THE SOVIET ROLE IN THE ARAB WORLD

Created: 4/24/1963

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

wm

sj^et

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

Soviet Role in the Arab World

SEORET

s

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

DISCUSSION

I. THE SOVIET VIEW OF THE

II. LOCAL PROBLEMS AND

Particular

Nasser and the

The New

The Conservative Arab

The

Special

Oil

The Arab-Israeli

III. SOVIET POLICY AND

TABLES: Bloc Economic and Military Aid and Technicians .

SEtJRET

THE SOVIET ROLE IN THE ARAB WORLD

CONCLUSIONS

A. Large-scale Soviet economic and military aid to nationalist regimes in the Arab world has contributed to the reduction of Western influence and has encouraged instability. However,to Soviet hopes, most nationalist leaders have provencompetent and tough-minded in maintaining theirof action from the Soviet Union and have rigorously opposed local Communist Party activity. With the revolutions in Iraq and Syria, the local Communists and the USSR havesevere reverses. We believe the new union of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq is unlikely to aid the Communist cause and, to the degree the union develops strength, it will probably prove to be an additional obstacle to the spread of Communist influence. (Paras.

B. Soviet leaders probably have no substantial hopes oftheir recent losses within the near future. But they almost certainly believe that there are still vulnerabilities in the area that they can exploit and which in time they can convert into tangible assets. We believe the Soviets are unlikely to make any radical change In policy, at least in the near future. We expect that varying degrees of military and economic aid to Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria will continue in order to preserve at least some Soviet influence. However, we believe that the scale will be reduced and that recipients will find the termsharder than in the past. At the same time, we think it likely the Soviets will put more emphasis than they have lately upon the development of local Communist assets. )

C. All factors considered, we believe that the USSR and the Communists are unlikely to make any very substantial gains in the Arab world in the years immediately ahead. Local nation-

SEC#ET

alist leaders prize their independence from the major powers and are not likely consciously to involve themselves so deeply with the USSR as to be unable to maintain their freedom of action.

DISCUSSION

I. IHE SOVIET VIEW OF THE AREA

the wake of World War n. the Arab world became aanU-unperlallsm, strident nationalism, and socialistof which weakened the established, conservative.In Marxist-Leninist terms, thisanifestation of arevolutionary situation which would pave the way for theof Communist regimes. In their realignment of Sovietafter the death of Stalin, the Soviet leaderseans toInto the rapidly evolving Arab scene, and theyat least as an Initial step, they could gain Influence andreduce Western influence andfurnishing militaryaid to the Arab States.

Aid was first provided to Egypt5 and then, as opportunities developed, extended to Syria. Iraq. Morocco, and even the royal regime in Yemen. The Initial results of this approach were encouraging enough. Soviet aid enabled the recipients to be more Intractableide range of issues in their dealings with the West than wouldhave been the case. It strengthened the hands of the revolutionary regimes and enabled them to keep up pressure against the conservative. Wcstem-orientcd states. It clearly contributed to the sharp reduction of Western influence in the Arab world which was characteristic ofs.

More recently, however, even tlie most latltudinarian of thehierarchy must have begun to develop doubts about the effectiveness of this policy. No Communist regimes have been established In the Arab world. On the contrary, the most popular and successful of the Arab leaders. President Nasser of tbe UAR. has turned out toigorous enemy of local Communists, not only in his own country, but wherever hb influence extends in the Arab world. Moreover, none of theleaders who have accepted Soviet aid haseliableof Soviet policy. The recent revolutions In Iraq andand particularly the violent anH-Communist actions of the BaathlsU inhaverofound shock to the Soviet leaders, and they have reacted with unusual sharpness.

