Egyptian defeat, Nasser twice referred to the warnings
provided to the Sadat delegation in Moscow by high-level Soviet leaders.
He gave two versions of what was said. He presented the following ver
sion in his resignation speech on the night of 9 June:
We all know how the crisis began in the first half of
May. The enemy was devising a plan to invade Syria, and
the statements by his politicians and his military com
manders declared that frankly. The evidence was ample.

62
The sources of our Syrian brothers and our own reliable
information were categorical on this. Even our friends
in the Soviet Union informed the pariiamentary delegation
which was visiting Moscow early last month that Israel
had a calculated intention against Syria. We deemed it
our duty not to remain with hands folded. It was a duty
of Arab solidarity, and also a guarantee for our
national security. (24:200-201)
Egyptian government sources later revealed that the Soviet friend
who transmitted this warning was Kosygin.
On 23 July 1967, the fifteenth anniversary of the Egyptian Revolu
tion, Nasser returned to the subject of his Soviet information. To
his earlier speech he added that Syria had reported a mobilization
of eighteen Israeli brigades on her border, and that Egypt's investiga
tion confirmed "no less than thirteen" such brigades (24:200-201).
On 19 June Kosygin repeated to the UN General Assembly what he
had told the Egyptian parliamentarians in Moscow:
In those days, the Soviet Government, and I believe others,
too, began receiving information to the effect that the
Israeli Government had timed for the end of May a swift
strike at Syria in order to crush it and then carry the
fighting over into the territory of the United Arab
Republic. (24:201-202)
It has been suggested in some quarters that the USSR may have
gained access to an Israeli contingency plan and, mistakenly or delib
erately, treated it as a scheduled operational plan. But for such sup
posed "hard intelligence" all the details included in the various
charges are so vague and contradictory: dates vary from 17 May to
Kosygin's "end of May"; Syria alone is the target in most charges,
but Kosygin made Egypt the second step; the "phantom brigades" are
always dramatically (and unrealistically) massing, the number varying;
Nasser even "confirms" Syria's eighteen-brigade figure as "no less than
13."

63
Ro1e of garbled UPI dispatch
A garbled UPI dispatch, in reporting the most aggressive version of
Eshkol's 11 May speech, was leaned on heavily in subsequent Arab charges
as to an Israeli attack threat (110:187).
While with volatile Arab politics anything is apparently possible--
including the seemingly irresponsible act of taking major war-provoking
steps on the basis of an unverified press report--a more likely explana
tion is that the Syrian-Egyptian-Soviet combination was alert for and
seized on a pretext for the scenario unrolling.
The UPI dispatch was datelined Jerusalem, 12 May, and reported
that "a highly placed Israeli source said here today that if Syria
continued the campaign of sabotage in Israel it would immediately
provoke military action aimed at overthrowing the Syrian regime."
The dispatch added that Israeli action would fall short of all-out
hostilities, and that Israel was ready to risk possible Egyptian
intervention, although Cairo was too deeply committed elsewhere to
take on additional obligations.
The impact of this dispatch was sufficient to cause U Thant seri
ous concern at the UN. The Paris press and the New York Times reported
it at length (93:89).
Had Israel been at all aware of the scenario about to be launched,
she might have been disposed not to make what she had intended as a
strong deterrent to Syrian provocations, but which proved--largely
because of its off-the-record and garbled dissemination--to be
treated by the Arabs and the USSR in conjunction as an aggression/
invasion threat.

64
Eshkol's 11 May speech and its garbled version were only part of
the problem of Israeli utterances on this eve of crisis. As the anni
versary of Israeli independence approached, almost all members of the
Cabinet were making speeches and giving interviews. With the wisdom
of hindsight, Eban, in an interview in 1968, remarked drily and some
what ruefully that
There were some who thought that these warnings may
have been too frequent and too little coordinated. . .
If there had been a little more silence the sum of human
wisdom would have remained substantially undiminished.
(19:359)
Nasser's pride pricked
The Israeli briefing officer's analysis of Egypt's handicapped
status may have helped trigger Nasser's move, because of the affront
it contained to his sensitive pride. The "high Israeli source" cited
in the 12 May dispatch repeatedly described the United Arab Republic
(UAR) as too weak to help Syria, particularly because her forces were
tied down in Yemen, and as not sufficiently "ready to create a casus
belli." The briefing officer, therefore, expected Egyptian leaders to
try to restrain the Syrians. For Nasser these statements could have
meant not only a blow to his prestige but also a warning that his posi
tion in the area and his power of deterrence were rapidly declining.
Therefore, he might have felt compelled to act in a way exactly the
opposite of what had been expected of him; namely, to order a demon
stration of force (110:192).
This incident demonstrates one of the niceties of effective crisis
management: in an attempt to deter with strength and will, one must

65
not produce a degree of humiliation in the opponent such as to stimu
late an emotional, strike-back, "spasm" response. This insult to
Nasser is one example. Another had Khrushchev, in embarking on his
Cuban missile crisis gamble, responding like a cornered bear to the
Kennedy Administration's boasting of its missile superiority and the
political rewards it expected to reap therefrom (118:264).
On the 22 May occasion of his announcement of the Aqaba blockade,
Nasser, in an exultant "I showed them" mood, also revealed his anger
and hurt pride at Israel. Referring to the 12 May Israeli statement,
he bridled, "Anyone who reads this statement must agree that these
people are so boastful and arrogant that it is impossible to remain
silent." He scorned commentators for saying that Israel considered
Egypt could not make a move because of being tied up in Yemen (75:538).
Flaws in Arab case
Among a variety of critics, Burdett's assessment of all this
Israeli verbal activity--with no border moves in substantiation--is
that "it won't wash" as an excuse for Nasser's Sinai move. Neither
the menacing speeches nor the menacing troops bear up under investiga
tion. Not only UN observers but American military representatives from
the Embassy in Tel Aviv inspected the border areas and returned with
negative reports. There was clearly a danger, however--if border
raids persisted--of a punitive hit-and-run raid in some strength
against some designated Syrian target, but not a threat to Damascus
(24:209-211).
Charles W. Yost also has provided an assessment, judiciously bal
anced, of responsibility for the crisis initiation. He adds the

66
interesting possibility that Israel may even have been attempting to
warn and deter Syria by using Moscow as an intermediary! Eastern
European sources accordingly defended the Soviet warnings to Syria
and Egypt on the grounds that Israel was advising Soviet representa-
tives--as well as saying publicly--that, if the El Fatah terror raids
continued, she would take drastic punitive measures against Syria
(174:310,308).
Israel invites border inspection
On this date Israel made one of three reported prewar attempts to
blunt the troop massing charges by inviting Soviet representatives to
inspect her borders. Following a prolonged cold blast of polemical
allegations in Pravda, Arye Levavi, The Director General of the Israeli
Foreign Ministry, received Chuvakhin on this date. The latter pro
ceeded to accuse Israel of massing an invasion force opposite the
Syrian border. Levavi renewed Eshkol's offer of the previous autumn
and proposed that the Ambassador visit the area to see for himself.
Chuvakhin, again adhering to the information he had received from
Moscow, declined the invitation (24:211).
President Johnson intervenes
President Johnson in his 1971 memoirs reported that the US took
early but unsuccessful action to try to squelch the lurid reports of
Israel i troops massing on Syria's borders, and get at the Soviet insti
gation behind such reports. After investigating and finding these
reports to be untrue, Johnson said the US so informed the Russians
and the nations bordering Israel. The State Department also took up

67
with the Soviet Embassy in Washington reports that "Moscow had prom
ised unlimited support to the Syrians." The Russians denied all knowl
edge of any such promise and stated that Soviet policy was to keep
the Middle East "calm" (78:289).
Any such Soviet "promise of unlimited support to the Syrians"
would be a matter for considerable concern in Washington and Tel Aviv;
also, from past experience with Syrian temperament and performance,
it should have been cause for serious reservations in Moscow and Cairo
as well.
D-Minus 23: Saturday 13 May
Syria plunges on
Syria, now feeling protected by both Egypt and the USSR, and in
any case uncontrollable under its radical Ba'ath leadership, showed
no signs of abating its provocation of Israel. On 13 May, the Syrian
Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that it had summoned the
representatives of the Security Council member states and explained to
them "the plot which is being concocted by Imperialist and Zionist
quarters against Syria . and the prearranged role which Israel is
preparing to carry out within the framework of this plot." The Syrian
UN delegate, G. Tu'ma, met with Secretary-General U Thant and discussed
the latter's statement of 11 May, which Tu'ma claimed had encouraged
Israel to continue with her threats against Syria. Tu'ma later stated
that Israel's open threats to go to v/ar against Syria were creating a
very dangerous situation.

68
Egyptian newspapers gave prominence to the Syrian reactions and
Egyptian comment took up the Syrian arguments (110:180).
Although the picture is not entirely clear, the first Egyptian
"intelligence" as to an Israeli plan to attack Syria on 17 May seems
to have come from Syria on this date, though the original source is
widely suspected to have been Moscow. President Nasser, in his speech
of 22 May, also said that the date of the Syrian message was 13 May.
A thorough analysis of related events, and their timing, leads to
a strong suspicion that Syria knew it was calling for Egyptian help
based on a manufactured threat. The Syrians should have known from
the UN and other sources, it is argued, that there were no Israeli
troop concentrations. Furthermore, they had begun to alarm the UAR
and the Arab world with the Israeli threat a day or more before they
received reports of the Israeli statements that were later cited as
the justification for alarm. Accordingly, rather than responding to
genuine fears, the Damascus regime employed allegations of an impend
ing attack from Israel as a conscious instrument of policy (110:188).
Nasser immediately responds
In Nasser's long and aggressive, advanced air base speech of 22
May, announcing the Strait of Tiran blockade,he pinpointed this date
as the one on which he received intelligence on Israel's plans that
prompted him to move.
On 13 May we received definite information to the effect
that Israel was concentrating huge armed forces of about
11 to 13 brigades on the Syrian frontier. ... We also
learned that the Israeli decision taken at this time was
to carry out an attack on Syria starting on 17 May. . .
(75:539)

69
For a man so distrustful of Syrian attempts to manipulate him, this
prompt Nasser response, in a way that was soon to be his undoing, sug
gests that this was the signal or pretext he was awaiting. His indig
nant reaction to Syria's "intelligence" about Israeli troop massing on
her borders would appear more bona fide if there were not so much evi
dence over the years, including quite recently, of Nasser's suspicion,
even hostility, toward such crude Syrian attempts to embroil him with
Israel, and, of course, in the process "pull their chestnuts out of the
fire."
Credibility of this supposed "intelligence" is very weak. The
weight of evidence strongly points to a scenario for which the players
had inadequately rehearsed their lines.
Israeli actions/motives analyzed
The evidence for a concentration of the kind described by Nasser
is so tenuous as to be entirely unconvincing. But in discounting it
two other hypotheses cannot be entirely excluded: first, that an
attack of some sort was intended; and, second, that the Israeli govern
ment, for the deterrent reasons discussed above, wished such an inten
tion to be generally believed at home and abroad, and encouraged rumors
accordingly (67:16).
It is instructive to contemplate this picture of both Israel and
the USSR becoming trapped in a complex pair of "plots": the USSR pre
tending it had uncovered intelligence of an Israeli massing for an
attack, in order to move Nasser and deter Israel; while Israel may have
told the USSR it would have to attack, in order to move the USSR to
restrain Syria's border raids!

70
On a subsequent occasion (22 May), a Soviet official in Moscow
did seem to acknowledge, in response to protests from the Israeli
Ambassador, that the repeated charge of Israeli troop massings on
Syrian borders was a convenient, useful and dramatic equivalent of
the known or suspected Israeli attack plans, which were less tangible
and useful for propaganda and alert purposes (32:213). This may have
seemed to the Soviet leaders to be an acceptable, even noncontroversial
political-military device to employ, but they seemed to overlook its
serious drawbacks. Such massing of troops could be easily disproved
and was patently absurd to the well-informed. Hence this Soviet-
Egyptian-Syrian device ended up producing confusion even on their own
side and enough resulting suspicion about their entire position as
to devalue the very probably real threat of an impending Israeli re
prisal attack in some strength.
Because of this weakness of the Soviet-inspired scenario, Israeli
Foreign Minister Eban could be rhetorically triumphant and eloquent
in his speech at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on
19 June. He denounced the troop concentration alarms as "a monstrous
fiction" and reminded the members how neither Syria nor the USSR had
accepted repeated offers by both UN authorities and Israel herself for
reciprocal inspections of the Israel-Syria frontier (93:425).
Adverse reactions to Israeli threats
Partly in response to the garbled UPI dispatch of 12 May, and also
to the cumulative effect of the various, uncoordinated Israeli speeches
threatening Syria with retaliation, a reaction set in at the UN, in

71
Washington and elsewhere. The New York Times described the statements
reportedly made by Israel as "stronger than those usually heard in
responsible quarters." Le Monde reported from Jerusalem that tension
was increasing in the area and that an Israeli raid across the Syrian
border was believed to be only a matter of time. Washington officials
expressed concern to Israeli representatives and called on Israel to
exercise restraint (110:188).
U Thant's office tried to restrain Israel and mollify Arab, espe
cially Syrian, sensitivity to U Thant's 11 May caution about Arab
border provocations. On 13 May a UN spokesman said in reply to a
question that U Thant's 11 May statement could not be interpreted as
condoning the resort to force by any party. The spokesman also said
that the Secretary-General was repeating his appeal to all sides to
honor the armistice agreements (110:180).
Nasser's eve-of-crisis mood
Robert Stephens, in his well-informed and respected biography,
Nasser, finds significant a statement by the Egyptian leader on this
eve of his so-unexpected move into Sinai to support threatened Syria.
Something of the tortured state of Nasser's mind at this vital junc
ture may be gauged from a message he sent to a Palestine Day rally of
Arab students in Britain on 14 May. In it he repeated more clearly than
ever before his theme that the "Arab Revolution" was faced by a coor
dinated conspiracy in which "imperialism," meaning the US and Britain,
was acting together with both Israel and "Arab reaction." He alleged
that there was a "coordination between Israel and the Jordanian

72
government in their pressure on Syria and in trying to involve Arab
forces in premature battle." This conspiracy was not confined to the
Arab world but was part of a counterrevolution, led by the United
States, "against aspirations for freedom, progress and prosperity
in our nation and in the entire Third World." The question, said
Nasser, "is no longer one of Palestine alone but of the entire Arab
destiny. It is a question of confronting all our enemies at once."
It was against such a melodramatic, almost paranoid picture of
the world that Nasser judged what seemed to be a new and serious threat
by Israel to Syria. For him what was at stake was not merely the fate
of this particular Ba'athist regime in Damascus, which he had no
special reason to love, nor even only the immediate military security
of Egypt. It was rather the morale of the whole Arab revolutionary,
nationalist movement that he had come to symbolize, the readiness of
the Arabs to assume mastery of their own fate and to stand up to
pressure from the Great Powers. He saw a military humiliation of
Syria by Israel as a victory not just for Israel but also for the
United States in its supposed design to isolate the UAR, the main
powerhouse of Arab nationalism (149:470-471).
Egypt's Sinai Move;
UNEF Withdrawal (14-18 May)
D-Minus 22: Sunday 14 May
Israel1s perspective
All the various Israeli pronouncements in the week from 7 to 14
May at best provided the Soviet-Arab cause a stronger-than-otherwise

