337. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and President Nixon1

K: Mr. President

N: Henry, it is quite important, tell me in just a moment because I have some people waiting for me and I have to leave, but what should I say, as I will be asked about this embargo because of the Ford statement, your statement and then of course the leak out of Sadat about 2 months2 etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. What is your suggestion?

K: My suggestion is that the reports we have is that we have had no official report.

N: I know, I know, that is a duck you can take—it is one I can’t take. I can say simply that I am not going to comment on this because we have had no reports—which of course isn’t true, alright second point.

K: No, it isn’t untrue, because we haven’t had an official report, but you could say our impression is that they have decided to lift the embargo.

N: I should say that, that they have decided and then when they lift it for two months… suppose Henry, the more likely question will be, of course, is suppose, Mr. President, the report is true that they lift the embargo but only for two months with a condition—what is your reaction. What do you say to that.

K: We have made a strong complaint to the Egyptians about this.3

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N: Privately, what do I say publicly, that’s what I am asking.

K: I would say lifting it for two months really doesn’t solve the basic problem very substantially. Or I would say this, we move at the pace which is best suited to bring about a settlement regardless of the embargo and if they think they can affect us by it, that is not the right way of doing it. And I would handle it that way.

N: Ok.

K: But frankly…

N: We are not going to look at a gift horse in the mouth, we’re going to take the two months at least and it will be awful hard for them to impose it again.

K: If they have to reimpose it they’ll never reimpose it. If it lapses after two months then it is a different problem and I haven’t seen what it is they have actually decided. But if you show too much receptivity they’ll vote it they might not do the two months thing.

N: …show too much receptivity at all. That’s what I am talking about. I am simply saying—I am thinking of sort of kicking them about it—about the two months.

K: I think the best way to say it is that we are moving at the pace that we think is most appropriate and that putting a deadline on the embargo won’t affect our actions. Won’t speed up our actions. And that will give some argument to those who want to lift it unconditionally.

N: Are there any that do, Henry.

K: Yes.

N: Still.

K: Definitely. We had definite word.

N: Has the decision been made that it is two months lifting, isn’t that what we are talking about.

K: Yes, but we don’t know whether that two months, Mr. President, means they’ll review the situation after two months, which would be meaningless because they’ll never agree on reimposing it; or whether they mean, it means that after two months, they have to take a new decision to lift it again. If it is just a review after two months, Mr. President, it would be a facesaving nothing.

N: That’s right, I get your point. Fine.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to oil.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Chronological Files, Box 25. Unclassified.
  2. According to the Los Angeles Times, March 14, Vice President Gerald Ford stated in a television interview that Kissinger had told him the Arab oil embargo would be ended. Kissinger then later “appeared unexpectedly” at the regular Department of State briefing to remark that “the only news we have had is the news on the tickers. We have the same conflicting reports that you people have.” The same article noted that Kissinger denied a report from the Middle East that the oil producers had decided on an Algerian initiative to lift the embargo for a trial period of two months to see whether the United States continued to press for further disengagement. Nixon spoke the evening of March 15 at the Executives’ Club of Chicago. His remarks are printed in Public Papers: Nixon, 1974, pp. 261–277.
  3. As reported in telegram 51983 to Cairo, March 15, Kissinger said that “Fahmy should know that such conditional lifting of embargo with threat to reimpose it in two months would meet with strong adverse reaction in this country and would be an affront to our dignity.” He also stated that it would be “difficult, if not impossible” for Nixon to visit the Middle East if the embargo was not lifted prior to his scheduled visit. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Geopolitical Files, Box CL 128, Egypt, Chron Files, 11–16 March 1974)