126. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Middle East


  • Chairman
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Robert Ingersoll
  • DOD
  • William Clements
  • JCS
  • Gen. George S. Brown
  • CIA
  • William Colby
  • NSC
  • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • Jeanne W. Davis

Secretary Kissinger: I thought we would use this occasion for a review of where we stand on our planning and what our expectations are [Page 477] with regard to another Arab-Israeli war as well as the gravest emergency that I have described. Incidentally, someone is not letting that Business Week story die.2 Also, you should know that the President is extremely interested in this and we may want to have an NSC meeting primarily for briefing purposes.

Mr. Clements: That would be a very good idea.

Secretary Kissinger: (to Mr. Colby) Bill, what are your expectations?

Mr. Colby: Over the next two or three months we believe there will be no incentive for either side to start a fight. After that, we’re not so sure.

Secretary Kissinger: Even if we get a second-phase Sinai agreement?

Mr. Colby: If we get a second-phase Sinai agreement, that may stall a war. The problem will come in Syria when the UN Force renewal issue comes up.3 Even then, Damascus may not opt immediately for a fight. In this event, the danger will be on the Lebanese-Israeli border where events might escalate and get out of control. Any Israeli decision to opt for a first strike will depend on Israel’s perception of what Syria might do. We do not believe Israel will move on its own unless they believe it is clear that Syria plans to move. This would be particularly true if negotiations were underway. If there is no Sinai disengagement . . . .

(Secretary Kissinger left the room)

Gen. Brown: (to Mr. Colby) Your people had a report that a unit had been formed in Syria and moved into Lebanon. DIA has some more information on that. They say they are armed with SA–7s and are a mixture of Syrian military with Palestinians, controlled from Damascus.

Mr. Colby: We think there are Syrian advisors with the group but that is a little different from units.

(Secretary Kissinger returned)

Mr. Colby: If there is no Sinai disengagement, the Arabs will probably start planning an attack, probably by Syria and Egypt. We believe they will hold up on implementation until they are sure the negotiations have gotten nowhere. If Israel attacks Syria, Cairo would probably go to war. However, Israel probably assumes that they could knock out Syria before help could arrive and, under those circumstances, they hope Egypt would stay out.

[Page 478]

Secretary Kissinger: Unless the Egyptians are very carefully prepared, they have little or no offensive capability. By the time the Egyptians get going . . .

Gen. Brown: I agree. I have never understood why, once they had established themselves on the East Bank, they didn’t push out—they just sat there.

Secretary Kissinger: I think that is a correct estimate of their capabilities. If they hadn’t put an armored division across, they would have been in good shape. They moved out and lost 300 tanks in one day.

Mr. Colby: We believe Israel could knock out Syria in five to seven days, and remain south of Damascus.

Secretary Kissinger: Knock them out or push them back?

Mr. Colby: Knock them out as a fighting force.

Secretary Kissinger: The Syrians might withdraw north of Damascus. They wouldn’t fight Israel frontally. They would withdraw and try to bleed the Israelis.

Mr. Colby: That’s not in their character.

Mr. Clements: They would stand and fight.

Gen. Brown: They would have to be pretty sophisticated to withdraw.

Mr. Colby: In any event, they couldn’t move fast enough to get away from the Israelis.

Secretary Kissinger: But they don’t have most of their army south of Damascus now, do they?

Mr. Colby: A fair chunk of it.

Mr. Clements: They have lots of armor and artillery and lots of prepared positions.

Gen. Brown: They have 85,000 troops plus air defense.

Secretary Kissinger: Colby believes Israel could knock them out in five days. Do you expect that the Russians would do nothing for five days? Is that based on the last war?

Mr. Colby: They would provide support to the Syrians but would try not to get directly involved.

Secretary Kissinger: Based on what?

Mr. Colby: Their disinclination to get involved, provided Israel stopped south of Damascus. That is based on the détente strategy.

Secretary Kissinger: Which is weakening considerably.

Mr. Colby: What can they do?