73
pretext for launching its planned crisis scenario, and at worst may
possibly have persuaded Nasser and Syria (although most certainly not
the USSR) that a major Israeli assault on Syria was planned (110:179).
In Israel's defense, no evidence of such a planned assault, par
ticularly of a scope to penetrate to and threaten Damascus, has ever
been revealed. The more likely explanation has considerable evidence
to support it: a mixture of a felt need--for domestic as much as
international purposes--to deter the increasing Syrian terror attacks,
and as part of the customary Independence Day speechmaking. The
speeches by various Israeli leaders were largely uncoordinated, and
the possibility of misreading them not assessed in time.
Soviet perspective
A. L. Horelick's excellent, summary analysis of the Soviet connec
tion to Nasser's move on this date reasons as follows. Whether or not
Moscow specifically recommended Nasser's initial move, the conspicuous
dispatch of Egyptian infantry and armor into Sinai, beginning this date,
met with prompt Soviet approval as an appropriate tactical measure and
a healthy symbol of radical Arab solidarity. Soviet behavior during
the preceding weeks had clearly been designed to encourage Nasser to
make some kind of deterrent move that would draw Israeli pressure from
Syria, preventing possible Israeli military action which, even if
limited in scope, might have had disastrous political consequences for
the Syrian regime and embarrassed its Soviet patron. With Egyptian
forces poised on Israel's border, it would be hard for Nasser not to
come to the assistance of the Syrians. The Israelis would know this

74
too, and would therefore be deterred from striking. During the first
few days after Egyptian forces began moving across the Canal into the
desert, both Nasser and the Soviet leaders may have looked forward to
sharing the credit for a relatively cheap political victory over Israel
and the Western sponsors of the "plot" against Syria (13:48).
Egypt moves
The outburst of Egyptian crisis onset activity--the scope of which
proved finally to be irreversible without war--came on this date.
Radio Cairo, referring to recent warnings directed at Syria by
Israeli Prime Minister Eshkol and Foreign Minister Eban, and to reports
of Israeli troop concentrations on the Syrian border, declared that if
Israel dared to commit aggression she would face not Syria alone but
both signatories of the UAR-Syria Joint Defense Pact. The station
reported that several important meetings of the military high command,
presided over by Field Marshal Amer, took place on 14 May to discuss
the arrangements required to put the Joint Defense Pact into effect.
General Fawzi, Chief of Staff of the UAR army, flew to Damascus on 14
May to coordinate Syrian and UAR actions. Upon his arrival in Damascus,
he met with Syrian Defense Minister Assad and the Syrian Chief of Staff,
General Suwaydani (110:185-186).
According to Nasser's blockade speech of 22 May, he made his Sinai
move on this day, from which all else in the ensuing crisis and war
flowed. He justified his move on intelligence ("definite information")
received the day before, on 13 May.

75
There is some evidence, from Egyptian War Minister Badran's post
war trial, that Nasser had indeed doubted the Syrian and Soviet infor
mation on Israeli troop concentrations, and that a very short time
after UAR troop movements began he knew for certain that it was false
One of the tasks of General Fawzi's visit to Damascus was to find out
whether the Israeli concentrations existed. Fawzi returned with the
report that they did not, and that the Soviet leaders "must have been
having hallucinations" (110:191).
Nevertheless, Nasser may still have been influenced by the Soviet
warnings. He may have interpreted them as an expression of Soviet
backing for a move that he wished to make to serve his own broader
purposes, especially to revive his declining prestige in the Arab
world (13:47-48).
Egypt's abrupt move this date not only accents the doubt that
Nasser should suddenly believe what he had not believed for a year,
but also reflects a holiday, nonserious air to the affair.*
D-Minus 21: Monday 15 May
Nasser moves his armor
On this day the Egyptian Army began to move, in an obvious and
spectacular fashion. Convoys, converging on Cairo from camps farther
south, passed through the city for hours, causing major traffic
*This could well have been the mood with which it began; there
had been a similar but temporary Sinai demonstration in support of
Syria in February 1960 which had faded away shortly.

76
dislocation on their way, and headed out in the direction of Alexandria
and Ismailia. Crowds cheered the passing troops. Cairo was executing
what it later called "Operation Dissuasion." Thus began the buildup in
Sinai, where Egyptian strength had been drained by the Yemen war to
a low of 30,000 men (67:16; 15:407). Foreign reporters estimated
that the equivalent of one division, consisting mostly of armor, was
moved to Sinai. At the same time MiG fighter planes landed at Sinai air
bases. Field Marshal Amer and commanders of the Forward HQ of the
Air Force held a meeting in Sinai while the former maintained uninter
rupted contact with General Fawzi in Damascus. UAR forces were
ordered to reach the stage of full alert at 6 a.m. on 16 May.
Nasser's rapid and showy--even cocksure--deployment of his army
(perhaps mocking Israel's nineteenth anniversary parade in Jerusalem
the same day?), later turning to deadly seriousness, is dramatically
portrayed by Burdett, who was in Cairo at the time. Periodically the
Egyptian armor moving through Cairo made a demonstrative detour past
the gates of the American Embassy. To the puzzled onlookers, the
question persisted all day: was it a show or a mobilization? What
was especially remarkable was how smoothly the operation went; the
Egyptian staff work had been excellent. By nightfall foreign military
attachs were convinced it was more than a show (24:212).
Syria accuses Israel/US
Syria took a somewhat surprising step, complaining to the UN
Security Council and to the US, as the Middle East crisis began to
unfold. On this date, in a Note to the Security Council, she called

77
attention to threats of war against Syria made by Eshkol and Eban and
said that these threats revealed the provocative role assigned to
Israel by the CIA as part of a wider plan. The Syrian-Israeli border
situation was nearing an explosion. On the same day, the Syrian
charge d'affaires in Washington met with Assistant Secretary of State
Battle. In a statement following the meeting, he accused the US of
encouraging Israel in her plans to attack Syria. He stressed that
Syria could not prevent the Palestinians from continuing their struggle
to regain their homeland (110:180).
This action gives evidence of being prompted by the concealed hand
of Syria's protector, the USSR. For in instigating a crisis, a useful
technique is to appear to be responding to aggression, rather than bear
the onus of initiating same.
Syrian disorders and Yemen war forgotten
Meanwhile, what had become of the serious internal Syrian disorders
and the pressing Yemen war by this date?
On 15 May, al-Ahram published an eight-column lead:
An explosion is probable at any moment on the Syrian-Israeli
armistice lines.
The Israeli attack on Syria grows diplomatically and psy
chologically while Israeli mobilization masses near the
demilitarized zone.
Beginning yesterday, the UAR is making all arrangements
required to put into effect'the joint defense pact with
Syria.
In the following days, as Egyptian troops moved through Cairo, as UNEF
was withdrawn and replaced by Egyptian troops in Sinai and the Gaza

78
Strip, Arab news media paid scant attention to any other event. Yemen
and internal unrest in Syria were forgotten (34:212).
If, then, the border hullabaloo was essentially a diversion from
Syria's domestic turmoil, and Egypt's painful Yemen war, it had suc
ceeded. But the disproportionate costs were yet to come.
Egypt's risk-taking appears minimal
At this stage one of a chain of Nasser's (and in the background,
the USSR's) calculations/miscalculations may be assessed as follows.
In mobilizing, it is doubtful that the UAR felt it ran too great a
risk of actual conflict, for the lesson it drew from 1956 was that
the world community would not allow another war between Israel and
the Arabs. President Nasser freely expressed this conviction on a
number of occasions, saying that, since the world community had
stopped Israel in her attack against the Arabs in 1956, it would also
stop an Arab attack against Israel. He gave this as one reason why
he opposed plans for a general Arab-Israeli war (9:108).
Guided by this reasoning, Nasser, and probably the Soviet Union
as well, did not apparently feel he had taken any great risk of war
at this point. Nasser's calculation, as he later reported it, was
this: "When we mobilized our forces there was, in my estimation, a
20 per cent possibility of war" (75:622).
Dismayed Israel issues denials
On this same eventful day, Israel's Independence Day parade was
held in Jerusalem, despite United Nations protests. To minimize

79
tensions, the Israeli government had decided that no heavy equipment
would be displayed. But the suspicious assumed that the invisible
tanks and artillery were being deployed elsewhere.
Some of Israel's discomfiture with handling Nasser's charges lay
in that she surely was planning some kind of reprisal attack in force
against Syria, and perhaps had various contingency plans in readiness,
involving considerable punishment for Syria. To this end, Israel had
made a great effort to prepare world opinion by depicting the Syrian-
supported border incursions as intolerable. Hence, although she was
not massing troops on Syria's borders, and surely no invasion even
approaching Damascus was planned, nevertheless Israel must have felt
off balance and defensive at the unexpected charges and associated
Nasser movements, when deterrence was her primary objective. She had
not counted at all on any serious Egyptian intervention and was there
fore completely surprised when Nasser marched his troops into Sinai
(137:288-289).
Informed of the state of alert in the Egyptian Army--while occu
pied with their own Independence Day celebrations--Israel1s leaders
held immediate consultations and concluded that these moves were
demonstrative only. Egypt was assured, however, with UN Secretary-
General U Thant as the intermediary, that Israel had no intention of
initiating any military action. U Thant passed this message on to the
Egyptians (43:52). Israel cautioned Egypt that Syria was plotting to
drag her into hostilities against Israel (19:362).
If--as seems 1ikely--Nasser and the Soviet leadership were again
employing a favorite and devious scenario, one that had been used in

80
almost identical fashion in October 1966, then such Israeli efforts
were bound to prove fruitless.
Moscow warns Israel
Meanwhile an Israeli official, in Moscow as the Moscow-Nasser
scenario got its sendoff, encountered "stonewalling" treatment in con
trast to the late April ambivalence there. Minister of Labor Yigal
Allon, who happened to be attending an international congress in
Moscow, met Deputy Foreign Minister Semyonov at the Independence Day
party in the Israeli Embassy and used the opportunity to explain
Israel's stand once more. Semyonov repeated the thesis that foreign
forces were trying to bring down the Syrian government and endeavoring
to use Israel as their tool. He charged that there were circles in
Israel that wanted war and warned that the government of Israel would
do well to heed the Soviet warnings (32:211).
D-Minus 20: Tuesday 16 May
Egypt and Israel mobilize; crisis escalates
As of this date, a state of emergency was proclaimed for the Egyp
tian armed forces. "If Israel attempts to fulfill its foolish threats,"
quoted Cairo Radio from the newspaper al-Akhbar, "it will find forces
ready to face it, forces specially maintained for this purpose. Mea
sures laid down by the joint Syrian-UAR defense agreement are already
being implemented" (67:16).
For a crisis that had only clearly appeared a day or two earlier,
various Egyptian actions this date contributed a considerable expansion
and escalation.

81
Amer met in Cairo on the morning of 16 May with the military high
command, including General Fawzi, who had meanwhile returned from
Damascus. He also participated in a military staff meeting with
Minister of War Badran and General Murthagi, the Commander of Land
Forces. General Murthagi was appointed Commander of the Sinai Front
in the event of the outbreak of hostilities (110:186).
Radio Cairo exhorted its listeners:
We are fully ready and prepared to face racialist
Zionism. . The UAR will enter the battle against
Israel if Syria faces any aggression. ... If Israel,
backed by Imperialism and reaction, believes that the
time has come to undermine the great Arab cause and
the whole Arab revolutionary movement, it will be met
with ... an explosion which will destroy [it] and
eliminate it from the area forever. (110:186)
Radio Cairo commentator Ahmad Sa'id boasted and threatened:
From Cairo we openly declare that our enemy--all
our enemies--will not merely suffer the defeat of
1956; this time it is all-out war; this time we have
prepared for it; . Eshkol, Rabin, agents, Imperi
alists, we await you on the frontier. . (110:186)
On 16 May the UAR1s decision to take action if Israel attacked
Syria was conveyed to several states through their representatives in
Cairo and in personal letters from President Nasser. Badran met with
the Soviet Ambassador and military attach. The US cnarg d'affaires
was also notified. Personal letters from Nasser were sent to Syria,
Iraq, Algeria, Yemen, Yugoslavia, India "and other friendly nations"
(110:186).
Israel also decided on an immediate partial mobilization of mili
tary reserves on this date (19:363).

82
PLO inflames
Journalist Scheer, based on an immediate postwar visit to Cairo,
has described the pressure and provocation, to both Egypt and the
USSR, being provided by the Chinese-influenced PLO and Syrian forces.
Shuqairy, head of the PLO, became prominent once more, mobilizing Gaza
and broadcasting his wild messages over Cairo's Voice of Palestine.
Moving about with the Chinese Ambassador at his side, he emphasized
his movement's close ties with the Chinese People's Republic, barely
mentioning Egypt and ignoring the USSR, both of which had disregarded
him (140:98).
Egypt demands UNEF withdrawal
But it was the surprise, still controversial events beginning late
in this day that marked it as the point where, in retrospect, the
crisis went irrevocably out of control.
In Cairo on this 16 May, Egyptian Foreign Minister Riyad had
received the Soviet Ambassador and military attach. In Gaza that
evening, at 10 p.m. local time, the Indian Commander of UNEF, Major-
General Rikhye, was called to the office of Brigadier Mokhtar, the
Egyptian field commander, who handed him a letter in broken English
from the chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces. The key sentence
of this startling, confusingly worded letter read: "For the sake of
complete security of all UN troops which install OPs along our border,
I request that you issue your orders to withdraw all these troops
immediately" (24:215-216).

83
Cryptic, peremptory, ungrammatical, Fawzi's letter was also for
mally unacceptable. Rikhye did not take his orders from the Egyptians.
He took orders from no one but U Thant. Why was the message addressed
to him? Perhaps, he thought, because he had always maintained such
cordial relations with the Egyptian liaison staff; and so the Egyp
tians may have supposed there was a good chance of immediate compliance
In that case he would have to disappoint them. Fawzi's request did
not mention Sharm el Sheikh, the seaside post at the mouth of the
Gulf of Aqaba. It referred only to the UN observation posts along
the Sinai frontier, and it was the troops manning these posts that
he evidently wanted Rikhye to withdraw and regroup inside the Gaza
Strip.
Fawzi's letter, it turned out, was only the beginning. Mokhtar
made known several urgent requests of his own. He told Rikhye that
UNEF must evacuate Sharm el Sheikh and the Yugoslav desert camp at
El Sabha, as well as all its posts along the international frontier,
by first light the next morning. These troops were to pull back into
Gaza. Mokhtar pressed for an immediate answer and immediate compliance
and dwelt on the danger of clashes if the UN troops were still on
the scene by the time the Egyptians arrived. He made a great point of
El Sabha, a bleak prominence more than four thousand feet high, dominat
ing the central east-west road that cuts across Sinai from Israel to
the Suez Canal at Ismailia. There was no doubt in Rikhye's mind that
Mokhtar was talking about the evacuation of the entire Emergency Force
from the entire Sinai Peninsula. The UNEF Commander said he could not
comply. He would have to report the matter to U Thant and await his
instructions.

