124. Memorandum for the Record1
- NSC Meeting, Wednesday, June 10, 1970—Middle East
- The President
- The Vice President
- William P. Rogers, Secretary of State
- Elliot Richardson, Under Secretary of State
- David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense
- Admiral Thomas Moorer, JCS
- Attorney General John M. Mitchell
- Richard Helms, Director, Central Intelligence Agency
- General George A. Lincoln, Director, OEP
- Charles Yost, U.S. Ambassador to the UN
- Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State
- A.L. Atherton, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
- [name not declassified], CIA
- Alexander Haig, NSC
- Harold H. Saunders, NSC
- Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
The President opened the meeting by noting that it would be the last meeting for Under Secretary Richardson.2 He then turned to Mr. Helms for a briefing on the situation in the Middle East.
Mr. Helms began by noting that the new Soviet presence required careful evaluation. Israel retained military superiority, but the elements of the Soviet presence are under careful study.
The Soviets have 4–5 regiments of SA–3 missiles in the UAR and 3–5 squadrons of Soviet-piloted MIG 21 aircraft.
The President interjected: “Are you stating that as a fact? Are we now convinced?”
Mr. Helms replied that we feel no doubt that these forces are there. The debate within the intelligence community is over how they have been used. We have intelligence on the forces themselves [2 lines not declassified]. On the basis of intelligence from all these sources, the pres[Page 420]ence of the missiles and the pilots is unquestioned. The big issue is how the Soviets intend to use them.
The President asked what the number of Russians in Egypt other than diplomats is. Mr. Helms replied that it is in the neighborhood of 10,000. It has doubled in the last six months.
Mr. Helms continued, saying that the Soviet forces are located mainly in the Nile valley. The Israelis have confined their recent attacks to the area adjacent to the Suez Canal. The question now is whether the Soviets will refrain from moving their missiles and pilots into that area near the Canal and whether the Israelis will refrain from challenging the Soviet pilots.
Intelligence confirms 13 sites of SA–3 missiles. These are manned by 2600–3700 Soviet personnel. There are probably 6–7 other sites under construction. These are located in the Nile Delta north of Cairo, west of Cairo, south of Cairo in connection with a Soviet-manned airfield and at Aswan. The Israelis have unconfirmed reports of SA–3 sites—but not equipment—along the Canal.
This equipment arrived in March and April. Three squadrons of Soviet-piloted aircraft are flying from three bases—15 aircraft in each squadron with about 90 pilots by present count. The pilots arrived in February and March. These were originally reported [1 line not declassified].
As a rule, the Soviets stay clear of the Suez Canal. The one major exception noted to date was on May 14, [less than 1 line not declassified] a Soviet pilot had apparently pursued an Israeli attack aircraft. Even in this instance, however, the intent to engage cannot be confirmed. The MIG was unable to gain on the retreating Israeli plane.
Israel has publicly stated that it would avoid the Nile valley but would maintain supremacy over the Canal. Israel has said it would bomb anything along the Canal. They have been bombing heavily bunkers they maintain are being built to house equipment related to the SA–3 missile. U.S. intelligence analysts are inclined to think that these sites are for the SA–2 missile, but they have been so heavily bombed that we may never know what they were intended for.
On the ground, the Israelis only have some 5–700 men along the Bar Lev line3 on their side of the Canal. There are some 93,000 Egyptians on the other side of the Canal altogether. Dayan says that the main Israeli objective is to keep these Egyptians from massing for a cross-Canal attack.[Page 421]
As far as the Arab-Israeli military balance is concerned, the UAR has some 210–250 aircraft in 20 squadrons. But it does not have enough qualified pilots. Israel has 81 supersonic aircraft and 121 subsonic aircraft and 500 jet pilots. Israel’s superiority rests on pilot quality. We assume that Israeli pilots are the equal of ours. Israel keeps 85% of its aircraft flying, while the Egyptians keep only about 75% in the air. The Israelis are able to mount 5 sorties per aircraft per day, while the Arabs can only manage 2. Israeli aircraft have superior performance characteristics. The addition of some Soviet pilots will improve the UAR ability to intercept Israeli attackers if the Soviets engage. Soviet pilots are probably more capable than the Egyptian pilots. But they lack combat experience.
