Friday, July 20, 2007

Marwan Forwarned...or Did He?

A Hidden Alley in the Arab-Israeli Maze (2 Letters) relating to: Who Killed Ashraf Marwan? (July 13, 2007):

To the Editor:

In a forthcoming study, we present new evidence confirming the assumption that Ashraf Marwan was deployed by the Egyptian authorities to convey disinformation, to Britain as well as to Israel.

Our study includes a cable from a British military attaché in Cairo dated July 22, 1972, four days after President Anwar el-Sadat announced what became fixated in Western and Israeli perceptions as “the expulsion of Soviet advisers.”

We established that this was not a unilateral Egyptian move, but a voluntary withdrawal, and that the Soviet servicemen who left Egypt were not advisers. They were mainly the personnel of the integral Soviet military formations that had been stationed in Egypt since the war of attrition in 1969-70.

The actual advisers mostly remained to prepare Sadat’s cross-canal offensive in October 1973.

The British attaché quoted Mr. Marwan — while requesting that the source “should be fully protected” — as stating “in strict personal confidence” that “all the Soviet advisers had left Egypt” by the time of their conversation.

Mr. Marwan’s message was evidently ascribed high credibility. It thus formed a very effective part of a concerted Egyptian and Soviet effort to create the false impression that the advisers, rather than the Soviet units, were being expelled because of Moscow’s refusal to support Sadat’s war aims.

This in turn reinforced “the Concept” in the Israeli military leadership that Egypt was incapable of going to war, a belief that had such disastrous results on Yom Kippur of 1973.

Isabella Ginor
Gideon Remez
Jerusalem, July 13, 2007

The writers are the authors of a book about the Six-Day War.

To the Editor:

There is one point that needs clarification: Contrary to Prime Minister Golda Meir and most of her cabinet, as well as the general staff of the Israeli Defense Force, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was not convinced by the position of the head of Israeli military intelligence, Gen. Eli Zeira, that a coordinated attack by Egypt and Syria was “low probability — even lower than low.”

In fact, according to the (unpublished) portion of the Agranat Report on the Yom Kippur War, Dayan had warned the general staff of the I.D.F. on several occasions during 1972 and 1973 that Egypt was going to start a war, even mentioning the probable date: autumn 1973!

Also, tragically for Israel and Dayan’s own reputation, he hadn’t resigned from the government a year before when Golda Meir had rejected his assessment that war was going to break out sooner or later unless Israel allowed the Egyptians to reopen the Suez Canal.

When news from “raw” intelligence arrived that the Egyptians were massing troops and that the Egyptian high command had moved into forward positions, Dayan did not accept the sanguine assurances of the military intelligence chief, telling him, “You can throw your report into the wastepaper basket — there will be war!” He instructed the army chief of staff, Gen. David Elazar, to send an additional brigade to the Golan, which saved the situation there when the Syrians launched their attack in coordination with Egypt.

Why Dayan didn’t order a full-scale mobilization of the army is another pertinent question. Apparently he was told that this wouldn’t be necessary, as the air force could deal with any emergency (this brings to mind similar attitudes in the recent Lebanese war). But he also took into consideration the possible diplomatic repercussions of a general mobilization, that this would be used to blame Israel for provoking the war.

Zalman Shoval
New York, July 13, 2007

The writer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, 1990-93 and 1998-2000, was a senior aide to Moshe Dayan in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, 1977-80.

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