In these circumstances, the Soviet leadership is almost certainly re-examining its policy toward underdeveloped areas in general and

the Arab world In particular. Soviet officials must be concerned whether the cost of the Soviet aid program Is Justified by the tangible results to date. Proponents of the aid policy must be aware of theirvulnerability at this time to the Chinese Communist charge that too much time and attention have been given to nationalist leaders at the expense of local Communist movements. Before attempting to estimate future Soviet policy In the Arab world, we examine more specifically in the following paragraphs the fortunes of the local Communists, thewhich the USSR has won to date, the setbacks it hasand the obstacles and opportunities it may face in the future.

II. LOCAL PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNIIIPS

Arab world is going through an era of Intense fermentpatterns of society are fast crumbling and the old orderoverthrown or is being challenged wherever it has managedTwo basic motivations underlie this ferment. One Is theof the Arabs for freedom from foreign control, for politicalfor reassertion of Arab power and greatness. The other Is themodernization and for reform of the social and economicthe same time, the recently emergent nationalist leaders aredissension over how to accomplish the widely accepted goal ofa united and Independent Arab world. Although most of themto avoid embroilment In the cold wax, they havetheir objectives within the context of that struggle andwith considerable success, to derive benefit from It.

Particular Area*

Nasser and the USSR. President Nasser obviouslylace of major importance in the USSR's estimate of its opportunities ln the Middle East. The UAR Is the most advanced and powerful (though economically one of the least prosperous) of the Arab countries. Nasser is the strongest Arab leader and the one with the broadest appeal. His dedication to overthrowing conservative regimes, expelling Westernand fostering rapid stale-sponsored economic development is shared by nationalist elements throughout the Arab world. It was Nasser who first broke the tradition of dependence upon the West by seeking and accepting Soviet military and economic aid.

Nasser's relationship with the USSR has taken the form ofin causes of mutual benefit. Soviet economic aid has helped Nasser sustain his symbolic role In the Arab renascence by suchprojects as the Aswan High Dam. Soviet arms and equipment have been also essentia) to his prestige, as well as to his security against Israel and to his military accomplishments in Yemen. The USSR's gain has been less striking but nevertheless significant. Nasser's efforts to reduce the Western position in the Middle East have been assisted

EI

by Soviet support. Nasser has accepted large numbers of Sovietand advisers Into the UAR and has given them an important role In his military and economic development programs. He has also sent many of his people to the USSR for training. He has generallythe USSR's expansion of its state-to-state relations In the area and has often been prepared to cooperate with Soviet policy In thesphere.

Yet Nasser and his associates have generally shown themselves to be competent and tough-minded In maintaining their independence of action from the Soviet Union. Nasser has rigorously suppressedParty activity within the UAR and opposed it elsewhere in the Arab world. He has sought and received substantial Western aid, not only for its own value to him. buteliberate policy aimed atcomplete dependence upon the Soviet Bloc. He has refused tothe USSRumber of key issues.

Nasser is and will continue toevolutionary, intent not only on reducing Western influence in the Middle East, but on encouraging the overthrow ot rival regimes. In the process, he will take considerable risk of alienating the major powers if he judges his course will succeed, as in Yemen, where the struggle threatens to spread and directlyUS and UK interests in the Arabian Peninsula. At the same time, Nasser has shown himself willing to limit his Investment or to pull back from enterprises when he feels that costs or risks begin to look

There arc undoubtedly limits to the Soviet support for Nasser in the export of his revolution. Certainly It Is In the USSR's immediate interest to support Nasserist movements in those states where changes will resulteduction of Western influence. The Soviets alsofeel that Nasser's success in maintaining friendly relations with both the USSR and the West will encourage others to develop ties with thewhich these others may be less adept than Nasser in keeping within bounds. Moreover, Nasser's revolutionary movement is an unsettling influence in the Arab world, and the disorders to which he contributes are probably regarded by the Soviets as generallyto their Interests. On the other hand, the Soviets must now realize that Nasser will not knowingly foster the emergence of regimes directly subservient to their cause, and that his revolutionary movement may be more an obstacle to than an instrument for the expansion of Soviet influence in the Arab world.

