The 1973 Arab-Isreali War AUTHOR Major Steven J. Piccirilli, USMC CSC 1989 SUBJECT AREA - History EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The 1973 Arab-Israeli War The 1973 Arab-Israeli War ended the uneasy status quo of "No Peace, No War. " While the military outcome of the conflict was a stalemate, the war's political and psychological effects were profound. The events leading to the actual conflict are the focus of this paper, which is presented from the Egyptian perspective. In 1972, Sadat was frustrated by diplomatic failures to dislodge the Israelis from areas occupied in the 1967 war. He determined that war was his only viable alternative. However, he realized that Soviet-support would not be forthcoming becuase of detente. He also realized that Egypt was outmatched by Israel's superior military equipment. Thus, his only hope for victory lay in a surprise attack. This requirement for victory was implemented by secret planning at the highest levels and by a brilliant, sophisticated plan of deception intended to catch the Israelis off-guard. A broad-front offensive limited in depth was planned to stretch along the length of the Suez Canal. Syria agreed to open a second front. Egypt's surprise assault over the Suez was successful. Israel had been lulled into complacency. When the ceasefire was ordered, Egyptian forces occupied positions on the eastern side of the Suez, though the war was at a stalemate. Sadat's objectives were achieved. In strategic and political terms, Egypt won the war. THE 1973 ARAB-ISRAELI WAR Outline Thesis Statement. If President Sadat was to end the status quo of ("no peace, no war") and to force negotiations, he had to resort to war. I. PRECLUDE TO CONFLICT A. Introduction 1. U.S. and U.S.S.R. Action 2. President Sadat's Decision- B. Concept 1. Strategic 2. Operational 3. Tactical 4. Deception Plan C. Israeli Interpretation II. THE WAR A. 6 October 1973 -- Crossing the Canal B. Egyptian Initial Successes C. Israeli Reorganization D. The Counterattack E. Israelis Cross the Canal III. CONCLUSION A. Military Lessons Learned B. U.S. and U.S.S.R. Involvement C. Sadat's Objective Achieved THE 1973 ARAB-ISRAELI WAR The course of history is often like the graph line on a physician's heart monitoring device -- a flat line with a periodic jump when the heart beats. Such was the course of contemporary history in the Middle East -- a flat line of status quo, of "No Peace, No War" -- then a strong heart beat once again. The moment was 1405 hours, 6 October 1973. This event has been variously called the "Ramadan War," the "War of Atonement," the "Yom Kippur War," and simply the "October War." Whatever name one might select, the fact is that the 1973 Arab-Israeli War was an event that coerced political forces that had become stagnated to once again flow and seek a new equilibrium. The rapproachment that followed between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel could not have begun without the fundamental changes to the realities of the Arab-Israeli question that were the result of this war. This paper analyses the events from an Egyptian perspective, leading to the war itself. It highlights the determination of the Egyptian political and military leadership from the decision to go to war, through their planning process, and to its outcome. It outlines President Sadat's objective and how he was able to take advantage of Israel's overconfidence through a masterful deception/ misinformation campaign. Without a doubt, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War was a Arab affair and in particular an Egyptian one. However, to understand this October War, one has to go back to the summer of 1967 when the Arabs, surveying the political and military wreckage wrought by the Six-Day war, found their armies broken and defeated and over one million of their brethren in the Sinai, Gaza Strip, West Bank and Golan Heights under Israeli occupation. Apart from the territorial and population losses, the Arabs had suffered a profound psychological setback -- they felt they had been humiliated and dishonored. However, this does not mean that Israel did not encourage an Arab reaction. In fact Israel was greatly responsible for the war's occurrence. Israeli leaders were quick to point out that Israel's security situation had been vastly improved as a result of the 1967 war. Before the outbreak of hostilities, large portions of Israel were vulnerable to artillery attacks from the West Bank and Syria. After the conflict, all major population centers were out of artillery range, the new borders were shorter and more defensible, and Israel had acquired a defense in depth. In light of the favorable strategic changes, Israeli political leaders made it clear that a return to the status quo antebellum would not be acceptable. In 