76. Memorandum From Peter Rodman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • IG Paper on U.S. Policy in the Persian Gulf

A summary of the IG paper on the Gulf is attached.

The IG paper itself—actually a draft by State—is not worth reading.2 Hal Saunders and Dick Kennedy agree that it is a disaster. It devotes one paragraph to analysis of Soviet policy, while it spends a full page on the need for advance planning in setting up a Foreign Service post in Dubai. It presents three options:

Do Nothing (which it concludes would be “an abdication of responsibility”),
Encourage the UK to Stay On (which would be “unworkable”), and
Manifestation of Greater U.S. Interest (i.e., “we can do a good deal in small ways …”).

The first two options are discussed and are dismissed in one paragraph each, and the rest of the paper is devoted to spelling out the operational details of the third (e.g., setting up a Foreign Service post in Dubai). The paper is also about a year out of date.

Saunders is lighting a fire under the IG to try to get a better paper. The Review Group is tentatively scheduled to meet February 16. With Saunders’ assistance, I plan to work on an Issues Paper.3 I will try to get something to you by mid-January.

[Page 243]



Foreword (pp. 1–2)

Policy guidance will be needed on the following key issues: USG attitude to UK withdrawal; role of and home-porting arrangements for MIDEASTFOR after 1971; USG policy toward federation arrangements; USG attitude to FAA (Federation of Arab Amirates) and/or Bahrain application for UN membership; USG arms policy to Kuwait and small states;4 feasibility of future Foreign Service posts, especially on Trucial Coast.

There should also be consideration of: Iranian intentions; Saudi-Iranian relations; Median line issues; Arab suspicion of Iran; and increasing Soviet attention to Gulf.5

I Policy Considerations

A. U.S. Interests (pp. 2–3)

U.S. interest is in access and influence. Important military interests, including communications and intelligence facilities in Iran, overflight privileges across Iran and Saudi Arabia. General U.S. interest in stability, to minimize radical or Soviet gains.

U.S. citizens live there (15,000). Balance of payments surplus ($1.5 billion). Oil is crucial to West Europe, Japan, and U.S. forces in SE Asia.

B. UK Withdrawal (pp. 3–6)

UK military presence today not directly linked with oil situation (i.e., is not in the UK’s main oil-source states.)

In any case, UK withdrawal is now fact of life in the area. Gulf states have already started adjusting to UK absence, and this process is irreversible.

C. Current U.S. Policy (p. 6)

We can’t replace UK presence, and therefore urge greater cooperation among Gulf states themselves, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran. But we must avoid giving impression of “backing out,” or else we weaken our friends, undermine stability, and encourage USSR.

[Page 244]

D. Increasing Soviet Attention to Gulf (pp. 6–7)6

Soviet Policy (p. 6): Russian ambitions there since Czarist days. Ultimately they hope to supplant Western presence.
Recent Soviet Actions (p. 6): Naval visits.

E. Conflicting Iranian-Arab Interests (pp. 8–9)

Iran has disputes with Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

F. Conflicts Among and Instability in Arab Gulf States (pp. 9–10)

Manifold feuds and internal rumblings.

G. Effects of Arab/Israel Issue in the Gulf (pp. 10–11)

Many Palestinians living in the Gulf States. Shaykhs raise money for fedayeen. “Palestine question” is irritant in our relations with moderate Gulf Arabs; if that conflict remains unsettled, outlook is for “steady erosion” of U.S. position in the Gulf. Arab-Israeli tension also affects Arab-Iranian relations, since Iran has ties with Israel.

II Overall Policy Options

A. Do Nothing (pp. 11–12)

Given “tremendous importance of the area to us,” increasing Soviet interest, and local instabilities, “a do-nothing course” would represent an abdication of responsibility from which our interests would surely suffer.7

B. Encourage UK to Stay On (p. 12)

Unacceptable in London and unworkable in the Gulf.

C. Manifestation of Greater U.S. Interest (p. 13)

“To have influence in the Gulf, we must be seen to be there and to be interested.8 We can do a good deal in small ways to provide reassurances that we are not abandoning our stake in the region.”9

III Specific Issues

A. Areas for U.S. Action

MIDEASTFOR (pp. 14–15): Talks with Bahrain, to keep our port there, must await resolution of Iran’s claim to Bahrain.
Foreign Service Posts (pp. 15–16): Start planning now, because it takes a long time to set up a post.
U.S. Arms Policy (p. 16): Shaykhdoms should rely on UK arms, but we might want to supply some to FAA.
Cultural Affairs (pp. 16–17): Cultural exchange with Shaykhdoms.
Economic Aid (p. 17): Technical, not capital, assistance is needed.
Visits (pp. 17–18): Arab rulers want to visit us. They want better protocol treatment than they’ve been getting.

B. USG Policy toward Arab Federation (p. 18)

“We believe the FAA represents the best hope for stability among the Arab Shaykhdoms.”

C. Arab/Iranian Relations (p. 19)

Future stability of region will depend on Saudi-Iranian relations. We should encourage settlement of Median Line and Bahrain issues.10

D. Response to Increasing Soviet Role (p. 20)

Steps for USG listed above are in part designed to show Moscow we intend to sustain an active interest in the Gulf.11

IV Specific Recommendations

Encouarge a non-military UK presence. (p. 20)
Lower our MIDEASTFOR profile on Bahrain, and plan on basing it somewhere else in long run. (pp. 20–21)
Allow modest arms sales to Kuwait and Arab states in lower Gulf if UK can’t meet the demand. (pp. 21–22)
Proceed with informal administration arrangements for Foreign Service post in Dubai. (p. 22)
Discreetly help along the formation of FAA. (p. 22)
Foster Arab/Iranian and especially Saudi/Iranian cooperation. (pp. 22–23)
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–156, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 66. Secret. Sent for information. Rodman wrote his summary of the Interdepartmental Group paper after consulting with Saunders. (Memorandum from Rodman to Saunders, October 23; ibid.)
  2. “Future U.S. Policy in the Persian Gulf,” undated, was drafted by the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Near East and South Asia. (Ibid.) The revised version was eventually discussed at the June 5, 1970, Review Group meeting. See Documents 82
  3. A draft of the paper, “Outline of Persian Gulf Issues Paper,” January 21, 1970, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 16, HAK Administrative and Staff Files, Persian Gulf: Drafts.
  4. A handwritten notation reads: “What’s that?” These are Kissinger’s comments, relayed from San Clemente by Anthony Lake and written into the margins by William Watts. (Memorandum from Watts to Rodman, January 7, 1970; ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–156, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 66)
  5. A handwritten notation in the left margin reads: “Absolutely.” Another handwritten notation at the end of the paragraph, reads: “Iraq.”
  6. A handwritten notation in the margin next to paragraphs D and E reads: “You must give me more detail or I won’t understand.”
  7. A handwritten notation reads: “Agree—option’s silly.”
  8. A handwritten notation reads: “This is the question. Must be many options.”
  9. A handwritten notation pointing to the first part of this sentence reads: “Like what?”
  10. A handwritten notation reads: “How?”
  11. A handwritten notation reads: “What are issues of Soviet-Iranian relations?”