198. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Middle East


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Kenneth Rush
  • Joseph Sisco
  • Robert McCloskey
  • DOD
  • William Clements
  • Robert Hill
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • Vice Adm. John P. Weinel
  • CIA
  • William Colby
  • Samuel Hoskinson
  • Assistant to the President for Energy Policy
  • John Love
  • Charles DiBona
  • NSC Staff
  • Major Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • William Quandt
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

1) Assuming the present situation can be settled soon, the President should proceed with the proposed emergency oil program approximately two weeks after settlement.

[Page 576]

2) The air lift should be maintained at the highest level and some equipment should be moved from resources in Germany through Rotterdam.

3) A decision on additional A-4s and F-4s will be made tomorrow to take advantage of the present refueling arrangements.

4) A sealift of equipment should be begun immediately with the maximum number of ships loaded and on their way.

5) A decision on a request for a supplemental for military assistance to Israel, Cambodia and selected other countries will be made following discussion in a LIG meeting Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m.

Secretary Kissinger: May we have the briefing?

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

Secretary Kissinger: Tom (Moorer), do you have anything?

Adm. Moorer: I think the Canal crossing of those Israeli tanks is nothing more than a raid on the Egyptian air defenses. I don’t think they can survive long.

Secretary Kissinger: Can they knock out anything?

Adm. Moorer: Yes, they already have knocked out three of the SA–2s.

Mr. Sisco: I’ve got a crazy idea that they might be trying to draw in some Egyptian aircraft.

Adm. Moorer: Yes, I think they’re trying to clear some of the SAM area, with a view to sucking in some of the Egyptian aircraft, engage them in dogfights and knock some of them off.

Mr. Colby: Can’t we find out what they have in mind?

Adm. Moorer: Yes, we’ll ask them. Also, I think the Israeli attacks on Port Said are in response to Sadat’s remarks about the missiles.3 I don’t think the Egyptians have any Egyptian missiles. The Israelis think the Soviets have given them some SCUDs, and we have seen some on the docks at Nicolai, but we have no proof that there are any in Egypt.

Mr. Clements: Did I see a report that the Israelis had put a commando force into Port Said?

Adm. Moorer: There has been some naval action; they have shelled and bombed it, but I haven’t heard of any commando raid.

Gov. Love: How serious is it if the Russians have given the Egyptians the SCUD?

[Page 577]

Adm. Moorer: It’s a terror vehicle. The effect would be similar to the use of the V–2 rockets against England in WW II. It would have no really serious effect but it would scare hell out of the Israelis. It’s an expensive way to deliver a 1000-pound bomb. Israel can play that game too.

Gov. Love: But it would be an expansion of activity and would probably invite a bombing of Cairo?

Mr. Colby: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: Could we turn to oil.

Gov. Love: We have added some of the medium and longer-term actions you asked us for.

(Mr. DiBona handed around the paper at Tab B and Governor Love briefed from the paper)4

Gov. Love: We have put all of these things in a proposed speech by the President. In addition, I think we are all in general agreement on identifying the kinds of things that need to be done. The problem is not identification. We need a timing and goals discussion and a structure to allow the things to get done. That’s why I convened last week the Cabinet-level Energy Policy Committee. We need to set out some five-to-seven-year goals, with some “man-on-the-moon” type urgency. I have set up a series of interdepartmental Task Forces to work out some incremental movements: what we need by the end of 1973, end of 1974, etc.; what needs to be done and the constraints. I think we are on the way to a coherent, feasible program.

Secretary Kissinger: We don’t expect an oil cut-off now in the light of the discussions with the Arab Foreign Ministers this morning. What is the temperature of the oil companies? Did you see the Saudi Foreign Minister come out like a good little boy and say they had had very fruitful talks with us?5 (to Mr. Clements) Despite what your colleagues have done to screw us up with their messages, we don’t expect a cut-off in the next few days.

Mr. Clements: They’re not my colleagues. My colleagues are in this room.

Secretary Kissinger: (to Gov. Love) Have you redone the speech to take into account the longer-term things?

Gov. Love: Yes. As you said yesterday, this presents us with an opportunity to get some things done. I think we should proceed even after this is over.

[Page 578]

Secretary Kissinger: I agree. Two weeks after this thing comes to an end, I think the President should send a message to the Congress. He should point out that this situation has brought home our vulnerability and that we can’t stay in this position. He should press for urgent action on the things that are before the Congress now, plus some other things. We have been doing a tight-rope act and we can’t pull it off again. We have been threatening the Arabs with pulling out of the diplomacy. If the diplomacy fails, we’re in a helluva spot. We have to get ready.

Mr. DiBona: The European markets are in complete disarray. European shipments to the U.S. are already off. We have to be particularly careful about what we say, and have to watch very carefully this winter, even if there is no cut-off.