84
After the formal discussion in Mokhtar's office, there was the
ritual coffee. Conversation relaxed and the Egyptians confided their
worry. They had directed their message to Gaza rather than New York
because they feared that, if they sent it to U Thant, the Israelis at
United Nations headquarters would be certain to hear about it and
would beat them to the punch. Israeli troops would occupy the two
key posts, at Sharm el Sheikh and El Sabha, before Egyptian contin
gents were able to get there. A few days later at a meeting in Cairo,
Nasser told Rikhye that this conspiratorial decision had been taken
on the Cabinet level--by Nasser himself (24:216-217).
In elaboration of this confusing and disputed sequence of events,
M. A. Gilboa has reported that Nasser sent a liaison officer to
General Rikhye the same night to soften the impact of the telegram.
The officer explained to Rikhye that Egypt did not actually plan to
withdraw the UNEF as a cushioning force between Israel and Egypt.
All it wanted to do, he said, was to stage a modest "show" before the
eyes of the Arab world. Gilboa gives no source, and there is no con
firmation from other sources, but most observers feel that the very
careful wording of the Egyptian telegram substantiates the "show"
interpretation. Brecher concludes for undisclosed reasons that
Mokhtars oral request about the evacuation of Sharm el Sheikh was
probably unauthorized (19:363-364).
But it is difficult to accept this Brecher conclusion. How could
such an important step be taken without authorization? What does seem
more than likely is that Nasser knew he was indulging in a "show," but
for cover purposes did not wish to tell his officers, and perhaps could

85
not practically do so either; for his officers were restive and itching
for a fight and took this challenge to Israel seriously.
U Thant's reaction
Secretary-General Thant received General Rikhye's report at 5:30
p.m. New York time that same evening and an hour and a quarter later
at his urgent request received the UAR representative to the UN,
Ambassador el-Kony, to whom he presented the following views:
1. General Rikhye could not take orders from anyone but
the Secretary-General.
2. If General Fawzi was asking for temporary withdrawal
of UNEF from the Line this was unacceptable because
UNEF "cannot be asked to stand aside in order to
enable the two sides to resume fighting." (174:311)
The implication of U Thant's first point is an important one,
though this is rarely mentioned in the accounts of this bizarre
affair. Egypt was not so new and raw at foreign affairs as not to
know it could not properly order General Rikhye and his UNEF force
around as it saw fit. If, then, General Fawzi appeared to do just
that, it could only have been because this short-cut approach was
deliberate. And one can find two good and sufficient reasons for so
doing, in addition to the above-described worry about alerting Israel.
For one, the initial time/date for the supposed assault on Syria by
Israel has regularly been given as 4 a.m., 17 May, early the next
morning; there was a need for haste (note the 10 p.m. delivery of the
letter), with no time to go through formal UN channels if Egypt's
forces were to be in position for action or effective deterrence.
Whether Nasser believed the intelligence on the Israeli attack or not,

86
he surely did not inform his restive generals that this was merely a
step in a political scenario enactment. For his officers are shown
during this period as lusting for battle with Israel, wanting to
use their "shiny Soviet war toys," and impatient with Nasser's politi
cal maneuverings. Secondly, reflecting U Thant's second objection,
by keeping the negotiations at the field level, Nasser may well have
intended--as U Thant seemed to suspect--to "have his cake and eat it
too," to order UNEF aside just enough to permit him to threaten Israel
(for inter-Arab prestige purposes mostly) without losing its protection
for his own borders and forces. U Thant's sensitive, quick reaction
seemed to reflect advance knowledge or suspicion that such action might
be attempted. His resistance is understandable, for such an action,
if acceded to, would have been a grossly unneutral manipulation of the
UNEF, which could only bring discredit to it and UN peacekeeping
efforts in general.
U Thant's role controversy
The case against U Thant--even to the extent of calling the sub
sequent events "U Thant's War"--goes substantially as follows. U
Thant's immediate response was that the UAR was entitled to request
withdrawal; such action would have to be total, not partial; if so
requested, he would immediately comply. This reaction has been widely
criticized ever since--for its haste, for the lack of prior consulta
tion with Israel and/or other states involved in the 1956-57 UNEF
commitments, and for his overreaction, that is, complete withdrawal,
in response to Egypt's request for partial withdrawal. However much

87
he may have been justified in his actions on purely legal-procedural
grounds--and serious doubts have been raised about this aspect as
well--in substantive terms he could well have decided otherwise and
more wisely. There is no doubt that his actions contributed to the
process of escalation. They were totally unexpected, even by Nasser,
and, as some commentators note, may have been the catalyst that marked
the point of irreversibility of the crisis (19:364-365).
But a temporary or a partial withdrawal would have meant, in
effect, that the UNEF was being manipulated to serve Nasser's at
tempted coercion of Israel. This would have been an impossible posi
tion for a peacekeeping organization. As for Nasser's feigned surprise,
it is presumptuous to accept at face value such innocence in what
emerges as a preplanned, if ragged, scenario. It would have well
fitted Nasser's purposes, especially later, to appear to have had
his hand forced.
There has been prolonged controversy as to what Nasser intended,
and whether U Thant unpredictably forced his hand. U Thant subse
quently responded with a vigorous and detailed justification. The
essentials are as follows. The official Egyptian request for "with
drawal of the force as soon as possible" was two days in the making,
following U Thant's rejection of the initial local demand in Gaza for
its withdrawal. The Egyptian representative at the UN informed the
Secretary-General of strong feelings of resentment in Cairo at what
was there considered to be attempts to exert pressure and to make the
UNEF an "occupation force." With deep misgivings as to the likely
disastrous consequences of UNEF withdrawal, U Thant indicated his

88
intention to appeal urgently to Nasser to reconsider his decision.
Back came Nasser's response the same day, urgently advising against
such an appeal, announcing in advance that it would be "sternly
rebuffed" (75:214).
This indignation by Nasser, even to receiving a request for re
consideration, hardly fits the air of injured innocence he and his
supporters affected after the war to explain the UNEF withdrawal.
Egypt-Indi a-Yugos!avia conspiracy?
Almost all of the extensive debate over U Thant's role in the
UNEF withdrawal ignores the evidence of an advance Egypt-India-
Yugoslavia understanding--possibly even a conspiracy--as to the with
drawal scenario. Such an understanding may well have been informed
by known U Thant feelings and intentions with respect to the various
contingencies considered, discussed and threatened over the ten
years of UNEF's history.
As the strange, confused, yet apparently calculated and premedi
tated UNEF dismissal escalation stage approached, here is one informed
assessment as to Nasser's outlook: the backbone of the force of 3393
soldiers were the contingents of 978 Indians and 580 Yugoslavs. The
latter not only kept watch along the entire Sinai border, but held
the vital gate to Israel's sea access at Sharm el Sheikh, the isolated
outpost overlooking the Strait of Tiran at the southern tip of the
Sinai Peninsula. From informal advance inquiries in Belgrade and New
Delhi--according to Burdett--Nasser learned that, though his two neu
tralist friends counselled prudence with regard to the UNEF, they

89
nevertheless made it clear that they would not maintain their contin
gents on Egyptian territory once their withdrawal was requested
(24:208-209).
What is often overlooked in accounts of the events of 16-18
May is the highly unneutral pro-Nasser tendencies, then and later,
of these two nations, India and Yugoslavia, providing the UNEF
commander and almost half the UNEF troops, including key Yugoslav
contingents in the path of the advancing Egyptians.
The evidence surely warrants a strong suspicion of collusion,
either tacit or agreed upon, among India, Yugoslavia and Egypt,
involving the maneuvering of the UNEF beginning this date. An Indian
author, writing some seven years later--while essentially defending
India's performance--at the same time provides added support for this
suspicion. India and Yugoslavia insisted to U Thant on prompt with
drawal, and resisted referral of the issue to the General Assembly.
Nand Lai acknowledges that "India and Yugoslavia were charged with
having a special friendly relationship with the UAR: the three coun
tries regarded themselves as forming a triumvirate heading the non-
al igned nations. ..."
Furthermore, in response to the requirement for timely advance
notice to the Secretary-General of the intended withdrawal of a con
tingent, Lai states that, when Egypt asked U Thant to withdraw UNEF,
"India notified the Secretary-General, in advance, of its decision to
pull out of the UNEF" (90:314-316).
The use of the words "in advance" seems to imply that India and
Yugoslavia had thus discharged their legal obligations. But Lai is

90
ignoring the significance of the requirement, "so that alternative
arrangements could be made," and attempting to provide a legalistic
claim that an advance notice, without the required timeliness, and
in fact presented to II Thant more as an ultimatum than a notice, was
a proper step.
In any event, Lai seems to find India, unflatteringly, a helpless
prisoner of Nasser policy, however dangerous that policy might be.
If India had counselled President Nasser not to demand
withdrawal of the UNEF from the United Arab Republic, it
might have postponed the crisis of June 1967, but it was
obvious that any criticism by India of the United Arab
Republic would have been considered by the United Arab
Republic and other Arab countries as an unfriendly act,
and alienation of Arab opinion was something that India
could ill afford for obvious reasons. (90:322)
It is an ironic commentary on the role of morality in politics
that, if Indian General Rikhye had been a less honorable man, or had
been both briefed and persuaded by his most unneutral, pro-Nasser
government, Nasser's plan might well have succeeded: the gesture
successfully made to appease Syria, Jordan, the PLO and his own gen
erals; the UNEF maneuvered quietly but temporarily out of the way;
and the reinforcing troops again withdrawn after it could be claimed
that Israel had been successfully deterred. If the supposed 17-27 May
Israeli attack plan was in fact a creation of the KGB Department of
Disinformation, as has been alleged, and with Nasser's knowledge, all
the better. Then both Nasser and the Soviet Union could have been
making a characteristic, almost riskless ploy: denouncing a non
existent threat, taking action against it, then claiming credit when
the threat did not materialize.

91
Nasser "doctors" the record
Three years later, in an apparent retrospective endeavor to "doctor11
the record for the sake of a more palatable history, in an interview
with U.S. News and World Report, Nasser said
In 1967 when we asked UN forces to withdraw, we cited
specifically the area from Rafah to Elath. We did not
ask UN troops to withdraw from Sharm el Sheikh, nor from
all other areas. Because they did withdraw, this
created a problem. (139:150)
Nasser aware and in command
With the deployment of his troops to Sinai, Nasser and his mili
tary leaders were in a hurry to get the UN troops out of the way. De
spite much heated controversy since, a careful reading of the record
provides strong evidence that Nasser knew precisely what he was doing
and in fact was particularly determined to occupy Sharm el Sheikh
promptly. For, as discussed above, he feared that Israel--whose strong
reaction was of course foreseen--would get wind of these plans and
beat the Egyptians to this critical Aqaba control point.
Apologists for Nasser after his debacle would like to show that
U Thant forced Nasser's hand, that the Egyptian leader did not expect
to end up in control of Sharm el Sheikh and thus seemingly be forced
to close the Strait to Israel. But Nasser at the time was never more
forcefully or boldly or ruthlessly in command. Burdett provides a
most persuasive and critical analysis. There was the haste of the
Egyptian army in its pell-mell rush to the border. There was the
arrival of an Egyptian advance party at Sharm el Sheikh before the
official withdrawal request came to U Thant. The methods Nasser used,
Burdett charges,

92
were brutal--a combination of political blackmail, mili
tary ultimatums and obfuscation to keep the Secretariat
on the run, the dark hints of possible violence to UN
troops, the warnings that any appeal would be an inad
missible affront. Nasser's fierce sensitivity to any
slight to Egyptian sovereignty was well known and so
was his capacity to mobilize emotion on the issue.
He dictated the rules of the game from Cairo, and the
Secretariat accepted them.
Burdett adds that the Nasser apologists also ignore the experience
of American diplomats in Cairo during the UNEF crisis. There was "the
flushed and fearless mood of Egyptian government officials, the exul
tant crescendo, the defiance of Israel." Plainly, the dissolution of
UNEF was not subject to discussion (24:228-229).
Testimony at the postwar trial of the rebellious Egyptian military
leaders provides added evidence that Nasser and they knew they were
provoking Israel and risking war with their removal of UNEF. The
Court President, Hussein Shafei, testifying in an attempt to shield
Nasser, stated that the UNEF withdrawal decision was taken at a
meeting of Nasser with Field Marshal Amer. Nasser acknowledged that
the action would increase the probability of Israeli reaction from 50
to 80%. Amer expressed full agreement. Shafei adds a revealing sen
tence, "The operation was not a sudden one" (24:230-231).
Shafei unfortunately neglected to reveal the date of this meeting.
Presumably it took place no later than 16 May.
If Shafei's account is accepted then, there was no lack of coordina
tion between Nasser and his military leaders on the question of removing
UNEF. Nasser and his generals appear to have moved in concert to
secure the total evacuation of UNEF and the Egyptians did not, after
all, suddenly and to their great surprise find themselves at Sharm el
Sheikh.

