11. Special National Intelligence Estimate0

SNIE 30–58


The Problem

To estimate the prospects and implications of the Syrian-Egyptian union and the Iraq-Jordan federation.

Summary and Conclusions

Both the Syro-Egyptian union and the Iraq-Jordan federation, although influenced by long-range developments and plans, came into being to meet immediate political needs. Nasser probably agreed to go forward with the union at this time because he was convinced that it was necessary in order to forestall a Communist takeover in Syria, as well as because he saw a propitious moment for realization of long-laid plans on his own terms. The federation was created to counter the [Page 41] anti-conservative pressures generated by the union throughout the Arab world.1 (Paras. 8, 24–25)
The persistent and widespread appeal among Arabs of the concept of Arab unity was the foundation upon which both the union and federation were constructed. Of the two, the union, under Nasser, the leader and symbol of Arab radical nationalism, almost certainly has a greater popular appeal in the whole area, and will exert a continuing attraction upon the radical elements in the conservative states. The creation of the two groupings emphasizes the polarization of the area between radical and conservative forces and the contest for area leadership between Egypt and Iraq will be stimulated. Since both groupings proclaim the idea of Arab unity, surface cordiality may be maintained, but at least covert hostile activities are likely between them. (Paras. 11–12, 20–21, 32)
Nasser will face formidable problems in keeping the union together and maintaining stability within the two component states, but we believe that the union can carry through for at least a year or so on its present momentum. If Nasser were removed from the scene within this period, Egypt and Syria would probably revert to their independent status. It is unlikely that conservative forces would then succeed to power in either state and any successor regimes would be likely to adopt a neutralist foreign policy. (Paras. 13–19)
The Iraq-Jordan federation will also have serious internal problems principally due to the radical Arab nationalist orientation of Jordan’s ex-Palestinian population and to Jordan’s economic problems. If the federation survives its initial difficulties, however, and is able to capitalize on the economic resources of Iraq, its long term prospects would be favorable. (Paras. 28–30)
The creation of the two Arab groupings increases Israel’s apprehensions with respect to the eventuality of military action. (Para. 38)
[2-1/2 lines of 2-column source text not declassified] We believe that, although the Soviets suffered tactical reverses in Syria, they will adapt their policy to the situation and seek to use the union as a bridge to Africa and a means of weakening the conservative states. While the Soviets are likely to take much the same attitude toward the federation as do the leaders of the union, they will covertly seek to undermine the conservative regimes. (Paras. 39–40)
The success of the Iraq-Jordan federation will probably depend heavily upon US diplomatic and material support. Overt US hostility to [Page 42] the Syro-Egyptian union would almost certainly strengthen the union. On the other hand, public expression of US support for the idea of Arab unity, coupled with a relaxation of overt pressures upon Nasser, might influence Nasser to bring the Syro-Egyptian union into a more truly neutral position and might produce a more favorable area reaction to discreet US support of the Iraq-Jordan federation (Paras. 41–44)

[Here follows the “Discussion” section comprising paragraphs 8–44.]

  1. Source: Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 67 D 548, Near and Middle East 1958. Secret. A note on the cover sheet indicates that this SNIE, submitted by the CIA, was prepared by CIA, INR, and the intelligence organizations of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff. All members of the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC) concurred with this estimate except the representatives of the AEC and the FBI who abstained on the grounds that the topic was outside their jurisdiction.
  2. The word “union” will hereinafter be used to refer to the Syro-Egyptian union, officially known as the United Arab Republic. The word “federation” will refer to the Iraq-Jordan federation. [Footnote in the source text.]