The new factor in the situation is the potential for attrition of Israeli aircraft in a prolonged contest with the Soviets. They could exhaust the Israelis in both aircraft and pilots. Israel could at some point come to consider losses intolerable. The present Israeli losses are somewhat less than the annual traffic toll. In terms of economics or demography Israel could stand such levels of losses. But Israel takes losses hard and any level of losses creates a psychological factor on which the Israeli level of tolerance is relatively low.
This is why Israeli strategy is based on the pre-emptive strike to keep the enemy from bringing its numbers to bear against Israel. This strategy now seems unworkable. It has for some time because of the dispersal of Arab aircraft and the hardening of protective hangars on Arab airfields. Now there is the additional factor that the presence of Soviet pilots could bring on a U.S.-Soviet clash. With the strategy of pre-emption perhaps lost to Israel, the Israelis have more reason than ever to try to control the area along the Suez Canal. The Israelis believe that unless they sustain their present level of attacks or increase it, the Arabs will be so emboldened as to step up the war of attrition.
Israel’s ability to maintain air superiority seems to depend on what the Soviets do. The indicators of Soviet intention are the fact that one Soviet pilot on May 14 did pursue an Israeli aircraft and the photographs which indicate the possibility that the Soviets are moving SA–3 missile sites up to the Canal. On the other hand, since May 14, there has been no identified incidents of Soviet pilot pursuit. If the Soviet pilots are ordered to keep their present pattern this situation could go on for some time. If they move up to the Canal, Israel could be quickly worn down. Even at that, the impact of such a Soviet move might be more important psychologically than militarily.
At the least, the Soviet presence has probably already emboldened the Arabs. At most, a situation has been created in which the balance could be altered to Israel’s disadvantage. Again, the real effect on the balance will depend on what the Soviets decide to do.[Page 422]
U.S. assistance to date is as follows: 40 Phantoms have been delivered and 3 have been lost; 10 remain to be delivered. Eighty-eight Skyhawks have been delivered with 12 remaining.
On the economic side, an earlier study of the Israeli economy4 revealed only U.S. confusion about Israel’s projection of its economic needs. A recent team visit to Israel, however, revealed that the Israelis are expecting to buy far more in the way of military equipment than we had anticipated in last fall’s study. They don’t necessarily plan to produce their own fighters and tanks but they do plan to produce armed personnel carriers, jet engines and naval patrol craft. In short, Israel’s economic needs depend very much on whether or not there is a political settlement.
[1 paragraph (7 lines) not declassified]
The President asked how many Russians are in Syria. Mr. Helms said he did not know the exact number but it was small.
[1 paragraph (3 lines) not declassified]
The President said that he wanted to be sure he understood one point: Is it true that, since World War II, the Soviets have not lost any men in non-Communist countries in combat situations? Mr. Helms replied that Soviet officers have been lost in Egypt in the last year. They may also have lost a few in Korea which we never identified—some Soviet pilots.
The President said this fact underscored for him the enormous significance of this recent Soviet step. It involves Soviet personnel in becoming casualties in a combat situation outside a Communist country. To them, this poses a very serious problem. [2 lines not declassified]
Mr. Helms replied [1½ lines not declassified]. The judgment which he had described was not just a casual one.
The President asked what the Soviets say about the fact that they have generally had a free ride for the last 25 years, using proxies to do their work for them.
Secretary Rogers said the Soviets do not talk about numbers of combat personnel. They do not deny or admit that they have combat personnel or pilots in the UAR. They say that the reason the Soviets are training Egyptian forces is that the Israeli deep penetration raids in January made this necessary. Whatever the Soviets are doing, the Soviets say has a purely defensive role. They say that they have to back up Nasser. The Secretary concluded that, as long as the deep penetration raids do not continue, the present posture will probably be maintained.[Page 423]
The Vice President asked about the relationship of the SA–3 missile system to the missile system that we have heard about recently as being converted to an ABM. Mr. Helms said that that was another system. The SA–3 is simply an extension of the SA–2 system which is improved to handle low-flying aircraft. It is designed to force the Israeli aircraft higher into the range where they can be hit by SA–2s or by interceptors. The system the Vice President was asking about is the SA–5.
