27. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Shah of Iran
  • Ardeshir Zahedi, Ambassador of Iran
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Richard Helms, U.S. Ambassador to Iran
  • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff

Photographers were invited in at the beginning of the meeting, and the Shah and Dr. Kissinger engaged in some private conversation during the picture-taking. As the other participants joined them and the photographers left, the conversation began as follows:

Mr. Kissinger: Your discussion this morning with the President revealed a general harmony of views.2 This is important so that, even if there may be some tactical disagreement, we can be confident that we are heading in the same direction.

The Shah: I do not even see that kind of limited disagreement. Your policies with the Russians are wise. This is a time for ending the period of confrontation and beginning negotiation, as long as you have your eyes open. Your eyes are open.

Mr. Kissinger: Our strategy has been to create an environment within which the Soviets will be forced to take hostile acts, if they do, from as peaceful a base as possible. Our hope is to put them at a psychological disadvantage in doing this.

The Shah: We shall have to look closely at the new situation in Afghanistan. [The King of Afghanistan had been removed by a coup a week earlier.] We shall see if the Soviets push their advantage there. That will be a significant sign of whether they are actively pursuing a policy of isolating Iran and China at the same stroke. We shall see whether they try to tell the Afghans that they can move only with Soviet assent. It was a pity that the coup took place. The Afghans had been trying to form ties with the non-Communist world.

Mr. Kissinger: I plan to talk to Dobrynin about this. I will let him know that we would not be indifferent. I raised the subject the other day, but only in a general way. I said that if it were purely a local affair, [Page 96] then it would not be a U.S. concern. I recognize that it is a serious Pakistani concern. I shall be more explicit in my next conversation with Dobrynin. If he says anything significant, I will inform you through Helms.

The Shah: I saw Bhutto [President of Pakistan] yesterday in London. He will be patient with the new regime in Afghanistan and is prepared even to hold talks.

Mr. Kissinger: He can’t talk about Pushtunistan, can he?

The Shah: He can always talk. The Pakistanis had talks with the Afghans on this subject before. Bhutto is not prepared to accept any monkey business. He said he would knock on the Afghan heads if necessary.

But if we make it clear to the other side that we are not going to accept any monkey business, they will think twice before doing anything foolish. As I explained to the President and to Secretaries Rogers and Schlesinger,3 just the power of being able to knock out Soviet protégés will make them think twice.

Mr. Kissinger: You mean Iraq?

The Shah: All the countries who lean on them for support. The Chinese are terribly annoyed about what happened in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Zahedi: The Chinese Deputy Representative in Washington is very upset about the coup in Afghanistan. He thought the Soviets were behind it.

Mr. Kissinger: Han Hsu?

Ambassador Zahedi: Yes.

The Shah: They expressed the same view in Tehran, too. The Chinese have tried to befriend us. In some points that is a good thing. However, we are being careful not to antagonize the Russians. We have a long border with them. Our policy is not to insult them but to show them that adventures in our area will not work.

Mr. Kissinger: That they will pay a price for any such adventures.

The Shah: Yes. Our connection with Europe through the supply of energy will link Europe to our country. The Soviet détente in Europe will not permit them to use their détente against Iran because the Europeans will be engaged in a close relationship with Iran.

Mr. Kissinger: I found that one of the most interesting points Your Majesty made to the President this morning.

The Shah: I am glad you found that point interesting. We talked with Secretary Schlesinger about Yemen and Ethiopia. It is important to [Page 97] see North Yemen put into a position where it can hold its own against the Marxist regime in Aden.

Mr. Kissinger: [To Saunders] Where do we stand on that memo on South Arabia?4 [To The Shah] We have two problems in our government: One is to get the State Department to move and the other is to get the Saudis to move.

We are trying to checkmate Soviet influence wherever it appears and to exhaust them in any adventures they may pursue. We want to create a frame of mind in the Politburo that is tired of costly activities in the Middle East which do not produce results. We want to do this without confronting them. We want them simply to recognize that they pay a price for this kind of policy.

We want the Saudis to put pressure on South Yemen. Not everyone in our government agrees with this strategy. However, we will force this policy through a series of ad hoc decisions which will then be leaked to the press.

The Shah: We must try to think what we will do with the Saudis.

Mr. Kissinger: What can we do?

