PROBABLE SOVIET ACTION IN VARIOUS CONTINGENCIES AFFECTING SYRIA (SNIE 11-9-57)

Created: 9/24/1957

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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE NUMBER

PROBABLE SOVIET ACTION IN VARIOUS CONTINGENCIES AFFECTING SYRIA

CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN FULL

Submitted by the

DIRECTOR OP CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

The /allowing intelligence organizations participated In the preparation ot thii estimate: The Central InteUigence Agency and the Hitelligenve organisations ol the Departments Of State, the Army, thc Navy, the Air Force, and The Joint Staff.

Concurred in by the

INTELLIGENCE ADVISORY COMMITTER

ononcurring icere the Special Assistant, InteUigence, Department Ol State; the Assistant Chlel ol Staff. Intelligence. Dejiortment ol thc Army; the Director ol Natal intelligence; iht Assistant Chiel ol Staff, intelligence, USAF; and the Deputy Director Icr InteUigence. The Joint Staff. The Atomic Energy Commission Representative to the IAC. and the Assistant Director. Federal Bureau olabstained, the subject being outside ot their turtsdictton.

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CENTRALGENCE AGENCY DISSEMINA-.TON NOTICE

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PROBABLE SOVIET ACTION IN VARIOUS CONTINGENCIES

AFFECTING SYRIA

THE PROBLEM

To estimate the probable Soviet reaction in the event of: (a) armed Intervention in Syria by Iraq alone, or together with Jordan and/or Lebanon; (b) Intervention by Turkey alone or together with one or more of the above Arab states; (c) significant US/UK logistical support to the Intervening powers in any of the aboveand (d) US/UK intervention in support of Turkey if, following action by Turkey as in (b) above, the USSR had sent large numbers of "volunteers" to Syria.

ASSUMPTIONS

military action In the cases considered would be taken only followingby Syria, involving border incidents or recognizable subversive acts byone of the neighboring states.

Israel does not intervene in the

ESTIMATE

GENERAL SOVIET REACTION

y its recent warnings against pro-Western intervention ln Syria, especially Its latest note to Turkey, the USSR has publiclytrong position on this issue. The USSR would be reluctant to accept the loss to its prestige which would occurovernment lt openly supports were overthrown. It would be even more concerned with the resulting setback to its newly won position In thc Middle East and with the corresponding strengthening ol the US posilion In that area.

e believe, therefore, lhat armedby outside powers against the Syrianwouldajorcrisis. The USSR would make great propaganda play of alleged WesternIt would almost certainly promoteand subversive actions, send suchtechnical and logistical support to Syria as it could through available channels, and make threatening military "gestures.this, it could choose among three broad courses of actkm (not wholly mutually ex-

l) overt military action byforces dlrecUy against Uie statesuch assistance to Syria as sending as many Soviet "volunteers" as feasible andIn Soviet aircraft to operate from Syrian bases;ttempts to secure Immediate UN or great power action to halt Uie conflict or possibly to provide justification for sub-sequent Soviet armed intervention.

A key factor in the USSR's choice of coun-termoves would be its estimate of Uie USWe do not believe that thc USSR would desire to let Uie crisis reach such pro-portions as to involve grave risks of general war; Zhukov and Uie Soviet military would probably advocate caution ln this respect. But Uie Soviet leaders would probably believe Uiat their own deterrent capabilities as well as other factors would also induce caution on the part of the Western powers and leave Uie USSR considerable maneuverability.

In this regard the possible role ofdeserves consideration. He hasgreat boldness and even some impetuosity ln dealingumber of problems. How-over, we believe Uiat he would be disposed to ward caution on issues which he thought to Involve appreciable risk of hostilities with the US. Moreover, he probably does not yetsoosition Uiat his personal decision alone would be controlling on Issues of such importance.

The Soviet leaders are well aware that it would be extremely difficult for them to bring substantial Soviet forces to bear In Syria quickly without violating the frontiers of US and UK allies, and thereby incurring risks of direct conflict with US and NATO forces. We believe that the Soviets would be reluctant to take these risks unless they were confident that the US and UK would not react with armed lorce. and they probably could not be confident In this regard.

We also believe that Uie Soviets would be sensitive to thc repercussions on their prestige, their position In the Middle East, and perhaps even more their position in Eastern Europe if they were drawnajor test ofstrength in thc Middle East,one involving Soviet forces, and then

had to back down Finally, they wouldjudgeeverse in Syria would not be permanent, since Western-chances ofa stable pro-Weslem regime would seem limited at best.

