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Two Deep Mysteries of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War
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Forty-seven years ago, Egypt and Syria launched a massive surprise attack on Israeli forces dug into fortifications along the Suez Canal and Golan Heights. The ‘limited’ Arab objective was to recapture both strategic areas that had been seized from the two Arab states in Israel’s victorious 1967 War.

Re-armed with modern – but by no means top drawer – Soviet weapons, Egypt and Syria sought to drive the Israelis back, then wait for the great powers to impose a truce. It was a badly flawed strategy, which assured the heavily armed Israelis would control the military initiative with their superiority in air power and armor.

At first, the Arab surprise attack caught Israel flat-footed. Israeli reserve armored forces were still in storage when Egyptian and Syrian armor and infantry stormed across the 1967 cease-fire lines.

Warnings of the impending assault from the most important Israeli spy, Ashraf Marwan – amazingly the son-in law of the late Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser – were ignored or shrugged off in Israel which was still filled with hubris over its lopsided, US-assisted victory in the 1967 War.

This was the first big mystery of the 1973 War. Was Marwan really a Mossad spy or a double agent, as Egypt later claimed, disinforming Israel on the time of the Arab offensive? Marwan later fell to his death – or was pushed – from a London apartment.

Syria’s armor drove into the Golan Heights from their starting positions on the plains east of Golan and the Mount Hermon massif.

The opening Arab assault was a remarkable success. I walked much of the Suez Canal soon after the war and was awed that Egypt’s military engineers had managed to get so many tanks and men across the wide canal under enemy fire.

Equally amazing was Egyptian infantry using highly effective new Soviet Sagger anti-tank missiles and air defense units employing SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles to blunt Israeli counter attacks. Hundreds of Israeli US-supplied M40 and M60 tanks and 20% of Israel’s formidable air force were destroyed.

Most of Israel’s 15 Bar Lev forts built to defend the Suez Canal were stormed. As a connoisseur of modern fortification, I was fascinated to explore the fallen Israeli forts. Syria inflicted heavy casualties on Israeli armor defending the Golan Heights and on its forts.

The second big mystery of the war concerns the savage fight for Golan. Syrian armor and mechanized divisions had managed to claw their way to the top of the Golan Heights, from where they looked down on Galilee and most of northern Israel. We don’t know whether Syria intended to drive into Galilee, formerly a heavily Arab area, or try to defend the Golan ridgeline. But orders went out from Syrian HQ to halt the Syrian offensive when the downhill road to Galilee and Jordan River bridges were wide open. Why did the Syrians halt their advance when victory was in their grasp?


The answer remains a mystery. But the best assumption is that Soviet spy satellites saw Israel move 13 Jericho missiles out of caves at two airbases and affix their 20-kiloton nuclear warheads. Moscow immediately warned Washington and its Arab allies, both of whom feared an imminent Israeli nuclear strike against targets that included Damascus and Cairo.

So, both Egypt and Syria halted their advances. Israeli forces, bolstered by the arrival of powerful reserve armored divisions, seized the initiative and went on to achieve a brilliant victory that included crossing the Canal and encircling Egypt’s III Corps. The fighting ended after Israel failed to seize Suez and towns on the way to Damascus. Threats of Soviet intervention and America’s resupply of almost all of Israel’s lost weapons brought the 1973 War to a close.

Egypt regained Sinai – Syria and the Palestinians got nothing. The US sank ever deeper into the turbulent affairs of the Arab world. After a bad scare, Israel triumphed as the Mideast’s premier military power.

• Category: History • Tags: Arabs, Israel, Israel/Palestine 
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  1. gT says:

    Arabs are not the brightest fish in the sea. How many of them are there and they can’t even take care of say 8 million Jews, pathetic. And its not like the Arabs don’t have money, they have been sitting on the world’s oil wealth since forever, they should have been able to develop the best weapons on planet Earth, yet they did nothing. They just don’t have the IQ or the organizational ability to develop beyond desert marauders on camels.

