OPINION

Time on nobody’s side

Time works against everyone in West Asia and if no settlement is found this year a fourth round of warfare will almost inevitably explode. Both Egypt, the main Arab contestant, and Israel are being pushed to this conclusion for strikingly different reasons. Nasser sees escalation as his last chance to retain control, apparently reckoning that although the military balance is adverse, he might force Russia to step in. Otherwise, there is a chance his own officer corps may drop him. The Army does not seem to fancy escalation but Nasser has warned it may be necessary. Meanwhile Israel, although possessing a fighting advantage based on quality, suffers slowly grinding attrition in weapons that can only be replaced by the United States and there is awareness that world sympathy has declined and the official American mood may possibly be less forthcoming. Therefore Israel might also wish to escalate while its armed might remains ahead. It could seize an advantage by winning another round and then offering generous terms for peace, an opportunity muffed after the 1967 military triumph.

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