Iraq. The Soviets made major gains during Qassim's regime. He opened the country to Soviet influence through acceptance of sizable economic assistance projects and the re-equipment of the armed forces with Soviet arms. Mnny of his closest advisers had Communistand he permitted the organizationowerful local Commu-

SEflfiET

nlst apparatus. While Qassirn did not allow the local Communists to dictate his Internal policies, his foreign policy followed the Soviet line closely and he became the most vociferous anti-Western spokesman In tbe Arab world.

The Baathlsl coup of3harp setback for the Soviet position In Iraq and In tbe areahole Drawing on deep resentment over the excesses committed by the Iraqiduring their drive for powerhe Baath regime moved to break the back of the Communist Party through execution of prominent Communists and the arrest of hundreds of party rank and file. This has dealt Communistevere blow, and the Communist Party Is unlikely toeal threat for some time to come unless the regime's power and unity should be seriously sapped by InternalAlthough the new regime undoubtedly will wish to preserve some Soviet economic and military aid, it is moving lo decrease the degree of dependency on the Soviet Bloc, it is requesting Westernassistance and emergency financial help, and is seeking Western arms for some branches of the services.

The Soviet propaganda reaction to events in Iraq has beenstrong. There have been repeated broadcasts, resolutions,ln Moscow, and calls forresponse in markedto the usual Moscow aloofness to the fate of local Communist movements. It is evident that the strength and violence of Baathist anUcommunism hasevere shock; the Soviets may even have believed thai they wen- on the verge of victory in Iraq and that this victory was snatched from them. In an effort to regain what they can they arc attempting to confound the government's moves to arrive at any accommodation with the Kurds. Should the Soviets succeed, they may hope tooothold through support of renewed Kurdish

S]ftia. Since independence, Syria has flounderedea of chronic intrigue and instability. Nevertheless, the local Communist Party under Khalid Bakdash has consistently found Its way to power blocked. The party had hardly begun to recover from its suppression by Nasser when Ihe3 coup usheredew period ofThe strong clandestine Communist radio attacks, which began from the very moment the present regime look power, stripped away any vestiges of nationalist aura which the Communists had built up and seriously hurt the Communist Party's popular image. Thus, though the present regime faces severe difficulties in consolidating Its position, is seriously threatened by pro-Nasserist elements, and could beat any time, the Communists have been severely weakened. Although Syria's politics] disunity will provide Ihc Communists with opportunities to maneuver, they arc unlikely to play any signiftcanl

SECRET

sej(!et

roleuccessor regime. While continuation ol the Soviet aid program will serve tooviet presence In the country. It will be difficult for the USSR to exercise much influence in theatmosphere now prevailing.

IS. The Hew UAR. The new political entity formed by the recent grouping of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq is likely toenuous one for some time. As already indicated, the main political elements in all three of these countries are antl-Communist; they will almost certainly remain so under the new political framework. The new union will not, of course, eliminate, and could even sharpen, long-established rivalries among these countries. These tensions, whether or not they ultimately disrupt the new union, may provide limited opportunities to localor situations that the USSR can exploit Cm balance, however, we believe that this latest manifestation of Arab desire for unity Isto aid the Communist cause and. to the degree that the union develops strength, it will probably prove to be an additional obstacle to the spread of Communist influence.

emen. Through Its aid program the USSR evidently hoped, under the Imamate, tooothold from which to influence the military leadersreater Soviet presence and eventual UAR Influence was clearly greater, however, and theleaders both before and after the2 coup turned toward Cairo rather than Moscow for assistance. The Soviets, making the best of the situation, assisted Cairo in meeting the militaryof the revolutionary government and recently have begun direct shipments on their own. It it clear that at the moment Soviet and UAR interests coincide; both wish to protect and secure theregime and they are cooperating toward that end. If and when the republican regime Is consolidated in Yemen, the Soviets will almost certainly attempt toore independent role, and this will bring them into conflict with Egyptian interests.

