The October War and U.S. Policy

William Burr, Editor

(October 7, 2003)


Jump to documents

Thirty years ago, on 6 October 1973 at 2:00 p.m. (Cairo time), Egyptian and Syrian forces launched coordinated attacks on Israeli forces in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Known variously as the October War or the Yom Kippur War, this conflict lasted until late October when Washington and Moscow, working through the United Nations, forced a cease-fire on the warring parties. The October war had a fundamental impact on international relations not only by testing the durability of U.S.-Soviet détente but also by compelling the United States to put the Arab-Israeli conflict on the top of its foreign policy agenda. The threat of regional instability, energy crises, and superpower confrontation, made a U.S. hands-on role in the region inescapable. Since the fall of 1973, Washington has played a central role in the protracted, if checkered, effort to address the conflicting security and territorial objectives of Arabs and Israelis. Recently declassified U.S. archival material, unearthed by the National Security Archive, provides critically important information on American policies, perceptions, and decisions during the conflict.

Significant scholarship on the October War, by such analysts as Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein, William P. Quandt, and Kenneth W. Stein, among others, has explored key issues and developments, such as Egyptian and Syrian objectives, superpower relations with the belligerents, U.S. and Israeli intelligence failures, the role of Moscow and Washington in escalating and dampening the fighting, and the impact of such key personalities as Kissinger and Sadat. (Note 1) New archival records, routinely declassified under Executive Order 12958, from the State Department's central files and the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives (College Park), illuminate these and related issues. Organized chronologically (with a few exceptions) more or less corresponding to the stages of the fighting, this briefing book provides some of the highlights of the declassified archival record. Published here for the first time are documents reflecting:

  • the failure of U.S. intelligence to perceive the imminent threat of war; according to the State Department's intelligence chief, Ray Cline: "Our difficulty was partly that we were brainwashed by the Israelis, who brainwashed themselves." (document 63)
  • the advance warnings of a possible Egyptian-Syrian attack received by the Israelis and Kissinger's advice to Prime Minister Gold Meir to avoid preemptive action (documents 7, 9, 10, and 18)
  • the initial state of confusion in the U.S. intelligence community about the possibility of war (document 13)
  • Kissinger's early decisions to provide military aid to Israel (documents 18 and 21) and stay in touch with Arab leaders, to maximize U.S. diplomatic influence (documents 20, 44, and 63)
  • Kissinger's initial downplaying of Arab threats of an oil embargo and production cuts (document 36A)
  • Kissinger's "shock" at, and refusal to follow, Nixon's instruction to establish a U.S.-Soviet condominium to enforce a peace settlement (documents 47 and 48)
  • the complete record of Kissinger's 20-22 October talks with the Soviets and the Israelis on a United Nations Security Council cease-fire resolution (documents 46, 49-50, 53-56)
  • Kissinger's virtual green light for Israeli violations of the UN cease-fire (documents 51 and 54)
  • Brezhnev's use of the U.S.-Soviet hotline to protest Israeli cease-fire violations and the entrapment of Egypt's Third Army (documents 61A and B)
  • Brezhnev's 24 October letter that prompted the U.S. Defcon III nuclear alert (document 71)
  • Kissinger's rage at West European governments, whom he saw as acting like "jackals" and "hostile powers," for not supporting U.S. policy (documents 63 and 75)
  • tense meetings of NATO's North Atlantic Council where U.S. Ambassador Donald Rumsfeld heard complaints about the lack of advance notice of the U.S. alert (documents 79A and B)
  • Kissinger's conviction that war had put the United States in a "central position" in the Middle East while the Soviets had been "defeated" (document 63)
  • U.S.-Palestinian Liberation Organization contacts during the war (document 78)
  • the record of emotional conversations between Kissinger and Meir over cease-fire arrangements (documents 91A and B, 93A and B)

As significant as the new material is, highly important U.S. documentation on the October War remains classified, especially among the National Security Files in the Nixon Presidential Materials Project. The withheld material includes intelligence reports, back channel messages sent through CIA offices, and a variety of other documents. Perhaps most important, almost all of the transcripts of meetings of the Washington Special Action Group (WSAG)--a special NSC sub-committee responsible for handling crisis situations--remain classified even though thirty years have passed. In addition, declassification work at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project is short-staffed and mandatory review requests take considerable time to process. Thus, it may be some years before new archival information on the October War becomes available. (Note 2)

The transcripts of Henry Kissinger's telephone conversations ("telcons") are an especially important classified primary source on the October War. For years under Kissinger's personal control, all of the telcons are now under review at the National Archives and the Department of State. A new book by Kissinger, Crisis, consists of transcripts of his telephone calls during October 1973. (Note 3) This is a significant collection which elucidates key developments during the war. Unfortunately, the documents themselves are not available, only Kissinger's edited rendition of them. Crisis is by no means a stand-alone account of U.S. policy during the October War in part because it overlooks events, such as Kissinger's meetings with the Israelis on 22 October that had critically important consequences for the course of the fighting.

As useful as Kissinger's compilation is, the documents have been edited by him as well as excised by the National Security Council. A fuller picture of the October War may not be available until the universe of Kissinger telcons is open for research. Moreover, Kissinger's own record may be incomplete. Other U.S. senior officials who participated in these events kept their own records of telephone conversations which may be as illuminating as Kissinger's. Walter Isaacson's 1992 biography of Kissinger cites some of this material. For example, on 6 October, Kissinger urged Nixon assistant, General Alexander Haig to keep Nixon in Florida in order to avoid "any hysterical moves" and to "keep any Walter Mitty tendencies under control." This language does not appear in Crisis. On 12 October, when the airlift decisions were being made, Kissinger told Schlesinger that the situation in Israel was "near disaster" and that it was due to "massive sabotage" by the Pentagon. "Massive sabotage" does not appear in Crisis either. (Note 4)

The story of the October War and its background is a complex one that is necessarily simplified in the commentary on the documents selected for this briefing book. Unlike today's Mideast crisis, which focuses on Palestinian grievances against Israeli occupation, the issue that sparked war in 1973 was the outcome of the last Arab-Israeli conflict, the "Six Day War" of June 1967. During the months before the 1967 war, neighboring states, who denied Israel diplomatic recognition, threatened Israel's very existence. Worried that an Arab attack was imminent, the Israelis launched a preemptive strike against Egyptian and Syrian forces on 5 June 1967. Within a few days, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had seized the Sinai Peninsula to the Suez Canal from Egypt, Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights--or the Jawlan--from Syria. The conflict and its outcome came before the United Nations Security Council, which after protracted discussion passed Resolution 242 calling for a full settlement. The resolution, however, was ambiguous enough to fit U.S. President Lyndon Johnson's basic objective: the United States would support Israeli territorial acquisitions until the Arab states were willing to declare peace with Tel Aviv. (Note 5)

The extraordinary Israeli victory laid the basis for greater instability, on the one hand, creating what one analyst calls an "impertinent sense of invulnerability" in Tel Aviv, and, on the other hand, kindling irredentist sentiments in Egypt and Syria. (Note 6) While creating buffer zones eased short-term security concerns for Israel, a new threat loomed as Arab military defeats encouraged Palestinians to take the route of armed struggle. During the next six years, the Egyptians would engage in low-level conflict in the Sinai ("War of Attrition") while members of Black September would kill Israeli Olympians in Munich and U.S. diplomats in the Sudan, among other incidents. In September 1970, aircraft highjackings triggered a rebellion against King Hussein by Palestinian militants. With Syrian tanks entering Jordan, the possibility of wider conflict loomed but tensions lessened after Syrian forces withdrew under attack and the PLO was expelled from Jordan. Linking Damascus with Moscow, the Nixon administration defined the crisis in Cold War terms and treated Israel, which had been ready to strike Syrian forces, as a Cold War ally that had to be armed. The Nixon administration provided Israel with over a billion dollars in military credits to support sales of F-4 Phantom jets and other equipment.

Peace efforts on the Middle East made little progress prior to 1973. During the early 1970s, UN envoy Gunnar Jarring and U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers floated plans to settle disputed issues, but their initiatives failed. The Israelis, who were internally divided over the basis for a settlement, were unresponsive to Egyptian overtures and the Nixon White House, preoccupied with Vietnam and seeing no immediate threat to the peace, had low motivation to pull its weight. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was interested in developing closer ties with Washington and displayed Egyptian independence by expelling thousands of Soviet advisers in mid-1972, but Washington responded slowly to this initiative. While Cairo-Moscow ties were fraying, the Soviets sought a role in the region. Egypt remained dependent on Soviet military aid and Moscow continued to supply Syria.

With diplomacy stalemated, during 1972 and 1973, Sadat believed that the military option was necessary to secure U.S. political intervention and to facilitate negotiations. To bring U.S. influence on Egypt's side, he was willing to make a separate arrangement with Israel over the Sinai, although he would keep his flexibility secret from leaders of other Arab states. To make the military option workable, that is to disperse Israeli forces during war, Sadat realized that he needed partners. A non-military ally was King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who promised to use the oil weapon against the United States. For military action, Sadat turned to Syrian President Hafez el-Assad although the basis for cooperation was narrow because of differences in objectives. Determined to recover the Golan Heights, Assad had little interest in a relationship with Washington and rejected the possibility of negotiations. He saw Israel's very existence as abhorrent. Moreover, while Sadat secretly envisioned a limited war with Israel, Assad incorrectly assumed the possibility of a greater conflict that would force Israel to surrender the West Bank. Differences over strategy would undermine the Assad-Sadat partnership soon after the fighting began. (Note 7)

Once begun, the October War would yield military triumphs and reverses for all sides. Egyptian and Syrian surprise attacks would stun the Israelis as Arab forces poured over the Suez Canal and into the Golan Heights. While the Israelis expected quickly to reverse the situation, they suffered significant losses during the first few days. The Egyptians successfully kept forces on the Canal's east bank, but success turned into near disaster as Israeli troops, led by General Ariel Sharon, among others, launched counter-offensives, seized positions on the Canal's west bank and trapped Egypt's Third Army. U.S. diplomatic intervention saved Egyptian forces from destruction. Syria fared worse, with Israeli forces winning back control of the Golan Heights and moving troops within striking range of Damascus. Yet, as IDF generals would ruefully acknowledge, Egyptian and Syrian forces fought valiantly. The human toll was substantial. By the end of the war, 2,200 Israelis soldiers had been killed, which in percentage terms was equivalent to 200,000 Americans. This was four times as many as in the Six Day War. Another 5,600 were wounded. 8,500 Arabs were killed--many of them Syrian--but far fewer than the 61,000 lost during the Six Day War. (Note 8)

Soon after the fighting started, the war developed into an international crisis, not least because Washington and Moscow had significant interests in the region. For both superpowers, credibility was a central consideration. And as Nixon put it, several weeks into the war, "No one is more keenly aware of the stakes: Oil and our strategic position." (Note 9) Both states had already armed their respective Arab and Israeli clients and both launched massive airlifts to sustain the battlefield strength of their allies. Although the Egyptians and Syrians suffered battlefield reverses, their resolve and a determined Israeli counter-attack kept the fighting going. Angered by the U.S. airlift, the Arab petroleum exporting states embargoed oil deliveries to the United States, thus producing a significant energy crisis. While both Moscow and Washington recognized the danger of confrontation and intermittently supported cease-fires, their political commitments made that support equivocal with destabilizing consequences. Superpower tensions over Israeli violations of the 22 October cease-fire escalated to the point where the Nixon administration staged a Defcon III nuclear alert, yet with all of the strains, détente prevented a serious clash.

The need to avoid U.S.-Soviet confrontation made it all the more essential for Kissinger to press Israel to let non-military supplies reach the beleaguered Third Army. The U.S. intervention on behalf of Sadat and his troops foreshadowed Washington's new diplomatic role, the development for which Sadat had waged war. In late October, Israeli and Egyptian senior officers began meeting to work out the details of the cease-fire which culminated, after Kissinger became involved, in the "Sinai I" disengagement agreement of January 1974. Consistent with Sadat's nationalist orientation, Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory was his principal objective and it was largely attained before his assassination in 1981. Nevertheless, other issues from the 1967 war--Israeli control of the Golan Heights and the West Bank--remain contested and a source of dangerous tension to this day.

The ongoing Watergate crisis and the financial scandal that brought down Vice President Spiro Agnew intersected with the October War. Agnew's resignation and the need to appoint a new vice president distracted Nixon. So did the constitutional battle with Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, Attorney General Elliot Richardson, and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, whose firings--"the Saturday Night Massacre"--coincided with Kissinger's trip to Moscow. While Nixon's political prestige was collapsing, Kissinger's was growing even more. With Nixon embattled, Henry Kissinger emerged as the key U.S. decisionmaker during the October War. (Note 10)


Documents

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Table of Contents

I. The Looming Conflict

II. On the Brink of War

III. Coordinated Offensives

IV. Airlifts, Battlefield Stalemates, and Oil Threats

V. Turn of the Tide?

VI. "The Smell of Victory" and Search for a Cease-Fire

VII. Collapse of the Cease-Fire

VIII. Crisis

IX. Crisis Resolved



I. The Looming Conflict

Document 1: Memorandum from National Security Council [NSC] Staff, "Indications of Arab Intentions to Initiate Hostilities," n.d. [early May 1973]

Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials Project (hereinafter NPMP), Henry Kissinger Office Files (hereinafter HAKOF), box 135, Rabin/Kissinger (Dinitz) 1973 Jan-July (2 of 3)

In the early spring of 1973, Sadat told Newsweek journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave that the "time has come for a shock" but no one at the time believe he had a plan for war. That in October 1972 he had already made a basic decision for war, if not its exact timing, was a well-kept secret. (Note 11) Certainly, the spring of 1973 augured the possibility of great instability in the Middle East: a looming energy crisis, Saudi intimations that the kingdom might use the oil weapon in the absence of a Middle East settlement, and Israeli raids on PLO offices in Beirut. Moreover, Egypt and other Arab states were making quiet military moves that portended possible action. The NSC analysts who may have prepared this report believed that various moves that U.S. intelligence had picked up--movement of surface-to-air missiles and bombers, higher alert for air forces, reports on war planning, and the like--indicated that those states were "preparing for war." Nevertheless, they could not be sure whether these developments indicated intentions to attack or a ploy to put "psychological pressures" on Tel Aviv and Washington. A safe conclusion was that "whatever the Egyptian and Arab leaders intend at this state, the pattern of their action thus far does not provide the Arabs with a rational basis for an attack at an early date." Sadat would not take military action "within the next six weeks," probably not before the "next UN debate." At the close of May, however, a few weeks after the preparation of this report, Roger Merick, an analyst at State Department's Intelligence and Research prepared a report forecasting a "better than 50 percent chance of major" Egyptian-Israel hostilities within six months. (Note 12) The INR estimate, which has not yet been found and declassified, generated greater interest in the State Department in steps to facilitate Arab-Israeli negotiations.

Document 2A: Memorandum of Conversation [Memcon] between Muhammad Hafez Ismail and Henry A. Kissinger, 20 May 1973, 10:15 a.m.

Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, box 25, Cat C Arab-Israeli War

Document 2B: Memorandum from Kissinger to the President, "Meeting with Hafiz Ismail on May 20," 2 June 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 132, Egypt/Ismail Vol VII May 20-September 23, 1972

During the late winter and spring of 1973, Henry Kissinger held several secret meetings on Middle East issues in New York and France with Muhammad Hafez Ismail, Sadat's national security adviser. When they first met in February, Hafez and Kissinger had a wide ranging, although inconclusive, discussion of Egyptian-Israeli relations and the relationship of an Egypt-Israel settlement to the Palestinian problem, among other issues.
This meeting did not start off well because press leaks had disclosed U.S. plans to provide Israel with F-4 Phantom Jets, a development that naturally discomfited the Egyptians. Kissinger tried to persuade Hafez that the administration's step-by-step approach balancing security and sovereignty concerns was more likely to win Israeli cooperation than the Egyptian approach emphasizing a comprehensive settlement of the 1967 borders. But Hafez was skeptical, worrying, for example, that once a step had been taken, e.g. a preliminary agreement over the Sinai, that Washington would lose interest. Kissinger and Ismail had further communications but they did not meet again before war broke out. Whatever the actual diplomatic possibilities were, Sadat had already decided that military action was essential to break the diplomatic stalemate and get Washington's attention. According to one of Ismail's staffers, Ahmad Maher El-Sayed, who was present at the meetings, "What we heard from Kissinger was `don't expect to win on the negotiating table what you lost on the battlefield.'" In other words, Washington could do little to help as long as Egypt was the defeated power. Thus, Egypt had to "do something." If Kissinger said anything to that effect privately, the present document does not include it. Instead, it shows Ismail treating "war" as the alternative to accepting the "status quo," with Kissinger plainly seeing war as a bad choice: "military action will make [the] situation worse." In any event, nothing that Kissinger said would encourage Sadat to reverse the decision for war. Interestingly, however, Ismail himself may have opposed the final decision to launch hostilities [see Document 8]. (Note 13)

Document 3: Henry Kissinger, Memorandum for the President's Files, "President's Meeting with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev on Saturday, June 23, 1973 at 10:30 p.m. at the Western White House, San Clemente, California

Source: HAKO, box 75, Brezhnev Visit June 18-25 1973 Memcons

During 1973, the U.S.-Soviet Union détente process continued to unfold with Nixon and Brezhnev holding a summit meeting at Camp David and the "Western White House" in June. With the second phase of the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks going slowly, the summit made no progress in that area, although it did unveil the controversial Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War. During the meetings in California, Brezhnev kept Nixon and Kissinger up late on the night of 23 June so that he could put across his concerns about the Middle East and China. While the Soviets knew nothing of Sadat's decisions until October, Brezhnev presciently emphasized the danger of the Middle East situation. Sharing his apprehension that war might break out unless the superpowers encouraged negotiations he said: "we must put this warlike situation to an end." Brezhnev further argued for the importance of agreement on "principles," such as guarantees for Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories but Nixon, while agreeing that the Middle East was a "matter of highest urgency," was not interested in making any decisions that evening. Brezhnev's principles, however, were inconsistent with the step-by-step approach that Kissinger had been pushing. Apparently Kissinger (and probably Nixon as well) was resentful that Brezhnev had raised this subject with no notice, as Kissinger privately noted: "Typical of Soviets to spring on us at last moment without any preparation."

