3. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1
NSC MEETING ON MIDDLE EAST
- The President
- The Vice President
- The Secretary of State, William P. Rogers
- The Secretary of Defense, Melvin R. Laird
- The Secretary of the Treasury, David M. Kennedy
- The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle G. Wheeler
- The Director of Central Intelligence, Richard M. Helms
- Under Secretary of State, Eliot L. Richardson
- State Department Counselor, Richard F. Pederson
- US Ambassador to the UN, Charles Yost
- Assistant Secretary of State, Joseph J. Sisco
- Former Assistant Secretary of State, Parker T. Hart
- Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Rodger P. Davies
- Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness, General George A. Lincoln
- Colonel Alexander Haig
- Harold H. Saunders
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
Helms: History of Arab-Jewish relations and the course of Arab nationalism (disunity).
Fedayeen movement (Fatah, PLO, PFLP): adamantly opposed to any solution other than the destruction of Israel. Their influence makes it questionable whether any Arab government could reach settlement with Israel. Current significance is that terrorism brings on Israeli reprisals, which raise likelihood of broader conflict.
Military balance: Israelis will almost certainly retain military superiority for next year or so. Superiority qualitative—depends partly on pre-emptive strategy. Jericho missiles—10 or so could be deployed 1970–1. Arabs’ 1967 losses just about made up—assume USSR believes equipment sent is about all Arabs can now absorb.
Soviet interests: USSR has leapfrogged Northern Tier. Soviet naval expansion—steadier, more effective than Khrushchev’s2 rather opportunistic move to put missiles in Cuba.
President: You talk about USSR’s “measured, effective plan.” Does this emanate from military strategy or something that just happens? Do they have a meeting like ours here today, decide on policy and then execute it? Or do they just muddle along.
Policy result of high-level decision—considered policy—or just happen?
Helms: Highest level decision. Considered policy.
Helms: Soviet peace plan. Acknowledge that peace is a package plan. Arabs want imposed peace. These Arab objections main reason for Israeli rejection of plan.[Page 11]
Arab attitudes toward U.S.: Growing hostility—see us as backing Israel—Arab “gift for twisted analysis”—Arabs see even those things we do for them as somehow directed against them.
US image good in Israel. But Israel has its own brand of reservation about our inability to see the Arabs through Israeli eyes, tendency to rely only on themselves.
- Significance of Soviet fleet.
- —Sharp increase in 1967 and 1968 [President assured himself that trend was always low before 1963 and that present trend is new.]
- —Primary concern: missile and torpedo threat.
- —60 technicians at Mers-el-Kebir in Algeria.
- —A “challenge” to US operations. Could affect future US decisions to commit forces in the area.
- Strategic implications for US of
- —Arab-Israeli balance.
[President: Looking at chart showing 2 bombers in Israeli air force asked how Israel was able to take out Arab airfields with just 2 bombers. General Wheeler answered: “fighter-bombers.” President nodded quickly.]
Vice President: How do present air inventories compare with those of June, 1967.
Wheeler: Qualitative differences here and there but generally comparable.
Lincoln: How do Soviet advisors operate in Units.
Wheeler: Strictly advisory. Arabs xenophobic and not likely to submit to Soviet command.
JCS: Imbalance in supersonic aircraft could be dangerous to Israel by June 1969
—US intervention capability. US contingency plan designed to drive a wedge between opposing forces.
President: I understand your contingency plan is based on intelligence estimate that local conflict main possibility.
I agree that US–USSR conflict remote, but what if one of Arab countries where Soviet fleet present is attacked?
Wheeler: Contingency plan if US–USSR
President: What if a more limited Soviet involvement?[Page 12]
Kissinger: What if Israeli raid on Aswan dam or Israeli city shelled by Soviet fleet?
President: Could you give some thought to that?
Wheeler: Possibilities we are examining:
- —US attack on Soviet bases in Siberia.
- —Sink one Soviet ship in Mediterranean.