93
If a jump from 50 to 80% chance of war was Nasser's assessment,
surely this was not a lightly taken decision!
In contrast to his postdisaster attempts at reconstructing the
record, Nasser in his 22 May blockade speech included a forceful
approval of U Thant's role and added:
Quite naturally, and I say this today quite frankly,
if the Emergency Force had been turned aside from its
proper task and worked for the aims of imperialism, we
should have regarded it as a hostile force and forcibly
disarmed it. (75:539)
This is a far cry from his postwar wail: "We fell into the trap
which had been laid for us" (136:1).
It would appear more fitting to at least acknowledge that: "We
leaped into the trap that we had laid for ourselves!"
Nasser as reactive, opportunistic, gambling
In his postwar 23 July speech, Nasser acknowledged that his two
major provocative escalations both were "practical consequences" of
the Sinai move as well as responses to long-standing Arab pressures.
Similarly, in an official 1968 Israel Ministry of Defense account
of the war, General Yitzhak Rabin gives Nasser credit (or discredit
perhaps) for having no planned scenario on 14 May, but, instead,
beginning this date with his UNEF action, simply doing his characteris
tic improvising and reacting to events. Rabin concludes that even a
demonstrative action develops a logic of its own and obliges the
originators to commit acts beyond the original scope of their inten
tions (74:8).
From Nutting's biography of Nasser, there is a description of
the Cabinet's nonparticipation in Nasser's thinking or decision-making

94
that seems to fit often-made charges as to his reckless, dangerously
irresponsible mismanagement of this crisis. In discussing a Cabinet
meeting in the middle of May, after the Prime Minister, Sidky Suleiman,
had returned from a visit to the Golan Heights on the Syrian-Israeli
border, Nutting described how Nasser refused to be drawn into any
discussion of such critical issues--worriedly posed by "a former
close friend"--as the likelihood of American intervention if Egypt
attacked Israel, and the significance of Suleiman's admission that
on his trip neither he nor his accompanying Syrian staff officers
were able to detect any sign of Israeli troop concentrations. Nasser,
meeting this same colleague later in private, "refused all entreaties
to back down, replying, as he had done ... in 1956, that if he
kept his nerve everything would turn out all right" (122:410) [emphasis
added].
This is also another bit of evidence that, quite early in the
crisis--but perhaps only after he felt committed in Sinai--Nasser
knew there were no Israeli troops massing to threaten Syria. This
incident, including Nasser's uncommunicative behavior to his own
Cabinet, strengthens the impression that Nasser knew all along that
this charge was only an agreed-upon Soviet-Egyptian code signal for a
political scenario launching.
What is likely from the record, and at the same time the source
of much confusion, is that Nasser knew his was a political move to
counter a nonexistent Israeli threat, but that his generals did not.
The latter, in their eagerness and nervousness, went beyond Nasser's
intent in hastily "clearing the decks for action." It should be

95
recalled that Soviet intelligence had named the next day, 17 May,
as the expected date of the Israeli attack on Syria.
D-Minus 19: Wednesday 17 May
More unneutral Indian/Yugoslav conduct
In all the controversy that has raged over U Thant's role in the
UNEF withdrawal, the implications of seven ambassadorial conferences
with the Egyptian Foreign Minister in Cairo this date have received
inadequate attention. In a development separate from but related to
those going on at the front lines in Sinai and at the UN in New York,
Draper recounts
. . The Egyptian Foreign Minister called in the ambassa
dors of the seven nations which contributed units to UNEF
and informed them that Egypt wanted UNEF out immediately.
The Yugoslav and Indian ambassadors agreed on the spot.
When Secretary General Thant met with representatives
of the seven countries at 4 p.m. May 17 (New York time),
he was informed of the Yugoslav and Indian decisions;
the other five said that they had not yet received
instructions (43:124) [emphasis added].
Too much of the controversy as to Nasser vs. U Thant responsibility
for the UN withdrawal ignores or passes lightly over the significance
of this meeting of Riyad with the seven ambassadors, as well as the
military actions taking place in the field. Whatever Nasser's attempts
later to imply that his hand was forced, his actions through his
political and military aides fit better his oft-repeated public scorn
for UNEF that, in effect, "They'll be gone in half an hour when we so
decide" (75:547-548). Furthermore, the instant withdrawal assent by
the Indian and Yugoslav ambassadors raises a strong and nagging suspi
cion that here is a conspiracy, in addition to the Soviet-Egyptian-Syrian

96
one as to Israeli border threats. India, Yugoslavia and Egypt acted
in close unison in their policies, before, during and after this
crisis. It is so untypical of an ambassador, skilled in caution,
to act immediately and not refer a matter of such import back to
his government. Yet both in Cairo, and at the UN in immediate pres
sures put on U Thant, these two nations--well aware that their near
50% contribution to the UNEF forces gave them in effect a veto hold
on its operations--acted in concert as if by prearranged understanding.
Such a precipitate decision by Yugoslavia and India was hardly
supportive of the Secretary-General in coping with this critical prob
lem; rather, it served to undercut and foreclose consideration of any
other delaying options U Thant might otherwise have had. Furthermore,
there is an ironic twist to this tale. A major withdrawal argument
(one known to weigh heavily on U Thant) was concern for safety of
the UN troops in a developing Arab-Israeli confrontation. But in
this respect subsequent Indian performance is highly inconsistent
and even bizarre. The war did not break out for almost three more
weeks. Canada, which had vigorously opposed the UNEF withdrawal,
and encountered Egyptian hostility as a result, nevertheless promptly
evacuated its troops by air from the danger zone. But India dawdled,
so that when war did break out her troops were caught in the midst
of hostilities, suffering many tragic casualties.
In New York, India and Yugoslavia seem to have been highly influ
ential in their pressure on U Thant's decision for an immediate with
drawal, as he consulted informally with the representatives of the
countries providing contingents for UNEF. The Canadian representative

97
pointed out forcefully, and, as it proved, accurately, what was likely
to happen if the force was withdrawn, and advised delay. The Indians
and the Yugoslavs insisted that Egypt was acting within her rights
and that they must comply with her request (67:18).
One more point: surely the need for haste by these two nations
was not justified by fears for the safety of their own men in UNEF.
Nasser and his generals were hardly likely to do harm to these troops,
whose leaders were so closely linked with his policies!
Egyptian military alert
In his postwar General Assembly speech giving Israel's view of
the crisis buildup, Eban included this item for this date:
... On May 17, 1967, at 6 in the morning, Radio Cairo
broadcast that Field-Marshal Amer had issued alert or
ders to the Egyptian armed forces. Nor did he mention
Syria as the excuse. This announcement reads:
1. The state of preparedness of the Egyptian armed
forces will increase to the full level of prepared
ness for war, beginning 14.30 hours last Sunday.
2. Formations and units allocated in accordance with
the operational plans will advance from their
present locations to the designated positions.
3. The armed forces are to be in full preparedness
to carry out any combat tasks on the Israel front
in accordance with developments. (46:214)
It is possible that Amer was responding to the original Soviet
designation of this date, 17 May, as its intelligence-based predic
tion as to when Israel would attack Syria. Such a military reaction,
especially if Nasser had not confided in Amer that these "intelligence"
reports were a fabricated propaganda and scenario tool, could also
explain the rapid--and by some accounts unauthorized--army efforts to
get the UNEF out of the way on late 16 and on 17 May.

98
Johnson restrains Israel
Meanwhile, what of Israel? Already at this early date President
Johnson acted to deter Israel from what he must have felt would be an
immediate inclination to go to war. The key sentence in his cable,
which was to cause Israeli leaders much anxiety during the course of
the crisis buildup, read: I am sure you will understand that I
cannot accept any responsibility on behalf of the United States for
situations which arise as the result of actions on which we are not
consulted" (78:290).
D-Minus 18: Thursday 18 May
UNEF is withdrawn
The concluding act of the 16-18 May UNEF withdrawal process was
an untidy one. On the morning of the 18th the Egyptians forced Yugo
slav troops out of their positions at El Amr and El Kuntilla, and at
noon the commander of the contingent at Sharm el Sheikh was given
fifteen minutes to withdraw his forces--an ultimatum he rejected.
That night, however, instructions reached General Rikhye from the
Secretary-General to withdraw UNEF as requested. He complied at
once. Israeli and Egyptian forces again confronted each other
directly in the Sinai Desert and the Gaza Strip (67:18).
Egypt's aggressive stance
Criticism of U Thant for his "too hasty" withdrawal of UNEF,
particularly in combination with subsequent attempts to soften the
record of Nasser's May actions, seems misdirected. There is ample

99
evidence of Nasser's and his generals' determination to sweep UNEF
out of the way, and so rapidly as to forestall any preventive Israeli
action. Accordingly, they were aggressively intolerant of any UN
suggestion for delay or reconsideration.
Draper's account makes a persuasive case that U Thant's much-
criticized UNEF withdrawal was more a recognition of an Egyptian
fait accompli than a case in which he had any other viable choices.
Draper concludes that by the night of 18 May U Thant did not have to
"withdraw" the force; he could merely recognize that it had already,
for all practical purposes, been withdrawn. The Egyptian troops had
simply shunted the UNEF units aside (43:124-125).
Israeli Foreign Minister Eban, in his postwar 19 June 1967 speech
at the UN General Assembly, reported that the Cairo radio, Saut el
Arab, published an order of the day at midnight this date by the
Sinai commander, General Murthagi, which concluded with these words:
Morale is very high among the members of our armed
forces because this is the day for which they have been
waiting--to make a holy war in order to return the
plundered land to its owners.
In many meetings with army personnel they asked when
the holy war would begin--the time has come to give them
their wish.(46:215) [emphasis added]
This military order, with its emotional appeal for a "holy war,"
would be consistent with other evidence that the Egyptian Army was
itching to fight, ready to attack, and impatient with Nasser's defensive
talk and diplomatic maneuverings.
But Kenneth Love's sympathetic account gives Nasser the benefit
of the doubt:

100
Anthony Nutting says Nasser told him in Cairo on 3 June
1967 that he had requested UNEF to withdraw in order to
make effective his deterrent threat against an Israeli
attack on Syria but that he had not expected UNEF to
pull out of Sharm el Sheikh and the islands guarding
the straits. He told Nutting he did not want them to
leave the straits but that he could not insist that
they remain there while pulling out elsewhere to suit
his convenience. (100:682)
It is hard to give this statement credit for more than a recon
structed scenario designed by such Nasser well-wishers as Nutting and
Love. In addition to strong evidence to the contrary, it would be
a colossal case of muddle-headed ineptness for close allies India
and Yugoslavia to press U Thant for immediate withdrawal, thinking
they were carrying out Nasser's wish, if such were not the case!
One can agree with Love, however (despite Marshal Amer's earlier
argument to the contrary), that there was no easy way for Nasser to
avoid the Aqaba move, once UNEF was gone. For he had never renounced
his obligation to blockade the Gulf of Aqaba against Israel. Not to
do so would risk letting Israel seize this position and/or subject
him to his enemies' mockery that "he was too much afraid of Israel
to fulfill his Arab responsibilities" (100:682-683).
US-Israel exchange
Despite American preoccupation with Vietnam, a Johnson-Eshkol
exchange of letters took place at this early stage of the crisis,
another sign of the increasing stress in the perceptions of high-
policy decision-makers all over the world. In his 17 May letter
(referred to earlier), which Eshkol received the following day,
Johnson demanded (Brecher's word choice) restraint and prior

101
consultations with the US about further Israeli moves. Eshkol's an
swer, sent the same day, indicated Israel's grave concern about the
possible blockade of the Tiran Strait and asked that the US clarify
its position in the conflict, in view of the Arab claim that the USSR
identified itself with them (19:368).
Here is interesting evidence of how early in a crisis involving
superpower interests in conflict the moves of one power through its
proxy induce the opposing proxy to call in its own protector for help.
UNEF move surprises USSR
Although Moscow has indicated, as discussed earlier, that it
approved Nasser's move of his troops into Sinai as a deterrent to
Israel's purported plans to attack Syria, there is evidence, and
there are admissions of various types, that Moscow was uninformed of,
and surprised by, the UNEF move. From his vantage point at the UN,
Indian diplomat Arthur La 11 asserts that Soviet diplomats assiduously
inquired from all who might have some special knowledge of Arab inten
tions why Nasser had taken this step and how far he was prepared to
go (91:30).
The Aqaba Blockade (19-22 May)
D-Minus 17: Friday 19 May
Inflammatory Arab rhetoric
There was considerable Arab rhetoric that inflamed the crisis,
provided justification for the eventual Israeli attack, and alienated
much of the world opinion from the Arab cause--despite wails -of Arab

102
sympathizers for a double standard: that Arab rhetoric was just that,
but that Israeli threats against Syria were inexcusable! This is
an example, for this day, from an interview with Syrian Defense Min
ister General Assad:
Our army, which has long waited in readiness, hand
on trigger, is unanimous in its desire for an early con-
flict. We are only awaiting the sign from the political
1eadership.
As a soldier, I believe that the time has come for
the battle of liberation. (75:536) [emphasis added]
Had there been effective, unified control of the crisis in Moscow-
had someone been "minding the store"--then the Arab campaign, with
whose fortunes the Soviet Union was now inextricably linked, should
have been seriously reviewed as to the effects of such statements on
their joint objectives.
Radio Cairo was inflaming the crisis, as of this date, as follows:
"This is our chance, Arabs, to deal Israel a mortal blow of annihila
tion, to blot out its entire presence in our holy land." Egyptian
broadcasts kept calling for a "just liberation war of the Palestin
ians." PLO leader Shuqairy, in a broadcast on Radio Cairo, proclaimed
"Israel will be totally destroyed" (107:16).
UN activity
There was concerned activity at the UN. Curiously, neither the
United States nor Great Britain called for a Security Council meeting,
and it fell to the Canadians, who had contributed some 800 troops to
the UNEF, to raise the matter, along with Denmark. The United States
Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, stressed American concern in a meeting
with U Thant, somewhat after the fact, and secured Thant's seemingly
empty pledge of the "full support of the UN for peace."

103
In several of Indian writer Lai's statements there is recognition
that India's crisis actions hardly corresponded to any objective
definition of disinterested neutrality. On this date U Thant reported
his UNEF action to the Security Council, belatedly evaluating the
resulting situation arising in the Middle East as "extremely menacing.
Lai comments, laconically, that "the Council, however, took no action.
But his very next paragraph places leading responsibility on India
as to why not.
With the support of Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria,
and the Soviet Union, India thwarted the Western attempt
to get a resolution passed on the West Asian crisis de
scribing it as a crisis arising from the UAR demand for
the withdrawal of the UNEF. (90:318)
Israel takes alarm, warns USSR
In Israel, a sense of crisis began to envelop the military and
the public alike. Recognizing the source of the developing crisis
as Moscow, Israel now began efforts to persuade the USSR to "call
off your dogs." First, Eban attempted to convince Soviet Ambassador
Chuvakhin that things were getting out of hand and that there were no
concentrations of troops on the Syrian border, as alleged. Warning
that an Aqaba blockade by Nasser would be a casus bel 1 i, he proposed
a crisis deescalation by means of a mutual and gradual Israeli-
Egyptian withdrawal from the Sinai border (24:236). But Chuvakhin
persevered in his customary, unhelpful intransigence.
Additional Israeli troops were mobilized to meet the threat in
Sinai, which had now reached greater proportions than expected. This
military turning point in the crisis was marked by the transfer of

104
some 30,000 Egyptian troops from the civil war in Yemen to the Sinai
(162:69-70).
It will be recalled that a graceful exit for Egyptian troops from
the morass of Yemen was one of the purported motives for the Soviet-
Egyptian Sinai operation.
Eban's 1972 biographer, Robert St. John, describes the uniquely
abrasive performance of Soviet Ambassador Chuvakhin, one man whose
role during the crisis, and before,, did nothing to develop any Israeli-
Soviet rapport. In their meeting this date, according to Eban, Chu-
vakhin's demeanor expressed "an almost sadistic delight in Israel's
predicament" (138:413). Eban's fruitless exchange of positions with
the Soviet Ambassador included this David-to-Goliath warning: "There
will be no war if the Egyptians do not attack Israeli territory or
do not interfere with Israel's freedom of navigation" (32:212).
At this point in time there were still two days before what was
to prove to be Nasser's disastrous closing of the Tiran Strait to
Israel. Why did the USSR leaders not forewarn Nasser? Did they not
believe Israel? Her reputation for threat credibility should have been
high. Did they believe the warning unnecessary--inasmuch as they were
to claim full surprise at Nasser's forthcoming bold move? Or, did
they perhaps caution Nasser and have him proceed despite their warning?
By this date Nasser was riding the crest of a tidal wave, and
Israel was set back, divided, uncertain, and worried.
Johnson-Kosyqin exchange
The letter from Eshkol (referred to under 18 May) apparently stimu
lated President Johnson to his first direct exchange with Kosygin over

