215. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1

    • Middle East
    • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
    • State
      • Kenneth Rush
      • Joseph Sisco
      • Robert McCloskey
    • Defense
      • James Schlesinger
      • William P. Clements, Jr.
    • JCS
      • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
      • V/Adm. John Weinel
    • CIA
      • William Colby
      • Sam Hoskinson
      • Special Assistant to the President for Energy
      • Gov. John Love
      • Charles DiBona
    • NSC
      • Gen. Brent Scowcroft
      • William Quandt
      • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

2) Governor Love, in cooperation with Deputy Secretary Clements, will prepare by tomorrow a detailed implementing scenario for U.S. actions in the event of an Arab cut-off of oil from the U.S., to include public statements.2

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

Mr. Colby briefed on the paper at Tab B.3

[Page 589]

Secretary Kissinger: (commenting on the slow-down of oil flow through Tapline) Was this a decision of the companies?

Mr. Clements: No, the Israelis requested it.

Secretary Kissinger: Why?

Mr. Sisco: They were fearful that damage to the pipeline from the fighting might be such that a lot of their oil would be lost.

Mr. Clements: That was a valid point.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t question it.

Mr. Schlesinger: Are there any tankers going through the Gulf of Aqaba?

Mr. Colby: We don’t know.

Adm. Moorer: No, there’s an Egyptian submarine there.

Mr. Colby: Yes, it fired three torpedos at a tanker in the first days of the war and missed.

Secretary Kissinger: It’s a good thing Governor Love has all of these problems solved.

Governor Love briefed from the paper at Tab C.4

Secretary Kissinger: (referring to Governor Love’s comment that a rationing program need not be announced at the time the other US actions are announced) But an announcement of what we are doing might induce the Arabs to call off any cut-off of oil. If we were licking the problem, they might have an incentive to resume shipments.

Gov. Love: There may be a trade-off. But an announcement of rationing might bring on hoarding.

Mr. Clements: That’s a political decision. It’s for the President and you to decide.

Secretary Kissinger: How urgently is it needed?

Mr. Clements: It’s a must.

Secretary Kissinger: But you believe it should not be announced with the other decisions? Suppose the Arabs cut off the supply tomorrow?

Gov. Love: Subject to your decision on the effect on the Gulf countries, I do not suggest announcing a rationing program now. But I would go ahead with the rest of the program.

Mr. Clements: We might hint at rationing.

Secretary Kissinger: Let me be sure I understand what you’re saying. Incidentally, this paper is an amazing job considering the amount of time you had.

[Page 590]

Gov. Love: Part of it is the Treasury paper that you had asked Bill Simon to do earlier.

Secretary Kissinger: You believe that, if there is an actual cut-off of oil, all of these things in the paper, except for rationing, should be done together?

Gov. Love: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: I can’t speak for the President, but I will talk to him right after this meeting. But, judging from the way the President has reacted, in the past, I would think he would think so too. He believes we pay the same price if we do a lot as if we do a little.

Mr. Clements: We could tell the public that rationing is the next step. This might be a rallying point and have a cohesive effect in getting people together.

Secretary Kissinger: And if these things fail, we would go to rationing. Are you saying rationing is inevitable? What would the President say?

Mr. DiBona: That we can lick the problem if everyone cooperates.

Secretary Kissinger: If everyone cooperates, we could avoid rationing?

Mr. DiBona: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: But if we threaten rationing, that might create hoarding. How would it be done?

Mr. Rush: By everyone keeping his tanks filled.

Mr. DiBona: There’s a lot of secondary storage already full. People filled up in August.

Secretary Kissinger: Isn’t that a good cushion?

Mr. DiBona: Yes.

Gov. Love: Our task force on the political implications of the effect on Japan and Western Europe of an Arab oil cut-off has considered the possibility of a sharing agreement of up to 5 million barrels per day. There would be no way out of this for the US without utter chaos.

Secretary Kissinger: The other paper indicates that there are two roads—bilateral and multilateral. Do we have enough leverage with the oil companies to win the bilateral battle? Could we force them to divert to us?

Mr. Colby: It would be the other way around.

Mr. DiBona: There are two possibilities. One, the Arabs cut off oil supplies from the Arab sources to the US alone. We could handle this, with some strain. Second, a total cut-off of Arab oil to all recipients. If we should try to equalize the burden, this would mean the US would be shipping oil out to Western Europe and Japan. This would require 5 or 6 million barrels per day from the US—one-third of the US consumption.

[Page 591]

Mr. Rush: The economic impact in this country would be so striking that it couldn’t be done.

Secretary Kissinger: What about the impact of a cut-off in Europe and Japan? They would go crazy.

Mr. DiBona: It would affect their attitude toward the war.

Secretary Kissinger: To say the least!

Adm. Moorer: They have already made their attitude clear. They expect the US to carry the entire burden.

Secretary Kissinger: And they have been goddamned unhelpful in the diplomacy.

Mr. Sisco: The pressures would increase from Europe, but they haven’t lifted a finger to help us with the Arabs as it is. It cuts both ways.

Gov. Love: You would see an almost automatic flow of French and German technicians to the Arab countries if there were an oil cut-off. We would lose out in the area.

Mr. Rush: It’s unrealistic to think they would be willing to suffer economically for us.

Secretary Kissinger: How can they avoid it?

