Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
8 - 14 October 1998
Issue No.398
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

'A purely Arab victory'

By Abdel-Sattar Amin *

The contrast between the 1967 War and the 1973 War could not be more stark and the lessons more striking. Whereas Israel won the 1967 round from insecure borders, it was defeated in 1973 from secure borders. Clearly, secure borders can only be such borders as are mutually agreed to by both parties under a just and comprehensive peace.

The role of the great powers, too, was a major factor in the outcome of the two wars. The policy of the Soviet Union was one of the causes of Egypt's military weakness. While the US supplied Israel unrestrictedly with the most up-to-date assault weapons in the world, the Russians supplied Egypt only with defence weaponry, and then only with great reluctance. Indeed, Abdel-Nasser was only able to obtain the material for an anti-aircraft missile defence wall after having visited Moscow and threatened the Kremlin leaders that he would have to return to Egypt and tell the Egyptian people Moscow had abandoned them and then relinquish power to one of his peers who would be able to deal with the Americans because the Americans would have the upper hand in the region.

One of the undeclared objectives of the War of Attrition was to force the Soviet Union to supply Egypt with more advanced arms and war material. It was felt that the only way to convince the Soviet leaders of the deficiencies of most of the aircraft and air defence weaponry they had supplied to Egypt following 1967 was to put them to the test against the advanced weaponry which the US had supplied to Israel.

Abdel-Nasser's policy following the 1967 defeat conflicted with that of the Soviet Union. While Abdel-Nasser acted according to the belief that what has been taken by force has to be regained by force, the Soviets sought to push Egypt towards a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. At all costs they wanted to avoid a new conflagration between the Arabs and Israel so as not to be drawn into a confrontation with the US.

Egypt was made to understand this situation only too well when the superpowers met in Oslo and agreed to maintain the status quo in the region, regardless of the continued Israeli occupation of Arab territories.

This was unacceptable. And when the Egyptian leadership discovered clear evidence that their preparations for crossing the canal were being leaked, it became imperative, in order to preserve the element of surprise, to expel the Russians from Egypt. This step, too, helped ensure that the victory in October was a purely Arab victory.

* Maj. Gen. [retr'd] Abdel-Sattar Amin was adviser to the prime minister with the rank of minister, and has previously served as military adviser to President Anwar El-Sadat and was minister for Egyptian-Sudanese integration.