27. Special National Intelligence Estimate0

SNIE 30–2–58

THE MIDDLE EAST CRISIS

The Estimate

1.
General. The landing of US and UK troops in Lebanon and Jordan, following the dramatic coup d’état in Iraq, has been interpreted as further identifying the US as the opponent of Pan-Arab nationalism. Soviet support of the Pan-Arab nationalist movement and of Nasser has also been greatly highlighted. Popular feeling in the Arab world, even in such states as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, is generally favorable to the Iraqi coup and hostile to US and UK intervention.
2.
Governments in the area and on its periphery which are friendly to the West have been reassured by the US-UK moves, but there are indications that events have led to a weakening of the conservatives and an increase of confidence on the part of the opposition in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Sudan, and Iran. Anti-Western demonstrations and attacks upon governments friendly to the West can be expected to occur while the present crisis persists, and some of these governments are at present considerably alarmed by the prospect.
3.
The Arab world is in a period of revolutionary ferment and is likely to continue to undergo periods of violence and irrationality. Despite Nasser’s position as the acknowledged leader of Pan-Arab nationalism, his control over the movement is not absolute. Further revolts on the Iraqi pattern could occur, either spontaneously or according to plan, at almost any time. If such outbreaks do occur, whether or not Nasser initiates them, he will support them. The part played by local Communist parties in the area is slight, although certain individuals friendly to the Communist cause exert a considerable influence. Nasser himself remains opposed to Communism, as he is to any rival political movement; his cooperation with the USSR derives from his need for great power backing in his campaign to eliminate the Western position in the area.
4.
Egyptian objectives and strategy. Nasser almost certainly regards the consolidation of the rebel regime in Iraq as his first-priority objective. He is seeking to ward off intervention in Iraq by the Western powers or by Jordan or Turkey. He probably hopes that by concentrating disapproval upon the presence of US and UK troops in Lebanon and Jordan he can prevent Western moves against Iraq. He will encourage local nationalists to harass American and British troops and to take full propaganda advantage of the situation, although he will wish to avoid direct hostilities between his forces and those of the West or of Israel.
5.
Nasser will intensify his encouragement of Pan-Arab nationalist elements in Lebanon and Jordan, along with others opposed to the US and UK intervention, to demonstrate Arab hostility to Western occupation. He may encourage or carry out moves in other countries, such as Libya, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or the other Sheikhdoms of the Arabian Peninsula. Nasser will make the most of Soviet support for his cause, will try to frighten the West with the prospect of Soviet intervention, and may ask for emergency arms shipments. He will not wish to have Soviet Bloc “volunteers” or troops on Arab soil, but would probably invite them into Syria or Iraq if he believed Western or Turkish military forces were likely to invade those countries.
6.
We believe it unlikely that Nasser will think it desirable in the near future to cut the oil pipelines or otherwise refuse delivery of Arab oil to Western markets unless hostilities develop.
7.
Iraq. Available evidence on the Iraqi revolt indicates that it was spearheaded by elements of the Third Division of the Iraqi Army in which there was strong Pan-Arab nationalist and anti-regime feeling. The rebels are in close relations with Nasser and are imitating the general pattern of his policy and outlook. There has been no report of significant opposition to the rebel government and it can probably consolidate its position if left alone. Popular opinion has apparently been strongly favorable to the revolt. The rebel government has announced that it will follow a neutralist policy. It has indicated a desire for friendly relations with both the Sino-Soviet Bloc and the West. It has given assurances that the flow of oil will not be interrupted but has declared its intention to renegotiate its petroleum contract with the Iraq Petroleum Company.
8.
Lebanon. The present relative calm in Lebanon is unlikely to persist. General Chehab was clearly unhappy about the landing of US forces and fears that many of his troops would refuse to fight with US troops against other Lebanese. A sizeable proportion of the Army would probably refuse to accept Chehab’s dismissal from command by President Chamoun; such dismissal currently appears less likely than previously. An attempted coup d’état by the army remains a possibility. Rebel forces are unlikely to attack US troops in coastal areas or to seek to engage them in large numbers, but will harass them in guerrilla actions if and when they move into the interior of the country. A number of members of Parliament, together with some other important political figures, including many who were formerly friendly to the US, have announced themselves as opposed to the US intervention. An agreement between the present government and the opposition will be difficult to reach, particularly while US troops are in Lebanon.