The Shah: There are three things. First, we can urge the Saudis to drop their old feud with the North Yemenis. We can urge the Saudis to help those poor people in Yemen; they are really poor. We must do this so that they can stand up against the regime in South Yemen. That is a completely Marxist government there. They are getting MIG–21s from the USSR, and they are piloted by Cubans. The Chinese have completely abandoned their support for the rebellion in eastern South Yemen.

Mr. Kissinger: We worked that out with the Chinese. We told them that our policy was based on Iran and Jordan—secondarily on Jordan. The Chinese said they could not do much with Jordan but they could work with Iran. They said they would reduce their support for the rebellion in South Arabia. Do you feel they have?

The Shah: Yes.

The second thing the Saudis should do is to help Oman. They could provide money for schools and hospitals there.

Mr. Kissinger: When you have concrete proposals on something like that, could you give them to us? We have good intentions, but sometimes our knowledge is not so good. Could you develop some ideas on this subject and give them to our Ambassador to report to me?

[Page 98]

The Shah: Yes. We are especially concerned that the Saudis help Jordan. If anything happens to Jordan, we would shortly see things happening to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also.

Mr. Kissinger: We are holding back $10 million from Jordan at this point to increase Jordan’s need and to force the Saudis to contribute more to Jordan. Anything Iran can do to persuade Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to give more at this point would be very useful. I think Jordan could use about $30 million more this year.

The Shah: Imagine cutting aid to King Hussein and giving more to the Palestinian terrorists! What does Hussein need now? He needs some retrofitting of his tanks. They should be dieselized too. We can do that in our tank retrofit factory, but we would need the engines and the transportation of the tanks back and forth between Jordan and Iran. We also have a plan to do this with Turkish tanks.

The third thing the Saudis can do is to help with the defense of Kuwait. Kuwait can not be defended from Kuwait itself. Kuwait is so small that its early warning system will never be adequate to permit defense by fighters in time. Bombs can even be dropped from planes almost across the border. Kuwait must be protected by Jordan or Saudi Arabia. But they need additional air base facilities—Jordan in the south and Saudi Arabia in the north.

Mr. Kissinger: What could Iran do to help defend Kuwait?

The Shah: We would help if we were asked.

Mr. Kissinger: Even if you were not asked?

The Shah: If we were not asked, we would have a problem with the Arabs. We have offered three formulas to the Arabs for maintaining security in the Gulf:

(1) We have offered a security pact like the NATO Treaty which would provide that each party would automatically come to the defense of the others if they were attacked. This would include Iran and all the other states in the Persian Gulf.

(2) If the other states are not ready for a pact like that, we have told them that they should make a pact among themselves and then they as a group could sign an agreement with Iran—with both sides as equals.

(3) If they don’t like that, we could then all make a declaration of our intentions to the effect that, if anything happens, we would stick together.

You will remember that a year ago in Tehran I told you if we, the states in the Gulf, could do that, the U.S. could get out of the Gulf. But if that is not possible and if the Soviets come in with a 17-ton cruiser, you will have to do the same.

The other states in the Gulf are hesitant to join in any such security cooperation. Kuwait is afraid because it has so many Palestinians. The [Page 99] Saudis say it is a good idea but feel that we will have to give up the “Arab Islands” in the Gulf. I asked them, “What ‘Arab’ Islands?” All of those islands now occupied by Iran are shown as Iranian on the British admiralty maps and even on the Soviet maps. They seem to want an excuse not to participate. Why?

Zahedi: There is an additional idea. In case no pact between the Arabs and Iran is possible it might be desirable to have an understanding of what our American allies would do if Iran were to help Kuwait. For instance, could the U.S. take a strong stand so that there would be no difficulties in the UN.

The Shah: If we could get a regular pact, that would be better. If not, there is no reason why we should see Soviet boats in the Gulf and not American boats.

Zahedi: The Shaikh of Sharjah was here in Washington several weeks ago, and I entertained him at the Embassy. He is willing to join a pact.

The Shah: They are all willing until it comes down to the question of taking a decisive step. They are all afraid of Saudi Arabia. The worst enemies of an Arab country are other Arab countries.