Mr. Rush: By staying with the Arabs and keeping the oil flowing. Secretary Kissinger: If they do this, they would be doing us a favor. What more could they do for the Arabs than they have already done? There is a limit beyond which they can’t push us without losing their NATO relationship. There are two alternatives: (1) the Arabs may cut off oil to the US only; there would be some resolutions in the Security Council we would have to veto, but we wouldn’t be that badly hurt; (2) the Arabs cut off oil to Europe. The Europeans would gain nothing, and they couldn’t be doing anything worse to us than they are already doing. And if the Europeans try to do to us what we did to them at Suez, we could do more to them in retaliation. They can’t afford to go into open opposition to us. Is that a fair statement?

All agreed.

Gov. Love: Any approach to rational thinking on the part of the Saudis will show them that a complete cut-off is not in their self-interest.

Secretary Kissinger: We have had no indication up to now that they intend a cut-off. They have been extremely circumspect. They have never threatened an oil cut-off in any official channel. Officially, they have taken exactly the opposite tack.

Mr. Colby: We have an indication that the Saudis are being very cautious about this oil country meeting tomorrow.5

[Page 592]

Secretary Kissinger: I sent them a letter yesterday telling them about our sending supplies to Israel. They replied that we should keep it in a low key and blame it on the Soviets.6

Mr. Sisco: This was not from the King, but we think it is official.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ve been dealing with the oil guy. We have no indication that there will be a cut-off. But if there is, I think the President will go for the whole program, minus rationing. That would be the best way to bring maximum pressure on the Arabs. John (Love), will you develop implementing programs for these things? Bill (Clements), will you work with him? Work out who does what and when, from D-Day plus. Also what we say publicly—the whole scenario.

Mr. Rush: We don’t have Governor Love’s memo.

Mr. DiBona handed out copies of the memorandum at Tab C, without the attachments.

Secretary Kissinger: We need a contingency plan now for D-Day plus. Now, it would be in our interests to make the Soviets pay for this. I have seen in one paper, possibly an internal State paper, some of the pressures we have available, such as holding back some wheat shipments. If we get into a test of this kind, we have to win it.

Mr. Clements: We are all in agreement that there are some mechanical and technical things we could do, but it would require an allout effort with the oil companies and the pipeline companies. The first thing we would have to do is to get that Prudhoe Bay pipeline immediately. We could get another one million barrels a day if we go all-out, but we can’t dilly-dally.

Secretary Kissinger: We have some real problems. The events of this summer have led to a belief all around the world that our authority has been weakened. If we get into a confrontation, we have to show that we are a giant! We have to win! I don’t expect us to get into a confrontation, but we should look at everything we could do if we did. It may help us next time. Let’s get that implementation plan for tomorrow’s WSAG meeting. What each agency can do, including the public statements.

Gov. Love: But the President wouldn’t move short of an Arab move to cut off oil?

Secretary Kissinger: No, and we haven’t been threatened. No Arab radio has picked up what we’re actually doing. We’ll keep it in a low key. We shouldn’t hypo it but we should be ready if someone else does.

[Page 593]

Mr. Schlesinger: It will be hypoed today when they see US planes coming over every half-hour.

Gov. Love: I was scheduled for a Press Club appearance tomorrow, but I will cancel it so I don’t fumble around.

Secretary Kissinger: You won’t fumble around. You can just say we don’t expect an oil cut-off but we have contingency planning ready if there is one. You should be restrained but very confident. I think it would be a mistake to cancel your appearance. You should make no reference to the Middle East, but if you are asked, just say we are working on it and we can handle it. We’ll meet again tomorrow; we’ll let you know the time.

(Governor Love and Mr. DiBona left the meeting.)

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–117, Washington Special Action Group, WSAG Meeting Minutes (Originals) 10/2/73–7/22/74. Top Secret; Nodis; Codeword. The meeting occurred in the White House Situation Room. The minutes are printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 186.
  2. Love submitted an Emergency Oil Contingency Action Plan in an October 15 memorandum to Kissinger. The plan included a proposed Presidential announcement of the plan. (Ibid., Box H–93, Washington Special Action Group Meetings, WSAG Meeting Middle East 10/14/73)
  3. Attached but not printed at Tab B are an undated paper entitled “Task Forces on Domestic Oil Contingency and Impact of Relations with the Allies,” Love’s October 14 memorandum to Kissinger (see footnote 2, Document 214), and an undated CIA paper entitled “The Arab-Israeli War and Oil” that had been requested at the October 6 morning WSAG meeting (see Document 209). This paper stated that “the major oil producers may be moving to a decision to cut oil production as a means of pressuring Israel’s Western supporters,” and that this would “have a serious effect on the economies of Western Europe, Japan, and—to a somewhat less extent—the United States.” Details on the oil situation followed, alongside a lengthy look back at the preparations taken by the United States during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Tab B also contained documents held in the file from previous WSAG meetings.
  4. Tab C included another copy of Love’s October 14 memorandum to Kissinger, an October 9 paper prepared in the Office of Energy and Natural Resources in the Department of the Treasury, entitled “Contingency Plans in Response to Curtailment of U.S. Oil Imports,” and the interagency paper referenced in footnote 5, Document 214.
  5. The OPEC Ministers met in Vienna October 16–17.
  6. See Document 216.