301. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Atherton)1

K: …

A: The short one?2

K: Yeah.

A: We’re just got a quick reply.3 I think all we need to do is reinstruct him [Akins] to carry out systematically all of the instructions he has and—

K: And also he had another cable of what he was going to say,4 which I rather liked.

A: That he sent in?

K: Yeah.

A: Yes. And in our outgoing we told him that he should use those points with only one or two minor modifications.5

K: Like what?

A: Well, for example,—Let me think now—He had in there one point that if we didn’t carry out our commitments within three months—within a few months, that they could then do what they wanted.

K: Yeah.

A: And we suggested he drop that.

K: Right.

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A: But otherwise it seemed to me very good and we endorsed it. So that we’ve given him now the long one that went out this morning, the one previously that you cleared plus endorsing his points.6 And I don’t think there’s anything more we can tell him except to systematically go through all these with each his interlocking them.

K: What do you think? Do you think we’re being too hard?

A: With the Saudis?

K: Yeah.

A: No, sir. (laughs) No, I think we’ve got to—

K: Do you think they’re going to cave?

A: I’m dubious frankly. I thought we had a better than 50–50 chance until I saw the King’s letter.7 And with the King having taken this position in writing to the President, I just have my doubts about how quickly he’s going to be turned around. But I think that we’re doing all the things that we can.

K: Yeah. But what do I do next? I can’t participate anymore.

A: I think we have to establish credibility. I would say that if the 14th comes and goes and the embargo is not lifted, that we then let it be seen that we’re going to stand back for a while. I don’t think this will disrupt the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement. It seems to me that they both have an interest that’s got its own momentum now. The Syrians really have no choice but to stew in their juice a bit.

K: Okay.

A: I think Akins has got all the arguments he needs, Mr. Secretary—

K: But should we do a letter to Boumedienne?

A: Well, my recollection is that the last word was that he was not going to be a problem providing he didn’t have to take the lead.

K: Yeah, but here is a case—

A: He won’t get out in front I don’t think.

K: But there is a cable that claims that he is supporting the Syrians.8

A: Ah, that I haven’t seen.

K: Yeah.

A: That I haven’t seen.

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K: That Asad called him, in the presence of a Saudi. Why don’t we do a letter to Boumedienne saying that we are near a fateful decision and we just want him to know what the consequences are, that he has my commitment, that we’ve kept every other promise, we’ll keep this.

A: No, I see no harm and it might just help. We’ve certainly touched base with everybody else.9

K: Okay.

A: All right, sir. Thank you.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 24, Chronological Files. Unclassified.
  2. Presumably telegram 22523, Document 296.
  3. In telegram 569 from Jidda, February 4, Akins reported that he would meet with Saqqaf on the following day to carry out the instructions in telegram 22671, Document 300. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 631, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. V)
  4. Presumably telegram 563 from Jidda, February 4, in which Akins suggested argumentation and approaches to Saudi officials. (Ibid.)
  5. In telegram 22834 to Jidda, Akins was told to elaborate the arguments he had suggested in telegram 563, except rather than saying the United States was expecting an Israeli response, he should say the United States is “actively engaged” in diplomatic exchanges with Israel. He was also told not to say the suggested sentence in paragraph 3(d) of telegram 563, which stated, “The Secretary has said repeatedly that he cannot afford to deceive the Arabs. If his commitments are not publicly realized within a few months, the Arabs could then do whatever they felt necessary.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Geopolitical Files, Saudi Arabia, 4 Jan–6 Feb 74)
  6. Telegrams 22671 (Document 300), 23368, and 22834 (see footnote 5 above). In telegram 23368 to Jidda, February 4, Akins was instructed to proceed “on basis of all instructions we have sent you, going over all points thoroughly and systematically, in particular, you should make point in para 2(B) of State 22671, strongly discouraging any Saudi letter linking progress on Syrian-Israeli disengagement with lifting of boycott.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 631, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. V)
  7. See Document 298.
  8. See footnote 3, Document 298.
  9. In a personal message to Boumedienne, Kissinger expressed his disappointment that Boumedienne was supportive of Asad in the demand that disengagement of forces on the Syrian front precede the end of the embargo. (Telegram 23523 to Algiers, February 5; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 735, Country Files, Africa, Algeria)