Document 4: Theodore Eliot, Jr., Executive Secretary State Department, Memorandum for the Record, "Next Steps on the Middle East," 29 June 1973, enclosing, Secretary of State Rogers to Nixon, "Next Steps on the Middle East," 28 June 1973

Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records (hereinafter RG 59), Subject-Numeric Files 1970-1973 (hereinafter cited as SN 70-73, with file citation), Pol 27-14 Arab-Isr

During the summer of 1973 Secretary of State William Rogers supported a major diplomatic initiative on the Middle East. After Nixon's re-election in November 1972, Henry Kissinger expected to become secretary of state but Rogers refused to leave his post for at least six months because he did not want to hand Kissinger a "victory." The previous four years had marked one of the lowest points in State Department history because Nixon and Kissinger had marginalized Rogers and the State Department in such key policy areas such as China, Vietnam, and U.S.-Soviet relations. Nevertheless, Nixon had given Rogers considerable scope in Middle East policy and Rogers had a continuous interest in finding ways to ameliorate the Arab-Israeli conflict (although Kissinger had thwarted many of his initiatives). After the Brezhnev-Nixon summit, Rogers made his last stab on Middle East policy by suggesting secret Egyptian-Israeli peace talks. Concerned about the risk of Middle East war, superpower confrontation, and oil embargoes if the problems continued to fester, Rogers believed that it was essential to get the Egyptians and Israelis to stop talking past each other on their respective interpretations of UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed in the wake of the Six Day War. Rogers' effort was stillborn; as the Eliot memo shows, Nixon "did not want the Secretary to proceed," ostensibly because the White House was waiting to hear from Brezhnev. Plainly, however, Kissinger was beginning to usurp Roger's role on the Middle East issue and, no doubt, neither Nixon nor Kissinger wanted him to get the credit for any progress in that area. Rogers finally resigned in August 1973. It is interesting to speculate whether a determined effort along the lines that he proposed could have derailed the war. (Note 14)

Document 5: Memcon between Kissinger and Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz, 10 September 1973, 6:03 p.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, Box 135, Rabin/Dinitz Sensitive Memcons

Kissinger and the Nixon White House were under growing pressure to move on Middle East diplomacy but while they would make appropriate public signals, they saw no need to move quickly. On 5 September 1973, during a press conference, Nixon declared that the administration had important plans for Middle East negotiations: "we have put at the highest priority ... making some progress toward the settlement of that dispute." (Note 15) During a conversation a few days later with the late Ambassador Simcha Dinitz (Note 16), with whom he established a close relationship, Kissinger explained that "the trend here to do something is getting overwhelming. It can be delayed but it can't be arrested." While Kissinger believed that it was important to get negotiations going and was looking for ideas on initial steps--perhaps a proposal on Jerusalem or a settlement with Jordan--he had no problem with delay: he felt "no immediate pressure." But to reduce whatever pressure there was and to maximize U.S. leverage, Kissinger told Dinitz that he wanted to find ways to "split" the Arabs, to keep the Saudis out of the dispute, and to otherwise "exhaust the Arabs." Kissinger may have used such language to ease Israeli concerns about negotiations, but that rhetoric could also have encouraged inflexibility. (Note 17)

Document 6: Harold Saunders, NSC Staff, to Kissinger, "Memorandum on Your Talk with Zahedi," 19 September 1973, enclosing memorandum of Kissinger-Zahedi conversation, 15 September 1973, and untitled paper handed to Zahedi on 13 August 1974

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 132, Egypt-Ismail Vol. VI May 20-Sept 30, 1973

Kissinger's backchannel communications with the Egyptians on a Middle East settlement continued into the weeks before the war. This time, the intermediary was Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi (the son of the U.S.-backed general who had ousted Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh twenty years earlier), who had met with Ashraf Ghorbal, Ismail's deputy in Switzerland. There Zahedi how shown him a memorandum, prepared at the White House, which outlined the U.S. approach to negotiating a settlement, "a step at a time" so that "propositions" could be presented to Israel that "cannot be easily rejected." Perhaps suspecting that Kissinger was trying to entrap Egypt in a negotiating process with no clear end in sight, Ghorbal was not excited by the White House paper: "it contained some good words but not action." What he wanted was "a tangible and concrete suggestion."


II. On the Brink of War

Document 7: Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Brent Scowcroft to Kissinger, 5 October 1973, enclosing message from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (passed through Israeli chargé Shalev)

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 136, Dinitz June 4, 1974 [sic]-Oct. 31, 1973

Neither Israeli nor U.S. intelligence recognized the imminence of war in early October 1973. AMAN, the Israeli military intelligence organization, and the leadership generally assumed that national military power would deter war and downplayed the possibility of conflict until 1975 when Egypt and Syria had better air capabilities. Moreover, Israeli military and political leaders had a condescending view of Arab fighting abilities. Rumors of war had begun to crop up beginning in the spring of 1973 and during September 1973 AMAN began collecting specific warnings of Egyptian-Syrian intentions to wage war in the near future. Moreover, in late September Jordan's King Hussein warned Prime Minister Meir that Syrian forces were taking an "attack position." These developments concerned the Israelis but AMAN ruled out major war. On 4 October, however, the Israelis picked up a number of signals suggesting the imminence of war: the Soviets were starting to evacuate the families of advisers in Egypt and Syria; a high-level clandestine source warned Mossad of the possibility of a coordinated attack; and aerial reconnaissance detected an increase in gun deployments along the Suez Canal. The next day, 5 October, with AMAN now seeing a "low probability" of war, Meir shared Israeli concerns with Washington. (Note 18) With Kissinger in New York at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, his deputy Brent Scowcroft received this urgent message from Meir late in the day. Egyptian and Syrian war preparations were becoming more and more noticeable making Meir and her colleagues wonder whether 1) those countries anticipated an Israeli attack, or 2) intended to "initiate an offensive military operation." She asked Kissinger to convey to the Arabs and the Soviets that Tel Aviv had no belligerent intentions, but that if Egypt or Syria began an offensive, "Israel will react militarily, with firmness and great strength."

Document 8: U.S. Interests Section Egypt, Cable 3243 to State Department, "Soviet View on Causes and Timing of Egyptian Decision to Resume Hostilities," 26 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 War (Middle East) 26 October 1973-File No. 21

During the weeks before the war, the Soviets believed that the situation was growing more dangerous, but like the Americans and the Israelis they did not see the "resumption of fighting [as] at all likely." Yet, they had begun to evacuate dependents because they had learned of the decision for war, but not its exact timing, a few days ahead of the event. As the war unfolded, U.S. diplomats in Cairo picked up interesting gossip about Soviet foreknowledge and Egyptian debate over war from a suspected Russian Intelligence Services (RIS, or KGB) official, Leo Yerdrashnikov (whose official cover was deputy director of the local Tass office). His account is fascinating although some details are unconfirmable, at least with sources known to this writer. Interestingly, in the discussion of Sadat and his advisers, Yerdrashnikov claims that Hafez Ismail was among those who argued against war because a "policy of rapprochement … was working in Egypt's favor." The Soviet also claimed that Sadat had told Saudi Arabia's King Faisal of his decision in August and that the King had "encouraged" Sadat. Yerdrashnikov also sheds light on when the Soviets learned of Sadat's decision. On 3 October, Sadat told Soviet Ambassador Vladimir Vinogradov that war was imminent. Moscow did not, however, learn when the war would start until the morning of 6 October. (Note 19)

Document 9: U.S. Embassy Israel, Cable 7766 to Department of State, 6 October 9988, "GOI Concern About Possible Syrian and Egyptian Attack Today"

Source: NPMP, National Security Council Files (hereinafter NSCF), box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 6 Oct. 1973 File No. 1 [1 of 2]

Apparently, Kissinger did not receive Meir's message [Document 7] until the next morning, when he passed a copy to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin to corroborate Israeli concern. (Note 20) In any event, Kenneth Keating, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, provided more specific news in a message that arrived sometime before 6 a.m.: the Israelis believed that Egypt and Syria would launch a coordinated attack within six hours. The Israeli's "Top Source," an Egyptian (who may have been a double agent) had provided warning that war would begin that day. Shocked and surprised by the possibility of war, Golda Meir put it this way: "we may be in trouble." Some of Meir's advisers urged a preemptive strike, but the prime minister assured Keating that Israel would not launch a pre-emptive attack; she wanted to "avoid bloodshed" and, no doubt, the opprobrium associated with striking first. Instead, the Israelis ordered the mobilization of 100,000 troops, a disorganized process that took several days. At 2:00 p.m., the Egyptians and Syrians, aided by a successful deception plan, launched their attack. As Egyptian Major General Talaat Ahmed Mosallam later put it, the surprise was so complete "because of both the Arab plan and the failure of the Israelis to understand or even believe what they saw with their own eyes." (Note 21)

Document 10: Message from Secretary Kissinger, New York, to White House Situation Room, for delivery to President Nixon at 9:00 a.m., 6 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 664, Middle East War Memos & Misc October 1-October 17, 1973

At 6:00 a.m., Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco woke his boss with Keating's message. As this document shows, Kissinger immediately took the reins of power and began making phone calls and sending messages urging restraint by all concerned parties. That morning, Kissinger got in touch with Nixon (who was in Florida) only after he had made a series of calls, first to Dobrynin, asking that the Soviets hold back Cairo and Damascus. He also called Israeli chargé Shalev, advising him to inform his government "that there must be no preemptive strike." Later, having received Israeli assurances about preemption, he told Dobrynin and Egyptian Foreign Minister Zayyat that there would be no such strikes. Interestingly, Kissinger has never acknowledged that he recommended against preemption, although his recent collection provides more confirming information on this point. (Note 22)

Document 11: U.S. Mission to United Nations cable 4208 to U.S. Embassy Israel, 6 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 6 Oct. 1973 File No. 1 [1 of 2]

Hoping that he could avert war, Kissinger wired Ambassador Keating, informing him of his other efforts to secure Arab and Israeli restraint and of his "appreciation" for Meir's assurance that there would be no preemptive moves.

Document 12: U.S. Department of State cable 199583 to U.S. Embassies Jordan and Saudi Arabia, "Message from Secretary to King Faisal and King Hussein," 6 October 1973

Source: NPMP, National Security Council Files (hereinafter NSCF), box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 6 Oct. 1973 File No. 1 [1 of 2]

During the course of the October War, Kissinger tried to demonstrate impartiality by communicating with the leaders of Arab governments he considered "moderate," such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, among others. In this message, prepared for Kings Faisal and Hussein, Kissinger related his efforts to avert war and vainly asked their help in securing "restraint" on Assad's and Sadat's part. Within a few days, Kissinger would soon begin back channel communications with Ismail and Sadat.

Document 13: Memorandum from William B. Quandt to Brent Scowcroft, "Arab-Israeli Tensions," 6 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 6 Oct. 1973 File No. 1 [1 of 2]

Saturday morning, before the U.S. learned that war had broken out, the Washington Special Action Group (WSAG) met in the White House Situation room in Kissinger's absence. (Unfortunately, all but one of the WSAG meeting minutes remain classified). According to one account, during the meeting, Director of Central Intelligence Colby opined that neither side was initiating war but that the conflict was the result of an "action-reaction cycle." (Note 23) This document, prepared by NSC staffer William Quandt, reflects the uncertainty of that morning. In light of Meir's warning, Quandt tried to interpret the various signs of impending conflict: evacuation of Soviet advisers, Egyptian forces on a high state of alert, and the positioning of Syrian forces at the Golan Heights. One possibility was that the evacuation of Soviet advisers meant that Moscow "had gotten wind" that war was imminent. Another possibility was a "major crisis in Arab-Soviet relations." Indeed, "downplay[ing] the likelihood of an Arab attack on Israel," U.S. intelligence saw an Arab-Soviet crisis as a more plausible explanation. This was consistent with the received wisdom in the intelligence establishment that the Arabs would not initiate war as long as the military balance favored Israel. In other words, Tel Aviv's preponderant military power deterred war. This was the prevailing view of Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence bought into it. A few weeks later, Assistant Secretary of State Intelligence and Research Ray Cline observed, "Our difficulty was partly that we were brainwashed by the Israelis, who brainwashed themselves." (Note 24) Brainwashed or not, Quandt suggested a number of actions "if hostilities are imminent."


III. Coordinated Offensives

Document 14: Message from Soviet Government to Nixon and Kissinger, 6 October 1973, called in at 2:10 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 27-Arab-Isr

This message conveys Brezhnev's and the Politburo's concern about the Middle East "conflagration." Although far from straightforward about when they first learned of Sadat's war plans, the Soviets were no less shocked than the Americans by the Egyptian and Syrian decisions for war. For Brezhnev and his colleagues, war was a "gross miscalculation," a "major political error," because they believed that the Arabs were sure to lose. Recognizing the danger of the situation for superpower relations, during the first days of the war the Soviets pressed their Egyptian and Syrian clients for a cease-fire. At the same time, however, Brezhnev wanted to maintain Soviet influence in the region, thus, Soviet policy had to avoid a military and political disaster for Egypt and Syria. The tension between détente and credibility concerns would shape Soviet policy throughout the conflict. (Note 25)

Document 15: Memorandum from William Quandt and Donald Stukel, NSC Staff, "WSAG Meeting -- Middle East, Saturday, October 6, 1973, 3:00 p.m."

Source: NPMP, National Security Council Institutional Files, box H-94, WSAG Meeting, Middle East 10/6/73 7:30 pm., folder 1

As Israelis were observing Yom Kippur, the Egyptians and Syrians launched their attacks. Just after 2:00 p.m. (Cairo time) 100,000 Egyptian troops and 1,000 tanks engulfed Israeli forces on the east bank of the Suez Canal while 35,000 Syrian troops and 800 tanks broke through Israeli positions on the Golan Heights. (Note 26) Providing Kissinger with some background information for another WSAG meeting, held early that evening, NSC staffers believed that senior officials had to start considering a number of issues, such as steps to minimize threats to U.S. interests, e.g., an Arab oil embargo, possible Soviet moves, and the "consequences of a major Arab defeat." With respect to the Soviet position, Kissinger's advisers believed that the key question was how Washington could "best take advantage of this crisis to reduce Soviet influence in the Middle East." But if Moscow's influence was to be reduced, it could not be the result of a "major Arab defeat" because that could endanger U.S. interests in the region, destroy the possibility of a settlement, and weaken "moderate" Arab regimes. The advantages of finding ways to "minimize" Arab "loss of face" required serious consideration.

Document 16: Memorandum to Kissinger, initialed "LSE" [Lawrence S. Eagleburger], 6 October 1973

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, Pol 27-14 Arab-Isr

At the outset, the Israelis did not want UN Security Council action on a cease-fire because it could prevent them from reversing initial Arab gains. During a conversation with Foreign Minister Abba Eban at 9:07 a.m, Kissinger indirectly assured him that Washington would not immediately go to the Security Council; this satisfied Eban because it would let the Israelis decide whether to "[do] it quickly." While Kissinger would soon consider Security Council action to stop the fighting, the Israeli position on a cease-fire influenced his thinking. Sometime during the day, Eban spoke with Kissinger's executive assistant, Lawrence Eagleburger, (Kissinger must have been temporally occupied) and registered his appreciation that Kissinger would defer UN action so that Israel had "time to recoup its position." In other words, the Israelis sought a cease-fire based on the status quo ante. To give the Israelis time to do that, Eban asked for a delay on any Security Council action until Monday. By the time Eban spoke with Kissinger later in the day, the latter had seen Eagleburger's memo and Eban had nothing to worry about. Having decided that Washington had to "lean" toward Tel Aviv in order to restrain the Arabs and the Soviets but also to get more leverage over the Israelis during the negotiating phase, Kissinger tacitly assured the foreign minister that Washington would not be "precipitate" in seeking Security Council Action. In any event, the Soviets were interested in a cease-fire and so was Assad--if the fighting stopped he would have control of the Golan Heights. Sadat, however, was not ready to halt until he had a stronger position on the Sinai. (Note 27)

Document 17: Memcon between Kissinger and Ambassador Huang Zhen, PRC Liaison Office, 6 October 1973, 9:10- 9:30 p.m.

