The June 1967 Six Day War - mega bonus to the USA

“Israel Hayom,” , May 24, 2017

The expanded strategic cooperation between Israel, Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Arab Gulf States in 2017 – in the face of clear, present and lethal threats posed by Iran’s Ayatollahs and Islamic terrorism - has its roots in the June, 1967 Six Day War and the civil war in Yemen during the early 1960s.

The impact of the June, 1967 Six Day War transcended the Arab-Israeli conflict.  It highlighted Israel as a unique national security producer for the US, extending the strategic hand of the US and upgrading the US posture of deterrence, without requiring US personnel and bases.

In June, 1967, the Israeli beachhead delivered a critical geo-strategic bonus to the US, while dealing a major setback to the USSR, by devastating the military power of the anti-US, pro-Soviet Egyptian President Nasser, who was fully-engaged in his megalomaniacal goal to dominate the Arab world. Nasser transformed Egypt from a conservative pro-Western monarchy (until the 1952 revolution) to a hotbed of anti-US, intra-Arab revolutionary fire, which almost consumed the conservative Jordanian Hashemite regime in 1956 and consumed the conservative regimes of Iraq and Yemen in 1958 and 1962 respectively. 

Supported by the USSR, Nasser harnessed terrorism, subversion and conventional military means – mostly in Yemen, the Achilles Heel of Saudi Arabia - in order to control Yemen as a platform to surge into the Arabian Peninsula, aiming to bring-down the pro-US, oil-producing Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.  Nasser aspired to gain control of the vitally strategic straits of Bab-el-Mandeb (Red Sea) and Hormuz (Persian Gulf), which would have dealt the US and the West a major military and economic blow in the Middle East, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Red Sea and the Mediterranean arenas.

While intra-Arab terrorism and subversion has remained an integral part of the Middle East, the resounding defeat of Nasser, in 1967, shattered the regional profile of the Egyptian dictator, forced him to withdraw his substantial military force from Yemen, ended a five-year Egypt-Saudi Arabia war by proxy and tilted the intra-Arab balance of power against the pro-USSR radical Arab regimes in favor of the pro-US conservative Arab regimes.

It snatched the Saudi King Faisal from the jaws of a potential defeat in Yemen – which could have toppled the House of Saud – and, therefore, bolstered the life-expectancy of the Saudi royal family, Saudi Arabia’s power-projection, Riyadh’s intra-Arab prestige, and US-Saudi Arabian strategic cooperation. The same applies to the other pro-US Arab regimes in the Arabian Peninsula.

The 1967 War, also, terminated Nasser’s military training of Iranian Arab separatists in Khuzestan (western Iran) and Iranian dissidents, opposing the Shah of Iran, who was America’s “Policeman of the Gulf.”

Simultaneously, Israel defeated the military force of the pro-Soviet Syria – which was a major Arab power until the 1967 War – thus denying the Hafiz Assad regime an opportunity to invade, and annex, the pro-US, militarily inferior Jordan, which was perceived by Damascus as part of (southern) Greater Syria. Furthermore, a September 1970 Syrian invasion of Jordan - during the September 1970 civil war between Jordan’s King Hussein and the Palestinians – was withdrawn after three days due to the US mobilization in the Mediterranean, the effective Jordanian military performance, and the
deterring deployment of Israeli troops to the joint Israel-Syria-Jordan border, as well as Israel’s readiness to activate its air force (at the request of the US and Jordan).

While the House of Saud condemned Israel and the USA in a fury of talk: “We consider any country supporting or aiding Zionist-Israeli aggression against the Arabs as aggression against us,” the
Saudi walk took a different turn, as highlighted by University of Michigan’s Prof. John Ciorciari. Realizing the regional impact of the Six Day War, Riyadh extended mere symbolic support to Egypt (e.g., dispatching a military brigade, which arrived after the war had ended), refrained from switching to any anti-US, or non-aligned, international bloc, and minimized the economic consequences of the short-lived oil embargo (fully lifted on September 2, 1967), focusing on the critical long-term relationship with the US and on the real threat (which was just crippled by Israel): Arab radicalism and Communist penetration.

While proclaiming publicly and feverishly its allegiance to the Palestinian cause, Riyadh made it clear – just like all other Arab capitals - that the Palestinian issue was not a crown-jewel of the House of Saud (notwithstanding Saudi/Arab rhetoric, which overwhelms most Western policy makers and media); they expelled hundreds of Palestinian activists from the kingdom, in order to keep dissent in close check. 

Prof. Ciorciari submits the following assessment of the US strategic priorities made on May 23, 1967 by Prof. Eugene Rostow, Special Assistant to President Johnson: “The main issue in the Middle East, today, is whether Nasser, the radical states and their Soviet backers are going to dominate the area. A related issue is whether the US is going to stand up for its friends, the moderates, or back down as a major power in the Middle East.”

Will the US foreign policy establishment heed Rostow’s assessment, which is as accurate in 2017 as it was in 1967, scrutinize the larger context of US-Israel relations, concentrate on the Arab “walk” and not on the Arab “talk,” and focus on top – and not low – national security priorities?!