8. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • SRG Meeting on NSSMs 181 and 182—Regional Strategy and the Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf

The purposes of this meeting are:

—To follow up the effort begun at last Friday’s SRG meeting to define a strategy for the area ranging from the Indian subcontinent to the eastern Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa. This is relevant to your meeting with the Shah next Tuesday.

—To address specific issues relating to our policy toward the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf (NSSM 181). Again, this will be useful before you see the Shah because it raises the basic question of whether we can continue in real terms to press for Saudi-Iranian cooperation in maintaining Gulf stability.

Specifically what you want from the meeting is as follows:

1. Ask State to take another crack at defining a regional strategy. As it now stands, the State Department paper presents a choice between two strategies, but I do not feel their formulation is helpful. I have drafted an alternative.

State puts its alternatives this way:

(a) One approach would be to counter the Soviets as actively as possible;

(b) the other would be to concentrate on resolving local conflicts and reducing local tensions on the assumption that that will reduce Soviet opportunities for expanding influence.

—I have written an alternative formulation which may require further work, but I feel it is closer to the mark. This poses a choice between: (a) a “neo-containment” strategy of concentrating heavily on Iran, Tur[Page 50]key, Israel and Ethiopia with secondary concentration on Pakistan and Jordan; and (b) a modification of the former which concentrates on strengthening the associations among those powers and also drawing in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the peripheral states on the Arabian Peninsula.

After discussion at the meeting, I suggest you instruct State to try to refine these strategies and that you give an indication of how you view the issues involved.

2. On the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf paper, there are some basic general issues that can be discussed and several decisions that can be considered. The basic issue to be discussed is the assumption which has been at the base of our policy to date—that Iranian-Saudi cooperation is the best guarantee of stability in the Gulf. The issues are whether the Saudis are showing the capacity to hold up their end of the cooperation and whether the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia is good enough so that it is realistic to think in terms of such cooperation. The alternative into which we are drifting is to assume that the Iranians will take care of stability in the Gulf. A second issue is how effective the Jordanian role can be in this area and whether we, the Iranians and the Saudis want a Jordanian role there badly enough for someone to pay for it. Finally, these specific issues could be discussed with an eye toward early decision:

Should we expand our diplomatic and commercial presence in the Gulf? You will recall [less than 1 line not declassified] how inadequate this representation is, and others tell us the same story. You could ask State to prepare a plan for upgrading our representation. The technical issue is whether we should upgrade our presence in every Gulf post or whether we should begin selectively in the Union of Arab Emirates and in Oman.

—You may wish to discuss the question of how we improve our political position with the Saudis. You may be pressed on the question of the mission to Saudi Arabia. Since the political mission as now proposed is cumbersome and is not likely to be able to convey the right message, you might want to raise the question of inviting Prince Fahd to come here. This would avoid Faisal’s emotionalism and would also permit you to have a talk with him.

—You might ask for a decision memo on military supply policy.

3. The Saudi contingency plan you asked for is in good shape. You may not have time to deal with this at the meeting, but you will want to read it before talking with the Shah. If you want to get a quick sense of the group’s feeling, the key issue is how extensively we should do some advanced thinking with the Shah and Hussein. Otherwise you can say this paper will be discussed by the WSAG later and that you appreciate having it so promptly.

Three papers are available at succeeding tabs for this meeting:

A. “Regional Strategy Paper.” This is the paper you asked Joe Sisco for at the SRG meeting last Friday. It is an effort to define a regional [Page 51]strategy. Sub-tabs identify alternative formulations of this strategy, one in the State paper and another by me.

B. “Peninsula/Gulf Paper.” This is the paper prepared in response to NSSM 181 which asked for a study of the situation and our options in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf. This leaves aside such issues as oil and financial problems and the Arab-Israeli conflict and concentrates on the political-security relationships in the Gulf and Peninsula.

C. “Saudi Contingency Plan.” Included for your reading and possible discussion at this meeting if there is time is the contingency plan for instability in Saudi Arabia [less than 1 line not declassified]. Whether or not you have time to deal with this in the meeting, it is available for your reading before you talk to the Shah.

D. A 40 Committee Annex to the regional strategy and Peninsula/Gulf papers is being sent to you separately. [1 line not declassified]

Conduct of the Meeting. Your talking points are at the next tab. They suggest that you first take up the regional strategy issue which is carried over from last week. Then you could move to the Peninsula/Gulf paper [less than 1 line not declassified]. If time allows, a short discussion of the Saudi contingency plan would fit into the broader discussion of the Peninsula/Gulf area.

  1. Summary: Saunders briefed Kissinger for a July 20 SRG meeting, following the July 13 meeting on NSSMs 181 and 182.

    Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 71, National Security Council, Committees and Panels, Senior Review Group, March 1972–July 1973. Top Secret. Attached at Tab A is the Department of State paper entitled “A U.S. Strategy for the Region of the Soviet Southern Flank,” with a covering paper from Saunders dated July 19, published as Document 9. Attached at Tab B is the analytical summary of the study for NSSM 181, published as Document 10. The full NSSM 181 study is not published. Attached at Tab C is a paper on contingencies in the event of instability in Saudi Arabia, published as Document 11. Kissinger requested this paper on July 12. [text not declassified]