Secretary Kissinger: That’s my question. If this goes on much longer, the Turks will build highways for them through Turkey. Do they have enough equipment to airlift an air-borne division?

[Page 479]

Mr. Colby: It would take them a couple of weeks to make the decision and do it.

Gen. Brown: That’s a pretty leisurely schedule. It depends on how much they want to do it.

Mr. Colby: Let’s say a week or two.

Mr. Clements: They have enough equipment in Syria.

Secretary Kissinger: It’s very dangerous to judge them by previous performances. In 1970 they were surprised. In 1973 they assumed the Arabs would lose. I think from the beginning they had planned to come in after five days. But they were badly wounded in Egypt and Syria. They may think that this was one reason for their impotence during the war. One reason Brezhnev is in trouble may be because of the Middle East—that along with trade. They may not be so restrained this time. They may try to demonstrate our impotence. I don’t exclude that strategy. In 1973 I was confident they wouldn’t come in for five days, if then.

Mr. Colby: The NIE isn’t finished yet but it estimates a couple of weeks.

Secretary Kissinger: Let’s look at what the Soviets would do if there is a Politbureau decision to take the risk.4

Mr. Clements: You don’t mean after five days?

Secretary Kissinger: Would it be mostly air resupply?

Mr. Colby: If Israel stays out of Damascus, we believe the Russians would stay out and negotiate for moves backwards.

Secretary Kissinger: That would mean that for the fourth time a Soviet-backed army gets shellacked and the Soviets do no more than resupply them. That means, in effect, that the Soviets are supplying Israel.

Gen. Brown: If the Soviets believe that, why don’t they put forces into Syria now?

Secretary Kissinger: The Syrians are highly nationalistic. They may not be willing to take Soviet forces. They don’t like the Russians.

Mr. Clements: They don’t like anybody.

Secretary Kissinger: I agree.

Mr. Colby: Asad is trying to keep his independence.

Secretary Kissinger: I like the Syrians; they are very reliable. They may not let the Soviets in except in an extremity.

[Page 480]

Gen. Brown: If there is movement with Egypt in the Sinai, the Syrians would be in a different position in the north.

Secretary Kissinger: The Syrians would settle for 5–8 kilometers in the Golan; not necessarily permanent, but for two or three years. Asad lost 50,000 men in the war and has nothing to show for it. He got one kilometer around Kuneitra, but the Israelis had leveled it. That is the reason for his intransigence. Some of the Israeli settlements on the Golan would have to go.

Mr. Clements: Was Dayan clued in when he made his statement?5

Secretary Kissinger: No. For five or six kilometers in Jordan and five or ten kilometers on the Golan Heights we could have kept the process going. That’s the tragedy of it. The Egyptians could move and the Syrians could move and we could have gone to Geneva and kept it going until 1977. Even now, we could do something if Israel gave us five kilometers on the Golan Heights.

Mr. Clements: Aren’t they moving that way?

Secretary Kissinger: No. They’re not moving on the Sinai. They want to drag us into 1976.

Mr. Clements: I’m surprised. I thought there would be some movement in Sinai within 90 days.

Secretary Kissinger: Not voluntarily.

Mr. Clements: The Arabs are hearing this from somewhere.

Secretary Kissinger: They’re hearing it from me.

Mr. Colby: The Israelis are saying it to split the Arabs.

Secretary Kissinger: They’re saying it publicly. Of course we are doing our best to promote something in the Sinai in the next 90 days.

Mr. Colby: Our estimate of a war in Sinai is that it would last about 10 days, with the Israelis winning more or less along the current lines.

Secretary Kissinger: What if they got to the other side of the passes?

Mr. Colby: It would be the same thing. If they were neutralized, the Israelis could get in before the passes were closed up.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t see the Egyptians dashing for anywhere.

Gen. Brown: There’s no indication of that.

Secretary Kissinger: Would it take them longer to knock out Egypt than Syria?

[Page 481]

Gen. Brown: Why is that—geography?

Mr. Colby: We assume it would be both Egypt and Syria.

Secretary Kissinger: Oh, you mean five days for each but with Syria first. Let’s look at the Soviet contingency. What would they do if they want to go all-out from the beginning? Do they have enough equipment in Syria so that all the Soviets would have to do would be to airlift bodies?

Mr. Colby: They would have to take the equipment from the Syrians.

Secretary Kissinger: Are there no depots?

Mr. Clements: There is a lot of surplus equipment in Syria, but not in depots in the regular sense.

Mr. Colby: We don’t know if they have clandestinely developed the capability to move in and operate.

Secretary Kissinger: Suppose they mounted an infantry division on the second day. How long would it take them to go in and become effective? Would it take more than a division? How many would it take to push the Israelis back to the 1967 border?

Mr. Clements: It would be a helluva fuss.

Gen. Brown: What do we do if the Soviets come in?

Gen. Scowcroft: Could they do it with air power?

Mr. Colby: How would they get the air in?

Gen. Brown: The MIGs are there. It would be a question of displacing Syrian pilots with Soviet pilots.

Secretary Kissinger: Would they have enough to handle the Israeli Air Force with Soviet pilots?

Gen. Brown: We don’t know how good the Soviet Air Force is, but we don’t think they are as good as the Israelis. All of their training has been under close control. This downplays initiative.

Secretary Kissinger: They would need a lot of command and control.

Gen. Brown: Exactly. The Israeli Air Force would clean up unless the Soviets were very well established.

Secretary Kissinger: How long would it take them to get established?

Gen. Brown: Quite a while. They would have to get their radar in. Remember, the Soviet Air Force has never fought. The Israelis would be more than a match for the Soviets for several months. And the Soviet Air Force would be attrited during that period. They don’t have a large reserve—not enough pilots.

Secretary Kissinger: They ran out of pilots in the last war. (to Mr. Colby) Do you assume that for three weeks the Israelis would not require resupply?

[Page 482]

Mr. Colby: Yes, they have 18 days worth of combat supplies.

Secretary Kissinger: They wouldn’t need anything?

Mr. Clements: You mean they would leave us alone for 18 days?

Mr. Colby: Hell, no! They’d be all over us in 10 minutes.

Mr. Ingersoll: There would be some critical ammunition shortages.

Gen. Brown: We got a new list from the Israelis last week.6 They described them as consumables that they would need by air. It was mainly ammunition.

Secretary Kissinger: What are you doing with the list?

Gen. Brown: We’re seeing what we could do for them. They might be able to buy some of the things from us and come and get it now.

Mr. Colby: I couldn’t agree more.

Secretary Kissinger: That’s absolutely right. Will we get a crack at the list before you do anything with it?

Gen. Brown: Of course. The whole government will.

Secretary Kissinger: We would like to avoid the situation where the Israelis come to Scowcroft and say that the White House is being obstructionist.

Mr. Clements: Neither George (Brown) nor I is telling them anything like that. We’re not telling them anything at all. We’re not even talking to (Ambassador) Dinitz.

Secretary Kissinger: The President got a letter from Rabin 7 complaining that he was not issuing the right instructions to the Defense Department. We have to know before you plan any large shipments.

Mr. Clements: Absolutely.

Gen. Brown: We want to avoid a situation where we are using our whole C–5A force plus tankers. We want to try to identify what stocks we have here.

Secretary Kissinger: When you identify them, will you tell us?

Gen. Brown: We won’t tell anyone but your office.

Mr. Clements: We don’t want to have to use all our C–5As.

Secretary Kissinger: There are two separate problems with this. If war is unavoidable, the Israelis would be better off to come get the material now. But if war is not unavoidable, we don’t want to do anything that would make it less avoidable.

[Page 483]

Mr. Clements: I have an alternative. We could put it on a ship and preposition it somewhere. We don’t even have to tell the Israelis where.

Mr. Colby: Israel will only preempt with a first strike if they think the other side will.

Mr. Ingersoll: If they are in a strong position, they won’t move diplomatically.

Secretary Kissinger: The only way to get Israel to move is to give them something to enhance their military security. If they have military security anyway, they won’t move.

Mr. Colby: Even if they have security, they have to move eventually. They can’t face the attrition of a war every year or two.

Secretary Kissinger: They don’t understand that. You say 7500 casualties. Do you mean killed?

Mr. Colby: Killed and wounded.

Secretary Kissinger: That’s more than the last war. You mean against Syria alone? That’s pretty heavy. That’s 750,000 by American standards.

Mr. Colby: That’s what I mean. They can’t do it. It would be pretty traumatic. That’s what’s impressing them. That’s why they will preempt if they fear the other side will jump them. They claim they would have preempted them last time . . .

Secretary Kissinger: No—they weren’t organized. We didn’t keep them from preempting. That’s a myth.

Mr. Colby: That’s right, but they are determined that the other side will never have the jump on them again.

Secretary Kissinger: (to Mr. Clements) Are you saying that you will undertake no aerial resupply of Israel?

Mr. Clements: We hope we won’t have to.

Gen. Brown: We want to identify what they want and whether we have the items.

Secretary Kissinger: When you have identified them, who will take the responsibility for not delivering them? There is a limit to what you can pile on the President.

Gen. Brown: The only things that will be delivered are the things the President has approved. This is a new list, brought into the Defense Department by their attaché.

Secretary Kissinger: You have no authority to deal with such a list. The only valid list is that which was approved by the President when Rabin was here.8

[Page 484]

Gen. Brown: But if we tell them to come in through the White House, that will put pressure on the President.

Gen. Scowcroft: That’s routine for them to come in this way.

Secretary Kissinger: What quantities are they talking about? What will you tell them?

Mr. Clements: We will tell them nothing until we talk about the matter here. There are some medical supplies on the list. After we look at the list we will table it here and talk about it. We will do anything you want us to; you know that.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t want every Jewish leader heading for the President and accusing him of undermining the security of Israel.

Mr. Colby: If we have to resupply Israel, we will get an embargo. If we don’t have to resupply Israel, it may be less than a total embargo.

Secretary Kissinger: Our objective is to prevent a war from starting.

Mr. Colby: Some ammunition won’t push Israel into war.

Secretary Kissinger: All Rabin thinks about and talks about is military equipment. He has the mind of a quartermaster-general.

Mr. Clements: When we have looked at the list, we will bring it over here. Then we can say ‛no’ or Scowcroft can say ‛no’. It’s the same thing.

Gen. Brown: They said: “These are our consumption rates. These might help you in your planning for resupply.” Our logistic planner just took the list. There was no conversation.

Secretary Kissinger: (to Mr. Colby) Your judgment is that we won’t face a substantial Soviet military presence if there is another war.

Mr. Colby: I would like to hold my final judgment until the next National Estimate is out, but that’s my present thinking.

Mr. Clements: You’ve changed your estimate.

Mr. Colby: It’s a different thing. If war breaks out and the Israelis stop at Damascus, there will probably not be active Soviet involvement. If Israel goes beyond Damascus and there is total humiliation, the Soviet will have a tough problem.

Secretary Kissinger: What would they do if they decide to go? It’s the same problem. If they can do it, they might decide to do it whether the Israelis are in the south or the north.

Mr. Colby: They won’t be pushed into it if the Israelis stay below Damascus.

Secretary Kissinger: If they can do it effectively, they might do it in any event. That’s a political decision.

Mr. Colby: If you mean effective enough to throw the Israelis back, that’s a hard problem. If they get Soviet troops in you would have a po[Page 485]litical schamozzle. You might have a symbolic confrontation. This raises the whole question of an East-West confrontation. They wouldn’t accomplish it with their defense forces or with a few Air Force pilots, but an air-borne division is different.

Gen. Brown: (to Secretary Kissinger) You asked if there was sufficient equipment in Syria for a Soviet movement if they flew in the man-power. If the Syrians have stocks for 27 days, including tanks, artillery, etc., they have enough equipment for Soviet troops.

