159. Memorandum From Harold Saunders and HoskinsonSamuelof the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Intelligence on Egyptian and Soviet Cease-Fire Violations

You may well have had enough of the numbers game on Egyptian and Soviet violations of the military standstill. However, we have been making a major effort to reduce this complex intelligence problem to some simple propositions the policy-maker can work from without at the same time losing sight of the limitations involved. The following analysis includes the latest intelligence on the SAMs but it does not reveal the response on the ground to our more recent démarches in Cairo and Moscow. In other words, this memo brings the situation up to the day on which those démarches were made and tries to bridge the gap between the analysts’ problems and the policy-maker’s needs.

Intelligence Problems

First of all, it is important to note the limitations and problems associated with our intelligence on possible cease-fire violations.

Photographic intelligence can tell us a great deal but, despite all the technical sophistication that goes into this kind of analysis, it is far from being a highly developed art and has some important limitations. There are two main types of problems:

[Page 534]

1. To cover adequately the Egyptian cease-fire zone it is necessary to have photography taken with both high and low resolution cameras. The low resolution photography is necessary to cover the whole area but it can only identify the more general features of suspected SAM sites and usually not the more specific details which reveal such important facts as status (i.e. operational or not) and type of occupancy. High resolution photography is therefore taken to make up for these inadequacies, but it covers a much smaller area.

2. Most of our photography is low resolution and taken at a wide angle from the U–2s. In addition to the resolution limitation, the obliqueness of the U–2 coverage is another limitation since the farther away the target is the less detail we are able to identify and even then not all the area can be adequately covered in each flight. We can monitor most developments fairly well up to about 10 miles from the canal but beyond that the quality begins to taper off significantly. We have begun using a new higher resolution camera with the U–2s but again this presents the dilemma of being able to identify more detail but covering less area. Many gaps can be at least partially filled by using a combination of regular high and low resolution U–2 coverage supplemented by periodic high and low resolution satellite coverage.

3. There are a variety of other technical problems. These include such things as weather near the ground, upper atmospheric conditions, terrain features and the condition of the film and its development. The human analytical factor also plays a big role since many of these points are highly debatable even for highly trained photo interpreters.

Our main source of information on the SAMs is photography, but [less than 1 line not declassified] also play a role. So far, because of our [2 lines not declassified]. This appears to stem as much from budgetary and bureaucratic reasons as from the state of the art and an effort is being made to increase somewhat [4 lines not declassified]. As you know, however, [2½ lines not declassified].

Conventional clandestinely collected intelligence has so far played a very limited role in detecting possible Egyptian and Soviet cease-fire violations. It could, however, at some future point prove to be important for confirming evidence from other sources and for revealing Egyptian motives and intentions.

There is one major gap in our intelligence which prevents us from being able to document all the violations since the cease-fire went in effect on August 7. As you know, we can not be sure of what exactly happened within the Egyptian cease-fire zone in the week or so before and in the two days immediately after the cease-fire went into effect. We know that there was a substantial movement of SAMs toward the canal during this period, but because of the periodicity of our satellite missions we can not prove—even with the evidence supplied by the Is[Page 535]raelis—that there were substantial violations. Therefore, for our own working purposes, we have used the results of low resolution U–2 flights (August 9 and 11) plus good quality low resolution satellite photography on August 10 to establish a data base against which we can measure violations since then.

What this adds up to is in substantive terms:

1. Our evidence is best in documenting construction of new SAM sites. It is now possible to say that there are some sites on ground where there was no sign of activity at all before the ceasefire.2

2. It is harder to identify the status of completed sites—whether they are occupied or unoccupied or whether they are occupied by dummy, SA–2 or SA–3 equipment. This means, for instance, that, even though we have recently discovered SA–3 equipment in several SA–2 sites, we cannot say for sure that this equipment was not at these sites on August 10.

3. It is even more difficult to document the net increase of [less than 1 line not declassified] SAM battalions (particularly SA–2s). This means that it is so far not possible to prove that the Egyptians have done more than rotating units within the standstill zone without increasing their overall equipment strength, although there are fairly good circumstantial indications they have done more than this.

Intelligence Results

One major source of considerable confusion since we began trying to identify Egyptian and Soviet violations of the military standstill has been the difference between when we have discovered possible violations and when they have actually occurred. This arises essentially from the technical problem of differing quality and type of photographic coverage and the delay required for careful analysis and re-evaluation of information. Sometimes identification of activity in high resolution photographs of a given site makes it possible to look back at earlier low resolution photos and “see” evidence of activity that had not been noted in the earlier photos. What is most important for diplomatic purposes is when possible violations actually occurred—not when we discovered them. Therefore what follows is an effort to construct a “real time” analysis under the five main categories that were used in making our presentation to the Egyptians.3 This will be a “real time” picture of the situation the day we made that presentation worked out from the photos taken that day:

[Page 536]

1. SA–2 sites built before the ceasefire but not occupied on August 10. Counting from August 10 (our reliable data base), it appears that—through September 3—13 or 14 SA–2 missile sites built before the cease-fire were occupied. Two of these sites, however, were evacuated during this period so there has only been a net increase of 11 or 12 pre-cease-fire sites occupied with SA–2 equipment. We do not know how many of these occupied sites are truly [less than 1 line not declassified] and high resolution photography of these sites have been inadequate to settle that point. We also do not have sufficient [less than 1 line not declassified] whether there has been a net addition to the number of Egyptian SA–2 battalions within the cease-fire zone since the military standstill went into effect, as would be necessary if all the additionally occupied sites had become [less than 1 line not declassified]. Our intelligence analysts, however, based on their estimate of the amount of SA–2 equipment presently visible within the cease-fire zone, believe that some of it must have been brought in since August 10 since we do not know of any storage depots for SA–2 equipment within the zone. It is conceded, of course, that some of the newly occupied sites may, as the Egyptians claim, be filled with equipment relocated from previously occupied sites or from unidentified excess equipment stocks, but since only two occupied sites have been evacuated such relocation cannot account for the equipment visible at many of the 13 or 14 newly occupied SA–2 sites. That is difficult to prove, however.