    • Troll: Colin Wright
  2. That was a great opportunity missed: they allowed the Zios to call their bluff. I doubt either Damascus or Cairo would have been destroyed, the Zios being the serial bunglers that they are. The genocidal Zionist entity could have been dismantled and the Jewish interlopers sent back to where they had come from. The loss of that chance is one of the great tragedies of history.

    • Replies: @No one
  3. The Ramadan War / Yom Kippur War was a psyop. Anwar Sadat was likely a traitor, who agreed in advance to betray the Syrians so that he could get back the Sinai. Instead of ‘shattering the myth of Israeli invincibility,’ as the Egyptians liked to say, the war really just shattered the myth of Arab unity.

    Israel Shamir did a good write-up on the war a number of years back, when he was still a CounterPuncher:

    • Agree: Moi
    • Thanks: Pheasant, Zimriel
    • Replies: @Zimriel
    , @Anon
  4. @gT

    NEWSFLASH: The Iraqis built a nuclear reactor, Osirak, forty years ago. It was destroyed by an Israeli air-raid in 1981. It turns out that proliferation is not so easy if Washington and Tel Aviv oppose it. Just ask the poor Iranians, who have had to endure a near constant embargo for years now, despite the fact that their reactor is perfectly legal and that they don’t even have a bomb.

    • Agree: foolisholdman
    • Replies: @gT
    , @Chris Mallory
  5. gT says:
    @Digital Samizdat

    The dumb Arab ruled Iraq attacked Iran and lost the cream of their army fighting Iran, plus during that conflict the Israeli’s blew up Iraq’s nuclear reactor, but apparently Iran targeted that nuclear reactor first. Did Iraq then attack Israel, nope, Iraq continued attacking Iran. Iraq was, at that stage, the most powerful army in the Middle East, now Iraq is nothing.

    Iran knows how Washington and Tel Aviv behave so leaves nuke development to the North Koreans. Iran is not Arab.

    • Replies: @Curmudgeon
  6. anarchyst says:

    Let’s not forget that Israel has blackmailed the world with its “Samson Option”.

    If a nuclear device is “lit off” in an American or European city, it will have Israel’s fingerprints all over it.


    Israel is desperate to keep the American money spigot running, as well as sabotaging the Palestinian “peace process” that the world wants it to take seriously.

    Israel “targets” in the United States of America are Los Angeles, Chicago or Atlanta. New York City is “off-limits” because of the proliferation of jews residing there. Of course, the “jewish message service” Odiga could be used to warn jews to leave, just as what was done before the WTC twin towers and building 7 came down.

    European “targets” would start with Rome (Vatican City), Paris or Brussels. Jews would LOVE to target Rome, being the center of its nemesis, the Catholic Church.

    In fact, if a nuclear device is “lit off” anywhere in the world, it will have come from Israel’s secret nuclear “stockpile”. With today’s situation in Iran, Israel may just have to “light one off” to get its “American lapdog” to respond appropriately.

    There was a “power outage” in Atlanta that was a convenient excuse for Israel to perform a logistical “sleight of hand” as an Israeli plane was allowed to land and take off during the “power outage” without receiving customs clearance or inspection.

    This is one of many Israeli companies that possesses a “special exemption” granted by the U S government that frees it from customs inspections.

    Just maybe another one of Israel’s nukes was just being pre-positioned or nuclear triggers (tritium) were being renewed, getting ready for “the big one”.

    As most Americans are tired of all of the foreign wars being fought for Israel’s benefit, another “incident” on American soil would be enough to galvanize the American public, once again, (just like WTC 9-11) to support another war for Israel’s benefit (Iran).

    Israel refuses to abide by IAEA guidelines concerning its nukes as they are already distributed around the world. Israel would not be able to produce all of them as most of them are not in Israel, proper.

    No delivery systems are needed as Israel’s nukes are already in place. Look for another false flag operation with the blame being put on Iran or Syria. You can bet that some Iranian or Syrian passports will be found in the rubble.