Source: RG 59, Records of the Policy Planning Staff, Director's Files (Winston Lord), 1969-1977. Box 328. China Exchanges July 10-October 31, 1973

Back in Washington, at the close of the day Kissinger had one of his confidential talks with Huang Zhen, Beijing's representative in Washington. Rather frankly, Kissinger disclosed elements of his grand strategy; he assured the Chinese that "our strategic objective is to prevent the Soviets from getting a dominant position in the Middle East." Believing that the Israelis would achieve a quick victory over the Arabs in a few days, Kissinger wanted to demonstrate to the Arab states that "whoever gets help from the Soviet Union cannot achieve his objective." Moreover, to the extent that the Arabs believed that they could win some territory before agreeing to halt the fighting, Kissinger wanted to slap down that belief by supporting a cease-fire based on a "return to the status quo ante." The Chinese were sympathetic to the Arab cause so Kissinger had to be able to assure progress on Arab grievances. Once negotiations begin, "we will have to separate ourselves from the Israeli point of view to some extent." That would be possible, however, if Washington could offer security guarantees for "new borders after the settlement."

Document 18: Memcon between Dinitz and Kissinger, 7 October 1973, 8:20 a.m.

Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973-1977. Box 25. Cat C 1974 Arab-Israeli War

The first page of this document is mostly illegible--except for a few scraps on U.S. supply of Sidewinder (air-to-air) missiles and bomb racks--but it provides interesting detail on the early moments of the war, such as Israeli cabinet debates on the question of whether to preempt or not. Apparently advice that Kissinger had given in the past--"whatever happens, don't be the one that strikes first"--played no small part in Meir's thinking. With war underway, Kissinger assumed that Israeli forces would soon reverse Egyptian advances; therefore, he wanted to delay action at the UN Security Council to enable the IDF to "move as fast as possible." The Israelis were seeking military aid---Sidewinder missiles, planes, ordnance, ammunition, and aircraft parts--but aircraft was the priority of the moment. Kissinger, however, was not so sure that aircraft could be provided "while the fighting is going on," although he thought it possible to make Sidewinders and bomb racks available. As for the Soviets, Kissinger did not show much concern: "in all their communications with us, they were very mild."

Document 19: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report # 8, "Situation in the Middle East, as of 2300 Hours (EDT, Oct. 7, 1973"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 7 Oct. 1973 File No. 2

During the first day of the fighting, Arab forces made significant gains--the Syrians had penetrated the Golan Heights while the Egyptians had moved into the Sinai past the east bank of the Suez Canal. Given the great strategic value of the Golan Heights, so close to Israeli population centers, the Israelis started to throw in forces there first. (Note 28) To keep officials abreast of developments, the State Department's Middle East Task Force, lodged at the Department's basement Operations Center, regularly issued "sitreps" on military and political developments. This one, produced at the end of the second day of the fighting, showed a grim situation: "major losses on both sides," a "miserably tough day" for the Israelis.

Document 20: Kissinger to Egyptian Foreign Minister Al-Zayyat, 8 October 1973, enclosing "Message for Mr. Hafiz Ismail from Dr. Kissinger," 8 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 132, Egypt/Ismail Vol. VII October 1-21, 1973

Within a day after the war broke out, Sadat's security adviser, Haifez Ismail, sent Kissinger a secret message, through the Cairo CIA station, outlining his government's war aims. The message remains classified and Kissinger found its basic terms---restoration of 1967 borders--unacceptable, but he saw it as extraordinarily significant: it treated Washington as the key player in the peace process but also showed Sadat's moderation; he did not seek to "widen the confrontation." (Note 29) Kissinger quickly responded, asking Sadat and Ismail to clarify points about territorial withdrawal. He also asked about the substance of a backchannel message from Sadat to the Shah of Iran that the Iranians showed to U.S. Ambassador to Iran Richard Helms. Given Kissinger's expectation that the Israelis would soon be overtaking the Egyptians, he may have anticipated that Ismail and Sadat would be interested in his offer to "bring the fighting to a halt" and "personally participate in assisting the parties to reach a just resolution" of the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Document 21A: Memcon between Dinitz and Kissinger, 9 October 1973, 8:20-8:40 a.m.

Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, box 25, CAT C Arab-Israeli War

Document 21B: Memcon between Dinitz and Kissinger, 9 October 1973, 6:10-6:35 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, Pol Isr-US

Early in the morning of 9 October, Kissinger received a call from Dinitz that Israeli forces were in a more "difficult" position. A counter-offensive launched the previous day had failed with major losses. At 8:20, the two met for a more detailed conversation, with a chagrined Dinitz acknowledging that the Israelis had lost over 400 tanks to the Egyptians and 100 to the Syrians. Egyptian armor and surface-to-air missiles were taking their toll in the air and ground battle and the Israeli cabinet had decided that it had to "get all equipment and planes by air that we can." Kissinger, who had assumed that Tel Aviv could recapture territory without major infusions of aid, was perplexed by the bad news--"Explain to me, how could 400 tanks be lost to the Egyptians?"--and the diplomatic implications of substantial U.S. wartime military aid was troublesome. As indicated on the record of the 8:20 a.m. meeting, Dinitz and Kissinger met privately, without a notetaker, to discuss Golda Meir's request for a secret meeting with Nixon to plea for military aid, a proposal that Kissinger quickly dismissed because it would strengthen Moscow's influence in the Arab world. To underline the urgency of the situation, Dinitz may have introduced an element of nuclear blackmail into the private discussion. While Golda Meir had rejected military advice for nuclear weapons use, she had ordered the arming and alerting of Jericho missiles--their principal nuclear delivery system--at least to influence Washington. (Note 30) Kissinger has never gone on record on this issue and no U.S. documentation on the U.S. Israeli nuclear posture during the war has been declassified. Whatever Dinitz said, Kissinger was responsive to the pleas for more assistance. Later, when the WSAG considered the Israeli position, it recommended the supply of arms as long as Washington kept a low profile. Meeting Dinitz later in the day, Kissinger told him that Nixon had approved the entire list of "consumable" items sought by the Israelis (except for laser bombs) would be shipped. Moreover, aircraft and tanks would be replaced if the need became "acute." To ensure that the U.S. role had low visibility, Israeli cargo plans would have the El Al markings painted out. Moreover, discussion of arrangements to charter U.S. commercial aircraft for shipping war material began on the U.S. side. During that meeting, Dinitz had better news to report: progress on the Golan Heights and the massive destruction of Syrian tanks.

Document 22: William Quandt to Kissinger, "Middle Eastern Issues," 9 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 664, Middle East War Memos & Misc. Oct. 6-Oct 17, 1973

Pointing to risky developments--Israel's losses and request for supplies, the probability that fighting would "drag on" for more days, threats to U.S. citizens in Lebanon, calls from Kuwait for use of the oil weapon, and reports of Soviet casualties from Israeli bombing in Syria--Quandt advised Kissinger that he would have to consider decisions on a number of problems. Meeting Israel's arms requests "too visibly" could endanger U.S. citizens but holding back would undermine Tel Aviv's confidence in U.S. policy. For Quandt, the "key problem" was a cease-fire. The earlier position favoring a cease-fire based on the status quo ante had become less and less tenable because of the "prospects for increasingly serious threats to US interests if the fighting is prolonged." Pushing for a "ceasefire in place," however, was likely to "irritate" the Israelis, who were trying to recover lost territory. Tel Aviv might charge a high price, such as "strong" diplomatic and military support after the war, but Quandt thought it might be "worth the cost." Whatever impact this suggestion may have had on Kissinger's thinking, he brought up the possibility of a cease-fire in place during a phone conversation with Dinitz later in the day. (Note 31)


IV. Airlifts, Battlefield Stalemates, and Oil Threats

Document 23: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report #18, "Situation in the Middle East, as of 1800 EDT, Oct. 10, 1973"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 Middle East War - 10 October 1973 File No. 5

While Arab and Israeli ground forces were "sparring and regrouping," Syrian and Israeli air forces were engaged in battle and the Israeli Air Force bombed the international airport at Damascus. Meanwhile, Greek, Israeli, and U.S. intelligence picked up signs that the Soviets were airlifting supplies to their Arab clients. "The Israelis speculate the main cargo is missiles." As for the U.S. effort to supply Israel, the U.S. press had already observed an Israeli Boeing 707 picking up missiles and bombs in Norfolk, VA. Moreover, comments by Sheik Yamani, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Petroleum, suggested that the U.S. military supply of Israel would have a cost--cutbacks in oil production. The Soviets had made their airlift decision early in the war, believing that extensive support could enhance Moscow's prestige in the Arab world. This decision had significant implications for the course of the war; not only did the airlift encourage the Egyptians and Syrians to continue fighting it came to be seen in Washington as a "challenge" to American power. (Note 32)

Document 24: U.S. Interests Section in Egypt, cable 3942 to State Department, "Current Egyptian Military Position," 10 October 1973
Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 638, Arab Republic of Egypt IX (Jan-Oct 73)

A secret source within the Egyptian government provided the U.S. Interests Section with current information on battlefield and political developments. Some of this intelligence reached the Associated Press, which reported conflicting information on Egyptian war aims: either to take "all of Sinai" or to hold ground deep enough into the peninsula to force a cease-fire in place. While the plan that Sadat has shown Assad aimed at forty kilometer incursions into the Sinai, the actual Egyptian war plan posited a far more limited attack, enough to get Washington's attention and force Tel Aviv to negotiate. The information provided by the source suggested a more restricted incursion than Sadat had originally anticipated (20 kilometers instead of 60), but the intimation of limited purposes was correct. Given that had concealed from Assad his limited goals, a press leak of this sort was undoubtedly highly disturbing to the Egyptian leadership. Apparently, the AP report upset the informant so much that the Interests Section observed that "If this continues, source cannot continue to produce."

Document 25: Yuli Vorontsov, Minister-Counselor, Soviet Embassy, to Scowcroft, 10 October 1973, enclosing untitled paper, delivered 11:15 a.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 19 (July 13, 1973-Oct 11, 1973)

Skeptical that the Arabs would make lasting military gains and worried about the war's impact on U.S.-Soviet détente, Moscow was interested in a cease-fire throughout the conflict. But Sadat wanted to keep fighting in order to get political concessions from Israel while the latter rejected a cease-fire that left Arab territorial gains in place. By 10 October, Soviet interest in a cease-fire was more serious; the fighting was stalemated and the Politburo estimated that the Arabs would not make further military gains. That morning, Dobrynin called Kissinger informing him that Moscow was interested in a Security Council resolution for a cease-fire in place as long as a third party introduced it and Moscow would not have to vote for it. As the memo suggests, it had been difficult for the Soviets to persuade the Egyptians to accept a resolution (by contrast, Assad wanted a cease-fire to stop Israeli advances). To give their clients some cover, the Soviets would have to maintain some distance from any resolution. Kissinger stalled on the Soviet proposal ostensibly because of Vice President Agnew's resignation (owing to a financial scandal). Kissinger, however, wanted to give Tel Aviv time for military advances. In between conversations with Dobrynin, he advised Dinitz to the effect that "Everything depended on the Israelis pushing back to the prewar lines as quickly as possible … We could not stall a cease-fire proposal forever." By the time the Israelis were supporting a cease-fire resolution, they had begun making military gains, but those gains turned Sadat against the proposal. That, the Soviets regarded as a "gross political and strategic blunder." While Kissinger's dilatory tactics irritated Moscow, the Soviets continued their airlift. As Soviet Middle East expert Victor Israelian later suggested, "the motivations of the two superpowers were the same," with both were trying to "assist their clients in their deteriorating military situation. (Note 33)

Document 26: Memcon between Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Rush and Petroleum Company Executives, "The Middle East Conflict and U.S. Oil Interests," 10 October 1973

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 27Arab-Isr

While Kissinger was trying to put off the Soviet cease-fire proposal, Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Rush heard out top executives from Exxon and Gulf Oil on the possible use of the oil weapon during the war. The executives had asked for the meeting because they had learned that Kuwaiti Oil and Finance Minister Abdel Rahman Atiqi, who had already called for an emergency meeting of Arab oil ministers to discuss the role of petroleum in the war, was warning Washington to avoid action that could lead to precipitate moves against "U.S. oil interests." Believing that the Arabs had the companies "at their mercies," the oil executives worried that if Washington started to replace Israeli aircraft losses, radicals like Qadhafi would get the upper hand and the companies would be nationalized. Also in prospect were price increases of 100 percent and the curtailment of oil production. Rush was also concerned about the impact of prolonged fighting but he could not promise the executives what they wanted: a U.S. statement against arms shipments to the Middle East. As State Department official Roger Davies noted, the Soviet airlift, then just beginning, would increase pressure to "resupply Israel."

Document 27: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report #22, "Situation Report in the Middle East, as of 0600 EDT, 10/12/73"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 Middle East War - 12 October 1973 File No. 7

On 11 October the IDF continued their offensive against Syrian forces, the next day breaching the "main Syrian defensive line" and recapturing the Golan Heights. The situation on the Suez front remained "static," with an artillery battle under way. The Soviet airlift unfolded causing apprehension among the Israelis about the restoration of Syrian SAM capabilities. Meanwhile, Nixon, Kissinger, and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger were beginning to make major decisions on the U.S. supply operation. While Kissinger and Schlesinger had sought to contract private U.S. aircraft to move supplies, this proved impractical because U.S. companies wanted to stay away from the conflict. Moreover, on 12 and 13 October, Kissinger was getting reports that the Israelis were running low on ammunition. Although he was not sure if Dinitz was telling him the truth about ammunition supplies----"How the hell would I know," he told Schlesinger--he did not want to risk any Israeli failure in "going as a fierce force." When it became evident that civilian charter aircraft could not be mobilized, on 13 October Nixon ordered a major U.S. military airlift to supply Israel. To his staff, Kissinger justified this move as part of his diplomatic strategy: having failed to win Egyptian support for a cease-fire resolution at the United Nations, it was necessary to prolong the fighting to create a "situation in which [the Arabs] would have to ask for a cease-fire rather than we." [See Document 63]. (Note 34)

Document 28: Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Joseph Sisco to Kissinger, "Proposed Presidential Message to King Faisal," 12 October 1973, with State Department cable routing message attached

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 15-1 US/Nixon

Given the Nixon administration's continued concern over the position taken by "moderate" Arab regimes, policymakers were pleased to receive what they saw as a restrained communication from King Faisal. In the continued effort to woo Faisal, the State Department prepared a reply for Nixon's signature. Stressing Washington's balanced, "pro-peace" stance, the message delicately encouraged Faisal to keep out of the conflict and avoid taking actions that could hurt Israel or Washington: it was important to conduct "ourselves in such a way that it will not be impossible for the US to play a helpful role once the fighting is over."

Document 29A: State Department Cable 203672 to U.S. Embassy, Saudi Arabia, "Message to the King from the Secretary, 14 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174. 1973 Middle East War 15 - 15 October 1973 File No. 9

Document 29B: U.S. Embassy Saudi Arabia, Cable 45491 to State Department, "US Arms to Israeli: Saudis Sorrowful: King May Send Another Message," 16 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174. 1973 Middle East War 15 - 16 October 1973 - File No. 11

A U.S. military airlift to Israel could not occur in secret and Kissinger's State Department initiated a coordinated diplomatic campaign to minimize the adverse political impact on the Arab countries. Before the State Department started briefing other governments in the region about the airlift, Kissinger wanted to explain his decision through a private message to Faisal. Recognizing that the only way he could make the airlift palatable to the Saudis was on anti-Communist grounds (the kingdom had never established diplomatic relations with Moscow), Kissinger played up the anti-Soviet angle, suggesting that what had made the U.S. decision "inevitable" was insufficient Soviet cooperation in the latest cease-fire talks and the Soviet "massive airlift." Moreover, the administration had to make this decision "if we are to remain in a position to use our influence to work for a just and lasting peace." In other words, by helping Israel Washington would be in a position to press Tel Aviv for concessions during peace talks. That Kissinger hardly mollified Faisal is indicated in the marginal notation: "Faisal angry at this." Although Faisal's response to Nixon remains classified, apparently he wrote that the U.S. decision had "pained" him. Yet, the Saudis were careful to conceal any antagonism; as the cable from Ambassador James Akins suggests, the embassy in Riyadh discerned "no visible anger … but rather genuine expression of sorrow." (Note 35)

Document 30: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report #32, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1200 EDT, Oct. 15, 1973"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 Middle East War - 15 October 1973 File No. 10 (2 of 2)

After what amounted to a week-long, "operational pause," on 4 October the Egyptians began a major tank offensive on the Sinai, the "largest armored battle since World War II." Asad had been pressing Sadat for action to relieve pressure on the Syrian front, but the Israelis quickly reversed the offensive. (Note 36) The Egyptians suffered significant losses--76 tanks according to Egyptian sources, 280 according to the Israelis--a defeat that opened the way to IDF advances across the Suez Canal. The Israeli air force was heavily engaged in combat operations, attacking airfields, fuel depots, tanks, and missile batteries in Egypt and Syria. On the oil front, oil company and embassy officials believed that King Faisal would take "'some' retaliatory" action if the United States announced that it was airlifting military supplies to Israel.