1972 President Sadat, frustrated by the failure of Arab diplomatic efforts to dislodge the Israelis from areas occupied in the 1967 war, told his people that a "battle of destiny" would have to be waged against Israel. Arab demands that all the occupied areas be returned was irreconcilable with the official position of Israel. This basic contradiction was the rock upon which diplomatic efforts from 1967 foundered. Arab skepticism about the ability or will of the United States and the Soviet Union to change the situation was reinforced when in 1972 they endorsed detente between themselves. As a result, Sadat felt that the superpowers just as Israel, were satisfied with the current "No Peace, No War" status quo that prevailed in the Middle East. The superpowers had failed to force the implementation of UN Security Resolution 242 and had failed Sadat in his attempt to restore his peoples and territories to their rightful rules. The Arab world had little alternative. If President Sadat was to end the status quo of "No Peace, No War" and to force negotiations, he had to resort to war. However, a major issue that must be considered is the behavior of the superpowers, particularly the Soviet Union, which was the principal patron of both Egypt and Syria. Sadat had declared 1971 as "The Year of Decision" and had counted on Soviet arms assistance to make that a reality. However, Sadat's regional outlook came into conflict with the Soviet's world outlook and Egypt was not priority number one in that global outlook. With this, Sadat did not have what he felt was necessary to put his rhetoric into action. Although he took no action until the summer of 1972, Sadat made his decision to take a path independent from the Soviet Union in December 1971.1 Mohamed Heikal analyzes this situation in these words: As a super-power the Soviet Union had to think in global terms, and these sometimes came into conflict with its role as helper and protector of countries like Egypt . . . [The Soviet Union had] proved it[self] Egypt's most reliable friend. No other country could have given Egypt anything approaching what the Soviet Union gave . . . but the fact remained that the Soviet Union was deeply concerned with the Detente . . No doubt they wanted a solution of the Middle East problem which would satisfy Arab aspirations, but they did not want a war.2 Sadat anxiously waited for the Nixon/Brezhnev Summit of May 1972, hoping for some change in what he felt the Soviet position should be. After the Summit, it was clear to Sadat that Detente was the Soviet policy of priority. In other words, for the Arabs, Sadat felt that the two superpowers had agreed that there was to be no war in the Middle East -- that they too accepted "No Peace, No War" as being the best policy. Therefore, in July 1972, Sadat ordered the Soviet advisors, some 15,000, out of Egypt. He did not want to break diplomatically with the Soviet Union, because he did not want to cut off his primary source of military and economic aid. His intent was to demonstrate to the Soviets, and to the world, that Egypt was setting its own course. At the same time, he felt that he could make no plans for war with a large Soviet presence in Egypt. He was convinced that if the Soviet Union knew that he was contemplating war with Israel, they would prevent it in any way possible because of the potential for disrupting the Detente process between them and the United States. Sadat was inevitably moving towards war. Dupuy's view is that: Sadat had obviously come to the conclusion . . . that Israel was satisfied with the status quo as it had existed since the 1967 War, and with its de facto annexation of the territories occupied in that war. Thus no Israeli moves toward reasonable negotiations on the issues of UN Resolution 242 of 1967 could be expected without pressure from one or both of the great powers. Sadat obviously believed, therefore, that the only possibility of moving toward a Middle East settlement was to precipitate action that would force the major powers and the United Nations to pay attention to the "No Peace, No War" situation in the Middle East.3 Dupuy continues with another pressing concern: "Sadat has given no reason to believe that he was thinking of peace or a Middle East settlement for reasons other than national and self-interest. The economy of Egypt . . . had been badly hurt by the closure of the Suez Canal.4 In the summer of 1972, Sadat had given orders to the War Minister to prepare for war anytime after 15 November. During a briefing in October, Sadat became so upset with the progress of preparation that he dismissed the War Minister and replaced him with General Ahmed Ismail Ali. He also appointed a new Deputy War Minister, a new Director of Intelligence, a new Commander of the Navy and a new Commanding