Possibility of Nasser Provocation Against Israel Seen in Washington

Washington is sharply divided in its estimates of the outcome of the Syrian breakaway from the United Arab Republic, with one school holding that President Nasser may embark on a diversionary move such as “a great uproar against Israel” with the possibility of “some provocative skirmishes along truce lines policed by the United Nations.”

The Wall Street Journal, in a roundup of Washington opinion on the Syrian development, said today that one group of authorities sees the development as a serious stab at Nasser’s prestige “which can only impede his capacity for Middle East mischief-making and tarnish particularly his campaign for a unified Arab country under his leadership.” According to these authorities, “the immediate upshot thus should be an easing of one long standing threat to political stability in a part of the world that has already shown signs of uncharacteristic tranquility in recent years.”

The Wall Street Journal correspondent, Philip Geyelin, pointed out, however, that “because UAR President Nasser is a vain and vengeful man and by no means the only source of trouble in the Arab world, U.S. authorities fear the long-range effect of Syria’s independence may be the reverse–more turmoil and new headaches, for the Kennedy Administration which has so far been spared Middle East explosions while coping with crises almost everywhere in the world.”

While indicating that Washington does not exclude the possibility of an Egyptian-Israeli flare-up, the correspondent discounted this possibility, explaining that “although picking a fight with the Israelis would have a great unifying influence among the Arabs, it would also risk a war that Egypt’s Soviet-equipped army might very well lose, judging from the previous clash between the two countries when Israel invaded the Sinai Desert in 1956. Thus Mr. Nasser is thought likely to move gingerly on this front.”

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