NEW YORK (May. 7)
In the sixth of seven daily excerpts from the soon-to-be-released “RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon,” in Friday’s New York Times, the former President discussed some of the Middle East crises of his presidency and his responses.
When a full-scale crisis erupted in Jordan in September, 1970, when terrorists attacked the Hussein regime, Nixon told National Security Advisor Henry A. Kissinger to tell Ambassador Yitzhak Robin–after Syrian tanks crossed into Jordan–that the U.S. would support fully Israeli air strikes on Syrian forces in Jordan if this became necessary to avoid a Jordanian defeat.
“I decided to put 20,000 American troops on the alert and moved additional naval forces into the Mediterranean,” Nixon wrote. “In the end, Jordan under Hussein’s courageous leadership saved itself. Rabin ascribed Hussein’s victory to the tough American position, the Israeli threat, and the superb fighting by Hussein’s troops.”
THE YOM KIPPUR WAR
Discussing the Yom Kippur War, Nixon wrote:
“On Saturday, Oct. 6, 1973, we received a cable from Ken Keating, our ambassador in Tel Aviv, reporting that (Premier) Golda Meir had just told him that Syria and Egypt were in a final count-down for war. The news of the imminent attack on Israel took us completely by surprise. As recently as the day before, the C.I.A. had reported that war in the Middle East was unlikely.
“I was disappointed by our own intelligence shortcomings, and I was stunned by the failure of Israeli intelligence. They were among the best in the world, and they, too, had been caught off guard….
“In the last few hours before the fighting actually began, Kissinger contacted the Israelis, the Egyptians and the Soviets to see if war could be prevented. But it was too late. At 8 o’clock that morning, the Syrians attacked Israel from the north and the Egyptians attacked from the south.”
Nixon also reported that the Israelis were over-confident and initially suffered a huge loss of 1000 men and a third of their tanks by the third day of fighting. Nixon wrote he ordered immediate military supplies flown to Israel and by Oct. 16, the U.S. was airlifting 1000 tons a day of supplies to Israel.
BREZHNEV AND MRS. MEIR
He wrote that acrimonious exchanges took place between him and Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and that seven soviet airborne divisions had been put on alert. The U.S. response was to put American forces throughout the world on conventional and nuclear alert.
Nixon wrote that he did not consider Soviet obstreperousness as an example of a failure of detente but as an illustration of detente’s limitations. He said Mrs. Meir visited Washington at the beginning of November and told Nixon: “There were days and hours when we needed a friend and you came right in. You don’t know what your airlift means to us.”
Nixon said he urged on Mrs. Meir a policy of “sensible restraint,” telling her that “the problem that Israel must now consider is whether the policy you are following can succeed. Lacking a settlement, the only policy is constantly being prepared for war. But that really is no policy at all.” Nixon then described Kissinger’s “enormous stamina, his incisive intellect” and his “great personal charm” in his successful negotiations to arrange a separation of forces in the Sinai.