Ae CorwcTxioffye Arab Slates. Present Soviet and localopportunities in the conservative ArabSaudi Arabia, Libya,slight These Western-oriented regimes are deeply suspicious of the Soviet Union, whichhilosophyorm of govenment totally inimical to their own Certain of these states might open diplomatic relations with the USSR or even accept some Soviet aid, especially if they came to believe that the West was letting them down, and this would of course bring some increasedfor the USSR. However, even under these circumstances, the lack of common Interests and objectives makes lt unlikely that the USSR will be able toignificant influence on their policies in the near future.

lft. In some of these countries, there is considerable dissidence within the governing elite, the military, and the small middle class. Jordan

St^fcT

anrt Saudi Arabia hare been the object of especially strong pressure from pro-Nasserlsl domestic elements, and Saudi Arabia at the moment is particularly vulnerable. Some conservative states have attempted to prevent revolution by gradual reform, but It Is probable that they will not be able to prevent some kind of revolutionary upheaval in the years ahead. Most of the ferment that Is taking place, however, Is in the context of revolutionary nationalism rather than of communism, and any successor regimes are likely to be nationalist-neutralist rather than Communist-inclined.

Maghreb. Despite the political instability andcharacteristic of North Africa, Soviet achievements among theArabs have been modest. In both Tunisia and Morocco, thesocial structure continues to exist and has helped totransition to independent statehood. Moreover, many of thehaveeep distrust of Communists. Evenlabor movements In these countries, despite periodicthe Communists, haveetermination to staythere Is opposition to both Bourguiba's pro-Westernthe somewhat more conservative Moroccan monarchy, there arepressures to change radically the nature of these regimes.Sovietsomeillion worth of arms toin establishing an effective Soviet presence in either of

Soviets clearly regard Algeria as more promising, butgains so far have been slight Indeed, the Communist Partyand for the present the Ben Bella regime looks to theits primary support. However, Algeria Is in dire economicconsequently susceptibleide variety of trade and aidexisting Algerian leadership is weak and divided; theremains parlous; unemployment is high; and the centralhas not firmly established its authority throughout the An outbreak of rivalry among the Algerian leaders or aFrance over any one of many Issues could radically alter theand orientation of the government and lead to closerthe USSR and other Bloc countries. In the event of such aSoviets can probably still count on sympathizers in the officeramong some of the French-educated clile. Because of theproblems which Algeriaotentially violentis likely to prevail lor some years to come, and thisa feeding ground for Communist subversion.

Special Problems

il Western oil companies, because of their importance in the economies of many Arab countries, arc an attractive target for both revolutionary nationalists and for the USSR. Nevertheless the USSR

SECRET

has had tittle Influence to date on Arab oil policies. Apart from aot propaganda, it does not appear to bareajor effort. The principal markets for Middle Eastern and North African oil areby Western companies. Even Qassirn, despite his heavy pressure on the Iraq Petroleum Company, recognized these circumstances. Hence, while the various host countries, whether under conservative or revolutionary governments, will continue to press for increasedfrom, and greater participation in control of, the oil companies, their economies are heavily dependentontinued flow of oil revenues and they will not deliberately kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Arab-Israeli Problem. Support of the Arab causehasseful weapon for the Soviets, since It Is thewhichympathetic response among all Arabs.Israel from the West has fed anti-Western feeling andArab acceptance of military aid from the USSR The USSRno interest in steps to resolve the Arab-Israeli problem andsees advantages In Its continuance. Israeli acquisition of acapability would provide the Soviets with significanta development would further stimulate the Arabs' fears andin their minds the Importance of Soviet support andsuch circumstances thereood chance that they wouldpolitical concessions to Ihe USSR as the price of protection.