Secretary Rogers said he did not think the U.S. had any alternative to providing planes to Israel. It is consistent with our policy that we have to continue to supply them. The problem is how to do this.
Secretary Rogers continued that this is a good time to try to get negotiations started. The parties have never really negotiated with each other. This is a good time. Israel is concerned about its future. Nasser is concerned about the Soviet presence. The Soviets are possibly willing to help with a political settlement, though maybe this possibility is remote. But for the first time the Soviets seem to be talking in more serious terms.
The Secretary proposed that the U.S. use the next three months to try to get negotiations started. He felt that we should continue to sell planes to Israel at about the same rate as in the recent past. At the same time we should make a major effort in New York under Ambassador Jarring to get negotiations started. “We think there is a good chance Israel will go along now.” The Secretary said his plan is to have a low-key announcement in about a week.5 He thought there was a possibility to get negotiations started. Until we do, there is no possibility of a settlement. He repeated that he felt the Israelis and the Soviets are interested.
The President turned to Dr. Kissinger to brief on the issues involved.
Dr. Kissinger said he had intended to draw together some of the issues which had been raised in the Special Review Group meetings on this subject,6 but he would like to go back a half a step to start with.
The immediate issue is aircraft for Israel. The State Department view has been as Secretary Rogers outlined it—that we should continue some shipments of aircraft to Israel while we launch a diplomatic initiative.7 The Defense Department view has been that we should provide no planes now because deliveries would inflame the Arab world.8[Page 424]
Dr. Kissinger continued that discussion of some of the issues underlies any decision we may make on aircraft. For instance, although the facts of Soviet intervention in the UAR are pretty agreed, there are different views of Soviet purpose and of the significance of the Soviet move:
—One view is that the Soviet move is entirely defensive, that the Soviets had no choice but to make this move in response to Israel’s deep penetration raids and that the significance of the move is therefore limited.
—Another view is that, whatever Soviet intentions are, we are confronted with certain results. The Soviet move does free the UAR to be more belligerent. Even if there is an Arab-Israeli settlement, if the Soviet forces remain in Egypt, the UAR will feel stronger in whatever adventures it decides to pursue. Britain did not want an empire; it simply acquired one in the course of seeking coaling stations on the commercial route to the Far East. The practical consequence of a Soviet presence in the UAR is that it is a major geopolitical fact with which we have to deal. The consequences cannot be judged by Soviet intent.
Secretary Rogers asked what difference it makes which view one takes. Dr. Kissinger replied that the view one takes makes some difference on whether the USSR is confronted now or not. The President said there was a question of whether the USSR should be confronted on a broader front. Dr. Kissinger pointed out that even if the Arab-Israeli dispute is settled, that still leaves a problem for the U.S. in that the Soviet Union can work behind the radical Arabs in further eroding U.S. influence in the area.
The President asked whether it is in the Soviet interest to see an Arab-Israeli settlement. The USSR may not want to see Israel “go down the tube.” It may well be that the Soviets have an interest in having Israel there as a “burr under the U.S. saddle.” The President said he questioned whether the Soviets have an interest in a real settlement; he could understand their interest in a truce or a cooling of the situation but had more question about a full settlement. He felt that Dr. Kissinger’s point is relevant and that it is not right for the US to look at what the Soviets are doing in the UAR as an isolated problem.
Secretary Rogers said he thought everyone could agree to that.
Mr. Packard noted one Soviet interest that had not been mentioned: The Soviets want the Suez Canal open.
The President noted that if the UAR were freed of pressure from Israel, it could concentrate on the Persian Gulf.
Dr. Kissinger continued, saying that he was not trying to argue a case but simply to report all the views that had been discussed in the Review Group and to relate them to the decisions before the NSC.[Page 425]
He noted that a number of views had been expressed about the situation:
1. The Israeli view is that if Israel and the U.S. will only stand fast, the USSR and the Arabs will decide to negotiate. This means that the U.S. must give Israel all the equipment it needs and make no concessions to the USSR. The consequence of this is that it may be feasible for Israel, but U.S. and Israeli interests diverge. Israel cannot pursue that strategy without U.S. support, but U.S. support for that strategy has consequences which everyone agrees the U.S. cannot accept.