Document 31: Seymour Weiss, Director, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, Department of State, to Kissinger, "Armed Shipments to Israel," 15 October 1973

Source: RG 59, Top Secret Subject-Numeric Files, 1970-1973, box 23, DEF G

The Pentagon organized the airlift to Israel out of the Joint Staff's Logistics Readiness Center (LRC). Given the high stakes involved, State Department officials believed it essential to monitor the airlift's progress, not least so that they could resolve any political problems that emerged. At the outset this proved difficult; an Air Force Colonel Wieland, who was working for the State Department at the LRC, found himself "prematurely invited out" by the Defense Department. While Wieland's supervisor, Seymour Weiss, would have to turn the bureaucratic wheels to reinsert the State Department into the LRC, he was nevertheless able to provide an initial report on the airlift's status. Seventeen flights a day were already scheduled with 25,000 tons of supplies approved for shipment. Among the items that had already been delivered were F-4s (Phantom jets), Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, anti-tank weapons, and artillery projectiles, among other items. Weiss mentioned a diplomatic problem: Egypt had lodged a protest with the West German government against the movement of military supplies from U.S. bases to Israel. Despite that protest, the United States continued to supply the Israelis from U.S. bases in Germany for the time being. Weiss's reference to the "over-taxed" airbase at Lajes (the Azores) signaled another diplomatic problem: none of the other bases mentioned--Torrejon in Spain or Mildenhall in the United Kingdom--would be available for refueling empty aircraft returning from Israel. While it took severe diplomatic pressure--a "harsh note" from Nixon (Note 37)--to secure Portuguese cooperation, Kissinger would be highly pleased with the Portuguese during the airlift while his anger with other Europeans steady grew.

Document 32A: U.S. Mission to NATO Cable 4936 to Department of State, "NATO Implications of the Middle East Conflict: NAC Meeting of October 16, 1973," 16 October 1973

Document 32B: U.S. Mission to NATO Cable 4937 to Department of State, "NATO Implications of the Middle East Conflict: NAC Meeting of October 16, 1973," 16 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 Middle East War, 16 Oct. 1973-File No. 11 [1 of 2

During the first week or so of the crisis, Kissinger learned that NATO Secretary General Josesph Luns had said something to the effect that Washington "had been taken in by the Soviets on détente and we are now paying the price for détente" (see Document 75). Taking advantage of a restricted North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting on the war, Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. permanent representative (with Ambassadorial rank) to the North Atlantic Council, reviewed U.S. policy with his Canadian and European counterparts and expressed displeasure at such criticisms. Describing U.S. policy early in the war, the decisions for an airlift to resupply Israel, and the ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, Rumsfeld saw the "present crisis [as] a test of the evolving spirit of détente." He tartly observed that "we do not take kindly to suggestions that the U.S. was foolishly drawn into détente relationships with the USSR." In light of the danger that the Soviets might tip the military balance, Rumsfeld asked alliance partners to cooperate in finding ways to "make clear to the Soviets that détente is a two-way street." Later in the discussion, he suggested a number of measures that the Allies could take to "damage" Soviet interests "if the choose to damage ours," including slowdown Western participation in the Conference on European Security and Cooperation or "economic measures," presumably denial of credits or exports. As Rumsfeld noted, the Council emphasized "Alliance solidarity" but his summary overlooked some tough questions raised during the discussion. For example, the Belgian representative, André De Staercke, implicitly criticized Washington for not consulting with NATO before the meeting: "consultation was an essential part of solidarity." While Rumsfeld contended that the present meeting was a form of consultation, de Staercke was more interested that Washington consult with its allies on basic decisions during the crisis.


V. Turn of the Tide?

Document 33: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report #36, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1800 Hours EDT Oct. 16, 1973"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 War (Middle East) 16 Oct. 1973 File No. 11 [2of 2]

This sitrep pointed out the first signs of what would turn out to be a major reversal of fortunes for Egypt: a small Israeli armored force led by General Ariel Sharon had arrived on the west bank of the Suez Canal to begin striking Egyptian artillery and air defense units. Another item pointed to the possibility of a petroleum crisis. Angered by the U.S. airlift and then by the U.S. announcement of large-scale financial aid to Israel, the Arab oil producers were making plans to wield the oil weapon. This document shows the Saudis pressing the European Community (EC) to "use their influence to change America's policy in the Middle East." Oil would be used as a weapon against the U.S. airlift but the production "decrease … will hurt the EC countries first." (Note 38)

Document 34A: William B. Quandt to Kissinger, "Memoranda of Conversations with Arab Foreign Ministers," 17 October 1973, with memcon attached

Source: SN 70-73, POL 27Arab-Isr

Document 34B: Memcon between Nixon and Arab Foreign Ministers, Wednesday, October 17, 1973, 11:10 a.m., in the President's Oval Office

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 664, Middle East War Memos & Misc. Oct. 6-Oct 17, 1973

Earlier in the conflict diplomats of key Arab states with close political and/or economic ties with the United States had sought a meeting with Kissinger and Nixon to register their concerns about the U.S. position on a cease-fire based on the status quo ante and the possibility of U.S. resupply for Israel. By the time the meeting occurred, the cease-fire issue had shifted and the U.S. airlift was in progress. Kissinger wanted to persuade the diplomats that the U.S. position was balanced, neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Arab, and that any action on the part of the Arab oil producers to use the oil weapon would "only hamper our efforts to play an effective peacemaking role." During the discussions, Foreign Ministers Saqqaf (Saudi Arabia), Benhima (Morocco), Bouteflika (Algeria), and Al-Sabah (Kuwait) argued that the fighting could not end until territory occupied in 1967 had been returned and the Palestinian problem solved. Nixon and Kissinger, however, refused to "make commitments we can't deliver on" and emphasized that the broader issues of a settlement had to be separated from a cease-fire, because if the fighting was prolonged it could lead to a "great power confrontation." The U.S. hoped to "improve the situation" but the fighting had to stop first. In the meantime, the airlift would continue to "keep the balance" in the region. Kissinger's line of reasoning did not wholly convince his audience; as Benhima observed, "It is difficult for [the ministers] to convey assurances on the US position to their chiefs of state at a time when the US is aiding Israel."

Document 35: Thomas R. Pickering, Executive Secretary State Department, to George Springsteen, Acting Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, 17 October 1973, enclosing memorandum by Lawrence Eagleburger, 17 October 1973

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL Fr-US

As suggested earlier, U.S.-European tensions increased during the October War. Henry Kissinger's "Year of Europe" initiative had already produced trans-Atlantic disagreements over the newly-enlarged EC's decisionmaking processes, and Western Europe's close dependence on Middle Eastern oil supplies provided the basis for disagreements during the crisis. One of Kissinger's chief European critics, French Foreign Minister Michel Jobert, had been suspicious of the "Year of Europe" and dubious of Kissinger's détente strategy, which he believed was producing a superpower condominium at Europe's expense. On 17 October, during a speech at the National Assembly, Jobert assailed Israel for checking the peace process and the superpowers for fanning the flames of war with military supplies: "We see Mr. Brezhnev, the apostle of détente, and Dr. Kissinger, now a Nobel Peace Prize winner, shaking hands while sending thousands of tons of arms by air." (Note 39) The statement infuriated Kissinger who ordered a demarché to the French ambassador. Not only did the State Department find the references to Kissinger "offensive and unnecessary," it rejected any equivalence between the U.S. and Soviet positions, and found Jobert's statement "inconsistent with good relations between the two countries." Things would get worse.

Document 36A: Minutes, "Washington Special Action Group Meeting," 17 October 1973, 3:05 p.m. - 4:04 p.m.

Source: NPMP, NSC Institutional Files, box H-117, WSAG Minutes (originals) 10-2-73 to 7-23-74 (2 of 3)

Document 36B: Memcon, "SAG Principles: Middle East War," 17 October 1973, 4:00 p.m.

Source: NPMP, NSC Institutional Files, box H--92, WSAG Meeting Middle East 10/17/73, folder 6

Except for this transcript, all the minutes for WSAG meetings during the October War remain classified. At this meeting, the participants discussed key issues: planning for an energy crisis, the Arab-Israeli military situation and problems related to the airlift. During the review of plans for energy conservation in the event of an oil crisis, Kissinger showed some optimism that, during the present war, his diplomatic strategy would avoid Arab oil embargo, as he patronizingly observed: "Did you see the Saudi Foreign Minister come out like a good little boy and say they had very fruitful talks with us?" An hour into the meeting, Nixon called in the WSAG principles for a "pep talk." Mentioning what he saw at stake--"oil and our strategic position"--Nixon focused on the airlift and sealift of supplies to Israel, which he believed were essential for preserving U.S. "credibility everywhere" as well as for bringing Tel Aviv to a settlement. In a self-congratulatory statement, Kissinger declared this was the "best-run crisis" of the Nixon administration, noting that despite the "massive airlift" TASS had issued only mild complaints while Arab foreign ministers were making "compliments in the Rose Garden." The congratulatory mood was premature because the Arab oil producers had not announced the oil boycott and production cuts that were a direct response to the airlift.

Document 37: U.S. Interests Section in Egypt Cable 3167 to State Department, "Egyptian Military Situation," 18 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War 18 Oct. 1973 File No. 13

U.S. diplomats in Egypt reported on a battle "of major proportions" on the banks of the Suez Canal, a confrontation that may be showing that the "offensive has begun to move into Israeli hands if only temporarily." Signs that "things did not go well for the Egyptians" were the lack of military announcements and delays on the request of a NBC News correspondent who wanted to go to the Suez front. Those who prepared this report did not know that the IDF was launching a plan to encircle Egypt's Third Army, a development that would quickly spark a major crisis. (Note 40) An NSC staffer who read this cable perceptively wrote "turn of tide?" on the document.

Document 38: U.S. Embassy Kuwait cable 3801 Cable to State Department, "Atiqi Comment on OAPEC Meeting," 18 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War 18 Oct. 1973 File No. 13

Arab oil producers had met in Kuwait to discuss wartime oil supply policy where they decided, as this cable reported, to begin a "complete embargo on oil to the United States." The oil producers had decided, contrary to Kissinger, that action on energy policy would be conducive to negotiations, not an obstacle to them. They sought to warn the "United States and other consumers" that the producers were "as serious as front line fighters that Israel must give up occupied lands." Nevertheless, apparently the Saudis insisted that the OAPEC announcement not specifically mention the United States but countries that were "unfriendly" to the Arab cause.

Document 39: U.S. Embassy United Kingdom Cable 12113 to State Department, "European Attitudes in Middle East Conflict," 18 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War 18 Oct. 1973 File No. 13

For the Nixon administration, one of the most disturbing elements in the October War was the attitude of West European governments. As former U.S. Ambassador to West Germany Martin Hillenbrand explained, Washington "complained vociferously about what it regarded as European lack of support." While key allies such as the United Kingdom discouraged the use of their bases for U.S. aircraft supplying Israel, the Nixon administration conducted virtually no "prior consultation" with NATO Europe about its decisions during the war. (Note 41) This cable, signed by the media magnate Walter Annenberg, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, sheds some light on the divergences. While Annenberg was clearly displeased that the Europeans were "staying on the sidelines" and that European attitudes had the "effect of isolating" the United States from NATO, Conservative Member of Parliament and confidant of Prime Minister Edward Heath James Prior believed that cooperation was difficult because interests were divergent. He explained that the "Middle East war posed very difficult and serious problems for Britain" because of the importance of Arab oil and the UK's "economic and commercial interests in Arab states." Taking this stand plainly posed some risks for the Heath government because a "large majority of British public were sympathetic to Israel."


VI. "The Smell of Victory" and Search for a Cease-Fire

Document 40: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report # 43, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 0600 Hours EDT, Oct. 19, 1973"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1173, 1973 Middle East War, 19 Oct. 1973-File No. 14

While the tank battle on the Sinai raged inconclusively, Israeli forces enlarged "their bridgehead" on the Canal's west bank with the presence of over 200 tanks. This, the Israelis believed, gave them the option of heading toward Cairo, thus increasing their ability to destroy the Egyptian army. "The Israelis feel they now have turned the corner in the war and that the initiative on both fronts is now in Israel's hands." That the "smell of victory" might make Tel Aviv unwilling to accept a cease-fire pointed to a dangerous problem: the impact on U.S.-Soviet relations if the Israelis devastated the army of one of Moscow's major clients.

Document 41: Brezhnev to Nixon, 19 October 1973, handed to Kissinger 11:45 a.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

With the reversals on the Sinai, Sadat wanted a cease-fire and the Soviets treated this as an urgent matter. On the evening of 18 October, Dobrynin read to Kissinger the text of a proposed cease-fire resolution for the UN Security Council; the next morning, Brezhnev wrote Nixon about the crisis. (Note 42) The Soviets saw a "more and more dangerous situation" and a responsibility by "our two powers" to "keep the events from going beyond the limits." Anxious to avoid a humiliating defeat for Moscow's Arab clients, worried about damage to relations with Washington, and determined to play a role in any post-war settlement, Brezhnev urged Nixon to send Kissinger to Moscow for talks on expediting the "prompt and effective political decisions" needed to stop the fighting. (Note 43)

Document 42: Memcon between Kissinger, Schlesinger, Colby, and Moorer, 19 October 1873, 7:17 - 7:28 p.m.

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1027, Memoranda of Conversations - Apr-Nov 1973, HAK and President (2 of 5)

Hours before flying to Moscow, Kissinger gave a briefing on Brezhnev's request and his planned trip to top defense and intelligence officials. As Kissinger explained, going to Moscow would delay a cease-fire resolution for a "few days," save face for the Soviets, and avoid a worse situation: Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko "coming here with tough instructions." Kissinger emphasized what he saw as the centrality of the U.S. role: "Everyone knows in the Middle east that if they want peace they have to come through us." Yet while he saw the Soviets failing politically in the region, ""we can't humiliate [them] too much." A-4s refer to Skyhawk attack aircraft.

Document 43: Nixon to Brezhnev, 20 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

No less than Brezhnev, Nixon saw much at risk if the fighting continued; he quickly instructed Kissinger to travel to Moscow to negotiate a cease-fire resolution. Given his assumption that a trip to Moscow was a way to buy time for further Israeli military advances, he was dismayed by Nixon's decision to grant him "full authority" to negotiate: "the commitments that [Kissinger] may make in the course of your discussions have my complete support." For Kissinger, too much freedom of action was not helpful; if he needed to delay, for example, to help the Israelis improve their position, he would not be able to use consultations with the President as an excuse. (Note 44)

Document 44: Excerpts from Backchannel U.S.-Egyptian messages, 20-26 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 130, Saunders-Memorandum-Sensitive

Ismail also weighed in on behalf of a cease-fire in this message to Kissinger late in the evening of 20 October. Aware of Kissinger's plans to meet with Brezhnev in Moscow, he hoped that the discussions would reach agreement on a resolution to end the fighting at "present lines." In keeping with a speech that Sadat had given on 16 October, Ismail called for agreement on a peace conference that would reach a "fundamental settlement."

Document 45A: State Department Cable 208776 to all Diplomatic and Consular Posts, "Middle East Situation," 21 October 1973, and

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 20 October 1973-File No. 15

Document 45B: Embassy in Saudi Arabia Cable 4663 to State Department, "Saudi Ban on Oil Shipments to U.S.," 23 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 23 October 1973-File No. 18

While Kissinger was beginning talks with Brezhnev, on 20 October, the IDF continued to advance across the Suez Canal with the fighting heaviest on the southern front. The Syrian front "was relatively quiet" and the Syrians were pressing King Hussein to supply more Jordanian forces. While Kissinger had seen the Saudi Foreign Minister as a "good little boy," the State Department had learned that Saudi Arabia had joined the Arab oil boycott and made the decision to cut production significantly. According to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Jidda a few days later, the U.S. announcement of a $2.2 billion aid package for Israel had infuriated King Faisal, who took "umbrage" at the discrepancy between the "reassuring tone" of U.S. government communications and the announcement of the "incredible" volume of U.S. aid for Israel. Apparently, the King also called for a "jihad." More practically, the Saudis realized that if they did not join the other Arab oil producers, they would be in a politically vulnerable position. Nevertheless, the embassy reported that the Saudis "tend to confirm our assessment that [they wish to] minimize damage that present crisis could cause to US-Saudi relations." Decisions by the Arab oil producers to cut production would have a significant impact on oil prices in the weeks ahead. (Note 45)

Document 46: Memcon between Brezhnev and Kissinger, 20 October 1973, 9:15 - 11:30 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger

Kissinger's and Brezhnev's first discussion showed no disagreements over the basic issue, the imperative of bringing about an end to the fighting. Nor did the Soviets dissent from Kissinger's basic proposition that there were "two problems"--ending the fighting and a political settlement--that had to be dealt with separately. Kissinger, however, was determined that Nixon's unwelcome grant of negotiating authority not force him into quick decisions that could undercut his goal of buying time for Israeli military advances. Therefore, he observed to Brezhnev: "If we come to some understandings, I will still want to check them with the President." He readily agreed with Brezhnev's statement about the importance of ending all "slanderous allegations" that Moscow and Washington sought to "dictate their will to others" in the Middle East. Kissinger also expressed general agreement with the Soviet suggestion for a cease-fire resolution although he observed that the Israelis would reject any references to Resolution 242. (Note 47)

Document 47: Situation Room Message from Peter Rodman to Kissinger, TOHAK 20, 20 October 1973, transmitting memorandum from Scowcroft to Kissinger

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 39, HAK Trip - Moscow, Tel Aviv, London - October 20-23, 1973 TOHAK 1-60

After meeting with Brezhnev, Kissinger was shocked to receive a message from Scowcroft based on Nixon's dictation. Believing a "permanent Middle East settlement" to be a critically important goal, Nixon wanted a U.S.-Soviet agreement reached on "general terms" which would make it easier for both superpowers "to get out clients in line." Probably suspecting that Kissinger was too partial to Israeli interests, Nixon wanted his adviser to take a tough approach to both sides. As neither the Israelis nor the Arabs would approach "this subject … in a rational manner," Nixon believed that Moscow and Washington had to impose a settlement: to "bring the necessary pressures on our respective friends." Facing continued attack in the Watergate scandal and no doubt seeing great political advantage in a diplomatic success, Nixon wanted Brezhnev to know that if they could reach a settlement "it would be without question one of the brightest stars in which we hope will be a galaxy of peace stemming from the Nixon-Brezhnev relationship." (Note 48)

Document 48: Message from Kissinger to Scowcroft, HAKTO 06 [20 October 1973]

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 39, HAK Trip - Moscow, Tel Aviv, London - October 20-23, 1973 HAKTO, SECTO, TOSEC, Misc.

