22. Report Prepared by the Special State-Defense Study Group1




In late March 1967, the Special State-Defense Study Group undertook a study to develop perspectives on how best the United States could promote its long term national interests in the region encompassing the Near East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.2 The study group operated under the auspices of a Senior Policy Group consisting of the Deputy Secretary of Defense; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. The content of this report represents the views of the study group and not necessarily those of the Senior Policy Group. Participating members of the study group were:

  • Ambassador Julius C. Holmes, Study Director
  • Brigadier General Stephen W. Henry, USAF, Deputy Study Director
  • Raymond W. Alexander, Captain, USN, Chief of Staff
  • [name not declassified] Central Intelligence Agency
  • Robert J. Davenport, Colonel, USA
  • William H. Fielder, Major, USA
  • Frank A. Kierman, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Raymond A. Komorowski, Captain, USN
  • Dr. William H. Lewis, Department of State
  • Edward F. Miller, Department of Interior
  • George C. Moore, Department of State
  • Willard A. Nichols, Colonel USAF
  • Frank G. Siscoe, Department of State
  • Joseph J. Wagner, Department of State
  • William B. Westfall, Colonel, USAF

As originally conceived, the study was to consist of an analysis in depth of U.S. interests and policy objectives as they interact with the interests of other powers and with the evolution of forces and trends within the area. The purpose was to provide policy makers with doctrinal guidance that would be relevant to U.S. policy toward the area for the period 1967-1972.

The Middle East crisis of May 1967, culminating in Arab-Israeli hostilities on 5 June, so profoundly affected the regional situation as to cause a reconsideration of the continuing validity of the original study concept. It was determined that certain primal elements within the study area would continue to dictate the broad pattern of events and that a regional study covering the longer term would still be of value. On that basis, the study group was directed to continue, integrating into its efforts as much of the post-hostilities situation as could be discerned. The scope of the study effort was foreshortened and the focus shifted toward the development of a U.S. strategy for the five year period. The immediate problems of a post-war settlement are not addressed except as necessary to develop a longer range perspective.

It is recognized that resumption of large-scale Arab vs. Israeli hostilities would once again change drastically the factors on which this study is based, although as previously suggested, the significance of the residual factors is apt to remain high. The study group has proceeded on the assumption that such a war will not again occur within the five year period. Evidence is far from conclusive at this early stage and the possibility of Soviet cooperation in achieving a basic settlement of area problems appears remote, but there are elements in the situation which support this assumption. The study group believes that the general policy and specific initiatives recommended in the study would remain valid even in the event of renewed hostilities. Furthermore, they should help to delay or possibly prevent large-scale fighting.

Within this framework, the study offers an appraisal of the basic forces and problems of the Near East, North Africa and Horn of Africa and their impact on U.S. national interests. It proposes long term U.S. policy objectives, outlines a strategy for the U.S. over the next five years and recommends a series of policy initiatives to promote attainment of the objectives.


At mid-summer 1967 the Arab-Israel problem is at center stage in the triangle of counties covered by this study. However, narrow attention to the recent war and its aftermath can cloud evaluation of how [Page 51] forces in the area interact with U.S. and USSR global interests. It is abundantly clear that the USSR has a firm policy to achieve dominant influence in the eastern and southern Mediterranean basin. It is equally clear that the Arabs are as emotionally committed to destruction of Israel as were their ancestors to elimination of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Soviets use Arab hatred of Israel to advance their interests and the Arabs use the Soviet presence and assistance to further their objective. The result is a situation which is damaging and dangerous for United States interests. These interests relate to the security and orientation of Western Europe which are of primary importance for the United States. In recent years the USSR has masked its direct threat to Europe by proclaiming a desire for detente but has continued that threat indirectly by its thrust into the Mediterranean. The Soviet Union has turned the area into a field of competition beyond which lie the ultimate targets of Europe and the worldwide position of the United States.

