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The Sophisticated Egyptian Deception Preceded the Yom Kippur War
By: Lt. Col. (Ret.) Shimon Mendes
In order to understand the sophistication of the Egyptian deception that preceded the Yom Kippur War in 1973, it is essential to know that the Egyptian military thought was revolutionized in 1969. While the Israeli military thought remained stagnated. Two events that occurred then led to this surmise. The first event, Dr. Ashraf Marwan stepped for the first time, in 1969, inside the Israeli Embassy in London. The second took place in Egypt. According to Field Marshal Abed El-Ghani El-Gamasi, in August 1971, President Sadat gathered in his summer residence few Generals, that were involved in the planning of the Yom Kippur War. At the beginning of his address, he approached the forum by saying: "I am warning you of the routine military thinking. The enemy expects us to follow this pattern of thought. Our victory must establish itself on surprise".
In the Yom Kippur War 1973, President Sadat sold Israel three different strategic deceptions. Professor John Ferris, an expert on military deceptions, says that there are two types of deception - mislead and confuse. And it seems that President Sadat embraced a third type of deception - sedation. By planting the famous "concept" in the mind of the military and civil elite, he actually sedated the Israeli military establishment. And if the essence of Intelligence is to reduce the gap of uncertainty between the warning and the war, then came Ashraf Marwan and closed that gap.
How did he do it? There is a famous idiom saying: "if the mountain does not come to Muhammad, Muhammad will come to the mountain." The English philosopher Francis Bacon, wrote this idiom in the 17th century, and President Sadat decided to use the concept of the idiom inversely: instead of the Mossad comes to the mountain of the secrets, Muhammad (Sadat) brought the mountain of secrets to the Mossad. This very fact hit the minds and confused completely the Heads of the Israeli Intelligence. Since the Egyptian proceeding was contrasted with nature. In a sophisticated simple deception operation, Sadat "brought" his presidential chamber, and the military operation "center 10" to the Israeli Chiefs, as if they were full partners in the planning of the war, according to Zvi Zamir himself. And Dr. Ashraf Marwan played the role of the "Host". There is an idiom in English says INFORMATION IS POWER. Within the Intelligence Community it means to lock the secrets in the safe. And here Sadat decided to do the opposite. He opened the safe in front of the Israelis, and showed them that the safe is full of small change. There are no big banknotes. Obviously you cannot wage war with small change. Professor Michael Handel, an Intelligence expert, says that "it is easy to conceal political land military intentions". And that's what Sadat did, he simply emptied the safe from the "expensive shares", i.e. His war intentions. He simply made an amazing use of the information power, and the latent drug that was introduced in the secrets - in order to sedate the Israeli Intelligence. For this new intelligent approach was completely illogical.
The first deception, meant to enable the Egyptian army a safe and easy crossing of the Suez canal, ended on Wendsday October 3, 1973, when the Egyptians were sure that the Israeli army is asleep. Then came the second deception, aimed to impose on Israel to start the war. To that end, Sadat sent Ashraf Marwan to London, to meet Zvi Zamir and tell him: Sadat is aiming to start a war tomorrow. In order to understand the Egyptian move, it is necessary to refer to this meeting (Marwan-Zamir) as to the meeting of King Hussein with Golda Meir, two weeks earlier, on September 25, 1973. Because of the urgency of the subject, King Hussein forced himself to come to Tel Aviv, to warn Prime Minister Golda Meir of the coming war. Otherwise, the King would have sent his aide to contact his Israeli counterpart to deliver the message. Sadat was highly interested about the status of the messenger, that will inform Mrs. Meir about the war. Clearly, it was only the Mossad director, a direct subordinate to Mrs. Meir, who was in a position to call the P.M. after midnight on the eve of Yom Kippur, and give her the overwhelming news.
Sadat's intention was that the message of Marwan will put the Israeli leadership under pressure, and the instantaneous shock will cause panic among its members. He aimed that the stunning news will cause Israel to start the war by inflicting an aerial pre-emptive strike. Sadat was not gambling. With the "Missile Wall" in front, the Egyptian army was fully alert to face the Israeli air force. Sadat waived the right of surprise for Israel, he had hoped for intricate Israel politically with the international community at large, and mainly with the United States - had Israel opened the fire. It should be noted that in the first three days of the war, Israel lost nearly 120 of its fighter-planes. Had Israel initiated the war, the results would have been the same, but Sadat would have emerged as an international world hero: despite the fact that Israel was the aggressor, the Israeli air force was bitten, and the Egyptian army managed to cross the Suez canal. But P.M. Golda Meir did not fall into Sadat's trap, that part of Israel's Generals slipped into it. The second deception had failed.
