76. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1
MILITARY CAPABILITIES OF ISRAEL AND THE ARAB STATES
Israel could almost certainly attain air superiority over the Sinai Peninsula in 24 hours after taking the initiative or in two or three days [Page 139]if the UAR struck first. In the latter case, Israel might lose up to half of its air force. We estimate that armored striking forces could breach the UAR’s double defense line in the Sinai within several days. Regrouping and resupplying would be required before the Israelis could initiate further attacks aimed at driving to the Suez Canal. Israel could contain any attacks by Syria or Jordan during this period.
I. General Assessment
- The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are at a numerical disadvantage to the combined strength of Israel’s Arab neighbors in terms of aircraft, armor, artillery, naval vessels, and manpower. Nonetheless, the IDF maintain qualitative superiority over the Arab armed forces in almost all aspects of combat operations. The high quality of training and maintenance, the degree of operational proficiency, and the important, but intangible, morale factor give the advantage to the IDF, which operates through a single command structure and over interior lines of communication.
- In contrast, the Arab states are hampered by a lack of cohesiveness and by friction among Arab leaders. The United Arab Command (UAC), even at the present state of alert, is ineffective either as a command or a coordinating structure. Only the UAR, Syria, and Iraq are coordinating military activity to any extent. Jordan, with limited offensive strength, is reluctant to become heavily engaged. Iraqi participation is limited by distance and internal security needs. Lebanon has no offensive capability. The principal Arab military strength lies with the UAR, which has now mobilized and has deployed the equivalent of about five divisions for a strength of over 50,000 in the Sinai Peninsula. Though field experience acquired by Egyptian forces in Yemen has improved their over-all military capabilities, the presence of some 35,000 UAR troops in Yemen and limited reserves at home restrict the additional forces available for use against Israel.
[Omitted here is more detailed discussion.]
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, CIA Intelligence Memoranda, 5/67–7/67. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]. Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Intelligence. An attached note from Helms to the President states, “This is our response to your request of two days ago that we review again the military capabilities of Israel versus the Arab States.”↩