General of the Central Military Area. He quickly gave General Ismail the Directive of the government: To prepare the armed forces to secure the land in an offensive operation which would break the political stalemate.5 By "the land" Sadat meant Sinai territory. Sadat had been quoted on several occasions as saying "If [we] could win only ten millimeters of ground on the east bank of the Suez Canal . . . General Ismail and his Chief of Staff, General Saad Shazli, finished the plan in early January 1973. Unique in his planning, and what won Sadat's personal admiration, was the input from the field. General Ismail had directed that every officer stationed along the Canal climb the fortifications and "look into Sinai, and then define precisely the plan of action he could carry out after crossing the canal."7 Their field reports were part of the analytical process, and it was a significant confidence builder among the officer corps. As Sadat himself put it, "I can truly say that the October 1973 War Plan was laid down by the whole of our armed forces."8 The overall concept of the Egyptian plan was to change the existing political and military balance in the Middle East by undermining the basic principle of the Israeli National Security Doctrine. The aim was to convince Israel, and the world as well, that its military establishment was not invincible, that its military achievements could not impose peace, and that natural or artificial obstacles did not provide security for any country in our modern times.9 The Egyptians believed they had a just and legal cause for fighting -- to reclaim the Sinai territory. The strategic plan envisioned a broad front offensive stretching along the whole length of the Suez Canal, but limited in depth to the air cover provided by the SAM Belt over the Canal.10 The operational plan involved mainly infantry operations with armor support. The crossing of the Canal would have to combine river-crossing techniques with an assault landing on a hostile shore and it was accepted that for some hours the infantry would have to conduct operations against Israeli armor counterattacks without organic armor support.11 Egyptian planners conceded Israel's air superiority and its tactical and technological superiority in ground operations, especially in tank warfare. But it was felt that Israel's extended lines of communications (particularly in a possible two front war) and its inability to stand manpower loses or a prolonged war were major disadvantages. Therefore underlying all of this planning was the need for total surprise. Only with surprise could the infantry carry the battle to the Israeli armor before they could organize for a counterattack. After gaining ground on the eastern side of the Canal, the staunchness of the Arab infantry in defensive combat supported by a nearly absolute air defense umbrella would carry them through the war. For the keystone assumption of the Egyptian plan was that a complete military victory would not be possible as the two superpowers would not permit it.12 The goal was to occupy the ground on the eastern side of the canal when the negotiations began. From these concepts, the details would flow. Planning was conducted in the utmost secrecy. Much of it was carried out as a routine revision of existing contingency plans. Other planning was carried out in the framework of normal military training maneuvers, culminating in an annual exercise of some magnitude in the September/October timeframe. But behind all of this was a small group of men who knew the true plan and goal, and who coordinated all these seemingly routine and innocuous matters into the overall framework of a plan for war. For many aspects, only the most senior officers researched data and drafted documents. This work was not even entrusted to close subordinates and staff. General Shazli notes "At a personal level, the plan was very simple. All of us in the senior echelons had to live two lives and preserve surface normality while working in secret on the last preparations. "13 At Sadat's request, President Assad of Syria paid a secret visit to Egypt in April 1973. At a meeting in the western desert, Sadat recalls telling him "I have decided to fight my battle this year and have issued the relevant instructions. What do you say to this?" Assad's reported answer was "I'll be with you. We're going to fight and are preparing for it. "14 Egyptian and Syrian forces were thus joined, and a two-front war was planned. At this meeting, a top secret report handwritten by General Gamasy, Director of Operations of the Egyptian Armed Forces, indicated that there were three sets of dates that could be considered for the attack: a period in May, a period in August and September, and a period in October. The most suitable was October -- the attack