- —Seize Soviet intelligence trawler.
President: Could you consider what we could do indirectly through the Israelis.
Seems to me Soviet naval presence is primarily political. Therefore, we must be prepared for a less-than-military contingency.
Wheeler: Primarily political. But Soviet presence in ports puts a Soviet umbrella over those ports. In a tenuous sense, fleet therefore does have military use.
Described plan for introduction of US ground forces—initial force, follow-on and on-call forces. Plan could be fulfilled but would degrade strategic reserve.
Final arrival of on-call forces 39 days; 18 days for follow-on; 2–17 days initial. Airlift.
President: Are we capable of repeating Lebanon-type operation?
Wheeler: I believe so. Would modify this plan.
President: Any military exercises politically useful?
Wheeler: Continuous US bilateral and NATO exercise. NATO has just put together surveillance unit to keep track of subs.
President: Are Sovs, Israelis, Arabs aware of these things?
Wheeler: Yes. This is one purpose of exercises.
Laird: Sixth Fleet not as “ready” as it should be in manning levels. Have to look at this as situation heats up.
President: How is Malta being used?
Wheeler: NATO has returned small air surveillance unit to Malta.
Tenuous relationship of Malta to NATO via Secretary General, mainly to keep Soviets out.
President: Is Sixth Fleet NATO-related?
Wheeler: US controlled in peace; in war under NATO.
President: In a Lebanon-type situation, who controls Sixth Fleet?
Wheeler: “You do sir.”
President: Isn’t there significant British and French presence?[Page 13]
Wheeler: Significant French and Italian presence. French navy in Mediterranean. Navy most cooperative since French withdrawal till De Gaulle3 blew whistle.
President: Could Italians and French block or compete with Soviet past presence?
Wheeler: Mers-el-Kebir main instance. Little opportunity for us to exercise influence.
French still have residual influence which, depending on De Gaulle, could be helpful. But unlikely France could swing Algerians away from Soviet backing.
President: What has happened to French political influence?
Lincoln: What if USSR says its fleet will screen UAR coast?
Wheeler: Have to go ashore in Israel.
President: Could we phase deployment?
Wheeler: Yes—move into Europe, for instance.
Vice President: Could we involve NATO instead of us?
Wheeler: We couldn’t involve NATO. Only last few months that NATO concerned about Soviet presence.
President: NATO pathological on point of involvement. For instance, may even be problem if Berlin, one of their own cities, threatened.
Vice President: Is that true about political moves?
Wheeler: Not as true.
Kissinger: To what extent could Soviet fleet be used as a hostage in Berlin crisis.
President: I’m just thinking about symbolic acts.
Lincoln: If Israeli port attacked, might be unclear who did it.
Wheeler: We have pretty fair surveillance activity. We could identify—though not necessarily prove. This political problem.
JCS: Main military problem (Soviets would have same problems):
—Deployment routes and staging areas. Need Azores or equivalent.
—Transportation resources: would require “major revision of our worldwide program.”
- Would USSR intervene? Paratroops. Two routes—Western over Yugoslavia.
President: If Sovs flew troops into Cairo or Damascus, what could we do?
Wheeler: Fly into Crete, Italy, Athens. Turkey not possible. Incirlik not usable in 1967. Malta airfield not good enough. Greeks cooperative in 1967.
JCS: Syria offers best landing place—eastern overflight route over Iran.
41,000 troops into Damascus in 2 days, without supporting equipment.
By sealift using maritime fleet, could move 6–10 divisions from Baltic (transit 13 days), 3–10 divisions from northern division (15 days), Black Sea 6–10 divisions (3 days). They have exercised in small way in Black Sea.
Impact of local conflict on US commitments. Cause problems in NATO somewhat like Czechoslovakia.
Lincoln: Are Soviets stockpiling?
Wheeler: Not in UAR but in Algeria there is equipment the Algerians can’t possibly use.
