147. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1
Secretary Kissinger asked me to pass the following message to you:
“I arrived in Damascus shortly after noon today to discover that Foreign Minister Khaddam, who was to have left for Havana for a preparatory meeting for the non-aligned summit conference to be held this July in Peru, had delayed his departure to be present for today’s talks. Khaddam, incidentally, had spent most of the night meeting with Algerian Foreign Minister Bouteflika, who stopped in Damascus en route to Tehran where he will be present for the first meeting of the Iranian and Iraqi Foreign Ministers following the recent agreement between their two countries. According to Khaddam, Bouteflika has pledged full political, economic and military support to Syria. It is clear that the Syrians continue their efforts to line up support against a separate Egyptian-Israeli agreement that, they fear, would deal them out of the peacemaking process.
“In a two-hour meeting with President Asad, Khaddam, Deputy Prime Minister Haydar and Air Force Chief (and Deputy Defense Minister) General Jamil, followed by more than two hours alone with Asad,2 my principal effort was directed at allaying Asad’s suspicion and fear of a separate Egyptian agreement. I again reviewed the reasons why we cannot negotiate simultaneous Egyptian and Syrian agreements, stressed that success in the present negotiations would make a better atmosphere for an effort on the Syrian side, and reassured Asad that we would be prepared to make a major effort for Syria once a Sinai agreement is achieved. I also reviewed for Asad why we cannot now establish political contact with the Palestinians, to whose cause he is more genuinely devoted than most other Arab leaders, but told him we would receive any messages the Palestinians may pass through him.
“As a result of my last visit to Jerusalem and a private talk I had with Rabin,3 I was able to tell Asad that, for the first time, I think there is beginning to be some serious thought given in Israel for the need for [Page 540] movement also on the Syrian front. This was the principal new element I was able to inject into the conversation. I cannot yet judge whether it has been possible sufficiently to allay Asad’s concerns that he will not in the end seek to undermine an Egyptian-Israeli agreement and to line up others, including Faisal, in support of such an effort. The atmosphere of today’s meeting with Asad was considerably more relaxed than the last meeting,4 however, and Asad made an impressively eloquent statement in front of his colleagues of why Syria for the first time has said publicly it wants peace—not for Israel’s sake but for Syria’s. It was in any event a good thing that I made this second visit to Damascus, and I have told Asad I am prepared to come again before returning to Washington to talk with him about how we might then proceed on the Syrian front. I urged that he be thinking about what Syria can do, in return for further Israeli withdrawal, to convince Israel things were moving in the direction of peace and to help foster a transition from a war to a peace psychosis in Israel which would be irreversible.
“I will spend tonight in Amman and, having just had word King Faisal cannot see me tomorrow due to a state visit by the President of Mali, will return directly to Jerusalem tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon and await word of what the Israeli Cabinet has authorized Rabin to say in response to President Sadat’s latest ideas.”
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East, Box 3, March 7–March 22, 1975, Volume 1.1 (10), Kissinger’s Trip. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.↩
- A memorandum of conversation of the meeting between Asad and Kissinger, which took place on March 15 in Damascus, is ibid., Volume 1.1 (9), Kissinger’s Trip.↩
- See Document 146 and footnote 5 thereto.↩
- See Document 141.↩