2. A second view is that we should re-examine whether the U.S. can risk any involvement in this area for any issue at all. It can be said about this point of view that if we take the position that we have no interest in the area, it would seem impossible to get the Soviets to back off their course. Also, it would seem almost impossible to persuade Israel to withdraw if we at the same time told the Israelis that they could not count on the U.S. to take action in protecting Israel.
3. It is also argued that the U.S. should separate Israel conquests from Israel existence and to try to convince Israel to gain security in more restricted boundaries via Arab recognition and a U.S. commitment at least to supply necessary military equipment.
In formulating a U.S. strategy it is necessary to bring into balance the conflicting problems we face:
1. The Israeli quest for security. Military balance in the present situation would lead to a war of attrition that Israel could not take. For Israel to continue to exist, Israel requires some margin of military superiority. The problem is to provide enough of a margin but not so much as to permit them to ride out the present situation on the Canal for an extended period.
2. On the Arab side, the U.S. has an interest in the moderate Arabs and has to make sure that no settlement could strengthen the radical Arabs.
The President indicated his understanding that Arabs and Israelis are always going to hate each other—that we are talking about a political settlement and not reconciliation. Dr. Kissinger noted that an Egypt protected by Soviet power after a settlement would be strengthened in its efforts to produce pressures in the Persian Gulf.
The President asked how the UAR is getting along. Mr. Helms replied that the UAR is totally dependent on the subsidies from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya. The UAR is an economic mess. The UAR’s oil income is not yet significant. Without subsidies, the UAR would be bankrupt.
Dr. Kissinger returned to the thread of his briefing, noting that the third element that must be dealt with in any strategy is the USSR. The [Page 426] normal pattern of Soviet activity is to begin with a relatively modest step and then to inch forward testing the ground as they go.
The President interjected by asking how the Soviets proceeded in Cuba. The replies were vague, and Dr. Kissinger continued briefing.
Dr. Kissinger said that the problem with the USSR is to convince them that their present course has incalculable risks. But at the same time we do not want to engage Soviet prestige and leave the Soviets no escape. The choice for the U.S. is not whether to try for a settlement or to confront the USSR. The choice is how to do both in order to achieve a settlement.
Dr. Kissinger concluded by saying that there is one other question: Whether it is conceivable to get an Arab-Israeli settlement that is not imposed. It could be argued that it is necessary to try to achieve understanding on both sides so that a genuine accommodation can be reached. On the other hand, it is clear that without some pressure no such agreement is likely to be reached. The problem is not that the two sides fail to understand each other’s interests but that they understand them too well. If this is true, then it remains for outsiders to devise a situation in which there are incentives for each side to accept imposed terms.
Secretary Rogers said he did not feel this was a case of our doing one thing or the other. What we want to do is to get the parties into a negotiating posture and then to force them to accept a settlement. But to exert that kind of pressure behind the scenes we have to begin negotiations. Then at that point we will have to figure out whether, if we cannot get a settlement, we just quit.
The President said there is no question that there will be no settlement unless it is imposed. It is not useful for the U.S. to talk that way publicly, but there should be no misunderstanding about this fact around the NSC table. The question is whether there is enough in a settlement for the USSR to participate in imposing it.
Secretary Rogers replied that the UAR could not accept a settlement without USSR support.
The President said that the U.S. would have to use a big stick with Israel. In good conscience we cannot use that stick with Israel unless we are as sure as we can be that the other side is going to do its part in making a settlement stick.
The President asked whether Defense holds different views from those expressed by State. Mr. Packard replied that there is “general agreement” with State. Defense starts from the premise that it is hard to see a military solution to this problem in any context, whether it be the supply of arms to Israel or U.S. confrontation of the Soviet Union. Defense takes the question a step further and asks whether the U.S. would [Page 427] even be in a position to intervene. The Middle East is an awkward place for the U.S. to operate militarily; there is a long supply line and probably there would be little support from Europe. The President said we would probably be supported by Greece.