Kissinger ignored Nixon's instructions. Already unhappy about Nixon's letter to Brezhnev on his negotiating authority and recognizing that Nixon was in no position to impose his will, Kissinger conveyed to Scowcroft his "shock." He argued that if he carried out the instructions it would "totally wreck what little bargaining leverage I still have." Nixon's vision of the superpowers imposing their will on wayward clients was wholly inconsistent with Kissinger's determination to extricate the Soviet Union from the Middle East peace process. (Note 49)

Document 49: Memcon between Brezhnev and Kissinger, 21 October 1973, 12:00 noon - 4:00 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger

The next Brezhnev-Kissinger meeting was scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on 22 October, but Brezhnev postponed it so the Politburo could discuss recent communications between the Egyptians and the Soviet ambassador in Cairo. Believing that his forces were in desperate condition, Sadat was "begging" for a cease-fire. By contrast, Assad no longer sought a cease-fire because he wanted to try to recapture the Golan Heights. Assad's concerns did not, however, influence the Soviet leadership which agreed that it was essential to reach a rapid agreement on a cease-fire in place, although they were careful not to divulge any secrets about the Egyptian position in the talks with Kissinger. The U.S.-Soviet meeting that followed drafted a cease-fire resolution with great dispatch. Despite Nixon's preferences for superpower co-operation to impose a settlement, Kissinger carefully steered the Soviets away from any language that could give them a central role in negotiating a post-war diplomatic settlement. Using language requested by Meir and the Egyptians, Kissinger argued that a cease-fire resolution had to include language about negotiations "between the parties under appropriate auspices." For the Soviets, as Brezhnev explained later in the discussion, "auspices" meant that Moscow and Washington would be "active participants in the negotiations." Observing that "the Israelis will violently object to Soviet participation," Kissinger argued for a more qualified understanding. He stated that auspices would mean that the superpowers would not participate "in every detail, but in the opening phase and at critical points throughout." Determined to buy time for the Israelis, Kissinger reminded the Soviets several times that he had to check with Washington, prepare a memorandum, and consult with the President so that he understood and approved the agreement. Moreover, while Kissinger had agreed with Brezhnev that the resolution should be passed by midnight that evening, he sent UN ambassador John Scali a cable advising him to "proceed at a deliberate pace in the Security Council." "We do not have the same interest [as the Soviets] in such speed." (Note 50)

Document 50: Memcon between Kissinger and Western Ambassadors, 21 October 1973, 6:30 - 6:45 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger

Once the cease-fire resolution had been negotiated, it was essential to inform allies and others in order to secure UN agreement. As indicated in Document 44, Kissinger informed Ismail about the developments, couching the results in language--"fundamental settlement"--that would appeal to the Egyptians. Haig also called Dinitz telling him that the resolution was "etched in stone and could not be changed." (Note 51) Kissinger also met with key ambassadors of governments that were members of the Security Council--France, the United Kingdom, and Australia (Lawrence McIntyre, the Council's President, was an Australian). The meeting was brief, just enough time for a background briefing and discussion of diplomatic strategy. Kissinger emphasized that "anyone who is interested in a quick end to the fighting would presumably desist from trying to make amendments."

Document 51: U.S. Embassy Soviet Union Cable 13148 to Department of State, 21 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 39, HAK Trip - Moscow, Tel Aviv, London - October 20-23, 1973 HAKTO, SECTO, TOSEC, Misc.

Before he left Moscow, Kissinger oversaw the preparation of a number of urgent backchannel messages to foreign officials. Owing to a breakdown of the communication system, Kissinger had to use Moscow embassy channels, but under the special "Cherokee" control used to limit the dissemination of communications from the Secretary of State. This delayed by several hours the messages to the Israeli government about the cease-fire. One of them, a top secret cable to Ambassador Dinitz, elucidates the crisis over Israeli encirclement of Egypt's Third Army that unfolded during 23-24 October. In light of the communications delay, but concerned that the Israelis accept the cease-fire plan, Kissinger wanted Dinitz to know that "we would understand if Israelis felt they required some additional time for military dispositions." Moreover, even though there would be a formal twelve-hour interval between a Security Council decision and the actual beginning of the cease-fire, Kissinger could "accept Israel's taking [a] slightly longer" time. How the Israelis interpreted "slightly longer" was out of Kissinger's hands but this was not the only time that he would give Tel Aviv leeway in interpreting the cease-fire. Later, when the dangers of this advice became clear, and the Israelis had launched a major offensive against Egypt's Third Army, Kissinger wrote that "[he] had a sinking feeling that [he] might have emboldened them." Whether Kissinger or Scowcroft shared this message with Nixon remains to be seen. (Note 52)

Document 52: Department of State Operations Center, Middle East Task Force Situation Report # 52, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1830 EDT, 10/21/73"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 21 Oct. 1973-File No. 16

While Kissinger and the Soviets were working out the details of the cease-fire resolution, analysts at the State Department pondered discrepant reports about the fighting on 21 October, with the Israelis claiming major gains on the Suez Canal's west bank and the Egyptians reporting a beleaguered Israeli force. If the Israeli reporting was accurate and the IDF would be in a position to cut off the Egyptian army from Cairo and the Suez, the Defense Intelligence Agency believed that Egyptian units on the east bank would "have only three to five days supplies remaining." Meanwhile, with the Saudis joining other Arab oil producers in the boycott, the loss of oil supplies to the United States could reach two million barrels per day.

Document 53: Memcon between Gromyko and Kissinger, 22 October 1973, 8:45 - 9:45 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL US-USSR

The next morning, as news of the Security Council action on what would be Resolution 338 was coming in (Note 53), Gromyko and Kissinger met for a relatively jovial breakfast discussion once they had taken two understandings: language on "auspices" and on the need for "maximum" effort to ensure the exchange of prisoners-of-war within 72 hours of the cease-fire. Kissinger's next destination--Tel Aviv--posed a delicate problem for the Soviets; as Gromyko observed, "Psychologically … it would be preferable if you not tell your destination from Moscow [laughing]." For his part, Kissinger saw no problem in getting the Israelis to accept the resolution; his visit to Israel was conditioned on Meir's support for the resolution.

Document 54: Memcon between Meir and Kissinger, 22 October 1973, 1:35 - 2:15 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger

Although Ambassador Keating had no notice about Kissinger's plans, the secretary of state arrived in Tel Aviv for consultations with Meir and her advisers. The jovial mood in Moscow was forgotten; as Israeli diplomat Ephraim Evron later remarked, "We were suffering. Henry noticed this right away." "It did not take him long to sense that the country did not want to go through this experience again." (Note 54) Nevertheless, there was a feeling of resentment about the U.S.-Soviet "dictate" and Kissinger found himself justifying Resolution 338's references to 242, which plainly displeased Meir. He argued that, given previous U.S. efforts on behalf of 242 in negotiations with the Soviets, it had to be mentioned but that it did no harm to the Israeli position because the language about "just and lasting peace" and "secure and recognized borders" "mean nothing" until they are negotiated. Essentially the talks were hand-holding sessions; Kissinger tried to assuage Meir's concerns about U.S. strategy, prisoners-of-war, the Egyptians, the continued U.S. airlift, and Syrian Jews. In his recent book, Crisis, Kissinger claims that he used the meetings with Meir to "establish the cease-fire" but the conversations show a far more ambiguous situation. Again, Kissinger gave the Israelis leeway in interpreting the cease-fire so they could gear-up military operations before it went into effect. He advised Meir that if Israeli forces moved "during the night while I'm flying" there would be "no violent protests from Washington." Once the Israelis violated the cease-fire, however, Kissinger would regret emboldening them, while Brezhnev became deeply suspicious that there had been a secret deal in Tel Aviv. (Note 55) On the airlift, Kissinger assured Meir that "I have given orders that it is to continue" and promised more Phantom jets and a military aid request totaling $2.2 billion. He also filled her in on some of the side conversations with the Soviets, who had been "very nasty about the Arabs." On the fundamental issues, Kissinger used brutal language that he might have thought would satisfy his hosts: U.S. strategy was to "keep the Arabs down and the Russians down." Those goals had been achieved: "you have won, and I believe we have won." Whatever the Arabs thought of Israel and the United States, Kissinger claimed, "objective reality" forced them "to talk to us." Only Washington could help them reach a settlement.

Document 55: Memcon of Luncheon for Kissinger's Party, 22 October, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger

While at lunch, Kissinger and the Israelis discussed substantive issues including timing of the cease-fire announcement, arrangements for POWs, the mechanism for implementing the cease-fire, Egyptian and Syrian fighting abilities, and prospects for a settlement. On the cease-fire mechanism, Sisco suggested that the Israelis "take the initiative to contact the Egyptian commanders directly," a suggestion that foreshadowed the Kilometer 101 talks that began on 28 October. The discussion of this important issue was inconclusive, however. On the fighting skills of their adversaries, General Dayan reported that they "fought better than in 1967"; in particular, the Syrians were "determined, fanatic. It was a sort of jihad." On the possibilities of negotiations, Kissinger was pessimistic: "the beginning of the process will be an historic event, even if it totally stalemates -- which I expect, frankly."

Document 56: Memcon, "Military Briefing," 22 October 1973, 4:15 - 4:47 p.m.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger

Taking place only hours before the cease-fire was to go into effect, Kissinger's last meeting in Tel Aviv consisted of briefings by the Army and Air Force Chief's of Staff and the director of military intelligence, with more assessments of Arab fighting skills. Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General David Elaza discussed the state of play in Syria and on the Sinai and, in a statement that anticipated the next phase of the crisis, wistfully noted that "we didn't manage to finish the [Egyptian] Third Army. We think it is possible to do it in two, maybe three days." The Israelis had been keeping the exact location of their forces a secret for days so Kissinger kept listening, asking questions only about details. He may have later regretted that he had not made any cautionary remarks about the dangers of trying to "finish" the Third Army (Note 56); instead, he heard out assessments of Israeli strengths and weaknesses in dealing with Soviet-supplied arms, and Egyptian and Syrian losses.

Document 57: Department of State Operations Center, Middle East Task Force Situation Report #55, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1800 EDT, 10/22/73"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 23 Oct. 1973-File No. 14

This report shows that the Egypt-Israel cease-fire "went into effect" on 22 October at 13:12 Eastern Daylight Time (7:12 p.m. Cairo time), even though it was supposed to take hold 20 minutes earlier. While reports from the field were contradictory, the information from the Israelis suggested that the cease-fire left Egypt in a dangerously exposed position, with Israeli forces on the west bank of the Suez Canal straddling strategically important roads from Cairo to Ismailia and Cairo to Suez. The Third Army on the Suez Canal's east bank was in danger of being entirely cut off. On the Syrian front, the cease-fire was not yet in effect, however, because Damascus had not yet agreed to the resolution. Moreover, the Palestinean Liberation Organization had expressed its determination to continue fighting against Israel. In any event, within hours the Israelis claimed that the trapped Egyptian Third Army was violating the agreement. With the Egyptians arguing that no political talks with Israel would be possible until the Israelis had withdrawn forces from the Suez Canal's west bank, the prospects for the cease-fire were dire. Indeed, with the IDF surrounding the Third Army, the Israelis faced no obstacle between their forces and Cairo; they could easily have moved to the capital and unseated Sadat. (Note 57)

Document 58: U.S. Embassy Israel cable 8513 to State Department, "Conversation with Prime Minister Meir," 23 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 23 Oct. 1973-File No. 18

The day after Kissinger left Tel Aviv, Ambassador Keating met with Meir to discuss the latest developments, including the exchange of POWs, the political opposition's rejection of a cease-fire, British queries about U.S.-Israeli differences over the UN resolution (prompting a comment about "perfidious Albion" from Meir), and the possibility of military-to-military contacts to enforce a cease-fire. A discussion of alleged Egyptian violations of the cease-fire, reported by Israeli Defense Forces, led Keating to raise a "delicate" question about the likelihood that "some might view with some skepticism info from GOI sources and … would wonder whether or not the Israelis might not be taking initiatives in violation of the cease-fire in order to achieve certain military objectives." Meir acknowledged that her government was taking the cease-fire less than seriously: it had ordered "its troops to continue fighting until and unless the Egyptians stop." Keating reported his concern that the IDF would "shoot back" at the Egyptians and "launch an attack designed to wipe out the Egyptian Third Army." "If things reach this point [I'm] not sure what kind of a ceasefire will be left to build on."


VII. Collapse of the Cease-Fire

Document 59: Department of State Operations Center, Middle East Task Force Situation Report # 57, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1200 EDT, 10/23/73"

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 23 Oct. 1973-File No. 18

Whether the Egyptians or the Israelis made the first move remains unclear but IDF violations of the cease-fire on the night of 22 October were truly massive as it "pushed enormous quantities of equipment across the Canal" in order to encircle Egypt's Third Army. The Israeli claim that they had not initiated any military actions would anger Kissinger who understood, that it was the IDF, not the Egyptians, who were on the offensive. Meanwhile heavy fighting continued on the Syrian front and Syrian-Israeli forces engaged in an air battle with the Israelis losing 10 or 11 aircraft. (Note 58)

Document 60: Message from Brezhnev to Kissinger as read by Minister Vorontsov to the Secretary on the telephone on October 23, 1973 at 10:40 a.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

At 4:00 a.m. on 23 October Kissinger received a call that the fighting had broken out again. In a first-time Brezhnev-to-Kissinger message, the Soviets protested the "flagrant deceit on the part of the Israelis" to violate the cease-fire. From the accounts of Kremlin insiders, an angry Brezhnev had begun to suspect that Kissinger had "fooled us and made a deal when he was in Tel Aviv." Certainly if Brezhnev had learned of Kissinger's statement about moving military forces "during the night while I'm flying" he would have been infuriated. Nevertheless, as this document shows, Brezhnev was confident that U.S. leaders would "use all the possibilities they have and its authority to bring the Israelis to order." To help enforce the cease-fire he took up a suggestion from Sadat to make use of UN observers to separate Egyptian and Israeli forces. He also proposed a UN Security Council meeting to draft a resolution reconfirming 338, and demanding withdrawal of forces "to the position where they were at the moment of adoption" of the cease-fire decision. Kissinger was not impressed by the "ploy" to move the Israelis even further back but soon realized that action at the United Nations was essential. (Note 59)

Documents 61A and 61B: Hotline Messages from Brezhnev to Nixon, 23 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

During the afternoon, two messages from Brezhnev to Nixon were sent through the hotline, the first use of that instrumentality since the last Middle East War. Brezhnev demanded that "the most decisive measures be taken without delay" by Moscow and Washington to stop the "flagrant" Israeli violations. Again, Brezhnev urged new action at the Security Council. Brezhnev's language--"why this treachery was allowed by Israel is more obvious to you"--clearly suggested that he suspected that Washington was behind Israel's military moves. Through the CIA back-channel the Egyptians also got in touch with the White House expressing their worries, with Sadat for the first time directly asking Nixon to "intervene effectively even if that necessitates the use of force." Sadat spoke of U.S.-Soviet "guarantees" of the cease-fire which was more likely based on Soviet interpretations than on Kissinger's understanding of the Moscow talks. Replying the same day, Nixon told Sadat that Washington had only "guaranteed" efforts to reach a settlement, but that he had directed Kissinger to "make urgent representations" to Israel to comply with the cease-fire. (see Document 44). Apparently, worried that the IDF might advance further, seize Cairo, and put Sadat in perilous straits, Kissinger called Dinitz from the Situation Room and demanded that the Israelis halt military action. According to the recollection of NSC staffer Robert McFarlane Kissinger "began exhorting [Dinitz]. `Jesus Christ, don't you understand?' Suddenly Henry stopped shouting and said, 'Oh.' I was later told that the Israeli calmly explained to Henry that his government might be more persuaded if he invoked a different prophet." (Note 60)

Document 62: Nixon to Brezhnev, 23 October 1973, sent via hotline

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

In a reply--probably prepared by Kissinger--to Brezhnev's hotline message sent early in the afternoon, Nixon coolly responded that the Egyptians might be at fault but noted that the White House had "insisted with Israel that they take immediate steps to cease hostilities". Nixon would not let the "historic" cease-fire agreement "be destroyed."

Document 63: Transcript, "Secretary's Staff Meeting," 23 October 1973, 4:35 P.M.