Arab-Israeli quarrel docs also, however, create somethe USSR The Soviet leaders probably want to avoid beingto all-out support for the Arab cause. They must realizeArab-Israeli hostilities could leadajor international crisisthere was danger of direct confrontation with the US. Onthe Soviets aim oat certainly regard the Arab-Israeli quarreluseful asset.

iii. soviet policy and pr05pects

objectives in the Arab world are an amalgam ofmotivatedestablishment ofat least prolo-Communlst,the nearer term goals ofdiplomacy -the elimination of the Western position and theof support for Soviet policies among the present regimes. described in the preceding section must suggest to thethat their long-term objectives are far from achievement. of recent months must have made them appear moreever. Strong Communist parties do not exist anywhere In thein most places the Communists are virtually nonexistent,or weak and ineffectual. At the same time, the USSR'sefforts to align existing regimes with Sovietand to eliminate or at least drastically reduce Western Influence

SEOftET

have fallen well short of what Moscow probably hoped to achieve. While Moscow has succeeded In buildingresence In the Arab world, Nasser's continued Independence and Qasslm's downfall havethe limits of Soviet ability to influence the course of event*.

It can be argued that over the longer term Nasser andrevolutionary leaders are moreiability than an asset tocause. While the Soviets may have successfully used NasserWestern power and Influence, he also has used them toposition at home and to enlarge his symboliche Arabrevolution. At the same time, the power and prestige ofParty are growing and so are Ita anU-Communlst predilections.

In addition to the systematic suppression of communism by Nasser and by the Baa trusts In Syria and Iraq, the restrictions imposed upon Communists are increasing elsewhere in the area. Communist Party activities, for years banned in tbe eastern Arab States, have now been outlawed in Tunisia. Algeria, and Morocco; the only legal Communist Party in the area Is in Israel Moreover, and perhaps most important of all, the "Arab socialism' of Nasser, the "Arab resurrection" of the Baathists, the continued popular support for Nasser throughout the Arab world, and the organized political base of the Baathist Parties, all create non-Communist ideological and political images of significant proportions. In short, the popular emotions to which communism might hope to appeal are being pre-empted by local ideologies and local leaders.

In these circumstances, Moscow has ample reason to question its strategy of cooperation. Indeed, Its disillusionment with this policy has been made manifest by the shrillness of its criticism of the new regimes in Iraq and Syria. Soviet leaders may be considering placing greater emphasis upon exploitation of internal instability and regional tensions and more direct support for local Communist groups at least in certain areas.

The Soviet leaders must recognizeore aggressive course has its own limits and hazards. For example, an attempt to undercut Nasser in Yemen would encourage his recalcitrance and could turn him from benevolence to open hostility. Early bids for power In Syria. Iraq, or Algeria would incur the enmity of the whole Arab nationalistand could expose to further reprisals the already very limited assets of the local Communists which might better be held In reserve. The prospectlearcut Communist takeover almost anywhere in the area wouldenssertion of Western influence, which, under the circumstances, might even be welcomed by the Arabs. Similarly, severe reduction or elimination of Soviet aid would encourage Arab countries lo turn toward the West

The Soviet policymakers obviouslyerious dilemma Losses have been suffered, and they probably have no substantial hopes

f/we-t

ol offsetting them with new gains in the near future. Nevertheless, they almost certainly believe that there are still vulnerabilities in the area that they can exploit and which In time they can convert Into tangible assets. In particular, they probably see opportunities developing from the deep economic depression and unstable leadership in Algeria, the unsettled political situations In Iraq and Syria, continuing Kurdishthe confused conditions which are likely to follow any upheavals that may occur in Saudi Arabia or Jordan, the virtually inevitablebetween rival nationalist leaders, and the remaining sources ofbetween the Arabs and the West, such as the British position in the Persian Gulf and Aden.

