273. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Sisco
  • Assistant Secretary Atherton
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Day
  • Jock Covey, Notetaker


  • Lebanon

The Secretary: Have you seen the reply from Khaddam? (Damascus 1808)2 What do you think it means?

[Page 974]

Atherton: I think it means they want to try to do it in a way that will avoid a direct confrontation with Israel.

The Secretary: Where is Bekaa?

Atherton: East and north of Beirut.

Sisco: I see that they gave us no real idea of the time frame.

The Secretary: What do you think?

Sisco: I personally think that they are moving very fast now towards some sort of intervention. My own recommendation would be that we tell the Israelis pretty quickly what is going on.

The Secretary: Now all of this is said in the framework of a study being done by the Foreign Minister that has not yet been submitted to the President.

Atherton: I would be very surprised if they moved before they had a response from us.

Sisco: Oh yes, I agree.

Atherton: And I think we should wait to hear from the Israelis before we go back to the Syrians.

The Secretary: We’re not going to get a reply very fast.

All right, I think we should get a message back to the Syrians quickly. Tell them we are studying it but repeat our warning against any unilateral move and its consequences. And I guess we might as well tell the Israelis what is going on. (Secretary phones Dinitz)

Do you agree with what I told him?

Atherton: Yes.

The Secretary: Okay, I think we can take our time drafting a reply. There’s no need to shoot it right back.

Sisco: I personally see no sense in sending it out before close of business tonight.

The Secretary: But don’t tell anybody else about this.

Sisco: Henry, I just want you to know that I am personally coming more and more to Fahmy’s view—that is, of involving the United Nations Security Council in this. You have seen his latest cable?3

The Secretary: No, of course I haven’t seen his latest cable yet because it probably hasn’t passed mustering among the geniuses in my outer office.

Sisco: Here, you can read mine. (The Secretary reads cable)

The Secretary: I think we better do a cable to Fahmy telling what the difficulties are in going to the UN Security Council, and I think we should sound out the French.

[Page 975]

Sisco: The French are working up an initiative to move the question into the Security Council. Or possibly as a combined French, British, US move. Of course, this would not affect the situation on the ground.

The Secretary: Well, then maybe we should do a message to the French to say that we have had further world that the situation may be getting out of control.

Sisco: You know their man here in Washington would be ideal. He’s the former Ambassador to the United Nations.

The Secretary: Except that he is already on his way to Minnesota. Well, perhaps he hasn’t actually left yet. (The Secretary asks for call to be put through to Kosciusko-Morizet). After we do up this message I think you should get ahold of Ramsbotham and bring him up to date.

Sisco: How much do you want to tell him?

The Secretary: I think you should give him the gist of the Syrian response. He is the only European who knows about this, however, and I specifically don’t want the French to be approached by the UK about the Security Council thing before they get our message.

Sisco: I understand. (The Secretary speaks to Amb. Kosciusko-Morizet)

The Secretary: And I guess we had better tell Dinitz right away. (Speaks to Dinitz)

Atherton: I think we have to keep one thing in mind. This shouldn’t look like our idea.

Sisco: Especially since most of the parties will be opposed to it.

The Secretary: Oh we are not proposing it. That’s the beauty of it. That means the French have to go around and sell it. Although perhaps I better call the French Ambassador right back and make that clear.

Sisco: I would put it in terms of the great advantage to their doing this alone—not in terms of our preference—otherwise that will make the French cool off. I think you have to tell him, you alone is better because we would be suspect.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 347, Department of State Memorandum of Conversations, Internal, December 1975–March 1976. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Telegram 1808 from Damascus, March 25, transmitted Khaddam’s replies to the questions posed by the United States in telegram 70097 to Damascus, March 24. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 237, Geopolitical File, Syria, March 1976)
  3. Not further identified.