Nasser and War of Attrition
Amr Sabih writes
Starting from July 1st, 1967 to August 8th, 1970, the three years attrition war was becoming a war forgotten and a war misunderstood; yet as this war had witnessed the victory of the human Arab Egyptian will to fight, it was only a war mighty. During the era of Sadat, a major tone aimed at attributing lies and defeat to the Nasser's era dominated the Egyptian media, causing the war of attrition to get none of the praise it deserved. Any contributions by president Abdel Nasser in the 1973 October War was denied as he became a man of defeat, and nothing but defeat. Thus, it was only Sadat who reaped the fruit of the October War's victory.
This tone dominated the era of Sadat as many historians, including the late Abdel Azeem Ramadan, attempted to prompt the idea that the war of attrition was a total defeat and a complete disaster. However, some pens, decent and neutral, resisted this idea and did justice to this mighty war, not only for Nasser's sake but for Egypt's sake.
All peace offers that stated the sole return of Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace between Egypt and Israel were directly rejected by Nasser. In the August 1967 Khartoum conference, he said:
No reconciliation...no recognition...no negotiation.
After most western resources have been released, it is no longer a secret now that Israel and the United States of America desperately tried to tempt Nasser to accept unilateral peace in exchange for the full, unrestricted return of Sinai to disarm the Egyptian armed forces in Sinai on the condition of Egypt's exit from the Israeli-Arab conflict.
"During the last two decades, we have always repeated in Israel that we are ready to discuss our problems with Nasser. Since at no time did Israel have requests for the disarmament of Sinai, I am still ready to fly to Cairo; and I will not talk to Nasser as a victor, but I will tell him that Israel is ready to return the entire Sinai to Egypt without any restrictions or conditions. However, with regard to the Golan Heights, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel simply will not give up on them. Without conditions, Sinai will be returned to Nasser in exchange for not interfering with the business of other Arab countries." says Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol In an interview with the American magazine Newsweek, February 17, 1969.
President Abdel Nasser rejected all these offers as he insisted on the return of all Arab lands and on reaching a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. President Abdel Nasser realized that the Arabness of Egypt is its destiny and its future and the only way for the Arabs to unite as a strong bloc in a world that does not show mercy to small entities. He realised that Egypt's leadership of the Arab world is through its actions and by being representative of all the aspirations and hopes of the Arab peoples. For him, Arabism and nationalism did not mean Egyptian control over the Arab world. Nasser's vision was more comprehensive for the concept of Arab national security for all Arab countries. Believing that the Arab interests are common and one, he strongly refused to leave his Arab identity and isolate himself in Egypt. Thus, he began planning for restoring honor, as well as, seeking revenge for what happened in the June 1967 war.
Nasser practicality applied his timeless saying: what is taken by power is by power only restored. In his book "October 6 the global strategy," prof. Jamal Hamdan says, "continuing for around six years and a half, indeed, the period between the two wars (June 1967 - October 1973) was that of "potentiality" and "preperation" followed by "fermentation" and "progression" towards the Great Leap. Only when dividing it into progressive stages, We can, within the context of the general conflict, honour this period enough. There are four major stages: endurance, deterrence, attrition, and ceasefire. Endurance ( one year and two months from June 1967 to August 1969 ) is mainly a stage for "cautious defense" Interspersed with the battle of Ras al-Esh and the destroyer Eilat and some defiant air battles. Deterrence (six month from September 1968 to February 1969) is mainly a stage for "active defense" summarized by the artillery battles in which the exchange of fire came through the channel; one of the results of which was the building of the enemy for the first Bar-Lev Line. Attrition (one year and a half from March 1969 to August 1970) is mainly a stage for "cautious attack" In which the first Bar-Lev line was destroyed with intense artillery that continued for two months ( March and April 1969).
Then, the commandos continued to cross, day and night, with increasing forces, and then without interruption. This was accompanied by Repeated raids of frogmen on enemy ports, burning them and sinking a ship in them. This was in addition to the escalating air raids and battles. All this was in the face of the enemy’s counter-attacks on the isolated islands and the civilian depth besides the front of the canal. Lastly, Ceasefire (three years and two months from August 1970 to October 1973) is mainly a stage for "no war nor peace."
From this classification, we initially see that the period between the two wars is almost classified as the stages of defense in its various forms and degrees, and the stage of no war and no peace (three years and two months for each.) In turn, the first defensive stages are almost classified as stages of steadfastness and negative deterrence on one side, and positive attrition on the other side (about a year and a half each.) If the enemy have, during the cease-fire stage, solely applied themselves to build the second Bar-Lev line, consolidating its presence in Sinai, then the Egyptian forces have devoted themselves to final and decisive internal training, rebuilding and developing themselves for the great battle. Thus, the stages collectively chart an ascending, growing process; a successive process integrating in a systematic upward advance of military construction and war testing. With their experiences, experiments, and results, all these stages were another practical school, partial and partitioned training for the great battle of liberation in October.