Mr. Packard continued, saying that in the final analysis we would have to rely on our nuclear power, and that is the last thing we want to fall back on. Defense agrees that this is the time to try to start negotiations and feels that it may be our last chance. The main difference between the Defense viewpoint and State’s is that Defense feels the U.S. ought to take a totally new approach instead of going back to the UN and Ambassador Jarring. We ought to consider a direct approach to the UAR in the form perhaps of a Presidential envoy.
The President said he didn’t feel that the State proposal would rule that out. Mr. Sisco said that the State proposal does differ from old approaches in precisely the way that Mr. Packard had mentioned. This is not the old way. State is proposing going directly to the parties.
Secretary Rogers said that we cannot get away from the UN resolution.9
Mr. Packard said he felt that we should go straight to the UAR and find out exactly what they want. The UAR and the Soviets would benefit from having the Suez Canal open. Perhaps we could use the Panama Canal as a lever. However that may be, there is very likely a legitimate interest in the UAR in minimizing the Soviet presence. We are going to have to impose a settlement and use leverage on Israel. We should therefore try to develop a position which is in everybody’s interest. We are not going to get much from Israel for a few airplanes; we are going to have to lay down the law to Israel.
Mr. Packard concluded that Defense is not too far from State’s general appreciation of the situation. Whether to sell airplanes before or after approaching Israel for a settlement is a matter of judgment. Defense simply believes that progress in negotiations is so important that we should not do anything to jeopardize it.
Mr. Sisco said that he wanted to explain the State Department proposal on planes. By the end of June under past contracts 44 Phantoms will be delivered. There are 6 others covered by this contract which are not scheduled to be delivered until 1971 because they are of a special reconnaissance configuration. That means that we could deliver 3 planes in July and 3 in August without going beyond the initial contract total of 50. Then, we could earmark 4 Phantoms and 4 Skyhawks per month with delivery beginning in September and continuing through December. We would assume that these deliveries would be made unless [Page 428] negotiations are so successful that we conclude that delivery might jeopardize them. We would take a decision now, however, on these additional planes for delivery in September and only withhold delivery in the unlikely event that delivery would be badly timed in relation to negotiations.
Secretary Rogers said that these aircraft would be referred to as “replacements.” Mr. Sisco said that by this definition “replacement” means covering past losses, probable future losses and obsolescence. The President wondered whether this would not be just enough to irritate the Arabs and yet not enough to provide real stroke with Israel. Mr. Sisco replied that it is possible that even a minimal number of airplanes would cause an explosion in the Arab countries if Nasser decides he wants an explosion. There is even a greater possibility if the PFLP decides it wants an explosion. The President asked what about Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Secretary Rogers replied that they are braced for the U.S. decision to provide replacements. The Russians also expect this. Such a move would not be escalatory. It would be escalatory if we sold the whole 125 airplanes that the Israelis had asked for.
The President asked what it was the 73 Senators had been pressing for.10 Secretary Rogers replied that they had been pressing for the whole 125 beyond the replacement concept.
The Vice President said that he would like to move back a step and ask whether we are certain that a settlement is in the U.S. interest. With the Fedayeen and the Soviet abilities enhanced and the history of insurgency as we have seen it, would Israel be able to cope with the Palestinians? Secretary Rogers replied that that would depend on the kind of settlement that comes about. We do not have to decide this now because the settlement itself is still remote.
Mr. Richardson said he agreed that settlement would take a while. He felt that we need to address ourselves to the question of what the U.S. can do to achieve a position to keep the balance from shifting radically versus the U.S. and Israel if agitators upset prospects for a settlement. We really do need some position toward the Palestinians. We may have missed the boat earlier in thinking only of the Palestinians as refugees. If we can take a posture of some sympathy toward the Palestinians, we might ride out the protracted absence of a settlement. On the other hand, if we move closer to a settlement we might be able to get a better set[Page 429]tlement for having taken the interests of the Palestinians into account.