Source: Transcripts of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger Staff Meetings, 1973-1977. Box 1

While Kissinger was trying to sort out the cease-fire, he met with his State Department senior staff to give them his assessment of the situation since the war broke out. This gave him a chance to vent some steam about issues that troubled him, such as the question of his advice on preemption and the attitude of West European allies who, he argued, were behaving like "jackals" because they "did everything to egg on the Arabs." Kissinger reviewed the immediate pre-war intelligence estimating on the Arab-Israeli conflict ("no possibility of an attack"), the "new elements" in Arab strategy, overall U.S. strategy, interpretations of Soviet conduct, the decision for a major U.S. airlift, U. S. early efforts toward a cease-fire, and Resolution 338. On the basic U.S.-Israeli relationship during the war, Kissinger explained his balancing act: "we could not tolerate an Israeli defeat" but, at the same time, "we could not make our policy hostage to the Israelis." Thus, "we went to extreme lengths to stay in close touch with all the key Arab participants." The progress of the war, so far had been a "major success" in part because it validated the importance of détente: "without the close relationship with the Soviet Union, this thing could have easily escalated." Washington, however, not Moscow, was in the catbird seat; the Israelis had won, Soviet clients had lost, and a peace settlement depended on Washington. The United States was in a "position where if we behave wisely and with discipline, we are really in a central position." As for the current cease-fire problem, Kissinger put on a nonchalant face: it was a "little flap." He did not mention Brezhnev's hotline messages.

Document 64: Kissinger to Brezhnev, 23 October 1973, Dispatched from White House at 5:15 p.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

Nixon and Kissinger soon agreed that Washington had to co-sponsor with Moscow a new resolution at the Security Council to "make the cease-fire effective." That afternoon, the Security Council passed a new cease-fire resolution (339), which called on the parties to return to positions they had occupied when 338 went into effect and also provided for UN observers to supervise the Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire. (Note 61) With this message to Brezhnev, curtly addressed as "Mr. Secretary General," Kissinger explained that the administration wanted to "maintain unity" on the issue, but nevertheless had reservations with the resolutions' language calling upon the parties "to withdraw to the positions they occupied at the moment they accepted the cease-fire." Given that the actual positions were in doubt, Kissinger observed that Vorontsov and he had agreed that the Soviets "will show moderation when differences ensue between the parties, as to the positions in dispute." Kissinger also emphasized the importance of Moscow playing a helpful role in getting the Syrians to accept the cease-fire (they did later in the day) and pressing for the release of POWs.

Document 65: Dobyrnin to Kissinger, enclosing letter from Brehznev to Nixon, 24 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

By 8:30 that evening Kissinger had received a "solemn" pledge from the Israelis that they would stop shooting if the Egyptians did the same; he passed that on to Dobrynin asking him to "get the Egyptians to give another order to stop firing." (Note 62) Shooting continued, however. The morning of 24 October, Dobrynin read to Kissinger an angry letter from Brezhnev arguing that the Israelis were again defying the Security Council by "fiercely attacking … the Egyptian port of Adabei" and fighting Egyptian forces on the Suez Canal's east bank. Expressing confidence in Nixon's power to "influence Israel" and put an end to "provocative behavior," Brezhnev asked for information on U.S. steps to secure Tel Aviv's "strict and immediate compliance" with the UN. Adding to the pressure was a private message from Sadat, followed by a public statement, calling for U.S. and Soviet troops or observers to help implement the cease-fire. (Note 63)

Document 66: Scowcroft letter to Dobrynin, enclosing message from Nixon to Brezhnev, 24 October 1973, delivered to Soviet Embassy, 1:00 p.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

Nixon quickly replied to Brezhnev with information on steps that the United States had taken to stop the fighting including tough messages to the Israelis on the possibility of a "severe deterioration" of relations if "further offensive operations" took place. The Israelis, he wrote, had given "assurances" that they had made no advances since 7:00 a.m., that they had asked the UN observers to "move into place" so they could "ascertain no troop movements," and that they had "no intention of moving their forces" to the east bank of the Suez Canal. Nixon informed Brezhnev that the Israelis had a copy of a message from the Egyptian minister of war calling on the "forces to continue fighting" and promising "air support." Using Moscow's own language, Nixon concluded by asking Brezhnev for a Soviet "guarantee" that Cairo was "scrupulously observing" the cease-fire agreement.

Document 67: Ray Cline, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, to Kissinger, "Cease-Fire Problems," 24 October 1973

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73 POL 27-14 Arab-Isr

Whatever the truth of Israeli claims, INR chief Ray Cline saw Tel Aviv at fault. Analyzing the "precarious" nature of the cease-fire, he saw the Israelis violating the agreement so they could "definitively isolate the Egyptians' southern salient," the Third Army. Egyptian forces were "reportedly running short of supplies" and "will be under acute pressure to reopen their two main supply lines." Not only were there insufficient UN observers, the Israelis had "no real interest" in halting their action. Although the Syrians had not been "so eager" for a truce, the Egyptians had needed one so their forces could "catch their breath" and reorganize. With Egyptian forces stuck, "the Arab world will soon realize that there will be no automatic Israeli withdrawal, and that glorious assertions of … Arab dignity [have] suddenly turned into another crushing defeat." Sadat might either have to resume the battle, step down, or claim that "irresistible" superpower pressure had imposed a bad situation.

Document 68: Telcon [Record of Telephone Conversation] between Dinitz and Kissinger, 24 October 1973, 3:40 p.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 136, Dinitz June 4, 1974 [sic]-Oct. 31, 1973

One of the few Kissinger telephone call transcripts from October 1973 that have shown up in the National Security Council Files has Kissinger telling Dinitz that the Soviets continue to report Israeli violations of the cease-fire. (Note 64) Contradicting Moscow, Dinitz replied that he had heard that "all is quiet" (which did not mean that Egyptian forces were not hemmed in). Whatever the facts, Kissinger informed Dinitz that the U.S. was supporting the "strongest call for an observance of the cease-fire" and measures to strengthen UN observers. On the question of a "return to the original line," Kissinger had instructed Scali "to delay and confuse it." On Egyptian requests for U.S. and Soviet forces to enforce the cease-fire, "we will totally oppose." He would soon tell Dobrynin the same thing: "I will tell them not to propose it because we will oppose it." He asked for Dinitz's assurances that "you are not taking any military action." (Note 65)

Document 69: Backchannel message from Nixon through Ismail to Sadat, 24 October 1973, dispatched 8:55 P.M., initialed by Lawrence Eagleburger

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 27-14 Arab-Isr

Early in the evening, Kissinger learned from Dobrynin that the Soviets intended to support a resolution proposed by the neutrals calling for the introduction of U.S. and Soviet troops to support the cease-fire. After Kissinger urged the ambassador not to support such a resolution, he declared "if you want confrontation, we will have to have one. It would be a pity." To head off the movement for a resolution on U.S.-Soviet troops, the White House sent this backchannel message to Sadat explaining why the United States would veto it. Outside forces would not "represent an effective counterweight" to local forces while the presence of U.S. and Soviet forces "would introduce an extremely dangerous potential for direct great power rivalry in the area." The "rapid introduction" of UN observers would be a much better alternative to an "unnecessary confrontation." Most likely Kissinger and his staff prepared this message; Nixon may not have even seen it because he had other preoccupations that day. The House Judiciary Committee had initiated impeachment proceedings and the Senate Republican leadership was asking him to name a special prosecutor to replace Archibald Cox.

Document 70: State Department Cable 210444 to all Diplomatic and Consular Posts, "Middle East Situation," 25 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 25 Oct. 1973-File No. 20

Based on information collected throughout 24 October, this cable reported on the military situation, Syria's announcement of a cease-fire, the movement of UN observers, and the oil embargo, among other developments. According to the IDF, units of the Egyptian Third Army had violated the cease-fire by trying to "break out" of their trapped position. The Israelis also reported "massive Egyptian air activities." By the end of the day, however, the situation on the Suez front and on the Golan front was reported to be "quiet."


VIII. Crisis

Document 71: Message from Brezhnev to Nixon, 24 October 1973, received at State Department, 10:00 p.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

Just before 10:00 p.m., Dobrynin called Kissinger and dictated the text of this letter from Brezhnev to Nixon that the Soviet embassy had just received from Moscow. Nixon, overwhelmed by Watergate matters, did not see the letter until the next day and played no part in policy discussions that evening. (Note 66) Published in its entirety for the first time (Note 67), the letter began with Brezhnev emulating Kissinger's recent communication and addressing Nixon simply as "Mr. President." He indicted the Israelis for "brazenly" violating the cease-fire and continuing "to seize new and new territory from Egypt." To resolve the crisis, Brezhnev made a "concrete proposal": "Let us together … urgently dispatch to Egypt the Soviet and American military contingents, to insure the implementation of the decision of the Security Council." Brezhnev would brook no delay. "I will say it to you straight that if you find it impossible to act jointly with us … we should be faced with the necessity urgently to consider the question of taking appropriate steps unilaterally." This strong letter, former Soviet insider Victor Israelyan later observed, was a Soviet "overreaction" based on Sadat's urgent pleas for help with the Israelis and a pessimistic assessment of the Egyptian military situation. Moreover, communications difficulties on the Soviet side preventing the flow of timely information may have accounted for disparities in U.S. and Soviet perceptions on military development in the Middle East. Where the Americans saw "quiet," Brezhnev saw onslaught. Hoping that he could pressure the Americans to cooperate and restrain Israel, Brezhnev personally added the sentence on unilateral action. No one in the Politburo intended any military moves in the Middle East or expected a U.S. military reaction to what amounted to a Soviet bluff. As Israelyan later remarked, "How wrong was our forecast…!" (Note 68)

Document 72: Memcon between Kissinger and Huang Zhen, 25 October 1973, 4:45 - 5:25 p.m.

Source: RG 59, Records of the Policy Planning Staff, Director's Files (Winston Lord), 1969-1977. Box 374. China - Sensitive July 1973 - February 1974

The Soviet "overreaction" sparked an American "overreaction." (Note 69) Believing, fearing that the Soviets might actually intervene and misinterpreting a stand down of Moscow's airlift to Egypt as a portent of armed intervention, Kissinger decided it was necessary to "go to the mat." At a meeting of the WSAG that lasted into the early morning, Kissinger and his colleagues discussed Brezhnev's letter, its implications, and the U.S. response. Whatever the Soviets actually intended, the participants treated Brezhnev's letter as a significant challenge that required a stern response. NSC staffer William Quandt, who saw Brezhnev's letter as a bluff, later said that "we wanted to teach him a lesson." At 11:41 p.m., Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Thomas Moorer ordered U.S. military commands to raise their alert levels to DEFCON (Defense Condition) III which meant putting nuclear-armed units on the "highest state of peacetime alert" (DEFCON II would mean that nuclear forces were ready for imminent use). In addition, as the WSAG became aware of other Soviet military moves---the alerting of some East German units and the preparation of transport planes to fly to Egypt from Budapest--it reinforced the DEFCON III by alerting the 82nd Airborne Division and ordering movements of aircraft carriers toward the Eastern Mediterranean. In this account of a meeting the next afternoon with PRC liaison office chief Huang Zhen, Kissinger provided a general account of the communications with the Soviets on 24 October and the actions taken by the WSAG during the night of 24/25 October. Interestingly, Kissinger treated Brezhnev's threat as a "bluff" although years later he stated that "I did not see it as a bluff, but it made no difference. We could not run the risk that [it was not] … We had no choice except to call the bluff." Besides trying to signal the Soviets, Kissinger may have also meant the DEFCON as a message to the Israelis: the United States could not tolerate violations of the cease-fire because of the danger to world peace. (Note 70)

Document 73: Nixon to Brezhnev, 25 October 1973, delivered to Soviet Embassy, 5:40 a.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

Besides discussing alert measures at their 24/25 October meeting, the WSAG prepared a response to Brezhnev's letter that would go out under the president's name, but which Nixon did not see at the time. Delivered to the Soviet embassy very early in the morning and addressed "Mr. General Secretary," the letter rejected the proposal for U.S. and Soviet military contingents as "not appropriate," denied that the "cease fire is now being violated on any significant scale," stated "Nixon's" readiness to "take every effective step to guarantee the implementation of the ceasefire," and observed that the "suggestion of unilateral action" would be a "matter of the gravest concern involving incalculable consequences." Unilateral action, "Nixon" argued, would violate the "Basic Principles" of U.S.-Soviet relations that Brezhnev and Nixon signed in Moscow in May 1972, as well as Article II of the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War. (Note 71) Significantly, the letter did not cite the language in the "Basic Principles" that "efforts to obtain unilateral advantage at the expense of the other" were inconsistent with détente; neither government, however, was abiding by that principle. (Note 72) As an alternative to sending military contingents, the letter suggested that it would be more useful if both governments exerted "maximum influence" on Cairo and Tel-Aviv "to ensure compliance" with the cease-fire. As an "extraordinary and temporary step," "Nixon" suggested the deployment of U.S. and Soviet non-combat personnel to augment the UN "truce supervisory force." Shortly after receiving the letter, Dobrynin made what he later called an "angry" phone call to Kissinger demanding an explanation. "I did not see why the U.S. government was trying to create the impression of a dangerous crisis." Kissinger downplayed the U.S. military actions, made the misleading claim that "domestic considerations" had been key determinants, and assured Dobrynin that the DEFCON would be cancelled the next day. This conversation does not appear in Crisis. (Note 73)

Document 74: Department of State Cable 210450 to U.S. Mission, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 25 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 25 Oct. 1973-File No. 20

After the WSAG had made its decisions on the DEFCON III and the letter to Brezhnev had been delivered, Kissinger provided Ambassador Rumsfeld with a brief outline of what had transpired, although not specifically mentioning the DEFCON change. Asking Rumsfeld to brief Luns and the Permanent Representatives ("PermReps") about the alert measures, he asked that NATO keep the information "totally confidential." The purpose of confidentially was to avoid a "public confrontation" with Moscow. When Kissinger wrote this, he believed that the DEFCON III alert could be kept secret. As the news of the alert spread quickly to the media, however, Kissinger learned that such alerts are very public events. (Note 74)

Document 75: State Department Cable 211737 to U.S. Embassy France, "Koskiusko-Morizet Call on Secretary," 26 October 1973, with marginal comments by NSC staffer

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-File No. 21

On 25 October, during another WSAG meeting Kissinger shared his worries that the Soviets might exploit the situation, although Secretary of Defense Schlesinger observed noted that the Soviets might have genuine concerns about the Third Army's position and that even "suspect American duplicity in egging the Israelis on." A few hours later, Kissinger gave a press conference where he explained the developments that led up to the alert, expressed public opposition to Soviet unilateral moves in the region, analyzed the complexity of U.S.-Soviet relations, noted the "quite promising" outlook for peace negotiations, and emphasized the necessity for all sides to make "substantial concessions." Early in the afternoon, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 340 which called for an immediate and complete cease-fire and created a United Nations Security Force for the Middle East to secure its implementation. (Note 75) Apparently sometime before the UN action Kissinger found time to meet with French Ambassador Jacques Kosciusko-Morizet to discuss the war and U.S.-French relations. The conversation proved to be a testy one, with Kosciusko-Morizet criticizing the "lack of consultation during the crisis" either on the alert or the latest U.S. resolution at the Security Council. Kissinger tried to justify the rapid pace of U.S. decisions on the grounds that the Brezhnev letter was a "totally shocking thing." Kissinger acknowledged that "perhaps we should have told you but … our experience in this crisis with the Europeans is that they have behaved not as friends but as hostile powers. Not once did we get their support." As one reader of this document marginally noted 30 years ago, the statement about "hostile powers" was "pretty strong." For Kissinger, however, the key issue in the crisis was Soviet conduct, not the "Arab-Israeli problem." But as the NSC staffer noted, it was "hard" for the Europeans to separate those issues. They found it difficult to rally automatically to Washington when taking a hard line against the Soviets in the crisis had the connotation of leaning toward Tel-Aviv. Kissinger, however, would be getting more upset with the Europeans by the day.