105
the developing crisis. According to some reports Johnson sought urgent
contact with Kosygin to coordinate diplomatic action, before the
situation got out of control. In his reply Kosygin declared that the
Soviet Union was firmly interested in preserving the peace (19:368).
American dismay at Nasser's UNEF action stimulated a variety of
other responses. The US and Britain were reported to be seeking ways
to salvage the UN's peacekeeping role in the area. The US maintained
contacts with both parties; Israel was advised to exercise restraint
and was reassured as to the American stand on free navigation in the
Tiran Strait. American diplomats sought contacts with their Soviet
counterparts but the latter's attitudes were evasive.
Kremlin shakeup
Identical, deceptively brief announcements appeared in Pravda
on 19 May on page 6 and in Izvestia on 20 May on page 4:
The Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet has relieved
Comrade V. Ye. Semichastny of his duties as Chairman of
the USSR Council of Ministers State Security Committee
in connection with his transfer to other work. (31,
No. 20:21)
It is not only inviting but literally compelling to attempt to trace
the relation of this important action to the accelerating Middle East
crisis, where Nasser had unexpectedly dismissed the UNEF in the period
16-18 May (purportedly without consulting or even informing his Soviet
patron!). Also relevant is Political Diary's account of this affair,
reporting that Semichastny was dismissed abruptly--after only a few
minutes' discussion--at a Politburo meeting at which his close friend
and fellow hardliner, Shelepin, was conveniently (for the Brezhnev

106
faction) absent in the hospital. Though the official press announce
ment above says "transfer to other work," Political Diary says this
was banishment to the Ukraine for "failures of Soviet intelligence"
and "making a great ado over trifles" (106, No. 33:243-244).*
Amplifying material relevant to this development is provided in
the Appendix.
Nasser's Tiran dilemma
In the twilight area between the UNEF withdrawal and the Tiran
Strait closure, pro-Arab Rodinson professes to see that the crisis
might somehow have been halted in time. The Egyptian forces in
Sinai did not yet present a grave threat to Israel. U Thant's
peace mission to Cairo included prospects for a revival of the
Egyptian-Israeli Armistice Commission. PLO Chief Shuqairy stated
that he had placed his troops in Gaza under Egyptian command, and
that furthermore King Hussein of Jordan would have to be overthrown
before there could be any thought of a war of liberation against
Israel. But the crucial problem was the Strait of Tiran: Nasser
now had no pretext for not blockading it against Israel (134:191).
*Reliability of information or its fundamental source is unfor
tunately not verifiable, except that this monthly periodical is
reputed to have circulated among fairly highly placed Party members;
the editors were and are prominent and informed dissident Soviet
intellectuals, the Medvedev brothers, Roy and Zhores, then living
and working within the Soviet system and probably with ties at that
time to sources close to the political leadership.

107
D-Minus 16: Saturday 20 May
Israel's too weak-too strong dilemma
On this and the next day, Israel was in a quandary, apprehensive
that too weak a stand might encourage Nasser to go on and that too
strong a stand might heighten the crisis and incite him.
If, on 20 or 21 May, Israel had clearly warned that a blockade
meant war, might there have been no blockade and no war? The Israelis,
measuring the character of their adversary, decided not to provoke him.
In Washington their embassy urged that President Johnson make a warning
statement. He, too, abstained (24:237). As far as is known, the
USSR too abstained.
There is clearly a lesson here in crisis management, from the out
come of the lost deterrent opportunity for all three of these parties:
Israel, the US, and the USSR. But what would have been the correct
decision is less clear. Would a warning, an appeal, or other form
of intercession have dissuaded Nasser from his forthcoming move?
Meanwhile, at a time when prudent advice to Nasser would have
been helpful, supposedly neutralist but unneutral India was one of
several nations which expressed warm support for Nasser's moves (162:70).
U Thant reassures Arabs on borders
Had the Syrian fear of Israeli invasion been a real one, instead
of a contrived propaganda, deterrent and unity-building ploy, as had
been repeatedly demonstrated in the past, this 20 May report of U
Thant's (actually a 9 May determination, as discussed under that date),
might have effectively ended the crisis:

108
There have been in the past few days persistent reports
about troop movements and concentrations, particularly on
the Israel side of the Syrian border. These have caused
anxiety and at times excitement. The Government of Israel
very recently has assured me that there are no unusual
Israel troop concentrations or movements along the
Syrian line, that there will be none and that no military
action will be initiated by the armed forces of Israel
unless action is first taken by the other side. Reports
from UNTSO Observers have confirmed the absence of troop
concentrations and significant troop movements on both
si des of the 1ine~) (42:32)
But, as in previous cases, the USSR, Egypt, Syria and the Arab
world in general ignored this finding; a relaxed border did not suit
their developing scenario.
Egypt's Tiran preparations
The prel iminaries to Nasser's explosive 22 May announcement on
the Strait of Tiran occurred already on this date, when a UAR para-
troop battalion was dropped over Sharm el Sheikh and was deployed in
the area. The next day, the evacuation of the UNEF contingent from
the area was completed. Several UAR naval units, including two sub
marines, were reported to have passed through the Suez Canal the fol
lowing night, heading in the direction of Sharm el Sheikh (110:194).
USSR pursues Vietnam connection
The preoccupation of Soviet propaganda with connecting the Middle
East crisis to Vietnam continued to demonstrate a divergence between
principal and client policies. On 20 May Izvestia suggested that the
Middle East crisis was "a means for Washington to divert attention from
the new criminal escalation of aggression in Vietnam" (43:54).

109
D-Minus 15: Sunday 21 May
Arabs pressure Nasser over Aqaba
Even had Nasser not intended to blockade Aqaba, Arab world pres
sures were acting powerfully to force his hand. Amman Radio taunted
Nasser, in very typical fashion, with the dilemma he now faced:
This is the question all Arabs are asking: Will
Egypt restore its batteries and guns and close its terri
torial waters in the Tiran Strait to the enemy? Logic,
wisdom, and nationalism make it incumbent on Egypt to
do so. . If she fails to do so, what value would
there be in military demonstrations? (67:19)
A critical, yet fascinated, observer nearby, King Hussein of Jor
dan, watched the swelling tide moving his old enemy Nasser to the
heights, and ultimately propelling Hussein himself into a fateful
action that--scarcely so evaluated in Moscow or Washington--was to
transform Israel from a divided state to one choosing unanimously
for war. Burdett's account traces this development thus. At first
the King's radio in Amman scoffed at the Sinai movement as a "parading
demonstration." When UNEF was dismissed Amman again jeered and chal
lenged Nasser to prove he was not bluffing by closing Tiran to Israeli
shipping. "Unless this is done," Amman Radio said, "the Arab cause
will be denied the fruits of the UNEF evacuation" (24:238-239).
Mobilization escalation
An ominous mobilization escalation was now going on. As Israel
proceeded with a "full mobilization," Egyptian forces completed their
takeover of the UNEF positions and were installed along the entire
border from Gaza to Sharm el Sheikh. The UAR ordered "total

no
mobilization" of its 100,000 reservists in response to what Cairo
counted as five Israeli divisions facing her on Israel's southern
border. The potential of Egypt's reserve was limited at best, and
the "mobilization" was largely a propaganda move, the impact of which
was chiefly on Nasser and his colleagues (162:70-71).
Nasser prepares Tiran blockade
This was the date, apparently, of the fateful decision to close
the Tiran Strait--a major escalation of the crisis--which was announced
the next day by Nasser at Bir Gafgafa. An interesting analysis as to
Nasser's perceptions, attributed to "an unpublished report by a knowl
edgeable source," is from Michael Brecher. On 21 May Nasser appraised
the situation before an assemblage of the Prime Minister, his vice-
presidents, the Foreign Office chiefs and the military leaders. His
logical and reasoned appraisal, and grounds for expressed confidence
vis-ci-vis Israel, follow. Israel would not fight since she had no
allies; she was afraid of the USSR; the US was engrossed in Vietnam;
the General Assembly and the Security Council favored the Arabs; Israel
was divided internally; the Strait was not vital, as only 5% of Israel's
foreign trade passed through it; and, finally, France had shifted from
pro-Israel to a reserved neutrality (19:375).
Here, in considering such a crucial question, calling for the
nicest, most informed and balanced judgment, why did Nasser not
solicit Soviet advice? Or why was it not proffered in good time--
rather than resorting to hand-wringing later?

in
This was also apparently the date--according to Nasser--that Egypt
established its forces at Sharm el Sheikh in preparation for the Tiran
Strait blockade (75:540).
Soviet line out of step with Egypt's
On this date Izvestia featured a long article about continued
Israeli troop concentrations on the Syrian border and Israel's threats
to Egypt. A day later Syria, in an article linking the situation in
the Middle East with that in Vietnam, spoke of Israeli-United States
collusion against Syria. And so on, and so on (32:210).
Also on this date Viktor Mayevsky, in a front-page article in
Pravda, set out to put the crisis into its "proper" perspective:
One should not look at the events in the Middle East
in isolation. They are closely connected with new
crimes by US aggressors in Vietnam--the encroachment
into the demilitarized zone and the stepping-up of the
barbarous bombing of Hanoi, and with the preparation
of new provocations against Cuba. All these actions
represent a further development of Washington's doc
trine of "small wars" and "local conflicts."
On the same day, foreign students in Moscow staged a demonstra
tion of solidarity with the Syrian people under the eyes of Muscovite
passers-by. But Soviet media failed to repeat this internally. They
did, however, give publicity to meetings of solidarity with Latin
American peoples in their struggle for freedom and independence,
meetings which were said to be taking place throughout the Soviet
Union (132:2-3).
As of this date, then, Moscow seemed interested in diverting the
spreading Middle East crisis from its anti-Israel focus into the broader

112
(and assuredly safer) campaign against US-directed, global "imperial
ism." Inasmuch as Soviet demonstrations, solidarity meetings, etc.,
are habitually turned on and off like a faucet at the direction of
Soviet authorities, it is a matter for conjecture that the low-key
Soviet Middle East stance at this stage represented either a change
of direction--possibly related to the 18 May leadership shakeup--
or at least a decision to dampen a crisis that may well have appeared
to be getting out of hand.
This type of tie-in of a local Mid-East conflict with the US war
in Vietnam, Latin-American developments, and the US-Soviet Cold War
in general provides added support for the supposition that this crisis
was generated for its global as well as its regional policy effects.
US/Soviet attempts to dampen crisis
In this still pre-Aqaba stage, the US was sounding out the USSR
and trying to head off the crisis. In a 1969 interview with an
authoritative-speaking White House insider, albeit an anonymous one,
Jonathan Howe included this segment:
Q: There were reports on May 21 that the United States
had sent messages to the Soviet Union urging it to
use its influence to dampen down the crisis. Did
we initiate this type of message this early in the
crisis?
A: We went to the Soviets and told them to call off
their boys. (68:364)
As reported, this would appear to have been a relatively blunt
warning, designed to restrain the USSR and its client both. That it
did not forestall Nasser's Aqaba action the next day may have been
simply because it came too late.

113
Confusion in US Embassy Cairo
Washington was i 11-prepared, from its Cairo Embassy end, for effec
tive crisis-dampening, or even intelligence gathering on the crisis.
State Department embarrassment was exposed at a critical time. As
the crisis began, the ambassadorial post had been empty for three
months, during which time no American official had talked to Nasser.
The new Ambassador, a respected student of Islamic culture but lacking
diplomatic experience, immediately got into a demeaning public dispute
with the acting charge as to whether a crisis impended (42:39).
Mystery of Nasser's Tiran calculation
Nasser's blockade act surely remains the central mystery of the
whole crisis, for it represented a considerable, dangerous, and com
pounded escalation, from which, like the 1914 European mobilization,
there proved to be no escape except through war. As Michael Howard
and Robert Hunter see it,
The Israelis had given repeated warnings that they
would regard such an act as a casus belli. They had
done so in 1956; the growth of the port of Eilat made
it still more probable that they would again in 1967.
Such a step would transform the Egyptian actions from
a massive deterrent demonstration--and one which had
probably served its purpose--into a deliberate chal
lenge to war against an adversary who had twice with
in the past twenty years defeated them in the field.
By what calculations and by what stages President
Nasser decided to take this step is still obscure.
. . (67:19)
D-Minus 14: Monday 22 May
Of all the dates of the crisis buildup, this one has gained the
most attention in the accumulated crisis literature.

114
Nasser and Israel: mutual misjudgment
Although Israel's decision on this date proved to be too late to
have affected Nasser's, it is revealing as a problem in this, and any
other, crisis decision-making: namely, whether it is advisable to
respond aggressively or softly to check an aggressive opponent. An
analysis of Israel's dilemma, and her internal debate, follows.
On this date the issue of Israel's response to challenge was put
to the test in a violent argument in Eshkol's office. The time had
come to draft his first report to the nation, the speech he was to
deliver in the Knesset that evening. What should be its tone and
purport? Ya'acov Herzog, the Director-General of the Prime Minister's
Office, argued that nothing should be said that might be seen as
inflaming Nasser, lest in the future the world hold Israel responsible
for overreacting and augmenting the tension. Others contended that
if Nasser were planning a blockade, he did not need a pretext; only
a clear warning would stop him. Herzog's line of argument prevailed.
A public warning might be seen as a dare and a challenge, and Eshkol
was anxious that Israel should not appear in American eyes to be pre
cipitating a much greater crisis. The extremely mild speech he made
in the Knesset that night called for the restoration of the status quo
on both sides of the Sinai border and referred softly to the national
and international rights of all states. It contained no statement on
the dangers of a blockade and no mention of the Strait of Tiran.
Had he issued a warning, it would probably have been too late. The
decision had already been taken in Cairo (24:237).

