293. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Among the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig), and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco)1

K: Al, the President called me back.2 He’s made a decision. He wants us to communicate to the Israelis the following: that we want the action to succeed (2) that it should succeed politically, diplomatically— God-damn it, hold on a second; I just ran out of ink at a crucial moment. Can you hold on?—He said he wants me to communicate this, and he’ll… and if anyone wants to protest they’ve got to wake him. Now, what do I do? My suggestion is that I call Sisco on a conference call with you. Then we’ll call Rogers on a conference call for all four of us; and then I call Rabin, together with Sisco.

H: How about Laird?

K: Then, I better call Laird. Isn’t he clued in on everything?

H: He is, if his assistant called him. He said he would; I called him back again as you instructed.

K: Did you tell him I was trying to reach him?

H: Yes.

K: What explanation did he have?

[Page 815]

H: He said he couldn’t understand it, unless he was just sleeping very heavily. But I told him that he should get the word to him and to be sure that he knew that you have been trying to get him.

K: Should we get Sisco? Or should I go straight to Rogers? Well, Rogers will only go to Sisco.

H: I think you can—since you’ve got a decision—get them all on.

K: Right; okay.

H: Including Laird.

K: Right, but I better communicate it to Rabin by the time Sisco does it, it will be the God-damnedest garbage you’ve ever heard.

H: Oh, I would just say that the President had told me to communicate the following.

K: Yeah, well, you can be damned sure my heroes will not be eager to get into that one. This is not a peace initiative.

H: No, that’s right.

K: They won’t want to communicate this. Now, you stand by now and I’ll get Sisco on a conference call.

H: All right, sir.

[Joe Sisco entered the conversation]3

K: Joe?

S: How are you?

K: Al, are you on?

H: Haig on, sir.

K: We’ve had a call from Rabin. I’ve talked twice to the President. Let me give you the sequence of events. Rabin called in here. I called the President with his answer. I then told the President I was going to call you. As I was placing the call to you, the President called back and said, well, of course, you should be informed; he’d made his decision. Now here is what Rabin said. Rabin said they have had preliminary reports from their pilot and it confirms our information with one proviso—that they have not, according to his preliminary readout— moved south from Irbid, but they are in Irbid in force … in substantial force. Their judgment is that air action alone is not enough to be decisive and that ground action is necessary. They believe that they… they would like to know our reaction if that were done. I told him nothing. I said this is something that we have to consider here, and he said he would have to have an answer within two to three hours at the latest, but preferably quicker. This was now … I talked to him also about getting out of there if they go in, and I stated our strong view on that, but I have to tell you in all candor, he was not unambiguous [Page 816] in his reply. I then called the President and communicated this to him. His first reaction was that this is, of course, more difficult than air. This is, of course, obvious. And he said I should discuss it with you.

Al,… I just want to make sure that Al is aboard.

I then said let me check Sisco and call you back. I placed a call to you; since you are usually carousing around, you weren’t reached within five minutes.

S: Since I’ve just gotten out of the shower and have just shaved and am putting on some presentable clothes.

K: Is that what you always do when you take a phone call from me?

S: Yes; but if I hadn’t come down clean, I’d have been dirty all day.

K: Let me give you the President’s reaction, so then you have the whole picture. He then called me back and said he wants me to pass the following information to Rabin. (1) The action must succeed; (2) It has to succeed diplomatically as well as politically, and as well as militarily. He’s never explained exactly what he meant by that. I’ve asked him about three times. (3) Actually, the next sentence explains it. From that point of view, air action alone would be easier, but we would support ground action if they thought it necessary. But we believe that ground action should be confined to Jordan. He specifically mentioned that, as he’d thought over your plan—which he likes militarily, but not diplomatically—it should be confined to Jordan, though air action in Syria would be supported. I said, “Let’s get the principals together first thing in the morning.” He says he doesn’t want that. And he says, as far as he’s concerned, that the decision is made. Anyone who wants to protest it has to call him. He doesn’t want me to call him.

S: You know what I would do, Henry.

K: What? Let’s do it in two stages. What do you think of this?

S: On substance?

K: On substance.

S: On substance, I think we have no alternative in the situation, and I agree on substance.

K: Should I call Bill and tell him the same thing?

S: The Secretary is in his office to relieve me for a couple of hours while I change clothes. He is in his office, and I think you ought to put it to him. He may want to have a chat with a few of us since we’ve got an hour or so.

K: Well, look, if I talk to the Israelis, I want you to be on the conference call.

S: All right; look, Henry. You go ahead and call the Secretary.

K: I will not talk to the Israelis alone on this.

S: No, I agree with you. Why don’t I do this? I’ll go directly to the State Operations Center because I’m already half-dressed.

[Page 817]

K: Where is the Secretary?

S: Right in his own office at the State Department.

K: Okay.

S: He gave me an opportunity to come home and change clothes.

K: Okay.

S: So, I will go directly to State Operations as soon as I …

K: Okay; can I tell the Secretary that I’ve talked to you?

S: Don’t tell him that you talked to me first just now; don’t do that. Just go ahead and … because I don’t want him to know that you and I have talked ahead of time on this, Henry. No, just go ahead and tell him we’ve talked.

K: I’ll tell him we’ve talked, but that you didn’t give me your … just to inform you.

S: No, no—well, just tell him that … I think he is going to say the following, Henry: (1) Emphasize strongly with the Israelis to try to do it with air; (2) however, if, in fact, they find it necessary to use ground, okay. I think he’ll just have you put a little greater emphasis on the air. You see, Henry, I think this is just … if this is the way they read it, I think the dice have been thrown myself, and that’s it.

K: Well, that’s what the President thinks.

S: That’s my feeling, and I don’t think you are going to find the Secretary difficult on this.

K: Right, well, you know, if he is, he is, and then we’ll discuss it with the President. I’m no more …

S: He’s perfectly free to call the President, and that’s what you ought to do. But, as I say, I think you’ll find that he will see also that there’s no alternative. He will go right on in to the Operations Center and then, if you need me to come to the White House, you just let me know.

K: Okay; right. Let me talk to Haig for a minute. Can you hang up, Joe?

S: Good. Thank you.

K: Hello.

H: Right, sir.

K: How do you think that son-of-a-bitch of a field marshal is doing there? He’s probably got television cameras on him.

H: Well, I think he’s in the corner.

K: I bet you he wants to come in to the WSAG meeting tomorrow morning. I’ll call him and I’ll get you put on the conference call.

H: All right, sir.

K: But I won’t necessarily tell him you are on—yeah, I’ll tell him you are on there.

[Page 818]

H: Sure, I’d tell him.

K: Okay, and then we’ll get back. And then you and I talk, and then we decide. Good.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 30, Chronological Files. No classification marking. The time, “early a.m.—prob. about 5:45 am,” is handwritten.
  2. Document 292.
  3. Brackets are in the original.