Document 76: Dobrynin to Kissinger, enclosing letter from Brezhnev to Nixon, 25 October 1973, received 15:40 hours

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

Brezhnev's response came soon. Disregarding the controversy over unilateral action, Brezhnev denied the U.S. assertion that Israel had stopped making military moves. He argued that when he had received the U.S. letter, "Israeli aviation was bombing the city of Ismalia and the fighting was continuing in the city of Suez." In response to Sadat's request, Brehznev reported that he had sent 70 Soviet representatives to supervise the cease-fire. Assuming that Washington would do likewise, Moscow had requested its representatives to contact U.S. observers when they arrived in Egypt. Moreover, Moscow was "ready to cooperate" with Washington on "other measures … to ensure immediate and strict implementation" of the UN Security Council resolutions on the cease-fire. Kissinger treated Brezhnev's reply as "conciliatory" although he agreed with Dinitz that "the less of them [Soviet observers] that come the better." (Note 76)

Document 77: Department of State Operations Center, Middle East Task Force Situation Report # 66, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1200 EDT," 26 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-File No. 21

Despite Resolution 340, the fighting had not yet stopped. The Third Army remained hemmed in; during the morning of 26 October, it "attempted to break through surrounding Israeli forces." Rather than let the Third Army escape, Israeli air and ground forces "repulsed" the Egyptian attack. That morning, Sadat sent an insistent message to Nixon charging the Israelis with trying to force the Third Army to surrender and preventing U.N. personnel from reaching the area. Threatening unilateral action to open up supply lines, Sadat declared that the continued deadlock would jeopardize the possibility of "constructive" negotiations. Sadat's message forced Kissinger to focus on the problem of the embattled Third Army; he worried that if the Israelis did not relax their grip, it would run out of supplies, thus exacerbating the Middle East crisis. He made a series of increasingly tense phone calls to Ambassador Dinitz importuning him to convince Tel Aviv to make a proposal to resolve the crisis. But the first series of phone calls produced no concessions. Meanwhile, senior Defense Department officials made serious proposals for a U.S. resupply of the Third Army. (Note 77)

Document 78: "Talking Points for Meeting with General Walters," initialed by PWR [Peter W. Rodman], 26 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 139, Palestinians

Some months before the outbreak of war, the Palestinean Liberation Organization had initiated contact with Washington through U.S. Ambassador to Iran Richard Helms. Most of the documents on the contacts are still classified in the Nixon papers because they were conducted through CIA channels. According to Kissinger's account, Yasser Araft sent a message on 10 October expressing interest in talks. Arafat predicted defeat for Egypt and Syria but opined that they had achieved enough "face" to enter into negotiations with Israel. On 23 October, Arafat sent another message suggesting a meeting on 26 October. Kissinger turned this down but, wanting some "maneuvering room" during the crisis, arranged for an early November meeting between Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Vernon Walters and an Arafat representative. In the meantime, Peter Rodman on Kissinger's staff prepared a position paper that suggested a narrow basis for communication. While making some noises about the importance of the Palestinian issue in regional negotiations and expressing gratitude that the PLO had taken a "responsible position" during the war, the U.S. would take no position on Palestinian political claims: Washington had "no proposals" on the "future political role of the Palestinians." And there was a warning: the United States "does not betray its friends." Hostile moves against King Hussein's Jordan were out of the question. And by implication, no threats to Israel, another U.S. friend, would be tolerated. For Kissinger, until the Palestinians were ready for a modus vivendi with Israel, substantive discussions were impossible. Although Kissinger would later comply with an Israeli demand that Washington not recognize or negotiate with the PLO, he would not close the door to informal contacts. (Note 78)

Document 79A: U.S. Mission to NATO Cable 5179 to State Department, "U.S. Action Regarding Middle East", 26 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-Files No. 21

Document 79B: U.S. Mission to NATO Cable 5184 to State Department, "U.S. Action Regarding Middle East," 26 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-Files No. 22

While Kissinger tried to resolve the Third Army crisis, the North Atlantic Council held some strained discussions of the DEFCON III alert on 26 October. The point that André de Staercke had made, some ten days earlier, about the lack of consultation received wide expression during what Rumsfeld described as two "somewhat tense" sessions. While French Ambassador Francois de Rose was the most vocally critical, Paris was not alone in criticizing U.S. decisionmaking processes. Interestingly, Rumsfeld was responsive to European concerns; he reported sympathetically that "most of the allies felt embarrassed by not being even generally aware of what has been happening in the U.S.-Soviet discussions." They were "further surprised and made to feel irrelevant by the calling of the alert without prior notification until more than seven hours later." Rumsfeld personally recommended "actions soon to counteract this problem."

Document 80: Scowcroft to Dobrynin, 26 October 1973, enclosing message from Nixon to Brezhnev, 26 October 1973, delivered at 1:00 p.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

As the Security Council finished up work on a resolution, Nixon responded to Brezhnev's last letter. Noting the Security Council's "constructive action" to establish a UN security force to supervise the cease-fire, Nixon assured Brezhnev of Washington's intent to live up to the spirit and substance of the understandings that had been reached in Moscow. In response to Brezhnev's suggestion about observers, Nixon informed him that events had overtaken the earlier U.S. suggestion for a separate U.S.-Soviet supervisory force. The composition of the UN observer force should be left to the discretion of the UN secretary general. The letter, however, made no reference to the growing crisis over the status of the Third Army which was causing so much concern in the Pentagon that some officials proposed an emergency airlift of supplies to beleaguered Egyptian forces. (Note 79)

Document 81: Department of State Cable 212618 to U.S. Embassy West Germany, "Secretary's Meeting with FRG Ambassador Von Staden, October 26," 27 October 1973

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger

Kissinger's grievances against the West Europeans mounted and in a few days he was quoted as saying: "I don't care what happens to NATO I'm so disgusted." One incident that fed his anger concerned a West German protest on 26 October over the supply of munitions to Israel from West Germany. Bonn had resisted Arab pressures against the U.S. use of bases in Germany to conduct the airlift, but they changed their tack once the cease-fire had been arranged. The West Germans became especially apprehensive when they learned that Israeli ships docked at Bremerhaven were receiving U.S. munitions. While the West Germans could say they could not determine the destination of U.S. supply planes, it was a different matter when the Israelis received military supplies on West German territory. Washington had not bothered to inform the Germans of this and Bonn lodged a mild private protest; a West German diplomat inadvertently escalated the matter by releasing to the press an internal document which was stronger in tone. Given the West German policy that "weapons delivered using West German territory or installations from American depots in West Germany to one of the warring parties cannot be allowed," if a reported third Israeli ship arrived in Bremerhaven, "we assume it will not be loaded." Late in the afternoon of 26 October, after telling Dinitz that he was going to "raise hell" with the Germans, Kissinger met Ambassador Von Staden. Declaring that he was "astounded" by Bonn's position, Kissinger argued that the West Europeans had "deliberately isolated" Washington. The Ambassador ably explained the West German position noting that the "FRG showed as much solidarity as it could" but that its "credibility in the Arab world was at stake." While Kissinger argued that the "total pattern of European behavior" had "disastrous potential consequences for the alliance," Von Staden, referring to the consultations issue, mentioned "the serious problem of communication which had developed in the last 14 days." When Von Staden observed that "if information were provided more promptly the policy adopted by the European allies was less likely to be divergent," Kissinger acknowledged "this was perhaps so, unless our underlying philosophies were divergent." (Note 80)

Document 82: Memcon, "Meeting with Oil Company Executives," 5:30 p.m., 26 October 1973

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, PET 6

Shortly after meeting with German Ambassador Von Staden, Kissinger met with a group of oil company chieftains (some of whom had attended the meeting with Kenneth Rush on 10 October). Privately disparaging of the political acumen of the oil executives and seeing them as pushing unduly for compromise with the Arab states, Kissinger nevertheless felt that their powerful position made it necessary to conciliate them. In the course of a presentation on the war and the expansion of U.S. influence in the region, Kissinger briefly discussed the crisis over the Third Army: "The problem will be to get the Israelis to give up some of their present military advantage. They cannot force an army to surrender under conditions of a UN supervised ceasefire." The main purpose of the meeting, of course, was to discuss the Arab oil embargo and the interrelationships between diplomacy and petroleum policy. Comments made during the meeting suggested the high level of anxiety the embargo had created: it could produce a "true disaster," a "possible breakdown of the economy." For Kissinger and the executives, the key problem on the "supply side" was King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Recognizing that Faisal was under pressure from "radical elements in his own country," Kissinger believed that resolving the oil crisis depended largely on efforts to "build bridges" to the monarch. Diplomatic successes in the Arab-Israeli dispute were critically important in this respect. As Kissinger explained, with hope and uncertainty, "We will make every effort we can to try to avoid giving the oil producers reasons for further action." Getting a cease-fire in place was an important first step and as Kissinger made more efforts, "we will know more in three weeks whether what we are going to do diplomatically is enough to persuade the Saudis." What Kissinger wanted the executives to do was to "tell your Arab friends that we are serious about trying to achieve a peace settlement but that they have to make an effort to move from there to here." As it would take months to persuade the Arab oil producers to reverse the embargo and production cuts, Kissinger had his work cut out for him.

Document 83: Hotline Message from Brezhnev to Nixon, 26 October 1973, complete translation received 29 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

Just as Kissinger could not countenance a defeat for Israel, an Egyptian defeat had become just as intolerable, not least for the dangers of superpower intervention. Close to 9:00 p.m., Kissinger began to turn the screws. Telling Dinitz that he was speaking to him, not as secretary of state but "as a friend," Kissinger warned that if Israel did not resolve the crisis, "you will lose everything." Before he issued a virtual ultimatum, however, Brezhnev sent an urgent message to Nixon over the hotline. Citing Sadat's appeal to Nixon earlier in the day and alleging that Sadat had also requested that the Israelis allow Egyptian helicopters to deliver food, blood, and medical supplies to the Third Army, Brezhnev asked Nixon to exert "effective and immediate influence" on Israel to ensure compliance with those requests. He made no threats but observed that if Washington failed to influence the Israelis, "we will have the most serious doubts regarding the intentions of the American side" to carry out U.S.-Soviet understandings on the cease-fire. In his first reference to the U.S. alert, Brezhnev mentioned that it surprised him but argued that the U.S. move, which he saw as a "means of pressure on the Soviet Union," would fail to "intimidate us." To emphasize the urgency of Israeli cooperation, Kissinger sent Dinitz a copy of the Soviet message and then had a private "showdown" with him over the telephone. About 11:00 p.m., Kissinger advised Dinitz that if the Israelis had not made a decision by 8:00 a.m. to permit non-military supplies such as provisions to reach the Third Army, Washington would join with others on the UN Security Council to make the issue "an international matter." While Kissinger had not pressed the Israelis to withdraw forces, he warned Dinitz that "You will not be permitted to destroy the army" and it was "inconceivable that the Soviets" would allow that to happen. Shortly after the phone call, Kissinger sent a cable to Ismail, urging direct Egyptian-Israeli talks on supplies for the Third Army. (Note 81)


IX. Crisis Resolved

Document 84: Nixon Hotline Message to Brezhnev, 27 October 1973, sent 2:18 a.m.

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

In a quick but "polite and vague" reply to Brezhnev's message, (Note 82) Nixon assured the Soviets that Washington was treating "on an urgent basis" the matter of securing Israeli cooperation on the delivery of non-military supplies to the Third Army. He also agreed with Brezhnev on the importance of rapid positioning of UN Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) staffers. In light of Brezhnev's desire to involve Soviet observers, Nixon offered some U.S. personnel to work in UNTSO, stipulating that no country's observers should operate outside the UN framework (as it turned out, Sadat rejected the presence of any U.S. or Soviet observers to monitor the cease-fire). As for Brezhnev's objections to the U.S. alert, Nixon declared that Washington had "taken seriously" the language in the 24 October letter about "taking appropriate steps unilaterally." In contrast to unilateral action, the establishment of a UN force was "a sensible course in our mutual interest."

Document 85: State Department Cable 212588 to all Diplomatic Posts, "Egyptian-Israeli Cease Fire Situation," 27 October 1973

Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-Files No. 22

Despite U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Meir refused to make a proposal on non-military supplies for the Third Army, thus forcing Kissinger to impose a solution. In the meantime, Kissinger had been in contact with Sadat, via Hafez Ismail, who had accepted the U.S. proposal for direct Egyptian-Israeli talks to implement the cease-fire. The only condition that Sadat stipulated was that the Israelis permit a UN/Red Cross-supervised convoy to deliver non-military supplies to the Third Army. Kissinger sent Ismail's message to the Israelis who accepted it at 6:20 a.m. (EDT). Minutes later, Kissinger informed Ismail that Israel had accepted Egypt's proposal and that the Israelis would be in touch with UN Major General Ensio Siilasvuo, the commander of the UN Emergency Force operating in the Sinai. Later on 27 October, in the cable reproduced here, Kissinger informed U.S. embassies about the developments, although not the gory details. (Note 83)

Document 86: Scowcroft to Dinitz, 28 October 1973, enclosing message from Ismail to Kissinger

Source: SN 70-73, POL 27-14 Arab-Isr

After considerable confusion, Egyptian General Mohamad el-Gamasy and Israeli General Aharon Yariv met for the famous Kilometer 101 talks, held at the 101st kilometer on the Cairo-Suez road. Kissinger got a few initial details from Ismail who reported that the "meeting was dignified" despite disagreements on cease-fire implementation and exchanges of prisoners. (Note 84)

Document 87: Memorandum for the Record by Brent Scowcroft, 29 October 1973

Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 136, Dinitz June 4 1974-October 31, 1973

Israeli embassy officer Shalev gave Scowcroft a report of the second meeting at Kilometer 101. According to the Israeli account, the talks proceeded normally, with the two sides discussing supply convoys for Egyptian forces, lists of POWs, exchange of the wounded soldiers, International Red Cross visits to the wounded and POWs, and a time table for exchanges of POWs. "The atmosphere of the meeting was fairly good."

Document 88A: Memcon between Kissinger and Acting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi, 29 October, first draft
Document 88B: Memcon between Kissinger and Fahmi, 30 October, 3:08 pm.

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 27 Arab-Isr

While the Egyptians and Israelis negotiated at Kilometer 101, Kissinger and Ismail Fahmi had a series of cordial and earnest discussions leading up to Kissinger's meeting with Sadat on 7 November. While much of the talk involved the rendition of rather partial accounts of wartime developments and decisions, for Fahmi the key issue was cease-fire implementation, especially the problem of non-military supplies for the Third Army. He was not familiar with the U.S.-Soviet understanding on the exchange of POWs and showed surprise that the issue had been part of the dialogue in Moscow. As Kissinger made clear, for the Israelis the POW issue was central to their agreement to a cease-fire in the first place. By the next day, Kissinger and Fahmi were close to an understanding: that if Egyptian and Israeli forces returned to the 22 October lines under UN supervision and non-military supplies were provided to the Third Army in the meantime, the Egyptians would agree to exchange POWs and lift the blockade of the Red Sea. Fahmi saw much at stake in these discussions: "We are about to begin a new chapter," he declared. Later, he promised that if an understanding was reached, Cairo and Washington would resume diplomatic relations.

Document 89: Kissinger memorandum for the President's File, "Meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin on Tuesday, October 30, 1973, at 6:00 p.m., at Camp David

Source: NPMP, HAK, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973)

A few hours after meeting with Fahmi, Kissinger flew to Camp David for a meeting between Nixon and Dobrynin. Alluding to the risk of the U.S. alert, Dobrynin observed that "it took a very difficult decision on the part of Brezhnev to preserve our good relations with each other." After Nixon suspiciously asked about a leak to John Scali and Dobrynin plaintively asked, "What kind of a relationship is this … if one letter produces an alert?" the conversation settled into a discussion of the Middle East situation. Significantly, Nixon continued to hold the view that Moscow and Washington could both play an "indispensable role … in getting a settlement in the Middle East." No doubt this statement pained Kissinger who was trying to steer U.S. policy in a different direction. Indeed, he would complain the next day to the British ambassador that Dobrynin's proposal for joint supervision of the cease-fire was a form of harassment. According to Dobrynin's later account, in early November Kissinger conveyed "regrets for the alert", observing that the White House "had made a rash move damaging American-Soviet relations." It was important to avoid "further mutual recriminations and offenses, just because we have admitted what could have been a gross miscalculation on our part." Bent on pursuing a policy on marginalizing the Soviet diplomatic role in the region, Kissinger would, however, provide more occasions for "recriminations and offenses." (Note 85)

Document 90: Memcon between Kissinger and the Earl of Cromer, British Ambassador, 31 October 1973, 9:05 - 9:40 a.m.

Source: SN 70-73, POL UK-US

While the British ambassador wanted to find about the talks with Fahmi were going, Kissinger wanted to make some complaints, especially that Nixon was "pained" by Prime Minister Heath's "refusal to endorse the alert." Kissinger quickly turned to his dismay over NATO Europe's conduct during the war, which he thought put "our alliance in jeopardy." Arguing that Western Europe saw the conflict not as an "East-West blow-up" but an "Arab-Israeli thing," Cromer suggested that U.S. policy went wrong by treating the crisis in East-West terms. This did not satisfy Kissinger who later observed that "the painful fact is that not one of the European allies said anything in support." Their inconclusive discussion turned to the Fahmi talks with Kissinger suggesting that he saw potential for a deal meeting Egyptian concerns about non-military supplies for the Third Army and Israeli concerns about POWs and the blockade of the Red Sea. During a discussion of Soviet naval activity during the war, Kissinger stated that "we have information that a Soviet ship carrying nuclear weapons passed through the Bosporus, and then came back without them." He told Cromer that he talked to the Russians about this development. Significantly, leaked reports about the Soviet ship and other nuclear weapons allegedly deployed to Egypt surfaced in the Washington Post during November. Some analysts later speculated that the purpose of the leaks was to "provide more muscle" for pressure on Israel to cooperate with the peace process. None of the intelligence reporting has been declassified, but the reports were ambiguous enough that when Kissinger was questioned about them on 21 November, he said there is no "confirmed evidence" about nuclear weapons arriving in Egypt. A few days later, after meeting with Nixon, Senator J. William Fulbright declared that there was "no confirmation" of the reports. (Note 86)

Document 91A: Memcon between Kissinger, Meir, Dinitz, and General Yariv. 1 November 1973, 8:10 a.m. - 10:25 a.m.
Document 91B: Memcon between Meir, Nixon, and Kissinger, 1 November 1973, 12:10 p.m.

Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973-1977. Box 2. NODIS Action Memos, 1973-1976

A visit to Washington gave Golda Meir an opportunity to thank Nixon directly for U.S. military aid during the war. That she did, but her talks with Henry Kissinger on the cease-fire were strikingly acrimonious, in part reflecting the resentment over Washington's determination to ensure the Third Army's survival. (Note 87) Kissinger accused the Israelis of blindsiding him on their military plans: "You gave me good military reports but you didn't tell me what you intended. I had no reason to think twelve more hours, twenty-four more hours, were decisive. … Then you took on the Third Army after the ceasefire … Had I known about it, I would have done different things in Moscow." A few minutes later Meir complained: "Why believe the Egyptians? … Whatever Sadat says is the Bible?" What especially concerned Meir, however, was the return of Israeli POWs which, with Egyptian lifting of the Red Sea blockade, she tied to agreement over the ongoing supply of non-military goods to the Third Army. The more difficult point was the Israeli stance on the October cease-fire lines. Knowing how much importance the Egyptians placed upon the return of Israeli forces to the cease-fire line, Kissinger believed that the Israelis could not "avoid accepting in principle the October 22 lines." Nixon agreed but Meir urged him not to "press" it. For her the line was indeterminate and "separat[ing] the forces" made more sense. For Meir, that meant the withdrawal of Egyptian forces to the Canal's west bank, which Sadat would have rejected. During the Oval Office discussion, Nixon emphasized U.S. interest in getting "peace talks moving along" and asked Meir and the Israelis to "have some confidence" that Nixon and Kissinger will "do our best not only on the hardware [arms], but on the software side when it comes to negotiations." During the conversation, disagreements surfaced between Nixon and Kissinger on Moscow's role in the peace process. After Kissinger declared, "your policy, Mr. President, is to move the Soviets into a secondary position," Nixon observed "We have to take Soviet sensitivities into the act [account?] because we have other fish to fry with them." To that, Kissinger stated, "But de facto we are trying to reduce their influence." Kissinger's goal of reducing Soviet influence would, in fact, be the thrust of U.S. policy during the months that followed, as Brezhnev would learn to his dismay.

Document 92A: Memcon between Fahmi and Kissinger, 1 November 1973. 5:30 p.m.
Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, box 24, Cat "C" Material November-Dec. 1973 HAK-Golda Meir

Document 92B: Memcon between Fahmi and Kissinger, 2 November 1973, 8:19 p.m.,
Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, box 1, Misc Docs, Tabs, 1973-77

In between the sessions with Golda Meir, Kissinger had more talks with Fahmi. Fahmi wanted Kissinger to be sure that he would be treated well in Cairo but the discussion got stuck on the cease-fire lines. From Fahmi's perspective, an agreement to stabilize the cease-fire had to include language about Israel "going back to the October 22 positions." Kissinger assured Fahmi that he was trying to "get you the principle of the return to the October 22 positions" but all that he had gotten so far from Meir was an understanding on exchange of prisoners and non-military supplies for the Third Army. Recognizing that "we will have a massive brawl with the Israelis on the question of the return to the October 22 positions," Kissinger suggested there were two possibilities: to have a brawl or to "tackle the bigger problem" of Israeli disengagement from the Sinai. On the latter, "only we can deliver." That seemed to please Fahmi who declared "That the United States will deliver the goods is what we want." Nonetheless, he still wanted Kissinger to get the Israelis to return to the October 22 positions.

Document 93A: Memcon between Kissinger, Meir, and Party, 2 November 1973, 10:00 p.m. - 12:45 a.m.
Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL Isr-US

Document 93B: Memcon between Kissinger, Meir, and Party, 3 November 1973, 10:45 p.m. - 1:10 a.m.
Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973-1977. Box 3

Kissinger told Fahmi that he would not see Meir until the next evening but he met with her only minutes later at Blair House; they would hold more discussions the next evening. A telling comment by Kissinger during the Friday night meeting (2 November) suggested his awareness that Brezhnev believed that Kissinger had worked behind his back during the cease-fire negotiations: "Our only concern about the Third Army is that from Brezhnev's point of view the agreement on the cease-fire with a fixed deadline, plus my trip to Tel Aviv, plus your moving afterward -- makes him look like a fool. That's our dilemma. They assume collusion." The tense and emotionally charged discussions continued to focus on cease-fire arrangements. It wasn't exactly a "brawl" but Kissinger, apparently believing that it was necessary to try, vainly continued his effort to extract a concession from Meir about "agreement in principle" on the 22 October cease-fire lines. While Kissinger may have thought he had convinced the Israelis on the evening of 2 November, the meeting held the next evening showed otherwise. For Kissinger, language about "in principle" would be necessary as a "face-saving formula" to appease the Egyptians, but Meir denied that necessity. When Kissinger suggested the "need for a wise decision," Meir angrily replied: "You're saying we have no choice." Despite interesting comments about Egypian flexibility by General Yariv, temporarily called away from the Kilometer 101 talks, Kissinger may not have understood that the Israelis were far more fully briefed than he on the state of the military-to-military talks. Meir and her colleagues probably found the concession sought by Kissinger unnecessary. Indeed, she presented elements of what would become known as the "six-point agreement" that Kissinger and Sadat would later discuss, including language on a return to the 22 October cease-fire lines in the context of disengagement and separation of forces. Kissinger was skeptical that Sadat would accept the points--"my judgment is there is next to no chance"--while General Yariv declared that Sadat "has an interest to pay quite a lot." "We'll have to see," Kissinger replied. (Note 88)

Document 94: Scowcroft to President, "Meeting with Sadat," 7 November 1973, with Nixon's annotated "congratulations"

Source: NPMP, HAKO, boxc 132, Egypt - Vol. VIII November 1-December 31, 1973

Four days after his talks with Meir, Kissinger was in Cairo meeting with Sadat. They met without notetakers and no detailed record of their discussion has surfaced apart from Kissinger's account in Years of Upheaval. Like Fahmi, Sadat believed that Kissinger would "deliver the goods" and after some discussion he signed off on the proposal that Meir had discussed during the meeting of 3 November, and which reflected the Kilometer 101 talks. Thus, there was no controversy over the matter of agreement "in principle" on the 22 October positions: the issue of the cease-fire lines was folded into a "framework on the disengagement and separation of forces." While Kissinger had doubted that Sadat would go along with general language about the cease-fire lines, Sadat had no basic objection to the meaning of the agreement: that the Third Army would stay in place, but supplied, pending the outcome of negotiations to disengage forces from the former theater of battle. The more sensitive problem was the Egyptian blockade of the Red Sea; consistent with the Fahmi-Kissinger talks an understanding was reached that Egypt would "ease" the blockade. To ensure that the six point agreement had Israeli assent, Kissinger sent Joseph Sisco and Harold Saunders to brief Meir. Although there were some snags in Tel Aviv and Cairo, on 11 November, el-Gamasy and Yarif signed the agreement. In the meantime, Egypt and the United States restored diplomatic relations. During the coming months, Kissinger would serve as the go-between for "Sinai I," the January 1974 Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement on thinning out forces east of the Suez Canal, a UN buffer zone, and the reopening of the Suez Canal (closed since 1967). Fundamental issues would remain, especially the Golan Heights and the Palestinian question, but Sadat was determined first of all to reach a negotiated solution to Egypt's security problems.

 


Notes

1. Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein, We All Lost the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); William P. Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967 (Washington, D.C.-Berkeley, CA: Brookings Institution-University of California Press, 1993); Kenneth Stein, Heroic Diplomacy: Sadat, Kissinger, Carter, Begin, and the Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace (New York: Routledge, 1999). For the proceedings of a major conference on the October War involving scholars and major players from all sides, see Richard Parker, ed., The October War: A Retrospective (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2001). For a recent history, oriented toward a more general readership, see Walter J. Boyne, The Two O'clock War: the 1973 Yom Kippur Conflict and the Airlift That Saved Israel (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002).

2. On the Israeli side, much of the the IDF's secret history of the war may not be available for decades. See "Ya'alon: Full Yom Kippur War report only in 20 years," by Amos Harel, Haaretz, 30 September 2003, at <http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/345513.html>

3. Readers of Crisis should be aware that Kissinger turned over his telcon collection to the State Department and the National Archives only after lawyers from those agencies had asked him to do so. Although Kissinger, at p. 1, uses language about his desire for the "general availability" of these documents, that had not been a consideration for nearly 30 years until the National Security Archive prodded the National Archives and the State Department into taking action. For background on these developments, see <http://www.nsarchive.org/news/20010809/> and <http://www.nsarchive.org/news/20020211/>.

4. Walter Issacson, Kissinger: A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), pp. 004 and 521.

5. The discussion in the following paragraphs draws on accounts of the 1967 war and ensuing developments provided by Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 25-148, and Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 49-68. For a map of territorial boundaries after the Six Day War, see Cease-Fire Lines After the Six-Day War.

6. For "impertinent," see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 50.

7. For discussion of Sadat and Assad's goals and interrelations, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 4-17, Mose Ma'Oz, Syria and Israel: From War to Peacemaking (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 128-129, and Patrick Seale, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 194-200. For the Saudis and the oil weapon, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 67.

8. For casualty figures, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 91.

9. See document 36B.

10. For Kissinger's "commanding position," see Quandt, Peace Process, at pp. 180-181.

11. Uri Bar-Joseph, "Israel's 1973 Intelligence Failure," in R.M. Kumaraswamy, ed., Revisiting the Yom Kippur War (London: Frank Cass, 2000), pp. 10-11

12. Parker, The October War, pp. 113-116; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy (quoting Sadat), p.68

13. Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 137-139; Parker, October War, pp. 3, 77, and 79-81; Bar-Joseph, "Israel's 1973 Intelligence Failure," in R.M. Kumaraswamy, ed., Revisiting the Yom Kippur War (London: Frank Cass, 2000), p. 11. Harold Saunders, Kissinger's senior Middle East expert, later observed that a "lot more … could have been offered in those meetings in the way of a U.S. framework for dealing with the issues." See Parker, October War, at p. 54.

14. Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 1992), pp. 210, 286, 475-476, 503, and 511.

15. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Richard Nixon containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President 1973 (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1975), p. 735.

16. For the career of Simcha Dinitz, see obituary in Jerusalem Post, 24 September 2003. A career Foreign Service Officer, Dinitz had just completed work as Meir's political secretary, making him the Prime Minister's personal envoy to Washington.

17. According to Stein, Kissinger had put the Arab-Israeli issue on the "back burner." Heroic Diplomacy, p. 72.

18. For significant accounts of Israeli intelligence activities and estimates prior to the war, see Ephraim Kahana, "Early Warning Versus Concept," Intelligence and National Security 17 (Summer 2002): 81-104, and Bar-Joseph, "Israel's 1973 Intelligence Failure," in R.M. Kumaraswamy, ed., Revisiting the Yom Kippur War (London: Frank Cass, 2000), pp. 10-35. See also Parker, October War, pp. 86-88. Bar Joseph's forthcoming book on the intelligence failure, The Watchman Slept, will be a significant contribution. (Updated 16 October 2003)

19. Galia Golan's,"The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War," in Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, p. 129. Golan's account is helpful for understanding Soviet policy during the war as is Victor Israelyan's revealing account, Inside the Kremlin During the Yom Kippur War (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995). For an overview of Soviet policy, see Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence: Moscow's Ambassador to American's Six Cold War Presidents (1962-1986) (New York: Times Books, 1995), pp. 287-301.

20. Quandt, Peace Process, p. 542, note 10 citing Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, pp. 465-466. For the copy provided to Dobrynin, see HAKO, box 68, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 19 July 13, 1973-Oct., 11, 1973.

21. Kahana, "Early Warning Versus Concept," pp. 95-96; Parker, October War, p. 99; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 71.

22. See Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 453, for his guarded treatment of the preemption issue. For the record of the phone call with Shalev, Dobrynin, Nixon, and others, see Crisis, p. 15 ff.

23. Quandt, Peace Process, p. 152.

24. For Cline quotation, see document 63. For U.S. intelligence analysis prior to 6 October, see Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 150-151, and Parker, October War, p. 127, where former INR official Philip Stoddard recounts the then-prevailing "general belief in the superiority of Israeli intelligence."

25. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 72; Golan, "The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War," in Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, pp. 129-130.

26. Patrick Seale, Asad, p. 202. See 1973 War Maps giving an overview of the fighting. See also a map prepared for a history course at the University of California, Santa Cruz, at <http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~davidyag/octoberwarmap.jpg>

27. Kissinger has published the transcript of this conversation, but the reference to "precipitate" would be obscure without reference to Eagleburger's memorandum. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 32, 62. For "lean," see conversation with Haig at page 43. For the Soviets and a cease-fire, see Golan, "The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War," in Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, p. 130.

28. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 75-77.

29. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 110-111.

30. Avner Cohen, "Nuclear Arms in Crisis Under Secrecy: Israel and the Lessons of the 1967 and 1973 Wars," in Peter R. Lavoy, Scott D. Sagan, and James J. Wirtz, eds., Planning the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), esp. pp. 117-119. For the latest revelations, see Avner Cohen, "The Last Nuclear Moment," New York Times, 6 October 2003. For earlier accounts, see Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option (New York: Random House, 1991), pp. 225-230, and Isaacson, Kissinger, pp. 517-522. (updated 16 October 2003)

31. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 153-154.

32. Israelyan, Inside the Kremlin, pp. 56-58; Stein and Lebow, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 185-187.

33. Stein and Lebow, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 201-205; Israelyan, Inside the Kremlin, p. 83; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 80. For "blunder," see Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 291.

34. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 77; Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 217-221; Isaacson, Kissinger, pp. 517-522; Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, p. 189; Parker, October War, p. 121. For Schlesinger's account of the airlift decisionmaking process, see Parker, The October War, pp. 153-160.

35. For "pained," see Quandt, Peace Process, p. 167.

36. For the Egyptian offensive and Asad's pressure, see Seale, Asad, pp. 211-212.

37. Quandt, Peace Process, p. 163.

38. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 81.

39. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, pp. 709-710.

40. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 82.

41. Martin J. Hillenbrand, Fragments of Our Time: Memoirs of a Diplomat (Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press, 1998), pp. 327-328.

42. Kissinger, Crisis, p. 286.

43. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 83.

44. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 85.

45. See also Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 167 and 178.

46. For Kissinger's account of the Moscow talks with Brezhnev, see Years of Upheaval, pp. 548-559

47. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 86.

48. For Kissinger's account of the Nixon message and his reply, see Years of Upheaval, pp. 550-551

49. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 416.

50. Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, p. 212; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 84, 87-90.

51. Ibid., p. 89.

52. Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography, pp. 526-528; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 418, citing Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, at page 569. Kissinger does not mention the message to Dinitz in his memoirs, although he does acknowledge that the communications difficulties "reduced the time Israel had available for gearing its last-minute military operations to the imminent cease-fire." See Years of Upheaval, pp. 556-557.

53. For the resolution, see Resolution 338.

54. For Kissinger's account of his meetings with the Israelis, see Years of Upheaval, pp. 559-586. For the Ephrom quote, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 91.

55. Kissinger, Crisis, p. 306; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 419. According to Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, at p. 90, the Israelis were "incensed" by the U.S.-Soviet imposition of a cease-fire.

56. Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, at p. 217, note Kissinger's failure to warn.

57. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 87.

58. Ibid. p. 92; Isaacson, Kissinger, p. 528. See also Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 420.

59. Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 243-244; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 92; Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 306-307.

60. Michael K. Bohn, Nerve Center: Inside the White House Situation Room (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, Inc., 2003), p. 74.

61. Quandt, Peace Process, p. 172.

62. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 322, 324.

63. Ibid., pp. 330-331; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 423.

64. For the published version, see Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 331-332.

65. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 335-337.

66. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 425, including footnote 78. Apparently, Nixon had been drinking heavily that evening.

67. Kissinger reproduces the main body of the text, without the language on Israel, in Years of Upheaval, p. 583.

68. For "overreaction," see statement by Victor Israelyan in Parker, The October War, pp. 224-225. See also Golan, "The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War," in Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, pp. 147-148; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 428; Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 237-238, 245-246, and Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 94. Also helpful on the Politburo discussions is Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 205.

69. For a provocative critique of the Defcon III alert, see Stein and Lebow, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 246-258.

70. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 343, 349-352; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 95; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, pp. 432-433.

71. For the texts of these agreements, see, respectively <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/i/20706.htm>, document 116, and <http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/prevent/text/prevent1.htm>.

72. For thoughtful analysis of the implications of the "Basic Principles" and the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War for superpower conduct during the October War, see Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, pp. 434-441.

73. For Dobrynin's account, see In Confidence, p. 297.

74. Parker, The October War, pp. 175-176

75. Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 175-176. See resolution 340.

76. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 362, 369.

77. See Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 370-381.

78. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, pp. 626-629; Parker, The October War, p. 282.

79. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 392-393.

80. For background on this flap and the quote from Kissinger, see Hillenbrand, Fragments of Our Time, pp. 328-329. For "raise hell," see Kissinger, Crisis, p. 380.

81. Ibid., pp. 387, 393-97; Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 609.

82. For "polite and vague," see ibid., p. 609.

83. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 398-401. For background on General Siilasvuo, see <http://www.sinibarettiliitto.fi/lehti/1_03/summary.htm>.

84. For a detailed account of the talks, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 97-116.

85. For Kissinger's "regrets," see Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 300. For later "recriminations," see Kissinger's account of his March 1974 conversations with Brezhnev on the Middle East, in Years of Upheaval, at p. 1022.

86. For further discussion, see Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, pp. 424-425; Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option, pp. 234-235. For the suggestion about "muscle" and information on the press reports, as well as the Kissinger and Fulbright quotes, see Yona Bandmann and Yishai Cordova, "The Soviet Nuclear Threat Toward the Close of the Yom Kippur War," Jerusalem Journal of International Relations 5 (1980): 94-110.

87. Kissinger's account of the talks with Meir downplays the tension; see Years of Upheaval, pp. 619-624.

88. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 105-106.


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