On Sunday noon-time October 7, 1973, five Egyptian divisions had already established their hold on the Bar-Lev line. The very next day, an Israeli division headed by General Avraham Adan, initiated a counter-attack by storming the Egyptian forces on the eastern bank of the Suez canal. The Israeli counter-attack was utterly defeated by the preponderant Egyptian forces equipped with anti-tank missiles. The Egyptian Chief of operations, testified in his book that his GHQ concluded at that stage that the Israeli army was crushed, and was left with no armor reserves, and the enemy was completely smashed, physically and , morally.
This guess was supported by another fact, on October 12 Mrs. Meir asked for a cease-fire. On the other hand, the Syrians asked Sadat to continue the fighting, in order to ease the Israeli pressure on Damascus. At this stage, President Sadat had already seen the military victory lies in his pocket, and his thoughts had driven him to the post-war political stage.
In an interview with Ma'ariv, September 23, 2011, Zvi Zamir told Ofer Shelah that on October 12, 1973, Ashraf Marwan sent a warning message from Cairo, and warned him that an Egyptian armor division will make a breakthrough into the Sinai peninsula. According to Zamir, the fact that Ashraf Marwan had called from Cairo to warn him about the Egyptian breakthrough, indicates that Ashraf Marwan was his loyal truly agent. This incident raises a serious question: if Ashraf Marwan could call the Mossad in the midst of the war from Cairo, why he had to drag Zvi Zamir to London on the eve of the war, instead of warning him by phone? It's true that Marwan had called his contact in the Mossad and "warned" them about the coming battle. The voice was Ashraf's, but the mind was Sadat's.
This was the third strategic deception. President Sadat had ordered Marwan to "warn" the Israelis, because he wanted to revive his agent's credibility, that suffered a setback prior the war, due to Sadat's zig zag policy vis-à-vis Israel. Marwan's mission with the Mossad had succeeded tremendously in the war stage. And Sadat wanted to use the excellent services of Marwan with the peace phase. As to the military offensive into the Sinai, again, according to his GHQ reports he was not gambling. He was quite sure of the armor penetration to succeed.
Sadat had done the same thing in Rome three weeks before the war. In September 1973, Colonel Qaddafi wanted to revenge the shut down of his passenger plane in February 1973 over Sinai. Qaddafi asked Sadat for the assistance of the Egyptian Diplomatic Corp to his people to smuggle few rockets, to shoot El Al plane in Rome Air Port. Sadat ordered Marwan to assist the infiltration of the Libians. And later on, to warn the Mossad about the libian terrorist act. Again, Sadat had done that in order to increase Marwan's credibility, because of his zig zag policy vis-à-vis Israel.
On Sunday October 14, 1973, the second biggest armor battle in history had taken place in the Sinai. 1200 Egyptian tanks burst toward the Gidi and Mitleh passes inside Sinai. The Egyptian tank columns were engaged in armor battle with 900 Israeli tanks. At the end of that battle day, according to General Shazley, the Egyptian Chief of Staff, the Egyptians were defeated and lost 250 tanks. The Israelis suffered the loss of 20 tanks. From that day on, the Israeli forces started an offensive that ended 101 km from Cairo. Altogether, Israel has won a gigantic political victory. Egypt has learned an important military lesson. On the first day of the negotiations at 101 km, on their way to the "Negotiations Tent", the Egyptian General Gamasi told Colonel Dan Shomron: "if at such ideal opening conditions, after three weeks your forces are deployed 100 km from Cairo, it means that we can never beat you militarily". Sadat had made a mistake when he had rejected Mrs. Meir request for cease-fire. However the paradox was that Sadat lost the battle, but his deception plan succeeded. The fact was that after the war, the Mossad director, Zvi Zamir awarded Dr. Ashraf Marwan a bonus of $100,000. And Israel continued to render him the best services according to his needs until 1978.
Dr. Abed El-Mun'em Said, a senior Egyptian strategic investigator, testified on the Egyptian TV show: "I do assert that Ashraf Marwan was a seed that was planted in the Israeli mind". General Muhammad Basiuni, a senior intelligence officer and formerly a liaison officer in the Syrian GHQ during the Yom Kippur War, and former the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel stated: "the man who activated Ashraf Marwan was President Sadat himself. He was also the one who authorized and confirmed the strategic deception plan". According to these two people, we may assume that they were members in the "Special Information Bureau" that Sadat had created in the Presidency Chamber". The bureau that prepared the poisonous Basbussa, that Marwan served us. And there are people among us that eat it delightfully to this very day.
By: Lt. Col. (Ret.) Shimon Mendes, "The Sophisticated Egyptian Deception Preceded the Yom Kippur War", The Mideast Forum, 29. October 2012.
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