THE SOVIET ROLE IN THE ARAB WORLD (NIE 11-6-63)

Created: 4/24/1963

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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

The Soviet Role in the Arab World

CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN FULL

Submitted by the DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTEUIGENCE

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WARNING

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

The Soviet Role in the Arab World

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DISCUSSION /

1

THK SOVIET VIEW OF THE

II. LOCAL PROBLEMS AND

Particular

Nasser and the

The New

The Conservative Arab

The

Special

The Arab-Israeli

III. SOVIET POLICY AND

TABLES: Bloc Economic and Military Aid and Technicians

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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 thc 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 urc still vulnerabilities in thc 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 thc termsharder than in the past. At the same time, wc 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 ln the years immediately ahead. Local nation-

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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. THE SOVIET VIEW OF THE AREA

In the wake of World War II, the Arab worldotbed of anli-lmperlallsm, strident nationalism, and socialist experimentation, all of which weakened the established, conservative, Western-oriented order. In Marxist-Leninist terms, thisanifestation of arevolutionary situation which would pave the way for the eventual emergence of Communist regimes. In their realignment of Sovietafter the death of Stalin, the Soviet leaderseans to inject themselves into the rapidly evolving Arab scene, and they concluded that, at least as an initial step, they could gain Influence andand reduce Western Influence andfurnishing military and economic aid to the Arab States.

Aid was first provided to Egypt5 and then, as opportunlUes 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 thc West than wouldhave been the case. It strengthened the hands of the revoluUonary regimes and enabled them to keep up pressure against the conservative, Wcstem-oriented states. It clearly contributed to the sharp reduction of Western influence in thc Arab world which was characterise ofs.

More recently, however, even the most latitudinarian of thehierarchy must have begun to develop doubts about the eflecUveness of this policy. No Communist regimes have been established in the Arab world. On thc contrary, the most popular and successful of the Arab leaders, President Nasser or the UAR. has turned out toigorous enemy of local Communists, not only ln his own country, but wherever his 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 anti-Communist actions of the Baathlsts lnhaverofound shock to the Soviet leaders, and they have reacted with unusual sharpness.

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

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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 Tuture Soviet policy in the Arab world, wc 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- LOCXL PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Arab world Ls going through an era of Intense ferment.patterns 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 reassertlon of Arab power and greatness. The other Is themodernization and for reform of the social and economicthe same time, the recently emergent nationalist leaders arcdissension over how to accomplish the widely accepted goal ofa united and independent Arab world. Although most of themto avoid embroilment ln the cold war. they havetheir objectives within the context ot that struggle andwith considerable success, to derive benefit from It.

Particular Areas

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 state-sponsored economic development is shared by nationalist elements throughout thc 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 essential 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 thc Western position in thc Middle East have been assisted

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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 ln maintaining their Independence ot 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 ln the Middle East, but on encouraging the overthrow of rival regimes. In the process, he will take considerable risk of alienating tho 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 lime, 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

are undoubtedly limits to the Soviet support for Nasserexport of his revolution. Certainly It Is in the USSR'sto support Nassertst movements In those states whereresulteduction of Western influence. The Soviets alsofeel that Nasser's success in maintaining friendly relationsthe USSR and the West will encourage others to develop tieswhich these others may be less adept than Nasserwithin bounds. Moreover, Nasser's revolutionary movementunsettling influence in thc Arab world, and the disorders locontributes are probably regarded by the Soviets as generallyto their Interests. Cm the other hand, the Soviets mustthat Nasser will not knowingly foster the emergence ofsubservient to their cause, and that his revolutionarybe more an obstacle to than an instrument for the expansioninfluence in the Arab world.

raq. The Soviets made major gams 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 wllh Soviet arms. Many of his closest advisers had Communistand he permitted the organizationowerful local Commu-

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nist apparalus. While Qassim did not allow the local Communists lo dictate his internal policies, his foreign policy followed the Soviet line closely and he became tho most vociferous anti-Western spokesman in the Arab world.

The Baathist coup of3harp setback for the Soviet position in Iraq and ln the 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, lt is moving to 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 reacUon to events in Iraq has beenstrong. There have been repeated broadcasts, resolutions,in Moscow, and calls forresponse in markedto Uie usual Moscow aloofness to Uie fate of local Communist movements. It is evident Uiat thc strength and violence of Baathist anticommunlsm hasevere shock; the Soviets may even have believed that they were on the verge of victory in Iraq and that this victory was snatched from them. In an effort to regain what Uiey can Uiey are attempting to confound the government's moves to arrive at any accommodaUon with the Kurds. Should the Soviets succeed, they may hope tooothold through support of renewed Kurdish

Syria. Since independence, Syria has flounderedea of chronic intrigue and instability. Nevertheless, the local Communist Party under Khalid Bakdash has conslstenUy found its way to power blocked. The party had hardly begun to recover from its suppression by Nasser when the3 coup usheredew period of persecu-Uon. Thc strong clandestine Communist radio attacks, which began from the very moment thc present regime took 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 consolidaUng its position, is seriously threatened by pro-Nasserist elements, and could be ovcr-Uirown at any time, the Communists have been severely weakened. Although Syria's political disunity will provide the Communists with opportunlUes to maneuver, they are unlikely to play any significant

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roleuccessor regime. While continuation of the Soviet aid program will servo tooviet presence In the country, lt will be difficult for the USSR to exercise much influence In Uie anU-Com-munist atmosphere now prevailing.

