WASHINGTON (Oct. 13)
United States officials were said yesterday to be increasingly concerned over reports, from unidentified pro-Israeli sources, of a major new Soviet arms agreement with Egypt and pledges of diplomatic support to achieve an eventual Arab victory over Israel in the form of a political solution of the Middle East conflict.
According to the New York Times, sources whose previous reports have been described as “strikingly accurate” said the arms deal calls among other things for the delivery to Egypt by mid-1969 of 100-150 supersonic SU-7 and MIG-21 jet fighters and 500 tanks equally divided between T-54s and T-55s, the latter with an infra-red guidance system that helps direct accurate artillery fire up to 1200-yard ranges. The pro-Israeli sources have stressed that the Soviet-Egyptian arms deal was not and never has been contingent on the American supply of F-4 Phantom jets to Israel; they describe it as “part of a long range Soviet penetration of the Arab world” and claim that it would have come about whatever the U.S. did with regard to Israel, the Times reported.
The pro-Israel sources and other diplomatic sources with long experience in the Middle East were said to believe that while the Soviet Union is willing to reach pragmatic agreements to avoid a confrontation with the U.S. in other areas, it shows no signs of agreeing to peace in the Middle East and similar underdeveloped regions where it believes it can expand its influence faster than the U.S. could contain it.
Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko have met in New York where both were present for the 23rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. President Johnson’s announcement last week that he has directed Mr. Rusk to initiate negotiations with Israel for the sale of American supersonic military aircraft was seen here as a sign that Mr. Gromyko rejected any cooperation with the U.S. to limit arms shipments to the Middle East until Israel evacuates the Sinai Peninsula and other territories it occupied in the June, 1967 war, the Times reported.
Following the Rusk Gromyko talks, details of a four-point Soviet-Egyptian military-political accord have begun to emerge. According to the pro-Israeli sources, the Soviets will supply Egypt with armed forces “sufficient to help retrieve, within two to five years, all territory lost to Israel in June, 1967.” There was also agreement, these sources said, to collaborate in seeking a political solution that would constitute an Arab victory despite some minor concessions for world opinion. In return, Egypt would grant the Soviet Union permission to use Egyptian territory as a base for political and military expansion in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. The Soviets, in addition, would continue to back Arab guerrilla warfare against Israel including long range penetration, sabotage and espionage, the Times’ sources said.