115
In assessing the reasons for Nasser's Aqaba blockade, Simcha Flapan
points out a problem of crisis management that makes it an art more
than a science, one calling for considerable skill. Why does an
attempt at moderation, low-keyed, and nonprovocative--as practiced
by Eshkol now, and the US repeatedly in dealing with Nasser--boomerang?
That is, it may not be interpreted as intended, as a laudable attempt
to defuse a crisis, but exultantly, as a sign of the opponent's weak
ness, to be taken instant and full advantage of.
What is clear is that Nasser misinterpreted Eshkol's
caution and moderation: he took them for signs of fear
and weakness. In later speeches he was to reveal some
of his reactions, based on the experience of 1956. In
1955, Ben-Gurion had not reacted immediately to the
blockade of the straits, but had waited for a whole
year for a military pact to be concluded with England
and France, providing the vulnerable Tel Aviv region
with an air umbrella. This time, Israel had no allies.
France was neutral and even showed itself sympathetic
to the Arabs. England was not ready to act. The United
States could be neutralized by pressure on the oil lobby.
Eshkol was not Ben-Gurion. The Egyptian Army was more
powerful and better equipped. (52:82)
UNEF-Tiran dilemma foreseen
Much has been made of supposed Soviet leaders' "shock" at Nasser's
blocking the Strait of Tiran without consulting them, and thus provok
ing Israel's response to what she had always maintained would be a
casus bel 1 i. Yet, according to Badran, he and Amer had recommended
removal of UNEF and occupation of Sharm el Sheikh several months
earlier; also Badran had foreseen--unlike Amer--that blockading Aqaba
would inevitably follow.
The question arises: why were Soviet advisers and Soviet intelli
gence not aware of this already-considered sequence of events when they

116
inaugurated this scenario? This failure is the more striking in that
some reports credit Soviet Army intelligence with having been given
the go-ahead by the Politburo to plan and implement this Mid-East
adventure.
USSR on another tack, ambivalent
In fact, Moscow on this date was out of step with Nasser, and
still concentrating on the Syrian border tale. Israeli Ambassador
Katz called on Shchiborin in Moscow to protest against the false
information in the Soviet press regarding Israel's policy toward
Syria. The revealing answer he received was: what difference did
it make if from time to time the Soviet press published reports
"without stenographic precision"? All that mattered was the inten
tion appearing in declarations made by Israeli leaders, and the
Soviet government warned Israel against exactly that intention.
"We cannot be responsible for what is happening in the atmosphere
which was poisoned by your leaders' statements." When Katz objected,
saying that the Soviet government well knew the Arab intentions against
Israel but was doing nothing about them, Shchiborin did not react
(32:213).
Laqueur also looks at the domestic Soviet scene and sees evidence
throughout the Middle East crisis of an ambivalence as to how to play
it. For example, the demonstration by Arab students in Moscow, re
ported under 21 May, was not given publicity in the domestic Soviet
media. And, Laqueur adds, "There were no solidarity demonstrations
with Egypt and Syria throughout the Soviet Union until after the war"
(93:199).

117
The cross-purposes apparently developing between Nasser and his
protector are recounted by Michael Bar-Zohar in connection with
Nasser's appointment this date with the Soviet Ambassador Podyedyeev:
The meeting was cordial. The Ambassador informed Nasser
of the exchange of messages between Johnson and Kosygin
and then emphasized that the Soviet Union had not changed
its view. Nasser did not mention the long conference in
his office the day before or the serious decision that
had been its outcome. (11:67)*
It is not clear how Bar-Zohar is so certain that Nasser kept the
USSR in the dark as to his imminent Aqaba coup.
Egyptian Navy anticipates decision?
According to the New York Times,
Reliable witnesses report seeing an Egyptian cruiser,
four torpedo boats and two subs moving south through
the Suez Canal in the last few days. . The war
ships could be used to block Israeli shipping to and
from Elath [Eilat]. (121, 22 May 1967:1)
If this was indeed the purpose of this movement, then it indi
cates an earlier decision, or at least an anticipated one, to blockade
the Strait of Tiran. This would tie in the Sinai movement, 14-16
May, the UNEF withdrawal, 16-19 May, and the Aqaba blockade, 22 May,
so closely as to add strength to the supposition that a prearranged
scenario was being followed.
British/Soviet Mediterranean fleet moves
On this date the British aircraft carrier Victorious, soon to
figure in the Western Mediterranean fleet deterrent, passed through
*From the book, Embassies in Crisis: Diplomats and Demagogues
Behind the Six-Day War, by Michael Bar-Zohar. 1970, by Michael
Bar-Zohar. Published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

118
the Suez Canal northbound into the Mediterranean. Also on this date,
as Nasser made his fateful announcement of the closing of the Strait
of Tiran, the USSR took a step to augment its Mediterranean fleet by
giving the required eight days' notification to the Turkish government
of the impending transits of the Dardanelles by ten ships. One
observer felt this move may have been a response to the ordering of
Sixth Fleet carrier task forces toward the eastern Mediterranean
(68:149,77).
The inadequacy of this measure, if designed to cope with the
Sixth Fleet's attack forces; the mixed, largely auxiliary composition
of this augmentation; and the likelihood that it may even have been
a summer training deployment unrelated to the crisis, detract con
siderably from its significance. In fact, its subsequent passage
into the Mediterranean in the crucial prehostilities week in June
may well have given the Arabs unwarranted confidence. In the sub
sequent lightning war none of these ten ships, or any of the others
already there, played any meaningful role.
Unbridled Arab euphoria
Although Nasser had proved in his preceding career that he could
be a calculating gambler as well as a spellbinding orator, the climate
of euphoria surrounding him on this date may have adversely affected
his capacity for cool judgment. Burdett records that in the Arab
nations "a swell of applause and jubilation had lifted Nasser to the
heights." He was once again in his favorite role of hero to the Arab
nation. Friends and foes alike had been swept along into the frenzied

119
anti-Israel campaign. Al-Ahram summoned the Arab peoples to a "battle
of destiny" against imperialism and its Zionist outpost (24:237-238).
It is now widely believed, and has been so propagated by the USSR,
that Nasser acted on the Strait of Tiran without consulting his patron,
and that the private Soviet reaction, and publicly slow and guarded
comment, was essentially negative. Nevertheless, events had gathered
their own momentum, and neither Nasser nor the USSR could afford the
political costs of either desisting, by the former, or effective con
trol by the latter.
Nasser's announcement: intoxicating air force setting
What was the setting when Nasser made his "No turning back"
announcement of the closing of the Strait of Tiran to Israel, the
acknowledged casus belli, the step that by Nasser's own estimate
changed the probability of war from 80% to 100%? Burdett captures
both the drama and euphoria of the occasion, in recreating the charged
setting. Surrounding Nasser, in the Sinai air base headquarters,
were the ranking members of his establishment: officers Amer, Murthagi,
Mahmud and Badran; and Vice-presidents Mohieddin, Sabry and Shafei.
The blockade bombshell for the world came with a flourish at the end
of his address (with, in Burdett's words, a "flash of his bright
sword"):
The Gulf of Aqaba constitutes our Egyptian territorial
waters. Under no circumstances will we allow the Israeli
flag to pass through the Gulf of Aqaba. The Jews have
threatened war. We tell them: "You are welcome. Ahalan
wassahalan. We are ready for war." (24:243)

120
New Middle East notes, apropos of Nasser's mood and the advanced
Sinai air base setting in which he made his blockade announcement, that
he had been greatly encouraged when he had found the Egyptian pilots
at Bir Gafgafa air base "absolutely convinced that they could com
pletely destroy the Israeli air force within a matter of hours" (119:58).
Nasser's Tiran decision gives evidence of being an irrational one,
and so Shimon Peres suggests, in a persuasive and picturesque account
which concludes with this quote from Badran's trial testimony:
"Amer left for Sinai, and I with him. He met many
units who were restless and impatient; they wanted the
war to start. When the scheduled hour arrived for the
blockade to go into effect, Nasser announced it at an
air force base, where he had met officers full of enthu
siasm and eager for battle. After Nasser had left, Amer
told them not to worry, for they would really be going
to war."
This remarkable evidence from so high a first-hand
source confirms what might have been guessed without it.
In this massive slide down a precipitous slope, the
brakes had stopped working. (125:227-228)
Another version of Badran's testimony--or perhaps another transla
tion of the same material--makes Egyptian troop morale an even more
significant factor pressuring Nasser into precipitous action: "The
Field Marshal went to Sinai I was with him. He met the men there;
they were getting out of hand for they wanted operations to start"
(37:320) [emphasis added].
Nasser as goaded, reactive, improvising
Copeland's study of Nasser's motivation focuses on an imprudent
and dangerous Western tendency in recent Middle East history, i.e.,
seemingly to reward the Arabs for a combination of weakness and irre-
sponsibility:

121
Professor Laqueur says, "The Syrians and Nasser should have
known that making threats from a position of weakness is a
dangerous policy," but I think that this is exactly what
the Syrians and Nasser do not know--inasmuch as, after
all, they have been doing this effectively for years.
(30:280)
In his resignation speech on 9 June, Nasser went over the ground
of the crisis and war to give his retrospective evaluation. One sen
tence is of special interest: "The passage of ships flying the enemy
flag through the Strait within sight of our forces could not be tol
erated" (75:597). This comment indicates that, what Badran had pre
dicted months earlier, but Marshal Amer could not appreciate, was
indeed correct: once Egyptian troops were again free to act in Sinai,
there would be no way to resist the pressures to blockade Israel in
Aqaba.
In the debate as to premeditation vs. improvisation, to explain
the Aqaba blockade, many observers maintain that Nasser simply impro
vised as he went along. Marshal Amer was quoted as saying as late as
20 May that Tiran would not be closed. Various sources agree that the
final blockade decision was taken only about one day before its imple
mentation.
According to the subsequent testimony of the then Minister of War
Badran, Nasser decided to achieve a fait accompli before Thant, who
was on his way to Cairo, arrived there possibly to forestall him. The
weak and ineffective reaction of the UN and the Western powers to his
previous actions had probably encouraged him. He may also have counted
on some form of at least passive Soviet support (110:195).

122
Nasser defies, forestalls U Thant
Burdett has taken a penetrating and critical look at the decision
making process that led to the Tiran blockade. Nasser's appetite
seemed to be whetted by his winnings, so that he escalated his objec
tives in an extraordinary hurry. He did seem to feel that U Thant's
mission would represent some sort of undesirable pressure on him to
exercise restraint.
Burdett concludes that
U Thant was puzzled by Nasser's air of blissful con
fidence. Nasser declared that what he had done was to
restore the situation to "pre-1956"; he intended to take
no warlike steps. But, U Thant objected, by mobilizing
in Sinai and by blockading Tiran he was, in fact, greatly
increasing the dangers of war. "We are ready," Nasser
replied serenely. (24:272-273)
According to another source Nasser took no notice of U Thant's
specific appeal to him to abstain from any new measures prior to the
latter's arrival in Cairo (107:16).
Nasser's calculated disregard for U Thant's prestige and mission
is the more brazen in that U Thant had incurred heavy and continuing
criticism for promptly and respectfully complying with Nasser's wishes
as regards UNEF.
Nasser provokes war
While the world and Israel still hesitated even to consider the
possibility, Nasser took this boldest escalatory action, and, as it
turned out, the fatal one. In the light of its relation to the subse
quent war, and the Egyptian disaster, his announcement of the closing
of the Strait of Tiran to Israel--a pronounced casus belli to Israel

123
all the way back to 1957is remarkable for its bold and uncompromising
aggressiveness, provocation and seeming acceptance of the probability
of war:
Under no circumstances can we permit the Israeli flag
to pass through the Gulf of Aqaba. The Jews threaten war.
We say they are welcome to war, we are ready for war, our
armed forces, our people, all of us are ready for war,
but under no circumstances shall we abandon any of our
rights. These are our waters. Perhaps war will be an
opportunity for the Jews, for Israel, for Rabin, to try
out their forces against ours, and find out that all they
wrote about the battle of 1956 and the occupation of
Sinai was a lot of nonsense. (75:540)
It has been argued in Nasser's defense that he was carried away
by flights of his own and surrounding Arab rhetoric and euphoria. The
militant setting (there are photos showing him surrounded by eager
young pilots, itching for battle, who were reportedly disappointed by
the tameness of his speech!) supports this observation. But success
ful international relations, especially in the uniquely volatile Middle
East setting, would seem to call for a brand of crisis manager more
soberly and wisely detached from his immediate, emotion-filled surround
ings.
General Rabin of Israel in 1968 assessed Nasser's state of mind
on closing the Strait of Tiran, the military dispositions that gave
him his obvious confidence in confronting Israel, and the perhaps
unforeseen pressure toward escalation from an Arab world roused to a
frenzy. Nasser must have known that blockading Tiran would lead to
war. Hence he must have been fortified by the seven divisions (almost
the entire Egyptian Army), including a thousand tanks, that were now
dug in and concentrated in Sinai opposite Israel.

124
As to crowd pressure, Rabin observed that it was possible that
"the excitement of the Egyptian crowds had infected the highest levels
of Egyptian government and blinded them to reality."
Rabin concluded that
From the moment that Nasser had decided he had the
power to defeat Israel, it was clear that he could not
withstand the temptation, plus the mounting pressure of
Arab public opinion, to "solve the Palestine problem
once and for all." (74:8)
In all this movement and euphoria, there was no sign of character
istic Soviet caution and even sound military/political advice. For
example, concentrating all the Egyptian forces in Sinai would indeed
provide the maximum deterrent to Israeli action against Syria in the
north. But it was not a defensive disposition. It thus provided
evidence for the charge that Egypt was planning to attack, hence jus
tification for Israel's 5 June preemption. Even more serious, as it
developed, was the resulting "all eggs in one basket" disposition of
forces. Egypt had set herself up for a Pearl Harbor-type vulnerability,
wherein her entire military force could be surrounded and annihilated,
leaving no second line of defense. And so it turned out. On 9 June
1967, after the lightning Israeli conquest of Sinai--as Nasser admitted
five months later--the road to Cairo lay open and undefended!
Even if Israel had found it tolerable to endure the Aqaba blockade
(there was never any evidence that she would) the adverse effects of
such a psychological defeat were not lost on her, or on Nasser, as
his progressive rhetorical escalations were to show. Adam B. Ulam,
historian of Soviet foreign policy, observed that, were Israel to
acquiesce in Nasser's blockade, she would soon have become the object
of additional Arab encroachments and attacks (154:746).

