23. Memorandum of Conversation1

President’s Meeting with his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board


  • The President
  • Admiral George Anderson
  • Mr. Gordon Gray
  • Mr. Robert Murphy
  • Mr. J. Patrick Coyne
  • Dr. William Baker
  • Mr. Franklin Murphy
  • Governor Nelson Rockefeller
  • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Brigadier General A.M. Haig, Jr.

The President convened the meeting at 12:05. He introduced the meeting by pointing out that he was to have a National Security Council meeting sometime in the following week.2 He made the following points to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board:

  • —Escalation by the Soviets has put the heat on the United States and the recent action by 73 Senators outlining support for the President in this crisis underlines the importance of the event.3
  • —The President pointed out that the Board should be aware that Arab moderates could be inclined to lean in the direction of the United States due to the Soviet aggressiveness.
  • —The Arab moderates obviously do not want the balance of power to shift them.
  • —It is difficult to maintain a balance in the Middle East with the introduction of Soviet combat personnel into Egypt. The President pointed out that some maintained position that we should do nothing. But if we do nothing the Israelis may be forced to act. Also, it is apparent that there will be no settlement without U.S. and Soviet agreement. This may be possible sooner or later. If we wait for later, then the President visualizes some flash point with great dangers which might then ultimately result in agreement. The Soviets on the other hand probably are delighted with a status quo since they are exploiting it with greatly increased influence.

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The President also pointed out that the Soviets fear the fedayeen just as does Nasser. However, on balance, to the degree that we line up solidly with Israel, the Soviets acquire support from the other elements by default. Finally, the President emphasized that the main danger today is that Israel may move militarily and that we will be looking down the barrels with the Soviet Union again. On balance, the President believes that if there is to be a settlement, it must be imposed. It would be a settlement which would be not to the liking of either Israel or the Arabs. It is really a question of the degree of dissatisfaction shared by both. For this reason, the U.S. and the Soviets must talk, but at a time and under circumstances in which the Soviets feel it is in their interest to do so. They do not feel this way at present. So we must keep them worried about the Middle East. The President emphasized that he had no domestic political problem on this issue and it would be influenced only by the national interests. At present, he feels that it is necessary that we put Israel in a position that they can be a serious worry to the Soviets. The President added that the U.S. has no illusions about Four Power or Israeli/Nasser talks. The only solution would be one imposed by both the United States and the Soviet Union.

Franklin Murphy stated that the Arabs feel that the loss of oil is a deterrent to the United States and its actions with respect to Israel. He wondered whether or not we were studying the implications of what it would mean to lose Middle East oil. The President replied that this would be a serious turn of events, especially from Europe’s point. On the other hand, the President pointed out the Arab oil producers cannot drink their oil and must have a market. This was the issue in Iran some years ago.

Franklin Murphy then added: Isn’t there a wheel within a wheel. Without the benefits and revenues from the oil in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the fedayeen movement would collapse. Dr. Kissinger added that the fedayeen movement was fundamentally subsidized by the moderate Arabs, as well as some Soviet support.

Robert Murphy stated if we examine the Middle East issue in depth, I feel that what you have said will be largely verified. The President replied: Yes, this indicates that the oil problem is not quite so bad as frequently depicted, and that in any event the Arabs must sell their oil.

Admiral Anderson stated that it is also important that we, the United States, do not get isolated on this issue and that we keep our moderate Arab friends with us. The President agreed that this is necessary on the surface at any rate.

Governor Rockefeller stated that as we look down the road, we can see the Soviets behind all the problems in the Middle East and he wondered whether or not they could absorb all of the Middle East’s oil.

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Franklin Murphy stated that while these are the realities of the Middle East situation, the evidence is that the Soviets’ role in the Middle East is not understood in the Moslem world and they view it as strictly an anti-Israeli problem. Dr. Kissinger stated that the Moslems worry about the Soviet Union on entirely different grounds. Robert Murphy stated that he believed that on balance the Soviets do not enjoy that much prestige in the Middle East among the Arab nations. The President interrupted, nevertheless the wheels continue to turn. He wants to consider this issue on the 16th of June4 with the view of deciding where we go from here.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 276, Agency Files, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Vol. IV. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Cabinet Room.
  2. See Document 26.
  3. A copy of the Senators’ May 26 letter to Rogers is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1251, Saunders Files, Basic Policy—Middle East 1/1/70–12/31/70. The letter stated that the appearance of Soviet pilots flying missions over Egypt in April was “a significant change and a challenge to American strategic interests and a growing threat to world peace. Recent Soviet moves have encouraged Arab belligerence, and are creating a growing military imbalance in favor of the Arab states.” The Senators urged Nixon to provide additional jet aircraft to Israel in response to this Soviet “escalation.”
  4. See Document 25.