could be on Yom Kippur, 6 October, when Israel would be virtually shut down and the Syrian front's weather would become unfavorable for military operations from November until spring, thereby encouraging a limited conflict. During this meeting, they agreed to establish a Supreme Joint Council in order to coordinate their actions. Each front would act independently in many regards, but the overall plan and timing would be strictly a joint decision.15 This is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of the 1973 war -- Israel did not count on any coordination among the Arabs. The Egyptians' Deception Plan was a master work. It is doubtful that it could have been surpassed by any other nation in the world. Herzog states, "there were many impressive aspects to the preparations for the assault, but none as original in concept and in execution as the misinformation plan.16 The expulsion of the Soviet advisors in July 1972 was hoped to give the Israelis a false sense of security. The Israelis would surely presume it unthinkable that Egypt would make any moves without the guidance and support of the Soviets. Additionally, as early as November 1972, the Egyptians began a series of monthly maneuvers or command post exercises in the vicinity of the Canal and they ensured that the Israelis saw evidence of all this activity. Hoping that the Israelis would reach the same conclusions as General Gamasy in picking the ideal times for an attack, Sadat publicly ordered some mobilization exercises in May and again in August.17 The Israelis responded by mobilizing portions of their reserves immediately. Articles were planted in newspapers and speeches of Sadat and As sad alternated between fiery rhetoric and conciliatory tones -- all designed to keep Israel off balance. In August, the Supreme Joint Council met secretly in Alexandria to finalize their plans. After meeting for two days they issued a document for the Presidents that stated they were fully ready to go to war along the lines laid down in their plans. The only requirement left to fill was the exact date. They recommended either the period from 7 to 11 September or 5 to 10 October. Their only operational requirement was that the Presidents give them at least fifteen days' notice of D-Day for the final preparations.18 The final decision was probably made during the Arab Summit Conference held in Cairo on 12 September, during a secret session between Sadat and Assad. D-Day was fixed as 6 October, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This date also meshed well with the deception plan. That date fell during the month of Ramadan, the Holy Month of Moslems, when fasting and other deprivations were the rule. A fasting army could hardly be a threatening one. There was another advantage to the October date. Israel had elections scheduled for 28 October, which meant that the political leadership of Israel would be preoccupied with issues other than routine Syrian and Egyptian military exercises. The deception intensified. The Syrians publicized that they were digging in tanks along the Golan as they feared Israeli retaliation after a 13 September air encounter with Israel. On 26 September, the Egyptians and the Syrians separately announced the concentration of troops for their annual maneuvers. The Egyptians had been holding their annual maneuvers since 1968, so this hardly came as a surprise to anyone. The Egyptians announced another mobilization of reservists on 27 September, ostensibly in support of the October maneuver, stating that they would be demobilized about 7 October. It was mentioned that Sadat had earlier ordered two other mobilizations during the year. Those were the major mobilizations. In fact, Egypt had mobilized variously sized groups of reservists 22 other times in 1973.19 Another group of reservists was mobilized on 30 September. To make the scheme credible, some reservists were actually demobilized on 4 October. The mobilizations in May, August and September had taken on a different tone, however. After the appropriate period, the groups were demobilized and a big show was made of their movement out of the Canal Zone. However, many of the troop trucks were empty, the troops blending into the already considerable forces deployed on the Canal. As they had hoped, Israeli Intelligence did not pick up the fact that the troops stayed. All that Israel monitored was the movements of a large groups of vehicles. October 1 marked the final phase. The annual exercise officially began and major troop movements could be explained in this context, all covered by the appropriate press releases, of course. The General Staff moved to the Command Center (an underground war headquarters), something they had done for several years during these annual maneuvers. That same day, the Egyptian submarine