Mr. Clements: If we get by without this extreme emergency, we will still have problems. In the Mediterranean there has already been a cut-back by about 12% in the amount of crude available. We’ll feel it in the fleet—we’ll have to seek alternate sources for our ships there.

Secretary Kissinger: Also, we must see to it that the Europeans can never again behave as they are behaving now.

Gov. Love: Some European countries are getting anxious about the idea of sharing agreements. If there is any sharing, it will be all one way.

Mr. Sisco: Your study shows that clearly.

Mr. Rush: I’ve been in touch with the oil companies. They said they were not the source of the article in the Times yesterday: that the State Department was.6 They have agreed to play in a low key.

Secretary Kissinger: They shouldn’t be playing at all. They have an unparallelled record of being wrong.

Mr. Rush: I didn’t tell them that.

Mr. Sisco: I think Governor Love’s people have done a good job. It’s good to see the entire thing laid out in one speech.

Secretary Kissinger: Assuming we can bring this thing to a conclusion in a short time, two weeks later we should start this program. The Arabs have to know that blackmail is a losing game.

Mr. Rush: If we get that Alaska pipeline that will bring in more than we get from the Middle East.

Mr. DiBona: The Alaska oil at its peak will equal the total lifting and production from the Arab countries. But by the time that is flowing, our demand will have increased.

[Page 579]

Mr. Clements: We need two pipelines.

Mr. Sisco: What do we need to get that out of the Hill?

Mr. DiBona: I’m told they’re down to the last wire.

Mr. Clements: We’ve been hearing that for a long time. They have no sense of urgency.

Gov. Love: If the President goes on TV and lays out a whole program, that will create a sense of urgency.

Secretary Kissinger: We’ll get it done in two weeks after this is over. (Referring to the Love paper) This is a superb job.

(Governor Love and Mr. DiBona left the meeting.)

Secretary Kissinger: In our diplomacy, there’s not too much that is new. The Arabs left their meetings with us in an extremely conciliatory frame of mind. They had an hour with me before they saw the President for an hour; then another hour with me.7 They are putting the pieces in place. But we have to keep the stuff going into Israel. We have to pour it in until someone quits.

Mr. Clements: How do you propose to break the logjam in the Security Council?

Secretary Kissinger: The worst thing that would happen would be for some eager beaver to start moving in the Security Council until the pieces are in place. When everyone is lined up, it will break in the Council quickly. We want it this way.

Mr. Sisco: If someone makes a move before everyone is prepared, we will get a Security Council resolution demanding withdrawal to the 1967 lines which we would have to veto.

Secretary Kissinger: There would be confrontation and someone would have to back down. If our diplomacy works, it will crystallize into a Security Council resolution. Until Kosygin gets back to Moscow, nothing will happen. I think things are moving along all right.

Mr. Clements: Who was the senior Arab in the group?

Secretary Kissinger: The Saudi Foreign Minister was the spokesman. The Algerian Foreign Minister made his revolutionary speech but even he left in a calm frame of mind.

Mr. Sisco: And he is normally more negative, more radical than his President.

Secretary Kissinger: What about resupply?

Adm. Moorer: (using a series of charts) In the last 24 hours, we have brought in 21 aircraft with 775 tons. The Soviets have brought in [Page 580] 69 aircraft with 740–912 tons. The Soviets are flying in some of their aircraft and it’s difficult to get an exact equivalent in terms of tonnage. They started first, but now we are lifting more than they are. And we’re working on the ship problem.

Secretary Kissinger: The President wants us to push both the air and sea lift. He also wants us to start moving things out of Rotterdam and Germany.

Adm. Moorer: We have here a flow chart by type of aircraft, and a graph of our programmed flight schedule. We were a little behind, but we have caught up now and we are right on schedule.

Mr. Clements: We’ve upped the number of planes. We flew 5 C5As and 15 C141s today, as opposed to 4 and 12 before.

Secretary Kissinger: Can we stay ahead?

Mr. Clements: We want to talk about that here. We are now up 25% as you asked.

Adm. Moorer: You asked about the safety of our aircraft. (referring to map) Here is their route from Gibraltar to Tel Aviv. We have our carriers and some destroyers with radar spotted in the Mediterranean. The planes check as they go by. We have surveyed the areas where the Arab nations might control fighters and there is only one airfield that could give us trouble. We have one ship watching that airfield. The Israelis pick them up 190 miles from Tel Aviv and escort them in. The only real hazard is that the airfield might be bombed, and we couldn’t do much about that.

Mr. Clements: We have two emergency airfields.

Adm. Moorer: I think we have them covered with adequate safety.

Secretary Kissinger: What are the rules of engagement?