125
Evidence USSR not consulted, disapproving
Meanwhile, where was the Soviet guiding hand? How had the Soviet
leaders permitted Nasser to make his dangerous blockade decision?
And if, as they were subsequently to protest, they were not consulted
or even informed, and if they saw the dangers, then why did they not
move finally to restrain Nasser and counsel caution, so that Israel's
horns would have been drawn, and her war decision made much more dif
ficult and at best subject to severe criticism? Burdett's analysis
sees the Russians as "staggered" by the blockade announcement.
Having set the Middle East chessboard pieces in motion, he avers,
"they had not reckoned that, once in movement, the undisciplined
pieces would acquire a life and a will of their own."
The brief and bare Soviet news item attests, in Burdett's opinion,
to Soviet concern that Nasser had violated a cardinal rule of theirs,
that no such step be taken that might so involve the US as to lead to
a superpower confrontation.
Over Aqaba, America had a formal concern, a cause for intervention,
and a serious, long-standing obligation (24:271).
Former US Ambassador to the UAR Richard Nolte, in response to a
symposium question some six months after the war, made this judgment
as to Soviet responsibility for the Strait blockade:
I do not know, but I don't believe the Russians knew
in advance about the closing of the Tiran Straits. I
suspect they would have realized this was a much more
dangerous threat to the Israeli State, that it would be
received as such by the Israelis, and that therefore it
was something not to be undertaken. I think the Egyptians
made this move on their own. (108:116-117)

126
On the other hand, some observers claim that the Soviet-Egyptian
contacts of 22 May in Cairo focussed on the very subject of an Aqaba
blockade, with the Soviet representatives either concurring in Nasser's
intentions or making no efforts to block them (110:196).
It would not be inconceivable, of course, in the complex world of
crisis management by proxy, for the USSR to attempt to have it both
ways: privately advise caution but pub!i cly share the credit if
Nasser "got away with" his bold move.
The Nouvel Observateur1s "high Soviet official" source, interviewed
in the immediate wake of the Egyptian disaster, reportedly saw Nasser
and Soviet views as separating already with the UNEF move. He stated
that Nasser took both the UNEF and the Aqaba actions on his own and
only then informed the USSR. The Soviet leaders warned him that by
so doing he ran the risk of "unpredictable reactions." He was warned
that the Soviet commitment was limited to neutralizing the United
States; support beyond this would not be forthcoming. Nasser, knowing
the Soviet reservations, promised not to be the first to attack. But,
according to this source, "he was partially a victim of his own propa
ganda, which claimed that the Tel Aviv Government was merely Washington's
pawn. He did not want to believe that this pawn might act on its
own" (128:18).
This can be at least acknowledged to be a plausible rendition of
Soviet positions at the various stages of the crisis buildup.
In what he describes as "a remarkably candid two-hour conversation
with a high official of the Soviet Foreign Office," British writer
Alexander Werth, popular in Russia for his World War II and later,

127
sympathetic writings on Russia, reported receiving a similar explana
tion of the Middle East affair during a July-August 1967 visit
(167:427). And French correspondent Rouleau obtained another matching
account from his Soviet equivalents in the international press com
munity in Cairo after the Arab defeat (115:218).
Evidence USSR not surprised or innocent, but divided
Despite all this testimony and Soviet protest, the observer may
be justified in retaining some suspicion at the picture of Soviet
leaders being so surprised at Nasser's Aqaba move. At the very least,
they stand accused of inept and ill-considered crisis management by
proxy, given their extensive, twelve-year experience with Nasser, and
coping with his unpredictability and uncontrollability.*
*Soviet leaders might well have profited by the caution Khrush
chev had learned in dealing with what he called Nasser's "rashness."
In resisting Nasser's 1958 urging for aggressive Soviet reaction to
American action in that summer's crisis, this was Khrushchev's re
sponse, according to Heikal:
Knowing your impulsiveness, we feared that our un
limited support of your belligerent sentiments might
have prompted you to take military action, which we have
always regarded as undesirable, and might have been in
terpreted by you as our agreement to military action.
I do not want to conceal from you the fact that
when we did not agree with your proposal that we sup
ply you with bombers and intermediate-range rockets,
we had in mind that in a state of excitement largely
caused by the prevailing situation you might have
undertaken some undesirable action leading to war.
(61:141-142)
And Khrushchev's disparaging remarks about Egyptian society--and
Arab pol i tical-ini 1 i tary capabilities--in his memoir comments about
the June 1967 War, would seem to reflect the more normal caution with

128
Laqueur's inquiries have added to the doubts. Moscow and Cairo
had been cooperating closely and Nasser met the Soviet Ambassador
only a few hours before he made his blockade speech. Could he have
dared not consult Moscow on such an important step? Several Soviet
letters to Nasser during the last days of May have not been published.
Cairo broadcasts announced at the time that they expressed full sup
port for Nasser's course of action (93:109). (But this of course
could be a highly inflated treatment!)
This analysis seems to reflect a fascinating tidbit of devious
crisis management by proxy: egg on your client secretly. If he suc
ceeds, you take the credit. If he fails, disavow him!
It may be noted also that one of the main Soviet hardline policy
statements of support for Nasser was issued the next day. Its rela
tion to the dramatic Aqaba move is confusing, however; for, while its
timing had the effect of backing Nasser's bold step, it did not
mention Aqaba at all.
USSR warned Nasser of its support limits
It should be noted that, in the Nouvel Observateur interview
discussed above, Moscow purportedly warned Nasser that it would commit
which Soviet leaders contemplated any prospective adventuring in com
pany with Nasser:
The Egyptians didn't know what they were up against,
and they had to learn the hard way, poor things. They
were used to fighting on camels, and they couldn't handle
any arms more sophisticated than rifles. (83:343-345).

129
itself only to neutralizing the United States; that is, it would re
spond with an escalation equal to any escalation on the part of
Washington--and its support would not go beyond this (42:47).
From here on, from the Aqaba blockade until his devastating defeat
by Israel, there is considerable evidence that Nasser was aware that
the US and the USSR would probably neutralize each other and both
keep out of impending hostilities; and that these hostilities would
therefore depend for their outcome on the combat ability of the
combined Arab arms vis--vis Israel. What is baffling to analysts
is the source of Nasser's confidence in provoking Israel. Was he
a hallucinated victim of his own and the prevailing Arab rhetoric?
Or did he feel trapped in it and unable to extricate himself without
severely endangering his own position and cause? What is so hard
to accept about his provocative behavior is that until very recently
he had been so realistic as to the inadequacy of Arab military
strength, and had forcefully resisted Syrian, PLO and Jordanian
taunts for his inaction.
US warnings, increased involvement
President Johnson's memoirs report his message to Kosygin this
date; this is sometimes cited as evidence that the US and USSR agreed
in advance to avoid a confrontation in the event of war. Johnson
urged a joint effort at calming the Middle East situation, noting
that the area was now "close to major violence." He added the mutu
ally sobering warning that "Your and our ties to nations of the area
could bring us into difficulties which I am confident neither of us
seeks."

130
The President also sent a letter to Nasser. Both of these actions
were taken before and apparently without knowledge of Nasser's blockade
announcement the same day. Johnson assured Nasser of "America's basic
friendship for Egypt," and urged him to avoid war as his first duty.
He offered a visit by Vice-President Humphrey to the Middle East to
resume the search for regional peace (78:290-291).
On learning of Nasser's Aqaba blockade action, the State Depart
ment sent a sternly disapproving message to Moscow. It read:
The United States will regard any infringement on
freedom of navigation in the Straits of Tiran, whether
under the Israeli flag or another, as an act of aggres
sion, against which Israel, in the opinion of the United
States, is justified in taking defensive measures.
(11:72)
This should have been a clear signal to Moscow that the US was
receptive to "unleashing Israel." The Soviet leadership would have
been well advised to ponder Nasser's act and this US response seriously,
with all the implications.
President Johnson's reaction to the Tiran blockade--as reported
in his memoirs--makes apparent what a dangerous and provocative escala
tion Nasser had engaged in, one sure to align a tough US President
alongside Israel. This effect was just the opposite of the 1956
Suez scenario Nasser seemed to wish to repeat. "The settlement of
1957 was undone," the President commented. Israeli withdrawal from
the Sinai then had been linked to her guarantee of free passage
through Aqaba. Any armed interference (such as Nasser now threatened)
would entitle Israel to rights of self-defense under the UN Charter.
Now Johnson for good measure also consulted ex-President Eisenhower

131
and received confirmation of this understanding of the 1957 events
(78:291).
The brazenness with which Nasser chose to close the Strait of
Tiran, and his persistence in refusing to compromise on this issue,
despite a war threat from Israel, supposed cautioning from Moscow,
and strong opposition from the US and Britain, seem even more fool
hardy in the light of the war's lopsided outcome than at the time.
This action must rank in history among such instructive classics of
defective decision-making as Napoleon's and Hitler's invasions of
Russia, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and North Korea's in
vasion of South Korea. What Nasser was facing is indicated by this
short but pointed Johnson view in his memoirs as to the importance
of reopening the Strait:
The reopening of Aqaba was important for several
reasons--because hostilities were certain to erupt if
it were not reopened; because of President Eisenhower's
solemn promise; and because Israel had a right to that
access to the sea. (78:295)
From Crisis to War
(23 May-4 June)
D-Minus 13: Tuesday 23 May
Israeli-American-Soviet statements
May 23, following Nasser's bold and challenging closure of the
Tiran Strait, was busy with escalating tension and war scare. The US
and USSR both made major statements on the crisis this date, as did
Eshkol, in a much stronger statement than his conciliatory preblockade
one the day before. The Israeli Prime Minister declared in the Knesset

132
that interference with Israeli shipping in the Strait of Tiran would
be regarded as an act of war. And in Washington President Johnson
declared that "the United States considers the Gulf to be an inter
national waterway and feels that a blockade of Israeli shipping is
illegal and potentially disastrous to the cause of peace."
TASS published the following official Soviet statement:
The Soviet Government warned the Government of Israel,
as is known, following the provocative action of April 7,
that the Government of Israel will bear all reaponsibil-
ity for the aggressive policy it is pursuing. ... If
the Tel Aviv leaders believe that they are playing the
role of a watchdog on behalf of imperialist states
against the states of the Arab East . there should
be no doubt that he who will try aggression in the
Middle East will be met not only by the united forces
of the Arab countries but also with energetic restraint
from the Soviet Union and all peace-loving states.
While it is possible that this statement was issued before Presi
dent Johnson's declaration had been received in Moscow, it was cer
tainly published with full knowledge of Nasser's 22 May declaration
on the closure of the Strait of Tiran. Yet it did not even mention
this fatal step (32:214-215).
It is hard--looking over this historical record--to believe that
the USSR or Egypt should have been either surprised or outraged at
Israel's attack on the morning of 5 June. She had consistently
asserted the vital importance placed on Aqaba access, and on this
day reasserted this position. This stand was maintained unwaveringly,
despite delays and postponement of action, right up to 5 June.
U Thant warns Nasser
It has been reported that U Thant, on his arrival in Cairo for
talks with Nasser, warned the Egyptian President of the "dangerous

133
consequences" that could ensue from his action, inasmuch as Israel
regarded it as a casus belli (109:7).
Israel debates war/Soviet intentions
Beginning immediately with the Strait closure, the Israeli mili
tary under Rabin urged war, even progressively demanded it of their
political leaders, arguing that it was inevitable, that every bit of
delay would make victory more difficult and costly. (As it developed,
the politically determined timing disproved their fears; their enemies
became more vulnerable and less ready for the Israeli blow.)
One informed summary of the intense and literally continuous
debate that went on in Israel, from this date until the national
unity government consensus in early June, goes as follows:
The military were confident. . But how did
they know? There were so many unpredictable factors
in war. . Above all, what would America do, and
how would Russia react? Soviet policy was the big
question mark: If Nasser had been put up by the Rus
sians to provoke Israel (as many now believed) . .
if Moscow wanted war in the Middle East, surely they
would give Nasser more than verbal support once war
broke out? (93:142)
This line of reasoning is surely not far off from what the
Soviet leaders hoped Israeli leaders would think, as they pursued
their crisis instigation and management by proxy.
Influencing the debate (and acting as a long-delayed cost to the
USSR of a successful bluff in crisis management) was the Israeli
intelligence chief's conviction that Israel had taken what was only
Soviet posturing too seriously in 1956. Brigadier Meir Amit had
recently gone on record that

134
Israel's cardinal mistake ten years before had been
to pay too much attention to the threats of the great
powers, and in particular to those of the Soviet Union.
The Russians, he said, had been bluffing. Their threats
to intervene in force would not have been implemented
if the bluff had been called. (93:143)
While the Israeli political leadership hesitated, temporized and
debated a long time before voting the 5 June attack, there was con
sistent, determined, sometimes angry and bitterly critical demand
from Israel's military leadership for a preemptive military solution.
But the immediate outcome of the political-mi 1itary division on this
date, after Nasser's Strait closure, was that the Israeli government
rejected the plea of its military command for immediate action and
decided to send Foreign Minister Eban to Paris, London, and Washington
for consultations.
US reacts strongly
Beginning this date, America, and President Johnson in particular,
knew from the belligerent Nasser Aqaba closure announcement that the
crisis was of a war-impending acuteness. While many other scholars
and analysts have been critical of the President's crisis performance,
Burdett portrays him as very much in command. From 23 May until the
end of the June War, US relations with the Soviet leadership were
governed by direct messages from the White House. The President's
diplomatic style was carefully balanced to combine mildness of language
with crystalline clarity. Quietly but unmistakably and unwaveringly
he made it clear that Soviet intervention in the event of war would
be intolerable" (24:274-275).

135
It may be observed, with the Soviet Note of this same date as a
striking example, that the Soviet approach to crisis signaling was
quite the opposite: a threatening rather than mild tone, and impre
cise language that permitted the USSR, as was to be demonstrated in
this case, to back away from what appeared to the Arabs to be a
commitment.
Heikal recalls that the US applied a double pressure on Nasser
this date, as well as an apparent warning to Israel. First, Ambassa
dor Nolte gave Riyad a message from Johnson to Nasser, stating that
his "transcendent objective" should be the avoidance of hostilities.
On the same day this message was delivered, the Egyptian Ambassador
in Washington was called to a meeting with Under Secretary Eugene
Rostow at the State Department. The burden of that meeting was the
same: the avoidance of hostilities and the immediate stopping of
war if it once started. Rostow said that the United States had told
Israel frankly that "they would resist any attack against any Arab
state" (61:243).
These warnings proved eventually to have a serious deterrent
effect on Nasser, in debates with his generals as to preemptive
attack, but did not deter Israel from her own preemption on 5 June.
Hence these warnings are the source of both the credit given to
Johnson for astute crisis management, and the considerable Arab
bitterness at their "perfidious betrayal" by the United States and
Israel.

136
US signals with Sixth Fleet
Beginning on the day Nasser announced the Gulf of Aqaba blockade,
and extending through both the buildup and hostilities phases of the
crisis, President Johnson utilized and maneuvered the US Mediterranean
naval forces (with coordinated British steps) to perform vital sig
naling to the Soviet Union. A careful mixture of both determination
and restraint, as the occasion warranted, can be found from a study
of these movements.
As plotted by Howe, drawing on his Navy background and sources,
Figure 1 shows the major US fleet moves during the buildup phase.
Johnson wasted no time in making a Sixth Fleet move on the announce
ment of the Aqaba blockade, recognizing this as a serious escalation
in the crisis. Two Sixth Fleet strike forces, led by the carriers
Saratoga and America, were ordered toward the eastern Mediterranean
(68:68).
US rattled, then tough, then wavering
That the Soviet Union had not entirely miscalculated its ability
to deter the United States is apparent in some descriptions of reac
tions in Washington to the Strait closing. Fear of a new involvement,
on top of Vietnam, caused a near-paralysis of American diplomacy.
In the State Department a feverish effort to avoid war was evident.
Eugene Rostow reportedly kept repeating, "We must come to some agree
ment with the Russians, at any cost" (11:84).
The US military distaste for a possible second war, in the Middle
East, is graphically portrayed by Howe (who is a Navy officer himself).

