290. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Amb. Hermann F. Eilts, Ambassador to Egypt
  • Amb. Richard Murphy, Ambassador to Syria
  • Amb. Thomas R. Pickering, Ambassador to Jordan
  • Amb. William Porter, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
  • Amb. Talcott Seelye, Special Representative-designate to Lebanon
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Kissinger: Roy, have you seen that cable, in which Ismail [Fahmy] asks for coordination? [See Cairo 8349, Tab A.]2

[Page 1037]

Atherton: It’s the one a few days ago.

Kissinger: I thought it was new.

Atherton: Hermann doesn’t think it’s a problem.

Kissinger: Let me explain why I called this meeting, which I called before the murder of our Ambassadors [Amb. Meloy and Economic Counselor Waring in Beirut].

I think we’re sliding into a situation in which there is danger that we’ll be everyone’s fall guy; but if we play it right, we can continue to play an important role. I’m afraid we’re in a situation where the Egyptians accuse us of colluding with the Syrians, and the Jordanians blame us for Syrian setbacks because we didn’t encourage Syria to invade.

Pickering: Because there was “no green light.”

Kissinger: Because there was no green light.

So I wanted to ensure that we all said the same thing, that we see what role we can play, and anything else we can discuss. Hermann?

Eilts: You’ve all seen this message from Ismail [Fahmy]. He’s again urging that we do something before the elections. This is Ismail’s idea, not Sadat’s.

Kissinger: What would he want us to do?

Eilts: Call Geneva before the election.3

Kissinger: This would raise the PLO issue.

Eilts: Exactly.

Kissinger: My view is that in the United States anything including the PLO would run us into trouble with the Jews in the maximum conditions for irresponsibility. Carter will use it to get himself in, and the Democrats will lock themselves into a situation they couldn’t get out of if they came in. The Israelis will be impossible until the election. My idea is that we declare ourselves vocally for that proposal of the Israelis for an end to the state of war, which after all I never expected would fly. It’s still alive.

Seelye: Which is that?

Kissinger: An end of the state of war and substantial territorial concessions. They haven’t given us a line. In the Sinai, it could be a line from El-Arish to Ras Mohammed. If they do anything comparable on the Golan and the West Bank, we could have a discussion. The trouble is, the Israelis define the end of the state of war as the relationship between New York and New Jersey, and peace as the relationship which those of us who are happily married have with their wives. [Laughter]

[Page 1038]

The Arabs, I believe, can’t really make peace now. But my idea of an end of the state of war is something like what Sadat in fact signed.4 Since countries can go to war even if they’re in a state of peace, it is not so difficult to do so from a position of renunciation of war. But I haven’t given up on this proposal. At the worst, we could get Israel’s outrageous proposals and use it to surface our own proposals for a comprehensive settlement.

The Jordanians, who have the least to gain, are the toughest on this. The Egyptians could hope for El Arish-to-Ras Mohammed.

Eilts: But that isn’t “the last 20 kilometers.”

Kissinger: But it’s not the final Israeli word either. If it comes to that, we’re in a typical haggle.

Eilts: If we play it that way.

Kissinger: If, say, Sadat wants a straight line, it could even be eight kilometers. It’s a soluble problem.

For the Jordanians, since they’re not recognized as the negotiator, they might as well be tough.

It is interesting that Asad hasn’t rejected it.

Murphy: He has, sir, publicly, twice. Once after the Israelis leaked it and last week in Paris, in a toast to Giscard. He said explicitly: “There are some who are trying to divide the Arabs with schemes such as the end of the state of war.”

Kissinger: Doesn’t he realize it includes him? Giscard told us that Asad told him we were trying to divide the Arabs, not in Lebanon, but in the Sinai Agreement.

Eilts: I hope we’re all saying the same thing.

Kissinger: We are. We told them all that a substantial withdrawal would include, on the Golan, most of the settlements.

Murphy: I used what we agreed on. I’m not sure it said “most of the settlements.” “Substantial” was the word used.

Kissinger: You should correct it with Daoudi. My idea of “substantial” is 5–10 kilometers, which would include an overwhelming majority of the settlements, except in the south.

Murphy: Unfortunately, the way he’s handled Lebanon—with the scrap with the PLO—would make him more rigid on negotiations, where the Palestinians are concerned.

Eilts: This is where “dividing the Arabs” comes in. There is nothing in the proposal for the Palestinians.