U.S. National Interests

U.S. interests in the study area are:

  • —to prevent the Soviet Union or other hostile states from securing a predominant position.
  • —to establish a basic compatibility between the West and the forces of political, social and economic modernization in the region and to prevent their falling under Soviet control.
  • —to maintain the means of strategic access, particularly through the Mediterranean, that are required if Western strength is to be brought to bear in the Northern Tier of Greece, Turkey and Iran; and to hinder Soviet access to the region by strengthening the Northern Tier countries themselves.
  • —to continue the use of U.S. military operational and strategic intelligence facilities insofar as they are needed to fulfill area and global needs. However, conditions could occur in which the presence of these facilities might imperil the political existence of host governments. In such cases, our use of the facilities will become less important than continuation of moderate Western-oriented regimes.
  • —to preserve free world access to area oil supplies on acceptable terms. Although the U.S. is not itself dependent on this oil for its economic viability, Western Europe and Japan would face sharp economic dislocation, at least in the near term, if Middle Eastern oil were cut off.
  • —to protect U.S. private investments and insure reasonable access to markets for U.S. commerce, both of which equate primarily to oil activities. In combination, net return from oil in the Arab countries and other trade with them contributes about one billion dollars annually [Page 52] toward the U.S. balance of payments. Additionally, U.S. interests are involved in the critical dependence of the U.K.’s world financial position on oil revenues and Britain’s ability to purchase its petroleum needs for sterling.
  • —to preserve the independence of Israel, as dictated by the broad sentiments of the American people.

Soviet Activities

In the study area, the Soviet Union pursues its indirect attack on Europe by using all means to eliminate Western, mainly U.S., influence; to disrupt NATO, CENTO and bilateral Western security ties in the area; and to obtain comparable positions of political, military and economic influence for itself. Its few direct material interests in the region are subordinate to these broad strategic goals. It is principally limited by the concern that local conflicts do not lead to direct U.S.-USSR hostilities and that Communist China does not gain from these situations. It profits from and fosters friction between Western-oriented and other states. It desires the continuation of Arab hostility to Israel since, by siding with the Arabs, it can count on long-term gains. It supports the radical Arab states, primarily the UAR, Algeria and Syria. At the same time it is opportunistic, ready to develop closer relations with any area state regardless of its political orientation and willing to take advantage of Western failures to give requested assistance. This is particularly true in the supply of arms, which the USSR does liberally, with great flexibility and success. It shows no concern for the destabilizing effects of weapons shipments and no interest in formal arms control arrangements. A change in this pattern of Soviet activity is not to be expected during the five-year period of this study.

Certain trends in the area favor these Soviet tactics. The USSR is a relative newcomer to the region, not hampered by previous ties. It benefits from popular opposition to real or fancied Western “imperialism.” It is favored by the continued domestic political flux in much of the study area and the anti-Westernism of increasingly more vocal and dissatisfied social elements.

Favorable Factors

There are also many factors which work in favor of the U.S. As the USSR becomes more firmly tied to certain policies, regimes and leaders, it will lose flexibility of response. It will face growing problems of conflicting interests among countries which it supports. Most importantly, its attempts to dominate the region will conflict increasingly with popular aspirations of independence, nationalism and Arabism. The U.S. and the West have solidly based ties of friendship and mutual interest with many of the area countries, particularly the Northern Tier. There is a reservoir of strength in the large numbers of persons [Page 53] throughout the area who have been trained in Western concepts. There are ties with the West of mutual economic interest, embodied in private commercial and oil enterprises and in the availability of vast amounts of capital and expertise for development.

Strategy for the United States

The following strategy for the U.S. is designed to blunt the Soviet drive and to capitalize on those forces which favor our interests. Central to this strategy is the conviction that any diminution of Soviet influence, even if initially favorable only to Western European nations, will ultimately benefit the U.S. The interlocking principles of this strategy are:

  • Safeguard the southern flank of Europe through diversification of Western involvement. Since World War II, the U.S. has often had to deal with problems in the study area virtually unaided and at considerable cost. There are major Western European interests remaining in the region; but our European allies have been unwilling fully to recognize this and to assume their share of the burden. Europe is a natural source of influence in the region. Consequently, the U.S. should press for greater unilateral and multilateral involvement of Western Europe, commensurate with its interests. France should play a stronger role, particularly in North Africa. DeGaulle’s present position is not promising for the type of coordinated activity foreseen. However, the study group believes that French national interests will increasingly impel it in this direction, even though it may only be after DeGaulle that France again fully recognizes the extent to which its own interests and those of the U.S. are commingled both in Europe and the study area. The greater involvement of other powers in the region will also lessen the present tendency toward unstable bipolarization and a direct U.S.-USSR confrontation.
  • Strengthen the blocking power of the Northern Tier of Greece, Turkey and Iran. These states are of priority interest to the Soviets because of their Western security orientation and their geographic position. A secure Mediterranean remains the vital link between these countries and the Western alliance. There are serious doubts in the minds of Turkish, Iranian and Greek leaders concerning the likely responsiveness of the U.S. and most of the NATO community to Soviet challenges. Therefore the highest importance must be placed on strengthening U.S. and European ties with the Northern Tier. U.S. support for Turkey and Iran should emphasize more competitive U.S. terms for both economic and military assistance to counter Soviet efforts. Turkey and Iran also should be encouraged to play more influential roles in neighboring Arab states.
  • Lessen the public U.S. role in Arab-Israeli relations. U.S. interest in the security of Israel is at variance with other U.S. interests in the Near [Page 54] East, where the drawbacks of our association with Israel outweigh any advantages it could bring us. Nonetheless, the sentiment of the American people and government is such that in time of crisis the U.S. will support Israel. The U.S. should adopt a less obvious and direct role in Arab-Israel affairs to ease the impact on daily U.S.-Arab relations and reduce the extent to which the USSR profits. To avoid untenable positions, we should not in the future give broad assurances of concern for the territorial integrity and political independence of all area states.
  • Seek to rebuild U.S. relations with the Arab states, concentrating on the moderates. Reality compels us to build on those positions of strength we now have in states which are in various degrees fearful of and opposed to Egyptian imperialism. We will have to be more forthcoming materially and politically than in the past, but should avoid additional security assurances which harness us to particular leaders. Although we will be accused of siding with conservative monarchs, the distinction between so-called “revolutionary” and “evolutionary” routes to modernization is largely theoretical and need not disturb us. We must, however, press our friends toward modernization and political reform as being in their own interest. Prospects for the early establishment of harmonious U.S.-UAR relations are exceedingly slim. The U.S. cannot accept Egyptian efforts to resolve the Palestine question through force, eliminate Western presence or influence in the Middle East, or topple moderate Arab leaders. The foundations for long term U.S.-UAR cooperation can be laid only when Cairo signifies its willingness to develop communities of interest based on mutual trust and respect. Meanwhile, Western European nations should be encouraged to exercise whatever means they can to maintain the Western position in the UAR, and the U.S. should endeavor to keep the door open for development of mutual interests whenever this can be done with dignity. Comparable difficulties exist with Algeria. For the next few years, the principal expression of U.S. concern for Egypt and Algeria may have to emanate from private institutions.
  • Center primary U.S. interest in the Horn of Africa on Ethiopia. Our overriding concern has been the retention of the Kagnew Station facility. We have, however, developed more lasting assets among the modern element—particularly the military—which will constitute the important power center in the post-Selassie period. We should anticipate future developments by the gradual removal from Kagnew of activities that can be carried on elsewhere and plan for eventual total relocation when possible or necessary. Although withdrawal from Kagnew will reduce Ethiopian leverage for obtaining arms from us, we should continue to meet reasonable requests for military assistance. We should couple this assistance with pressure for Ethiopian armed forces reorganization as well as social and economic reforms. Somalia and the Sudan [Page 55] are of secondary importance. We should try to maintain some position of influence in both countries to protect our regional interest in Ethiopia. For the same reason, we should encourage the French to remain in French Somaliland or, upon decolonization, to maintain a significant base and provide a territorial guarantee.