Mr. Clements: Right. There’s a lot of stuff there.

Mr. Colby: It’s a question of their plan.

Gen. Brown: Right. They have enough to fight with.

Secretary Kissinger: Two Soviet air-borne divisions could step up the attrition rate substantially.

Mr. Colby: Yes. We figured 7000 Israeli casualties during the whole period against Syria.

Secretary Kissinger: Presumably the Soviets would fight better than the Syrians.

Mr. Colby: Possibly.

Secretary Kissinger: Why do we consider the Soviets so fierce in Europe and so impotent in the Middle East?

Mr. Colby: Because they are all structured for Europe.

Gen. Brown: And they have their command and control in being. In this regard, our estimate of Soviet forces in Europe has changed. They are no longer ten feet tall.

Mr. Colby: Yes, we’ve cut it down a lot.

Secretary Kissinger: If we can’t increase our forces at least we can lower our intelligence estimates! We have to increase our security somewhere! The Europeans will never mobilize. They won’t even get to the railroad station. They will find a way to cop out.

Mr. Colby: Absolutely.

Secretary Kissinger: The Turks and the Greeks will fight; maybe the Germans. But the Danes and the Dutch and the French will surrender. The British won’t have to.

Mr. Clements: That’s a dismal assessment.

Secretary Kissinger: I may be wrong, but that’s my personal judgment.

Gen. Brown: In NATO only the US and the Germans are worth counting.

Mr. Colby: The nuclear factor is such a big thing.

Gen. Brown: Maybe the French would move.

Secretary Kissinger: The standing army, maybe, but you wouldn’t even get the reserves to the Gare du Nord. It would be a political impossibility. I may be wrong, but that’s my personal view.

[Page 486]

Mr. Colby: Because of the nuclear factor, everyone would say they should stay out.

Secretary Kissinger: We can’t go much further in the Middle East until we know what the Russians will do. What are our capabilities?

Gen. Brown: We could get some forces in. We could land C–5As in Israel.

Secretary Kissinger: Suppose the Soviets put forces into Syria, saying they want a return to the 1967 borders. They ask the Europeans to join them and warn them that they will be in physical jeopardy if they refuse.

Gen. Brown: Then we’re on the losing side. The Russians would be doing what we have wanted to do.

Secretary Kissinger: Would the Europeans let us use bases in those circumstances? I think it would be 50–50 in Germany, but with no chance anywhere else. Where would you move troops if the Russians landed? Do you have a plan?

Gen. Brown: No. We have a few Marines in the Mediterranean—one brigade afloat. And we could move ground units from Europe.

Mr. Colby: If we could get the transits.

Gen. Brown: We would ignore the transits—just go.

Secretary Kissinger: If the Russians put forces into Syria to push the Israelis back to the 1967 border, and then guarantee the 1967 border, we would have an impossible problem in Europe. If we let the Russians claim that they pushed the Israelis back by force, our position in the Middle East is dead. That’s why we want to avoid war. If the Arabs win, with Soviet support, and we do nothing, we’ve had it.

Gen. Brown: We should beat the Russians to the game.

Secretary Kissinger: You mean push Israel back to the 1967 boundary? By a political solution, you mean. But suppose we can’t get a political solution? If not, what do we do then?

Mr. Colby: Can you blockade the Soviet troops from going in? We might blockade anything unless they go straight over Turkey. Possibly by airpower.

Secretary Kissinger: Suppose we then wanted to move American forces.

Mr. Colby: You mean send in American forces to keep the Russians out?

Gen. Scowcroft: You could prevent them from going in by using the Sixth Fleet.

Mr. Colby: Yes. We wouldn’t be getting into the Arab-Israeli fight; we would be saying “Russians, stay out.”

Secretary Kissinger: Can it be done?

[Page 487]

Mr. Colby: If we send US ground forces into Israel, we could write off the whole Arab world.

Mr. Clements: That would be impossible.

Secretary Kissinger: Not in New York.

Gen. Brown: It would tear the country apart.

