305. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Our Strategy Towards Egypt

On my earlier memorandum on the Egyptian expulsion of the Soviets (Tab A)2 you noted the reports that the Egyptians do not want to wait until the November elections for the US to seize this “new opportunity.”

As you know, in late July the Egyptians approached us and sought to open a confidential channel to the White House via Director Helms [less than 1 line not declassified].3 They wanted “new proposals” from us. We agreed to open the channel and agreed in principle to confidential [Page 1036] exchanges.4 We were willing to begin initial exchanges with someone designated by Sadat at any location, as early as late September.

However, we made clear that we would not accept preconditions. Our approach in these talks would be as follows: In all the previously successful negotiations conducted at the Presidential level, we did not go into detailed substantive negotiation until we had already achieved a preliminary understanding on the direction and general principles that the outcome would follow. In this case we insisted to the Egyptians that we talk initially about what was realistically achievable. This was the essence of the matter and the only justification for the direct involvement of the President.

The Egyptians have welcomed the establishment of the channel but have not yet responded to the above groundrules we proposed.5

We have received many reports that Sadat does not want to wait until November. But we have offered him preliminary talks by late September, and we cannot conduct these talks under any groundrules other than the above. The alternative of military action will be suicidal for him. The Israelis plan to behave scrupulously and give him no pretext for such action.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 131, Country Files, Middle East. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. See Document 299.
  4. On July 29, a U.S. official met [text not declassified] in Cairo to present talking points provided by Kissinger’s office, in which Kissinger agreed to open a secret channel and also suggested that a secret, high-level meeting occur in late September or early October. (Memorandum from Helms to Kissinger, August 1; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 131, Country Files, Middle East) On July 30, [text not declassified] confirmed that the message from Kissinger had been passed to Sadat. (Memorandum from Helms to Kissinger, August 2; ibid.)
  5. Helms reported to Kissinger on August 3 that [text not declassified] had volunteered two suggestions that would “contribute toward creating an optimum climate for U.S.-Egypt relations and, more specifically, have a salutary effect on Sadat” while he weighed his response to the proposal for high-level talks. First, he suggested that the U.S. Government “refrain from making public statements during this period which might have an upsetting effect on Sadat,” such as recent calls by Rogers and Sisco for direct negotiations; “overly warm endorsements of Israel;” or “announcements of new aid for Israel.” Second, he suggested that Nixon or Kissinger send a personal message to Sadat. (Memorandum from Helms to Kissinger; ibid.) In response to the first recommendation, Kissinger’s office passed a message [text not declassified] that said that, because only Nixon, Kissinger, and Haig knew about the recent exchanges, he “must understand if some actions from other branches of the government are not finely tuned to this effort.” (Memorandum from Haig to Helms, August 8; ibid.)