9.
Jordan. The Jordanian regime is in a perilous position with widespread popular opposition, an army with many untrustworthy elements, and little support in the Arab world. Elements of a UAR-supported revolutionary organization are almost certainly still in existence. The threat of assassination still hangs over King Hussein. British troops can probably maintain control of the situation in their immediate vicinity. We expect widespread disturbances on the West Bank, however, as well as harassment of British troops and public demonstrations in Amman. We do not think that King Hussein could provide an effective and politically dependable force for the invasion of Iraq— which has withdrawn from the Arab Union—even if he were supplied with the necessary POL and if enough Western troops were moved into Jordan to relieve the army entirely of public security responsibilities in Jordan.
10.
Saudi Arabia. The [less than 1 line of 2-column text not declassified] Saudi regime tends to view Western intervention with mixed feelings. [Page 90]The King is jubilant over US intervention in Lebanon and advocates action in Iraq, while Crown Prince Faisal favors neutrality. The Saudi public, even in middle class merchant groups and within the royal entourage, generally welcomed the Iraqi coup and can be expected to disapprove US and UK intervention in Lebanon and Jordan. [6 lines of 2-column source text not declassified]
11.
On the whole, the Saudi Government will probably seek to postpone trouble by a cautious policy of appeasing Nasser and reaffirming its devotion to Arab nationalism. Meanwhile the King will hope that Western support for conservative regimes will prove effective.
12.
Kuwait. The situation in Kuwait is very shaky as a result of the coup in Iraq, and there is a strong possibility that the revolutionary infection will spread there. If the Ruler is not actually engulfed, he will probably continue to drift with the tide. If the onrush of Arab nationalist success continues he will probably feel compelled to try to make an accommodation with Nasser, with whom he has been conferring in Damascus.
13.
Israel. Israel draws reassurance from the US-UK moves. It is likely to let those countries carry the ball for the time being. Israel is unlikely to send its military forces across its borders except in the event of the collapse of Jordan, in which case it would probably seize the West Bank, or if Western and other forces were engaged against the UAR, in which case it might seize the opportunity to strike a blow against Nasser. The Israelis will probably tighten their relationship with the French and would almost certainly receive French military support in case of need. The Israelis will seek additional Western military aid and will probably use the Western requirement for overflight rights to Jordan for bargaining purposes.
14.
Iran. The Shah’s gratification at US action in Lebanon is probably somewhat dimmed by fears that the Iraqi coup has stirred up the opposition to his regime in Iran. The Iranian opposition, which opposes the Shah’s regime as corrupt and oppressive, has probably been stimulated and strengthened by the revolt in Iraq. The Shah will seek substantial additional military support from the US. Kurdish nationalism, which is susceptible to exploitation by the Soviets and the UAR, might flare into revolt in northwestern Iran.
15.
Turkey. The Turks have responded enthusiastically to US and UK military intervention in the area. Most of them have believed and may be expected to continue to believe that the only answer to the challenge of Arab nationalism is military force. There is now only a slight possibility that they may move against Syria or Iraq without the previous approval of the US.
16.
Other states and areas. The leaders of such governments as those of Tunisia, Libya, and the Sudan, who are opposed to Nasser and his movement and friendly toward the US, favor the US and UK intervention, although they will face popular opposition. However, they probably will avoid open hostility toward Nasser, and, like Tunisia, Libya, and the Sudan, may recognize the new Iraqi regime. Events have increased instability in Libya and the Sudan and their governments fear the possibility of Egyptian-inspired revolts against them. The conflict between the West and the Pan-Arab nationalists will intensify nationalist suspicion of Western motives among such groups as the Algerian revolutionaries and the left wing of the Moroccan Istiqlal Party. Greece, although generally supporting US actions in the Middle East, is nervous lest the crisis should strengthen the position of Turkey on the Cyprus issue and threaten again to frustrate Greek hopes for Cyprus. Moreover, Greece will be concerned that the actions of its NATO allies will complicate its own relations with the Arabs. Pakistan, as a member of the weakened Baghdad Pact, is deeply concerned about its future position [1–½ lines of 2-column source text not declassified]. Asian neutralist nations like India, Burma and Indonesia strongly oppose the US and UK use of force. Japan has disapproved, but most governments allied with the West support the US-UK intervention.
17.