Secretary Kissinger: That’s exactly my nightmare. If war breaks out, and if I were the Russians, I would put forces into Syria. They can’t afford to go through this every two years—resupply their friends and have the Israelis pick up two divisions of Soviet equipment.

Mr. Colby: Don’t forget the Soviets are very cautious.

Secretary Kissinger: And they have lost. It’s my judgment that détente is on its last legs.

Mr. Colby: It’s shaky.

Secretary Kissinger: They are going to turn down the trade bill.9 We have no more leverage. In a crisis, what do we tell them? That we are mad at them? We told them that after Hungary and Czechoslovakia and it lasted about three months. Or are we going to use force? They can read our papers—they know what’s going on. I’m not talking about the next six months.

Mr. Colby: Possibly with the next generation of leaders.

Secretary Kissinger: They have lost three times. We have beaten them by moving more skillfully diplomatically. But it’s unrealistic to believe this will continue.

Mr. Colby: The Soviets are poorly structured for something like this.

Secretary Kissinger: If you’re right, I would be delighted. But we have to plan for the worst case. My nightmare is the scenario that I have described.

Mr. Colby: You’re right.

Gen. Brown: I share your nightmare.

Mr. Colby: Could we establish some sort of barrier in the Black Sea—over Greece or Turkey?

Gen. Brown: Let’s look at the next step. What happens if the Israelis are pushed back to the 1967 border with a Soviet guarantee of that border?

Secretary Kissinger: We’d be dead.

[Page 488]

Gen. Brown: We simply have to educate the Jewish community in the US.

Secretary Kissinger: Look, I meet with the Jewish leaders regularly. It’s a very complicated problem. You may assume that we will do our utmost to prevent this from happening. That is exactly why we are pressing so hard to prevent it from happening. It’s not because of Arab blackmail. But in our contingency planning, we have to be prepared to prevent the Soviets from getting in. I’m more attracted to interception by US aircraft.

Gen. Brown: Then you have started World War III. We would have no great problem in disrupting their airlift, but that would mean bare, naked US-Soviet combat.

Mr. Colby: It would be a “blink” thing. The question is whether we could limit it to a blockade.

Secretary Kissinger: The problem is the same either way. I’ve learned one thing, and that is if you are going to move with force, you should move massively. There are no awards for moving elegantly. We can’t start shooting down Soviet planes and not be prepared to go to war.

Gen. Brown: Then we will have to dust off the nuclear option.

Secretary Kissinger: That shows where we are. We have to prepare some contingency plans for the scenario I have outlined. In Colby’s judgment, the Soviets won’t operate that daringly. If he’s right, we have the resupply problem. We need a systematic analysis of how the Soviets would go in—by air, navy, air-borne. And what they would need to do now to plan for it.

Mr. Colby: We will do it.

Gen. Brown: If we stop them, will they accept it?

Secretary Kissinger: There’s a great possibility that if they think we will stop them, they won’t come.

Mr. Clements: I have an idea. We have been in Saudi Arabia twice before militarily. There is a beautiful airport at Dhahran. I think there is a 50–50 chance of getting the Saudis to ask us into Dhahran.

Secretary Kissinger: When?

Mr. Clements: Right now. It would show everyone we mean business. We could protect what is most important economically, and it would be a clear signal to the Russians that we mean business and they shouldn’t get involved. I think we should discuss this, and George (Brown) agrees. We might sell it to the Saudis if we go about it right. A year ago we talked about selling F–4s to the Saudis. We agreed to do so then, but when the Saudis learned we were willing to sell them, they decided they didn’t want them. George (Brown) and I could go over there very quietly for about five days. We could sell it to them. We [Page 489] could reinstitute the F–4 sales case. The Saudis could say they have decided they want them, and the day after tomorrow we could fly in two squadrons of F–4s with full equipment. They could become a training aid for the Saudis.

Secretary Kissinger: You would have a lot of Egyptians taking on Saudi Arabian nationality. How many in a squadron?

Gen. Brown: Eighteen. But we’re flexible—it can be anything you like.