[Page 1039]

Kissinger: If he can make peace between the Fatah and the Jordanians, he can have the Jordanians do some negotiating for the Palestinians.

Murphy: That’s some time distant.

Pickering: The PLO is quite worried about it, and has been complaining for weeks that this is what we had in mind.

Kissinger: I’m just trying to understand what he’s doing. If he doesn’t wipe out the PLO or substantially weaken it, he can’t leave. It would leave Lebanon implacably hostile to him.

Murphy: He’s not going to leave. He’s got 19,000 troops there.

Kissinger: Then he’s paralyzed in Israeli diplomacy.

If he destroys the PLO, he can make a political settlement and get out. If he doesn’t, the PLO will always be hostile.

Murphy: His public venom against the PLO has diminished; it’s now directed against Jumblatt.

Kissinger: With all respect, his action in Lebanon resembles our action in Vietnam—the idea that if you do something incompetently, it takes the moral curse off.

Pickering: He seems to be captured by the restrictions we’ve put on him, all the signals we gave him to “watch it.”

Kissinger: Because the Israelis changed signals on us without telling us.

Atherton: They’ve defined the “red line” for us—and redefined it several times. They’d have gone to war by now [if they stuck to their original definition of the “red line.”].

Kissinger: And they never gave us a different concept.

Eilts: The reason Sadat thinks we’re colluding is he thinks Asad is chewing up the PLO for us. If Asad does it, his feeling of collusion will grow.

Kissinger: The fact is, as Dick [Murphy] knows, we didn’t know a goddamn thing about what Asad was doing. The fact is, as Roy [Atherton] knows, we never knew a goddamn thing about what Israel was doing.

I wonder if the Israelis aren’t, in fact, in touch with the Syrians through Jordan.

Pickering: Not that I know.

Kissinger: Or through the Christians.

Pickering: It could be. We heard one report they were in touch somewhere in Europe.

Kissinger: But all of us know all that you know. This isn’t a case where there is something going on in Washington that you don’t know about.

[Page 1040]

While we can continue to take credit with the Arabs for restraining the Israelis, the sad fact is we didn’t.

Atherton: They restrained themselves.

Kissinger: They never told us.

Seelye: I’ve just come from AF, a distinguished bureau. [Laughter]

Am I right in assuming they’ve been restrained for two reasons—because the Syrians may weaken the PLO, and (2) because they see a possibility of partition?

Kissinger: But we told them we wouldn’t accept partition. I told them in April—maybe I scared the bejeesus out of them—that we wouldn’t stand for another Middle East war, and if there were a war, we wouldn’t go through this disengagement again.

Seelye: But they’re supporting the Phalangists.

Kissinger: That we’ve acquiesced in. Because we don’t want Jumblatt to be able to knock them over. The Syrians understand this.

Seelye: But this opens up a Pandora’s box if the Israelis continue their relationship with the Phalange.

Kissinger: I thought you meant an Israeli-Syrian partition.

Seelye: I was thinking of a Moslem-Christian partition, because this would prove the failure of a unitary state, which could apply to their own state.

Atherton: They use that argument anyway.

Eilts: What’s wrong with the Israelis continuing to have a relationship with the Phalangists?

Seelye: There is nothing wrong, to save them from being overrun. But a separate Christian state is against our interests.

Kissinger: I had two worries—one is that the radicals would overrun them, and the second is that the Syrians, having overrun the PLO, would restore their Arab credentials by overrunning the Christians.

Seelye: I don’t think they’ll do that.

Murphy: But it will result in their raising the PLO flag even higher, to get the monkey off their back.

Kissinger: If that’s what they did, they’ve been acting like fools.

Seelye: They just want to change the PLO leadership.

Kissinger: I think they want to change the PLO leadership to bring them closer to Hussein. He [Asad] can’t destroy the PLO as an institution but he can want to so weaken it that it exists as an appendage of Syria.

Eilts: That’s why Sadat is against his presence in Lebanon.

Seelye: The Syrians went in when the Christians were on the ropes.

[Page 1041]

Pickering: The PLO took on Saiqa.

Kissinger: They went in because they couldn’t make their political settlement stick, and they were afraid the PLO would become out of control and become an instrument of Iraq and Libya.

Porter: The Saudis are restraining funds from Asad.

Kissinger: Really?

Porter: They’re restraining funds.