n these circumstances, we believe the Soviets are unlikely to make any radical change In their policy of cultivating relations with the Arab governments. We expect that military and economic aid to Egypt. Yemen. Iraq, and Syria will continue in order to preserve at least some Soviet influence. However, we believe that the scale will be reduced and that recipients will find the terms somewhat harder than In the past. The Soviets have been somewhat disillusioned about the gains to be made through state-to-state relations with nationalist Arab governments. At the same time, their dispute with the Chinese Communists will make them more concerned to cultivate their own influence with localparties. Accordingly, we think it likely that the Soviets will put more emphasis than they have lately upon the development of local Communist assets. Meanwhile we expect them to try to prevent the developmentingle, powerful Arab State, to attempt to exploit rivalries and animosities within the Arab world, and to utilize quarrels among the Arab States, or between the Arabs and the West, to acquire influence and position.

he USSR will try to exploit any differences that may develop between local governments and Western oil companies. If suchshould become critical, the Soviet Union might even beto try to utilize its expanding position in the international oil market to distribute some of the Middle Eastern product. As Soviet ability to provide refining and marketing facilities increases. Moscow will probably try to use this capacity to gain such political advantage as It can. However, we believe the USSR Is not yet prepared lo press for termination of Western oil rights, since at the moment it would Snd it difficult to dispose ot Middle Eastern petroleum.

Becauseimilar unwillingness to face the consequences, we believe that the Soviet Union is unlikely tohowdown in the Arab-Israeli dispute in the near future but that it will almostattempt toolution of this problem.

We believe that Soviet arms aid to the Arab States will continue. We believe it unlikely, however, that steps will be undertaken to establish

Soviet bases manned by Soviet personnel. We do not believe that any existing regime, shortajor change ln Its character, would agree to the establishment of Soviet bases under foreign control. We do not exclude, however, the possibility that certain rights of landing ormight be acquired for military aircraft or naval vessels. 'Ihe Soviets have already supplied certain Arab States withnd surface-to-air missiles. It is possible that the Soviets will provide the Arabs with additional modem weapons systems. If, for example, the Israelisa nuclear capability, the Soviets might give the UAR short-range surface-to-surface missiles, but would almost certainly not providewarheads.

ll factors considered, we believe that the USSR, whether or not itore militant strand into its policy, is unlikely to make any very substantial gains In the Arab world ln the years lrrunediately ahead. Local Communists are more suspect now than they have erer been throughout the Arab world, and the more the USSR seeks tothem or to extract concessions in return for its aid, the more hostile the nationalist reaction is likely to be. It is conceivable that someleader may turn out toeliberate or witting agent of the USSR. It Is also possible that,eries of steps partly lnto Western policies, nationalists might Involve themselves so deeply with the USSR or with Indigenous Communist elements as to be unable to maintain independence. However, those who are now ln power are clearly most anxious to remain masters in their own houses, and have no desire to Install the Soviet Union in the places of the departed West-em overlords.

j i

l

SE0RET

TABLE I

BLOC ECONOMIC CREDITS AND GRANTS2

RECIPIENT Iraq

Syrian Armb Republic United Anb RepubHc

Yemen

.

Tunisia

Morocco

TOTALS

TAQLE n

BLOC MILITARY AID AGREEMENTSS-DECEMBER

Iraq

Syrian AraO Republic United Arab Republic

Yemen

Alferta

Morocco .

TOTAL.

(MILLION CURRENT US S) AID EXTENDED '

_

273

550

27

12

7

. ilw

substantial proportion of Ui grants or discount allowances.

provided by

13

I V

BLOC ECONOMIC2

COMMUNIST

COUNTRY

MS

Arab

Arab.

56

SO

Minimum estimates ot personnel presenteriod of one month or more. Personnel engaged solely In commercial or military utlrlUcs are excluded. Num-bera are rounded to the nearest five.

TABLE IV

BLOC MILITARY TECHNICIANS PRESENT FOR PERIODS OF ONE MONTH OR MORE DURING3

Algeria. 30

Morocco 60

Iraq

Syrian Arab Republic

United Arab Republic

SE/REI

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA