257. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco)1

K: Joe, I wanted to tell you something so that you will be the first to be told by me. I have been reading with mounting concern the cables coming from New York which we didn’t have even the slightest courtesy of being informed of.2

S: We are doing what the Israelis have wanted for three years, bringing it to direct negotiations.

K: But if this fails, you will come to us and ask us to beat the Israelis over the head.

S: What do you mean “if it fails?”

K: You say you are not going to be the mailman any longer, which I don’t understand.

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S: It’s more semantics than anything else.

K: Well, the next time a cable goes out in violation of Presidential directives that they must be cleared, I will take the originator into his office and one of us will come out without his job. I will insist that the originator be fired or I will resign. I like you; I think you are the most creative Assistant Secretary we’ve got. And I don’t want you to be a victim.

S: I’m afraid I will be. But I want you to know, I am no longer the principal prime mover on this Henry.

K: Who drafts the cables?

S: Oh, of course, I have to draft them . . . I know how you feel about this, but I can’t help you. Honestly, I can’t, I have tried for weeks to create a dialogue between you, the President, Secretary Rogers and myself. I have tried to create a White House discussion and I can’t do it. It is something you and the Secretary have got to resolve.

K: We are not going to do it. He has got his directives. I am going to create a showdown.3

S: I can’t advise you on that Henry. Frankly, I am no longer calling the shots.

K: If you try to run around between these two parties without knowing where the President will back you, you’ll kill yourself.

S: I know. There has been one basic rule in the problem: if you don’t have the backing of the President you don’t have anyone. He in [Page 923] sists that he has his backing. I don’t want to get between you and Rogers on this. Is there any way . . . I have done everything I can to create a dialogue between you.

K: If you can, on an informal basis, let him know what’s being cooked up . . .

S: Ahead of time?

K: Yes. I think what will happen is the President will start squeezing Rogers out of this like he has on everything else.

S: At some point we will have to call the President in, and if he doesn’t agree . . .

K: He doesn’t know what you are doing. How can he agree if he doesn’t know?

S: Are they in touch?

K: No.

S: What can I do?

K: Well, first I want you to know what I am going to do, and I don’t bluff. I would hate to have you end up as the fall guy.

S: I am going to. I am going to be the fall guy.

K: I will do my best to see that you don’t.

S: I am going to.

K: And second, if we can get some advance information . . .

S: I don’t imagine the Secretary feels this is any new departure. He feels—and I am not arguing, I just want you to know—he is trying to produce the kind of negotiation that the Israelis have wanted. He feels he has carte blanche to do this as he sees fit. He tells me he has an understanding with the President to do this.

K: Well, that could be . . .

S: He feels he has a clear line from the President. I wrote a paper four weeks ago to try to create a dialogue. It never got beyond his desk. Not that I am lily white. I have never been comfortable in this job unless the President, the Secretary and you have all known what’s being done. I have lost sleep over this.

K: I think we are producing a war the way we are going.

S: No, I don’t think it is the wrong direction but . . .

K: No, but without coordination everyone ends up furious.

S: Is there any way that you can produce a Presidential dialogue?

K: Not before I go to China.4

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S: When are you going?

K: About 10 days.

S: Then let’s see afterward.

K: Can you slow things down until then?

S: I don’t know. The Secretary sees Eban on Thursday.5 Sadat is going to Moscow around ______.6

K: You could let me have the reporting cable of the conversation between the Secretary and Riad.7

S: That was sent to you last night.

K: I never saw it.

S: It was sent last night; it goes automatically to you.

K: No it doesn’t.

S: We can’t send a cable that way without it going to the Situation Room.

K: You did a pretty good job of it on the UN speech.

S: Oh well, that’s another . . . I know that problem. I’m glad you called; I have been very uneasy.

K: You have every reason to be. It is going to lead to a showdown.

S: And let’s say that we never talked today. I don’t want to report this.

K: Oh Joe, you know, I never talk to anybody.

S: Okay.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 11, Chronological File. No classification marking. Kissinger was in Washington; Sisco was in New York.
  2. See Documents 255 and 256. Kissinger had telephoned Mitchell at 12:45 p.m. that day and said: “Do you know what that maniac Rogers did now? The Egyptians are sending a secret emissary to New York and Sisco is to get the Israelis to do the same and Sisco will send messages back and forth like in 1948. Then they are going to come and ask us to squeeze the Israelis. The Russians will think we are screwing them. The Egyptians will think we are screwing them. There we are with this maniac with not one word to us.” Kissinger then added: “I tell you this will kill the Administration. Everyone knows that State is not checking with us. The insolence, incompetence, and frivolity of this exercise is beyond belief. Leave aside the Russians, would you ask for a secret emissary to come and put your prestige on the line as an intermediary when there is nothing to believe that anything is going to happen?” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 11, Chronological File)
  3. Kissinger telephoned Haldeman at 2:55 p.m. that day and said: “I am telling you, you are going to get into a first class crisis with me. I am not going to let this happen.” When Haldeman asked him what the next step should be, Kissinger responded: “I am going to go into the President and tell him we have to play it this way or go without me, when they go wild on the Middle East again.” (Ibid.) Later in the evening, Haldeman recorded the following in his diary about the day’s events: “Henry called at home this morning and has really blown up regarding Rogers. 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.” Haldeman added that what really seemed to be bothering Kissinger was how he could explain to Brezhnev, right after the Gromyko proposal (see Document 251), 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 Israeli’s 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.” (Ibid., Haldeman Diaries, Cassette Diary)
  4. Kissinger was in the People’s Republic of China October 20–26. Reports of his meetings with Chinese leaders are in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVII, China, 1969–1972, Documents 163, 164, and 165.
  5. Rogers and Sisco met with Eban on October 14 to discuss the interim agreement. The Secretary briefed Eban on his second conversation with Riad in New York on October 8, telling him that the Egyptian Foreign Minister was “less negative” and that he “asked questions and was thoughtful.” Much of the discussion, which became heated at times, was dominated by a dispute over the terms of a cease-fire. Eban said that Israel wanted one without a time limit because a “revision date” could be “changed by unilateral decision and not through agreed change.” Rogers, on the other hand, believed that “it is unrealistic to talk of a permanent cease fire in an interim agreement.” He later added: “I resent the idea that we don’t support a permanent cease fire. We hope the interim agreement will lead to a permanent cease fire.” They also discussed the Secretary’s speech before the UN General Assembly on October 4, particularly Israel’s negative reaction to it, which Rogers characterized as a “personal attack.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 134, Country Files, Middle East)
  6. See footnote 10, Document 256. The blank underscore is an omission in the original.
  7. See footnote 4, Document 255.