133. Minutes of an Ad Hoc Special Review Group Meeting1


  • The Middle East


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Joseph Sisco
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr.
  • Defense
  • David Packard
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • Robert Pranger
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • NSC Staff
  • Harold H. Saunders
  • Richard T. Kennedy
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

a. State and Defense would clarify the question of the lists of equipment for Israel approved by the President2 and delivery would proceed without delay;

b. the new list received by Defense from Amb. Rabin3 would be circulated and staffed for decision—by the President if necessary;

c. diplomatic and military scenarios would be prepared4 for various possible responses to our initiative;5

d. Navy would be instructed to place a contract with McDonnell-Douglas for the reconfiguration of the A–4s for Israel;

e. we should proceed with the Jordanians on delivery of the agreed arms package,6 allowing the Jordanian team to come to the US, signing the letters of intent and giving them delivery dates for the F–104s.

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f. the Special Review Group will meet next week7 to consider the diplomatic and military scenarios, review contingency plans and sharpen the issues for a possible NSC meeting.

Mr. Kissinger suggested that the group review the state of play in our diplomatic initiative; consider what next steps might be appropriate; and possibly review contingency preparations. It might also review the delivery schedule for the arms to Jordan.

Mr. Sisco said we had received no considered reply to our initiative, but that we might expect one in about a week, after the Egyptians leave Moscow and have time to concert with Jordan. It would be interesting to see if we get our response direct from the Egyptians or through the Soviets or both. He and Mr. Helms confirmed that Nasser was still in Moscow for medical treatment.8 He saw two diplomatic possibilities: (1) an inconclusive response amounting to a rejection; or (2) a response through which the Soviets and Egyptians would attempt to push the US back into the four-power context. He noted that they had consistently preferred to handle the issue in the two or four-power framework rather than address themselves to proposals to get the two parties talking.

Mr. Kissinger asked for Sisco’s definition of a flat turndown—would this be a demand that we spell out the details of our proposal before they would agree to talk?

Mr. Sisco said yes, or a rephrasing of our proposal which could call for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 lines. On the political level he saw two alternative US responses: (1) that we fall in with the strategy and make substantive countermoves in either the two or four-power framework, building on the Soviet formulation involving a commitment to peace and a promise to deal with the fedayeen; or (2) that we institute a pause, suspend our participation in the two or four-power discussions for a period of time, during which we could take some interim steps, with a view to a possible political move in the context of the opening of the UN General Assembly in mid-September. During the interim period we could consider: (1) whether to stick with Israel militarily along the line of the decisions already taken; (2) whether to increase our support of Israel quietly or publicly; or (3) what steps, if any, we might take to give concrete meaning to the [Page 458] President’s words, both his public statements and what we have been saying to the Soviets over the past weeks. He thought we might be able to interpret such a response one of two ways. If we interpret it as a turn-down, we could apply a certain degree of shock treatment to prepare the way for a new effort. If we interpret it as leaving the door open, we could continue to do what we are doing with Israel and meanwhile decide what to do about the Soviets.

Mr. Packard asked what we have told the Egyptians.

Mr. Sisco replied that we have given our political initiative in writing to the Egyptians and Jordanians, and have informed the Russians, British and French. Nasser was now considering with the Soviets how to answer. He thought it unlikely that they would “kick it out of the park,” both because they would be concerned about the political repercussions and because they would be worried over possible US and Israeli military moves.

Mr. Kissinger asked if it was correct to say that, while we don’t expect them to accept our initiative, they could fudge their response by demanding that unless we move into the two or four-power context and there spell out the terms of reference for Jarring, there would be nothing to talk about.

Mr. Sisco added that they could confirm their acceptance of the Security Council resolution, accept the proposition of talks under Jarring, but claim that the basis for the mandate to Jarring was insufficient. They could say that we should continue the useful discussions in the two or four-power groups and that they would cooperate, provided we spelled out the mandate in more detail.

Mr. Kissinger asked how we could refuse to talk in the two or four-power groups, particularly since they would be accepting some of our proposals.

