65. Editorial Note

On May 31, 1973, Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research Ray S. Cline presented an Information Memorandum to Secretary of State Rogers that argued the case for war largely on political grounds. “INR is inclined to state the case on the risk of hostilities for a political purpose with a little more urgency [than the NIE]. If the UN debate of next week produces no convincing movement in the Israeli-Egyptian impasse, our view is that the resumption of hostilities by autumn will become a better than even bet.” Reference is to NIE 30–73, Document 59. The memorandum continues:

Sadat’s national security adviser . . . has recently been saying . . . that the no-war, no peace situation is more dangerous for the future of Egypt than war itself . . . [and this] probably accurately stated Sadat’s feeling. . . . Sadat has long preferred a political settlement to renewed [Page 194]combat . . . [but] mounting evidence indicates that he is becoming ever more strongly tempted to resort to arms. . . .

“Although he has no illusions that Egypt can defeat Israel militarily, he seems on the verge of concluding that only limited hostilities against Israel stand any real chance of breaking the negotiating stalemate by forcing the big powers to intervene with an imposed solution. Should he shed his last doubts about whether military action is essential to achieve this American shift, the only remaining decision would relate to the timing and scope of his move. . . .

“It is not very relevant to weigh the credibility of any particular military scenario. From Sadat’s point of view, the overriding desideratum is some form of military action which can be sustained long enough, despite Israel’s counterattacks, both to activate Washington and Moscow and to galvanize the other Arab states, especially the major oil producers, into anti-American moves.”

The memorandum has not been found, but these excerpts, which include the brackets and ellipses, are quoted in the December 20 paper prepared by the Intelligence Community staff, “The Performance of the Intelligence Community Before the Arab-Israeli War of October 6, 1973: A Preliminary Post-Mortem Report,” parts of which are printed as Document 412.

Henry Kissinger also mentioned the memorandum in his memoirs when discussing the intelligence available to policymakers before the outbreak of the fighting in October. (Years of Upheaval, page 462)

At a conference in Washington October 9–10, 1998, to discuss the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Roger Merrick, who drafted the memorandum for INR, stated that “the central judgment was that there was a better than 50 percent chance of major hostilities between Egypt and Israel within six months unless there was a major, credible U.S. peace initiative.” Because of this judgment, Merrick noted, Kissinger asked Cline and Joseph Sisco “to reconcile their different positions on the likelihood of major hostilities. Mike Sterner, country director for Egypt, drafted several papers which were rejected by INR. The dispute between INR and NEA continued throughout the summer and fall until hostilities erupted.” Sisco, who also attended the conference, commented on this dispute: “The reason why there was an ambiguous reaction, certainly on my own part, as to how seriously that ought to be taken was that I was getting Israeli assurances that things were okay. . . . So, Roger, I was getting really two views, the essence from what Ray Cline was telling me, and what I was getting on the Israeli side.” (Parker, The October War, pages 113–125)