312. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Middle East and Lebanon
I am attaching a long memorandum of conversation between the Lebanese Foreign Minister Khalil Abouhamad and Joe Sisco on September 27th.2 This conversation was held when the Foreign Minister asked Mr. Sisco to come to the Lebanese Consulate General in New York to have a “discreet” meeting with him. It is perhaps one of the most significant conversations we have held with the Lebanese in recent years for the following reasons.
First, for the first time, the Lebanese have said to us that they are considering the contingency of a military confrontation with the fedayeen in Lebanon and they wish to know what the United States would [Page 1060] do prior and during such developments with particular reference to the possible contingency that during such a period of confrontation, Syria is apt to send more fedayeen into Lebanon across the borders.
Secondly, the Lebanese Foreign Minister has revealed what it considers to be stepped up pressure by the Soviet Union in the aftermath of Sadat’s decision to expel the Soviets. Specifically, the Foreign Minister told Sisco that the Soviet Ambassador had offered Soviet friendship in the following specific terms: (a) the Soviet fleet could be made available to enter Beirut “in the case of an Israeli attack on Lebanese territory”; (b) the USSR would be willing to consider entering into a military agreement with Lebanon; and (c) the Soviet Union was willing to reach an arms agreement with Lebanon at very favorable prices. The Foreign Minister said that Lebanon has refrained from responding to these Soviet approaches for the time being at least. This initiative with the Lebanese coincides with what we believe are parallel Soviet efforts in recent weeks to strengthen its position in Iraq and Syria. This seems to be a Soviet move to compensate for its losses in Egypt.
Thirdly, the Lebanese Foreign Minister made a major pitch for the U.S. at some point to make contact with various Palestinian leaders in Lebanon in order to assure that they do not lose hope and confidence in the U.S. role in the area. The Lebanese Foreign Minister intends to convey to us the names of the specific Palestinians whom they believe are key in the situation in Lebanon.3
As you can see from the memorandum of conversation, Mr. Sisco was non-committal, indicating that the questions posed were so fundamental that they would require careful study by the U.S. Government.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. V. Secret; Nodis; Cedar.↩
- Attached but not printed.↩
- Abouhamad’s follow-up conversation occurred at Ambassador Buffum’s residence in Beirut on October 20. The discussion, which lasted over two hours, focused primarily on the possibility of a confrontation between the Lebanese Government and the local fedayeen. According to Buffum, “Abouhamad said he wished to make clear that it is not GOL policy to push for a confrontation with fedayeen. Such confrontation, he stressed, would have most serious consequences for Lebanon because of country’s internal structure, its geographical contiguity with Syria, and its ties with Arab world.” (Telegram 11400 from Beirut, October 20; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. V)↩