President: In State briefing, could you include country-by-country relations with us.
Hart: In Turkey, attitude not pro-Arab but rather pro-Israeli but Turkey focuses on Cyprus and that requires Arab votes. Tend favor moderate Arab states. Want good relationship with Iraq, because of Kurds. Trying to bind Iraq quietly to Turkey (gas line). Relations with US basically good, though strains.
President: Is this one area for patting on back—a little preventive medicine? In terms of planning of visits, Turks and others, let’s have meeting soon.
Hart: Yes, sir. We have strategic and intelligence installation. Conditions of use—Turkish permission.
Morocco—Algerian tension. Never broke with us, generally friendly relations. Get as much as it can from us. Some influence on other Arab states.
Libya—Considerable US influence. Fears Nasser. US–UK bulwark against radicals.
President: Get in best team we can in terms of ambassadorial appointments. “Get heavy weights in there.”[Page 15]
Algeria—If we renewed relations with.
President: What influence does Tito have?4 Could he be helpful?
Hart: Mainly in UAR.
Sisco: Shift in his view since Czechoslovakia.
President: I would be open to meeting with Tito if you recommend it.
Hart: In principle, it would help with radical states—even Iraq— marginally.
Sudan—broke relations but represented there. Would be one of first to resume.
Lebanon—delicate democracy. Genesis based on fear of Muslim majority around it.
Syria—unstable. Will be last to resume relations with us.
Iraq—basic instability. Will not be quick to resume relations unless regime changes.
Arab-Israeli—The main interests involved—Arab fear of Israeli expansion and Israel wants formalized peace. Johnston and Johnson missions.5
In 1948, no Arab state lost any territory; it was Palestinians who lost their homes.
Fedayeen riding ground swell of popularity.
In a way, Jordan and UAR have—by accepting UN resolution6— accepted existence of Israel.
Jordan most committed to peace settlement but Hussein caught between radicals and need to get land back.
If we resume relations with Arabs, that will strengthen moderates.[Page 16]
President: If we have a Lebanon-type situation in Jordan, what capability would we have—if, for instance, we faced a fedayeen takeover in Jordan?
Wheeler: “Could probably—of course would have problems.” Problem: Israelis not basically interested in survival of Hussein.
Hart: “I’m not sure they’ve made up their minds finally on this.” If Jordan became a radical state, easier for Israel to move.
President: “That kind of thinking is a death wish. They must not be given any encouragement.”
The political problem in the US—“we just can’t tote that.” Extremely difficult for us to move in to save Israel.
Laird: What’s the possibility of Israel-Jordan settlement?
Hart: Hard without UAR. Have to be simultaneous movement.
Rogers: We don’t think Hussein could survive separate settlement.
Laird: Hope Israel doesn’t misinterpret mood in US.
Rogers: On basis my talk with Rabin, “I don’t think they misinterpret.”
President: Dayan 7 says we should have good relations with Arabs.
Lincoln: We should make clear to Israel and its friends importance of Hussein.
President: Harder to explain to Israel’s friends in US.
Rabin–Dayan have fatalistic attitude—it will blow and they’ll take care of it.
Wheeler: Rabin explained deep Israeli feelings against Hussein— in 6-day war Jordanians inflicted much heavier casualties.
Hart: Israel suspicious of UAR intentions.
Politics in Israel will reduce Israeli flexibility between now and November.
Siege atmosphere in Israel. Don’t trade territory for political agreements.
Status quo of today works against peace and even Israel’s long-term security.
Settlement will require pressure on Israel—for arrangements that will include well-policed demilitarization.
President: Guaranteed by whom?[Page 17]
Hart: UN sanctified.
Lincoln: Who pays for UN forces?
Hart: Senator Javits8 interest in refugee settlement.
Hart: Have to be clear where Israel and US coincide: We don’t want Israel destroyed but don’t have stake in boundaries. Want lasting settlement. Above all, want to avoid war with USSR.