Mr. Richardson said that this is really a question of whether we make public a sympathetic position on such issues as a Jerusalem settlement and the formation of a Palestinian state. This is a dimension of the problem that has not been sufficiently addressed. It would also help us in the Muslim world outside the area of conflict. For instance, the Indonesian Foreign Minister had said that this would be very helpful in his part of the world; it might also be helpful in Saudi Arabia.
Ambassador Yost said he was glad that the Palestinian angle had been brought out.
Ambassador Yost continued, saying he felt that we must push very hard for a settlement. He is not as pessimistic as Secretary Rogers. The only way of assuring Israeli security is a settlement. If the war of attrition goes on, Israel will be in serious jeopardy. The situation in Jordan and Lebanon will get worse.
While the UAR may be prepared to recognize Israel, Ambassador Yost continued, the Palestinians may not be. We must be in some way in a position to take account of their real interests.
Ambassador Yost felt that the first increment of aircraft in the summer would be wise. He was doubtful, however, about Mr. Sisco’s formulation for continuing shipments in the fall unless negotiations are succeeding. It would seem that, under this formula, Israel would have an incentive to make the negotiations fail.
Secretary Rogers said that we have done some thinking about the Palestinians. His last statement included a sentence on them.11 The real problem is how to deal with them. In Jordan, they are against King Hussein, and they have no leader who speaks for them.
The President said that one of the mistakes since 1948 has been failure to give full attention to the refugee problem. He said he is aware of all the arguments, but this is a terrific irritant. Secretary Rogers asked whether the President felt that the 1956 decision12 was right. The President replied, “No.” The problem with it was that it came at the wrong time. The invasion of Egypt was badly executed by the British and French, and the crisis in Hungary13 was simultaneous with it. The British and French did not need to be involved. Israel could have done the job alone. In the United States the whole issue came right at the end of an election campaign.
The President felt that the great tragedy of 1956 was that it finished the British as a world power. The French really didn’t care, but the British began their course of getting out of involvement all around the [Page 430] world at that point. It is not a healthy thing for the world for the U.S. to be the only major power in Asia or the Middle East. The French are out of the Far East, and the Dutch are out of Indonesia. Britain’s withdrawal is a great tragedy. While French withdrawal did not make much difference, the British have great brains and sophistication. To have them out of Asia is a very sad situation. After the British election, it may be important to try to keep them in Singapore.
Mr. Packard said he wished to return to one detail about aircraft deliveries. It is one thing to say that we are simply delivering 6 more airplanes within the total number of aircraft originally contracted for. It is quite another if we recognize that we are replacing 6 reconnaissance aircraft with 6 attack aircraft. The Sisco proposal is to increase Israeli attack capability when it does not need enhancement. Mr. Sisco said that it is a combination of replacement for 3 airplanes lost plus 3 new ones.
The President asked what the Israelis would think of this. Would they think that it is nothing? Will we get another letter from the Senators? Mr. Sisco said that they would have to look carefully at the earmarking promised. He felt that the domestic problem was containable if the Israelis would just say that the earmarking arrangement is “satisfactory.”
Mr. Helms said he felt that it was important to maintain the numbers of 50 Phantoms and 100 Skyhawks that were known in the Arab world. If there were any way to stay within those numbers we could possibly avoid an explosion in the Arab world.
Mr. Richardson said he strongly supported the general Sisco approach. But in a short time we will know whether it will or will not work. We should tell the Israelis that our interests and theirs do coincide in the field of launching negotiations. If we cannot start a negotiation both of our interests will suffer. The Israelis will face a long war of attrition. Hopefully, the Israelis would see their interests in cooperating. We should be able to explain to the Israelis that they have an interest in playing this low-key and that it is contrary to their interests to have a big announcement which would kill all chances for negotiation.
Secretary Rogers said that the Israelis do not have much hope of negotiations. He did not feel they were going to be as reasonable as Mr. Richardson hoped.
The President asked whether this was enough to push the Israelis with. Attorney General Mitchell said that if we talked to the Israelis first this should take the heat out of the domestic reaction. Mr. Sisco said it would be important how we phrased our statement on earmarking.