Mr. Sisco agreed it would be hard.

Mr. Kissinger asked, if the Egyptians handle their response skillfully, and the President wants to administer some shock treatment, how would we go about it?

Mr. Sisco said we could take the position that the US has put forward a proposal that they stop shooting and start talking, which involves a minimal commitment from the other side. Since they appear unwilling to move, we believe that a pause and a reassessment of the situation are in order.

Mr. Johnson asked what if the response was more forthcoming. What would Israel accept?

Mr. Sisco agreed that if we can interpret the Egyptian answer as an acceptance, we would have to twist Israel’s arm.

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Mr. Kissinger asked what would constitute a response that was not a flat acceptance but that we could interpret as an acceptance.

Mr. Sisco replied that they could say they are ready to start talks on the basis proposed by the US. However, we must change our general statement on withdrawal to a specific commitment of Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 5 lines. He reviewed the history of the language of the Security Council resolution on Israeli withdrawal, saying that the language finally agreed on allowed everyone to interpret its meaning in his own way. Accordingly, the problem was turned over to Jarring, which everyone wanted, on the basis of two varying interpretations of the meaning of the resolution.

Mr. Packard asked if we had an adequate definition of cease-fire.

Mr. Sisco thought we did.

Mr. Kissinger noted that Israel was arguing that a 90-day cease-fire would abrogate the various UN resolutions on the subject.

Mr. Sisco said that Israelis use two arguments against a cease-fire: (1) that it might provide a cover for increased or accelerated SAM development; and (2) the specious argument that agreement to a 90-day cease-fire would abrogate the UN resolutions, which is not correct.

Mr. Kissinger agreed that Israel could not say it would withdraw for 90 days then go back at the end of 90 days.

Mr. Sisco commented that if we received a flat rejection, our response should be stiff. We should get out of the two or four-power talks for six weeks and continue our military support of Israel.

Mr. Kissinger said in the case of a modified rejection, we could play tough as described or we could counter either by re-raising the question of a cease-fire or by going back with a more detailed formulation. He asked what we get out of the four-power talks? Are we not better off in two-power talks?

All agreed.

Mr. Sisco said we could keep the four-power talks limping along in a meaningless dialogue if we wished to, particularly if they were aware that something was going on in the two-power talks. He said we would, of course, have trouble with the French whose behaviour in the four-power talks he described as shameful.

Mr. Kissinger said we always have trouble with the French and attempting to butter them up has not helped. He commented the difference between a modified acceptance and a modified rejection was not so great.

Mr. Helms asked why we considered some of the moves discussed to be tough. Tough on whom?

Mr. Sisco replied tough on the Arabs, the Russians and the French. The Russians and the Arabs want to continue the talks in the four-[Page 460]power context where they could put maximum pressure on the US. He said Gromyko was advising his people to take their time and wear the US down in these talks.

Mr. Helms said he had no objection to calling off our participation in the talks but he didn’t think it would help.

Mr. Sisco outlined an illustrative scenario for a tough line. We could say, in view of the rejection of our proposal, we see no possibility of progress in the two-power or four-power talks. Therefore, we will give an X amount of military assistance to Israel and, in addition, will take steps A and B. Maintaining this posture for a while might create a climate in which the other side would develop some flexibility on the political side. Of the specific actions we might take, he suggested putting a US carrier into the port of Haifa and giving the crew a three-day leave, or putting a hunter-killer ASW group into the Mediterranean.

Mr. Packard agreed it might come to that.

Mr. Johnson commented that we should look further down the line and ask then what?

Mr. Kissinger thought we should consider ways to galvanize the negotiations. How we should play the response to our initiative is a tactical problem. We should focus on what the answer means. Does it mean Nasser is heading toward negotiations? Or does it mean he is stalling to allow time for more Soviet support to come in. If the former, we should go back to them. If the latter, it would be better to convey some warning.

Mr. Sisco commented that we could not disregard the Israeli reaction.

Mr. Kissinger asked if the Israelis might get desperate and pull the trigger.

Mr. Sisco doubted this, saying they could not reproduce the 6-day war in present conditions.