Kissinger: Do they get kickbacks on their own loans? [Laughter]

Porter: What I’m saying is: Won’t this be bad news for the Syrian economy?

Murphy: He’s had to cut the budget in half.

Pickering: The Soviets gave him oil yesterday.

Murphy: He’s gotten 300,000 tons of oil from the Saudis—three months consumption.

Porter: What happens to his economy in the long term? This is a long process.

Kissinger: He either stays, and weakens himself vis-à-vis Israel, or he withdraws and leaves the PLO in control—which, having faced him down, will be even more intractable.

Porter: Or destroy the PLO.

Kissinger: At least change the leadership. What is he doing?

Murphy: They haven’t really moved since June 9. One commander made the mistake—Shihabi told me—of going into the cities. So they’re staying out of the cities.

Kissinger: So the PLO can stay in the centers and move out.

Murphy: The Syrians are in Bekaa and Tripoli, but the PLO is in Sidon and Beirut. The Sudanese, Saudis and Libyans will be a security force in Beirut, not the Syrians.

Kissinger: So explain to me what he’s achieved?

Eilts: Not a damn thing.

Kissinger: He’ll control the whole countryside, 80% as he told Giscard. It’s the reverse of us in Vietnam, where we had the cities but not the countryside. If he doesn’t withdraw, he’s got two divisions tied down. If he leaves, the PLO takes over the country.

Murphy: He’s trying to pull the teeth of the Lebanese left.

Kissinger: By the way, couldn’t we get Dean Brown to shut up? Does he have to say we can’t stop the fighting? It looks like encouragement by us to continue fighting.

Murphy: He’s got under 10,000. Asad is trying to get Fatah away from Jumblatt. But his technique is a slow squeeze, but not an assault on the cities.

[Page 1042]

Pickering: They are blocking the ports and roads.

Murphy: Hermann says Egyptian arms are getting in.

He [Asad] says he’ll “reeducate” the Fatah—that they’ve been misguided. He was surprised by the strength of Arafat’s support in the Arab world.

Eilts: I think everything he’s done shows miscalculation. He underestimated the strength of Arafat.

Kissinger: And then he didn’t chew them up. It’s just like Vietnam. He’s got himself into an inconclusive situation. If the Arab force protects the cities, he’s had it. It doesn’t matter who they are, they’ll be a shield behind which the PLO will reconstitute itself. In the name of what does he stay?

Seelye: I submit he gave up on Beirut. It can’t be like Amman [in 1970]. Amman is a village compared to Beirut. Beirut is a big city.

Kissinger: Then why did he go into Lebanon? We went into the Dominican Republic with 25,000 troops, which I’m sure was five times more than we needed. There was more support for Vietnam than for the Dominican Republic, but we won, and it’s over. I just don’t see what the evolution can be.

Porter: He’s stuck.

Kissinger: He made the same miscalculation we did—that if we just showed up with force, they’d crumble.

Pickering: And he had to worry about the Israelis, just as we had to worry about the Soviet Union and China.

Kissinger: But strength wasn’t his problem.

Eilts: Is he afraid if he really lets his forces loose, and they get bloodied, this could unseat him at home?

Murphy: His forces had no training for this.

Porter: He doesn’t control the supply routes.

Pickering: No, he thinks he has them. He controls the sea routes too.

Porter: Maybe that’s what he thinks he can do. He’ll just sit there.

Kissinger: But Fahmy—who doesn’t understand the Arabs—can take a multilateral situation and come up with more formulas . . . Asad can’t just sit there for more than another month. He [Fahmy] will keep it boiling.

Eilts: That’s right.

Porter: It’s a repeat of our story. We put them in—50,000—and nobody quit.

Pickering: Sadat can’t put forces in independently.

[Page 1043]

Murphy: Maybe if Asad shuts up on the Sinai II, Sadat won’t object to it.

Eilts: There will be a PLO component in the force too, and the Egyptians will use it to keep getting supplies to the PLO.

Kissinger: When it turns into straight duplicity, no one can compete with the Egyptians! [Laughter] The Syrians aren’t slouches, but the Egyptians have been doing it for 3,000 years.

Eilts: The Egyptians are supplying the PLO by sea.

Seelye: But the thesis is that the Syrians are blocking the airport to keep the PLO from getting supplies.

Eilts/Murphy: That’s true.

Eilts: There are ships landing arms at Alexandria.

