Israeli analysis are pondering recent statements by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt to find a key to Egyptian policies in the months ahead, particularly as they apply to Cairo’s relations with the United States, the Soviet Union, the other Arab states and the crucial matter of war or peace in the Middle East. Sadat’s remarks have been ambiguous, to say the least.
Yesterday he told newspaper editors in Alexandria that he planned to resign the Premiership which he assumed last year as Egypt prepared for its Yom Kippur attack on Israel. He had, in fact, made it clear that was a war measure and his plans to relinquish the office–he mentioned no date–could be construed as an acknowledgement that the conditions of last Oct. no longer apply. But Sadat followed his announcement with a warning that the war with Israel was not over. “We must keep our eyes wide open and resist all kinds of pressure because the war has not ended yet,” he said.
SADAT ASSAILS SOVIET UNION
Sadat also bitterly accused the Soviet Union of failing to honor its post-Yom Kippur War arms commitments to Egypt. “Besides the airlift of arms during the October war we did not receive any of the arms that should have been supplied to us by the end of last year, according to contracts signed with the Soviet Union,” he said.
“We thank them (the Russians) for the airlift, but these deals have not been fulfilled, nor did they replace our losses in war planes during the war, while the Soviets and the entire world know that the United States made good all Israel’s losses of war planes,” Sadat told the editors.
Sadat’s reproachful tone toward Moscow could be seen as a further sign of Egypt’s improved relations with Washington. Sadat said that President Ford has written to him pledging to fulfill all promises made to Egypt by former President Nixon. But Sadat told Egyptian students in Alexandria only the other day that Egypt’s improved relations with the U.S. were the fruits of Egyptian achievements in the Yom Kippur War rather than the designs of an American President or Secretary of State. The Egyptian leader also said that his country would seek to maintain friendly relations with both superpowers but would avoid alignments with either of them.
Soviet technical help is still evident in Egypt, though not on the massive scale of previous years. Russian mine-sweepers have completed clearing mines in the Gulf of Suez, an operation that brought them into provocative contact with Israeli naval units off the Sinai coast. But except for a few incursions into Israel-controlled waters and Tuesday’s bizarre water hose “attack” on Israeli patrol boats, the Russians have avoided serious incidents.
American intelligence sources reported this week that the Egyptians have Russian-made pontoon bridges capable of rapidly transporting heavy armed forces across the Suez Canal. The Egyptians were also reported to have armored and infantry units of considerable strength deployed on the west bank of the canal and to have constructed some 90 separate fortifications in their zone on the east bank.
On the other hand, Cairo reported yesterday that 70,000 civilians have returned to the war ravaged town of Suez since Israeli forces evacuated it last winter. Israeli officials view these various reports and developments as pieces of a puzzle in which large gaps remain to be filled. For that reason they are carefully sifting Sadat’s remarks for clues as to whether Egypt’s intention is peace or war.