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News | June 27, 2019

This Week in DIA History: DIA assessment on the Six-Day War “A Triumph”

By DIA Public Affairs

In early 1967, tension escalated as the possibility of war between Israel and the Arab world grew. By late May, as Israel sought U.S. support, President Lyndon Johnson requested an intelligence assessment on the balance of forces and likely outcome of such a conflict. Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms tasked the Office of National Estimates (ONE) to prepare an assessment, which concluded Israel was well positioned for a rapid victory. The assessment also determined that the Soviet Union probably lacked the capability to openly help the Arabs, and would not do so out of fear of potentially causing conflict with the U.S. Johnson was concerned about the language used in the assessment and ordered Helms and U.S. Army GEN Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to “scrub it down.” Helms called for another assessment due the next day. The new product, titled “Military Capabilities of Israel and the Arab States,” written by DIA and CIA analysts, accurately calculated how the war would be fought, the day it would begin and its outcome down to the day it would end. The product estimated Israeli armored forces would breach Egypt’s forward lines within several days. In a memorandum issued the same day, ONE also concluded the Soviets would not intervene to save the Arabs from defeat. With this intelligence in hand, Johnson chose not to introduce U.S. forces into the conflict. In response to the analysis of the 1967 war, Helms said, “When you come as close as that in the intelligence business, it has to be regarded pretty much as a triumph.”