221. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Middle East Guarantees


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Joseph Sisco
  • Alfred Atherton
  • Tom Thornton
  • Defense
  • David Packard
  • James S. Noyes
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • David Blee
  • JCS
  • Gen. Richard Knowles
  • Adm. William St. George
  • NSC Staff
  • Col. Richard Kennedy
  • Harold Saunders
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that a Working Group will be created, chaired by Joe Sisco, to spell out our position on guarantees: some sense of priorities among possibilities, how the machinery might function, etc. The [Page 803] Working Group will draw on the paper being prepared by the JCS on the size and composition of a peacekeeping force.2

Mr. Kissinger: I’d like to review the guarantees issue so we know where we are going. I have a number of questions. Joe (Sisco), will you sum up where we stand.

Mr. Sisco: As you know, we circulated some papers in January3 which were designed to do two things: first, to discuss the specifics of the options within the Four-Power framework without making any choices.

Mr. Kissinger: They were damn good papers. However, in SALT we gave the Russians three choices of equal standing. They picked one, and we said “wrong.” I don’t want to get into the same position here.

Mr. Sisco: The second purpose was to provide a basis for discussion with the Israelis. Since that time, we have started Four-Power discussions, which have been largely a holding action. We haven’t tried to reach any decisions because we didn’t want the Four Powers to get ahead of the situation. We have also had preliminary discussions with the Israelis, whose reaction was “no sale” on guarantees in any form. Israel is still stonewalling on putting anything new into the context of the Jarring effort. In the light of this, I think we will get a new approach from the Israelis. Rabin has made the point that it must be understood between the two sides that, if the agreement is broken, Israel could reoccupy the presently occupied areas. We believe that is reasonable, and that it will be an element of any Israeli proposal. I think Mrs. Meir will ask if we will support them if they move back into the areas, and we will have to find a way to respond affirmatively without giving her a blank check. I suggest we see what they come up with on the Suez Canal and not talk guarantees in the Jarring context.

Mr. Kissinger: If they come up with a tough position I assume we will talk about it, or would we consider rejecting it?

Mr. Sisco: I believe any proposal will be barely within the ball park. I suggest we transmit it in its pristine form to the Egyptians. We [Page 804] should try to avoid getting into any negotiation with the Israelis on their proposal before communicating it to the Egyptians.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s a good idea. Then we can see what to do with the Egyptian reply.

Mr. Sisco: We might even suggest indirectly some counter-points to the Egyptians.

Mr. Kissinger: I think Joe’s secret dream is to draft a cable taking three sides.

Mr. Sisco: I think the second point is more difficult. If we decide to talk about guarantees to the Israelis, is there any practical form of guarantee on the ground we should opt for? I think not at this time. The Israelis say they will not permit any Russians on their side of an international border. The British have suggested a four-power force limited to the Suez Canal area. From that, we might detach an American contingent and position it in Sharm el Shaik under a UN umbrella. This could be feasible if we could sell it to the Israelis. Egypt would be hard put to turn it down. There’s really no necessity for anything in the Sinai because there is no fedayeen problem there. If anyone crossed the border, the international peace-keeping machinery would come into play, backed by a strong Israel. I expect we will have to put a good deal more into Israel in this event: approximately one-half billion more in arms and one-half billion more credit. With that, Israel could take care of anything in demilitarized Sinai. This would defeat the Israeli argument that an international peace-keeping force is giving the Soviets a greater presence in the area.

Mr. Kissinger: But Egypt wouldn’t accept anything like this. Why all the emphasis on Sharm el Shaik? Is this the only place the Gulf can be closed?

Mr. Atherton: It is very narrow here.

Mr. Sisco: The third point, on which we need a paper, is related to what US bilateral inducement we might offer to the Israelis. I think we should look seriously at the pros and cons of a bilateral treaty with Israel. I have strong reservations about such a treaty, but Ambassador Barbour thinks one thing that might induce Israel to talk about a settlement is a bilateral defense treaty with the U.S.

Mr. Kissinger: Against whom? What would we be promising to protect them against?

Mr. Sisco: We would be committing ourselves to support them militarily and financially in the event of a finding of aggression against Israel.

Mr. Kissinger: Couldn’t we do that anyway without a treaty?

Mr. Sisco: Yes, in all kinds of ways. A Presidential letter to Golda, for example, with a joint resolution of the Congress to back it up. There [Page 805] are various gradations of formality. The weakness of a formal treaty is that it tends to polarize the area. However, the attitude of the Arab world today is much different than it was five or ten years ago. It might be possible to achieve this alignment and reduce the political repercussions of bipolarization. I’m not making a case for a treaty but I do think we should look seriously at it.

Mr. Kissinger: It’s not to our advantage to raise a specific formula for guarantees. But neither is it to our advantage not to know what would be desirable. For internal purposes, we should have some discussion of the possibilities raised in the paper, establish some priorities among them and get a definition of what we want them to do. Suppose someone asked us what we want in the way of guarantees.