  • Seek an improved U.S. military ability to operate in the area, consistent with political realities. The ability of the U.S. to support its interest or commitments in the area with military power involves complex political problems ranging from overflight and access rights to over-identification of U.S. power with specific nations in the region. Consideration of the possible employment of U.S. military forces has been conditioned by so many interacting and conflicting political factors that the credibility of U.S. commitments and extent of U.S. will to use military means are suspect by both friends and potential foes. To meet these difficulties in the Red Sea-Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf region, we should establish an “on call” military capability and regularly exercise it into the area. Politically secure bases in the British Indian Ocean Territories and alternate air access routes should be sought. To avoid U.S. over-commitment, planning for protection of U.S. and Western European interests should be multinational. In those area countries where we have a permanent military presence, we should strive for a low visibility to minimize problems for host governments.
  • Supply conventional arms pragmatically and flexibly to promote U.S. national interests, tempered by certain restraining guidelines. The supply and acquisition of arms are functions of the political context in which they occur. They are reflections of political events rather than primary causes of tension. Limitation efforts have little chance of success unless potential suppliers believe they would enhance their interests. Furthermore, states tend to measure the degree of their supporters’ concern by their willingness to fulfill requests for arms. The USSR has continuously used the provision of weapons as the chief tool for promoting its political advantage in the area and is expected to continue to do so. It has no desire to enter limitation agreements. Since this is the case, we cannot unilaterally renounce the supply of arms as a tool for promotion of our interests. We desire certain states to be able to defend themselves. Additionally, furnishing weapons is a partial quid pro quo for our use of needed special facilities. For these additional reasons we should continue to supply arms on a pragmatic and flexible basis. Gradual increases in arms levels are to be expected until the evolution of events shows the USSR that its gains through an open arms policy are ephemeral. Although this is not apt to occur in the next five years, we should be alert for this eventuality and seize appropriate opportunities to probe Soviet receptivity to limitation agreements; should generally not supply any party to a dispute with a more sophisticated capability [Page 56] than is available to the other side; should where possible divert arms requests to other Western suppliers; and should seek a coordinated position among all Western suppliers.
  • Dissuade Israel and the Arabs from acquisition of nuclear weapons and strategic missiles and press for acceptance of international safeguards. The Arabs have no discernible prospects for developing nuclear weapons. They are not likely to receive meaningful assistance in this field from the USSR nor to jeopardize the further receipt of Soviet economic aid by accepting such help from Communist China so long as Israel does not have a nuclear capability. Israel, on the other hand, has the ability on its own to develop nuclear weapons in the relatively near future. Similarly, while the Arabs are not apt soon to obtain operational strategic missiles, Israel may receive such missiles under a contract with the French in the next two years. Forestalling Israeli acquisition of either nuclear weapons or missiles is of critical importance for area stability. Since Israel may develop the nuclear option for fear that its qualitative superiority in conventional arms will ultimately vanish, U.S. strategy should be composed ideally of two interlocking elements: the use of all possible means of pressure to induce Israel to accept suitable international safeguards on its nuclear activities and to delay indefinitely receipt of missiles; and, if needed as a bargaining tactic, the formal but secret guarantee by the U.S. to maintain Israel’s qualitative superiority in conventional arms, from western European sources if possible, otherwise from the U.S.
  • Apply new techniques in the technical assistance field and encourage regional economic development. The drive for modernization is a fundamental phenomenon in the region. However, most study area states have expanding economic development needs which severely tax their modest capabilities in the public service, planning, financial and marketing fields. Their problems are compounded by multiplying populations and, for most, insufficient capital. It is important to the U.S. that the Soviet Union not be the uncontested supplier of these needs. The declining level of U.S. funds available for foreign development assistance limits the financial burden we can assume. However, there are specific inexpensive techniques which should be adopted for providing U.S. technical assistance and for assuring for the U.S. a role in modernization efforts. Although local political considerations frequently outweigh rational economic arguments for regional cooperative efforts, we should also seek to develop plans and projects that promise benefits on a regional basis, particularly those that spring from application of modern technological concepts.