fleet sailed with secret, sealed orders, under the strictest radio silence. Two of them, however, made this move openly, down the Red Sea, ostensibly bound for Pakistan for overhaul. (After the war, the Egyptians apologized to Pakistan for using them in this subterfuge). With the deployment of the submarine fleet on 1 October, General Shazli noted, "The war had effectively begun."20 Finally, also on 1 October, the circle of secrecy was widened to include the two key field commanders, General Saad Mamoun of the Second Army and General Abdel Muneim Wasel of the Third Army. (Here it is D-5 and the two field commanders are just now being told that they have five days to prepare themselves for war). They were strictly instructed that they could tell no one for the next 48 hours, not even their own Chiefs of Staff. This meant that they had to conduct all of their planning by themselves and yet make it appear routine in the context of the maneuver. The Division Commanders could be briefed on 3 October, the Brigade Commanders on 4 October and the Platoon Leaders and troops were not to be told until just six hours before commencing the attack.21 Herzog states "95 percent of the Egyptian officers taken prisoner by Israel, knew for the first time that the exercise would turn into a war only on the morning of 6 October. "22 The entire operation rested upon prior planning and repeated rehearsal, going to the point of making mock Canal crossing sights along river areas and then repeatedly practicing the assault. Each man knew his duty and how his duty supported and was supported by his fellow soldiers. The entire concept was founded upon the premise that well trained troops only need orders. Two surprises threatened to give it all away. First on 4 October, both President Sadat and Assad had summoned their respective Soviet Ambassadors and informed them that war would occur on 6 October. However, neither President had expected that Soviet non combatants and dependents would be evacuated. Therefore, when the Soviet contingents were evacuated on the night of 4 October from both Egypt and Syria, the war leaders feared that this would be a beacon signal to Israel that something was amiss.23 The second was more frightening to the Egyptians, as it indicated a possible leak in their security. On the night of 4 October, Egypt Air cancelled all its flights and was organizing the disposal of its fleet to safe airports out of Egypt. The order was reversed and service was restored on 5 October, but a clearer signal could not have been given to Israel.24 At 1300 hours, 6 October, President Sadat and General Ismail arrived at the Command Center. Sadat noted that everyone was tense and that no one was smoking or drinking, presumably because of Ramadan. Sadat took out his pipe and ordered some tea. His generals relaxed and readied themselves. The Stage was set.25 Turning briefly to the Israeli side, one finds a different atmosphere, one that is floating upon a series of misconceptions about itself -- a fact not lost on the Egyptians, who had done their best to foster these misconceptions. When Egypt had mobilized in May 1973, so did the Israelis. When no war came, the general feeling was that the Arabs had seen the Israelis react and they had changed their minds.26 In fact, there was considerable debate at the highest military levels then, and later, on the need to mobilize. When this mobilization was followed by another during the summer, and when it is viewed in conjunction with previous mobilization "false alarms" of other years, the entire subject of mobilization became a very sensitive issue in Israel.27 As the Egyptians increased their efforts before the 1 October exercise, Major General Gonen, Commanding General Southern Command, became concerned. In fact on 1 October, he placed Southern Command on alert -- leaves were cancelled, patrols were increased and security in general increased. On 2 October Gonen had even requested to take further precautionary steps but most were turned down by higher headquarters.28 Two personalities contributed to the Israeli attitude of minimum concern during this time frame. General Eli Zeira, Chief of Israeli Defense Intelligence, briefed the Minister of Defense just days before the war and concluded that "while Egypt certainly had the capability to attack without warning . . . the feeling of [Israeli Defense] Intelligence was the probability of an Arab attack was very low. "29 He further emphasized the fact that the five Egyptian divisions along the Canal had been there for some time and they had made major buildups of forces on three previous occasions since 1971 without attacking. At the same time, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan had made several public statements of his view of the situation. He had called