173. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Dr. James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense
  • Amb. Kenneth Rush, Deputy Secretary of State
  • William Clements, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Adm. Thomas Moorer, Chairman, JCS
  • William E. Colby, Director of Central Intelligence


  • Special WSAG—Principals Only

Kissinger: The President said if there are any further delays in carrying out orders, we want the resignation of the officials involved.

We had two objectives in the war; to maintain contact with both sides. For this the best outcome would be an Israeli victory but it would come at a high price, so we could insist that they ensure their security through negotiations, not through military power. Second, we attempted to produce a situation where the Arabs would conclude the only way to peace was through us. But during the war we had to show the Israelis they had to depend on us to win and couldn’t win if we were too recalcitrant.

On Tuesday, we told the Israelis that we would give them the consumables they needed.2

Schlesinger: That’s wrong. We said they’d get the consumables that were available and they’d attempt to get charters.

Kissinger: Okay, but we needed to get the stuff in when we needed an offensive. Now it is going in afterwards, when we want the diplomacy to work. We are in active diplomacy with all of them. Our thinking is that the bureaucracy is dragging its feet on the grounds that we are going in on the Israeli side. Now we are being forced to take actions which do run a risk.

Israel has been hurt. But can we hold the Arabs still, and can we cover our present high-profile operation?

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Schlesinger: Where did we screw up?

Kissinger: We should have forced the charters.

Clements: I agree. But we didn’t know it was urgent.

Kissinger: The Arabs may even be smelling a victory, not a stalemate. That means the Soviet Union has won. For us to have gone in to have saved the Arabs’ ass would have been perfect. The Saudis, for example, want a situation where the Soviet Union is humiliated and the Arabs turn to the United States. An Arab victory, even with American acquiescence, will look like American weakness. The Israelis have now slowed because of the shortages; now they might crank up when we want them to stop.

Schlesinger: We weren’t asked to get in until Thursday3 night. The Israelis never told us they had shortages.

Kissinger: I am sure the history books will show Israel was defeated by poor planning and lousy tactics. But right now, I have the diplomacy going, and I can’t make it work unless the Arabs are sweating. It took me two days to line up Israel, and they are now starting to drag their feet. We might lose the Soviets. We hoped to have the Syrians and Egyptians at each other’s throats because Israel would have captured Syrian territory.

Clements: How can we help now?

Kissinger: Let’s fly in some US planes. Let’s get the charter going.

I want the Arabs to think the Israelis may go wild when they get equipment.

Schlesinger: We are 5,000 miles away. For refueling, we are using Torrejon, and we can’t do that massively without the Spanish.

Kissinger: How bad off are the Israelis?

Colby: They are slowing down. They are telling their pilots to conserve fuel and ammo.

Schlesinger: There is ammo on the way.4

Kissinger: Golda was coming on Tuesday. I turned her off by providing the consumables.5

[Page 484]

What I am afraid of is if I kick off the diplomacy, and the Egyptians take the Mitla pass, we are in a mess.

Our problem is to get the war over in a way the Arabs have to come to us, and then turn on the Israelis. If Israel feels we have let them down and the Arabs think they have done it themselves, we are sunk.

Colby: Israel wanted to wipe out Syria and then turn on Egypt, and this can still work on the Arabs.

Clements: We should now go in with a massive airlift.

Kissinger: No, we will lose all our Arab friends.

Schlesinger: How much different is a US airlift from commandeered charter flights.

Clements: We are already pregnant with the C–5’s.

Moorer: They have gotten 7,500 rounds of 105 mm ammo. Also 175’s, chaff, LAW’s.

Schlesinger: We can just use Lajes and let the Portuguese protest to us.6

Kissinger: It has taken a week to get us to the point where this was jelling. I don’t want to blow it all in a spasm. Doesn’t it make a difference if it’s charter versus an American airlift?

Colby: It gives them a face-saving device if they want to.

Kissinger: I agree. If they want to blow it up, they will. If they don’t want to, this gives them the hope.

Moorer: The F–4’s will blow them more than an airlift.

Colby: I think we should just use Lajes.

Kissinger: They want Hawk missiles. We can’t lose all the Africans for Israel.

Schlesinger: We need a base. Either Lajes, Spain, or Italy.

Kissinger: In the next three days, Israel should be on the attack but without rupturing it with the Arabs.