Mr. Sisco continued, saying that we would be asking the Israelis to engage in indirect negotiations on the basis of the UAR’s acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist. We would also be asking for Israeli ac[Page 431]ceptance of the principle of withdrawal. Secretary Rogers said that we would be asking two concessions from Israel—indirect negotiation and acceptance of the principle of withdrawal. The President asked whether that could be bought for 6 airplanes. Secretary Rogers said it would not be easy to persuade them.
General Lincoln said that he simply wanted to report that the Western Europeans with whom he has had contact are deeply concerned about Middle East oil supplies. The OECD is actively discussing the problem.
The President said he would want to consider the State Department proposal further. He said he realized that while people were hopeful something could be done there was also a good deal of skepticism.
The President said he still came back to a basic point that militates against a settlement: What is in it for the Soviets? The present situation is costing them some money. They may be concerned about a possible confrontation with the U.S. But if they look at that proposition coldly, they know as well as we know around the NSC table that the likelihood of U.S. action directly against them is “in doubt.” It did not use to be in doubt. That was what the Lebanon invasion of 195814 was about.
Again looking at the Soviets: they have made noises that they would like to see a settlement. They have a muscle-bound bureaucracy and have trouble seeing things in gradations. It may be that as far as the Soviets are concerned our job is to get them to play a role in imposing a settlement. The ingredient that is missing and has to be supplied in some way is the incentive to them to play that role.
Secretary Rogers noted that the Soviets are concerned about the Chinese and about the Fedayeen. Soviet officials often allude to those problems. Nasser is concerned about what has happened in Jordan and that he may be in some danger.
Ambassador Yost said that the Soviets do not call the tune in Cairo. If a settlement in Arab interests emerges, he did not believe that the Soviets could prevent it.
Mr. Sisco said that, while he agreed about the Fedayeen and the Chinese, he put greater weight on what the Soviets think of American will. The real leverage on the USSR is fear of a confrontation with the U.S. We ought to be looking at the 6th Fleet to see whether it is pro[Page 432]jecting American power to the maximum extent. His conclusion, he said, is that the Soviets feel now that they can broaden the conflict. We are essentially up against a Soviet political strategy, but at the end of the line they must feel that they could run into a confrontation with the U.S.
Mr. Richardson indicated his agreement. He felt that we need to find a way to use the only lever that we really have—the Soviet fear of confrontation.
Mr. Packard said that this is a matter of timing. He said we have to move ahead soon. We should avoid moving planes. He liked the idea of having a pool of aircraft perhaps in Texas as a reserve for Israel which would not be moved to Israel unless the situation required.
The President concluded the meeting by saying that he would look at all of this.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), H–109, NSC Meeting Minutes, NSC Minutes, Originals 1970. Top Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room from 9:36 to 11:24 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)↩
- On June 6, Nixon nominated Richardson Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The post of Under Secretary of State remained vacant until the Senate confirmed the appointment of John N. Irwin II on September 18.↩
- The Bar-Lev Line, named for Israeli Chief of Staff Haim Bar-Lev, was a chain of fortifications that Israel built along the eastern coast of the Suez Canal after it captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt during the 1967 war.↩
- Not found.↩
- Rogers made the announcement at a news conference on June 25. His statement and the question-and-answer session that followed are printed in the Department of State Bulletin, July 13, 1970, pp. 25–33.↩
- See Documents 117 and 119.↩
- See Document 123.↩
- See Document 121.↩
- UN Security Council Resolution 242.↩
- On June 4, 73 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Nixon asking him to meet Israel’s request for additional aircraft. (New York Times, June 6, 1970, p. 22)↩
- Not found.↩
- Reference is to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s decision to call for British, French, and Israeli forces to withdraw from the Suez Canal Zone after their invasion in October 1956. The invasion was in response to Egypt’s nationalization of the Canal on July 26, 1956.↩
- The Soviet invasion of Hungary in November 1956.↩
- In response to Lebanese President Camille Chamoun’s call for help to quash a rebellion against his government that had widened into a civil war, President Eisenhower sent 14,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon on July 15, 1958. The presence of U.S. forces helped to resolve the crisis, which ended with the election of a compromise candidate, General Fuad Chehab, as President on July 31, and the troops were eventually withdrawn by October 25.↩