2. SA–2 sites which did not exist on August 10 and have since been constructed and sites partly built by August 10 on which significant construction has continued since. The Egyptians have also been constructing and occupying new SA–2 sites within the cease-fire zone. We have clear evidence of Egyptian construction work on twelve SA–2 sites. Work began on six of these sites after August 10 (four since August 27), and, although construction had begun on the other six sites apparently before the cease-fire, they have been finished or nearly finished since August 10. Three of these sites have been occupied.

3. SA–2 battalions field deployed since August 10. Two battalions have been field deployed.

4. SA–3 battalions field deployed since August 10. As you know, the Soviets are also involved in possible cease-fire violations. As of August 10 we were able to identify five Soviet-manned and occupied SA–3 sites within the cease-fire zone. We suspect that some or all of these may only have been occupied after the cease-fire went into effect (on August 8 and 9) but we cannot prove this. In addition to these suspected Soviet violations, we have evidence of the deployment of two additional SA–3 units in what appears to be a field unit configuration. Both of the deployments were completed after the cease-fire (by August 18), although one of the deployments may have been partially completed by [Page 537] August 10 and we cannot be sure whether this was actually begun before the cease-fire.

We have also identified four SA–3 units occupying SA–2 configured sites. The SA–3 equipment was only discovered in high resolution photography in late August and the sites were previously identified on the basis of low resolution photography as occupied SA–2s. The SA–3 equipment may, however, have been in the sites since the military standstill went into effect. At least we cannot prove otherwise.

Standstill Violations

As you know, there are considerably different Egyptian (and by inference Soviet) and Israeli/U.S. interpretations of the military standstill provisions of the cease-fire agreement. The official UAR position is that they (and by inference, the Soviet forces in Egypt too) are permitted to rotate and relocate SAM missiles and equipment from site to site, as well as complete the construction of sites where work was initiated prior to the cease-fire. We and the Israelis do not accept this loose interpretation of the terms of the cease-fire and our views were clearly placed on the record shortly after the cease-fire in both Cairo and Moscow. The Israelis, of course, have pinned us down to a very strict interpretation of the standstill.

Most of the evidence of violations that we have acquired relates to the area of difference between the Egyptian/Soviet and Israeli/U.S. interpretations. In fact, in only six instances do we have evidence of brand new post-August 10 construction starts, all SA–2s. In addition, we have one instance of the field deployment begun and completed since August 10 of an SA–3 unit—an apparent Soviet violation. Presumably, this Egyptian and Soviet activity would be a violation even by their definitions.

The case against the Egyptians and Soviets is much more impressive, of course, when viewed from our strict interpretation of the cease-fire agreement and based on circumstantial evidence. But we cannot prove all of it sufficiently to make a strong case on the specifics in Cairo and Moscow. All we can really use against the Egyptian and Soviets, even using our interpretation of the cease-fire agreement, are the following violations:

—The Egyptian construction of twelve SA–2 sites, three of which have been occupied. Six of these are the sites started since the cease-fire (three of which have also been occupied) which are violations even by the Egyptian definition. The other six were all begun before the cease-fire but construction had been stopped probably because of Israeli bombing. The present construction on these sites involves substantial improvements and clearly represents an Egyptian effort to take advantage of the cease-fire.

[Page 538]

—Both of the Soviet field deployments of SA–3 units can be proved to be violations. As mentioned above, one is even a violation in Egyptian/Soviet terms. The other unit appears to have been partially deployed as of August 10 and then finished by August 18.


Our information ideally could be better, but it seems very clear that the Soviets and Egyptians have continued to erect their missile complex within the cease-fire zone along the Egyptian side of the Canal. This is apparently a continuation, albeit at much less intensity, of the big movement of the SAMs toward the Canal in the days immediately before the cease-fire. We cannot document all of the moves precisely but we have a very good idea, in gross terms, what has happened.

There are limitations to our intelligence but these are not likely to be resolved by the information the Israelis pick up with their almost daily overflights of the Egyptian cease-fire zone [less than 1 line not declassified]. The people at DIA, who have worked most closely with the Israelis, have found that their intelligence has not turned up anything important that we have not identified ourselves. In fact, so far as we can determine, we have discovered more possible violations than they have, especially concerning the Soviet-manned SA–3s. Our photography is more precise than theirs.

Because of the nature of this kind of intelligence, we can expect continuing clarifications. This will be especially true when good quality high resolution photography is acquired from satellite coverage. This means that the numbers game will continue as we refine our knowledge of what has happened. We know enough already, however, to be reasonably confident in our protests to the Egyptians and Soviets. Our main interest now is in their response on the ground to our démarches. Intelligence on this aspect should be available later this week. U–2 missions were flown on September 6 and 8 and together—all other things being equal—these may provide us with our first good indications of how the Egyptians and Soviets are reacting. Because of the limitations in this kind of intelligence, it may—if there are more violations of standstill—be a while before we can construct a case good enough to call them on.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 656, Country Files, Middle East, Mideast Ceasefire, Vol. II. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. It was sent back to Saunders to answer Kissinger’s query; see footnote 2 below. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified.
  2. In the margin, Kissinger wrote: “How many?”
  3. Presumably Bergus’s presentation of “factual data” on September 3. See Document 158 and footnote 3 thereto.