National Security Archive – State Department Intelligence and Research Predicted 1973 Arab-Israeli War


State Department Intelligence and Research Predicted 1973 Arab-Israeli War

Key INR Memo Published for the First Time

A "Case of Wisdom Lost" Nearly Lost

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 415
Posted — March 5, 2013

Edited by William Burr

For more information contact:
William Burr 202/994-7000 or

Washington, D.C., March 5, 2013 — The fabled but previously secret State Department intelligence memorandum that predicted, five months in advance, the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, has now emerged from classified vaults that were so obscure that even State Department historians and CIA FOIA officers could not penetrate them. Published for the first time today by the National Security Archive the INR memo from May 1973 warned Acting Secretary of State Kenneth Rush that there was a "better than even bet" that war between Egypt and Israel would occur "by autumn."

According to the INR analysis, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat would initiate a war with Israel not for specific military objectives but to spur "big power" diplomatic intervention in the Arab-Israeli conflict so that Egypt could regain the Sinai Peninsula lost in the 1967 War. On 6 October 1973 war broke out in the region.

The existence of this example of INR acuity has been known for years, but the document itself was surprisingly elusive. State Department historians preparing the official Foreign Relations of the United States series could not find a copy, even with their security clearances and access to classified files, and neither could CIA FOIA offices as recently as 2011.

The author of the INR paper, Roger Merrick, anticipated that if war unfolded, U.S. "interests" in the region would come under attack because of the close American-Israeli relationship. He anticipated the possible nationalizations of petroleum facilities, "efforts to displace US oil companies with those from Europe and Japan," and "prolonged oil embargoes." The prescient analyst did not discuss the implications of such a conflict for U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, which had close ties to Egypt and Syria (U.S.-Soviet relations was not his field), but he might have anticipated that it could lead to increased tensions, possibly even a crisis. Other intelligence organizations in the U.S. government disagreed with the estimate of war and the conflict came as a surprise to the U.S. and Israeli governments. A post-mortem of the intelligence failure characterized the INR paper as a "case of wisdom lost."

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