191. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Middle East


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Kenneth Rush
  • Joseph Sisco
  • Defense
  • William P. Clements, Jr.
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • V/Adm. John Weinel
  • CIA
  • William Colby
  • Sam Hoskinson
  • Assistant to the President for Energy Policy
  • Governor John Love
  • Charles DiBona
  • NSC
  • Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • William Quandt
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

1) The oil contingency plan, including the draft Presidential speech, should be revised to include some intermediate and longer-term steps required to prevent this emergency situation from arising again.

2) The second SR–71 photography flight would be put on hold.

3) The airlift of equipment to Israel should be increased until the rate of delivery is 25% ahead of Soviet deliveries to the Arabs.

4) A sealift pipeline of equipment should begin immediately and be scheduled over the next six weeks.

5) A program should be prepared to go to the Congress in the next day or two requesting additional funds for military assistance to Israel, Cambodia and selected other high-priority countries.

Secretary Kissinger: Bill (Colby), will you brief?

Mr. Colby briefed from the text at Tab A.2

Secretary Kissinger: (remarking on the current fighting) Are the Israelis really trying?

[Page 546]

Mr. Colby: To some extent in Golan and Al Harrah. They claim shortage of equipment is one reason they are not more active.

Secretary Kissinger: And this is our fault, of course. I used to think the Vietnamese were the most obnoxious to deal with.

Mr. Colby: Now you have a new candidate.

Secretary Kissinger: (referring to indicated troop movements on the map) Is this the Israeli flanking movement you mentioned?

Mr. Colby: Yes. Jordan is coming up here, and the Saudi Arabians are just over the border.

Adm. Moorer: The Iraqi are up north on the road and they also have some troops down south.

Secretary Kissinger: (referring to the possibility that the VIP aircraft which left Moscow for Cairo was going to pick up a high-ranking Egyptian for a trip to Moscow) But this wouldn’t explain the VIP handling of the departure from Moscow.

Mr. Colby: The procedures might be the same.

Secretary Kissinger: (referring to Egyptian President Sadat’s statement that the Egyptians have a missile that can penetrate deep into Israel)3 How deep into Israel?

Mr. Colby: If they have the Soviet SCUD missile, its range is 160 miles with an 1100 pound bomb. Depending on where it was fired from, it is possible that it could reach Tel Aviv. They could also use the KELT missile which is a 2000 pound air-to-ground missile that could be fired from the TU–16.

Secretary Kissinger: (referring to President Sadat’s call for a peace conference of all the parties) And with Palestinian participation and representatives from all the other Arab countries. That would be a happy forum for us, not to mention for the Israelis.

Mr. Colby: I have some of the SR–71 photos here if you are interested in them. (displaying series of photographs) They flew right down the Canal.

Secretary Kissinger: Is there anything here to support the claims of huge tank losses?

Mr. Colby: No, quite the contrary. I should stress that this is only a preliminary scan and there may be more here than we think.

Adm. Moorer: These photos wouldn’t necessarily show whether or not a tank had been destroyed. A shell through the engine wouldn’t show in photography.

[Page 547]

Mr. Colby: (referring to the photos) One significant thing is that it shows the narrow penetration all along the Canal. It shows the Egyptians across to about 8 kilometers, which was what the Israelis claimed. However, these photos were on Saturday4 and there was considerable fighting on Sunday in which the Egyptians claim they advanced deeper. Our very preliminary estimate of the tank situation is that, along the Canal, there were 444 Israeli tanks with 52 destroyed, and 835 Egyptian tanks with 16 destroyed. Around the Golan Heights, there were 419 Israeli tanks with 36 destroyed and 339 Syrian tanks with 7 destroyed.

Secretary Kissinger: There must be more than 7. I don’t believe the Israeli claim of 800 tanks destroyed, but there must be more than 7.

Mr. Colby: I agree—I’m sure there are more.

Secretary Kissinger: I like our precise intelligence—somewhere between 7 and 800!

Mr. Colby: (referring to the photos) You can see here the Egyptians moving over a pontoon bridge—look at the numbers of tanks, trucks and artillery moving up.

Secretary Kissinger: I’m amazed the Israelis don’t bomb these.

Mr. Colby: They’re within the SAM envelope. Also you can see the pipeline here.

Mr. Sisco: Have the Israelis detected the Egyptian pipeline across the Canal?

Mr. Clements: They’re bound to know about it.

Mr. Colby: This shows the bomb damage to some of the airfields.

Secretary Kissinger: What is it about airforces that they always bomb at 90° to a runway? They never seem to bomb along a runway.