Mr. Packard thought we should do anything we could to press on in the interim. He suggested we might hold back on the supply of some arms to Israel.

Mr. Sisco said that was the wrong target.

Mr. Packard thought such a move would indicate to the Arabs that we were serious about a ceasefire. He also thought proceeding with the package for Jordan would indicate that we are serious. He considered it inconsistent, at least in the short term, to build up Israel while we talk about a ceasefire.

Mr. Johnson said no one was suggesting additional aircraft deliveries to Israel.

Mr. Packard replied that there was a good deal “on the deck” and some delay would show some good faith to the Arabs.

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Mr. Sisco asked if Mr. Packard was suggesting that we reopen the decision on the things we are now delivering to Israel, in a situation where the Arab response to our initiative was not entirely satisfactory and in the circumstances of a creeping increase in Soviet involvement.

Mr. Packard said he was talking about the list of Israeli requests they had received.

Dr. Kissinger said this was a separate problem that had not yet been addressed. He asked if Mr. Packard was suggesting reopening the list of items that the President had already agreed to or was referring to a new list.

(It was determined after some confusion that Mr. Packard was referring to a new list delivered to Defense by Ambassador Rabin after his July 8 conversation with Dr. Kissinger,9 which list had not yet been seen by the other agencies.)

Dr. Kissinger said he had circulated the memorandum of his conversation with Rabin purely for information, with no intention that it was to be considered as a directive of any kind.

Mr. Sisco reviewed the two decisions that had been made: 1) the list of items approved by the President in the context of the NSC meeting some weeks ago;10 and 2) the list of electronic equipment and other items which had been approved by the President over the July 4 weekend.

Mr. Pranger agreed that Defense was now talking about a new list, not previously considered, but said he had been in telephone touch with State on drones and some of the other equipment on the new list. He noted that Israel had some $577 million in debits since the decision on the jets and was moving toward $1 billion.

Dr. Kissinger replied that we could not discuss the issue on that basis. He reviewed the developments of the July 4 weekend, saying the President’s original inclination had been to replace all Israeli planes that had been shot down. He had reconsidered and had approved the list of electronic equipment and other items contained in the Defense Department cable sent to San Clemente on Friday, July 3.11 He said we could not reopen the decisions on this list unless the Israelis did something inconsistent with our peace approach.

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Mr. Packard said he thought we should look at the total amount of equipment to be delivered to Israel in a given time period to be sure we aren’t doing the wrong thing.

Dr. Kissinger said any requests received after the Presidential approvals must of course be looked at, but nothing that had been approved can be held up.

Mr. Packard reiterated that he thought we should look at the total list. Admiral Moorer added that we can’t decide on the list of equipment until we decide what we want Israel to do: whether we want them to continue to suffer attrition in the course of our diplomatic initiative, or whether we want to stop the attrition so they can hold their own.

Dr. Kissinger said he must protect the President’s decisions. They must be carried out. Any new list of requests should be staffed and considered on its merits. He said the present list of deliveries had been approved on the basis that the Israelis would not undertake further deep penetration. Nothing beyond that had been approved.

Mr. Pranger and Mr. Nutter noted that there had been no itemized list prepared in connection with the NSDM on the subject.12

Dr. Kissinger said there had been a clear Presidential understanding that we would hold back on the aircraft but would meet the other requirements. The list considered at the NSC meeting and the July 4 electronic equipment list had been approved. Drones and any other items on a new list had not been considered and were not approved.

Mr. Nutter reiterated that there was no list of items attached to the NSDM, and Mr. Sisco said he would provide one to the Defense Department.

Mr. Pranger acknowledged that Defense had the list which had been circulated by State but said they were not sure that the NSDM meant that list. He said they have moved on the tanks and other items, but some of the items, including Red Eyes, cause difficulties in Defense.

