334. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • US Military Interests in the Near East (U)
(S) Reference is made to your memorandum, dated 16 June 1967, on the above subject,2 which requested the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the military implications of a polarized situation in which the Arab world is supported by the USSR and Israel by the United States.
(S) For the purposes of this paper, the Arab world includes the following countries: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Sudan, United Arab Republic, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Bahrein, the Trucial States, and the Federation of South Arabia.
(S) The most significant impact of such a polarization would be the creation of an environment in which further conflict and military hostilities between the Arab world and Israel would be almost certain. [Page 590] As a result, the United States would be placed in the position of becoming deeply involved by providing direct political, economic, and military support to Israel or having to abandon its policy toward the continued existence of Israel. In addition, future conflicts in an environment of increasing polarization would increase the danger of direct US–USSR confrontation. The increased USSR influence with the Arab nations would cause a reduction in the political freedom of action the moderate Arab states, such as Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, had enjoyed in the more ambiguous situation prior to the present crisis. This situation would probably eliminate their restraining influence on the radical Arab states and could cause the United States to provide military assistance to Israel in view of the increased threat of a more united Arab world.
(S) A polarization of this nature would be most detrimental to US interests in the Middle East. The most significant interests having military implications which would be seriously affected are:
Promotion of the Western orientation of nations of the Middle East.
Elimination or reduction of Soviet influence in the Middle East.
Security of the southern flank of NATO.
Retention of access to air and sea routes.
Retention of base rights and communications-electronics facilities.
Retention of access to Middle East oil.
(S) The impact of such a polarization on US military interests in the Arab world includes the following:
Loss of US military influence in Arab nations.
Increase of Soviet influence in the area through stronger ties with the radical Arab nations and establishment of an influential position in the moderate nations of Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia where little or no USSR influence exists.
Loss of certain important port facilities, base rights, and non-Defense Communications System (DCS) communications-electronics facilities in the Arab states which, coupled with loss of intelligence collection inputs from defense attache and clandestine sources, would have a most serious and adverse bearing on the national security interests of the United States.
Probable denial of Arab oil and a requirement for alternative oil resources for Southeast Asia and Europe, resulting in increased costs of POL.
Extension of the sea LOC to support military operations in Southeast Asia.
Loss of supporting facilities for MIDEASTFOR in Arab countries will extend the LOC.
Loss of the cooperation of Libya and Morocco and increased Soviet influence in those countries would have an adverse effect on the US strategic position on the southern littoral of the Mediterranean.
(S) The impact of such a polarization on Turkey and Iran would also have a direct bearing on US military interests in the area. These might include the following: [Page 591]
Execution of contingency operations for east Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia would be severely handicapped if the use of Turkish and/or Iranian bases and the required overflight rights were denied.
Probable requests for additional US aid from Turkey and Iran because of the increased threat.
Reassessment by Turkey of its role in NATO.
Creation of divisive pressures in CENTO based on ethnic and religious orientations and differing reassessments of the threat to their individual interests.
Possible loss of communications-electronics facilities in Turkey and Iran coupled with a loss of intelligence collection inputs which would have a further serious and adverse bearing on the national security interests of the United States.
(S) The impact of such a polarization on US military interests in other neighboring areas would be as follows:
Serious effects on the US worldwide military communications system (DCS) in the event Ethiopia does not permit the continued use of the DCS station at Asmara. Loss of non-DCS communications-electronics capabilities would create a void in the intelligence collection programs. (In this connection, the views3 of the Department of State with regard to continued use of this station should be noted.)
The need for US bases in the Indian Ocean would be significantly increased. Development of US facilities there would need to be accelerated.
An increase in requirements for use of South African facilities.
An improved posture for expansion of Soviet influence into other African regions.
(S) In the event of such a polarization, Israel probably would provide base and overflight rights.
(S) Attached4 are details of the specific problems which would be generated or aggravated by a polarization in the Near East resulting from the current crisis. In view of the serious adverse military implications which would probably result, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the United States should make every effort to prevent such a polarization.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2468, Middle East 092. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Letter from the Under Secretary of State, dated 8 May 1967. [Footnote in the source text. For text of Katzenbach’s letter, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXIV, Document 337.]
  4. Appendix A, “U.S. Military Interests in the Near East,” is attached but not printed.