7. Summary of Conclusions of a Meeting of the Senior Review Group1


  • Soviet Strategy in Near East/South Asia


  • Chairman

    • Henry A. Kissinger
  • State

    • Kenneth Rush
    • Joseph Sisco
    • Roy Atherton
    • Thomas Thornton
  • Defense

    • William Clements
    • James Noyes
  • JCS

    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • B/Gen. Keith L. Christensen
  • CIA

    • Lt. Gen. Vernon Walters
    • Samuel Hoskinson
  • NSC

    • B/Gen. Brent Scowcroft
    • Harold Saunders
    • William Hyland
    • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

—a Working Group of the Interdepartmental Group for the Near and Middle East and South Asia with DOD and JCS participation would prepare a comprehensive U.S. approach to the area including Ethiopia and Somalia, and an assessment of what we might build on;

—the paper should contain DOD and CIA annexes, if appropriate;

—the paper should be finished within a week so as to provide guidance to the President before his July 24 meeting with the Shah.

Mr. Kissinger: I would like to say a word about the genesis of this meeting. It is not geared to produce immediate, concrete decisions. However, when we talk to various countries—Iran, Pakistan, to some extent the PRC—they see the area and believe the Soviets do also, as a strategic whole from India through Turkey. We don’t see it as a cohesive unit and our policy is conducted more on a bilateral basis. Next week we will discuss the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula in [Page 45]more detail. But I wanted to get a preparatory judgment from you on how we view the area. If we should think of it as a cohesive unit, how should we approach it? It is possible that the Soviet Union is explicitly treating it as a cohesive unit and that they are planning a pincers move through Iraq and Iran. It is also possible to look at it as a unit without granting the theory of a Soviet long-range plan. It is possible that the Soviets have a less specific long-range plan. We have never had an explicit approach to the area, and I would like a discussion of this as a basis for next week’s more detailed meeting. Could we hear from CIA?

(Gen. Walters briefed from the attached text.)

Mr. Kissinger: What is the data on Soviet aid to India and Iran relevant to?

Gen. Walters: It is relevant to the fact that Iran has been doing things with the Soviet Union such as the Isfahan Steel Mill. I saw this text only about an hour ago and I don’t entirely agree with it. The Soviets have introduced TU–22 medium bombers into Iraq. This is the first time these bombers have been seen outside the Soviet Union. [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: Why have they done this? What is their range?

Gen. Walters: They can hit anything in the Middle East. They could hit Iran.

Adm. Moorer: They’re also flooding missiles into Syria. They’re replacing Egypt with Syria.

Gen. Walters: They have also introduced MIG 21s into South Yemen. There are 300 Cubans training South Yemenis.

Mr. Kissinger: Gromyko told me they weren’t doing anything in South Yemen. He wouldn’t lie to me, would he? Whatever happened to that exercise in Saudi Arabia with regard to South Yemen that we wanted you to do?

[4 lines not declassified]

Mr. Rush: Is that surprising?

Gen. Walters: If they don’t intend to do anything, it is surprising. There is a schizophrenic quality in Soviet policy. The fact that they are seeking détente in Western Europe doesn’t mean that they want détente in the Middle East. They’re pushing political disarmament of the West; but if that fails, they want a second option. They want a stranglehold on our energy sources.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you gentlemen agree with CIA’s estimate or with that of the Deputy Director of CIA? How do you explain the Soviet aid program in Iran?

Gen. Walters: They have a traditional interest there. They have been taking pieces of Iran since Peter the Great.

[Page 46]

Mr. Clements: This is an insidious thing. When they complete the steel mill or build the natural gas pipeline, it’s good for Iran and it’s good for the Russians. It breaks down some of their historical barriers and the traditional belief that the Soviets are the enemy. This is against our interest.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Sisco) Joe, what do you think?

Mr. Sisco: I agree that the Soviets look at the area as a strategic whole but the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula have one set of unique problems, and the traditional Middle East has another set of unique problems. They overlap, of course, in the Arab-Israeli dispute. But I don’t think that the Soviets have a systematic policy leading to Soviet-Iraqi and Soviet-Indian access that Pakistan says they have. They would like to get us out of Europe. And they are pursuing an opportunistic strategy of probing soft spots and seeking to enhance their position everywhere they can without risking confrontation. I think they will continue their policy of proxy aggression. I think the concerns of Bhutto and the Shah are somewhat exaggerated but that their assessment is fundamentally sound. Our policies should be responsive to their increasing concerns which are based on such things as the exodus of the British, the increase in Soviet military supply, Soviet support of the radical regime in Aden, increased Soviet activities in the Persian Gulf, and the increase of Soviet capability in the Indian Ocean. I think it is important that we be responsive to these concerns and that we not be asleep.