Therefore, it was proven that the years before the battle... those "six" cruel and patient years... were not in vain. During this period, our forces and their leaders had the opportunity for two basic types of training and experimentation: exemplary laboratory training and realistic field training. Through conscious planning and determined will, hard, persistent and stubborn training took place. 300 trials were said! On a regional “makeet” of natural size and in a natural landscape were carefully and deliberately chosen to be as close as possible to the environment of the canal and the battlefield, whether the terrain, the depth of the course or the speed of the currents. It was an area on a section of the Ismailia Canal, where an earthen dam was erected quite similar to the enemy dam. Theses years were the training and experimental theater for crossing and penetration. Likewise, the training process was sometimes conducted on the Suez Canal itself or a sector in which its folds are doubled. In the middle of their the stream was the Western Balah Island, as our forces were under full control of it and completely safe from the enemy’s sight and its dangers.
Although this was training and experiment, no one ought to think it was an easy task. In addition to the difficulties of providing the appropriate theater with the specified standards, there were considerations of the possibility of using live ammunition, and of causing losses in lives, property, crops and even the agricultural land itself. Likewise, there was the necessity of constructing and then demolishing the industrial earth embankment several times in every single experiment.. Then dredging and clearing the watercourse of its debris after those times and returning it to its place on the ground again. All this ment to multiply the volumes of cubes, backfill, piling and dredging several times comparing to the total size of the same single real operation on the actual battlefield. As the Ramadan War book mentions, training one engineering unit “of the required 80 units” required moving a volume of dirt and mud equivalent to 12 times as much as what you would actually remove during battle. This percentage rises to 15 times for the entire process, experimently and trainingly. As a result of this, the operation had become a "daily order" or even daily bread for the attacking Egyptian intruder. All equipment and weapons are ready ,"packaged" in place until zero hour; Everyone knows their role, place and exact moment. At the hour of application, this achieved amazing record results of efficiency, competence and success that exceeded the most optimistic expectations and the wildest dreams of planning."
In his book My Beloved Country (Arabic: وطني حبيبي), Ibrahim Khalil Ibrahim discusses the war of October and the role of Nasser saying, " the peaple and the army refused defeat. Less than a month later, after the The Setback (Naksa) in 1967, a limited number of shock troops managed to repel the attack of some Israeli tanks. The fighting, which lasted for days, ended with stopping the advance of the Israeli forces towards the south of Port Said, as the Israeli forces never attacked it again. Ras al-Esh remained the only area that was not desecrated by the occupation and the Israeli forces. On the fourteenth and fifteenth of July 1967, the Egyptian Air Force, with its remaining planes, carried out a raid against Israeli positions near Qantara blowing up and destroying stockpiles of weapons and ammunition that Israel had collected from Sinai. On October 21, 1967, signs of restoring confidence appeared when Egyptian missile launchers near Port Said managed to sink the Israeli destroyer Eilat, which was equivalent to a third of the Israeli destroyers in the sea. Up to twenty kilometers inside Sinai, the Egyptian artillery continued to bombard the entire length of the Suez Canal. In 1968, President Gamal Abdel Nasser issued Law No. 4 that organized the status of the armed forces within the general framework of state agencies. It defined effective powers for the President of the Republic as the Supreme Commander, and the competencies of the Minister of War and Chief of Staff.