In these circumstances we believe Uiat Uie USSR would sec major advantageseace-loving opponent of aggression by an Immediate appeal to tho UN. Whether or not the intervention was provoked by Syria, the USSR would label it as Western-Initiated, and might expect that it would be viewed as aggressionubstantial number of UN members, particularly among-thc Afro-Asian nations. By acting through the UN. the USSR would avoid the risks and difficulties of extensive military coun term ores aa well as the possible political disadvantages resulting from the appearance of Soviet forces in Uie Middle East. Soviet success in getting UNwould greatly enhance Sovirtand Inevitably appear as a'defeat for Uie US. Moreover, by Itselfajor role In UN or great power intercession, the USSR would help to achieve one of Us majorthat ofecognized voice In greut power action on Middle Eastern Issues.

The duration of the crisis mightaffect the Soviet reaction. If the Initial intervention were rapidly successful. Uie odds against extensive Soviet military support to Syria would be increased. But If Uie crisis dragged on and UN action were delayed, the USSR might step up its support of Syria,if growing world condemnation of Uie intervention appeared to support thisUie USSR's estimate of the likelyreaction would remain thc key factor in any such Soviet decision.

he USSR could count on the extensive capabilities of Egypt and Syria for sabotage, fomenting strikes and demonstrations, and otherwise stirring up trouble In lhe Middle East and it would aid and abet them tn this activity. In particular Egypt and Syria could extensively disrupt Middle East oil supplies. In event of fighting in Syria, someof oil movements would almost certainly

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and subversive activitiesbanon. Jordan, and Iraq would probably be stepped up. Moreover, the USSR might makegestures outside the Middle East,iversionary action.

ROBABLE SOVIET REACTION TO INTERVENTION BY IRAQ ALONE, OR TOGETHER WITH JORDAN AND/OR LEBANON

Unless the USSR believed that Iraql-Leb-anesc-Jordanian military capabilities andstability had been substantiallyprior to the attack, the USSR would probably think that these countries wereto succeed in their designs, at least quickly. Therefore, with US/UK and Turkish forces not directly involved, it is almostthc USSR would not Intervene directly. Instead It would probably attempt by threats and intimidating military gestures to deter subsequent Turkish or US/UK support to the invaders, and to warn the states concerned that the USSR might be compelled toif they did not withdraw.

The USSR would almost certainly press immediately for UN Intervention toease-fire. It would label thc US. UK and Turkey as being the real behind-the-scenes aggressors, and pointedly Invite them tostrong UN action. The USSR might threaten that unless thc UN acted, it would have to intervene. Alternatively, it might call for great power Intervention andwith Soviet participation.

Meanwhile, to enhance Syrian resistance, the USSR would probably urge Egypt to send troops and aircrafl to Syria's support. Some degree of direct Soviet technical and logistical support to Syria would also be likely. Bow-ever, the USSR probably would not riskthe conflict (al least initially) byln numeroushe USSR would employ sea lift, if feasible, and possibly clandestine overflights over Iran and Iraq, despite their Baghdad Pact status; someover SE Turkey might be undertaken, but the USSR would seek to limit the risks of Turkish reaction.

ROBABLE SOVIET REACTION TO INTERVENTION BY TURKEY ALONE OR TOGETHER WITH THE ABOVE ARAB STATES

In our view the USSR would feelto react much more strongly andUi this case, because of theprospects of early Syrian collapse It would almost certainlyighlyposture, possibly including military gestures along Turkish and perhaps Iranian frontiers.

But wc believe that thc USSR would still see great Initial advantages in diplomatic and UN action for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal. In thc case of Turkishalone It ls unlikely that any provocation justifying the intervention would beto thc world. In this case the USSR could expect support from most Afro-Asian states, and many abstentions from other countries. The Soviets would probably estimateondemnation-withdrawal resolution could be obtainedery few days, unless thc US vigorously opposed, and that In this event the US would be very seriously embarrassed. If the Turks had been joined by one or more Arab states, the Soviet chancesajority would be less but the USSR would stillarge number of favorable votes.