Kissinger: Maybe they’re keeping it for themselves. Spare parts! [Laughter]

Porter: The President praised the PLO yesterday.

Kissinger: He did?

Eilts: Oh yes.

Atherton: Off the cuff, in the Rose Garden. [See President’s remarks, Tab B]5

Seelye: The Lebanese Ambassador, Kabbani, told me last night in Washington that this created a pretty good atmosphere for us.

Kissinger: How will you get in?

Seelye: I don’t know yet.

Kissinger: Through Juniya?

Atherton: The PLO doesn’t control it.

Seelye: I think the way is to go in through the airport. If it’s two to three days, I’ll go back to Washington.

Kissinger: Let me explain the way I see the situation and then apply it to each of your countries.

At the end of March, when the Syrians first came to us with the idea of intervention, I was at first extremely attracted, on the basis that the PLO was, at best, a nuisance to us, and at worst, created enormous problems in our country, and for the peace process. Once they’re in the peace process, they can radicalize all the others. They’ll raise all the issues the Israelis can’t handle, and no other Arab can raise any other issues once the PLO is raised. So I felt the PLO issue couldn’t be the first, not because I didn’t favor the PLO but for this reason. Because the [Page 1044] Egyptians and the Syrians have more flexibility than the PLO. As for the PLO as such, at some point some Palestinian entity will emerge, perhaps in confederation with Jordan.

So I wouldn’t have wept any great tears if the PLO had been weakened at the end of March.

I moved away from this idea first because Israeli opposition was too great. Syria couldn’t accept the partition of Lebanon between it and Israel, because the position of Asad and Hussein would have been untenable. In spite of Hussein’s grandiloquence. It would have been a 1967 war; the Arabs would get into a war they weren’t prepared for. They would be wiped out, and turn against us. There would be another embargo, even though the Saudis didn’t want to.

I started with the assumption the Syrians would succeed. I forgot the infinite capacity of the Arabs to screw things up. I thought they’d weaken the PLO, make it an appendage of Syria, bring in Jordan, and create a Greater Syria. I still think this is what he has in mind. This would bring pressure on the Saudis and really isolate the Egyptians. This is why the Egyptians reacted so violently.

Eilts: If it went that far.

Kissinger: This is what the Israeli threat to intervene created. You should get into Sadat’s head that far from colluding with the Syrians, we kept them from invading for five weeks.

Murphy: That’s right. He had other bedrock reasons, but it gave him an excuse and he used it.

Kissinger: We then sent out Dean Brown and got a new election. We then lost control over events.

I told Meloy to be less visible than Brown, which he interpreted as being invisible. He just sent Waring around.

Atherton: But he sent Waring around a lot. Maybe that’s all that could have been done.

Kissinger: In any case, we lost control of events.

Maybe we’re still in a not too bad strategic position. A big Syrian intervention in March would have brought in the Israelis. Israeli intervention would have soured our relations with all the Arabs.

If anyone disagrees . . . I’m just thinking it through.

The Syrians now can’t win, so this eases our Egyptian problem. We did keep the Israelis off their back. I hope you use this line with all your clients.

But this is a transitory phenomenon, until there is some resolution.

Seelye: I have one reservation. We can have some influence over the outside parties with interests in Lebanon, but can we really influence internal events in Lebanon?

[Page 1045]

Kissinger: I think we shouldn’t be the principal one. As Roy knows, I picked Meloy. As I said at the arrival ceremony for his body, I wanted him there. So he was my responsibility. Dean Brown was superactive; Meloy can’t be faulted for what he did. Before he moved, he wanted to know more about where the bodies were buried. But if I could have written the script, he would have been more active. An American Ambassador who sits at home is a signal of some kind.

I’m not on the spot. I’m telling you what the role should be, and if you tell me it’s not safe, your judgment prevails.

v: It’s a security problem now.

Kissinger: Look, Talcott, your safety is overriding. But basically I want you to be less active than Brown and more active than Meloy. I’m the one who cabled him to be more active. So I’m responsible.

Atherton: He had already set up the appointment with Sarkis before your cable.

Eilts: I don’t see how Lebanon can be settled at all unless we talk to the Palestinians.

Kissinger: You know my reasons are solely domestic.

Porter: That’s right.

Kissinger: First of all, no Arab can keep his mouth shut. The Israelis will beat us all over the head. It’s after all, only four months.