    American foreign aid is prohibited from being given to any country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (the Symington Amendment)or refuses to abide by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines regarding its nuclear devices.

    Guess what??

    Israel does not abide by EITHER and still gets the majority of American foreign aid. This prohibition also applies to countries that do not register their agents of a foreign government with the U S State Department. Guess what?? Israel (again) with its American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) still gets “foreign aid” in contravention of American law.

    Let’s not forget the “security grants” that American taxpayer dollars fund, 95% going to israeli companies.

    There are forty or so congressmen, senators and thousands of high-level policy wonks infecting the U S government who hold dual citizenship with Israel. Such dual citizenship must be strictly prohibited.

    Those holding dual citizenship must be required to renounce said foreign citizenship in order to remain in the country. Refusal to do so should result in immediate deportation with permanent loss of American citizenship.

    Present and former holders of “dual citizenship” should never be allowed to serve in any American governmental capacity.
    In addition, any American citizen who serves or has served in Israel’s military (Israel Defense Forces) should automatically lose their American citizenship and be immediately deported to Israel.

    When Netanyahu addressed both houses of congress, it was sickening to see our politicians slobber all over themselves to PROVE that they were unconditional supporters of Israel. It was a scene out of the old Soviet Politburo which no one wanted to be the first one to stop applauding.

    Just who the hell do they work for?

    Certainly not for the interests of the American people and the United States, at the least they should renounce their United States citizenship and be deported to israel. Being indicted, tried for treason against the united States of America would be appropriate.

    Let’s not forget the “loyalty oaths” to a foreign country (Israel) which American politicians are required to sign in order to receive “funding” from israel. As much as I despise the two muslim woman politicians, they were absolutely right to call out the rest of the politicians for signing “loyalty oaths” to israel.

    • Agree: foolisholdman
  7. In times long past I thoroughly studied the IDF’s defense of the Golan Heights before the masses of reservists could arrive. It was very very determined, and brilliant, the commander who’s main tools were maps and a stopwatch was one of the very few to get an medal, unlike those in the Sinai. I didn’t examine it with an eye towards the “second big mystery,” but from vague memory the Syrian Army just not being able to push forward in strength could answer it.

    • Agree: Zimriel
  8. @gT

    Your analysis presupposes a comprehensively unified Arab/Muslim front during historical periods in which there was no such thing. While true that, during WWI, the Turks held their own when Istanbul was threatened, Arab collusion with the British — which dealt the fatal blow to the Ottoman Empire — proved a steep price to pay for their ostensible “independence” — or rather, the illusion thereof.

    Since when has any Arab nation-state following WWI been able to form any kind of durable opposition to Israeli-Occidental hegemony? Much of this is the consequence of Arab leaders who have subordinated their nations’ interests to those of the I-O axis. Unfortunately, doing otherwise usually calls down the wrath of that axis upon their head (e.g. Saddam and Muammar).

    Kind of difficult to execute any plan when the big guns are all trained at your forehead.

    • Agree: Moi
  9. @Digital Samizdat

    The Iraqis built a nuclear reactor, Osirak, forty years ago

    If by “built” you mean “bought one off the shelf from the French”, then you are correct.

    • Replies: @ivan
  10. A123 says:

    On the Syrian side the issue was logistics. Resistance was much stiffer than expected causing offensive armor to run short on ammo and even worse on fuel. An infantry-only advance across open ground was suicide and the Syrian Generals were wise to avoid that fiasco. However, when the Israeli Air Force successfully broke the Syrian resupply effort all the Muslims could do was “shorten supply lines” (e.g. retreat) to avoid being over-run and routed.

    Egypt regained Sinai – Syria and the Palestinians got nothing.

    Egypt negotiated an honorable peace with Palestinians (e.g. Israelis) and regained the Sinai.