Adm. Moorer: These planes are not armed. The transports could be warned in plenty of time to turn north. They couldn’t be overtaken. We have 4 A4s on the ship, and we will fly in 26 more beginning October 19. They will go from Norfolk to Lajes, refuel, refuel again over the Kennedy, overnight on the Roosevelt, refuel over the Independence, then to Tel Aviv. If we are going to put in more than the 30 of these aircraft, we should tack the rest on the end of this line so we don’t have to set up this elaborate refueling arrangement again.

Secretary Kissinger: When do you have to know?

Adm. Moorer: We should know in three or four days. Now we have a tanker problem. The Spaniards have said they want to be certain we’re not using Spain in any way for this activity. We have the same problem with the Italians. In Liverno, they wanted assurances that we were not taking out ammunition to ship to the Middle East before the stevedores would go to work. I put out a message to our aircraft as to what they should do in an emergency if the airfield were [Page 581] knocked out. Our Ambassador to Portugal came in with a message saying “don’t land in Portugal—go back to Lajes.” Well, if they could have gone back to Lajes I wouldn’t have sent the message in the first place. I was just trying to give them some alternatives in case of an emergency.

We have refuelers at Lajes and Torrejon. Lajes provides the fuel for the first and second fuelings and Torrejon for the rest. Sigonella would be the ideal place to refuel. Access to Mindenhall [Mildenhall?] doesn’t help us any. If we are denied the use of Spain and can’t use Sigonella, we will have to put additional tankers in the Azores—10 instead of 6 or 7. Then a tanker could follow the fighters across, fuel them, and go back. Of course, the farther they have to go from their base, the less fuel they can carry for the other aircraft. Also, we’re vulnerable on Lajes. They have frequent heavy cross-winds and they would stop the operation. I just want to emphasize what a thin thread this is. It’s the same for the F–4s and for the A–4s. If we are going to send in more than 28, let’s do it now. We’ll be squeezed tighter and tighter on our capability.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Adm. Moorer: With the A–4s we could put another carrier out of Norfolk, but that wouldn’t take care of the F–4s.

Mr. Clements: All the Services are doing a beautiful job on this.

Secretary Kissinger: It is very impressive.

Adm. Moorer: Lisbon is complaining about my message, but this was an emergency message. If they could go back to Lajes, I wouldn’t have sent the message. If that pilot has an aircraft full of fuel he is going to land it somewhere—even Cairo, if necessary. I was just trying to give them the best of some bad choices.

Mr. Clements: There’s not one thing the Services have been asked to do that they haven’t done beautifully.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, it’s a good job. As the Soviets analyze it, it must look to them as though we’re ahead and growing.

Adm. Moorer: Then we’ll have to go to the ships.

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s get it done.

Mr. Clements: We are loading one ship and there are several more available. They’re all lined up. We just want to know what to put on them.

Secretary Kissinger: We’ll be much better off if we have things on ships and on their way when there is a ceasefire. Otherwise we will have to fight over every goddamned ship. We’ve paid our entry fee to the Arabs. If we get a ceasefire and then we load the ships, there will be hell to pay. Let’s get the maximum number of ships loaded now, then we can play with the delivery schedule if there is a ceasefire and we [Page 582] want to. The President has promised the Israelis we will replace their losses.

Mr. Sisco: But we shouldn’t go to the ships at the expense of the airlift.

Mr. Clements: I understand. But for the ships to work, it will take a 30-day run from right now. We will have to keep the flow moving by air until the ships get there. Once the ships begin to arrive, then we can have a pipeline.

Secretary Kissinger: We have promised the Soviets that we will cut off the airlift after a ceasefire. What if they have a sealift underway and we don’t, and someone breaks the ceasefire?

Mr. Clements: We’re just waiting for someone to say ‘go’ on the ships.

Secretary Kissinger: The President has said it and I have said it. We are now in a war of attrition. Without our airlift, Israel would be dead now. We have a dual problem with Israel: we have to keep the stuff going to them for the sake of our reliability, but we must have the option to turn it off after a ceasefire if we want to. We will pay less with the Arabs for anything that is already at sea.

Mr. Sisco: I want to underscore the word “additionally”. We don’t want to weaken the impact of the airlift by loading the sealift.

Mr. Clements: We won’t.

Mr. Colby: Also, the President wants to go with the material from European sources.

Mr. Clements: We have 25 or 26 tanks on railroad cars right now about to go to port.

Secretary Kissinger: I think our sealift is about where our airlift was last Wednesday or Thursday. Let’s get it to where our airlift was on Saturday.

Mr. Clements: I did not understand that you wanted to get that 30-day pipeline underway.

Secretary Kissinger: I want to see ships popping out of harbours. Bill (Clements) is the greatest expert I know at procrastination and he’s also the greatest expert on speeding things up.

