Operation Badr (1973) - Aftermath


Operation Badr was the opening battle of the Yom Kippur War in the Sinai, and the first major Arab victory against the Israelis in years.

By repelling a division-sized counterattack on October 8, and establishing bridgeheads on the east bank to a depth of around 15 kilometers, the Egyptians had accomplished the objectives of Operation Badr. At the start of the war, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger believed that the better-equipped Israelis would secure victory within a few days, and thus tried to delay a ceasefire in the United Nations Security Council. The counterattack on October 8 however, came against American expectations. Kissinger was taken aback when told of the extent of Israel's losses on the morning of October 9 by Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz, and asked "Explain to me, how could 400 tanks be lost to the Egyptians?" Meir had authorised the assembly of 13 atomic weapons the previous day, and nuclear-capable Jericho missiles and F-4s were readied for action. Dinitz may have threatened Kissinger with the use of nuclear weapons against Egypt and Syria in order to underline the urgency of Israel's situation and push the U.S. into initiating an airlift to replace Israel's losses. Later that day Kissinger relayed U.S. President Richard Nixon's decision to initiate Operation Nickel Grass—which aimed to replace all of Israel's material losses—to Dinitz.

The prevailing view of Kissinger and many IDF officers on the Sinai Front was that the tide would quickly turn in their favor. The course of combat on October 8 thus came as a shock. At the end of the day Gonen, commented "It's not the Egyptian Army of 1967." In a press conference at night on October 8, not knowing that the counteroffensive had been defeated, Elazar claimed that the destruction of the Egyptian Army was underway, and that the IDF would soon "break their bones." He would later regret these statements. Israeli commanders began to doubt Gonen's ability. In a meeting with Israeli commanders after midnight on October 9, Elazar decided to suspend offensive operations until the Syrians had been neutralized, especially since there were just 400 tanks left in the Sinai. Disregarding this new order, Sharon division mounted a major brigade-sized attack the following day. Despite initial successes, the Israelis had been repulsed by the end of the day with no gains, losing around 60 tanks in the process. Gonen was furious at Sharon, not only because of his violation of the decision to remain on the defensive, but also because he had repeatedly disobeyed direct orders from Gonen on a number of occasions. Elazar was equally livid, but rather than remove Sharon, an insubordinate but innovative commander with political connection to the opposition party, Elazar decided to replace Gonen, who had proven to be out of his depth, inept at being an operational commander. Former Chief of Staff Chaim Bar-Lev was brought out of retirement to replace Gonen. To avoid the appearance of firing him, Gonen was retained as deputy to Bar-Lev by Elazar. By October 10, the front settled into a stalemate.

The success achieved by Operation Badr surprised Egyptian commanders, whose confidence soared. Sadat came under pressure to press the offensive towards the Sinai Passes, but remained unyielding, holding to the original goal of waging a limited war. Ahmed Ismail and Shazly were also on par with Sadat's opinion. However, appeals from the Syrians, whose situation was desperate by October 9, ultimately forced Sadat to change his mind for political reasons, against the protests of his commanders. Consequently Egypt would lose the initiative to Israel when it launched its unsuccessful attack eastwards on October 14.

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