24. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

    • Your Meeting with the David Rockefeller Group

Messrs. Rockefeller, Jamieson, McCloy, Anderson and Warner & Swearingen have asked to discuss the Mid-East with you.2

What they will say. All of these gentlemen for their own separate reasons are very much concerned about the trend of events in the Middle East.3 The oil industry, of course, is the most affected with investments that contribute about $1.7 billion annually to the black side of the U.S. balance of payments ledger.

Mr. Rockefeller’s principal concern is that the Arab leaders at the summit beginning December 20 will adopt resolutions which would:

  • —break relations with the U.S.;
  • —lead to restrictions on oil company concessions, if not actual nationalization.

I understand that he will urge you to send an emissary to Cairo and perhaps other capitals within the next week with a new proposal on an Arab-Israeli settlement in order to head off any such possible action at the summit. He may also state that it would help our position in the area if the United States would state clearly its position toward an Arab-Israeli settlement (for example, in a speech such as that proposed by Secretary Rogers).4

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Assistant Secretary Sisco does not believe the Arabs are likely to go as far as Mr. Rockefeller fears, although there is no question that the Arabs are in an ugly mood. Sisco feels strongly that we should not be in a position of pleading with the Arabs not to close the door on a political settlement. To do so would be to act as if a settlement is more in our interest than in theirs.

The main problem with this proposal is that it could involve making new concessions in our position on peace terms, which has already gone farther than the Israelis are now ready to accept. Nasser knows our present position, so all we could do with it is to send someone to explain its good intentions. Nasser might well exploit such a mission.

The one move that could be significant would be an offer to mediate in the Israel-Jordan negotiations. This is one of the tactical moves that could follow from decisions to be considered in the NSC on Wednesday. It might be quite important in strengthening the defenses of the moderates against the radicals if King Hussein could quietly report such a U.S. move.

Talking points.

We understand the problem. Lack of progress is due to the intractability of the problem and not to lack of understanding.
We are making a genuine effort to do something about it. Outsiders cannot make the peace. The belligerents must have the will to reach a settlement and the political strength to follow through on it. Outsiders can try to develop a diplomatic alternative to war, and that is what we are trying to do.5
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1241, Saunders Files, Middle East Oil. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information.
  2. Prior to the scheduled meeting, Saunders recommended to Kissinger that Nixon not meet with the oil industry executives “since it might leave him vulnerable to criticism that he was listening to special pleading at a time when oil import policy was under review.” But as the meeting was to discuss the Middle East and not the Oil Task Force, Saunders recommended that John Swearingen be included. Kissinger concurred. (Memoranda from Saunders to Kissinger, December 2, and Kissinger to Nixon, December 2; both ibid.) Swearingen’s name was added by hand.
  3. Jamieson and Warner expressed their concerns in a November 26 letter to Nixon, stating that, “Our long experience and extensive contacts in the Arab world indicate that America’s political, strategic and economic interests throughout the area are in jeopardy.” Should the United States be forced out of the Middle East, its “vast oil reserves will come under the control of radical Arabs and in some measure the Soviet Union, who would thereby gain a powerful political weapon. Such a development would undermine the defense posture of Western Europe and Asia.” (Ibid.)
  4. A reference to Rogers’ December 9 speech entitled “A Lasting Peace in the Middle East: An American View,” delivered at the 1969 Galaxy Conference on Adult Education in Washington. Rogers stated that the administration wanted to play a direct role in solving the Arab-Israeli crisis. He reiterated the need for a balanced U.S. policy, for good diplomatic relations with all nations in the region, and for U.S. commitment to a just and lasting peace. (Department of State Bulletin, January 5, 1970, pp. 7–11) See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIV, Middle East Region and Arabian Peninsula, 1969–1972; Jordan, September 1970, Document 15.
  5. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Rockefeller, Jamieson, Warner, Anderson, McCloy, Swearingen, and Kissinger, December 9, from 11:37 a.m. to 1 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) No memorandum of conversation has been found, but in his memoirs, David Rockefeller provides an account of the meeting. Rockefeller noted that the oil men expressed alarm about the pressure the radical regimes in Libya, Algeria, and Iraq were putting on the oil companies and possible Soviet gains. Rockefeller passed on information from Faisal on his concerns about anti-Americanism in the Middle East. (Memoirs, pp. 276–278)