In deciding how much pressure we apply on Israel, have to decide how UAR can be brought along.
Important to develop maximum public understanding in US.
Sisco: Elements in our policy as it evolved after June War:
- —Commitment to territorial integrity.
- —Nasser’s May 1967 blockade, he was overturning post-Suez US arrangements.
- —We wanted to try this time to achieve lasting peace.
- —These combined in 5 principles of June 19, 1967. “Parties to conflict, parties to peace.” These incorporated in November 22 resolutions.
The equation: withdrawal in return for end of belligerency.
While resolution adopted unanimously, there were not unanimous interpretations. We really passed these differences on to Jarring.9 Reflected in semantic argument “accepting and implementing” the resolution.
Rogers: Rabin says Arabs are trying to “force us into settlement short of peace.”
Sisco: July 1968, we got Israel to soften stand on (1) direct negotiations as a precondition to exchanging substance, (2) peace treaty. Parties have been exchanging views through Jarring. But Israel wants binding commitment on peace.
President: Israel insists on bilateral agreements. What is Israeli view toward outside participation?
Sisco: Israel wants to be left alone to deal with Hussein—and the UAR.
Israel-Jordan exchanges. Allow plan as non-starter with Hussein.
Israel nervous about big-power intervention. Last Soviet note—“a five-legged horse that could move in any direction.”
We don’t honestly know what USSR intends.[Page 18]
Shall we await Soviet reply or develop a plan of our own to discuss.
Whatever we put in, we have to be sure we can produce Israel.
Israel’s Cabinet divided—explains inability to decide on territorial objectives. Arabs made it easy for Israelis to avoid decision. Election will make flexibility difficult.
President: Javits or somebody mentioned USSR made propaganda hay. What’s the answer?
Sisco: Soviets have had a propaganda ride. We didn’t refute publicly because we wanted to work out our response without appearing to throw cold water.
Lincoln: Could Israel and Jordan consider Allon Plan10 with UN force?
Sisco: May be feasible.
President: Israel says it wants peace via bilateral agreements. Yet in intelligence we hear extremists so strong that Arab governments can’t control them. Do sophisticated Israelis discount outside guarantees?
Rogers: Fedayeen raids not significant now. Could be handled if contractual peace.
Israelis afraid we’ll be stampeded by tension. Say Russians are heating up atmosphere to panic us. Russians won’t use nuclear weapons. Arabs won’t start war. Sovs won’t intervene; they don’t have air cover over this fleet. Rabin says: “Don’t make decisions because you think you’re on the brink of war. We’re not going to take more territory. Permanent peace will be anti-Soviet.”
President: When you come down to it, a peace that he (Rabin) negotiates with any of these wobbly governments, isn’t a peace either with revolutionary movements there.
“I can see the symbolism there; they want recognition.” But unless they have some outside recognition.
Rogers: Israelis know they need guarantees.
Sisco: Four-power proposal has to be handled delicately. As proposed, it gives preference to Soviet plan and downplays Jarring. We see Jarring and UN as central. Sovs and French disagree. UK wavers but waiting to see what we’ll do.
Response will be one of your Administration’s first moves. Jarring wants step by parties or anything four powers can. We’re boxed in.[Page 19]
Propose: informal, individual consultations but they will quickly become more formal. Might nudge Israelis, who are thinking of putting forward ideas through secret channel toward Jordan.
President: What’s timing?
Rogers: I have a draft reply for you to consider quickly.
Kissinger: Review Group has not seen proposal. Maybe 2-power approach better. This just one sub-choice in one of three options.
President: I want to tie this into announcement of NPT. Get points with De Gaulle.
UN thinks this a good move?
Yost: Yes, Arabs prefer.
Rogers: Pressure on both sides.
President: Could Jarring make a significant contribution?
Yost: Not going get to first base by himself.
Yost: Hard keep Jarring and four-powers going same time—but possible.