Mr. Colby: (referring to photo) Here is a SA–6 launcher with its transport moving north along the road to Damascus.

Secretary Kissinger: Can the SA–6 operate alone without SA–2s and –3s?

Mr. Colby: Not as well, although it is an independent system.

Adm. Moorer: They need the radar. The Israelis now say it’s the SA–7 and the 23mm gun that is doing the damage. The SA–7 is that Strella missile we’ve been worried about. And they are firing them in clusters.

Mr. Colby: We have another unpleasant report on that. Some Fedayeen have been ordered to Aleppo to receive some SA–7s and be [Page 548] trained to operate them by some Soviet technicians who are accompanying the shipment. These are those shoulder-mounted weapons. You could sit on the bank of the Potomac and knock out any plane going into the airport. If we had had these in Vietnam we wouldn’t have needed helicopters.

Secretary Kissinger: How can they fire busses with a shoulder-held weapon?

Mr. Colby: They have some kind of mount to hold a group of them together.

Secretary Kissinger: And they don’t need radar?

Mr. Colby: No, they’re heat-seeking.

Adm. Moorer: They are a hand-held Sidewinder.

Mr. Colby: (referring to photo) This is Alexandria harbour and you can see those APCs Tom (Moorer) was talking about.

Mr. Clements: These are the ones that arrived coincidentally with the outbreak of the war.

Mr. Colby: They are the newest Soviet APC. (referring to photo) They are here in a depot in Egypt not far from Cairo.

Adm. Moorer: This is the Soviets’ latest weapon. Not even all their own forces have them.

Mr. Clements: It’s got everything on it.

Mr. Sisco: Do the Israelis have anything to counter it?

Mr. Clements: No.

Mr. Colby: King Faisal is upset by the American air supply, but this is only temporary.5

Secretary Kissinger: How do you know it’s temporary?

Mr. Colby: He is inclined to blow off emotionally about things, but he usually calms down.

Secretary Kissinger: Did we make a mistake in informing him?

Mr. Sisco: No.

Adm. Moorer: It was better that way.

Secretary Kissinger: May we turn to oil, now.

Governor Love: I have a paper here.

(Mr. DiBona handed out copies of the paper at Tab B6 to the principals)

[Page 549]

Secretary Kissinger: (to Gov. Love) You’ve already learned how to defeat the bureacracy. You hand out a 100-page paper at a meeting when no one has had a chance to look at it.

Gen. Love: Is there any intelligence I don’t know about on the oil companies’ report on Yamani’s statements about a progressive cut-back in oil shipments?

Secretary Kissinger: The oil companies have caused us more trouble than the Arabs. When this is over I am really going out to get the oil companies.

Mr. DiBona: Their report seems to be accurate.

Secretary Kissinger: But did they go out and ask Yamani if they were going to cut back?

Mr. DiBona: This happened in the context of the OPEC meeting.

Governor Love: This is nothing new. It came out of the Vienna meeting.

Secretary Kissinger: Can’t we do something about the oil companies?

Mr. Rush: The oil people are calling me every day. I’ll call them and calm them down.

Secretary Kissinger: The Israelis have told us they have crossed the Canal with 25 tanks at Bitter Lake and are operating within the Egyptian missile fields.

Mr. Colby: It could be a raid.

Secretary Kissinger: Can they knock out the missiles with this kind of operation?

Mr. Colby: It depends on what’s around.

Adm. Moorer: On how many tanks the Egyptians use to oppose them.

Secretary Kissinger: We have no reports of any substantial break-through. Let’s go ahead on oil.

Governor Love briefed from the paper at Tab B.

Secretary Kissinger: (to Mr. Clements) Were you involved in this too?

Mr. Clements: Superficially; I hadn’t seen the final draft. When the Governor is finished I want to comment on some aspects.

Governor Love: If any of this is going to work, we have to create the feeling that there is a real problem—a crisis. The President has to take the lead and he and some of the rest of us have to take some actions to lead the way. We are proposing a Presidential speech.

Mr. Clements: The only shade of difference between us on this is the degree of emphasis we put on rationing. I don’t think the President can rally the country and bring about any real response on a voluntary [Page 550] basis without saying that we are doing these things now, we are hopeful that they will help, but rationing is inevitable.

Secretary Kissinger: What would we gain by saying that?

Mr. Clements: You would prepare the people for what’s coming later.

Secretary Kissinger: Could we say that rationing is inevitable unless people cooperate with the other steps?

Mr. Clements: That might do the trick.