The New 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 poliUcal elements in all three of these countries are anU-Communlst; Uiey will almost certainly remain so under Uie new poliUcal framework. The new union will not, of course, eliminate, and could even sharpen, lonp-established rivalries among these countries. These tensions, whether or not Uiey ultimately disrupt the new union, may provide limited opportunlUes to localor situations Uiat the USSR can exploit. On balance, however, we believe Uiat this latest manifestation of Arab desire for unity isto aid the Communist cause and. to the degree Uiat the union develops strength. It will probably prove to be an additional obstacle to the spread of Communist influence,

Yemen. Through Its aid program Uie USSR evidently hoped, under the Imomote. tooothold from which to Influence the military leadersreater Soviet presence and eventualUAR Influence was clearly greater, however, and theleaders both before and after Uie2 coup turned toward Cairo rather lhan Moscow for assistance. The Soviets, making the best of the situaUon. assisted Cairo ln meeting Uie militaryof the revolutionary government, and recently have begun direct shipments on their own. It is clear Uiat at Uie moment Soviet and UAR interests coincide; both wish to protect and secure thcregime and Uiey arc 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.

The Conservative Arab States. Present Soviet and localopportunities In the conservative ArabSaudi Arabia. Libya.slight. These Western-oriented regimes are deeply suspicious of Uie Soviet Union, whichhilosophyorm of govenment totally inimical to their own. Certain of these states might open diplomatic relations with Uie USSR or even accept some Soviet aid. especially If Uiey came to believe Uiat the West was letting them down, and this would ol course bring some Increasedfor Uie USSR. However, even under Ihese circumstances, the lack of common interests and objectives makes il unlikely that the USSR will be able loignificant influence on their policies in Uie near future.

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

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and Saudi Arabia have been thc object of especially strong pressure from pro-Nasserist 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 tn the years ahead. Most of the ferment that ts taking place, however, is in the context of revolutionary nationalism rather than of communism, and any successor regimes are likely to be naUonalist-neutrallst rather thanncllned.

Id. The Maghreb. Despite the political Instability and antlcolonial-ism characteristic ot North Africa, Soviet achievements among the West-cm Arabs have been modest. In both Tunisia and Morocco, thesocial structure continues to exist and has helped to cushion the transition to Independent statehood. Moreover, many of the new leaders haveeep distrust of Communists. Even the strong labor movements in these countries, despite periodic flirtations with the Communists, haveetermination to stay independent. Although there ls opposiUon to both Bourguiba's pro-Western regime and Uio somewhat more conservaUve Moroccan monarchy, there are no strong pressures to change radically Uie nature of these regimes. Nor has Sovietsomeillion worth of arms to Morocco-succeeded in establishing an cffccUve Soviet presence in either of these countries.

he Soviets clearly regard Algeria as more promising, butgains so far have been slight, indeed, Uie Communist Party is proscribed and for the present Uie Ben Bella regime looks to Uie West for its primary support. However, Algeria Is in dire economic straits and consequently susceptibleide variety of trade and aid offers. The existing Algerian leadership is weak and divided: Uie country's economy remains parlous; unemployment Is high; and the centralhas not firmly established its authority throughout theAn outbreak of rivalry among the Algerian leadersupture with Prance over any one of many issues could radically alter theand orientation of Uie government and lead to closer relations with the USSR and other Bloc countries. In Uie event ofhange, the Soviets can probably sUll count on sympathisers in the officer corps and among somo of Uie French-educated elite. Because of theproblems which Algeriaotentially violent political atmosphere is likely to prevail lor some years to come, and this willeeding ground for Communist subversion.

Special Problems

ff. Western oil companies, because of their Importance in the economies of many Arab countries, arc an atlracUve target for both revolutionary nationalists and for the USSK. Nevertheless thc USSR

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has had little influence to date on Arab oil policies. Apart from aof propaganda, it does not appear to haveajor effort. The principal markets for Middle Eastern and North African oil areby Western companies. Even Qassim. despite bis 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 economics are heavily dependentontinued flow of oil revenues and they will not deliberately kill the goose that lays thc golden eggs.