A more important issue is what the Americans could accomplish by helping to defuse the Arab-Israeli stalemate. An American role in doing this would help the U.S. to gain a dominant position of prestige in the area. It would also help to gain time. It would gain time to see what is going to happen in Saudi Arabia. It would give more time to Sadat. He has told his people many different things in order to gain time. In the end, continuation of the stalemate is not even helpful to Israel. What can be done? The UN is impotent. Jarring was a failure from the beginning. Egyptian Foreign Minister Zayyat says that Egypt would accept the Rogers plan. In short, some U.S. initiative would be very much welcomed.

Mr. Kissinger: I would like to talk about that in a minute. But could we for a moment go back to the questions of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to finish off that part of our conversation first?

We have a lot of areas to deal with. Our intent in this area is good, but sometimes our knowledge is weak.

One issue is what should be done if there were a Qadhafi-type takeover in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. We have discussed this issue within small circles inside the U.S. Government. If we wait until after it happens to talk about it, it will be too late. I thought I might take advantage of Your Majesty’s visit here to get your ideas on what might be done in such a circumstance. Obviously, we should do everything to begin with to prevent such a situation from developing, if we can. We would welcome Your Majesty’s ideas on that subject. A lot depends if [Page 100] such a situation develops on who can do what. There is a normal tendency to wait and see how a situation like this evolves. But then it is often too late.

The Shah: We should study this together. We should have a contingency plan.

Mr. Kissinger: We have a very small group within the U.S. Government studying the subject now. It must be kept to a small group. Otherwise there will be leaks.

The Shah: Yes. This is not something for that fellow—what is his name?—Anderson to publish.

It would be useful to find a few Saudis and Kuwaitis who could be counted on if such a situation came about. If anything happens, it would be useful to have a few of them ask Iran for help, even if they do not constitute a recognized government.

I remember when the Soviet forces invaded Czechoslovakia that the Soviet Ambassador came to me to explain the action, and I asked what justified this intervention. He said it was justified by an “appeal of the Czechoslovaks.” I questioned exactly what he meant. Iran protested the Soviet action. A few days later, the Soviets changed the government and at that point there was nothing further I could say because they were in a position to say that the Government of Czechoslovakia had asked for their help.

If there could be an understanding with some of the people in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, that would put us in a position to move. If we had had an understanding, for instance, with the King of Afghanistan, he might have been flown secretly to some point in Afghanistan after the recent coup and appealed for help.

Mr. Kissinger: We have no intention of accepting a Qadhafi in Saudi Arabia.

The Shah: If there were a coup, it would be useful if some of the Princes like Fahd and Sultan could send a telegram asking for help.

If there were an illegal coup, I could have my parachute brigade and some of my C–130s in Saudi Arabia in a very short period of time. I have heard from Secretary Schlesinger about some additional ways to upgrade my airlift capability. I could have a division in Saudi Arabia in a few hours. They could be followed by helicopters. The TOW missile could take care of the armor; gunships could take care of artillery.

Mr. Kissinger: Does Your Majesty have plans now? Or would the plans have to be developed?

The Shah: The plans would have to be made. One problem is that King Faisal will not cooperate.

Mr. Kissinger: It would take our army five days to make a plan. By that time the coup would be complete and entrenched.

[Page 101]

The Shah: I can have the plans made. I could make the plans tomorrow myself. I am a soldier by profession. We might even have a visit by Prince Fahd.

Mr. Kissinger: The diplomatic scenario will be very important. In a situation like this it may be very desirable to move quickly.

The Shah: Yes. We should take this up.

Zahedi: Your Majesty will remember that he insisted that we should move in Iraq in 1958 but the British and the Americans waited.

The Shah: Not so much the Americans. I was in Turkey at the time and the Foreign Minister told me that the Americans would move quickly.

Zahedi: Then later on when trouble developed in Jordan and Lebanon, the Americans said we should let Iraq go and concentrate on Jordan and Lebanon.

The Shah: If we can cooperate with the Saudis, so much the better. But we could have a contingency plan for moving. Then we could say if there is trouble that certain predesignated people had asked for help. We Iranians would not stay in Saudi Arabia.

Kuwait would not be that easy. If Iraq began an invasion at breakfast time, they could take Kuwait by noon. However, the Kuwaitis are showing some willingness to think through their problems again.

Mr. Kissinger: We are selling them some arms. Does Your Majesty have any objection to this?

The Shah: Not at all. Sell them as much as you like. But Kuwait will have to be defended by Jordan, and what is really important is to help Jordan.

Mr. Kissinger: We agree completely.

