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363. 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
  • William Colby, Director of Central Intelligence
  • Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Amb. Kenneth Rush, Deputy Secretary of State
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Kissinger: I have been telling the President that we should say to the Arabs that we will make progress when you lift the embargo—not that the embargo will be lifted as we make progress.

Schlesinger: We have been talking about using the Marines.2

Kissinger: We should have a plan before we move troops. It is ridiculous that the civilized world is held up by 8 million savages. I spent three hours with Faisal.3 His problem is he is a friend of the United States, but he is pressured by radicals. So he is leapfrogging the radicals so he isn’t embarrassed by his U.S. relationship.

We have had two letters from Yamani. I told them that we couldn’t operate under pressure.4

I get the impression they are blinking.

Colby: Yes, they are looking for ways to get us oil.

Schlesinger: They are turning up the screws on Aramco.

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Rush: I don’t know how it could be done without being found out.

Colby: If it was antitrust, they could keep it quiet. The oil companies don’t have the incentive.

Kissinger: They seem to be looking for a way out. They told me if they could have announced the six-point deal, they could have lifted the embargo.

The opening of negotiations might do it.

Rush: If we could get a withdrawal to the passes . . .

Kissinger: Ken, we can’t yield to blackmail. We can’t tie ourselves to any scheme. We have to show our muscle now or the Russians will take extreme positions and drive us right out of the Middle East.

We will have to pressure Israel, but if it looks like we do it under pressure, we won’t even get credit for it. We must pressure Israel, but at the right time; don’t nickel them on petty issues.

I was impressed with Sadat. He showed statesmanship. I told him if he insisted on the 22 October line, he could get it, but with great agony and it would stop there. The same agony later would get us something more.

I think he doesn’t like the Soviet Union.

An announcement of the Conference has a 50–50 chance of getting action on the oil.

If I support 242, that will get us something.

We won’t make the oil conditional on progress in the substance of the talks. We have to be prepared to stop the negotiations if we get pressure—otherwise the Russians will make extreme demands. The Arabs like us. I am going to Syria after the NATO meeting.

Sadat has several schemes. I told him to make more extreme demands so I could back him off it.

Rush: Dobrynin told me if we could just settle the Middle East, we could make real progress.

Kissinger: If we get the settlement we want, we will never get MFN. The Jews will be mad.

Our strategy has to be that when the Soviet Union, the British and French press, we stall—so all of them know only we can deliver. That will help Sadat and the moderate Arabs. All the Arabs are coming to us. We will commence on the 16th. (That is closer to the Israeli elections).

Then we have to move for a disengagement. But only after the lines are set and everyone is screaming, then we will go to Egypt and say: “This is what we will do.”

The British and French are being complete shits.

On the ceasefire, Whitehall never let the British Ambassador ask the right question: Would they accept a ceasefire, not would they seek it.

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Schlesinger: I get the impression the British are just incompetent. They are floundering.

Rush: I disagree. They are competent. They have a plan but no power.

Colby: Their policy for years has been to make up for lack of power by close association with us.

Kissinger: Let me summarize.

Hassan, Hussein, and Bourguiba are with us.

Faisal, I think, is in a dilemma. He gave me a hard line and I told him bull shit. I said you tell me about the World Wide Jewish conspiracy and you want me to take it on without preparation. These Jewish groups will say we are yielding to the Arabs’ blackmail. That is impossible. He agreed and said, “Can’t you help me? Can’t you give me Jerusalem?” I said: “That’s the last. Our enemies would like to hang us up on a tough point like that. Give us time and we will do it.” He asked me to do something, and I said I would see what I could do. Then Fahd and Saqqaf came to me and said they would do what they could. They bled about some Navy deal where we keep raising the price.

Moorer: I know about that.

Kissinger: If we could give on that—but let me do it.

[Read Yamani letter.]5

I have already done some—when I said in Peking that Israel would have to do some withdrawal. We have shaken the Saudis. They are saying they trust me. If we keep discipline, we have a chance. But we can’t put out that the oil embargo will be lifted as we make progress.6

Sadat has a six-point plan for withdrawal.7 I told him Israel had to hold the passes. If we could get a withdrawal of Israel for the Third [Page 1004]Army, a thinning out of the Egyptian Army. He even had a plan for Sharm el-Sheikh.

I told him Egyptian policy was made in Tel Aviv, cause if I were Israel, I would want extreme positions put forth.

We have to use Israel in this game, to show that we are the only ones who can deliver.

Colby: Won’t Syria be tougher?

Kissinger: If we could get a zone between the Syrians and Israelis, and put UN in between, then Syria couldn’t move without crossing UN troops and moving out from under their SAM belt.

In the first phase, we would have Syria, Egypt, Jordan. In the second phase, add Lebanon and the Palestinians. Sadat’s scheme is to turn the West Bank over to the UN for five years or so. Hussein has a similar idea, with a plebiscite to see whether they want to be independent or stay with Jordan. The only thing I don’t have a clue to is Jerusalem.

But we must be tough. If we get pressure from the Soviet Union, Britain, France and Japan, we just sit on our hands. The British and French are terrible. The British sabotaged the French because they would have been playing an American game.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 2. Top Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Map Room at the White House.
  2. Schlesinger discussed the use of military force to secure Middle East oil during bilateral meetings on energy issues with members of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group, November 5–8. (Telegram 4914 from The Hague, November 8; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) According to a U.K. account of a November 15 meeting between Schlesinger and Ambassador Cromer, Schlesinger again stated that the U.S. Government seriously contemplated using military force to secure oil fields in the Middle East, including launching airborne troops to seize fields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi, but only as a “last resort.” The U.K. memorandum, dated December 12, is in the Public Records Office, PREM 15/1768. It was publicly released on January 1, 2004, and reported in The New York Times the next day. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969–1974, Document 244.
  3. See Document 332.
  4. Yamani’s first message is dated November 11, to which Kissinger replied on November 16. Yamani’s second message is dated November 19. All are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Nov.–Dec. 1973. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXVI, Energy Crisis, 1969–1974, Documents 240 and 242.
  5. Brackets are in the original.
  6. In telegram 5257 from Jidda, November 29, Ambassador Akins warned that the Saudis would be offended by the omission of Jidda from the Secretary’s itinerary. He noted, however, that if the oil boycott and production restrictions were still in place and there was no indication that they were about to be lifted, he would not advise Kissinger to come. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1178, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—1973 Peace Negotiations, November 28, 1973 thru Nov. 30, 1973 [2 of 3]) In telegram 234699 to Jidda, November 29, Kissinger responded that the Department had concluded that the disadvantages of not offering to visit Saudi Arabia were greater than the risks Akins foresaw, even if there was no give by then in the King’s position. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 43, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Europe & Mideast, State Cables, Memos & Misc., Dec. 8–22, 1973)
  7. See Document 324.