171. Editorial Note

In a January 30, 1976, memorandum, Clinton Granger and Robert Oakley of the National Security Council Staff reminded Brent Scowcroft that in response to Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger’s request for an NSC review of U.S. relations with Iran (see Document 142), the President had opted for a review of U.S. defense and security policies in the entire Persian Gulf region. With the completion of NSSM 231 on Israeli military requests, they noted, the resources were now available for the Persian Gulf NSSM. (Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 42, NSSM 238 (2 of 3))

Subsequently, Scowcroft signed National Security Study Memorandum 238, “U.S. Policy Toward the Persian Gulf,” February 13, [Page 519] which called for an examination of U.S. political and strategic goals in the area and the development of policy alternatives for Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. The analysis was to assess the importance to the United States of the countries over the next 10 years, the prospects for stability and moderation in the Persian Gulf nations, the potential influence in the area of outside powers, and the liabilities and benefits to the United States of U.S. arms policy in the Persian Gulf in the short and long term. (Ibid., National Security Adviser, National Security Decision Memoranda and National Security Study Memoranda, Box 2, NSSM 238)

On March 30, Stephen Palmer, Jr., Director of the Office of Regional Affairs, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, forwarded to his Bureau colleagues the Department of Defense contribution to the NSSM 238 response by Glenn Blitgen, Deputy Director of the Near East and South Asia Region, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. The response warned that by not discouraging U.S. commercial firms from engaging in discussion of arms-for-oil deals, the U.S. Government seemed to tacitly approve of efforts to help Iran out of an oil revenue dilemma of its own making, and to endorse further major Iranian buys of U.S. arms. Calling Blitgen’s remarks “some of the few really original, searching questions thus far posed in our 238 exercise,” Palmer, in his covering memorandum, agreed that the NSSM study would be a charade to the extent that the United States approved of barter negotiations, and recommended that the United States adopt a static reassessment stance regarding new weapons commitments to the Gulf until a NSSM 238 response was completed. (Ibid., NSC Middle East and South Asian Affairs Staff: Convenience Files, Box 5, Iran (6))

NSSM 238; the minutes of the Senior Review Group meeting on the subject on January 5, 1977; and the NSSM 238 Executive Summary, January 17, 1977, are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–9, Documents on Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula; North Africa, 1973–1976.