President: Four-powers with Jarring?
Yost: Jarring wants to stay independent.
President: Don’t like idea of saying “me too.” Propose variant method of implementation.
Kissinger: Choice may be between 2-power and 4-power not 4power and nothing. May be Soviet talks be more fruitful.
President: Does 4-power rule out 2-power?
Rogers: No. Make it clear 4-power in framework of Jarring.
Yost: Maintain two-power element in four-power.
President: The real powers are the US and USSR.
Rogers: How do we say that.
President: Different—what we say and what we do.
Sisco: USSR has made clear US–USSR dialogue the prime one despite its acceptance of French proposal. Could have four sets of talks going on at same time. Four-powers could do some marginal work.
President: “Trying to be devil’s advocate,” another element that appeals: reassure our NATO allies. You feel we should go on all four lines?
Laird: Must move soon. High expectancy of a US move because press aware that NSC discussing the issue.
President: We’ll make a move.
Lincoln: What about Israelis?
President: Leave that to Secretary of State! (Laughter)[Page 20]
Yost: Israelis underestimate Fedayeen movement.
Kissinger: Have to distinguish between Israeli statements and what their situation is.
Israelis say they won’t settle for less than a real peace, but they must know that isn’t possible. They must really be saying that they find it hard to see how legal arrangement could increase their security. They must know that most wars start between countries who recognize each other and are at peace. The only peace arrangements that work are settlements that (1) increase will of the parties to peace, or (2) decrease ability to make war.
We haven’t systematically discussed options. Must know what we want if we’re going to try to get.
President: Our ability to deliver Israelis gets down to what we will do.
Richardson: Not only what we’ll do but what we can do in de-escalating.
President: What will we do vis-à-vis the Russians? That’s the heart.
Yost: Italians go along with Four-Power if in UN framework.
Lincoln: Have we gone into guarantees?
Rogers: That’s down the road.
President: Have to get to that.
Kissinger: Why can’t we go till Wednesday to review systematically?
President: Move Council up to Tuesday at 10:00 A.M.11
What we have in mind:
Kissinger: Distribute draft reply to French note before Tuesday and meeting.12
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Meeting Minutes, NSC Minutes Originals 1969. Top Secret. Drafted by Saunders on May 1. According to an undated draft of the minutes, the meeting was held from 9:35 to 11:55 a.m. (Ibid., Box H–120, NSC Draft Minutes, NSC Meeting—February 1, 1969) All brackets are in the original.↩
- Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, Chairman of the Communist Party, 1953–1964, and Premier of the Soviet Union, 1958–1964.↩
- General Charles de Gaulle, President of France, 1958–1969.↩
- Josef Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia, 1953–1980.↩
- The Johnston Mission, led by President Eisenhower’s Special Representative Eric Johnston, was organized in October 1953 to secure an agreement among Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel to develop the Jordan River basin. By 1955, the mission had ended. The Johnson Mission, led by Joseph Johnson, President Kennedy’s Special Representative to the Palestine Conciliation Commission, was established in 1962 to help resolve the Palestinian refugee problem. Johnson resigned January 31, 1963.↩
- A reference to UN Security Council Resolution 242. Following the Arab-Israeli War in June 1967, this resolution was passed on November 22, calling for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and for the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1967, pp. 257–258)↩
- Moshe Dayan, Israeli Minister of Defense, 1967–1974.↩
- Senator Jacob Javits (R–NY).↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1969–1972, for documentation on U.S.-Soviet negotiations and the efforts of Gunnar Jarring, a Swedish diplomat, who served as the UN representative in the Middle East appointed to negotiate the details necessary for the implementation of UN Resolution 242.↩
- Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Allon proposed that Israel relinquish political control of the West Bank to Jordan in exchange for military control of a strip of land along the eastern side of the Jordan River as a means of securing the border between them.↩
- February 4.↩
- Telegram 19022 to Amman, February 6, is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1969–1972.↩