Mr. Clements: It’s worth a try. We could make it work. It would be a signal.

Secretary Kissinger: To whom?

Mr. Clements: The Russians.

Gen. Brown: To everyone.

Secretary Kissinger: And you would use the two squadrons against the Russians in Syria?

Gen. Scowcroft: It’s too far away.

Gen. Brown: Yes, but they would be there.

Mr. Clements: It’s a helluva signal. How would the Israelis look at it?

Secretary Kissinger: They would look at the two squadrons in Saudi Arabia as a subterfuge for our arming the Egyptians. They would say that F–4s in Saudi Arabia mean that they will wind up in Egypt.

Mr. Clements: That might be their first reaction.

Secretary Kissinger: And their second and third and fourth and fifth reaction. They are afraid of F–4s in Arab hands. We may want to do it, but we will never sell it to the Israelis.

Mr. Ingersoll: We might want to give a signal to the Israelis.

Secretary Kissinger: The Israelis will think only that the Arabs have F–4s. Any sensible Israeli would want to have the whole Egyptian army equipped by the US so that there would be no resupply in case of war. But I guarantee that if we try to sell 50 tanks to the Egyptians the Israelis would be after us like maniacs. If we could have sold 20 F–4s to Sadat over the last year, it wouldn’t have made any difference. We may decide to do it against the Israelis, nevertheless. We need a contingency assessment of what happens in an Israeli-Arab war if the Russians want to play it rough. Have the Russians the capability of launching missiles with high explosive warheads from Syrian territory? Suppose they wanted to raise the ante during a war?

Mr. Colby: They could.

Secretary Kissinger: The Russians have never played up to their full capability in a crisis. Suppose they do.

[Page 490]

Mr. Clements: The Israelis, after they have had time to think about it, wouldn’t be too excited about F–4s in Saudi Arabia. They would be a stabilizing influence. It’s possible the Russians would move into Iraq. The most excited person would be the Shah.

Secretary Kissinger: The Shah may not like it, but he is manageable. He’s nothing like the Israelis.

Mr. Clements: I think the Shah would go up the wall.

Mr. Colby: The Shah would think he could control the situation through us.

Secretary Kissinger: Bill’s (Clements) argument might carry weight with the Shah but not the Israelis. There would be no chance of selling it to them, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider doing it. If we face the total oil embargo of the West, we have to have a plan to use force. I’m not saying we have to take over Saudi Arabia. How about Abu Dhabi, or Libya?

Mr. Clements: We want to get you over to the JCS think tank. We can show you conclusively why Libya, Abu Dhabi, Dubai won’t serve the purpose. Saudi Arabia is the only country that would serve our purpose.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Arab-Israeli dispute.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 24, Meeting Minutes, WSAG-Originals, January 1975. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. This meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See “Kissinger on Oil, Food, and Trade” in Business Week, January 13, 1975, p. 66.
  3. A reference to the renewal of the UNEF mandate, which was due to expire in April.
  4. SNIE 11/30–1–75, entitled “Possible Soviet Military Intervention in a Syrian-Israeli War,” was issued on January 30. (Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79–R01012A)
  5. Possibly a reference to a lecture Dayan delivered in Jerusalem on January 2 or to his subsequent comments on January 3. (Telegram 58 from Tel Aviv, January 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  6. List has not been found.
  7. In his January 12 letter to Ford, Rabin urged Ford to ensure the delivery of weapons requested in Matmon B (see Documents 96, 98, and 101). Rabin specifically cited laser guided weapons and Lance missiles as military supplies owed to Israel based on his discussions with Ford in September 1974 (see Documents 99 and 100). The letter is attached to Document 127 at Tab A.
  8. See Document 100.
  9. Kissinger announced on January 14 that the Soviet Union had nullified the 1972 U.S.–USSR trade agreement because of Soviet objections to conditions imposed by the 1974 Trade Act on granting MFN status, specifically the Jackson–Vanik amendment. President Ford signed the Trade Act on January 3. (New York Times, January 15, 1975, p. 1)