141. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1

Secretary Kissinger asked that I pass you the following report . . .

“I have just completed a four-hour meeting with Asad,2 who obviously is deeply suspicious that the Egyptians will go ahead on a separate agreement leaving him on the sideline. I found him edgy, bordering on the prickly a couple of times during the four-hour period.

‛I am not optimistic,’ Asad said several times. ‛A solution cannot come about without another war. That which has been lost by war, must be returned by war.’ He made one specific proposal: That the U.S. keep in limbo its present efforts to achieve an Egyptian-Israeli second stage agreement, and start specific discussions with Syria and Israel more or less simultaneously to work something out with respect to the Golan. I sought to reassure him that we are prepared to make as major an effort for one Arab state as for another, but that this could not be done all at one time, and that conditions had to be prepared carefully before such a Syrian-Israeli process could start and offer some hope of success.

It was interesting that during our four-hour session Asad had both high-level civilian and military officials, the reason being to show them he was pressing Syria’s insistence on being included in the negotiating process, and that he was taking an unyielding posture towards Israel. As I expected, he is interested in a continuing U.S. role regarding the Golan. He mentioned the Geneva conference only once, to tell me he does not want to go there since there is nothing in it for Syria.

I do not believe he feels completely reassured that a separate agreement between Egypt and Israel will not be achieved. He believes that talks between Egypt and Israel are much further along than they really are. I pointed out that it was for each individual Arab state and the Arabs collectively, to decide whether they wish to proceed step-by-step and what their attitude will be if there is an opportunity for further Israeli withdrawal from Arab territory. I told him it was not our intention to divide the Arabs and isolate Syria.

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While Asad remains suspicious, he has adopted a wait-and-see attitude regarding the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations. In a private half hour session alone,3 he underlined that he does not know how he can justify extending the UN force in May unless something is going on. He did say that even if there should be continuing differences over the step-by-step approach between us, he did not want this to affect adversely the relations between the United States and Syria.

In short, he still has not in his own mind written off the possibility that we might be able to make some move on the Golan within the present time frame of the negotiations, but he has coupled this with more war talk than we have heard before. Moreover, he struck the theme that time is on their side, and they are willing to wait. It is not without interest that he said the U.S. has given up Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, Turkey, and Portugal. Eventually we would let Israel go down too.”

Warm Regards

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East, Box 3, March 7–March 22, 1975, Volume 1.1 (2), Kissinger’s Trip. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Ford initialed the memorandum.
  2. A memorandum of conversation of the meeting between Asad and Kissinger, which took place on March 9 from 3:15 until 7:30 p.m. at the Presidential Palace in Damascus, is ibid.
  3. No memorandum of conversation has been found.