Mr. Sisco: There is simply no acceptance of the principle of international guarantees by Israel. We can choose our preferred form—in fact it would be a good thing to know internally—but we would be better advised to retain all the options. Any one of them, or a combination of them, would be satisfactory if it were agreeable to Israel.

Mr. Kissinger: But whether or not it is agreeable to Israel depends in part on the conviction with which we present it to them. What is the hierarchy among the various possibilities? They say they don’t want any of them, but this could be part of their stonewalling tactic.

Mr. Sisco: I think it’s more fundamental than that.

Mr. Kissinger: Assuming they get their border, and assuming the rest of Sinai is left as a demilitarized zone, how would it be policed?

Mr. Sisco: By Israel and Egypt. They haven’t agreed to anything else. I don’t think this is tactical on their part; I think it is fundamental. On the Jordanian side, I think there is a good possibility of a joint Israel-Jordanian arrangement. The King seems to be amenable. It is different on the Egyptian side. If you asked me for a coordinated proposal, I could describe what, in combination, would meet more of Israel’s concerns than any other. We can be entirely flexible.

Mr. Kissinger: What they prefer, of course, is to stay where they are. Whatever settlement is reached won’t be their preference. We will have to become involved to get them to give up anything. We’re already in conversation about guarantees in the Four-Power meetings. How can we influence these talks if we don’t know what we want?

Mr. Sisco: We don’t want any guarantees chosen by the four powers. We want all guarantees open because the option must be chosen by the parties to the dispute. Israel would reject out of hand any proposal coming from the Four Powers. The most we want from the four powers is a list of the options which would not be too different from those listed in our paper. We may want to go to Israel at some point with something concrete.

[Page 806]

Mr. Kissinger: The paper contains a good smorgsabord of ideas, but the implications of the various plans are not fully elaborated. Are we clear that we want U.S. forces to be involved?

Mr. Sisco: No. If Israel wants U.S. forces, we would consider it.

Mr. Kissinger: Consider it positively?

Mr. Sisco: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we want Soviet forces?

Mr. Sisco: It’s not a question of whether we want them. We already have an Egyptian proposal to Jarring that Sinai and Sharm el Shaik should be policed by four-power forces.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we have any idea of how these forces would operate?

Mr. Sisco: In a combination of fixed positions with some mobility in between. We have had a good deal of experience with this in a decade of the UN Emergency Force. They would have the right of self-defense, but this would not be a Korea-type peace-keeping force. They would be more in the observer category, with recourse to the Security Council for reporting violations, and recourse to the parties for discussions. They would have small arms and some helicopters. This part is not the problem.

Mr. Kissinger: What do you think, Dick (Helms)?

Mr. Helms: I think this has been a first-class presentation of the problem but I don’t see what it gets us. If we choose any one of these possibilities does it get us where we want to go?

Mr. Johnson: We want Israel to accept one of them.

Mr. Helms: I see little chance of Israel’s acceptance of any of them.

Mr. Kissinger: It would help if they were more fully fleshed out.

Mr. Helms: I doubt it. I just don’t think they would accept any of them.

Gen. Knowles: The mechanical part of the force is easy. It’s a question of its saleability. We are doing a paper on this now.

Mr. Kissinger: The desirability of various types of forces can become a problem if we don’t understand what we’re getting into. Suppose there is a US force at Sharm el Shaik and the Egyptians decide to put us out. Do we go to war?

Mr. Packard: I think it’s a good idea to flesh out these possibilities. I agree with Dick (Helms) that it won’t work, but we need to know what the problems are and how far we are prepared to go. It may not be useful at this point, but there could be some movement in a short period of time and we should be ready.

Mr. Kissinger: Is any settlement possible? Be realistic.

[Page 807]

Mr. Sisco: I don’t know. It will certainly require maximum pressure on Israel.

Mr. Kissinger: If we wait until a settlement is acceptable to Israel, we are wasting our time. I don’t believe they will accept the old frontiers. I suggest we put together a working group under Joe (Sisco) to spell out our position on the guarantees a little more.

Mr. Packard: They should also take a look at the paper the JCS is preparing.

Mr. Sisco: Yes, we will look at that.

Mr. Packard: We can get the general range of the types of guarantees that might be possible.

Mr. Sisco: The IG paper has that general range.

Mr. Kissinger: But we need some sense of priorities; how the peace-keeping machinery would function and what we would be getting ourselves in for.

Mr. Helms: Are we going to have American troops?

Mr. Kissinger: Suppose the Egyptians started a war of national liberation? Are we prepared to fight Egypt?

Mr. Helms: The scenario you’re outlining is very close to what happened in 1967. There was a peace-keeping force in the area; the Egyptians said “get out” and they were out 24 hours later.