Clements: That means consumables.

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Schlesinger: The F–4’s are moving.7 They will have 10 by Sunday8 night and 14 by Monday.

Kissinger: Our interests are not identical with Israel’s. We want Israel to win so the Arabs will turn to us. Israel wants us locked in.

Let’s use the C–5’s to go in until we can get a charter going. That is at least fewer planes.

Schlesinger: The Chicago convention requires prior approval.9

Colby: I think we should get some ships, too, so the Israelis will know we are working on it.

Kissinger: With luck we may have a ceasefire by Monday night. [He outlined the scenario.] I’ve got three Arab Foreign Ministers coming Tuesday10 to see the President.

Schlesinger: We have to have Lajes for a charter. We have the 141’s at Lajes now. Let’s move it in.

Kissinger: Okay.

Clements: The C–5’s could have a salutary effect by going in.

Schlesinger: It is more complex. Henry’s leverage with the Arabs depends on showing he can keep . . .

Kissinger: I need the flight times when they will get there. I will tell Ismail after they get there. Bill, will you organize the charter?

Schlesinger: We’ve got to get Lajes.

Kissinger: That is my problem. Get two ships loaded, too. Let Brent know when everything will arrive. I will send a note to Egypt that we have been restrained.11 If the Arabs see that things will get worse if they don’t get a ceasefire, we may be okay. How bad off are the Israelis?

Colby: They are not too bad but they are rationing ammo.

Moorer: Israel seems to be turning south in Syria.

Clements: There are four divisions there. That will take time. Iran.

Kissinger: We’ll tell them we have been restrained for four days in the face of a massive Soviet resupply. We are now providing only [Page 486] emergency items and we continue to seek the earliest possible ceasefire.12

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 2. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. Brackets are in the original.
  2. October 9. See Document 141.
  3. October 11.
  4. JCS message 8473 to COMUSFORAZ Terceira, Azores Islands and other posts, October 12, sent at 2153Z, ordered the immediate commencement via U.S. military or MAC charter aircraft of movement of all available Israel-bound cargo for offloading at Lajes Air Force Base, Azores. It stated that arrangements were being made for pickup of the cargo at Lajes by Israeli aircraft for onward movement. (National Archives, RG 218, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer), Box 70, Oct. 73, JSC Out Genser Msgs)
  5. See footnote 3, Document 154.
  6. Telegram 203571 to Lisbon, October 13, 1250Z, transmitted a personal letter from President Nixon to Portuguese Prime Minister Caetano stating that the United States needed Portugal’s cooperation to support ending hostilities and bring a durable peace to the Middle East. He noted that if Portugal were threatened by terrorism or an oil boycott as a result of its help, the United States would be willing to consult on what steps they could jointly take. Nixon warned Caetano “in all frankness” that if the U.S. Government were forced to look to alternative routes due to Portugal’s failure to help at this critical time, the United States would be forced to adopt measures that could not but hurt their relationship. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  7. JCS message 8611 to COMUSFORAZ Terceira, Azores Islands and other posts, October 12, sent at 2336Z, was an “execute message” ordering the immediate movement of two USAF F–4E aircraft by USAF crews to Lajes for pickup by McDonnell pilots for subsequent delivery to the Israeli air force. The message emphasized that there was to be no unauthorized announcement of this movement. (Ibid., RG 218, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer), Box 70, Oct. 73, JSC Out Genser Msgs)
  8. October 14
  9. The Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, signed in 1944, established rules and detailed rights in relation to air travel.
  10. October 16. The meeting was held on October 17; see Document 195.
  11. See Document 189.
  12. At 12:32 p.m., Kissinger telephoned Dinitz and informed him that the United States was going to fly three C–5As that day through the U.S. base in Portugal and fly at least three of the C–141s that were already in the Azores to Israel. Also, the number of Phantoms that would be supplied was increased to 14 and these would be in Israel by the night of October 15. The Secretary then asked Dinitz to tell his Congressional critics like Senator Henry Jackson, who was threatening an investigation of Kissinger’s crisis management, what was going on. He emphasized that the administration’s whole foreign policy position depended on its not being represented as having “screwed up” in a crisis. Dinitz said he would call Jackson and explain what the situation was, adding that he had told the Senator 3 days earlier that Israel had never had a better friend than Kissinger. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 23)