Seelye: But we didn’t do it before.

Kissinger: We have a strategic problem. They have substantive demands too, which will be extremely difficult to handle. I can see peace with Syria, which will be murderous but still is intellectually conceivable.

Seelye: But what about a dialogue? This doesn’t address the substance. You said I could discuss security with them.

Kissinger: This isn’t the most helpful moment with the Syrians to launch a dialogue with the PLO. [Laughter] Talking with the Palestinians won’t end all our problems. If we walk in and say “Seelye will see the PLO,” will your guys [Porter] be happy?

Porter: Yes.

Pickering: Do we have to do it before the elections?

Kissinger: I’d like you to get into your guys’ heads that talking to the PLO isn’t the obstacle. We’ve offered 100 times to send someone unofficial, like Charlie Yost.

Murphy: But we never did it, and I’ve told him twice.

Kissinger: If I went to Charlie Yost, who’s advising Carter . . .

Seelye: How about the guy at Harvard who’s written about the PLO?

Eilts: Roger Fisher.

[Page 1046]

Kissinger: He’s great at coming up with formulas. He has no judgment and no discretion. In the best tradition of the foreign service he’ll talk two hours and put into the mouth of his interlocutor what he said.

Murphy: It’s unhygenic. [Laughter]

Kissinger: I’m not so eager for Talcott to talk to them. It could be someone else.

Seelye: At the consular level.

Eilts: I’ve felt in Cairo that we had to wait four months, but they had to feel our heart is in the right place. He suspects we want someone to wipe out the PLO.

Kissinger: Look, Sadat has told me his only use for Arafat is if someone raises the Palestinian issue, he can say “Go see Arafat.” And he is using Arafat now to end his own isolation. He’s enjoying himself now.

A year from now, when we’re in the middle of the peace process, and we’re going to the 20-kilometer line—which I think he’ll do—and the PLO starts screaming “what about the Palestinians?”, Sadat will close all the PLO offices and kick them out. They’ll all screw the PLO if they get their piece.

As Dick knows, we had absolutely nothing to do with what the Syrians did. If we wanted to, we’d have done it when Hussein was begging for it in Washington. So I believe we can’t create the presumption that the PLO is the key to everything. It’s everybody’s cop-out. It has to be the end of the process.

When I saw Asad at the end of the Sinai negotiations, if I had said: “By October 1 I can get you a negotiation for five kilometers in a straight line down the Golan Heights and a settlement by December,” are you morally certain he’d have said: “Nothing without the PLO!”?

Murphy: He was mad at the Egyptians then.

Kissinger: But if I could guarantee it? He asked: “How much?” I had to say we had to get Rabin to Washington and get token concessions, etc. Then he said: “Why should I? What do I get? For giving up my moral advantage over Sadat?”

Atherton: When it started to blow up in his own country, he turned against it.

Kissinger: Right. The issue is what do you all tell your governments. I want to avoid the impression in Egypt that we’re colluding with the Syrians, and I want to give the Syrians a sense that we’re sympathetic. We want to help weaken the PLO without losing the PLO.

Porter: Use the President’s statement!

Kissinger: The President will start backing off it once the Israeli apparatus starts. I wouldn’t wrap yourself in that statement.

[Page 1047]

At my press conference, I said the PLO was helpful, the Egyptians were very helpful, and the Saudis were, with the Palestinians, and we asked the Egyptians to thank those who were helpful, but we didn’t pass any formal messages. Come to think of it, I forgot to mention the Syrians.

Eilts: That helps me!

Kissinger: The danger is that in the next two weeks there will be so many qualifiers that the statement won’t be helpful.

Atherton: Mr. Secretary, we put together a set of talking points. [He shows the Secretary Tab C.]6

Kissinger: [Reads.] How will the Egyptians react to our saying “We want these efforts of reconciliation to succeed”?

Eilts: We can sell it, provided it doesn’t mean we’re asking Sadat to go back on what he’s doing.

Kissinger: It’s pretty thin gruel.

Murphy: It’s not helpful with the Syrians to say: “We want the peace process to resume.” When we say “we want Arab suspicions of each other to end,” it improves, except they blame us for creating them!

Pickering: There is nothing we could do before the elections that would help.

Eilts: They don’t expect anything.

Kissinger: I may go to Iran in August. Should I go to Saudi Arabia?

Porter: I wish you would.