Mr. Sisco: This is a different proposition. The Security Council would have to deny to Egypt the unilateral right to terminate the force.

Mr. Kissinger: Suppose they didn’t have the right, but they went individually to the Yugoslavs, the Indians, the Canadians and said they wanted their forces out. Would they have pulled out? I think the Yugoslavs and Indians would have.

Mr. Sisco: I agree this is a grey area—whether a country has the right to terminate. The Yugoslavs and Indians would probably have said they wouldn’t stay where they were not wanted. I agree that U Thant acted stupidly in not trying to buy time, but it might have happened anyway. But in any Israel-Egyptian agreement, each country will reserve the right to unilateral action if and when the other side breaks the agreement. Also, any guarantee would have a clause calling for consultation in the framework of the Security Council in the event of agreement. This, of course, means absolutely nothing in this kind of commitment.

Mr. Kissinger: If the situation ever unfreezes, I don’t want the President hit with short deadlines and faced with various complicated schemes. What is the JCS doing in its paper?

Gen. Knowles: We are taking a hard look to see what size forces would be needed.

[Page 808]

Mr. Kissinger: To do what: fight? monitor? observe?

Gen. Knowles: We believe it would take approximately 11,000 observers for the whole area.

Mr. Kissinger: To observe what?

Gen. Knowles: Any hostile activity.

Mr. Helms: There goes the strategic reserve.

Mr. Kissinger: We will have to step up withdrawals.

Gen. Knowles: It would take 24,000 to do the whole job. We’re talking about a UN force, not American forces. We would prefer American forces be kept to the absolute minimum and used chiefly for support.

Mr. Kissinger: Are you speaking only of an observer role?

Gen. Knowles: Observe and report any violations.

Mr. Kissinger: What would such violations be?

Gen. Knowles: Movement of hostile forces, for example.

Mr. Kissinger: And they would just report it.

Gen. Knowles: Yes. Although they should be able to protect themselves and to handle small forces.

Mr. Kissinger: The purpose of such an observer force would be what? Once they report the facts, does the other side take military action?

Gen. Knowles: If a force crossed the line, they would report the fact and the other side would take appropriate action.

Mr. Johnson: What is appropriate action?

Gen. Knowles: Repel them.

Mr. Johnson: There’s a sharp line between an observer-only force, able to protect itself, and a force with a policing role.

Mr. Sisco: We will look at the JCS paper. I should point out, though, that there is a fundamental constitutional difference between the US and USSR going back to the Article 194 issue. The Russians want any international force to be subject to Security Council veto. They would have the SC decide on financing, composition, appointment of the commander, and policy direction. Our approach in the UN for the last 25 years, has been that the SC authorizes the force, but the force re[Page 809]ports to the Secretary General operating under a SC mandate. The international field commanders have to have flexibility within the mandate of the SC. The question rose again in the Article 435 issue, over whether we and the USSR would make forces available to the SC as a permanent force. There has been absolutely no progress to bridge the gap between the US and the USSR on this issue.

Mr. Kissinger: All of this reinforces my conviction that we need a check list of what the forces can do and what problems they would face.

Gen. Knowles: Our paper will be a first cut at that.

Mr. Sisco: The question really is reduced to whether we want an international peace-keeping force with the US directly involved or not involved.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes, and the relative merits of various kinds of peace-keeping forces. If it is going to take a special effort to get it, let’s get something which improves the situation. When will the JCS finish their study?

Gen. Knowles: The draft will be finished tomorrow, then it has to go to the Chiefs.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s get it and put it in the IG framework. How soon can you get your paper finished, Joe (Sisco).

Mr. Sisco: Two weeks.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes (Originals) 1971. Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. The Working Group paper was not found. Admiral Moorer sent the JCS ad hoc study group’s final report, “Middle East Peacekeeping Forces,” to Laird on April 29. In a covering memorandum, Moorer addressed the report’s key points, including: 1) a peace agreement must satisfy the terms of the signatories, should not be imposed by outside parties, and must establish borders designated by physical and permanent markers; 2) “the establishment of a UN force capable of deterring or suppressing all possible threats to the peace is not feasible in terms of contemporary international peacekeeping”; and 3) “any UN observer/peacekeeping force deployed to the Middle East preferably should be comprised of neutral nation forces.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–0197, Box 70)
  3. Sisco’s group prepared several papers in January and early February. See Documents 198, 202, and 207.
  4. Article 19 of the UN Charter reads: “A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless, permit such a Member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the Member.” (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1947–48, p. 989)
  5. Article 43 of the UN Charter reads: “1) All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security. 2) Such agreement or agreements shall govern the numbers and types of forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of the facilities and assistance to be provided. 3) The agreement or agreements shall be negotiated as soon as possible on the initiative of the Security Council. They shall be concluded between the Security Council and Members or between the Security Council and groups of Members and shall be subject to ratification by the signatory states in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.” (Ibid., p. 991)