Mr. Clements: And Somalia too.

Gen. Walters: I agree.

Mr. Kissinger: That is why we didn’t want you to get out of Ethiopia.

Mr. Clements: That is a misstatement. We didn’t want to get out.

Mr. Kissinger: That is how it looks to the Ethiopians.

Mr. Rush: The Emperor told me that Kagnew was not important. He said, “That is your decision.” He is not concerned.

Mr. Clements: He told me the same thing.

Mr. Kissinger: That is not the message he sends us.

Mr. Noyes: When you talk about introduction of Soviet weapons into Syria, you should remember that Iranian military power has increased too. The Soviets may be responding to that.

Mr. Rush: There are a series of regional and local problems. The Soviets have many fish to fry in this area, but the Shah is ambivalent. He wants the relationship with the Russians, but he thinks the Indians are trying to spread their influence with Russian help and that they are trying to dismember Pakistan. The PRC is, of course, in the background. There are a series of regions. The Shah is looking north to Russia, east [Page 47]to Pakistan and India, south to the Persian Gulf, and west to Iraq. This is not a simplistic issue; it is highly complex.

Mr. Kissinger: It could be a strategic region with all of the characteristics you describe. It is possible that India and Iran are not part of a deliberate master plan which would have Iraq moving in on Iran. I agree that the Shah is trying to get as many anchors to windward as possible, but that doesn’t change the basic fact. Indian policy may be to surround itself with a series of Bhutans and Sikkims.

It appears likely that a Baluchistan is to be carved from Pakistan and Iran, it will appear that countries backed by the U.S. suffer or are not fully protected, while those backed by the Soviet Union prosper. They don’t need a diagram to know who has the horses.

Mr. Rush: But all the area is uncommitted; it’s not frozen. The Russians are playing their cards as they think best.

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t have much in Iraq, do we?

Mr. Rush: We could have. We used to have.

Mr. Kissinger: Since 1958?

Mr. Clements: Not since 1958.

Mr. Rush: Iraq doesn’t want to be Russian dominated.

Mr. Clements: All is not lost in Iraq.

Mr. Kissinger: Which means what?

Mr. Rush: That we shouldn’t wash it off. We should continue to fish in all waters.

Mr. Clements: We should do constructive things in Iraq to keep them stimulated.

Mr. Kissinger: Like what?

Mr. Clements: Help the Kurds.

Mr. Kissinger: I agree we shouldn’t write these countries off. If Dick Walters is right about the MIG 21s in Syria, they’re not there to stabilize the situation. Can we get a comprehensive scheme of what we should be doing? What do we have in mind? What is the role of Iran with regard to the Persian Gulf, for instance? Let’s try to get a strategic assessment of what we might build on. It is in our interests to make it as tough as possible for the Soviets to do what they are trying to do everywhere.

Gen. Walters: The Chinese are pulling out of South Yemen.

Mr. Kissinger: The Chinese assessment is the same as General Walters.

Mr. Sisco: Following the CENTO meeting everyone stressed the dangers of Soviet subversion. The PRC commended the emphasis of the CENTO communiqué. There was no concern about Chinese activities, but there was concern and suspicion about the Soviets.

[Page 48]

Mr. Kissinger: Could the IG or some special group work out the coherent approach?

Mr. Sisco: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Also those forces we would like to work with should know we are there. They should know they can expect support from us and those backed by the Soviets should know they’re in for a scrap.

Mr. Clements: (to Mr. Sisco) Both DOD and JCS want to participate in writing this paper. We may dissent from you, but we want to participate.

Mr. Rush: We agree; we want your input.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we get this paper in a week? There should probably be CIA and DOD annexes. I would like it so we can give some guidance to the President before the meeting with the Shah.

Adm. Moorer: The Chinese emphasis is now moving out of South Yemen into Africa.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s include Ethiopia.

Mr. Clements: And Somalia.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes—the Horn of Africa. The CIA annexes might contain some 40 Committee ideas.

Gen. Walters: You mean participant as well as spectator?

Mr. Kissinger: Yes.

  1. Summary: The SRG discussed Soviet strategies in the Middle East and South Asia and recommended the drafting of a “comprehensive U.S. approach to the area.”

    Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box SCI 18, National Security Council, Committees and Panels, Senior Review Group, February 1971–July 1973. Top Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The briefing paper, attached but not published and drafted by Walters, formed the basis for a July 19 summary of operations in the area.