52. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Schlesinger to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Middle East Military Situation

Attached is our assessment of the present military situation between the Arab states and Israel.2

The pattern of Arab activity does not suggest that an outbreak of hostilities is likely before the UN debate on the Middle East in late May, and we doubt that Sadat will decide to try a major operation within the next six weeks.

The moves that the Arabs have made, taken collectively, have the objective at this time of bringing maximum psychological pressure on the US and Israel. There is danger that these moves will in the future develop some momentum of their own.

The Soviets are seriously concerned and are counseling the Arabs against precipitate military action, even though some Soviet officials have contributed to keeping a relatively high level of tension in the Middle East area.

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The Israelis are watching the situation closely, and probably are more concerned than their intelligence assessments indicate. So far, these assessments still judge that Sadat will not go to war.3

JR Schlesinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 647, Country Files, Middle East (General) Vol. #9, 1972[–August 1974]. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached, but not printed.
  3. On May 4, the U.S. Interests Section in Cairo sent an assessment of the prospects for peace or war in the Middle East in telegram 1316, which noted that Sadat and the Government of Egypt seemed to despair of the United States playing a role in a peace settlement acceptable to Egypt, yet also hoped that it would come around before it was too late, i.e., by producing some change in the Israeli position. Egyptian officials spoke of a “grave situation” with the “only remaining option being military action.” Diplomatic colleagues in Cairo increasingly thought that this might happen either by an “admittedly self-destructive Egyptian initiative, or by Israeli preemptive action provoked by Egyptian rhetoric.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)