U.S. carrier (orces o o o o Soviet fleet U.S. marines o o o British ships
Figure 1. Movements of naval forces in Mediterranean during buildup phase (63:69).
Source: Reprinted from Multicrises: Sea Power and Global Politics in the Missile Age by
Jonathan Trumbull Howe, by permission of The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Copyright 1971 by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

138
Defense leaders were haunted by the prospect of a second Vietnam in
the Middle East, for which they were unprepared. There was a great
strain on Navy readiness in the Mediterranean, including deficiencies
in planes, pilots, experience levels and supplies, because Vietnam
was given top priority. However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according
to Howe, lacked enthusiasm for a conflict in the Middle East, not
primarily because of reduced capability, but because they saw no
advantages for the US in a military intervention there (68:56-57).
It was this obsession with Vietnam, and therefore aversion for
additional Middle East trouble, that the Soviet leaders may have
mistakenly counted on for success in their Middle East ploy.
Nadav Safran's analysis found a strong US policy, supporting
Israel, prevailing from President Johnson's statement this date
through about 26 May. After that, wavering and uncertainty permitted
both the USSR and Nasser to act more aggressively and take more risks,
thus accelerating their plunge into the June disaster.
In addition to the President's forceful statement of 23 May,
a strong verbal note delivered in Cairo by the new ambassador Nolte
the next day was in essence an ultimatum to return to the status quo
ante pending negotiations. The US also made it clear that it did not
rule out the use of force if Egypt insisted on applying the Aqaba
blockade (137:296).
British diplomatic-military reactions
On this date Great Britain was galvanized into shocked action by
Nasser's Strait blockade. Among other measures, Foreign Secretary

139
George-Brown flew to Moscow to confer with Kosygin (11:80-81). Also
British forces in the Mediterranean were alerted (68:149).
Soviet crisis mismanagement evaluated at this point
With the repetition of its 23 May statement at the UN on 24 May,
and repetition of the same line in various forms from then on until
war broke out on 5 June, Moscow showed at the very least an inability
to react flexibly to changing events, or to preserve for itself some
essential freedom of action. This may be assumed to reflect at least
in part the divided counsels then prevailing among the Soviet leader
ship. The Soviet statement demonstrated an advance-retreat division
in the Politburo, which surely contributed to Nasser's accelerated
risk-taking and the disaster that was to follow.
Benson makes this excellent related analysis of the final threaten
ing paragraph of the Soviet statement:
At no time did the Soviet government specifically state that it
would send armed forces into the Middle East if war broke out there---
but it implied quite strongly that it might.
The Arab leaders were surely disappointed, but should not have
been. The USSR has a long record of noninvolvement in wars between
its friends and its enemies, including minimal help to the Chinese
Communists in the twenty-two-year-long civil war there; aid and
advice to North Korea and China during the Korean War, but no troops;
likewise for the Vietnam War. Further back, there was a comparable
Stalin caution over the Greek civil war.
Benson concludes, "As Americans learned at the time of the Cuban
missile crisis, the Soviet Union is extremely conservative about armed
confrontation" (17:129-130).

140
It might be added that, in retrospect, from the perspective of
the Soviet national interest, in each of these cases the single
rational actor model for treatment of Soviet decision-making and
crisis management is confirmed.
Laqueur's summary of the Soviet crisis mismanagement performance,
from Nasser's blockade action on to the war's outbreak, as he found
it to have been experienced in official Washington, runs as follows.
According to his sources, "official circles," the Russians advised
Nasser to hold to his blockade proclamation, apparently counting upon
the US to protest only with words and to restrain Israel from a re
sort to force. Washington tried to impress upon Moscow that this
would be a serious miscalculation. If Israel did move, the USSR
would "face the choice of joining the fight or deserting Cairo at
the worst possible moment" (93:192).
And so it came to pass!
This is poor crisis management, to support a proxy in risk
taking so that, if things go wrong, one is left with two extreme
and equally undesirable choices. This approach also seriously vio
lates the principle of preserving one's freedom of action.
But then, for this stark eventuality to have been foreseen, an
extremely unfavorable military balance between Egypt and Israel would
have to have been recognized. And the record discloses no clear
recognition by the USSR that its ten-year armament and training effort
had produced such complete military ineffectiveness.

141
D-Minus 12: Wednesday 24 May
Johnson warns Nasser
President Johnson summoned the Egyptian Ambassador, Mustafa Kemal--
a moderate, sociable man deeply disturbed by the events of the moment--
and issued severe warnings about the closing of the Strait. But Kemal
knew that no one in Washington thought him powerful enough to influence
Nasser (11:111).
Given the poisonous state of US-Egyptian relations, this and other
recent American efforts, like so many other Western and Israeli efforts
to stave off or mitigate the crisis, appear to have had the opposite
effect on the Arabs, in "getting their backs up" even more.
Egypt warns of Aqaba mine barrier
On 24 May al-Ahram reported that the Strait had been closed not
only by guns and patrol boats but also with mines--a report which
Western circles received with justifiable skepticism (67:20).
U Thant's mission fails
U Thant's mission to see President Nasser proved a forlorn one.
He met with Nasser on 24 May and with Foreign Minister Riyad the
next day. The Egyptians said they would not initiate aggression
against Israel; they were ready to cooperate with the UN and to re
establish the Military Armistice Commission, but not to lift the
blockade or readmit the UNEF. Obviously feeling there was no more
to be accomplished in Cairo, U Thant returned to New York the next
day (110:198).

142
Badran begins Moscow trip
On this date Badran, the Egyptian Minister of War, flew to Moscow
with a party of senior military officers--in the wake of the world
wide reverberations from Nasser's Strait-closing--to determine what
the Soviet pledge of "resolute resistance by the Soviet Union and
all peace-loving states" to any aggression in the Middle East would
amount to in practice (24:278).
Nasser drags Soviet Union behind him
At this stage, with a resounding political victory within his
grasp, Nasser might well have shifted to a soft line to insure and
consolidate his gains, especially if a surer and wiser Soviet hand
had been guiding him and sharing his thinking. But he proceeded to
lose both his sure touch and his vaunted luck, as Burdett relates.
Nasser probably envisaged an eventual, imposed compromise set
tlement, dictated by the US and USSR, in order to avoid a war, one
that Israel would have to accept and from which he would emerge as
the Arab world hero. But his was a "huge gamble compounded of mis
calculated risks." Burdett considers that, with the cheers of the
Arab masses to propel him, Nasser took over the management of the
crisis from the Russians and conducted it in his own fashion.
Finally, in this view of the Soviet leaders facing an uncontrollable
proxy,
. . They were impaled on their policy of inflexible
support of every Arab cause, and in the present adven
ture, in which they had played so great an initiating
role, they were a committed party. Their prestige and
authority in the Arab world were irrevocably entrusted
to Nasser. (24:279)

143
Israel rejected by de Gaulle
Israeli Foreign Minister Eban began his crucial trip to the
French, British, and American capitals, to test a political solution
that would reopen Aqaba. This was the very disappointing day of his
interview with de Gaulle in Paris. To Israel's dismay, de Gaulle in
effect took the Arabs' side and washed his hands of Israel.
The eventual outcome, it should be noted, was not what it appeared
then. De Gaulle's grand design was soon to meet frustration and
humiliation. And Israel, deprived of former French support, was to
appear beleaguered and besieged, attracting enormous world-wide
support, thus more easily justifying her devastating preemptive
attack on the Arabs.
USSR maintains original Israel-Syria line
In his 24 May speech to the UN Security Council, Soviet represen
tative Nikolai Fedorenko fell back on these words in charging Israel
with instigation of the crisis:
The Defense and Foreign Policy Committees of the
Knesset on May 9 granted the Government powers for
military operations against Syria. Israeli troops,
moved to the frontiers of Syria, were alerted. Mobili
zation was proclaimed in the country. (18:188)
The Soviet leaders seemed to be stubbornly clinging to their original
scenario, although by now it was threadbare, and largely irrelevant
to the prevailing conditions of the crisis.
British/US fleet movements
The British Admiralty in London announced on 24 May that British
warships passing through the Mediterranean were being "held over" there

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"in readiness against any eventuality" (88:55). The planned movement
of the US carrier Intrepid through the Suez Canal and on to Vietnam
during the Mid-East crisis buildup began to cause problems of intent
and appearance for both sides of the conflict (68:70-71).
Frustration at the UN
The Soviet Union subsequently adopted an air of injured innocence
at Nasser's 22 May action in closing the Strait of Tiran. But its
actions at the time, especially at the UN, hardly showed an awareness
or concern that Israel considered this an intolerable casus bel 1 i, and
had so stated and acted, beginning with and ever since her Sinai with
drawal in 1957.
Continued evidence of a lack of effective crisis direction in Mos
cow was the studied, consistent negativeness of the Soviet support of
the Arab cause at the UN. In U Thant's absence on his futile trip
to Cairo to consult Nasser, Canada and Denmark had moved to involve
the UN Security Council. But their mild resolution ran into abuse
from Egypt and the USSR, plus apathy from the uncommitted nations.
They could not obtain the nine votes necessary to secure acceptance
of their motion, or even persuade their colleagues to enter into
private discussions about it. The representatives of India, Ethiopia,
Nigeria, and Mali broadly supported the line taken by the USSR (67:22).
Both the USSR and Egypt maintained that there was no reason for
the meeting, that the situation was being dramatized. During and
after the June War, they were to have these negative reactions thrown
back at them repeatedly.

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D-Minus 11: Thursday 25 May
Egypt considers attack
The debate continued this date, between Nasser and his military
leaders, as to whether to attack Israel, or depend on a counterattack
after Israel struck. According to Bar-Zohar, on this evening there
was a four-hour conference in the headquarters of the Egyptian General
Staff. Some officers recommended that Egypt begin hostilities against
Israel. Nasser, however, was of a different turn of mind, preferring
a plan that Amer had outlined to him: to wait for the Israelis to
attack and then to react with a well-planned offensive (11:120).
U Thant says Nasser provoked attack
According to an interview eight months later, U Thant, prior to
returning to New York on this date, was told by Nasser that the Aqaba
closure (done under humiliating conditions for the Secretary-General)
was deliberately calculated. U Thant's significant quote was, "The
President of Egypt confessed in so many words that the purpose of
the closure of Aqaba was to force Israel to fight" (37:7).
This appears to be an important, rarely cited, bit of evidence
in the debate over Nasser's blockade motivation.
Israel overreacts to Egypt's attack plan
On this date the Israeli government received information that
Nasser was about to order a surprise attack on Israel. Israel's
leaders reacted in what seemed a near panic, sending urgent appeals
to Eban, who had meantime arrived in Washington. The resultant flap

146
started a round of deterring action by both the US and the USSR, applied
to both sides, which was to have the strange effect of completing the
circuit in three days, on 28 May, and helping dissuade Israel from
attacking Egypt on that date! As Eban was to say wryly to his col
leagues, "If you wanted to go to war on May 28, you should not have
warned Washington of an imminent Egyptian attack on May 25!" (42:36).
While it may appear otherwise, there is a consistency from Israel's
point of view in these two reactions. It was not that the Israeli
military command (or the Pentagon, notably) feared an Israeli defeat
if the Egyptians attacked. It was rather that the Israeli military
leaders warned then--and continued to warn--in a line consistent
throughout Israel's history, that Israeli casualties would be con
siderably higher if they conceded the element of surprise attack to
the Arabs. Concern for Israeli lives has always been far more impor
tant to Israel's political-military leaders than other powers, notably
the USSR (and the US too), have been able to appreciate, and evaluate
correctly.
At 4:30 p.m. this date Secretary Rusk and other State Department
officials were informed by Eban and his party in a conference that,
according to cables just received from Israel, a surprise attack by
the Egyptians was expected at any moment. The President was immediately
informed, did some preliminary checking, then cabled Kosygin in an
attempt to persuade him to restrain Nasser from committing any act of
war; he also dispatched a cable to the Egyptians asking them to promise
not to engage in any military action and warning them of serious conse
quences if they did (11:110-111).

147
This Israeli warning of an impending Egyptian attack had complex,
interrelated effects in the crisis. The US Administration, on the
advice of the Pentagon, refused to believe that the UAR was about to
launch an attack on Israel. The report thus backfired somewhat, for
it created a minor "credibility gap" in Eban's talk with American
leaders. But it did lead to an immediate American warning to Cairo
not to start hostilities; and that warning, coupled with subsequent
Soviet and American advice and warnings to Nasser about restraint,
may have played a minor role in holding Nasser's hand from his own
preemptive attack.
The Secretary of State, who had just conferred at length with
President Johnson, told Eban that the United States did not share
the Israeli appraisal that any Arab state was planning an immediate
attack on Israel; in fact, Washington "did not regard the Egyptian
order of battle in Sinai as offensive, though it might change its
character."
The President felt that it was vital that Israel should not take
preemptive action; such action would create great difficulties for
him and would tie his hands. For the President, this was a problem
of the highest importance.
Israel's Cabinet was now experiencing considerable strain. As
the forces mounted on Israel's border, so did the pressure on Eshkol
from the Israeli hawks, to "go it alone." While many of Eshkol's
party were willing to wait for the outcome of Eban's meeting with
Johnson, others both within and outside his party felt the time for
diplomacy was past and that any further delay would mean a greater

148
toll in Israeli lives. In a meeting that lasted well into the early
morning, Eshkol received a vote of confidence from his party's
Secretariat, but only after agreeing to "include key personalities
in the opposition in policy-making decisions" (162:75).
Mediterranean Sea developments
The US Marine Amphibious Force departed Naples, Italy for sea on
this date, another readiness move signaling US determination and con
cern for the crisis. The British carrier Hermes, rounding the
southern tip of India and heading for the Far East, was turned around
and ordered back to Aden.
These movements had the effect of building up the area deterrent
forces for the US, and also, in the Hermes case, getting needed forces
into position for any contemplated forcing of the Aqaba blockade
(68:84,149).
Badran trip confusion
Wagner portrays Badran's Moscow trip as a response to Nasser's
need for guidance as to his support there; apparently Nasser was
unsure of the exact position of his Soviet ally (162:74).
Nasser may have ended up misguided into disaster from the still-
controversial results of this trip.
Amid the welter of conflicting reports of Badran's trip, Kimche
and Bawly have a straightforward and positive account that Badran
asked for urgent delivery of new military equipment and also Soviet
political support, specifically in neutralizing any American

149
intervention. They report that Badran received affirmative replies
to both requests (84:116-117).
Pro-Arab Lacouture has a remarkably contrasting version of Badran's
reception in Moscow by Kosygin that, if accepted, could go far toward
supporting Soviet claims to having attempted restraint of Nasser.
This version of the Soviet reaction (subsequently presented in public
by Nasser with quite the opposite interpretation, that of full Soviet
support) would also indict Nasser for the most reckless gambling
from here on to 5 June, as he kept escalating toward disaster! Ac
cording to this version, the Egyptian arms request was rudely rejected.
Kosygin criticized the "regrettable errors" commi