Kissinger: If I go to all the places, they’ll expect big promises of what we’ll do after the elections, and they’ll leak it. And I’ll have to go to Israel. I’d love to see Sadat, but there is no way I could see him without seeing Asad. And I can’t go to Saudi Arabia without going to the others.

Eilts: You could stop at [omission in the original] to refuel and he—Khalid—would go. Rusk did it.

Kissinger: Khalid is a moron.

Eilts: But it’s only a refueling stop.

Pickering: But this isn’t Rusk, and it’s all changed since then.

Kissinger: The other problem is the Vice President’s trip.

Eilts: Is this still on?

Kissinger: That’s what I wanted to ask. The trouble is, he’s hell-bent on an overall settlement now, and if he runs through the Arab world, he’ll raise expectations we can’t fulfill.

[Page 1048]

Eilts: If he tries to sell an immediate settlement before the election, it won’t help in Egypt.

Kissinger: On the other hand, it would have the effect of calming things down. My gut feeling is it’s not helpful for me to go.

Eilts: No, not really.

Murphy: They’d expect more from you than from the Vice President.

Kissinger: Right.

Seelye: I’ve seen him in Tunisia. He makes a tremendous impression. If we can control what he says.

Porter: In Saudi Arabia, I could use it on the oil situation, I’m sure of it, because of their concern about its impact on Western economies, particularly ours.

Kissinger: What would that mean?

Porter: Anything we wanted, even lower prices. If we could give them a statement—to which they’d hold us . . . They need something for their Arab audience. But I’m in a soft spot compared to you all, in terms of someone bound up with us.

Kissinger: All of them, except the Jordanians, have conducted themselves well. Even the Syrians haven’t harassed us this year.

Pickering: Why the Jordanians?

Kissinger: Rifai’s a shit.

Seelye: He’s our worst enemy in the Middle East.

Kissinger: He’s not really our worst enemy, but he’s no friend.

If I come, it drives all expectations. I can’t make general statements; from me they’ll expect more.

Basically the Vice President is an unguided missile. He’s a dear friend of mine. We could write it all out for him.

Atherton: My one experience with him was at the Faisal [funeral] business.7 He stuck to what we had given him. It was very useful, even perhaps in getting Sinai II revived.

Eilts: Not really.

Pickering: They’re all waiting now for the election. They’re sitting still. If he goes and makes statements that will haunt us later . . .

Kissinger: A settlement now is impossible. The Vice President totally underestimates what it involves in taking on the lobby.

Porter: I once told you that.

Kissinger: They never hit you on the issue; you have to fight ten other issues—your credibility, everything. Next year we’ll have to do it.

[Page 1049]

Eilts: As far as Egypt is concerned, there is no need for him to come. They have confidence.

Kissinger: And we’ll succeed, if we do it on our own timing, and if we do it in an all-out Presidential way. When the President really gets into it.

Would it help in Syria?

Murphy: They’re prepared to wait until November.

Pickering: In fact, they all believe nothing can be done before November. A trip that promises something would only weaken our credibility.

Murphy: Maybe after the Kosygin visit.

Atherton: I favored a Vice-Presidential visit but I didn’t really realize it would raise expectations.

Porter: They could wait. But a general statement that we’re eager to do something would be welcomed.

Kissinger: But Asad will hit him with the real question—“Will it be the ’67 borders or not?” The Vice President doesn’t give evasive answers.

Let me think about the Vice President. Maybe we’ll send him.

And you all think there is no sense in my going to Saudi Arabia and nowhere else if I go to Iran.

Eilts: It would be bad.

Porter: The Saudis will turn on all the pomp and circumstance. They won’t let you go on just a refueling stop.

Eilts: If you go to Saudi Arabia and talk to the King and Cabinet in Taif and don’t go to Egypt, it will leave a bad impression.

Kissinger: If I do that, I have to go to Damascus and Amman and Israel.

Atherton: And the Kuwaitis will say you’ve been promising them for two years!

Pickering: Only if it’s a refueling stop. The Saudis would accept it.

Murphy: What is the credibility of a refueling stop in Dhahran if you’ve just left Tehran?

Kissinger: What can you tell your clients? This [the talking paper] is just pap.

Pickering: We’ve had less to say in the past. What can we say about after November? That’s the meat of it.