Policy Initiatives

This study recommends thirty-seven specific policy initiatives for implementation of the proposed strategy. They vary in difficulty of application. However, it is envisaged that the full gamut of resources available [Page 57] to the United States would be used as appropriate to develop these initiatives, including bilateral and multilateral governmental discussions; political action programs; USIA activities; facilities of the U.N., IMF, IBRD and other public international agencies; and encouragement of the efforts of private organizations. These policy initiatives are, in summary:

  • Mediterranean Region: initiate discussions to focus the attention of Western European nations, particularly France, on their own security interests and the need to take greater responsibility; urge them to strengthen ties with radical states where the U.S. has little influence; promote combined NATO military planning for contingencies in the study area; create a small permanent NATO Mediterranean naval force.
  • Northern Tier: designate Turkey and Iran as countries for concentrated U.S. military and economic support; provide comparable aid to Greece; provide additional incentives for U.S. private investment and trade in Turkey and Iran; press the NATO countries to share in providing military assistance to Turkey; conduct low-level NATO naval exercises off the Turkish Black Sea littoral; preempt further Soviet arms sales to Iran; encourage greater Turkish and Iranian roles in neighboring Arab states.
  • North Africa: urge greater Western European, particularly French, involvement in economic development; press France to give greater military assistance to Algeria, reinstitute its military aid programs in Morocco and Tunisia, and play an active role in settling border disputes between Algeria and its neighbors.
  • Eastern Arab states and Israel: reduce U.S. prominence in Arab-Israel affairs, avoiding public unilateral initiatives while striving to perform an indirect conciliatory role; concentrate on support for multilateral solutions to the refugee problem; avoid any further broad assurances for the territorial integrity and political independence of all area states; insure that Israeli qualitative conventional arms superiority over potential Arab opponents is maintained; seek Israeli acceptance of international supervision of its nuclear activities, secretly guaranteeing its conventional arms superiority as a bargaining tactic if all other pressure fails; strengthen U.S. support of the conservative states; maintain a reserved official posture toward radical states, working through private U.S. institutions to cultivate mutual interests in non-controversial fields; assist the British to remain in the Persian Gulf and encourage Saudi Arabia to assume greater responsibility there; seek normal diplomatic relations with whatever regime arises in South Arabia and take no initiatives with respect to Yemen.
  • Horn of Africa: begin gradual reduction of U.S. presence at Kagnew Station; promise needed military assistance to Ethiopia, while pressing for the reorganization of the armed forces and social and economic reforms; in Somalia, continue a low level of development [Page 58] activities and police training; encourage France to remain in French Somaliland and to link ultimate departure to retention of a French base and security guarantee for the new state.
  • —General Military Actions: create a modest multinational Indian Ocean naval force; establish an “on call” military capability, with forces ranging from the U.S. component of the multinational naval force to elements of the strategic reserve, supported by the C5A aircraft/Fast Deployment Logistic ship mix; regularly exercise “on call” forces into the Red Sea-Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf region; establish U.S.-U.K. facilities at Aldabra and Diego Garcia at an early date; plan alternate air access routes to the Near East; develop contingency alternatives for Kagnew Station and Wheelus AFB.
  • Technical Assistance: supply some AID financing for broadened activities of U.S. management firms; assign Technology Advisers to U.S. Embassies where we no longer have AID programs; subsidize salaries to facilitate employment by area governments of U.S. technicians and advisers; detail U.S. government experts to governments in the study area; encourage regional cooperation for application of new technological concepts for development.

[Here follows the body of the report in 5 chapters constituting the remainder of Volume I and Volume II, consisting of 6 annexes.]

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 A 2468, Middle East 319.2, 17 July 67. Secret. A stamped notation on the report indicates it was received in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on July 17 at 12:49 p.m. Attached to the memorandum is a July 17 transmittal memorandum from Ambassador Holmes to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs explaining that the report consists of an examination of U.S. national interests and develops a series of interlocking strategies and recommended policy initiatives which, if undertaken, should help to relieve many of the existing U.S. difficulties in the Middle East. Holmes noted that, taken together, these strategies and policy initiatives could serve as a sound doctrinal foundation for U.S. actions.
  2. For purposes of this study regional groupings are defined as: Near East—United Arab Republic, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Persian Gulf States, Muscat and Oman, and the South Arabian States. North Africa—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Horn of Africa—Sudan, Ethiopia, French Somaliland, and Somalia. Middle East—The area encompassing all of the above. (See Map, p. iv) [Footnote in the source text; the map is not reproduced.]