313. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Secretary Laird’s Views on the Middle East

Secretary Laird has sent you a memo outlining his current views on the Middle East situation and U.S. policy toward the area (attached).2

Secretary Laird is concerned that President Sadat could still slip back into a highly dependent relationship with the Soviets and that a “discreetly stepped up dialogue” might help Sadat over the next three or four critical months.

More specifically, he suggests the following actions with Egypt:

—Open a higher level channel of communication to Sadat than is provided by our Interests Section in Cairo.

—Ask Sadat how we can be helpful, short of all the usual impossible steps he believes we can take vis-à-vis Israel. Specifically, Secretary Laird suggests asking Sadat if we might help identify and “sell” to the Israelis a mutually acceptable substitute for “proximity talks” under our auspices aimed at an interim settlement. Alternatively, Secretary Laird suggests our acting in full secrecy as an “intermediary” with the Egyptian and Israeli negotiators remaining in their own capitals.

—Stress to Sadat how helpful his reduced dependence on the Soviets will be at any point when diplomatic relations are resumed.

With the Israelis, Secretary Laird would:

—“Encourage” the Israelis to make more encouraging public gestures toward the Arabs.

—“Encourage” the Israelis to exercise particular care to avoid allowing new information about their weapons plans or capabilities to surface and urge restraint in action, such as overflights of the Suez Canal, which might complicate things for Sadat.

—“Intercede strongly” to persuade Israel to at least explore Sadat’s position should he agree to some form of secret talks.

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With little real prospect of advance along the tracks we have traveled in the Middle East in the past, some of Secretary Laird’s suggestions offer some food for further thought.3 Much more attention, of course, needs to be given to the substance of any renewed effort we might make in the future to promote an Arab-Israeli settlement. Moreover, it is not even clear whether we should continue to concentrate on the Egyptian-Israel aspects or should focus more on the Israel-Jordan problem as King Hussein shows signs of genuine interest in a separate peace.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 647, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East (General) Vol. 9. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Drafted on September 12 by Hoskinson. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Laird’s August 26 memorandum is attached but not printed.
  3. Laird sent another memorandum to Nixon on October 9 under the subject heading, “Dangers in the Middle East,” which begins: “I am concerned that Israeli military actions could, before November 7, precipitate a Middle East crisis and do serious long-term damage to peace prospects and to our own position in the area.” Kissinger forwarded the memorandum to Nixon on November 1, writing: “After Israel’s mid-September raids on Lebanon and Syria we warned them strongly against repeating. Since then, our embassy in Tel Aviv has been reporting that the Israelis may be debating the nature of their current response to the terrorist problem with the hawks arguing along lines described by Secretary Laird. In the past ten days, a qualitative change has taken place in the Israeli position, and they have said they would henceforth attack the fedayeen preemptively and not wait for provocation. There was one round of attacks since that statement. The Israelis are aware that we will not associate ourselves with this Israeli strategy.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 647, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East (General) Vol. 9)