We believe the attractions of this course would be such lhat the SovieU would almost certainly make It their initial move. Should they do so, they might continue to make threatening gestures, as being likely torapid UN action rather than the reverse. However, the Soviets would probably limit their military help to Syria, at least during this initial period of UN consideration, to technical and logistical support. Thc Soviets would also encourage active Egyptian support ot Syria, as well as sabotage, disruption and subversion in any Arab states joining with Turkey.

a UN resolutionalt toaction, the USSR would move toas actively as possible in thcand toro-Soviet government.

If. on the other hand, the Turks persisted notwithstanding thc UN resolution and. as ls probable, appeared likely to overthrow the present Syrian government and occupythe USSR would be confronted with the choice between major military action and acceptance of this result

If thc Soviet leaders considered that the prevailing climate of opinion would sharply Inhibit Western countermoves, and that Syria could be effectively assisted, they might risk sendinghey might even risk some overflights of SE Turkey where Turkish air defenses are weak and the chanceslash limited. In fact, the USSR mightthat such actions would Influence the Western powers toease-fire.wc believe that Uie USSR would beto try to oppose Turkish forces by large scale use of Soviet forces In Syria. The Soviet leaders would probably rcgnrd Michas difficult to carry outcale large enough to be effective against the Turks without entailing substantial risks of US-UK countermeasures. Finally,N resolution were in existence, large scale Sovietwould be an Inappropriate responsespecifically authorized by the resolution.

As to direct military action against Turkey Itself, we believe that such action would be highly unlikely, though we cannot exclude it altogether. We believe that, in Uie absence of contrary indications, the USSR would probably believeovicl attack on Turkey would be taken by thc US asNATO obligations, and hence would create grave risk of general war. Even If Uie Soviet action wereN resolution, the Soviets would probably regard the risk as substantial. Moreover, in deciding whether to accept this risk, lhe Soviets might calculate that the Turkish success would be shorHlvrd. Even If Turkey had been joined by one or more Arab states, Uie USSR wouldidespread popular Arab reaction against Turkey (and against Uie US as Turkey's apparenthich could subsequently be turned to major Soviet advantage ln Uie Middle East

hile the above reasoning seems to us to weigh heavily against any Soviet resort to

direct military action, we repeat thai weexclude such action wholly, having ln mind particularly Uie possible Soviet belief that the US would not in "Uie last analysis resort to general war.

ROBABIE SOVIET REACTION IN THE ABOVE CONTINGENCIES IF THE US AND UK GAVELOGISTICAL SUPPORT

Since the USSR would regard anyin Syria as being US/UK insUgated and supported, wc believe that it would expect further significant US/UK_ aid to Turkey and/or its Arab partners once Uiehad begun. Assuming that such aid was demonstrable, the USSR would use it to back up Its diplomatic and propaganda efforts to label thc Western powers as the real aggressors and to secure UN Intercession.

lhe USSR might also regard such overt US/UK aid as permitting the USSR to jusUfy publicly auch open assistance to Syriar Soviet aircraft and crews to operate from Syrian bases, thusthe crisis. On the other hand the fact of such US/UK support would be additional evidence of their determination and might reinforce Soviet caution. On balance wethat the USSR probably would remain unwilling to take the risks of extensivecounteraction for the" reasons given inbove.

ROBABLE SOVIET REACTION IF LARGE SCALE SOVIETOF VOLUNTEERS.TURKISH INTERVENTION IN SYRIA LED TO US/UK OR POSSIBLY NATO INTERVENTION IN SUPPORT OF TURKEY

this Ume Uie crisis wouldirect confrontation ofWestern forces Involving grave riskleading to general war.Issues in Syria- would beby great power maneuvering onscale. Tho momentum of theUie commitment of Soviet "volunteers."

would have carried the USSRoint where backing down would be very difficult. But by this time, unless other factors emerged to foect their estimate, we believe the Soviet dcrs would see grave risks of general war thc light of demonstrated US/UK or NATO "ijhwllllngness to retreat. Three broudwould be open to the USSR: (a) to increase the scope of the local conflict; (b) to Initiate general war; or (c) to seek asolution.

e believe that if the USSR had notengagedreater extentarge scale volunteer force and some overflights. It would seek to avoid general war and the risks of general war involved in intensifying the local conflict.ossible loss to its prestige if It appeared to back down bynegotiations, the USSR might even see considerable advantages ln being the power whicheaceful soluUon to the conflict.

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