The military areas were reorganized to cover the entire land of Egypt. On the basis of this regularization, Organization of the Eastern Military District Command, to which Sinia forces were subjected till 1967, and the Canal Area were converted to two field commands that divided the front equally. Those were: the Second Army, which was assigned to the northern sector of the front, and the Third Army, which was assigned to the southern sector. The Air Defense Forces Command was also established, as by early 1968 , it became the fourth major force in the armed forces. Moreover, the Air Force witnessed an unprecedented construction process. This included the graduation of 12 batches of pilots, 10 batches of navigators, engineering equipment for various airports and air bases, and the establishment of new airports all over Egypt. The size of the construction in the Air Force reached eight times the Great Pyramid; the hours of flying for pilots increased two and a half times, and the flights of pilots to throw bombs and missiles increased between 18 and 20 times. The rebuilding of the air defense forces was a heroic story in itself as we only had a few anti-aircraft guns and machine guns, a few missile batteries, and a few radars. Israel tried to destroy Egypt's will, so it carried out air raids, numbering from July to September 1969, about 1,000 raids in the depth against some civilian targets to expand the fighting area. President Gamal Abdel Nasser took a decision to build fortified sites for air defense missiles. Following this resolution, he took a decision to erect a missile wall along the western front of the Suez Canal. The volume of engineering works in the missile wall reached 12 million cubic meters of earthworks, 1.5 million cubic meters of regular concrete, two million reinforced concrete, 800 kilometers of asphalt roads, and 3,000 kilometers of dirt roads. The cost of the missile wall was estimated at about 76 million pounds. After the reconstruction process, many combat operations were carried out as a rehearsal for the crossing operation. In September 1968, the Egyptian artillery destroyed the short-range surface-to-surface missile batteries that Israel had set up in the face of the cities of Ismailia and Suez and the rest of the villages in the Canal region. Despite Israel's attempts to intervene with its air forces against the Egyptian artillery, the artillery bombardment continues along with the crossing operations, which, since June 1969, have increased dramatically. In July 1969, an Egyptian force carried out a crossing operation from the Port Tawfiq area and stormed an Israeli position, killing and wounding about 40 soldiers. Having destroyed five Israeli tanks and a Control Center, It continued in the site for an hour, and returned with the first Israeli captive. In July 1970, air defense missiles managed in one week to shoot down 17 Israeli planes, in what was known as the week of shooting down Israeli Phantoms. During the battles of attrition, Israel lost three times the number of casualties it incurred during the 1967 war; for it lost 40 pilots, 27 combat aircraft, a destroyer, 7 boats and landing ships, 119 tracked vehicles, 72 tanks, 81 field guns and mortars. Moreover, 827 soldiers and officers were killed and 2,141 people were wounded.
The war of attrition led by Abdel Nasser was the first step towards the Great Crossing ( of the Suez Canal).
In his last interviews, Mr. Heikal spoke about the details of the intelligence operation Asfour (Sparrow in Arabic), revealing one of the most dangerous reports. He revealed that on December 6, 1969, Mr. Amin Howeidi, Director of Egyptian General Intelligence, went to the house of President Abdel Nasser with a recording of a conversation. A conversation that took place between the US Minister Plenipotentiary at the US Embassy in Israel and his office manager with the US Ambassador in Cairo and the CIA representative at the US Embassy in Cairo. President Abdel Nasser listened to the conversation, which stated:
First, That Nasser is the main obstacle to the establishment of normal relations between the Egyptians and the Israelis.
Second, that there is a state of Egyptian- Arab popular support around Nasser, making peace with Israel on American terms impossible.
Thrid, that Egypt, which was supposed to be defeated, appears victorious, while Israel, which was supposed to appear victorious, appears defeated because of the war of attrition.
Fourth, that Moshe Dayan's reputation is much greater than his personal potential.
Fifth, that the leaders of Israel (Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Aharon Yariv, Yigal Allon) agreed that the survival of Israel and the success of the American project in the region depended on the disappearance of President Gamal Abdel Nasser from life and that they decided to assassinate him with poison or disease.
Sixth, that Golda Meir, Prime Minister of the enemy, said,"(quote) we will get him," otherwise the Arab world will be lost; it will be out of American control; the future of the State of Israel is in grave danger.
For the severity of this information, Mr. Amin Howeidi preferred that President Abdel Nasser listen to the entire recording himself.
On September 28, 1970, Mr. Heikal presented documents and evidence proving that Nasser signed the transit plans after the construction of the Great Missile Wall was completed in August 1970.
All of Israel's leaders have admitted their loss to the war of attrition (the Thousand Days War), as they call it. To know the truth, It is sufficient for any fair-minded to review the autobiographies of (Sharon - Dayan - Bar-Lev - Golda Meir - Menachem Begin).
Nine months after learning of the American-Israeli plan, President Gamal Abdel Nasser passed away. For after the Arab summit conference in Cairo, which was held to stop the war led by the late King Hussein of Jordan against the Palestinian guerrilla organizations, Gamal Abdel Nasser died as a martyr for the sake of his nation. He died while fighting against the American-Zionist project in the Arab world.
If we take a closer look at Egypt's internal conditions during the war of attrition, we will find the following:
The Egyptian economy bore the costs of completing the construction of the giant High Dam project. The construction of this dam was not completed until 1970, before the death of President Abdel Nasser, who announced the end of the giant project during his speech on the eighteenth anniversary of the revolution.
The High Dam was chosen by the United Nations in 2000 as the greatest engineering and development project of the twentieth century. The High Dam is equivalent in size to 17 pyramids of the Khufu pyramid model.