Kissinger: You can tell them that after November we’re absolutely determined to get the negotiating process started because it’s in the national interest of the United States. It’s not just to delay until November. But they have to help us with the process because it’ll be bloody diffi[Page 1050]cult. I didn’t think we could deliver on the proposal so I didn’t push it. If Asad gets 80% of the settlements off the Golan, he’s nine-tenths of the way home.

Murphy: Asad won’t do it without the Palestinians, even with what he’s done to the Palestinians.

Kissinger: But we’d do it in a determined way. There could be something on the West Bank.

Pickering: But there are 28 settlements on the River. It’s just like the Golan.

Kissinger: But you can tell them that that proposal precludes absolutely nothing.

Pickering: They want it in terms of the ’67 lines.

Kissinger: But if it’s something short of the ’67 lines for an end to the state of war, they still have a claim to the ’67 lines in exchange for peace.

Murphy: It’s always been in the talking points.

Eilts: I don’t know about you guys, but when I get back no one will ask me about the peace process. They’ll ask me what we’re doing in Lebanon.

Kissinger: You can tell them I’m getting mad at being accused by everyone of colluding with the other. Ask them if the incompetence of everyone didn’t create a classic mess.

Eilts: They’ll agree to that. But they’ll say that if we say we endorsed Syrian political involvement, but no military involvement, it’s naive. They see it as the green light.

Kissinger: But the fact is we used it to restrain the Syrians.

Eilts: But we didn’t always handle it right. When they said the Syrians are sending thousands of troops in, and at the same time Funseth says, “We don’t really know,” the Egyptians say to themselves: “If we know, the CIA knows.”

Kissinger: But Hermann, we were only told about 2,000 in the north and these were to replace PLA units, and the others were moving further west. Isn’t that right, Roy?

Atherton: This was our intelligence.

Kissinger: I don’t know if it’s better for the Egyptians to think we’re incompetent or that we’re duplicitous. [Laughter]

Eilts: Good question!

Atherton: Can we do anything with these talking points?

Kissinger: Hermann, I know your relationship with Sadat. You can give him a feel from our discussion.

Porter: I’ve no problem. They believe us. They don’t talk about duplicity.

[Page 1051]

Kissinger: They’re afraid of you! Anyone who can destabilize Canada . . . [Laughter]

We have to do it differently in each place.

[To Eilts:] You have to get across to Fahmy and Sadat that we don’t always understand the Lebanese situation, but the Arabs have screwed this up royally by themselves. My experience with Sadat is he wants an honest assessment.

Eilts: Sadat never taxes me on it.

Kissinger: Just tell him we can’t be accused by everybody. We could, if he wants, send someone like Yost or Percy, which we could disavow.

Murphy: If we’re going to do it, we should set the date. Because to ask them doesn’t mean anything.

Eilts: We haven’t said it before.

Atherton: This isn’t the time for it. Except in Beirut.

Kissinger [to Seelye]: You shouldn’t do it yourself.

Seelye: I was hoping you’d authorize me to do it personally.

Kissinger: No, let your security officer talk to their security officer.

Eilts: What should we say on the Riyadh meeting?8

Kissinger: Tell Sadat the possibility that we’ll switch to Syria is an absolute impossibility. We’ve put our chips on Egypt. All these allusions of Fahmy are absurd. On the other hand, we want his judgment about avoiding a situation where Asad is either overthrown or ties up with the Iraqis. This is more divisive for anything we could do. While we won’t switch to Syria, we do feel we need Asad in the next phase for our common strategy.

Eilts: He won’t disagree.

Kissinger: On Lebanon, the best we can do is to stay in touch with all the parties, and we don’t consider Lebanon our safety valve or want to settle the peace process in Lebanon. Six months ago, the idea of Syria attacking the PLO would have been absurd.

Eilts: How about endorsing the Arab force?

Murphy: We’ve come close.

Kissinger: All right, as it crystallizes.

Seelye: Keep in mind the Libyans are in it. Ambassador Kabbani . . .

Kissinger: Which Kabbani is that?

Seelye: He’s the Lebanese Ambassador in Washington. He says the Libyan presence helps win PLO acceptance.

[Page 1052]

Kissinger: I don’t want you to lead the Libyan charge there.

Eilts: I’ve just seen him [Sadat]; I don’t have to see him immediately.

Murphy: I’m in a different position. I haven’t see him [Asad] for two and a half months.

Kissinger: Whom can you see?

