167. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and Secretary of Defense Schlesinger1
JS: What is this telegram that you have, what—
K: Look, I don’t want it spread all over the bloody Defense Department, that is the problem. They claim they have now stopped offensive on the Syrian front because they are out of ammunition.2 They claim further that I had told them that they could keep going because they were getting—that their ammo replenished and in relying on that they’ve kept going and they didn’t get them. Now what this does to the diplomacy I described to you yesterday is near disaster because they were supposed to be triggered yesterday, diplomacy was supposed to be triggered tonight—tomorrow night, Saturday3 night, but that diplomacy requires Israeli pressure—
JS: I understand that.
K: Which will now not be forthcoming. On the other hand, the Israelis will now hoard the stuff we rush in and then they’ll strike when the diplomacy was supposed to have been concluded. That’s water over the dam now, we’ll have to discuss that some other time. But I just think there was massive sabotage.4
JS: It’s just not true, Henry.
K: Well, let’s not get into that. One thing we cannot have now given our relations with the Soviets is American planes flying in there. Anything else is acceptable.[Page 468]
JS: Okay, now they claim Henry it’s only five hours ago we talked to these people, we’ve been asking them what their daily supply is, they have exhibited no uneasiness about it at all.
K: Because they don’t trust the people in the room
JS: You mean to say that when General Gur is alone with General Sumner that he doesn’t trust him?
K: No, with Gur with Sumner, he should trust him.
JS: Sumner has been trying to get it out of Gur for five days and Gur has been perfectly relaxed about the day supply.
K: Because Gur claims that—I mean Dinitz—I don’t know Gur—Dinitz claims that was because every day we told them, which is true, that they were going to get 20 planes moving. And every day it didn’t happen.
If it had been moved, they would have been all right. So they say.
JS: Every day goes back one night—
K: Now I told them Tuesday night based on an assurance of Sisco, about which you have nothing to do—said they were going to get 20 charters the next day.5 And we told them Wednesday night if everything else failed, we were going to requisition it through MAC. Then we told them Thursday night it would now be requisitioned through MAC and then we told them Friday morning that this wasn’t working.
JS: That’s right. It’s two days—
K: It’s about 48 hours, but you’re responsible for 24 hours, I’m responsible for—be that as it may, let’s not worry about what happens. It seems to me we have these options. We’ve got the 10 C–130’s which we could load.
JS: Right. We’ve got ammo in the ________ now.
K: Yeh, but we don’t know when that’s going to be released.
JS: How about your negotiations with the Portuguese?
K: We just sent a telegram two hours ago.
JS: Okay. Well they simply cannot be that short of ammo, Henry. It is impossible that they didn’t know what their supply was—and suddenly they’ve run out of it.
K: Look, they have obviously screwed up every offensive they’ve conducted. And they are not about to take the responsibility themselves. I have no doubt whatever that they are blaming us for their own failures.
JS: Right.[Page 469]
K: But you try to make that case here and above all, I really think we have this thing 90% licked. And you tell the madman you have of a deputy who is spreading the word that I’m driving the Saudis crazy, that I have a promise from the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia—
JS: I told them at about 6:00 this evening—he seems to be somewhat relieved. You mentioned this to me earlier to tell him. He said he hoped it worked out that way.
K: It may not work out that way, but the only way it is going to work out if we are going to get a quick end of the war. Of which we nearly have all pieces in place, but we need an Israeli offensive.
JS: Okay, now Henry if they have enough ammo to carry them tomorrow we can get the ammo in by tomorrow evening. But first of all we have to find out what their supply situation is.
K: I would give a hell of a lot if I could keep them going through tomorrow so that they are not sitting there when this goes into the Security Council.
JS: The only way to do that is to move ammunition in tonight. And it’s almost—it must be damn near dawn there.
K: It is dawn in Israel. It’s 8:00 in the morning.
JS: Are they out of ammo or aren’t they?
K: How the hell would I know. They said they were stopping their offensive. I was meeting with them tonight to synchronize the diplomacy for tomorrow. And I said where are you going to be tomorrow night, I was getting leery when they called me after having pleaded with me to give them another day they called me at 4:00 this afternoon and said you can trigger everything tonight. And I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have—I had geared my timing in such a way that I couldn’t recover all the pieces. I could have done it yesterday—I need 24 hours to get it going.