the Suez Canal "one of the best anti-tank ditches available." On 10 August he had addressed the Israeli Staff College, saying, "the balance of forces is so much in our favor, that it neutralizes the Arab considerations and motives for the immediate renewal of hostilities."30 Such were the voices of counsel heard within Israel as the war approached. On the evening of 4 October, General Zeira brought the memo of the evacuation of Soviet families from Egypt and Syria to the Chief of Staff, General Elazar. On 5 October General Elazar ordered the highest state of alert for the regular army. However, he decided against requesting the mobilization of the reserves because he had been convinced that he would receive adequate warning from Military Intelligence to mobilize.31 To support this assumption further, at a final cabinet briefing also on 5 October, the deputy Chief of Intelligence informed the cabinet that war was very unlikely.32 An interesting footnote to this, brought out in the 1974 Agranat Commission investigation of the failure of Israeli Intelligence, was the report of the Order-of-Battle- Officer of the Southern Command. He had twice reported to the Southern Command Intelligence Officer that the deployments on the west bank of the Canal were an indication of preparation for war and that the exercise was a ruse. These reports never left Southern Command. In fact, General Zeira did not learn of them until the commission hearings.33 At 0400 hours 6 October, General Zeira called General Elazar and informed him that the previous reports were wrong. Intelligence now clearly indicated that war was imminent, by 1800 hours that very day.34 Elazar immediately notified the Air Force to prepare for a preemptive strike and then informed Dayan that he wanted to take that action and to order a full mobilization. Dayan deferred, as decisions of this magnitude would normally require the Prime Minister, if not the whole cabinet. The cabinet was hastily assembled and the situation was briefed by Zeira and Elazar. The preemptive strike was out of the question -- if Israel started the shooting, world opinion would be against them and the support of the United States would be in question. A total mobilization was also out. Until now, Intelligence had been saying "No War." What if it was wrong now? Another false alarm would be disastrous in terms of public opinion and economic impact. However, the cabinet agreed that a partial mobilization was justified and it was ordered at 1000 hours.35 Word was sent to the Armed Forces that the attack on both fronts would come by 1800 hours. Some took this order seriously; others felt that they could wait until 1700 hours to really get concerned. In fact, Egyptian soldiers reported seeing Israeli soldiers washing their clothes in the Canal just moments before the attack.36 The Air Force had another problem -- they had armed for a preemptive strike and now had to reload for ground combat support. This process would take most of the day. In the early afternoon 6 October, General Gonen called his deployed division commander, Major General Albert Mendler, to review preparations. Their conversation proceeded and Gonen finally said, "Albert, I think you had better start those two brigades moving forward." "Yes, I think so," Mendler calmly replied. "We are under air and missile attack. "37 At 1405 hours 6 October, Egypt and Syria launched synchronized full-scale attacks on Israel. These achieved virtually perfect strategic surprise, as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were only six hours into partial mobilization -- a process that requires 72 hours. Five Egyptian mechanized infantry divisions, reinforced by paratroopers and commandos, had launched an attack across the Suez Canal and on the Bar-Lev line. Israel had assumed its embankment along the Suez Canal would require at least 24 to 48 hours of effort to breach. However, the Egyptians had devised a system using high-pressure water jets which did the job much more quickly. Thus, Egypt had 500 tanks across the Canal within twenty-four hours and well before IDF armored reserves could reach the Sinai. The numerically superior Egyptian armies had made effective use of their integrated air defense systems (antiaircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles) and antitank missiles and had inflicted heavy casualties and damage on the Israeli forces. With their initial successes the Egyptians may have had the opportunity to continue the attack deep into the Sinai, but they hesitated and the front stabilized. However, the Egyptians now held a long shallow beachhead on the eastern side of the Canal. (Had a truce been reached at this point, the war would have ended as a distinct Egyptian tactical victory). Israel decided to make its major effort in the north against