The Arab-Israeli Problem. Support of the Arab cause against Israel hasseful weapon for thc Soviets, since it is the single Issue whichympathetic response among all Arabs. Support of Israel from thc West has fed anti-Western feeling and contributed to Arab acceptance of military aid from the USSR. The USSR has shown no interest in steps to resolve thc Arab-Israeli problem and almost certainly sees advantages ln Its continuance. Israeli acquisition of acapability would provide the Soviets with significant opportunities.evelopment would further stimulate the Arabs' fears and greatly enhance ln their minds the Importance of Soviet support and assistance. In such circumstances thereood chance that they would make damaging political concessions to the USSR as the price of protection.

The Arab-Israeli quarrel does also, however, create some problems for the USSR The Soviet leaders probably want lo avoid beingto all-out support for the Arab cause. They must realise that open Arab-Israeli hostilities could leadajor International crisis In which there was danger of direct confrontation with the US. On balance, however, the Soviets almost certainly regard the Arab-Israeli quarrelseful asset.

III. SOVIET POLICY AND PROSPECTS

oviet objectives In the Arab world are an amalgam of long-term Ideologically motivatedestablishment of Communist, or at least proto-Communist,the nearer term goals ofelimination of the Western position and thcol support for Soviet policies among the present regimes. Thc situations described In the preceding section must suggest to thethai their long-term objectives are far from achievement. Indeed, events of recent months must have made them appear more remote than ever. Strong Communist parties do not exist anywhere In the area, and in most places the Communists are virtually nonexistent, vigorously pursued, or weak and ineffectual. At thc same time, the USSR's more immediate efforts lo align existing regimes with Soviet international policy and to eliminate or at least drastically reduce Western influence

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have fallen well short of what Moscow probably hoped to achieve. While Moscow has succeeded Ln buildingresence in the Arab world. Nasser's continued Independence and Qassim's downfall havethe limits of Soviet ability to Influence tho course of events.

ndeed, It can be argued that over the longer term Nasser and the other revolutionary leaders are moreiability than an asset to the Soviet cause. While the Soviels may have successfully used Nasser to reduce Western power and influence, he also has used them to strengthen his position at home and to enlarge his symbolic role in the Arabrevolution. At the same time, the power and prestige of the Baath Parly are growing and so are its anti-Communist predilections.

n addition to thc systematic suppression of communism by Nasser and by the Baa this Ls in Syria and Iraq, the restrictions imposed upon Communists are mcrcasing elsewhere In the area. Communist Party activities, for years banned In lhe eastern Arab States, have now been outlawed ln 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 Boathists, the continued popular support for Nasser throughout the Arab world, and the organized political base of the Baathlst 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-cmpled by local ideologies and local leaders.

n 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.

he 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 (or 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 ln the area wouldeassertion 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 to turn toward the West.

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

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.

In these circumstances, we believe the Soviets arc unlikely to make any radical change ln 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 thc West, to acquire influence and position.

Thc 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 to press for termination of Western oil rights, since at the moment it would find it difficult to dispose of Middle Eastern petroleum.

Becauseimilar unwillingness to face the consequences, we believe that the Soviet Union is unlikely tohowdown in thc Arab-Israeli dispute ln 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

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soviet bases manned by Soviet personnel. Wc do not believe that any existing regime, shortajor change in 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. The Soviets have already supplied certain Arab States withnd surface-to-air missiles. It Is possible that the Soviets will provide the Arabs with additional modern 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 ln the Arab world in the years Immediatelycal Communists are more suspect now than they have ever been throughout thc Arab world, and the more the USSR seeks tothem or to extract concessions Ln return for Its aid, the more hostile the nationalist reaction ls 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 Into Western policies, nationalists might involve themselves so deeply with thc USSR or with Indigenous Communist elements as to be unable to maintain independence. However, those who are now in power are clearly most anxious to remain masters in their own houses, and have no desire to install thc Soviet Union In the places of the departedoverlords.

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TABLE I

BLOC ECONOMIC CREDITS AND QRANTSDECEMBER

JON CURRENT US S)

RECIPIENT

5T w

Syrian Arab

United Arab Republic

AlcerU

TunUU "

TABLE II

BLOC MILITARY AID AGREEMENTS SEPTEMBER2

Iraq

Syrian Arab Republic United Aiab Republic

Yemen

Algeria

Morocco

(MILLION CURRENTID EXTENDED*

340

27

12

7

A substantial proportion of LhU amount was provided by grants or discount allowances.

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TABLE III

BLOC ECONOMIC TECHNICIANS'ECEMB2

Iraq

Syrian Arabnited Arab Republic

Yemen

Algeria

Morocco .

Sudan

Tunisia

TOTALS

BLOC

5

6

49

5

SATELLITES

COMMUNIST CHINA

0

0

Minimum estimates of personnel presenteriod of one month or more. Personnel engaeed solely In commercial or military activities are excluded.are rounded to the nearest live.

TABLE IV

BLOC MILITARY TECHNICIANS PRESENT FOR PERIODS OF ONE MONTH OR MORE DURING2

AlRerla 30

Morocco 60

Syrian Arab Republic

United Arab

TOTAL

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