JS: It’s amazing to me—I sat with them from 5:30–6:30 and they simply did not mention ammunition problems—they didn’t indicate any issue in that area. All they talked about was the re-equipment and to get it in within two days.
K: They are so terrified now—or claim to be terrified of Israeli thrust into the Sinai—I mean Egyptian thrust.
JS: That’s incredible planning on their part.
K: Look, they fucked-it up.
JS: Hm huh. Okay, let me try to find out what the hell their status of supplies situation is. We had the impression that they had 15 days of supply.
K: I bet you they counted their supply on the experience of the six-day war.[Page 470]
JS: Could well be.
K: I bet you they didn’t expend as much in the whole six-day war as they do in one day of this offensive.
JS: That might very well be, Henry. I think that is very likely. Sooner or later they could have come back and told us what their problem was.
K: Well, because they would have had to face themselves and I must say in their defense—not on the airplanes on which they and we never agreed—but on the other one, we told them time and again that they were getting all the consumables and they should fight as if they were coming.
JS: Right. But they never told us they were running short.
K: Because you know what happened—as well as I do. These guys got the whole thing screwed up—every time. They are living in 1967. All day long yesterday they were telling me they were heading for Damascus and they were going to stop on the outskirts. This morning they told me they would stoppublic transportations if they can. Now they obviously can’t make it.
K: No question in mind that 80% of the blame is theirs. But that doesn’t help me tomorrow night. And you know I just have to have them going as a fierce force while this is going on.
JS: If they are out of ammo now, there is nothing we can do to get it there for today’s offensive. The nearest step is in the Azores and you know that’s kind of screwed up unless we take the US aircraft off and fly it in. It won’t be in for 5 hours—
K: How about at least C–130’s. I think what we have to do is to get them the 10 C–130’s. We have to twist the arm of the charters by telling them they will never get another defense contract—that’s going to produce.
JS: That’s right, but we can get that stuff out all right, but we are not going to get it out there for Saturday.
K: No, but that at least will get it moving. So let’s do it—a combination of the Azores , the 10 C–130’s and forced charters. And that I think will be it if we put Sumner working on it tonight
JS: He’s there now. We’ve got John Wickham there—look we have a group that is working this 24 hours a day.
K: Jim, you and I have no problem because we are in complete agreement on the strategy, as far as I can see. You have to delegate it and I have and you have a few people down the line who were put there to sabotage that stuff not by you.
JS: I think it’s . . .[Page 471]
K: I think on the other hand you have the goddamn Israelis screwing up everything they are doing.
JS: If only they had said they had a problem. Four days, they’ve been sitting there. Three days ago they were telling us how happy they were about the consumable situation.6
K: Let’s you and I try to work it out as quickly as possible.
JS: Okay, very good.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 23. No classification marking. The blank underscores indicate omissions in the original.↩
- See Document 166.↩
- October 13.↩
- In a 9:35 a.m. telephone conversation later that morning, Haig told Kissinger that Schlesinger had admitted to him that he had investigated and that his people did drag their feet and that he was “goddamned upset about it.” Kissinger said that Haig had to tell the President that this would “sort of wreck things a bit.” There were now three Egyptian airborne units that might land in the Sinai overnight and the Egyptians had moved artillery across the canal. Kissinger noted that things were “getting rough” and the Egyptians still had a whole air force, whereas if the United States could have gotten the ammunition to Israel, it would have broken the Syrian front. The Secretary added that this had the “whole diplomacy thing screwed up.” The Israelis were slackening off now when the United States needed their pressure, and later when it wanted them to slacken off, the ammunition and equipment would be there and they would want to fight again. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 23)↩
- October 9. See Document 141.↩
- In telegram 8040 from Tel Aviv, October 13, Keating reported that the Defense Attaché had received an extensive IDF briefing that day regarding Israel’s urgent need for a quick, large-scale resupply of aircraft and armor. The Ambassador said he knew the United States had already begun to resupply some categories of weapons, ammo, and planes, but he did not have any feel for current U.S. Government views on such a large-scale resupply of aircraft or tanks. He noted that most Arabs were already thinking the worst of the United States in this respect, so they were already damned to some extent even if they didn’t do anything. He added that if, based on all the available information, the U.S. Government believed that Israel was likely to be in serious military trouble, he recommended without qualification that the United States be responsive on an urgent basis to the latest Israeli Government request. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 610, Country Files, Middle East, Israel, Vol. 12, March–October 1973)↩