Secretary Kissinger: Is the State Department on board on this?

Mr. Sisco: Yes, our people have been working with Governor Love.

Mr. Clements: We should also stress the intermediate steps—things we should do over the next one, two or three years. We must start these things now. Within this intermediate timeframe, we need to start new pipelines, stimulate exploration and development—

Gov. Love: This paper is designed to respond to the immediate problem within a time frame of this winter.

Secretary Kissinger: On rationing, I lean more toward not biting the bullet in the first speech. But he should use the crisis and say we must work all-out so that we never get ourselves in this position again.

Mr. Clements: That’s my point.

Mr. Rush: We need a strong, affirmative program so as to avoid it happening again.

Gov. Love: Also, it’s good for the President to have something to rally people around with. We need to get a sense of urgency.

Secretary Kissinger: We will all study the paper by tomorrow. This looks to be a good first approximation, but we will give it formal consideration tomorrow.

Mr. Clements: May we ask John (Love) to include some intermediate things.

Secretary Kissinger: Aren’t they here? They should be. The speech should make four points: 1) what is the crisis? 2) what do we do now? 3) what are our next steps? 4) what as a nation can we do to be sure we are never blackmailed in this fashion again? Then we’ll go to the Congress and ask for what we need and we would have a chance of getting it.

Mr. DiBona: Most of the intermediate things are already up with the Congress.

Secretary Kissinger: Then we’ll get them to speed up.

Gov. Love: We might even need something almost like War Board controls plus an energy bank so we can look at our capital bank.

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s draft a speech. Let’s use this crisis creatively—use it to say “never again.” (to Gov. Love) Can you draft it?

[Page 551]

Gov. Love: Yes.

Mr. Rush: Completely aside from the Middle East crisis, we should have these programs going.

Gov. Love: The present situation aside, we would never have gotten enough more oil out of Saudi Arabia.

Secretary Kissinger: You put a man in a monopoly position and he will squeeze you. The Saudis would still squeeze us if Israel disappeared tomorrow. Under these circumstances, when they don’t need the money, they’re better off to keep their oil in the ground. With inflation it will be worth more later.

Gov. Love: I have to be on the Hill at 11:00 tomorrow morning to meet with (Congressman) Hebert on the Elk Hills matter, so if the WSAG meeting could be at another time.

Mr. Colby: I have to be on the Hill tomorrow morning too, to get our budget.

Secretary Kissinger: We’ll meet in the afternoon.

(Governor Love and Mr. DiBona left the meeting)

Secretary Kissinger: On the diplomatic front, I expect that plane is carrying Kosygin to Cairo. He cancelled all his meetings with the Danish Prime Minister, who was in Moscow, without explanation. When you read the Egyptian public demands and compare them with what is obtainable, someone has to bring them back to reality. There is no way to get the Israelis back beyond the 1967 line short of complete military defeat. The newspaper campaign in this country against the Soviets is outrageous. They are trapped in this situation just as we are. We must keep this whole thing low key today no matter what happens. There should be no backgrounders. If we can finish this off without a confrontation with the Soviets and without ripping our relations with the Arabs we will have earned our money. Everything else is grandstanding. We will take a very hard line on substance and keep the stuff going into Israel. I’m in touch with the Egyptians and they have been very restrained. Even the Sadat speech wasn’t bad.

Mr. Sisco: His ceasefire proposal could be seen as a sign of weakness.

Secretary Kissinger: The diplomacy is still active and until it is ripped I don’t want anything to snarl it. There’s nothing much more we can do anyhow.

Mr. Colby: Do you want to hold up the SR–71 photo flight? If there is any diplomatic reason against it, I wouldn’t do it.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t see what we would gain. I’m not for it. The Egyptians have been very restrained about it.

Mr. Sisco: We haven’t heard another word from them after we said we would investigate. It was a limited response. They could have kicked our man out.

[Page 552]

Mr. Colby: It could fly over Israel only. But that would be so close that they could argue about it.

Secretary Kissinger: If anything decisive depended on it . . . Put the flight on hold.

Mr. Colby: We’ve been talking to State about the possibility of some voluntary evacuation.

Mr. Sisco: I sent out another cable to our Embassies asking them to give us a reading. They are all quite calm and no one has requested any evacuation. (to Sec. Kissinger) I would also like to send out a telegram on your circular to the NATO countries. We could tell them to take no initiative, but if they were queried by the governments, they could draw on your circular. Incidentally I told our staff meeting today that your addition to the European message was magnificent.

Secretary Kissinger: Did they agree? (explaining to others) Luns held a meeting and said the US had been fooled by détente. We sent a message saying that anything we signed, they had signed first, so if we were fooled, they were fooled. We told them this was a test of the Alliance—that they couldn’t sit on the sidelines and wring their hands. It was a tough message.7

Mr. Clements: Fine. They needed to be told.

Secretary Kissinger: What is the resupply situation? I notice we’re only bringing in 650 tons a day. At that rate won’t we fall behind the Soviets? What is the Soviet rate?

Mr. Colby: 7–800 tons a day.

Adm. Moorer: We have 1000 tons on the ground in Israel and 1000 tons en route.

Secretary Kissinger: But that means the Arabs are getting more than the Israelis.

Adm. Moorer: We have 4 C5As and 12 C141s going in every day. The Israelis have lifted 646 tons.

Secretary Kissinger: I was referring to the rate in the paper.

Gen. Scowcroft: The C5As carry 80 tons each and the C141s carry 25 tons each.

[Page 553]

Adm. Moorer: The 141s are carrying 30 tons.

Secretary Kissinger: The major thing is to bring home to the Soviets that they are in a losing game. I want our input to be more than theirs.

Mr. Clements: We can boost it up times four. How much do you want?

Secretary Kissinger: I want to be 25% ahead of them.

Adm. Moorer: We are set up to meet Israel’s requirements—we haven’t been set up to beat the Soviets. You must remember that every ton of equipment we fly in, we fly out one ton of fuel to get the plane back.

Secretary Kissinger: What can we do about it?

Adm. Moorer: Nothing. It’s a long flight from Israel to Lajes.

Mr. Clements: It would be terrific if we could use Adana in Turkey. Or somewhere in Greece. Could we ask?

Secretary Kissinger: We’d be wasting our time. It’s out of the question. They would turn us down publicly and we would just be giving them a shot at being pro-Arab. Our only interest in this semi-confrontation situation is to run the Soviets into the ground fast. Give them the maximum incentive for a quick settlement. Bring in more each day than they do.

Mr. Colby: Our first impact should be with the Soviets.

Secretary Kissinger: It should look to the Soviets unambiguously that we are putting in more than they. That’s our only interest with the Soviets.

Mr. Sisco: Our rate should be stepped up immediately.

Mr. Colby: I’d like to scrub these Soviet input figures carefully.

Secretary Kissinger: Just make sure the Soviet planners see that we’re getting in more equipment than they are to people who are better able to handle it than their clients.

Mr. Colby: The problem is Soviet shipping. We’re three weeks behind them on shipping.

Adm. Moorer: We’re not so far behind.

Secretary Kissinger: I have no interest in a step-up of the rate of deliveries beyond that of impressing the Soviets. Can you compute what it would take to get 25% ahead of them and stay there?

Mr. Clements: Sure. I didn’t realize that was the criterion.

Secretary Kissinger: Our initial criterion was to pay the minimum price with the Arabs. Having paid the price, now we want to face down the Soviets.

Mr. Sisco: Within the shortest time.

Adm. Moorer: They’re pretty well saturated on the other end. The Soviets are flying this stuff in to four or five countries at 17 different airfields. We have only one or two airfields.

[Page 554]

Mr. Rush: But the big impact will be that we stepped in and in a very short time brought in more than the Soviets had.

[The meeting was interrupted by the ticker announcement that Secretary Kissinger and Le Duc Tho had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Secretary received the congratulations of those in the meeting.]

Secretary Kissinger: The real impact will be if we can catch up in two days with what they did in a week. We must show we can do whatever we want.

Mr. Clements: We can do it on a maximum of times four.

Secretary Kissinger: We don’t need to do the maximum. I don’t think the Soviets planned this, but they may be too stupid to stop it. If we have the Jewish pressure in this country, they must be having a helluva time in Moscow. They started their airlift last Wednesday,8 simultaneous with a diplomatic initiative that didn’t quite come off. We have to be ahead on supplies. They can see the calculations and they will realize that they are in a month’s game.

Adm. Moorer: They may not have known about this in advance but they were suspicious. They had all kinds of ELINT going and they launched a satellite one hour before it started.

Mr. Colby: You asked about parallels with Korea; there is a world of difference.

Secretary Kissinger: You can’t support the theory that the Soviets control the Egyptians. And it doesn’t make sense as trickery since they stopped us from nothing that we were doing.

Mr. Sisco: It is interesting that in 1967 our proposal was first accepted by the Egyptians then the Soviets came along.

Secretary Kissinger: What about shipping?

