280. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affiars
  • Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Harold H. Saunders, Director of Intelligence and Research
  • Arthur R. Day, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Sisco: Arafat didn’t stop fighting as we hoped. As to what we tell our Jordanian friends, we should, as we did yesterday, say that we believe now is time for a ceasefire.2

[Page 1003]

Kissinger: We’ll talk to them about the peace thing. Then I’ll talk to the King at 4:00.3

Sisco: On the Security Council?

Kissinger: We should say we don’t preclude a meeting of the Security Council and we’ll be in touch with the Secretary General.

Have we heard from Murphy yet?4

Sisco: No.

Kissinger: When I see the King this afternoon, I’ll tell him we’ve absolutely got to get a ceasefire first. Asad must know that if he moves without these efforts, we can do nothing. If a massive effort fails and the Syrians go in, he has to give absolutely a final terminal date. Three weeks at the most. If he [Hussein] wiped out the PLO in nine days, three weeks should be more than enough. [Laughter]

I’m prepared to work on Israel to prevent them from moving into South Lebanon. I won’t tell him that. But the consequences would be too great.

Have we been telling the Egyptians everything we have?

Atherton: We have.

Sisco: Should we tell them everything we’ve told the King?

Kissinger: Yes, because they’ll be happy with it. We are strongly against Syrian intervention, but for a political solution. And we sent a mediator,5 which was partly their idea.

Scranton says I should go out there. What do you think?

Sisco: You can’t mediate this thing. Some weeks later, if it’s stable enough, you might go out there for a broader purpose.

Kissinger: I agree. Israel’s behavior in this crisis is something no U.S. Government can accept. They must know something. They must be doing something. And they’ve told us nothing. I’ve been calling them twice a day.

I want, for the President’s understanding, a chronology. All the initiatives we made, all the circuits we’ve made: to the Syrians, the Jordanians, the Saudis. They all said they didn’t want outside help.

[Page 1004]

Sisco: How will Reagan play this, after this Jackson thing [that we should have sent the Marines]?6

Kissinger: He’ll say we were characteristically weak.

Saunders: I wonder if we could hit back against Jackson.

Rodman: Make him look crazy.

Kissinger: We should say at the briefing: This is a novel approach to put U.S. troops in the middle of guerrilla country. It’s unfeasible, to put US Marines in PLO territory. We can’t get involved unless the parties want us.

Scowcroft: Well . . .

Kissinger: Well, I don’t want to say we won’t fight. We should say it wasn’t feasible and it would have been risky.

Saunders: Keep it in the past tense, as you said.

Kissinger: I want a chronology for the President of what we’ve done at all stages, and the last ten days.7 If I may say, we’ve handled it with some delicacy over the last ten days. To keep the Syrians out for ten days.

[Sisco hands over the draft press statement on Waldheim, which the Secretary edits.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 275, Chronological File, March 1976, Folder 2. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the General Scowcroft’s office at the White House. Brackets are in the original.
  2. President Ford met with King Hussein on March 30. The memorandum of conversation of the meeting is in the Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 18, March 30, 1976, Ford, Kissinger, Jordanian King Hussein. They met again on March 31 immediately after this meeting. The memorandum of conversation is ibid., March 31, 1976, Ford, Kissinger, Jordanian King Hussein, Prime Minister Zaid Rifai.
  3. The memorandum of conversation of the meeting between King Hussein and Kissinger, which took place on March 31 from 4:05 until 5:05 p.m. at Blair House, to discuss the Lebanon situation, Middle East negotiating strategy, and bilateral issues is in the National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Box 16, Nodis Memcons, Feb. 1976, Folder 1.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 278.
  5. Ford recalled Ambassador L. Dean Brown from retirement on March 30. At a March 30 staff meeting that included Brown, Kissinger instructed him about his mission in Lebanon. (Memorandum of conversation, March 30; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 275, Chronological File, March 1976, Folder 2)
  6. Jackson, who was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination, reportedly made the statement at a news conference in Wisconsin. (New York Times, March 31, 1976, p. 21)
  7. A paper entitled “Chronology of U.S. Actions in the Lebanese Civil Conflict, March 1975–March 1976” is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 177, Geopolitical File, Lebanon, Oct. 22, 1975–Dec. 23, 1976.