The Shah: Give them the possibility to help the Kuwaitis. King Hussein seems ready to fight.

Mr. Kissinger: Hussein is a heroic man.

The Shah: He needs an air base in the south of Jordan.

Mr. Kissinger: What’s keeping that from being developed?

The Shah: Money. Also, the Jordanians are begging for one more C–130. It does not make sense for him to operate just one plane.

Mr. Kissinger: If Your Majesty’s visit achieves nothing else, Jordan will get that one more C–130.

The Shah: We can give loans. But we are going to build up our own forces. We have to concentrate first on the air force. I am glad you are sending an Air Force officer to head your MAAG in Tehran. We will concentrate now on the air force. In the longer run we will work on the navy but not at the expense of the air force.

[Page 102]

It is important that the other side know that we can destroy their puppets.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that a coup in Saudi Arabia may have nothing to do with a Soviet grand design. It could come about entirely from other forces.

Mr. Kissinger: As you develop your contingency plans for Saudi Arabia, it should be discussed with no one except Helms. It can not be discussed in telegrams. That will mean that Ambassador Zahedi will not be able to be informed by written communication.

The Shah: I agree. We do the same in our communication with the Kurds. We have nothing but oral communication.

Mr. Kissinger: As for the Kurds, we will do what can be absorbed. I gather Your Majesty thinks both of us could provide more assistance. If you think more needs to be done, we will seriously consider it.

Helms: Your Majesty, I worked out with Dr. Kissinger yesterday a review of the present situation.5 The arms that were agreed upon a year ago are now in place. What we need to look at now is how that positions the Kurds to accomplish what we hope they would accomplish. On the basis of that review, we can decide what more needs to be done.

Mr. Kissinger: We will look at whether more needs to be done.

The Shah: We should make sure they have all the armaments they need, but we should also help them with their organization. If they want a Department of Health, we should see whether we can help them with that.

Mr. Kissinger: The President agreed with Your Majesty’s overall objective. Our problem is that we do not know enough here in Washington to have a very clear judgment on exactly what needs to be done. We will work out a program and be in touch with Your Majesty.

The Shah: One thing that needs to be done is to find some Iraqis—not émigrés—and send them to the north near the Kurdish area to form a government of national unity or whatever they want to call it. The Kurds must remain within the Iraqi state and seek a solution there. But our only lever over the Iraqi Government is the Kurds.

Mr. Kissinger: The President wants to make a major effort. Is this coordinated with your people or is it strictly an American operation?

Helms: It is fully coordinated and worked out through the Iranian intelligence service.

The Shah: Yes. It’s okay. There will be an excuse for the Kurds not to come to terms with Iraqi Government.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we keep them from coming to terms?

[Page 103]

The Shah: Yes. But the Russians are putting heavy pressure on the Kurds to come to terms with the government and to join the government. But Barzani [the Kurdish leader] promised not to do anything without our okay. He asked for the moral support of the U.S. I told him that we could provide that. I told Barzani that I did not want him to try to create an independent state. It would make the Turks terribly afraid. We don’t want to frighten the Turks unnecessarily. This is a trump card that we do not want to let go.

Mr. Kissinger: The President agrees.

The Shah: Any contingency planning on Saudi Arabia must be most hush-hush. Saudi Arabia is different from Kuwait. I would not think of this for myself. I think of it as useful more from the European viewpoint.

Mr. Kissinger: We should agree under what circumstances any plan that is developed should be implemented. We would need to know what was being triggered.

The Shah: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: After Your Majesty returns to Tehran, perhaps a plan could be developed. [To Helms] Who should be involved here?

Helms: No one other than a couple of people in the White House.

Mr. Kissinger: Your Majesty can tell Ambassador Helms when you are ready. We can communicate either by sending someone out there or by having someone come here. We probably should not even put this into our backchannel communication.

Helms: That can be done easily.

The Shah: In the meantime, we should think about getting some Saudi like Fahd or Sultan to start an official cooperation with Iran. Obviously, we need to have a contingency plan. But as a complement, we should try to develop official cooperation with the Saudis.

Mr. Kissinger: That we can do in the general framework within the government. We have several other studies going on and we can integrate that in that framework.

The Shah: I will talk only to Helms about the contingency plan. [With a smile] I will not talk to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about it tomorrow.

Mr. Kissinger: [laughing] It might take our headlines away from domestic concerns.

