NEW YORK (Oct. 22)
Senior American officials are becoming increasingly concerned that the 2,000-3,000 Soviet military advisers assigned at small unit level in the Egyptian Army, Navy and Air Force could be drawn into sudden combat with the Israelis, New York Times correspondent William Beecher reported from Washington today. The officials note that Egypt, equipped with over 200 sophisticated MIG-21 supersonic jets compared to only about 65 Mirage III-C fighters on the Israeli side, might be tempted into a preemptive air strike to gain aerial superiority enabling Arab bombers to fly unhindered. Mr. Beecher reported. On the other hand they are worried by the possibility of a strike by Israeli planes from newly built airfields in the Sinai which could raid Egyptian military targets and even the Aswan High Dam on the southern Nile.
American analysts say that in the last 16 months, the Soviet Union has poured about $2.5 billion worth of modern arms into the Middle East and have replaced most of the jets, tanks and artillery lost by the Egyptians in the June, 1967 war, Mr. Beecher reported. “In addition to the equipment, the Russians have sent in 2,000-3,000 military advisers, up from 500-700 before the Six-Day War.” The concentration of Soviet personnel and equipment and the precarious balance of the cease-fire is the cause of official concern in Washington. Mr. Beecher noted that in contrast to Israel’s weakness in air defense, its forces “now sit in commanding defensive positions, in the Sinai Desert, in the Golan Heights of Syria and in the West Bank of the Jordan River. In addition, all experts agree that mere comparison of weapons inventory does not accurately portray relative military strength. The motivation, leadership and technological skill of the Israeli soldiers are considered far superior to those of her Arab neighbors,” Mr, Beecher wrote.