350. Diary Entry by the White House Chief of Staff (Haldeman)1
Henry called at home this morning and has really blown up regarding Rogers.2 He feels that we have now thrown away our bargaining position on the Middle East; that up to now we’ve taken the role as intermediaries; that now Rogers has told Sadat that we will not function simply as mailmen; that we will throw our weight into the process and that we will squeeze the Israelis; in other words, he’s told Sadat we’ll hold our view regardless of Israeli complaints and that we will not give the Israelis planes or any other new weapons. This cable was sent to Sadat with no word to us. Two days ago, with no word to us again, Rogers proposed secret talks in New York between Egypt and the Israelis under Sisco—without telling us and without asking the Israelis first.
Henry’s really furious. He feels that our plan depended on the Russians delivering the Egyptians and we delivering the Israelis. If Rogers had tried to clear this with Henry, he would have said we’re not ready yet for this move—the same as he did with Sisco’s plan to go to Israel in July. [1¹⁄₂ lines not declassified] He’s agonizing on how he can explain to Brezhnev, right after the Gromyko proposal, that we go out and pull this in New York. He thinks Rogers’ route will inevitably leave the Russians sitting solid in the Mideast, where we can get what we want as the result of a deal with the Russians and without the Israelis’ total opposition. We could get it, in other words, without an Israeli confrontation. But now we’re on record as having promised Egypt everything, so there’s no reason for the Russians to get out. Rogers saw the Egyptian Foreign Minister yesterday and won’t give us a report on the conversation. Rogers said he’d keep things quiet. He told Bush that he was planning nothing. Now he has these moves underway. Henry feels the President has to have someone handling his interest in the Mideast and that he has to get Rogers under control. The problem is that, if we had handled it, it would have gotten the Russians out of the Middle East and we would not have an Israeli [Page 1094] confrontation. The only reason we haven’t up to now is because Kissinger has been sitting on Rabin, keeping them quiet.
When you keep pushing him, Henry finally defines the two problems as: first, the insolence of cutting out the President, that he should be given a chance to understand what’s going on; and second, that Rogers’ policy is screwing up the game that we’re developing and is certain to produce a confrontation. Henry points out, and I’ve pointed out to him, he’s been saying this for a year and a half. But he says he’s held it in check so far by Kissinger sitting on Rabin and Dobrynin and stopping Rogers at the last moment, such as the embargo last February. He says his efforts can’t go on indefinitely and that we should point our efforts towards the summit. He thinks the game may now be unplayable. There’s no reason to play it, as far as the Russians are concerned. They probably won’t play our game now. And the Egyptians probably won’t play with the Russians. It hasn’t blown up yet, because the Russians aren’t ready for a showdown. Rogers unilaterally decided also some time back—with no word to the President—that we’d send no more planes to the Israelis. So we’re squeezing them already and getting nothing for it. We should have waited to cut them off and gotten some quid pro quo.
He says Sisco is totally distrusted by both sides. He says Rogers is organizing these secret talks in New York as soon as the Egyptians send someone. He thinks the Israelis may not come and if they do they’ll blow it up and that what we need now is to slow things down. He says that if the talks are held, and succeed, then it will be a disaster because we’ll still have the Russians there. There’s not much chance of their succeeding because the Israelis won’t buy this. But if they do, we’re in real trouble because we give the Russians a solid base in the Mediterranean. We don’t care about the Israeli-Egyptian border thing, which is what the settlement will provide; we do care about getting the Russians out and that it won’t provide. It will keep the Russians sitting there dominating the Mediterranean. And we know under our plan we can get them out.
He says the solution is that we’ve got to tell Rogers that he has to check with the President before he does any major steps. Henry’s going to challenge Sisco on the phone, telling him that the next uncleared cable that he sends, Kissinger’s going to take him to the President and demand that one or the other of them be fired. Henry says he’s on the verge of resigning, regardless of the consequences. That he feels Rogers’ only motive is to get on the front page. Henry’s felt up to now that if he got into it, it would screw it up and the worst that Rogers could do is to create a deadlock and that wouldn’t be bad because it would force the Russians. Now we have the deadlock, and we have forced the Russians, but now Rogers is going further and thus forcing the Russians [Page 1095] out of the game. A year ago the summit games saved the situation, otherwise there would have been a Mideast war. Now we’re radicalizing the Egyptians and the Russians can’t control them, so there isn’t going to be much chance of settling it. The President is now giving up his ace in the hole with the Russians. He should have held the Mideast as a card, with the principal objective to get the Russians out of the Mediterranean. The problem is that we shouldn’t be battering the Egyptians and Israelis regarding a little bit of desert land and in the process letting the Russians establish a Mediterranean base.
Henry says he’s played it as far as he’ll play. If it blows up, there’s nothing more he can do. Either we’re going to have Presidential control or not. Henry’s been cleaning up the mess now and blunting the edges for several years. And he’s been wrong in estimating the time scale but right in estimating the ultimate result. And he can only paper it over for a little bit longer.
He called me a little later in the day to say that he had talked with Dobrynin3 and he thinks he can slow it down for the next couple weeks, if he can control the cables. He thinks the Russians can control the Egyptians. He’s told Sisco that the next time a cable goes, Kissinger’s going to go to the President. Sisco says that he’s dying through this whole thing, but that every time he raises it with Rogers, Rogers says he has carte blanche from the President. Now Rogers is planning to see Eban down here, and Eban will hit him in the teeth. There will be a meeting, ending in deadlock. Rogers refuses to report on his meeting with Riad, but Kissinger ordered the reports from State and has now gotten them. Henry’s going to make an issue on this when they run wild again. I advised him to make an issue now and not wait ‘til they run wild. So he agreed to wait ‘til Wednesday,4 after the Russian announcement on Tuesday, and then go over it with the President.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Haldeman Diaries, Cassette Diary. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. According to his handwritten notes, Haldeman was at home when Kissinger first called at 10 a.m. Haldeman largely dictated the diary entry from his handwritten notes. (Ibid., White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, H. R. Haldeman, Box , H Notes (Oct-?? 1971))↩
- See Document 349.↩
- See Document 351.↩
- October 13.↩