295. 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 Secretary of State Rogers1

H: Haig, sir.

K: The Secretary said he had to go to the Men’s Room—he can’t take the call right away. The President added another condition.2 Did you hear it?

H: No, I did not.

K: They should announce if they go in on ground that they’d withdraw if the Syrians withdraw, and I think he’s right—that if it gets unstuck, if the Jordanians collapse, then it’s a new situation anyway.

H: That’s correct.

K: I think that’s right. You know, they can’t act like maniacs. Should we have the WSAG meeting anyway?

H: Oh, I think you are going to have to.

K: Well, I hate to tell that many people so much. I think they should confine it to principals.

H: Yeah, I wouldn’t tell them so much. One thing that’s concerned me, Henry, is how this thing evolves, assuming that this all goes as outlined. The situation in Amman, the Sit Room tells me, is getting worse, and we may be faced with—concurrently—this U.S. citizen problem. Some thought in sorting that out should be applied; in other words, I gather they intend to react in the area involved.

K: That’s right.

H: So this could possibly be a concurrent action. It was demanded in terms of our citizens, and I wonder if we shouldn’t convey the possibility of that.

K: To whom? Rabin?

H: Yeah. I don’t know that it’s a good idea, but if they get in there—see, you just don’t know broad a front they intend to move on. I wouldn’t think they would want to get locked into that problem.

K: It is deteriorating in Amman?

[Page 821]

H: Yes.

K: I thought they had the stinking town under control.

H: I think they probably did; I think they have sped some more people in there, too. This thing’s been set up—this is a typical Soviet exercise.

K: What would have happened if the King hadn’t moved? They would have moved against him.

H: Oh, he would have been overthrown within two or three months, I think, and decisively.

K: I think less than that—that’s the only thing. I now see the game plan. They were going to use the peace talks to overthrow the King and in the meantime strengthen the Egyptians.

H: Sure.

K: And then really put the squeeze on the Israelis.

H: That’s right.

K: That’s the only thing that makes sense.

H: That’s right. And, in the meantime, obviously they bilk the Syrians. They’ve just been active across the board.

K: You don’t think …

[At this point, Secretary Rogers joined the conversation]

K: Hello.

R: Hi, Henry.

K: Let me continue where I was before. (1) Then I talked to the President and gave him those facts. He said that that, of course, made it more difficult obviously and that I should start calling around to people who had been in the meeting in the evening, starting with Sisco to get their views. I placed a call to Sisco and just as I got him, the President called me.3 He said he had thought about it….

[The Signal Operator interrupted to say Assistant Secretary Sisco wanted to speak with General Haig]

K: No, just leave him on here now. No, leave this conversation uninterrupted except for the President.

K: (Cont’d) … and said that he had made the following decisions: First, that we should communicate to the Israelis: (1) the action must succeed; (2) it has to succeed diplomatically as well as militarily—for this purpose, our preference is for air in the first instance, but that if they believe ground forces are essential, we would support that also. Ground forces, however, should be used inside Jordan; this was [Page 822] in reference to when Joe was in the office and he came in and Joe said he thought the best thing for the Israelis would be to start attacking from the Golan Heights into Syria. The President says that is militarily good, but politically not good. Those were the five points he wanted me to communicate. I told him maybe we should have a meeting of everybody. He said no, that’s what he wants to do, but of course, anyone who wants to protest can do so to him. Now, he added, when he interrupted before, a sixth point which is that they should be told that if they go in on the ground, they should announce that they will withdraw when the Syrians withdraw or if the Syrians withdraw. I said, “what if the situation gets completely unstuck in Jordan?” He said, “That’s a different problem, but the correct diplomatic posture is to go in and say they’ll withdraw as soon as the Syrians withdraw.” So, this is where we stand. I haven’t done anything else.

R: Have you told them?

K: No, no, no. I wouldn’t do that without talking to you. But I got the call from Sisco that I had placed earlier. I just told him and told him I was going to call you immediately, and Sisco said he was coming in to the office. Those are the only people who have been contacted.

R: There are two things: (1) I gather from Al that he felt that the Israelis would not do anything until tomorrow. Is that right? Did they pass?

K: I would guess by tonight our time—uh, tomorrow night our time (Monday night our time) is our instinct. They didn’t say.

R: Yeah, but in any event, we’d have … it’s 1:00 in Amman.

K: I would think Tuesday morning Amman time.

R: Did you say that they wanted an answer right away?

K: Within two hours or so.

R: I wonder what the …

K: Well, I think they have to get their forces ready.

R: We have here a cryptic message which just came in. [11/2 lines not declassified] the Israelis have landed forces from helicopters in Syria.” What do you think of that?

K: I haven’t. For all we know, they may be running around there already.

R: That’s what I mean.

K: That’s not my impression, though. I don’t believe that. Al, you were in on that conversation. Was it your impression that they could be moving?

