124. Memorandum From William B. Quandt and Donald Stukel of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Arab-Israeli Situation Report

Ambassador Keating reports that today will be critical to the Israeli position, as the IDF, now fully mobilized seeks to regain lost ground on the Syrian front.2 The eventual outcome of the fighting is not in doubt, but the price to be paid for expelling Syrian and Egyptian forces will be high. Already the Israelis have admitted to 35 aircraft lost in suppressing SAM sites in Syria, an unexpectedly large number. The Syrians have apparently captured some of the pilots.

The Egyptians have apparently gained control of the entire east bank of the Canal, with at least 500 tanks having crossed, along with 20–25,000 troops. Israeli air attacks this morning initially concentrated on suppressing SAMs on the western bank of the Canal, a necessary prelude to a counterattack against the Egyptian forces on the east bank. The Israeli Embassy here claims that Israeli armor has crossed to the West Bank of the Canal as part of an encircling move designed to wipe out SAM sites and cut off the Egyptian forces in Sinai. We have little in[Page 367]formation on this as yet, but it obviously would open a new dimension to the fighting.

Israeli leaders are clearly not pleased with the course of the fighting, although they appear to be confident of the outcome. The Israeli public has not been made aware of the extent of Israeli losses. It appears as if intense fighting will continue today on both fronts.

It is worth noting that neither side has yet attacked population centers or industrial sites, although the Egyptians did try to sink a tanker en route to Eilat with oil from Iran. If the Israelis do succeed in crossing the Canal into Egypt, however, attacks could spread beyond the current lines.

Pressures are obviously mounting in Jordan to join the battle, and Jordan has claimed shooting down one Israeli aircraft. Other Arab countries have promised to make contributions, and Iraq has announced it will send troops and aircraft. Morocco has indicated that 3,000 troops are available to be airlifted to the Egyptian front. On balance, it would seem that only Jordan’s participation in the fighting is likely to be particularly important, while the other Arab involvement would be less significant.

We still have no reports of attacks on American citizens in any Arab countries. Nor has Soviet activity been of particular concern. Libya has been unusually quiet, with Qadhafi offering money but not troops.

From our perspective today, the most important developments are the following:

—If Israel has crossed to the West Bank of the Canal, the possibility of both sides accepting the formula of cease-fire status quo ante will increase.

—If Israeli casualties and aircraft losses grow, Israel may resort to unconventional tactics of trying to outflank Syrian forces by going through Lebanon or Jordan, thus risking the broadening of the war. If we hope to keep Jordan out of the fighting, we may have to talk to both Israelis and Jordanians soon.

Israel will doubtless request some urgent arms deliveries. We should probably hold off for another day, but on a contingency basis look into what can be done rapidly.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 664, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East War, Memos & Misc., Oct. 6–Oct. 17, 1973. Secret. Sent for information. A notation by Scowcroft reads: “HAK has seen.”
  2. At 1041Z (6:41 a.m. Washington time) on October 8, Keating reported in telegram 7847 from Tel Aviv, that he was still fairly certain that Israel would win. He noted that as soon as Embassy officers had a better idea of how long the war would last and what it would cost Israel, they would be better able to judge the direction in which the U.S. Government could usefully seek to guide Israeli policy. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) At 1140Z (7:40 a.m. Washington time), October 8, in telegram 1531 from USDAO/Tel Aviv, the Defense Attaché reported that IDF ground forces with close IAF support had shifted to counter-attack on both fronts that morning. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 660, Country Files, Middle East, [Computer Cables—Mideast War—1], October 1973)
  3. At 11:20 p.m. on October 7, Dinitz called Kissinger to report that the Soviets were definitely involved in the Syrian operation and to complain that when Israelis had gone to make arrangements for transporting the promised U.S. military equipment and had a plane ready to take them, the Americans would not let the plane land at any U.S. airbases. Kissinger replied: “That’s nonsense. We had it all arranged.” Dinitz said that the Israelis were working on chartering an American plane to fly to Israel. After exclaiming “Oh, those God Damn idiots,” Kissinger suggested that they keep the plane in the United States to transport some of the ammunition the next day. (Ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 22)