245. Memorandum of Conversation1
- The Secretary, Henry A. Kissinger
- Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Mr. Sisco
- Amb. Catto, Chief of Protocol
- Mr. Atherton, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
- Mr. Saunders, Deputy Assistant Secretary
- Mr. Oakley, NSC
- Jerry Bremer—Notetaker
- The Middle East
[Omitted here is discussion relating to Lebanon.]
[The Secretary:] Now on this Sinai force, I do not want it under State if at all possible. I want a plan on how we go about approving these people.2[Page 860]
Sisco: My assessment is that there is only one acceptable instrument and that is the State Department.
The Secretary: That’s because we haven’t tried others. Why can’t we just contract it out?
Sisco: Okay, but it doesn’t solve the problem of who backstops it. It can’t be anyone but State.
The Secretary: I want us as far removed as possible from this. We have no management capabilities anyway.
Sisco: Well, let’s put it up under an inter-Departmental framework.
The Secretary: I want it pushed as far away from State as possible. Someone else should do the recruiting and training, etc.
Oakley: In terms of the policy responsibilities, that’s difficult.
The Secretary: I need a concept of who will recruit and train and in the first instance, run it. Maybe it should be something like the NSA–DOD relationship.
Sisco: The man in charge back here would be the special representative of the President within the NSC framework. In the State Department we would have the operational backstopping system. The problems will be political.
Oakley: We will have a paper for you by tomorrow.
The Secretary: I don’t want it run out of State. It should run itself and report its findings to us. It is not wise for the Department to have it as an agency of the Department.
Saunders: It would be set up as an autonomous NSC group.
Sisco: In which the Department provides the leadership and policy guidance.
The Secretary: It’s going to be nothing but trouble. Maybe we should have somebody like Rand3 set it up under our guidance so that when there is a reporting problem we don’t have to run around all over town. When you guys get through with it, NEA will have someone in your bureau doing it. It will be disastrous since when something goes wrong, it’s automatically on our doorstep. There are lots of things to which we give policy guidance without running it. I want it managed as an autonomous entity. I don’t want to see all of their activities.
Oakley: One question is whether the top few are government or contract. They may have to make political judgments out there.
The Secretary: No, they are to handle the monitoring and if they have political problems, they can report them back here.[Page 861]
Sisco: Our idea would be an inter-agency group in the EOB with the manager as the special representative of the President.
The Secretary: No. Supposing you contract the whole thing out to the Rand Corporation—the whole thing—recruitment and the operation and policy guidance from us.
Sisco: It’s unrealistic. The U.S. Government cannot avoid direct involvement.
The Secretary: I don’t want every dispute between the Egyptians and the Israelis to be State’s dispute. I don’t mind having it under us giving policy guidance but I don’t want us running it. If either side has a technical problem, they should go to the manager.
Atherton: Do you think he should be a private citizen?
The Secretary: He certainly should not be State Department, whatever else. It could be a government body.
Oakley: We could try to find a retired person.
The Secretary: I don’t want Case and the Israeli lobby to have the State Department as their target every time an amoured car goes across the Sinai. I want us one step removed but with policy control.
Sisco: Okay, I’ll look at it. By the way, Congressman Koch called to suggest Sadat have a meeting in New York with a group of American-Jewish leaders.
The Secretary: He’s out of his mind. You could of course try it out on Sadat when he comes, but I think he’s crazy.
Sisco: This would be Rabbi Miller and three or four others in New York. I discouraged it.
The Secretary: Well, tell Eilts and see what he says.
Sisco: On nuclear reactors. I would like NEA to try that on Israel, that the safeguards would apply to future Dimona activities.
The Secretary: They won’t agree, of course.
Sisco: That’s right. My assessment on the Sadat visit and the nuclear reactors is that the mood on the Hill is irrational, so even if we got Israeli-Egyptian agreement, we will be accused of railroading it through. The Congressional reaction in fact may be so strong as to sour the Sadat visit.
The Secretary: But what can come out of the visit that won’t be sour?
Sisco: I don’t know. We will try it out on the Israelis but my conclusion is that it is not desirable to conclude it while Sadat is here.
The Secretary: Then if they say no to Dimona, the Egyptians will put reactors under our safeguards in the future.
Sisco: That’s correct.[Page 862]
The Secretary: So all American reactors will be under international control.
Sisco: That’s correct. But you will have a vast explosion on the Hill.
Oakley: I’m not certain the Egyptians will accept that idea.
The Secretary: I said the American reactor would be accepted with all of our safeguards but with the other reactors they would stay open on the safeguards. In other words, if we reject that, since they can buy reactors from the others, even that part of their program which would have been under U.S. safeguards will be lost. That’s the end result.
Sisco: If we limit our approach to what we provide, this will be viewed by Israel and the Jewish lobby as a huge opening.
The Secretary: But it gives them an incentive to buy French reactors which would be beyond our control. At least this way, we’d be absorbing those purchases and they would buy them with our safeguards.
Sisco: I know it’s illogical. It’s completely out of whack. But that is the mood in Congress.
The Secretary: Well, what can we settle? We can’t give them arms, we can’t give them nuclear reactors, what can we give them? Horsedrawn carts?
Saunders: It boils down to no material stuff. We have aid and our diplomatic support.
The Secretary: What diplomatic support? We’re a net liability to him.
Saunders: Well, we did get them their oil fields.
The Secretary: I’m not sure why we can’t argue this proposition: if Israel puts Dimona under international controls, Egypt will put all of their reactors under international controls. I agree that the Hill is crazy and we are in a nihilistic period. But I don’t argue that we have to bend with it. I’m not sure we shouldn’t say “to hell with it” and just knock it out with them. Defend what’s right. It is totally irrational now. Suppose they don’t do Dimona. The Egyptians are still willing to put our reactor under our controls. If we don’t build it, it will be under no controls. I feel I’d like to keep this option open.
Arms now would be total suicide, I agree—even though if the Israelis were rational, they’d beg us to supply Egypt. It has to be in their interest even if we give them arms right back to the ’73 level.
Atherton: The best way to prevent a war is to be the supplier to both sides.
Sisco: I have used this argument.
The Secretary: I’m convinced the Jewish lobby is trying to defeat the President and emasculate me too. They’re going about it in some very subtle ways.[Page 863]
Sisco: On the nuclear thing, we’ll talk to the Israelis and see what they say. We’ll do it this afternoon.
[Omitted here is discussion of the logistics of the Sadat visit.]