    Syria and non-Palestinian Occupiers of Judea & Samaria refused to negotiate an honorable peace. They permanently lost land as a penalty for their violation of international law. Their unprovoked first strike against the Jews of Palestinian was not approved by the UNSC.

    PEACE 😇

    • Troll: Moi, Chris Mallory
  11. Sean says:

    It was a badly flawed strategy, which assured the heavily armed Israelis would control the military initiative with their superiority in air power and armor.

    No, the Egyptian tactics and operational plan was sound, and in fact succeeded soo brilliantly that Sadat made the fatal error of ordering an further advance far beyond the original limited strategic objective of the campaign, whereby the Egyptian air defence system would at all times be protecting the ground forces.

    The tide turned in 1973 after the initial stunning success. which led to un unplanned supplementary offensive drive Sadat insisted on against the advice of his despairing commanders; the Israel air force were not then attacking into a hedgehog of SAMs and crushed the Egyptians because they had went out on a limb. In 1967 there was a panicked order to retreat that turned into a rout, and in 1973 there was a vainglorious advance. The personality of Egyptians lacks the supreme virtue of Jane Austen’s heroines: constancy.

    • Agree: Moi, Zimriel
  12. mr meener says:

    how come Eric left out the arab oil embargo afetr the war which destroyed the US economy from 73-82? it was a false recovery being the deficit ballooned to fuel the “growth”

  13. Moi says:

    Only the Arabs, being the good Muslims they claim to be, could be so stupid to “rebel” against the Caliphate only to become servants of the Brits and French and see their lands divided. They are still paying the price of their stupidity and are quite happy to have the Americans as their master.

    ps:Margolis failed to mention that Nixon hollowed out America’s arsenal so it could to shipped to Israel.

    PS: like all current Arab “leaders,” Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser was a fool.

    • Troll: A123
    • Replies: @Farouk
  14. Farouk says:

    Nothing spectacular can be expected of the in-breeding Arab ragheads. They have been involved in tribal, ethnic and sectarian conflicts since the beginning of time. They are both mental and physical midgets compared to the mighty Persians. No wonder they run to uncle sam in their long feminine dresses seeking protection from themselves and others

  15. @gT

    Iraq attacked Iran, because Iranian crazies were shelling Iraqi border towns and settlements. There was no way of knowing whether it was the new government, which had promised to overthrow Saddam’s secular Iraq, or overzealous volunteers. Iraq invaded, but essentially stopped after gaining all of the Shatt al Arab. Iraq knew it was never going to be able to invade all of Iran.

    As for the reactor, Israel bombed it before it was commissioned. The standard bullshit coming out of Israel is that any Muslim country with a reactor is going to build nukes even the NPT signatories. Pakistan, and India are non-signatories with nukes, but apparently they are no problem, because they are non-signatories. Iraq was an NPT signatory as are Syria and Iran. Israel has also bombed Syria claiming it was a reactor under construction. Israel bombs them before commissioning, because the US lets them. Under the NPT, all signatory countries must come to the aid of one of its signtories under attack by a non-signatory – like Israel. When Israel bombed Osirak, Tel Aviv should have been leveled.

    • Replies: @Again
  16. Lot says:

    “Arabs are not the brightest fish in the sea.”

    Arabs have depressed IQ for several big reasons. Cousin marriage is the big one. Polygamy also leads to high paternal age and both lower IQ and higher rates of mental illness.

    According to a report given at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013, this means that “the Arab world, with its population of over 362 million people in 2012,” produced about the same “number of books produced in countries like Romania (with a population of 21.3 millions in 2012) and Ukraine (population 45.6 millions) in 2012.” A report by the RAND center also notes that “religious books constitute 17 percent of all books published in Arab countries” (a considerably higher proportion than in other book markets) and that the number of public libraries in Egypt is about a tenth of those in Germany, which has a comparable population.


