148. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1
Secretary Kissinger has sent you the following strategic analysis of our negotiating situation:
“After two rounds of intensive discussions in Aswan and Jerusalem and talks with President Asad, I want to share with you my perception of what lies ahead in broad strategic terms and ask your judgment on how to proceed.[Page 541]
“I have reported to you on where matters stand in my exchange with the Egyptians and Israelis on the basic elements of another Sinai agreement, some of which seem manageable and others of which (such as non-belligerency and the numbers and location of the Egyptian army east of the Suez Canal) are very difficult issues which may or may not be resolved. You know that Syria and the PLO seem determined to block another Sinai agreement because they believe they will be left out. Finally, it is clear that there has been a slow but steady build-up of military preparedness by Syria, Israel and Egypt which has added to the underlying tension in the area.
“Broadly speaking, we have two choices. First, to persist in trying to get an interim Egyptian-Israeli agreement. The second course would be to let events force upon us a return to the broader setting of a Geneva Conference at which an overall settlement would be addressed. The fact is that each of the above courses carry risks with them and neither is entirely satisfactory.
“The advantages to us in achieving the interim Egyptian-Israeli agreement remain impressive, and I have no intention of deviating from our current efforts as long as I judge there is a reasonable hope for success. Success would keep Sadat’s moderate course to the fore; it would defuse the Sinai; it would make less likely that Syria will undertake a one-front war; it would limit Soviet opportunities to reassert itself, and the U.S. would remain the central element in future peacemaking efforts. In short, success would improve the situation in the area and maintain our influence, but we must bear in mind that it is unlikely to usher in a period of calm in the area. Differences of interpretation, for example, are inevitable with one side seeing it as a purely military disengagement agreement and the other as primarily a political agreement. Other parts of the Arab world, led by Syria which historically has played the spoiler role in the Mideast, could substantially unite against us, seeing it as a move to split the Arabs. Some form of renewed military action (the most likely Arab strategy is a protracted war of attrition against Israel) or economic action against the U.S. cannot be precluded as a possibility, though it is less likely.
“The way to avoid this is to find some way to assure Asad he will be brought into the negotiating picture. The Israelis will take some strong convincing, and I have begun to lay the groundwork with Rabin—but I am not optimistic on that score. Sadat has been strongly urging this, as has Faisal. But Syrian suspicion is so strong, and Israeli opposition to giving up anything more on the Golan so great, that a stalemate is likely to result. This is why Asad has refused to accept repeated assurances that we will make a major effort for Syria as the next step after Egypt. However, he might relax his opposition to my present efforts, easing the way for rapid conclusion of a Sinai agreement, if we [Page 542] could find a credible way to guarantee him that a Syrian-Israeli negotiation would start (either at Geneva or with the U.S. as a middleman-catalyst) before the implementation phase of any Egypt–Israel agreement begins. But our difficulties in Israel will be monumental requiring great Presidential pressure.
“Another approach, if we judge the resistance to a separate Sinai agreement is too great, would be to suspend the present Sinai effort by using the daily stalemates as an excuse and go to Geneva to discuss an overall settlement. This would not be unpopular in Israel; it would probably buy us some time with Syria; it could be portrayed as a shift to Geneva in deference to strong Arab views against a separate Egyptian-Israeli agreement; and it might help Syria support renewal of the mandate of the UN force. But it would badly strain our relations with Egypt; it would not be long at Geneva before we would be confronted with the Arabs and the USSR on one side and a recalcitrant Israel on the other over such questions as PLO participation and proposals for total Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territory. Such developments would contribute to further radicalization in the area, and would likely bring the area soon to a renewal of hostilities in circumstances of greater Arab unity than we have ever seen before.
“We face a difficult situation. Success in the current negotiation will buy us more time provided we can find some way to engage Syria, but it will not bring the many years of tranquility as the Israelis hope. On the other hand, failure on our part and the likely frustration of Geneva could bring the area to the brink of reality of another war. Nevertheless, my overall conclusion is that a shift to Geneva is not one we should embark upon voluntarily as long as we have a chance to get an interim Egyptian-Israeli agreement which still best serves our interest, despite the risks. If Geneva is forced upon us as a result of our inability to succeed in the present negotiation, we would have to think in terms of bold overall peace plans at the conference to protect our interests and to discourage resort to war. But this is another chapter.
“I would appreciate your direction.
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, [Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East, Box 3, March 7–March 22, 1975, Volume II (7), Kissinger’s Trip. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.↩