159. Backchannel Message From Secretary of State Kissinger to the Ambassador to Iran (Helms)1

Please pass the following oral message from the Secretary to the Shah. Please do not leave any piece of paper.

You have been asked by the Secretary to discuss the Angolan situation with the Shah. We want him to know that despite the Congressional debate on funds for covert support in Angola, there are sufficient resources in the pipe-line to maintain our support for some time. This will allow the Executive Branch to make further efforts when the Congress returns in January to get the kind of additional financial support which will be required. The point to get across to the Shah is that we are not out of business, and that the Executive Branch is resolved to pursue the Angola matter vigorously and with full determination. We do not intend to sit idly by in the face of Soviet intervention.
We want the Shah to know that our principal concern in this matter is the one that would concern him most—namely, that a Soviet power play in the heart of Africa not be permitted to succeed unchallenged with all the implications of successful Soviet adventurism in Africa as well as globally. We intend to do everything possible to continue our support of the FNLA and UNITA through Zaire, and we will also in our discussions with the Soviets, making clear to them that their involvement in Angola will inevitably raise questions about détente.
The Secretary wants to make clear what our purpose is in Angola. We are not against the MPLA per se; our interests in Angola per se are only marginal; but it is the Soviet challenge which is uppermost in our mind. Our purpose is a limited one—to support the FNLA and UNITA in order to create a military stand-off on the ground which would help promote a peaceful settlement among the three factions looking towards the establishment of a coalition government. We also favor the end of all outside intervention and would be prepared to stop our support provided the Soviets do likewise, and we support the removal of all outside forces in such circumstances—Cubans, South Africans, and Zairois—leaving the Angolans to settle the matter peacefully among and between themselves.
In view of the parallel interests which Iran and the US share in this matter, we want to share our assessment that the next six or eight [Page 407] weeks will be crucial. It is important that the support for the non-communist factions continue.
In light of the foregoing you should see if the Shah would find it feasible to make available funds to Zaire for additional equipment and arms which would help preserve the kind of military position for the non-communist forces which is essential if a negotiated settlement is to be achieved. You should stress that we are not seeking funding for our own programs and could not accept such funds. What we are suggesting is additional financial support that would go directly to Zaire for support of FNLA and UNITA. If the Shah is disposed to be helpful—and we hope that he is—it would be important to move promptly. Therefore you should indicate that we would be prepared to discuss specifically how such funds channelled to Zaire could be used most effectively. We believe an additional total of [dollar amount not declassified] is needed. You may tell the Shah that we are approaching the Saudis along the same lines.2
With respect to the Iranian inquiry about transferring American-supplied equipment to Zaire, you should explain that we have difficulties on this. In the context of our present debate with the Congress on this subject and our intent to go back to the Congress again in January, we do not believe that we could concur now in an action which would have to be reported to the Congress and which would be seen by Congressional critics as a move to circumvent Congressional views on US involvement in Angola. That is why we are discussing with the Iranians—as with the Saudis—other possible ways for them to contribute directly through Zaire to a strengthening of the non-communist forces in Angola.
Please report your conversation promptly in this channel.
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 103, Geopolitical File, Angola Chronological File. Secret; Sensitive. The original is the message as approved for transmission at 6:30 p.m. on December 20. It was sent as telegram WH 52538, December 20.
  2. Kissinger sent a similar message to Jidda, December 20. (Ibid.)