FROM DETERRENCE TO DISASTER
When we concentrated our forces I esti
mated that the likelihood of war breaking
out was 20 percent. Before we closed the
Gulf of Aqaba, we convened a meeting of
the Higher Executive Committee at my
home. We discussed the closure of the Gulf of Aqaba. That meeting took place on May
22. At that meeting I told them that the
possibility of war was 50 percent. At an
other meeting I said that the likelihood of
war was 80 percent.
Gamal Abdul Nasser, July 23, 1967
The brief account in the previous chapter does only limited justice to a complex chain of events. It will serve, however, as a backdrop to a discussion of the principal questions about Egypt's decisions. Why did Egypt elect to go from deterrence to confrontation? What made it decide it could risk war with Israel? Was it following a preplanned strategy or improviing as it went along?
According to Zakaria Muhieddin, Egypt's vice-president at the time, no one alive today can tell why Nasser acted as he did. Nasser took the answers with him to the grave. 1 We can, however, define the extent of our ignorance more precisely, because we have learned a good deal about Egypt's decision-making process, thanks to the revelations of Heikal, General Fawzi, General Murtagi, Abdul Majid Farid, and others.
It has long been clear that Nasser thought he was obliged to react in some effective way when he learned, or thought he learned, that Israel was about to make a major assault on Syria. According to Heikal, Nasser