After the setback, the aluminum factory complex was built in Nagaa Hammadi, a gigantic project that cost nearly 3 billion pounds. In light of the setback, Egypt maintained the economic growth rate before the setback, which amounted to 7%, according to the World Bank report No. 870A on Egypt issued in Washington on January 5, 1976. In 1969 and 1970 this percentage rather increased to reach 8% annually.
This rate of economic growth in Egypt was unparalleled in the entire developing world.
During that period, the annual development rate in most of the independent countries did not exceed two and a half percent. Indeed, this percentage was higher than that in the developed world, with the exception of Japan, West Germany, and the group of communist countries.
For example, Italy, which is an advanced industrial country and one of the major industrial countries, achieved a growth rate of about 4.5% only in the same time period.
In 1969, the Egyptian economy managed to achieve an increase in its trade balance for the first and last time in the history of Egypt, with a surplus of 46.9 million pounds at the prices of that time.
The Egyptian economy bore the burden of rebuilding the Egyptian army from scratch. Without external debts, the Egyptian shops were displaying and selling Egyptian products such as food, clothing, furniture and electrical appliances.
President Abdel Nasser was proud that he wore the Mahalla (a local company) yarn suits and shirts and used the Egyptian electrical appliances (Ideal). Prior to the death of President Abdel Nasser, Egypt completed the construction of the famous missile wall and completed the crossing plans and liberated the entire Arab land.
With President Nasser's acceptance of Rogers' initiative, the heroes of the armed forces were able to move the Great Rocket Wall to the edge of the Suez Canal.
Thus, the role of the Israeli air force, Israel's long arm, in the attack on Egypt west of the Suez Canal was canceled; as the outbreak of the war of liberation and the crossing of the Egyptian army to the East Bank became a matter of time.
President Abdel Nasser scheduled it no later than April 1971.
On August 8, 1970, the Egyptian Air Defense Forces jumped with the Egyptian missile network to the edge of the western bank of the Suez Canal. This was hours before the implementation of the cease-fire decision according to Rogers' initiative. for the first time since the defeat of 1967, Egypt has a fortified and impenetrable air defense system on the western shore of The Suez Canal. This directly changes the balance of air power between Egypt and Israel, making it possible for the Egyptian armed forces to cross the Suez Canal and conduct an offensive battle in Sinai to liberate it from occupation.
according to Sami Sharaf and General Mohamed Fawzy, in their autobiographies:
In the first week of September 1970, President Abdel Nasser signed the "Granite 1", "Granite 2" and "Cairo 200" crossing plans. The last plan means the final green light to start implementing the plans to liberate the occupied lands, and to start the war within a period not exceeding spring 1971.
Three years after the Setback, Nasser passed away leaving Egypt's economy stronger than that of South Korea. According to the World Bank, Egypt had a surplus of hard currency that exceeded two hundred and fifty million dollars.
Estimated by the World Bank, The value of the public sector built by the Egyptians during the era of Nasser amounted to 1,400 billion dollars.
Egypt has the largest industrial base in the third world, as the number of factories established during the era of Nasser was 1200, including heavy, transformative and strategic industries.
All this without debts. On the night of the death of President Abdel Nasser, Egypt, owed about a billion dollars: the price of weapons purchased from the Soviet Union, which the Soviets later relinquished and were not repaid.
Egypt's currency was not linked to the US dollar. At the rates of the Central Bank of Egypt, the Egyptian pound was equal to three and a half dollars, and equal to fourteen Saudi riyals.
Four Egyptian pounds had the value of value of one pound sterling (sovereign: British gold coin)
All these achievements took place after the setback and from the same regime in which the defeat took place. The June 1967 defeat was not due to the failure of Nasser's regime. It was rather an American punishment for Abdel Nasser's success in building a successful economic and social revolutionary model that posed a serious threat to the American and Zionist project in the Arab world.
The words of French President Charles de Gaulle were a good expression of the reality of the June 1967 aggression;
The battle is American, the performance is Israeli.
Following Nasser's death, Egypt entered the October War and was governed by all the mechanisms of the Nasserist regime. For example; the Public sector leading to development and the post defeat Egyptian army built by Nasser. This also reflected in the missile wall that Nasser moved to the edge of the canal before his death and the military plans in place since his era.
After the defeat, President Abdel Nasser said: "setbacks are emergency symptoms in people's lives." The real defeat is the defeat of the will, not the loss of a war battle.
The war of attrition was the first step towards the great crossing. If President Abdel Nasser was the one who led the battle of liberation, the results would have been completely different. Yet God wanted his eyes not to witness the fruits of the victory that he laid its foundations and plans in the period from 1967-1970.
May God have mercy on President Gamal Abdel Nasser and all the martyrs of Egypt in the war of attrition and all the martyrs of the Arab nation.