Mr. Clements: (to Secretary Kissinger) If you’ll wear your State Department hat for a minute, those railroad cars can’t leave Germany without clearance. State will have to get that.

Mr. Rush: We’ll tell them we’re practicing moving the tanks out so the Russians can’t capture them.

Secretary Kissinger: Tell them it’s our evacuation exercise.

Adm. Moorer: Israel gave us a list of high-priority items of about 10,000 tons. We’ve already hauled 4000 tons. Within a week we will have delivered everything they have asked for.

[Page 583]

Secretary Kissinger: The whole structure has changed. We thought Israel was so preponderant that we had to hold things back from them. Any war now is one of attrition. Our veto is in supply, not what they have when it starts. To get a ceasefire, we have to become engaged; and when we are engaged, the Arabs will scream bloody murder. Now that we have paid the price, let’s be sure everything is at sea.

Mr. Colby: You will see the greatest reserve stocks on record in Israel for the next couple of years.

Secretary Kissinger: We can assess that after the ceasefire.

Mr. Colby: Yes, we shouldn’t worry about it now.

Secretary Kissinger: What about the supplemental?

Mr. Clements: We have all agreed the lead is with State. Defense will support them all the way.

Mr. Rush: We believe the best course is to ask for supplemental grant military assistance for Israel of $2.2. billion, with $200 million for Cambodia and $500 million for the others.

Secretary Kissinger: Our Congressional people here think that you might get the grant for Israel but they think the $200 million for Cambodia would be hard to defend. We have a MAP bill in conference right now, and they are afraid this would jeopardize the MAP bill.

Mr. Rush: It may work to bring the MAP bill out.

Secretary Kissinger: We are having a LIG meeting at 9:30 tomorrow morning. You will all be represented. Listen to what the White House legislative experts say, then we can make the decision afterwards. We’ll get a Presidential decision by noon tomorrow. But we should give a hearing to the White House legislative people who say it will jeopardize the MAP effort.

Adm. Moorer: It already has.

Secretary Kissinger: At the worst, you think it will force the present MAP bill out?

Mr. Rush: Yes.

Mr. Sisco: We can get some help from the Jewish community on this.

Secretary Kissinger: I have to go up to see the President. He may want to see all of you, if you could wait here for a few minutes. (Secretary Kissinger left the meeting)

(During his absence AP–116 was brought in reporting that the Arab oil producer countries had agreed to cut production not less than [Page 584] 5% immediately, with an additional 5% cut each month until Israel withdraws to the 1967 lines.)8

Mr. Rush: Who does that mean—Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, the Emirates . . .

Mr. Colby: This really hurts the Europeans pretty badly. But they don’t say they’re cutting down deliveries, and the Europeans do have some reserves.

Mr. Rush: They have enough in storage for about a week.

Mr. Clements: There is one thing about (Saudi petroleum official) Yamani—he won’t say boo if he hasn’t cleared it with the King.

Mr. Sisco: That’s right—the King may authorize him to do things at a lower level rather than engage himself in them.

Mr. Rush: But it could be that what he says is not what the King will actually do.9

(Mr. Kissinger returned to the meeting)

Secretary Kissinger: The President would like to see you for a few minutes.

(The four principals, plus Mr. Sisco and General Scowcroft, accompanied Secretary Kissinger to see the President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–117, WSAG Meetings Minutes, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Not attached.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 191.
  4. Attached, but not printed.
  5. Foreign Minister Saqqaf spoke to the press after the meeting with Nixon. See The New York Times, October 18, 1973.
  6. The October 16 article in The New York Times reported that Saudi Oil Minister Yamani told Western oil executives that Saudi Arabia would cut oil production if the United States began overtly to supply Israeli forces.
  7. See Document 195 and footnote 1 thereto.
  8. Telegram 3784 from Kuwait, October 17, reported that the Persian Gulf Oil Ministers at the October 16 OPEC meeting in Kuwait decided to present the oil companies with a “take it or leave it” demand for a 70 percent increase in posted prices. Meanwhile, the Oil Ministers were meeting at OAPEC headquarters to discuss the role of oil in the current Middle East crisis. The Embassy believed that the Ministers would feel the need to make a “symbolic gesture” limiting the crude oil available, but also expected that they would place more emphasis on using their financial resources to support Egypt and Syria. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  9. Telegram 4591 from Jidda, October 18, transmitted a letter from King Faisal to President Nixon in which Faisal urged the United States to pressure Israel to accept Resolution 242, to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967, and to grant the Palestinian people their rights. The King warned that if this was not done and the war was allowed to continue, Communism would spread and U.S. interests in the region would be liquidated because of U.S. support for Israel. Saudi Arabia sincerely wished to continue its friendship with the United States, the King said, but if it continued to stand by the side of Israel, then this friendship risked being diminished. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1175, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, 1973 Middle East War, October 18, 1973)