Syria, which was closer to its vital population centers. A two-pronged north and south offensive was ruled out to permit the Air Force to concentrate on one area at a time. While fighting static attritional battles against the Egyptians, the IDF went on the offensive in the Golan. After successfully pushing the Syrians back toward Damascus during the period 6-14 October the IDF shifted its attention to the Egyptians. As the Commander in Chief of the Arab allied forces, General Ismail was now caught in a predicament. He could not ignore the pleas for help from the Syrians who were suffering tremendous losses. Although he knew that his "defensive victory" could be thrown away against an enemy more skillful in mobile warfare, he reluctantly ordered a general offensive to take place on 14 October. Despite some scattered successes, the days battles were generally disastrous for the Egyptians. The defensive successes of the IDF on l4 October convinced the Israelis that the time was right to go on the offensive. After locating a weak point between the Second and Third Egyptian Armies, Israeli tank columns surprised the Egyptians by crossing the Canal on 16 October. This bold venture caused the virtual encirclement of the Third Army and the town of Suez. In doing so they destroyed numerous SAM sites thus opening the way for the Israeli Air Force to support their ground forces. They were now in position to threaten the rear administrative and supply areas of the entire Egyptian Army. Largely due to the efforts of the Soviet Union, which was fearful of the possibility of a serious Egyptian defeat, the U.N. Security Council imposed a cease-fire effective 22 October. This cease-fire was soon violated, however, by both sides and a second and final cease-fire was established on 24 October. At the time of the ceasefire, Egyptian forces still occupied positions on the eastern side of the Canal. The war aims of the Egyptians were comparatively limited from a military point of view, but had as a prime purpose political gains. President Sadat had reached the conclusion for some time that war was desirable, even essential, to enable an advance in the political process. Sadat's directives, as far as the strategic aim of the war was concerned, were to upset Israeli security doctrine by initiating a military operation that would cause heavy casualties to Israel and directly affect her national morale.38 President Sadat was not under any illusion that Egypt had reached or could reach in the proximate future tactical or technical military parity with Israel. He realized that the result of war might be another Israeli victory. Even though the Egyptian decision to go to war recognized the serious danger of another Arab defeat, President Sadat apparently believed that a limited military success was possible. A territorial victory, however small, would not only instill confidence in the Arabs but force the Israelis to reconsider the idea that territory could provide security. His objectives, if achieved, would change the situation dramatically by initiating a diplomatic process that would end with Israeli withdrawal from the occupied areas. From a purely military point of view, the first and most important Arab success was the strategic and tactical surprise achieved. While this was aided to no small degree by mistakes made by Israeli Intelligence and the political and military leadership in Israel, the bulk of the credit must go to the highly sophisticated deception plan mounted by the Egyptians. They succeeded in convincing the Israeli Command that the intensive military activity to the west of the Canal during the summer and autumn of 1973 was nothing more than a series of training operations and maneuvers. This deception must be marked as one of the outstanding plans of deception mounted in the course of military history.39 The plan was successful not only as far as Israeli intelligence was concerned, but also with world-wide intelligence agencies. As expected, both the United States and the Soviet Union played prominent roles during the 1973 war. Although there is considerable feeling in Israel that the Soviet Union helped plan this war, Dupuy and other historians state emphatically that "there is no doubt that the actual planning and organization of the Egyptian and Syrian surprise attacks were completely the responsibility of the Arabs."40 President Sadat noted several times that his greatest fear was that the Soviet Union would actively prevent his war if they had known of it. Hence, the secrecy was as much directed against the superpowers as against Israel. The United States provided considerable resupply to Israel, as the Soviet Union did to the Arabs. The Soviet airlift began on 9 October and was quickly supplemented by sealift. The United States effort had to