    Harvard produces more scientific papers than all 17 Arab countries put together:

    Indeed, the Royal Society’s Atlas of Islamic-World Science and Innovation reveals that scientists in the Arab world (comprising 17 of the OIC countries) produced a total of 13 444 scientific publications in 2005 – some 2000 fewer than the 15 455 achieved by Harvard University alone.


    Scientific Publications: Finland and New Zealand (population of both is about 5 million) has more than Pakistan (212 million) or Egypt (100 million).

  17. Bfld says:

    Moronic and racist argument. How can these countries develop when they have been on the receiving end of industrial scale violence meted by the US, Israel, Britain, France et al for 100+ years? How can they develop when foreigners install puppet leaders serving the interests of their imperial masters?

    There are many deficiencies in the “Arab world” and many are self-inflicted. But these have little to do with genetics or IQ.

    • Disagree: Zimriel, anonymous1963
  18. Awash says:

    You’re comparing masters and slaves. What’s your IQ?

  19. Again says:

    You are repeating an accusation against Iran that you could not support the last time you made it, saying you had read something thirty years ago and couldn’t find it. Your attempt to recruit Encyclopedia Britannica in your cause fails as the wording there is it is nowhere near as categorical as yours. Provide evidence that “Iraq attacked Iran, because Iranian crazies were shelling Iraqi border towns and settlements”. Among other things, you will have to prove that any shelling form Iran was not itself a response to shelling from Iraq.

    It is nonsense, of course, and the whole world knows it. Iraq attacked Iran for a variety of reasons: Saddam’s megalomania and his vision of himself as heir to great ancient Mesopotamian conquerors, Pan-Arabist notions of recovering lost Arab glory, and the related view of southwestern Iran as Arab territory, fantasies of grabbing the oil, seeing an opportunity for a quick victory when Iran was in a post-revolutionary chaos, dissatisfaction with the division of the river between the two countries, expectation of support from the US and Arab monarchies against the Iranian revolution, fear that the revolution in Iran would spread to Shiites in Iraq, and so on.

    • Replies: @Curmudgeon
  20. @Lot

    ‘Arabs have depressed IQ for several big reasons. Cousin marriage is the big one. Polygamy also leads to high paternal age and both lower IQ and higher rates of mental illness.’

    I don’t understand, Lot. Incest is very common among the ultra-orthodox in Israel. Is their IQ depressed as well?

    • Replies: @Lot
  21. ivan says:

    You should read the famous Sunday Times book on the 1973 war :

    to understand that it was a close run thing. After 1973 Egypt was fully out of the picture. The two billions that Egypt got annually, along with the one billion for Jordan, under Camp David ensured that the only country that the Israelis had to worry about is Syria.

  22. ivan says:
    @Chris Mallory

    While the Israeli one was gifted to them by the French under deGaulle, with additional material stolen from the US. Yes everyone knows the theory of atomic weapons. It is the materials and processes used to build them that are secrets.

  23. Lot says:
    @Colin Wright

    You’re misinformed. Try citations, like I provided.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  24. @Lot

    ‘You’re misinformed. Try citations, like I provided.’

    No, I’m not misinformed. There was a fascinating interval a decade or so back — fifteen years? — where Haaretz started joyfully printing every police report of incest and molestation that occurred within the Haredi community in Israel (the secular and religious Jewish communities of Israel hate each other).

    So Haaretz was having a high old time — and it was most illuminating. The sheer volume…

    Eventually, it apparently dawned on the folks at Haaretz that publicizing all this wasn’t exactly ‘good for the Jews,’ and the curtain was drawn once again — but we got a real good peek.

    • Agree: Zimriel
    • Replies: @Lot
  25. @Again

    Since neither you nor I were there, it would be impossible to verify anything. I recall reading about Iraq’s claims shortly before Stephen Pellitiere wrote about the disinformation on Saddam “gassing his own people”.
    This source mentions the allegations of the Iraqi allegations, and
    This source refers to Khomeini seeking the overthrow of the Ba’athists.
    This source is the official Iraqi position on the conflict.

