118. Telegram From Secretary of State Kissinger to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1
Please convey the following message to the President:
1. My three-hour conversation with President Asad today2 confirmed that his strategy at Rabat in support of the PLO was intended to block any negotiations on either the Jordanian-Israeli or the Egyptian-Israeli fronts in the absence of any immediate possibilities for practical progress on the Golan Heights. Several times during the conversation, however, I detected anxiety on the part of Asad as to how now to proceed in light of Rabat. He punctuated this by several times asking: how do you see the next step; why can we not move commonly on all fronts? I sensed therefore both relief on his part that it was unlikely some negotiation would be going on that would exclude Syria, while at the same time concern over the probable impasse he has helped create as a result of the support he gave to the PLO at Rabat. I am coming more to the view therefore that a period of time in which all concerned, particularly the Arabs at this moment, will be needed in which the full implications of Rabat can make themselves felt.
2. I took the posture with Asad that I intended to make no new move, but that I am available to be helpful if either the Arabs or the Israelis want my assistance. I advised the desirability of moderation in the upcoming debate on the Palestinian issue at the UN General Assembly when it opens on the 13th. I also in a very low key asked Asad to reflect on whether it is in his interests to hold back on the extension of the United Nations Observer Force in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel when this matter comes up in the UN Security Council in late November. I believe he now sees that if they decide against renewing the mandate of the UN Force for another 6 months that this will only feed the Israeli contention that negotiations with the Syrians are neither feasible or worthwhile. I do not know, however, what he will decide.
3. I spent a good deal of my time making clear again what we mean by a step-by-step approach, that its objective is not to divide the Arabs, nor to exclude the Syrians but rather my belief that basically it is the only manageable way to proceed. It is clear that Asad is looking for [Page 460] some way for negotiations to take place more or less simultaneously between the Egyptians and the Israelis and the Syrians and the Israelis.
4. Finally, I think it is noteworthy that Asad went out of his way to stress that whatever differences there may be between us regarding how next to proceed that he wants to maintain the improved relations which exist between the United States and Syria. He apparently attached sufficient importance to this to have Foreign Minister Khaddam make this point publicly at the airport as I left Damascus.