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42. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

SUBJECT

  • Fuller Analysis of President Sadat’s Speech

The Daily Brief has contained the main points in President Sadat’s speech of March 26. This memo includes a more extensive discussion and analysis, and excerpts of the section on foreign policy are attached.2

Background

Sadat has been struggling with troublesome domestic problems since last fall. Student riots in January were followed by press criticism of the regime’s policies. Numerous journalists were dropped from the party or arrested last month. In February Sadat launched his diplomatic initiative, the main elements of which were Hafiz Ismail’s visits to the Soviet Union and the United States. Sadat was roundly criticized in some Arab circles for opening a dialogue with the United States, especially after the news leaked that the US was preparing to continue supplying Israel with large quantities of arms and production facilities for aircraft.

The Content of the Speech

Sadat began his two and one-half hour speech by declaring that Egypt had reached a “prominent landmark.” The stage which Egypt is entering is one of all-out confrontation. Turning to foreign policy, he chastised the United States, and Secretary Rogers in particular, for carrying on psychological warfare against Egypt over the past year by building up Israeli military superiority, thereby removing the hope that Egypt might regain its territory by military means. This created a “credibility gap” for Sadat both at home and in the Arab world.

Next Sadat described Hafiz Ismail’s recent contacts with the USSR and the US. [See attachment for the relevant excerpts.]3 His main points about the US were that Egypt was being asked to make further concessions merely in order to start the process of a settlement, but not to solve the conflict; and that the US could not pressure Israel. Against [Page 124]these two facts, Sadat mentioned as a “positive” element your clarification of the need to find a way to balance Egyptian sovereignty and Israeli security concerns. He then retreated somewhat, referring to the possibility that this formula is simply a disguise for allowing Israel to remain in occupation of Egyptian territory indefinitely.

Much of the rest of the speech talked about the need for steadfastness on the domestic front and included a number of jibes at Marxist and other extremists.

Analysis

[less than 1 line not declassified] believes that Sadat’s speech and the attendant Cabinet changes are aimed at strengthening his grip on the internal situation while he continues to move ahead with a comparatively “moderate” foreign policy. Rejecting the notion that the speech points up Sadat’s weakness, [less than 1 line not declassified] view is that he has increased his own influence and control over the government. The chances for a new round of fighting have not increased. Sadat will continue his diplomatic initiatives and his military preparations. His terms for a settlement, however, have not softened.

The Interests Section, in contrast, says Sadat gave the impression of “a beleaguered man” reacting rather emotionally to problems with which he finds it difficult to cope. They note that his concept of “confrontation” appears to envision continuation of diplomatic efforts parallel to military preparations. The US remains the villain and, while the US view of reconciling Egypt’s sovereignty with Israel’s security may be “positive,” subsequent US actions (e.g. more arms for Israel) gave this view the lie.4

My analysis is that Sadat has been giving considerable thought to what Ismail was told in Washington. He remains skeptical, but appears realistic about what he can expect from the US. Finally, he seems to be pondering the idea that the concept of restoring Egyptian sovereignty might allow for some arrangements that address Israel’s security concerns. It would seem premature to judge that he has rejected the possibilities inherent in this concept. He carefully avoided any implied attack on you.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1171, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, April 1–30, 1973. Secret. Sent for information. A handwritten note on the first page reads: “President has seen.”
  2. Not attached.
  3. Brackets in the original.
  4. The report is in telegram 909 from Cairo, March 27. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)