  26. Zimriel says:
    @Digital Samizdat

    I question only that Sadat was a “traitor”. He could, instead, have been an Egyptian patriot but not particularly panArab or panIslamic. An Egyptian patriot would be content with Sinai and not want to bother with Gaza (or Ashqelon / Ascalan further up). Why inherit the British Mandate’s headache.
    As for the Syrians – who cares? I sure don’t. Neither should Egypt. That’s someone else’s country. If the Syrians are dumb enough not to read the bits of the Bible which call Egypt a “broken reed” that’s the Syrians’ problem.

  27. Alistair says:

    Pointless to applaud Israel; as the real power behind it, is the almighty USA’s military and diplomatic weight; and of course the international Jewish money which buys the American corrupt politicians who are sponsoring the Zionist occupation; without the almighty USA, Israel would be comparable to Bulgaria or Moldova at best.

  28. I am not going to look it up in detail because it was well documented in several different books about Kissinger but as I recall he was working feverishly in a back-channel capacity to pull Israel’s chestnuts out of the fire which resulted in an airlift of staggering proportions from US arsenals of military materiel, tanks primarily which was the reason for the turning of the tide as it were.

    For Margolis to fluff this off simply as “bolstered by the arrival of powerful reserve armored divisions” and leave it at that is either due to mental laziness or ignorance.

    I suspect that he may not read the comment section of his articles on otherwise he might realize that this is not a tabloid reading blue collar crowd who believe his every utterance because he is a “mid-east specialist”.

    If he does I would respectfully suggest that he sharpen his pencil. Or finally go out to that pasture that eventually beckons for all of us.


  29. @Lot

    If Israelis are so smart, why can’t they beat Hezbollah?

    • Replies: @A123
  30. Alistair says:

    The real question that everyone should be asking is “why Jews are unable to build a nation of their own after 3500 years of searching for their promised land ? ”

    Let’s not forget that Israel is just 73 years old, while the Jews have been around for at least 3500 years. After all, with the exception of a few, most existing countries in the world aren’t that much older than 500 to 1000 years old; the USA, most of the Europe, all south and north America, Australia, New Zealand; all these countries are by far much younger than the Jewish people.

    So, why the Jews weren’t able to build their own nation after 3500 years of wondering around — living as a “Scattered Tribe” among other nations ? — Now, go figure who is the smartest !

  31. A123 says:
    @James Speaks

    If Israelis are so smart, why can’t they beat Hezbollah?

    The cowards of Iranian al’Hezbollah use Lebanese civilians as human shields. Look at the damage from the Nasrallah-Shima blast. The detonation of al’Hezbollah Munitions Depot #12 killed hundreds and injured thousands of innocents in Beruit.

    It is difficult for Israel to engage an immoral opponent that runs away and cowers behind children.

    Don’t worry though. Iran is heading towards bankruptcy. Without huge cash transfers, al’Hezbollah will collapse.

    PEACE 😇

  32. No one says:

    The Syrians should have advanced into Israel and called the Zio bluff. No way Israel would have used them as Israel if it had used those nukes and likely all Jews on the planet would have ceased to exist as the entire Muslim world would have declared eternal war on them. I don’t think the Syrians occupying Israel would be very kind to Israel if they had nuked Damascus and Cairo. The Syrians would also likely have captured some or many of those Israeli, really french and USA nukes as well.

  33. Anon[268] • Disclaimer says:
    @Digital Samizdat

    I am very skeptical of any theory that involves a country agreeing to be invaded and have a lot of its military hardware destroyed, especially when that country consists of a lot of people paranoid about being exterminated. It goes against all common sense. After all, you have to trust your enemy to keep up its end of the bargain and halt, which might not happen if your enemy sees little resistance and suddenly realizes the entire prize can be taken with little trouble.

    Very likely the Egyptian and Syrians were told to halt either by the US and/or the Soviets, and the order was delivered with serious threats. Both the US and the Soviet Union were in a position to yank on the Arab’s choke chain in that time period.

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