Ashraf Marwan is a controversial figure within Israel’s intelligence community. Some regard him as Israel’s best ever Arab spy, others see him as an Egyptian spymaster who misled the Israeli military ahead of the 1973 war that was a military disaster for the Jewish state. In June 2007, Marwan ‘fell’ from the balcony of his London house. His wife and many commentators accused the Mossad of the assassination.
Marwan was born in 1944 to an influential Egyptian family. At the age of 21 he married Mona Nasser, president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s second daughter and secured his place in the corridors of power in 1960s Cairo.
Following its humiliating defeat in the 1967 war, Egypt started to prepare its military to take back the Sinai peninsula. Marwan was privy to Egypt’s best-kept secrets; its war plans, detailed accounts of military exercises, original documentation of Egypt’s arms deals with the Soviet Union and other countries, military tactics, the minutes from meetings of the high command, transcripts of Sadat’s private conversations with world leaders, etc. All of that allowed him to provide Israel with invaluable information about the coming war.
The intelligence that Marwan provided to the Mossad made its way to the desks of Israeli political and military leaders and shaped Israel’s so-called post ‘67 strategic ‘concept’ – the belief that Egypt’s Sadat wouldn’t launch a war against Israel unless his minimum requirements were fulfilled. Without long-range attack aircraft and long range Scud missiles, Israel was made to believe, Egypt could not overcome Israeli air superiority and would not launch a war.
The reports that Marwan provided to Israel contained precious information that, although accurate, systematically contributed to Israel’s misconceptions about Egypt’s aspirations, plans and capabilities.
In April 1973, Marwan persuaded the Mossad that Egypt planned an attack on Israel in mid-May. As a result, Israel raised its military to red alert, but that May war never happened. In late September, Marwan once again convinced the Mossad of an Egyptian plan for an attack, but this time the Mossad had lost its credibility and until the last minute, the IDF military chiefs treated Marwan’s information with suspicion. They basically ignored him.
A few hours before it began, Marwan provided the Mossad with a final warning that a war was about to launch. Late on the 5th of October 1973, Tzvi Zamir, the head of the Mossad, met Marwan in London and learned that a war would start the following day at 6pm. The war did indeed start the next day, four hours earlier than predicted. The 1973 war is considered by Israel to be its most humiliating and scandalous military blunder. Israel was totally unprepared. IDF battalions on the frontline were exposed to a full-on Egyptian and Syrian assault. They were wiped out within hours. Some rightly argue that it is only because the Egyptian and Syrian armies had limited plans in terms of territorial gains that Israel survived this war militarily and exists to this day. Most Israeli military commentators agree that it was not the IDF generals who saved the country but the foot soldiers on the ground who fought heroically with their backs to the wall.
General Eli Zeira, then Director of Israeli military intelligence is regarded as a major contributor to the 1973 military blunder. Zeira claims that it was Marwan’s earlier misleading information that led to Israel’s ‘misconception’ of Egypt’s true intentions. Zeira argues that Marwan was a ‘double agent’ or more rightly, a skilful Egyptian spymaster, who brilliantly managed to deceive the Israelis into a delusional ‘misconception’ of the conflict. Those who believe that Marwan was assassinated by the Mossad tend to accept General Zeira’s opinion.
For months and months America, Britain and NATO warned the Ukrainians that Russia was planning a war. The Americans in particular have made it clear that they were privy to information, that although it couldn’t be shared with the general public, indicated that Putin was planning an imminent attack. Naturally, not many people bought into these repeated American warnings: by now American and British intelligence have been involved in too many blunders and spectacular lies (among them phantasmic WMD in Iraq and chemical attacks in Syria) that no one, including the Ukrainians, has taken these military institutions seriously. It was also evident that, even more than Ukraine or Russia wanted or needed a military conflict, it was Washington and London that desired one. Ukraine has become an energy hub following the discovery of large reserves of gas and oil within its territory. The West saw it as an alternative to Russia as the major gas supplier to Europe.
As happened with Marwan in 1973, someone ‘helped’ the Pentagon to build a ‘concept’ of an ‘imaginary Russian campaign.’ In American’s delusional war plan, Putin would capture Ukraine’s Russian speaking regions in the East and might also attempt to seize some ground in the south to create a land passage to Crimea. This war would have come to an end within a short time as its military objectives were limited. Ukraine would accept the Russian territorial gains as it would allow Ukraine to rid itself of its most problematic and contested regions. Russia would be condemned but, in this scenario, when peace prevails, Ukraine would be able to join the EU and maybe even NATO and most important, become Europe’s prime energy supplier.
This ‘concept’ of a war may well have been induced by a Putin / Marwan figure. It misled the Americans and the Brits to build a completely wrong strategic and geopolitical vision. The Ukrainian military was foolish enough to follow the Pentagon’s intelligence scenario and deployed its elite units to the East. Those units prepared themselves for an express war on some disputed but defined territories. But that wasn’t the war that happened. Instead what transpired was tragic for Ukraine and its military. Just before the 24 February Russian invasion, it became clear that Russia had extended its military drills to Belarus. Days later, Russia launched its military campaign. Russia’s main effort was launched from Belarus and it was aimed at the Ukrainian capital Kyiv not the Eastern regions as predicted. In a simple move, the Russian Army basically managed to cut off most of the Ukrainian Army far from the capital and with no supply routes or logistical support from the West.
By attacking Ukraine from Belarus, the Russians copied Hitler’s Belgium manoeuvre. In 1940 the French waited for the German Panzers on the vastly fortified Maginot Line. But the Germans bypassed the Maginot Line and went into France through Belgium and headed straight to France’s soft belly and Paris. That left the French military stranded at the Maginot line and exposed from the rear as the enemy was then behind them. It would have helped if American, British and Ukrainian generals had spent some time learning military history or even watching some relevant Youtube history channel documentaries.