267. Minutes of a Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Middle East


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State—
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • Rodger P. Davies
  • Defense—
  • David Packard
  • Robert J. Pranger
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • David Blee
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • Lt. Gen. John W. Vogt
  • NSC Staff—
  • Harold H. Saunders
  • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
  • Jeanne W. Davis
[Page 746]


It was agreed that:

we should not rush to reply to the Soviet note;2
a summary paper will be prepared on what would be required to mount US air operations in Jordan from land (as opposed to carriers);3
we will stick to our present press guidance;
consideration of the paper on possible outcomes in Jordan4 will be deferred until Monday by which time the options might be narrowed;
a paper will be prepared on the possibilities for budgetary support for Jordan.5

Mr. Helms briefed from the attached notes.6

Mr. Helms: The Jordanian military commander has now issued a “final ultimatum” calling for the surrender of all fedayeen by 4:00 p.m.—a half-hour from now.

Mr. Kissinger: Does Nasser mean his cease-fire proposal?

Mr. Helms: Yes, he would like to see the fighting stopped.

Mr. Kissinger: Have there been a lot of casualties?

Mr. Helms: We have no figures.

Mr. Kissinger: How badly have the fedayeen been weakened?

Mr. Helms: You can’t fire into those refugee camps without killing a lot of people.

Mr. Johnson: The government claims they have taken 6,000 prisoners.

Mr. Helms: We have unconfirmed reports of Soviet ship movements in the Mediterranean and, as you know, the Soviets have been in touch with both Davies and Ambassador Beam.7

Mr. Kissinger: This was very low key, wasn’t it? Much more low key than their response to us on the missiles.

Mr. Johnson: Yes, very low key.

Mr. Helms: With regard to the hostages, the Red Cross delegate in Beirut has said he is not empowered to discuss them.

[Page 747]

Mr. Davies: We now have a report of a proposal made by the PFLP representative in Beirut that in exchange for the 7 captured guerrillas, the PFLP would release all hostages except the dual nationals.8 From our count this would be all but two of the hostages, but we are not sure of the guerrillas’ definition of dual nationals.

Mr. Kissinger: All but two would be within the range of what could be exchanged for the Algerians.

Mr. Davies: I think the PFLP would like the prestige of fulfilling this exchange. They must be under real pressure to release all the hostages.

Mr. Kissinger: Is there any reason why we couldn’t agree to this proposal?

Mr. Davies: No, if there are no other conditions. Israel would agree if it were only the two Algerians.

Mr. Kissinger: The problem has been the principle that anyone of the Jewish religion could be held as hostage for anything Israel might do. This proposed arrangement sounds all right. Our diplomacy of the past two weeks would really have paid off. It would be a great achievement.

Mr. Saunders: It is so good, it doesn’t sound real.

Mr. Davies: It could certainly be trumpeted abroad as a successful operation.

Mr. Johnson: If it is true, it is certainly an indication the PFLP is being pressed pretty hard. We must not count on it too much, however—just keep your fingers crossed.

Mr. Kissinger: Do the British know this?

Mr. Davies: They must have the same information; also, Joe Sisco is in touch with them.9 The British Ambassador had suggested a broadcast appeal indicating that the governments were willing to negotiate with the ICRC. We decided to wait until this morning to consider this idea.

Mr. Johnson: I was a little worried about the Germans but they have now firmed up their position very satisfactorily.

Mr. Davies: And the British are aboard.

Mr. Kissinger: How about the Swiss?

Mr. Davies: They are as solid as we are. I don’t know where the story began that they were shaky.

[Page 748]

Mr. Kissinger: On the diplomatic side, we have the indirect Jordanian appeal. Has that not been overtaken by events?

Mr. Davies: Yes. If the Soviets have weighed in in Damascus and Baghdad, as they have indicated, this is as effective as anything they could do.

Mr. Kissinger: Have we thought about what we should do in response to the Soviet note?

Mr. Johnson: I see no need to rush a reply.

Mr. Kissinger: This is my instinct, too. They let us wait ten days for their reply to our approach on the missiles. (To Mr. Davies) What did you say to them?

Mr. Davies: I said we were seriously concerned for the lives of American citizens and that if Iraq or Syria should intervene, it would create a grave situation.10

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s wait a few days to reply; I think the less said now the better, as long as the military situation is O.K. The Russians have appealed to Syria and Iraq, and I thought it interesting that they said they were trying to establish contact with the Palestinians.