H: No, I think they could be feinting a little bit.

K: I don’t believe it.

H: I don’t believe it either.

[Page 823]

K: Unless they are absolutely tricking us, and I don’t see what advantage it is to them to trick us about asking our support for a move that they say they’ll make later and then make it ahead of time. At any rate, they gave us no indication of that, though.

R: Well, it seems to me there are a couple of things we should be doing—certainly a couple have come to mind right away. (1) Once this happens, and the chances of saving the King are probably pretty slim anyway; I can’t imagine any Arab can survive very long if he has to call upon the Israelis to save him.

K: Well, my guess would be that he would disassociate himself.

R: Uh-huh.

K: I don’t think he can admit that he called them—that he asked for air strikes.

R: Yeah, probably not. If that is the case, and you are probably right, although I am never convinced that anything can be held in confidence though if they decide to leak—just because the British certainly know about it, too—but, in any event, assume it doesn’t leak, then what if Eban(?) says to the Arabs that the Israelis have, without request from Jordan, invaded their land, which will probably mean an Arab-Israeli conflict. I don’t see how Nasser can stand by and do nothing if it doesn’t appear that this was done at the King’s request.

K: Well, they’ve stood by before. Well, you do something.

R: When did they stand by before.

K: The Egyptians haven’t, but all the other Arabs have stood by while the Egyptians were being …

R: Oh, yeah. I was trying to put it the other way around though.

K: No, no—the Egyptians haven’t stood by; but the Egyptians have never had the choice of standing by.

R: No, but if Nasser’s going to have to be standing with the Arabs, he can’t …

K: No, I think it’s reasonable that he’ll do something, and I think Joe thinks he’ll do something.

R: Which means really that we’ll be faced with the problem if he does that if Israel doesn’t succeed, that they’ll call on us.

K: Succeed against the Egyptians?

R: Yeah, against whoever would be helping IF THEY are not …

In other words, when the President lays down the pre-condition that they have to succeed, I suppose they’d say to themselves, “well, we agreed, too.”

K: But, I think what the President’s phrase, “action must succeed” means it’s to lead into ground action. I think what we have to expect is this, IN MY judgment, Bill. There’s no doubt that the action will [Page 824] succeed and there’s no doubt, I think, that the Israelis can handle the Egyptians together with the Syrians. The question that arises is, if the Soviets intervene and there we would be obliged to help support them, I don’t think there is … I cannot conceive that the Israelis can’t handle the Egyptians and Syrians combined. What do you think, Al?

H: I think that’s so.

R: That certainly has been everyone’s assessment.

H: I don’t think there’s too much the Egyptians could do although I think they would try to do something. I don’t think they have much they can do other than to start the artillery falling, in which case the Israelis will act.

K: I think that’s the only thing, myself, that can be done—that they can do. I think the realistic occasion for American intervention will arise when … if the Soviets were to intervene one way or the other. And we would have to be prepared to be very tough in warning them off. There is a corollary to this move. Within the area, I think it can be handled—with a lot of excitement, but I think it can be handled.

R: Well, it’s awfully damned difficult to make these judgments. That certainly would be my judgment and I think it’s the judgment of those over here. Well, the trouble with that is, so was everybody confident that the King could handle the Fedayeen and apparently can’t. Leaving Syria out, we can’t handle them in Amman ‘cause that seems …

K: I was never so confident of that one.

R: Most people were, though.

K: Yeah, I know most people were, though.

R: I didn’t hear anybody express any real reservations.

K: Well, I was … after the first few days’ reports, I also saw that he could. But, be that as it may, if the Israelis can’t handle the Arabs, they can’t be bailed out by us. We won’t have enough forces to bail them out. We only have one decision. But since all of our policy has been based on the assumption that the military balance hadn’t turned against them and that they were still superior … that I don’t think is going to happen.

R: In our weighing it, we were thinking about it in terms of Egypt and Jordan. I don’t know as we were thinking about it in terms of Syria and Iraq, but, you know, I never heard anybody express any doubt about it including the Israelis. They’ve always thought they could.

K: And they repeated that again. And we checked yesterday with Moorer at the meetings. He thinks … but that’s, of course, subject to the same theories (queries?) that you’ve put before. They also thought they probably could handle the Fedayeen.

[Page 825]

R: Well, I think the question probably in my mind now is the time problem, whether we have to give them an answer so soon if they aren’t actually going to invade. If this cryptic message is incorrect and they aren’t going to actually invade until sometime tomorrow morning—in other words, if we have 24 hours, I wonder why they need so much advance. I can see how they can sort of get ready with it, but I don’t see why they have to know for sure. Because the information we had was to the effect that [End of tape]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 30, Chronological Files. No classification marking. The time, “prob. about 6:15 am,” is handwritten. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 294.
  3. See Document 292.