Mr. Clements: One ship is loading in Boston and we are prepared to take a shipload of tanks out through Rotterdam.

Secretary Kissinger: You said there were 11 ships. Let’s start them moving.

Mr. Clements: Yes, they’re available. The question is what does Israel want?

Secretary Kissinger: Don’t fill all 11 ships, but let’s have a pipeline going. We want to get maximum credit with the Israelis now because we will be making a maximum diplomatic effort afterwards which they won’t like.

Mr. Clements: We need some guidance on the money. State and Defense are working on a supplemental, but we now have $1.7 billion in credit sales to Israel and we’re about out of soap.

[Page 555]

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s use the next two days to get Congressional authorization for a program—and wrap Cambodia in it.

Mr. Clements: We were planning $200 million for Cambodia.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ll be goddamned if I’ll let them vote only on Israel. And we should do it before the diplomacy works.

Mr. Clements: We have $1.7 billion debt in military credit sales to Israel. That doesn’t include the $600 million we’re now passing to them. That means $2.3 billion right now. It’s important for you all to understand these numbers and have them in mind. And I don’t think there’s a chance they can repay this.

Secretary Kissinger: The Jewish community should fork up something.

Mr. Sisco: They’re talking about a substantial figure.

Adm. Moorer: But not $2.3 billion.

Mr. Sisco: Nothing like that.

Mr. Clements: But we’re talking about $2.3 billion.

Secretary Kissinger: There are two problems: What if the war continues? The only way to prevent this is to make it clear that attrition won’t pay. Second, what kind of handle will this give us afterwards? If we have an open pipeline we can get our hands on the situation in a way that’s not too noticeable. Let’s figure out a ship-loading schedule over the next six weeks.

Mr. Clements: I would go for $3 billion for Israel and $200 million for Cambodia.

Adm. Moorer: We’re in terrible shape.

Secretary Kissinger: Throw in another few hundred million. How could we get just $3 billion for Israel and not $500 million for something else. I’d like to see some of these great patriots put to the test. I will support such a request and I’m sure the President will support it. But I want it in the Senate before the diplomacy breaks—in 48 hours.

Mr. Clements: You’re talking about a full-blown MAP.

Secretary Kissinger: Not necessarily. Let’s focus on a few high-priority items. $3 billion for Israel and $500 million for one or two other crisis situations. We can use the regular money for the other countries.

Adm. Moorer: We have broken promises all over the world.

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s use this to rectify that situation.

Mr. Clements: Then if we need it, it will be there.

Mr. Sisco: We have Thailand, Korea, Cambodia.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ll tell (Israeli Ambassador) Dinitz to turn loose his Senators. I’ll tell him it’s a package deal. If we can’t get something for the others, we will drag our feet on Israel.

[Page 556]

Mr. Clements: (to Mr. Rush) Can you get us some better figures?

Secretary Kissinger: Speed is more important than anything else. Get it up to the Hill tomorrow. There is a Congressional Resolution on the situation and we are responding to it. I’ll tell Dinitz to rush it through as a package. That we need it for our diplomacy—to show the Russians that they are in a losing supply game.

Mr. Rush: (to Mr. Clements) We’ll give you the figures.

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s go for $3.5 billion. You can scrub down those figures. If we can get something for these emergencies, we can use the MAP money in Ethiopia and Turkey. On the Saudi Arabians coming to West Point, I favor letting them come ahead. Let’s notify them now.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–117, Minutes Files (1969–1974), WSAG Meetings Minutes, Originals, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Attached, but not printed.
  3. Telegram 3137 from Cairo, October 16, reported Sadat’s speech that day in the Egyptian Peoples Assembly in which he made the statement. He then read his open message to President Nixon (see footnote 3, Document 190). (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. October 13.
  5. The King’s response to the Secretary’s letter (see footnote 7, Document 186) is in telegram 4543 from Jidda, October 16. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. IV)
  6. Attached, but not printed.
  7. On October 15, NATO Secretary General Luns called a North Atlantic Council meeting for the next day to discuss the implications for NATO of the fighting in the Middle East. (Telegram 4919 from USNATO, October 15, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) Kissinger’s instructions to Rumsfeld on his statement are in telegram 204565 to USNATO, October 16. (Ibid.) The texts of Rumsfeld’s state-ments are in telegram 4936 from USNATO, and a report on the meeting is in telegram 4937 from USNATO, both October 16. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1174, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations File, 1973 Middle East War, 16 October 1973, File No. 11 [1 of 2])
  8. October 10.