Mr. Johnson: Very interesting.

Mr. Davies: The Russians were trying to be very correct. When I mentioned reports of incursions from the north, Vorontsov said “You don’t mean we are involved.”

Mr. Kissinger: So Nasser is urging a cease-fire. Have we heard from the Shah?

Mr. Johnson: Volumes. He gave MacArthur a tour d’horizon which ended up that he needs more equipment.11

Mr. Kissinger: That was inevitable.

Mr. Johnson: He is pretty perceptive—he makes a good case.

Mr. Kissinger: What about the military side?

Adm. Moorer: As you requested, we have prepared a study of land-based aircraft operations. We have listed every field from which operations could be considered, with the advantages and disadvantages of each. Turkey is the only place from which we could commence operations on short notice. Cyprus, Greece, or any other would require us to fly in support.

Mr. Kissinger: How long would it take?

Adm. Moorer: Seven days for 3 squadrons—54 planes. We looked at 11 fields. Two of them have F–4 war reserve munitions and they are [Page 749] both in Turkey. There are only 18 aircraft in Incirlik, but Cigli would require some augmentation.

Mr. Kissinger: How much would this step up our sortie rate?

Gen. Vogt: We figure one sortie per airplane per day.

Mr. Kissinger: So 3 squadrons would only add 25 percent to our sortie rate?

Adm. Moorer: The carriers have 5 squadrons with 12 to 14 aircraft each. We could figure 1.6 or 1.8 sorties per plane since the shuttle would be only 150 miles. The distance from Turkey is not much greater. We should figure one sortie per plane per day since their supplies are not all in position yet.

Mr. Kissinger: So we could operate immediately from Turkey bases but only with 18 aircraft. Could they handle more?

Adm. Moorer: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: But our judgment was that there was no chance of Turkish approval of our use of these bases.

Adm. Moorer: We are left with Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete and Athens. All of these would require refueling by tanker. The closest fields are the two in Turkey and one in Cyprus. Cyprus would take 7 days to get 3 squadrons ready.

Mr. Kissinger: We would be in serious trouble if we were still bombing 7 days after we started. If we should need more than 200 sorties a day after 7 days something serious would be happening.

Adm. Moorer: If operations were confined to Jordan we have enough there on the carriers already.

Mr. Packard: And another carrier arrives soon.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes. In a few days, we could get 5 squadrons there by carrier faster than from the land. Two days from now we could reinforce quicker by carrier than by land.

Adm. Moorer: Would we have a chance of getting Cyprus?

Mr. Johnson: I think it is questionable; I am not sure of that at all.

Mr. Kissinger: Wasn’t Makarios12 cooperative over the U–2s?

Mr. Davies: He was willing to ignore the flights since there was no evidence of opposition from the UK or the Soviets.

Mr. Kissinger: That would not survive a week’s operation in Jordan.

Mr. Johnson: Legally the British have the right to let us use the base in Cyprus.

[Page 750]

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Saunders) Would you do a summary paper on this, indicating the amount of time it would take; what the possible fields are in Turkey, which we can’t get, Cyprus and Crete; that the latter two require in-flight refueling; that, with the third carrier coming, after Monday it would be faster to reinforce from carriers than from the land.

Gen. Vogt: Unless we could use Turkey; in that case we could have 3 more squadrons there in 36 hours.

Mr. Kissinger: I think it is inconceivable that we could use Turkey, but we should make the point in the summary.

Mr. Packard: The Shah might let us operate from Iran.

Mr. Kissinger: We would still have to pre-position equipment.

Adm. Moorer: We considered that but ruled it out.

Mr. Kissinger: We will summarize the situation.

Adm. Moorer (passing a paper to Mr. Saunders)13 It is all right here.

Adm. Moorer: We should send another tanker into the area. A tanker would normally be with the Kennedy, and it would permit better dispersal. It could come back when the Saratoga rotates out of the Mediterranean.

Mr. Kissinger: That is a military decision. You should do anything necessary to provide support for your carriers.

Adm. Moorer: All right. We will send 6 ASW aircraft and the tanker. They have also asked for a CVS group. We only have one and it would take a long time to get it ready. I would suggest we not do it.

