52. Special National Intelligence Estimate1

SNIE 11-9-68


The Problem

To assess Soviet policy toward Middle East since the June war, and to estimate Soviet intentions, particularly with respect to the UAR, Yemen, and Jordan.


The main Soviet objective in the Middle East remains essentially the same as before the June war—to win for the USSR a position as dominant foreign power in the area. The Soviets face both new problems [Page 114] and new opportunities. Nonetheless the radical Arabs are now more dependent on the USSR, and the Soviets probably judge that the new opportunities will compensate for such losses as they suffered as a result of the Arab defeat.
The Soviets are not likely to make binding military commitments to any Arab states, and they will almost certainly remain wary of direct involvement even in limited conflicts in the Middle East. They probably do not intend to establish actual Soviet military bases in the area, but will seek instead to help the Arabs develop ports and air bases which might be used by Soviet forces on a limited basis. The Soviets will improve the capabilities of their naval forces in the Mediterranean and of their sea and airlift capabilities in general. They will probably continue to use their forces in the Middle East for essentially political purposes-to influence events and to improve their position in the region. Nonetheless, resumption of Arab-Israeli hostilities would produce a dangerous and essentially unpredictable situation, in which the risks of Soviet involvement, by accident or miscalculation, might be greater than before.
The Soviets will probably continue to give strong, though not unlimited, backing to Nasser, whom they continue to regard as their chief Arab ally. Despite some mutual irritants, and despite Nasser’s desire to maintain independence, Soviet and UAR policies on important issues are congruent-notably, opposition to US influence in the area, a cautious policy toward Israel, and at least short-term accommodation between Arab radicals and moderates.
In Jordan, the Soviets are attempting to extend their influence by generous offers of military aid. We believe that Hussein will accept Soviet arms if the Western Powers fail to offer an acceptable alternative. He would still try to maintain countervailing ties with conservative Arabs and the West, but over time revolutionary forces in Jordan would be strengthened.
In Yemen, Soviet military aid and activity is probably aimed at preventing the collapse of the Republican regime. But the Soviets have now moved to limit their involvement, possibly because they have revised their estimate of Republican prospects, and they are encouraging a negotiated settlement. They will, however, probably continue some aid as long as the Republican regime can make use of it, hoping in this way to preserve some influence in Yemen and eventually to promote Soviet interests in South Yemen. In doing so, they will probably try to avoid the kind of overt bid for dominance which would kindle adverse reactions in the area, particularly among their Arab clients.

[Here follows the 7-page Discussion section of the estimate.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration,RG 59, NEA Files: Lot 71 D 384, Special Documents-1968. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet, the estimate was submitted by Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Rufus Taylor, and concurred in by the U.S. Intelligence Board on January 18.