Prospects for armed conflict. Extensive armed conflict could develop in Lebanon and Jordan between local forces sympathetic to Nasser and the US and UK troops. We believe, however, that Arab attacks on the Western troops are likely to be limited to harassing actions because the UAR will not wish to see a major military conflict develop and because of the logistic problems involved for the UAR. Should conflicts between Western troops and Arab nationalists spill over into Syria or Iraq, we believe that Nasser would seek Soviet assistance. This prospect, of course, and the possibility of its developing into general war will depend in large part upon the Soviet reaction.
18.
USSR. The USSR, by political and propaganda methods, is certain to exploit Western intervention in the Middle East to the utmost. We believe, however, that the Soviets will seek to avoid courses of action which in their judgment seriously risk general war. Certain actions which do not involve clear cut commitments—such as the military maneuvers on the Turkish and Iranian frontiers and in the Black Sea and the issuance of ominous statements—will almost certainly continue to be taken. The enrollment of “volunteers,” ostensibly for use in the Middle East, may also be used as a threat.
19.
We believe that the Soviet leaders do not regard the present Western intervention in Lebanon and Jordan as requiring any stronger reactions than those just mentioned. Should the West go on into Iraq, or become involved militarily with the UAR, however, the Soviets would [Page 92]take a much graver view. In this situation we believe the UAR and Iraq would ask for substantial military assistance and probably for “volunteers.” However, the Soviets would face difficult decisions in determining how far they could go without incurring grave risks of general war. They are aware that any substantial and timely intervention on their part would probably incur serious risks because of violation of Turkish or Iranian territory or air space and because of the possibility of a direct clash with American or British forces. Moreover, the Soviet leaders probably estimate that the general trend in the Middle East is strongly in their favor and that, even though Western intervention might lead to a temporary checking of this trend, in the longer run it would tend to be accelerated.
20.
On the other hand, the Soviets would be gravely concerned at the displacement of Middle Eastern governments friendly to them and an increase in Western influence in the area, even if they thought that these developments would be only temporary. They would also be concerned about their prestige. And they probably consider that their own strategic capabilities provide considerable room for bluff and threat, since they estimate that the US, too, wishes to avoid general war.
21.
Weighing these factors, we believe that Western intervention in Iraq or against the UAR could not be undertaken without some risk of military involvement with Soviet forces. If Nasser had concluded that an attack on Iraq or some other military embroilment with the West were imminent and asked the USSR for additional tangible support, the USSR, in addition to stepping up shipments of material, would probably send such personnel as technicians, pilots and perhaps even troops in the form of “volunteers.” If military action against Iraq or the UAR or both were actually under way and proceeding rapidly, we believe that direct and substantial Soviet military action would be unlikely since we think that in the Soviet view the risks involved in substantial intervention would outweigh any benefits which might be derived from it. Under such circumstances, the Soviets would probably send volunteers, though not in great strength. But we think their principal reliance would be on vigorous political and diplomatic action, especially in the UN, hoping that a large number of countries could be induced to condemn the Western actions.
22.
It is possible that the Bloc leaders might take advantage of the Middle Eastern situation to undertake aggressive military action in other parts of the world, or to apply heavy additional pressure on Poland. We think moves of this character unlikely, however, because of the USSR’s concern that they would add further tension to an increasingly dangerous world situation and adversely affect world opinion as well as undercutting their opportunities for making use of the UN.
23.
Longer-range prospects for the Arab area. In the event that US and UK action is limited to Lebanon and Jordan, Nasser is likely to consolidate his influence fairly rapidly in the rest of the Arab area. Present indications are that the rebel regime in Iraq is consolidating its control. It will probably seek affiliation with the UAR. Even the pro-Nasser Iraqis, however, will probably insist on remaining essentially autonomous, especially because they wish to retain control of oil revenues. They are likely to choose federation with the UAS rather than membership in the UAR as in the case of Syria.
24.
If Iraq remains under the control of a pro-Nasser government allied with the UAR, then Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the small states of the Arabian Peninsula are likely soon to gravitate toward a similar relationship. Soviet influence in the states under Nasser’s control is likely to increase.
  1. Source: Department of State, INR Files. Secret. A note on the cover sheet indicates that this special estimate, 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 IAC concurred with this special estimate on July 22, except the representatives of the AEC and FBI who abstained on the grounds that the topic was outside their jurisdiction.