Mr. Kissinger: Would the additional ships be noticed?

Adm. Moorer: They would be noticed here and the Russians would know it. When the Saratoga comes out, though, we will take the whole group out.

Mr. Kissinger: If the situation goes to pot we can send in the CVS group.

Mr. Packard: How about TC–3s?

Adm. Moorer: We have six.

Mr. Packard: They have some new equipment which gives them better capability.

Mr. Kissinger: As to press guidance, can we stick with our present position?

Mr. Johnson: Our low-key position? What would a high-key position look like? There are detailed press stories today, and 15 minutes [Page 751] of Walter Cronkite last night was devoted to marines boarding ships, ships sailing, etc.

Mr. Kissinger: Then we can say that we recommend continuing our present press guidance. Have we contingency guidance on the Kennedy.

Adm. Moorer: There has already been speculation about the Kennedy.

Mr. Helms: The only speculation was the name of the ship.

Adm. Moorer: The press is shooting from the hip. There is no difference between this speculation and the fact that they had US marines moving into Turkey, which is completely untrue.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we have contingency guidance?

Mr. Johnson: McCloskey, Henkin and Ziegler were all in touch yesterday.

Adm. Moorer: I think continuing speculation which turns out to be half right and half wrong dulls its impact.

Mr. Johnson: But it is 90 percent right.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we care?

Mr. Johnson and Mr. Packard: No, not particularly.

Mr. Kissinger: We also have the paper on possible outcomes in Jordan. It is an excellent paper but I suggest we defer consideration of it until Monday. By that time we may be able to eliminate one or more of the choices and concentrate on the ones that are more likely.

Mr. Davies: I think the outcomes were adumbrated by events this morning. The King will be in better shape but we will have to look at what we should do when the situation is stabilized. The King will probably need more from us.

Mr. Kissinger: More military assistance?

Mr. Davies: And funds.

Mr. Kissinger: Could we staff this problem over the weekend?

Mr. Saunders: Rodger is talking about replacement of budgetary support—there is no crash on this.

Mr. Kissinger: Can they operate with the military support they now have?

Mr. Pranger: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s get a paper on what our choices are in the area of budgetary support. My instinct is that the President would be prepared to entertain such a proposal. We should tell him what is involved and how it might operate under one or two choices.

Mr. Johnson: (to Mr. Davies) You might discuss this with Art Hartman. He has been working on my Operation Scrounge for Cambodia and his experience would be pertinent.

[Page 752]

Mr. Kissinger: We have talked about tacking on a lot of supplements to the Israeli assistance package, but I doubt if the traffic would bear adding Jordan to that package.

Mr. Saunders: Every time we have concluded an arms deal with Jordan we have also concluded one with Israel.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s wait over the weekend. By Monday morning I think the options will have narrowed.

Mr. Davies: All indications are that the King will be in full control of Amman by then.

Mr. Kissinger: I think we can rule out Options E and F. Does this leave us a choice between C and D?14

Mr. Davies: Somewhere in that range.

Mr. Kissinger: Between A and C?

Mr. Davies: With two-thirds of his population made up of Palestinians, the King will have to reach some compromise at some time.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, Washington Special Actions Group, WSAG Minutes (Originals) 1969 and 70. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 266.
  3. Not found.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 264.
  5. Not found.
  6. Not attached and not found.
  7. See Document 266. Beam reported on his meeting with Kuznetsov in telegram 5445 from Moscow, September 19, 0747Z. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Files, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–077, Washington Special Actions Group Meetings, WSAG Meeting Middle East 9/19/70)
  8. In telegram 7901 from Beirut, September 18, 1635Z. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, PS 7–6 JORDAN)
  9. Apparently a reference to telegram 154363 to London, September 19, 0132Z. (Ibid., AV 12)
  10. See Document 266.
  11. See footnote 2, Document 259.
  12. Archbishop Makarios was President of Cyprus.
  13. Not found.
  14. The options were laid out in the paper on possible outcomes in Jordan; see footnote 2, Document 264. Option C supposed a limited victory for King Hussein, leaving the fedayeen to operate primarily in the countryside. Option D supposed King Hussein compromising with the fedayeen and allowing them to function as they did before the fighting. Option E assumed successful resistance by the fedayeen, forcing the Jordanian Government to seek terms. Option F presumed a fedayeen victory and control of Jordan.