Helms: That brings up one point about the operation with the Kurds. That was well handled. It stayed totally out of the public domain. Our problem is that when something like this gets into the public domain, then the pressure mounts in the Senate.

Mr. Kissinger: I have three other things that I would like to take up:

[Page 104]

(1) The Arab-Israel problem.

(2) A contingency plan for helping Pakistan both to deter an Indian attack and also what might be done in case of an attack.

(3) There is also a special subject which I might take up first since it is short and we can get it out of the way. In the last 48 hours, we have learned that Canada will withdraw from the supervisory commission in South Vietnam. We have played with the idea of not replacing Canada at all and then trying to persuade Poland to withdraw. However, in looking for countries that we could count on to do an objective job, the question has arisen whether we could propose Iran. It would require some 290 military people and 5–6 diplomats. We wondered whether we could consider Iran to do this job.

The Shah: We have been approached by several countries tentatively with the same proposal. There is a background to this, however. A few months ago, we told North Vietnam that we would study the recognition of North Vietnam. We told them that we were interested in discussing this. Then for several months there was no answer. One week ago, we received a message saying that they would be glad to have diplomatic relations. I was initially inclined to let them wait for a few months before responding. In addition to that problem, through the UN we have been approached by other people. [to Ambassador Zahedi] Tell Hoveyda [Prime Minister of Iran] to report to me whether we have been approached by other people to serve in this role and by whom.

If we were to play such a role, this would have the dual advantage of putting us in the international picture and putting us in a broader way in the Indian Ocean.

Mr. Kissinger: It would not be inconsistent with your establishing diplomatic relations with North Vietnam.

The Shah: To the contrary, without diplomatic relations, it would be very difficult. Let us study it a little bit more in the light of the problem of establishing diplomatic relations and in the light of who else would like us to replace Canada.

Mr. Kissinger: Saigon would. The Chinese would. Chou En-lai’s estimate coincides with ours.

The Shah: How do the Chinese get their information?

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t know. They are extremely well-informed. They have a significant grasp in geopolitical terms of all of the major issues. Their assessment agrees very much with Your Majesty’s presentation to the President this morning.

The Shah: They work hard. They are rather mature—in their deeds if not always in their words.

[Page 105]

Mr. Kissinger: They and we have a code. Whenever they are going to say something that won’t be particularly welcome to us but which they want us to discount, they say, “We have to fire some empty cannon.”

We understand that you will want a little time to consider this matter. There is some urgency. The Canadians are likely to withdraw within the next few days. There could be a hiatus, but it would be desirable to fill the vacancy soon. If Iran took the Canadian position, it would be useful because of the coincidence of our views. Also, it would contribute to Iran’s international stature.

The Shah: Yes. Especially because of our future in the Indian Ocean. Some people look to India to play a strong role in the Indian Ocean. I doubt it.

Mr. Kissinger: The creation of Bangladesh was the beginning of disaster for India. I have told the Indians this.

The Shah: Foreign Minister Swaran Singh was in Tehran last weekend. He said that India is not interested in anything for itself in Bangladesh.

Mr. Kissinger: If things go badly, the Bengalis in West Bengal will be affected. If they go well, the Bengalis in Bangladesh may also create trouble in West Bengal.

The Shah: The Indians fear that Bashani [pro-Chinese leader in Bangladesh] will create trouble in Bangladesh.

President Bhutto is much more mature than he was before.

Mr. Kissinger: I met him only once—in one series of meetings at the UN during the war in 1971. I had heard wild things about him.

On the Arab-Israeli problem, I want to explain our basic view and some of the problems we have quite candidly.

For two years, we have had some highly publicized initiatives. These have been disastrous. As soon as they have become public, Israel, the Israeli lobby in the U.S. and the Arabs have all become active. The U.S. is caught in the middle.

In Vietnam, it took four years of negotiation, heavy bombing and withholding of supplies from the other side. In the Middle East, by contrast, no actions of this kind are possible. We do not have the same position.

Therefore, before we move publicly, we want to have one side lined up with us so that we can move against the other. We can not dissociate ourselves too widely from Israel, because if the Soviets think we are dissociating ourselves from Israel that could have bad consequences.

Now, I want to tell you something which must remain highly confidential. I have met twice with Hafez Ismail [National Security Ad[Page 106]viser to President Sadat of Egypt] secretly. By Arab standards, the secret has been kept reasonably well. They only told the Saudi intelligence chief who told the head of our Interests Section, who almost had a heart attack. Now he has retired. I am planning another meeting soon.

