279. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Lebanon.]

[President:] How about Hussein?

[Page 1001]

Kissinger: If I could just review Lebanon. There are two radical groups: the Jumblatt group and the PLO. There are two moderates: the Christians and moderate Arabs.

Syria has historically wanted to dominate Lebanon. Israel thinks that in the long term Syria in Lebanon would turn to the radicals and support the PLO. Syria feels that if they don’t go in, the PLO will take over the country. I think Syria is right in the short run and Israel is right in the long run.

I think the best course of action is to support Syria politically and try to keep them out militarily. Under these circumstances, I think we need a senior guy in Lebanon. It could be Dean Brown or Bill Porter. Brown is associated with the Jordanian action of 1970 when Hussein smashed the PLO. That may be a problem. I would discuss Brown with the King.

I think the King is more worried than Rifai. Rifai is practically a Syrian agent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t think the King would be knocked off and he would be President.

President: How about the West Bank troubles?

Kissinger: We have been lucky so far but it is in the interest of all the Arabs to stir things up there.

We won’t get much more than Lebanon today. Everything you say will get back to Asad. Say we think highly of Asad. We agree with Asad’s analysis. We would like his political solution without military intervention, because we see no way that can be done without arousing an Israeli reaction.

We will help by sending a senior representative. If we can get a ceasefire, then Syria could send in some more surreptitiously.

Israel has told us virtually nothing, while we have shared with them everything we had. But they have said they are in touch with the Christians.

What we need is an assessment as to the staying power of the Christians. If they can hold out and if Asad can split the PLO and Jumblatt, we can do it politically. If, though, the Christians can’t make it, we maybe have to acquiesce.

President: How would you start it?

Kissinger: I would thank him for his constructive role. Then ask for his assessment and the outcome. Then say you agree with his solution, but you have the gravest doubts about the method. If we could get a ceasefire, then we could implement the Syrian political situation and Asad could sneak in some more forces. I think the Israelis would accept it under these circumstances.

Asad wants to become the spokesman of the Arab world, so he will work to get the PLO under his control. Of course, Sadat does not want [Page 1002] this to happen and is therefore supporting the PLO. So we are better off not letting Syrian troops in unless the Christians are in danger of being wiped out.

You could tell Hussein that the results of intervention would be incalculable and it is not in his interest to have the PLO and Lebanese under Syria and perhaps have an Israeli intervention.

If we finish Lebanon, you know where we are on the negotiations The non-belligerence approach is better than the Geneva approach, because it is a one-stage process rather than two.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Lebanon.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 18, March 30, 1976, Ford, Kissinger. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House.