Murphy: It depends on how soon you want it. Asad and Khaddam leave Thursday for Romania and Yugoslavia.

Kissinger: Don’t seem too eager. But put in a word to see him on Thursday.9

Murphy: He agrees Lebanon is blocking everything.

Kissinger: Tell him the French say he feels we’re blocking him. Tell him we need Syria in the next phase. He’ll ask about the Palestinians. Tell him we need his help to bring them in somehow. If he has the statesmanship to bring the Palestinians and the Jordanians together, we can make progress. Lebanon blocks everything.

I don’t mind if Sadat tells him we told him Egypt was the key. We’ve told Sadat Syria has to have a role.

Tell him in Lebanon we won’t do anything to block him.

Tell him we’re sending Seelye there.

Atherton: Tell them we’re not for splitting the Arabs.

Kissinger: I’m giving a press conference in Germany. They’ll ask about South Africa but also about Lebanon. I’ll certainly support the Arab force.

Atherton: And Riyadh.

Kissinger: I’ll certainly support that. I’ll certainly have a press conference in Washington next week.

You can use this guff [the talking points] as a basis. What I want is to convey that on the peace process, now that we’re so close to it, they’ve got to believe us. We’ve done nothing inconsistent, to those who’ve believed us. To those who don’t believe us, they have nothing to lose by trusting us. As for the shits like Rifai . . .

Pickering: They have justification for their attitude. I’ll stick to the line Dick [Murphy] takes.

Kissinger: Let them play it back. To the Saudis, tell them I’ve said Egypt we’ve banked on, and Asad I like personally.

Seelye: I’ll say we’re against Arab divisions.

Kissinger: Tell Asad we want Riyadh to succeed. Tell him we needed the Sinai to show that the Israeli lobby can’t stop even a minor [Page 1053] advance. What would it have profited him if the Arabs gained nothing last year? By next year, it will be clear Sadat was right.

Eilts: That’s what he’s counting on.

Kissinger: I can’t speak for Carter. If he’s smart, he’ll tackle it in the first year. He’s buying himself an awful mess.

The Israelis now claim in 1969 I promised that any list we approved has to be funded. If that’s so, what’s the point of the Congressional authorization process? The amounts in 1969 were chicken feed. They’ve now developed this theory.

You know how ostentatiously I avoided the Middle East problem then.

Seelye: One other practical thing in Lebanon. This no-man’s land makes it a security problem to go back and forth to the Christian area. So I’d like to station a political officer in the Christian area, with a scrambler radio.

Kissinger: Good idea.

Seelye: The political problem is that it would look like partition.

Kissinger: That’s no problem.

Seelye: My life comes first.

Kissinger: We won’t lose another Ambassador.

Seelye: The problem is I had a man picked out and he backed out. If any of you have any suggestions . . .

Kissinger: Do you all think you know what to do?

Murphy: Yes. It isn’t much, as you say, but we’ll stick to the same line. Tom and I will have the same wording.

Kissinger: I want to talk to Dick a moment.

[Secretary Kissinger and Ambassador Murphy conferred alone from 7:30 to 7:35 p.m., and then the meeting ended.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 347, Department of State Memorandum of Conversations, Internal, April–June, 1976. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Tank at the American Embassy in Paris. All brackets, with the exception of ones describing omitted material, are in the original.
  2. Tab A, telegram 8349 from Cairo, June 17, is attached but not printed. In it, the Embassy reported that Fahmy expressed Sadat’s condolences to Kissinger over the assassination of Ambassador Meloy, and he called for “intensified consultation and coordination between the U.S. and the Egyptian positions.”
  3. A reference to the Geneva Middle East Peace Conference.
  4. See Document 230.
  5. Tab B, “Question and Answer Session with the President,” is attached but not printed. For text of Ford’s exchange with reporters on June 20, see Public Papers: Ford, 1976–77, Book II, pp. 1895–1896. The New York Times reported on June 22 that the PLO had provided protection for the evacuation of American, U.K., and other foreign nationals from Beirut. (James M. Markham, “Syrian and Libyan Troops of Arab Peace Force Arrive in Beirut,” New York Times, June 22, 1976, p. 1)
  6. Tab C, a memorandum from Atherton to the Secretary, is attached but not printed.
  7. See footnote 6, Document 166.
  8. The Arab League summit was held in Riyadh on October 16.
  9. June 24.