The trouble is that the Arab position is impossible as a negotiating position. The Arabs are asking the Israelis for total withdrawal in return for an end of the state of belligerency between Egypt and Israel; then Egypt says Israel must negotiate with the Palestinians for a final peace. Ismail has been very nebulous about the difference between the end of the state of belligerency and the final peace. It is difficult to tell a country like Israel to withdraw 200 miles and then to negotiate with its most mortal enemy.

It is not clear exactly how the Egyptians see the final negotiation with the Palestinians. The Egyptians will not tell us that they will accept Hussein to negotiate for the Palestinians.

We can not take any proposition based on this situation to the Israelis. We would discredit the credibility of the White House. I have tried to persuade the Egyptians that if the Israelis were to design Arab strategy to suit their own interests, they would design it just about as it is now.

The question is how the U.S. and others can play an effective role. We can not force Israel to accept an overall solution all at once. What we must do is to segment the negotiations into pieces that the Israelis can manage. Then we must move step by step. As matters stand now, Egypt is playing into Israel’s hands since the main Israeli interest as far as I can tell it is to waste time.

Guarantees are almost senseless, and a joint US–USSR agreement would not be particularly helpful. What we are trying to do is to get Egypt to find some formula which would be ambiguous and would be differently interpreted by both Israel and Egypt but which would let a negotiating process start. Once a negotiating process starts, we can help to move it along.

The Shah: A negotiating process would give Sadat an excuse not to go to war.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes. Egypt also needs an excuse to negotiate. Israel can not settle the whole thing in one bite. We are willing to be very constructive in trying to move the negotiations toward an Arab position that will be better then than now.

The Shah: Or better than they could get by going to war.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s right. If we could get a process started, then we could let history work for us. This is what we are trying to get through Egyptian heads. I have made a proposal that we should sepa[Page 107]rate sovereignty from security. By recognizing Egyptian sovereignty, it might be possible to create some security zones which would permit a continued Israeli position in what is now occupied territory. The Egyptians say that this is phony sovereignty. But they would be a hell of a lot better off under those conditions than they are now. And they could go on to negotiate from there. I do not hold any brief for this particular idea. But I am not going to get the U.S. committed until one side is prepared to stand with the U.S. position.

I have the impression that King Hussein is reasonable and that we could work out with him a position that could then be pressed on the Israelis. But I have the impression that he can not be the first to reach an agreement with Israel.

The problem is that the Egyptian negotiators are likable enough but there is a fuzziness about their presentation. I have not been able to reduce their proposition to something that I could work with. The art of negotiation is to get a process started toward what you want. The Egyptians do not seem to appreciate this.

We would prefer that Your Majesty not discuss this with anyone.

The Shah: No. I would only say that we have discussed the desirability of a U.S. initiative.

Mr. Kissinger: If Your Majesty wanted to tell Ismail about your judgment of the seriousness of U.S. intention—whatever Your Majesty’s judgment might be—and urge some tactical flexibility, that could be useful. Your Majesty might make the argument that they are losing more by being frozen in their present position than they would if they entered a negotiating process. There is no military solution to this problem.

The Shah: I do not think the Russians are encouraging Sadat to try a military solution. They do not want a confrontation with you.

The Russians are not encouraging the Arabs to fight Israel. What they want is for the Arabs to destroy Jordan.

My first objective is to see the U.S. create in the Arab world an impression that the U.S. is not disinterested in the fate of the Arabs and is not completely tied to Israel. I do not want to see the U.S. give the Arabs an excuse for playing their oil card. The Arabs are often swayed by their own emotions. They can get themselves in a box. I would hope that there could be a little more balance in the U.S. position.

Mr. Kissinger: In a way we are willing to do that, but it could be self-defeating. In Vietnam, everybody told us that we had to dissociate ourselves from President Thieu and bring pressure on him. When we had something to bring pressure for, we moved very quickly. Until then, there was no point in doing so.

[Page 108]

The Arabs want us to take poses. That will not improve the situation. We want to preserve our influence with Israel until taking a position can move the situation forward. The White House does not want to travel around the Middle East posturing until we are in sight of something that can be achieved. The Arabs must understand this. We want to take a more balanced position. It is not right to have a great country’s position swayed by a small country. But we need some fulcrum for moving this situation.