Dr. Kissinger reiterated the President’s clear understanding that the non-aircraft items had been approved and would be delivered. We cannot hold up delivery on items already decided upon. If there is a new list, we will look at it. He asked Mr. Sisco to straighten out the confusion with Defense, and asked that the new list be circulated and the items staffed. He said if there were items on the new list which were duplicates of requests on other lists or which asked for expansion or acceleration of delivery of previously approved items, we should take these out and circulate them for consideration.

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Mr. Packard reiterated his desire for a review of the entire list, but agreed to get together with State and straighten out any confusion.

Dr. Kissinger said in the event we received a qualified acceptance of our proposal which required going back to the two-power group with detailed guidance, should we not prepare a diplomatic track for such a contingency.

Mr. Sisco said he was already preparing counter-formulations in the context of two-power talks.

Dr. Kissinger asked what we might do if we received a qualified or total rejection of our proposal with a continued Soviet buildup.

Mr. Sisco replied that State had been considering what signaling steps the US might take without any real idea of what kinds of things would be feasible militarily.

Mr. Johnson added that, on the basis of previous contingency planning, they could suggest either a carrier visit to the port of Haifa or some increased ASW capability in the Mediterranean. In the latter connection, there is a hunter-killer ASW group on the east coast which could be in the Mediterranean in two weeks. This would be a strong demonstration of our determination. He thought we should, however, consider the next steps. A carrier visit to Haifa would result in the closing of all Arab ports to the 6th Fleet but, as a practical matter, these ports were already closed.

Dr. Kissinger asked what this would achieve.

Mr. Johnson replied a show of force.

Dr. Kissinger asked about a movement in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Mr. Johnson replied it would not be as good demonstrably.

Admiral Moorer commented that we have moved into the Eastern Mediterranean in force before but we have never entered an Israeli port. He noted we could move the hunter-killer group with a Task Force. In response to Dr. Kissinger’s question, he said the Soviets would undoubtedly read such a move as stepped-up readiness on our part.

Dr. Kissinger asked if we were trying to confront the Soviets or put ourselves behind Israel. If we were trying to confront the Soviets, there were other ways besides support for Israel. He thought the hunter-killer ASW group was a better signal of increased readiness than a port call at Haifa.

Admiral Moorer commented that the Navy did not like to put a carrier into a port.

Dr. Kissinger remarked that the Soviets would know of such a development before the Arabs did. He asked the composition of the hunter-killer group.

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Admiral Moorer replied that it consisted of a helicopter carrier with a few fixed-wing aircraft, and six destroyers. He said there were four such groups in existence.

Dr. Kissinger asked how far the 6th Fleet is from the potential area of operation in the Mediterranean.

Admiral Moorer replied two days, commenting that they could move the group to the vicinity of Cyprus.

Mr. Packard asked if we could increase our ASW activities from the land.

Admiral Moorer replied we would do this as a matter of course if we moved the carrier to the East.

Mr. Johnson remarked that this would not be as demonstrable as the hunter-killer group.

Dr. Kissinger said we would need another meeting of the Special Review Group next week by which time we may know more about the responses to our initiative, to go through the military and diplomatic scenario, we should sort out the possible diplomatic responses in foreseeable contingencies. We could also sort out possible military measures and what we would put into the two-power or four-power context. We could also review the contingency plans developed last year. He thought the NSC would have to consider the strategic decision on how we might most likely move to a political resolution, including how and when we would need to the pressure the Israelis and how to put pressure on the Arabs. Next week’s Special Review Group meeting could sharpen the issues.

Mr. Johnson asked about Rabin’s three requests in his conversation with Dr. Kissinger.

Mr. Pranger said the A–4Es he is requesting are being configured specifically to meet Israeli needs. These aircraft are earmarked, but no contract has been let to McDonnell-Douglas who will do the work, and the work cannot proceed without a contract. He thought there would be a 3–4 month delay until the aircraft were available.

Admiral Moorer said they could accelerate the work as soon as they could sign a contract, but they had no money for a contract and no authority to do more than earmark the aircraft to be reconfigured.

