78. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco) to Acting Secretary of State Richardson 1

SUBJECT

  • Kuwait Request for Military Equipment—ACTION MEMORANDUM

Discussion

Ambassador Walsh has reported a Kuwaiti request to purchase two C-130 aircraft, fifty 106mm recoilless rifles and an unspecified amount of surplus military equipment from our European stockpiles. The Ambassador believes the Kuwaitis will consider our response as a basic test of our credibility as a friendly power. The Ambassador has requested authorization to inform the Kuwaitis that we are prepared to consider their request favorably (Kuwait 57 attached, Tab A).2 In response to our request (State 11680 attached, Tab B) for additional information, AmbassadorWalsh has replied that Kuwait would want C–130s primarily to transport fighter aircraft engines to the UK for overhaul, and supplies and replacements for the Kuwaiti battalion in the UAR (Kuwait 76 attached, Tab C).

Kuwait is not presently eligible to purchase arms from the U.S. Government under the Foreign Military Sales Act (FMSA) and it would require a Presidential Determination to establish Kuwait’s eligibility. This would at present be difficult to justify, since Kuwait never accepted the 1967 cease-fire, does not accept the November, 1967, UN Security Council Resolution, and continues to maintain a token, if inactive, military force in the UAR. We therefore plan to inform the Kuwaitis that we continue to believe Kuwait should try to meet its arms requirements from traditional British sources but that we would be prepared to give this further consideration should instances arise in which Kuwait’s legitimate defense needs could not be met from British sources.

This leaves the question of how responsive we may wish to be with respect to agreeing to license the commercial sale of two C–130s, since Lockheed is offering these for commercial sale with a lead time of approximately one year. A commercial sale of this aircraft would [Page 250]require the Department’s approval of a license under our Munitions Control Procedure.

Lockheed also has a civilian version, the L100–20. This has the same wing span as the C–130, a larger fuselage and thus larger cargo volume, and it loads on international pallets. The main difference from the C–130 is that the L100–20’s doors will not open in flight so the aircraft has no paradrop capability. The L100–20 is available for immediately delivery. An export license from the Department of Commerce would be required.

I believe we can tell the Kuwaitis either: (a) that we would be prepared to license either two C–130s or two of its civilian version, the L100–20, at their option, noting the immediate availability of the latter; or (b) that a civilian version, the L100–20, is available for immediate delivery, implying that we would not be prepared to license the military version. In order to be partially responsive to the specific Kuwait request, and to avoid Kuwait speculation as to why we were prepared to license an aircraft identical with, but differently numbered from, the C–130, NEA believes we should follow course (a). We will separately inform Ambassador Walsh that we are not prepared to seek FMSA eligibility for Kuwait at this time and provide him with talking points to use with the Kuwaitis on this subject.

Recommendation

That you authorize us to instruct Ambassador Walsh to inform the Kuwaitis that we would be prepared to license either two C–130s or two L100–20s, at their option, noting the immediate availability of the latter.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 KUW. Secret.
  2. All tabs are attached but not printed.
  3. Richardson initialed his approval on February 14, crossing out the phrases “either two C–130s” and “at their option,” and adding the handwritten comment: “This seems to me better on balance than opening up ‘military sales’ route in light of fact that L–100–20s are immediately available.” When Walsh relayed the information on Kuwaiti ineligibility to purchase arms under the FMSA, because of the government’s refusal to accept either the ceasefire or UN Resolution 242, Under Secretary Rashid “sighed.” (Telegram 54 from Kuwait, February 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 KUW) Subsequent negotiations on the L–100–20s temporarily stalled over Kuwaiti insistence on a 5½ percent rate of interest, and Ex-Im Bank fears that the planes could be used for offensive (military) purposes. (Telegram 639 from Kuwait, July 15; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 620, Country Files, Middle East, Kuwait, Vol. I) In telegram 115438 to Kuwait, July 17, Walsh was notified that Lockheed would accept the 5½ percent, and that additional wording would be sufficient to satisfy Ex-Im Bank concerns. (Ibid.)