Zahedi: Foreign Minister Zayyat is here in New York at the UN.

Mr. Kissinger: I have no evidence that he is in the picture. [to Saunders] Do you?

Saunders: No. I have the impression that he is out of the picture.

The Shah: Egypt is watching my trip to the U.S. Foreign Minister Zayyat had asked me before whether I could help to persuade the U.S. to take an initiative. At that time, he said that if there were no peaceful solution, Egypt would have no choice but war. For the sake of our friends and allies, my real concern is that this oil thing not become an Arab toy.

Mr. Kissinger: We do not want to say this to the Arabs because it would call their attention to the issue. Some people have recommended that we send a mission to Saudi Arabia to tell the Saudis to keep the oil issue away from the Arab-Israeli problem. My philosophy is that we do not want to drag the Saudis into the Arab-Israeli situation. We do not want to weaken King Faisal by giving him the burden of producing a solution to that problem. If Your Majesty felt inclined to talk about your general impression on the U.S. position on this issue, it could be helpful.

The Shah: If we talk to the Egyptians, should we tell them the same thing you are telling them, or should there be nuances of difference between your view and ours.

Mr. Kissinger: It probably would be better if there were nuances unless Your Majesty completely agrees with our position. Your Majesty might simply tell the Egyptians what you said to the President and then repeat our view to the effect that we want to be helpful and that they are making it difficult.

The Shah: If I am asked in my TV appearances what should be done, what would you advise my saying that Iran is trying to do?

Mr. Kissinger: We do not want to inflame the Jewish Community here too early. You could say that Your Majesty is concerned for stability in your part of the world. You believe that continuation of the Arab-Israeli impasse is one of the elements giving foreign interests undue influence. You hope that the U.S. will be able to break this impasse. If Your Majesty wanted to, you could even say that you hope [Page 109] that the parties to the dispute might engage actively in a negotiating process.

Zahedi: Your Majesty could say that this should take place within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 242.

The Shah: Okay. We can do all this. What we need to do is to help the Egyptians not commit suicide.

Mr. Kissinger: We want to help the Egyptians to move ahead. We recognize that Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world.

The Shah: The Egyptian problem is the easiest to solve.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes. Jordan would settle itself if there were an Egyptian-Israeli settlement. But Syria is more difficult, and the Palestinians are most difficult.

The Shah: Because the Egyptians have thrown out the Soviets, they should not be humiliated too much.

Mr. Kissinger: We could have another Rogers plan, but the opposition would mount and it would be gutted before it even got started. The Arabs have to decide whether they want a U.S. pose or a process which could improve their position. We will not support their maximum program if there are negotiations. But once Israel starts moving back, the process will have started. It will be easier to dislodge the Israelis from almost anywhere else in the Sinai than it will be to dislodge them from where they are now.

The Shah: I will tell the Egyptians that I mentioned the desirability of finding a solution—even if it is a step-by-step solution. I will say that the U.S. will cooperate but only if the Egyptians can help a little.

Zahedi: The Shah’s efforts were important in persuading Egypt to accept Resolution 242.

Mr. Kissinger: I unfortunately have to go. There are two other issues which I would like to discuss with Your Majesty. One is Pakistan. The other is if there is an attack on Jordan by Iraq, it would help us to have a rough idea of what Iran might do. Perhaps we should arrange another meeting.

Zahedi: Friday would be the best time.6 We will arrange it. [As Dr. Kissinger rose to go and walked toward the door, there was a discussion of how the Iranians might communicate with the Egyptians. There was some talk of conveying the message to Foreign Minister Zayyat while he is in New York. There was also the possibility of Zahedi’s going to Geneva to meet with Ismail. He said he could do this after the visit of the Shah’s children to the U.S. in mid-August. The Shah said he would think about this.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS–28, Geopolitical File, Iran Chronological File, Memcons, Notebook, 30 May ’72–15 September ’73. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the Shah’s Reception Room at Blair House. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 25.
  3. See Document 26. A record of the Shah’s July 24 conversation with Rogers is in telegram 149266 to Tehran, July 30. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 603, Country Files—Middle East, Iran, Vol. V, May–December 1973)
  4. See footnote 2, Document 23.
  5. See Document 24.
  6. July 27. See Document 30.