Mr. Sisco reviewed the President’s decision on aircraft which called for the delivery of 5 Phantoms in September, 5 in October, and 4 in November and 4 in December. It also called for the delivery of 4 A–4s in each of the four months. This decision could be reopened only if we achieve a ceasefire, or if talks are underway between the two parties under Jarring’s auspices and it was felt that delivery of the aircraft would jeopardize the progress of the talks. He said Defense should do whatever was necessary to deliver the aircraft.

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Mr. Pranger and Mr. Nutter said they had checked with State and had not received the impression that they were to proceed on the A–4s.

Dr. Kissinger asked if this had been covered in the President’s letter to Mrs. Meir.13

Mr. Sisco replied only in a general way, but it had been included in the NSDM that was sent to State and Defense.

Mr. Packard said they would instruct Navy to place the contract.

Dr. Kissinger remarked that there is nothing to prevent cancellation under the conditions noted by Mr. Sisco.

Dr. Kissinger asked if Rabin had submitted to Defense the request for improved air ordnance.

Admiral Moorer said it was included in the new Israeli list.

Mr. Pranger said that a Defense Review Committee composed of representatives of OSD and the services was processing the individual items on the list.

Dr. Kissinger said, if the new list raises controversial items, we should get them to the President showing agency positions.

Mr. Pranger replied that many of the technical items can be handled routinely in Defense.

Dr. Kissinger reiterated that his circulation of the memorandum of his conversation with Rabin did not constitute a Presidential instruction. He thought the Rabin visit was primarily to call the President’s attention to Israel’s needs.

Mr. Pranger said the Defense Department Review Committee was meeting on Friday. They would circulate the new Israeli list, then circulate the committee’s proposals.

Dr. Kissinger asked Mr. Packard to separate out the new items on the list and circulate them. He thought there might be some repeats or a request for a speed-up of old items.

He asked if the group could turn to a discussion of Jordan.

He said the Jordanian arms package had been approved on the assumption that it would strengthen the King and help maintain a moderate regime in the country. If the radical element in Jordan should gain the upper hand, we might find ourselves making significant arms shipments to a radical regime. It was thought wise to get the judgment of this group as to whether the original assumptions under which the arms package was approved were still valid.

Mr. Packard said Defense had no problem with proceeding with delivery of the material.

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Mr. Sisco agreed with Mr. Packard. He thought the situation was a little more tenuous, but noted that the Army had remained loyal to the King. The King was, however, in a weaker political position, with a new Cabinet with a substantial Palestinian representation. He thought, however, we should let the Jordanian team come over and sign the letters of offer, continuing to emphasize to the King that we are doing so on the assumption that he does not go to the Russians as a source for additional arms. We could review the situation carefully before actual deliveries take place. He noted that it would be five months before deliveries commenced.

Mr. Helms agreed with Mr. Sisco’s appraisal.

All others agreed.

Mr. Saunders asked if we could now give delivery dates on the F–104s and it was agreed to do so.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes Originals 1970. Top Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Not found.
  3. The list is attached to a July 9 memorandum from Nutter to Laird. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–0076, Box 9, Middle East)
  4. The undated paper, “Possible Steps to Underline U.S. Determination to Limit Further Soviet Military Involvement in the Near East,” is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–046, Senior Review Group Meetings, Senior Review Group—Middle East 7/9/70.
  5. See Document 129.
  6. See Document 113.
  7. The Ad Hoc Special Review Group met on July 20. According to the “Summary of Decisions,” it was decided that: “The WSAG contingency plans would be updated; State and Defense would meet to consider Israel’s financial problems with regard to arms deliveries; JCS would do a scenario on putting together a sizeable package to augment our forces in the Mediterranean.” The minutes of the meeting are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes Originals 1970.
  8. Nasser was in Moscow June 29–July 17.
  9. See footnote 2, Document 132.
  10. See Documents 124 and 128.
  11. The list is contained in an undated memorandum from Nutter to Laird which bears the stamped notation: “Sec Def Has Seen, July 6, 1970.” A note attached to the memorandum reads: “Attached memo forwarded to White House West for BG Haig was received at 2026 hours EDT, 3 July.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–0076, Box 74, Israel)
  12. See Document 128.
  13. See Document 130.