rely more on airlift initially, due to the distances at sea. The United States airlift began on 14 October and the sealift effort did not reach Israel until after the ceasefires. This resupply effort was the natural response of both powers to obligations that they had made in the region, both Israel and the Arabs had assumed that they would receive this and when it was asked for, and they had made certain of their logistical plans on that basis.41 Both the United States and the U.S.S.R. were deeply committed to ending the conflict as soon as possible. Premier Kosygin of the U.S.S.R. was in Egypt to argue personally for an end to hostilities as early as 16 October.42 Both superpowers feared the broadening of the conflict, an eventuality that might even involve them directly. Another incentive for both was the air and sea lifts. Both powers were drawing down arms promised to other nations or planned for issue for modernization of their own forces. It is safe to assume that in some categories of arms and equipment they even had to dip into war reserves stock to meet the demands of the battlefield. As neither nation was industrially prepared to support a war effort of the proportion occurring in the Middle East, they had to end the war as much out of their own economic and defense interests as from any interest to stabilize the Middle East situation. The achievement of President Sadat's strategic objectives make a good final note. Sadat's basic objective was to end the state of "No Peace, No War" and to force negotiations. Kilometer 101, Geneva, and ultimately Camp David certainly proved this success. The superpowers were forced to involve themselves in the Middle East on Sadat's terms, not their own. The war restored Egypt to a position of primacy among Arab states. The results of the war permitted Egypt to reopen the Suez Canal and thus regain some of the economic resources, not to mention the prestige, it had lost in 1967. Arab pride and confidence had been restored. The war technically was a stalemate at the point of the ceasefire, with no clear victory on either side. For the Arabs and Sadat, that was enough. Their goal was to prove that the Israelis were not invincible, that they could be neutralized, that they could be defeated. Clearly, the Arabs had accomplished that.43 As a final statement, a quote from Dupuy: If War is the employment of military force in support of political objectives, there can be no doubt that in strategic and political terms the Arab States and particularly Egypt -- won the War, even though the military outcome was a stalemate . 44 FOOTNOTES 1. Heikal, Mohammed, The Road to Ramadan (Collins, St. Jame's Place, London, 1975), p. 172. 2. Heikal, p. 164. 3. Dupuy, Trevor N., Elusive Victory, The Arab-Israeli Wars 1947-1974 (Harper and Row, New York, 1978), p. 387. 4. Dupuy, p. 387. 5. Badri, Hassan el, Magdoub, Taha el, Zohdy, Mohammed Dia el Din, The Ramadan War. 1973 (T.N. Dupuy Asociates, Inc. Dunn Loring, Virginia, 1978), p. 17. 6. Heikal, p. 181. 7. Sadat, Anwar al, In Search of Identity: An Autobiography (Harper and Row, New York, 1977, 1978), p. 237. 8. Sadat, p. 237. 9. Badri, p. 17. 10. Badri, p. 14. 11. Badri, p. 21. 12. Dupuy, p. 389. 13. Shazli, Saad el, The Crossing of Suez: The October War (1973) (Third World Centre for Research and Publishing, London, 1980), p. 140-141. 14. Sadat, p. 241. 15. Sadat, p. 241-242. 16. Herzog, Chaim, The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East (Random House, New York, 1982), p. 229. 17. Sadat, p. 241-242. 18. Shazli, p. 136. 19. Shazli, p. 139. 20. Shazli, p. 142. 21. Shazli, p. 142. 22. Herzog, p. 229. 23. Shazli, p. 143-144. 24. Shazli, p. 144. 25. Sadat, p. 248. 26. Herzog, p. 228. 27. Herzog, p. 228. 28. Herzog, p. 235. 29. Herzog, p. 238. 30. Dupuy, p. 406. 31. Herzog, p. 238. 32. Dupuy, p. 408. 33. Herzog, p. 236. 34. Dupuy, p. 408. 35. Dupuy, p. 408. 36. Dupuy, p. 409. 37. Dupuy, p. 410. 38. Herzog, p. 315. 39. Herzog, p. 316. 40. Dupuy, p. 566. 41. Dupuy, p. 566-567. 42. Dupuy, p. 513-519. 43. Dupuy, p. 602. 44. Dupuy, p. 603. BIOLIOGRAPHY 1. Badri, Hassan el, Magdoub, Taha el, Zohdy, Mohammed Dia el Din, The Ramadan War. 1973 (T.N. Dupuy Asociates, Inc. Dunn Loring, Virginia, 1978). 2. Dupuy, Trevor N., Elusive Victory, The Arab-Israeli Wars 1947-1974 (Harper and Row, New York, 1978). 3. Heikal, Mohammed, The Road to Ramadan (Collins, St. Jame's Place, London, 1975). 4. Herzog, Chaim, The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East (Random House, New York, 1982). 5. Sadat, Anwar al, In Search of Identity: An Autobioaraphy (Harper and Row, New York, 1977, 1978). 6. Shazli, Saad el, The Crossing of Suez: The October War (1973) (Third World Centre for Research and Publishing, London, 1980).
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|