NEW YORK (Aug. 30)
Although Israel should feel more secure than it has in the immediate past, “a potential Middle East balance of terror” still haunts the capitals of the countries in that region, the Atlantic Monthly has declared. Devoting its monthly-report to an article entitled “Middle East Arms Race, ” the magazine declared that Israel should now feel more secure because of the obvious breakup of attempts at Arab unity and the present polarization of factions. “No one today expects an Arab drive against Israel,” said the magazine.
The article noted that Israel has continued insistently to argue for American defense commitments. It says Israelis believe that an important turning point in relations with Washington was reached with the agreement for eventual delivery of the American A-4 Skyhawk bombers.
The significance of this deal, according to the magazine, is that, for the first time, Washington has been persuaded of Israel’s need of an offensive American plane. It stated that, to Tel Aviv, the Skyhawk agreement means that Washington accepts the idea of independent deterrent power. It is also suggested that, “in this period of euphoria, with this deterrent promised, ” the decision about atomic weapons development in Israel can be postponed.
The article says that Israel may have reaped another temporary bonus in defense this summer. U.S. pilots in Vietnam reportedly demonstrated last month a way to evade the Soviet SAM missiles in North Vietnam. “The possibility that the SAM’s may therefore become obsolete is a potential blow to Cairo. The search for a new means of protection could only lead to further escalation in the region. The lesson here is that any so-called balance of forces is transitory. And the preservation of the long Middle East truce remains as difficult as ever.”
TROOP STRENGTH, NUMBERS OF TANKS AND AIRCRAFT LISTED FOR PRINCIPAL CONTENDERS
The magazine notes that “a higher proportion of resources is spent for military purposes in the Middle East than anywhere in the world.” Although it points out that “in the arms race, figures are obsolete on publication, ” the magazine lists estimated troop strengths as follows: Israel’s, 250,000 on immediate call; Egypt’s, 180,000; Iraq’s, 82,000; Syria’s, 61,000; Jordan’s, 36,000; and Saudi Arabia’s, 20,000.
Tank strength is estimated at 1,200 for Egypt from the USSR; 600 for Israel, including British Centurions and American Pattons; 320 for Iraq, mostly from the USSR; and 200 for Jordan, including 150 Pattons acquired in 1965-66.
Atlantic says that Israel apparently leads in aircraft strength with about 470 planes, among them French Mirages, Mysteres and Super Mysteres as well as Skyhawk bombers now promised from the United States. Egypt is estimated to have a force of about 450 planes, of which Soviet MIG-21’s are the most important component. Iraq accounts for about 250, including MIG-17’s and MIG-19’s; Syria about 150; and Jordan about 36 Star-fighters plus a small number of British aircraft.
Missiles on each side, according to Atlantic, remain a secret to non-professionals. Egypt, it says, periodically announces production of long-range missiles. Soviet-made SAM’s-2, of the type used in North Vietnam, protect Cairo, Aswan and the Suez Canal.
Israel’s theoretical possession of French missiles with 500-mile range is denied in Tel Aviv, according to Atlantic. Its possession of French Matra air-to-air missiles is public knowledge, however, as is its acquisition of U.S. Hawks, says the magazine.
FIGURES GIVEN ON DEFENSE BUDGETS; ATOMIC TALK VIEWED AS PSYCHOLOGICAL
Defense budgets last year ran, Atlantic says, at $400,000,000 for Egypt; $271,000,000 for Israel; $142,000,000 for Iraq; $108, 000, 000 for Saudi Arabia.
Commenting on the arms race, Atlantic says that “the most optimistic view is that the Arabs and Israelis are using atomic language in a new version of psychological warfare, Given the lack of progress toward general agreement on nonproliferation, it is not surprising that such countries as Israel and Egypt (and India) should weigh the possibility of joining the atomic club.”
According to Atlantic, Israel leads from a certain amount of strength in making its own decision. Its research reactor in the Negev is reported capable of producing plutonium for weapons. “Built with French help, and reportedly with the help of other European scientists, this reactor has a capacity of 24, 000 thermal watts,” says Atlantic.
The Israeli reactor, continues the magazine, “is of the heavy-water-macerated type using natural uranium. Thus each time there is mention in the world press of an Israeli deal with some South American country for uranium, the question again arises whether Dimona is being diverted to military purposes.”