172. Minutes of a Policy Review Committee Meeting1

SUBJECT

  • Secretary Brown’s Trip to the Middle East (U)

PARTICIPANTS

  • State

    • Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary
    • Harold Saunders, Assistant Secretary of State (NEA)
  • Treasury

    • Anthony Solomon, Under Secretary for Monetary Affairs
    • Fred Bergsten, Assistant Secretary for International Affairs
  • Defense

    • Harold Brown
    • Charles Duncan, Deputy Secretary
    • David McGiffert, Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs
    • Robert Murray, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs
  • OMB

    • James McIntyre
    • John White, Deputy Director
  • JCS

    • Gen. David Jones
    • LTG William Smith, Assistant to CJCS
  • CIA

    • Adm. Stansfield Turner
    • Robert Bowie, Deputy Director for National Foreign Assessment
    • Robert Ames, NIO for Near East and South Asia
    • Vice President Mondale
    • Denis Clift, National Security Affairs Adviser
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Gary Sick
    • Fritz Ermarth

Secretary Brown opened the meeting by noting that he had promised to make a visit to the Middle East when he had met with various Middle East leaders a long time ago. Many things had happened in the meantime. The Camp David meeting had occurred with its initial [Page 593]agreement and the subsequent slowing of the negotiation process. There had been the evolution of the Iranian political process and fall of Iran as a major regional security contributor at least with respect to U.S. advantage. It was now time to realign our security relations in the region and the trip provided a timely opportunity to discuss security issues with the nations of the region. The purpose of the meeting was to seek answers to three basic questions. First of all, should we seek closer relations with these nations in some cases? That question on the trip was at best preliminary. However, it could set the stage for further action later on. Secondly, what sort of security cooperation do we want with these nations? In the case of Israel and Jordan, we have had a close cooperation for a long time. However, it should be possible to draw attention to the fact that the threat emanates not from each other, but from the outside. This might be hard to do, but on the other hand these nations are not likely to do it for themselves. Thirdly, if we wish to pursue this path, what is the state of U.S. willingness to carry out its end of the agreement? This turns on questions of public attitudes, congressional attitudes, and economic capacity. In addressing these issues Secretary Brown proposed to use the general outline which had been distributed to members of the PRC the previous day entitled, “Secretary of Defense Trip to the Middle East, PRC Discussion Paper.”2 He proposed dividing this into a series of five questions. First of all, are the general objectives as spelled out in the first page of the paper satisfactory?

Secondly, are the proposed initiatives for each country acceptable? Three, how should we treat the linkage between oil and security of financial aspects and security issues? Four, what financial support is available on our side to meet some of these requirements in the various areas? And, fifth, what sort of public posture should be adopted, specifically with regard to the press who will be accompanying on the trip? He then turned to the question of the general objectives spelled out in the paper and asked for comments around the table. (S)

[Omitted here is discussion of Middle East regional security issues.]

Secretary Brown then turned to Egypt. He wondered whether we should encourage Sadat to play a role outside his own country in line with his own idea of providing an intervention force for Africa and other regions. He said that if you examine the whole region, looking for a replacement for Iran except for money, Egypt came the closest.

Mr. Duncan said that he thought the list of initiatives presented for Egypt were very good, especially the fourth one which called for the initiation of FMS credits.

[Page 594]Secretary Brown thought that FMS credits to Egypt were more salable in Congress than arms sales to Saudia Arabia, although the former required US funding and the latter did not.

Mr. Christopher felt that until a peace treaty had been signed, we should not plan on large-scale consultations even on a survey team to Egypt.

Secretary Brown said we could take the line that we want to do it, but we can wait until after a treaty is signed.

Mr. Christopher agreed.

Mr. Mcgiffert wondered if that applied to all five items on the list.

Mr. Christopher said that there could be talks about what the Egyptians might want from us. The first point was certainly alright. They need to know that it is a good thing to diversify their sources of supply.

Secretary Brown said that when we tell countries to go elsewhere for their source of arms, they take it as a lack of interest from us.

Mr. Christopher said we should not hold out the hope that we will be the sole source of arms for Egypt and also provide money.

Secretary Brown said that may be difficult, since the Egyptians just came out of that kind of relationship. We need to talk to the Saudis about the level of support for Egypt.

Admiral Turner said that it will be difficult to turn Sadat away from his concept of being a Middle East policeman, but there are real dangers in our encouraging that role. There is a danger that he will ignore his domestic problems, ignore the military dissatisfaction with such a policy, and that he could end up generating the same kind of problems that we have just seen in Iran.

Secretary Brown said perhaps our position should be that he would be in a better position to play that role after a peace treaty was concluded.

Mr. Christopher said he hoped we would not divert Sadat from the hard problems of a peace treaty and domestic problems.

Mr. McGiffert said he thought it would be bad if Secretary Brown goes to Egypt and offers only a few contingency possibilities. That would have a negative effect.

Mr. Christopher said that some APCs could be offered after the treaty is signed with the numbers to be determined later.

Mr. McIntyre noted we already provide $750M in SSA to Egypt.

Secretary Brown then turned to Israel. He noted that the specific proposals called for security consultations on a regional basis. This would be something new in our security discussions with the Israelis. He would also need to talk about the relocation of the air bases. Our [Page 595]commitment to assist on air base relocation is ill defined. The President must discuss this with the Israelis, but he could lead the way.

Mr. McIntyre said that opposition [our position?] should be that we will make no cash commitments, but after a settlement is reached we will assess the request and make recommendations. That is the line he has been taking on the hill—it implies some additional funding, but that is all. How would we rationalize that position if we now go forward with new commitments as a result of this visit?

Secretary Brown said he was only talking about 1981. Obviously, this would not apply before that budget year.

Mr. McIntyre said that there are general totals that we are operating on with regard to 1981, and that we have to tread very carefully on that.

Mr. Christopher said that the air base and other issues of that sort should be discussed under the general context of the peace process.

Mr. McGiffert noted that the $1B figure in the paper is new. We have never given that to Israel before, although that is in the air base study.

Secretary Brown said we have never talked about $3B in total aid, even if that is understood to include air bases and other factors.

Mr. Christopher said it would not be desirable now to make a commitment for $1B for air base relocation. There are already big numbers there as far as the Israelis are concerned.

Secretary Brown said he had not intended to make a commitment on this, rather he intended to discuss the study and the estimated costs that came out of it. It would be a mistake to say that we would provide loans or grants of money to Israel for that purpose.

Mr. Christopher said that the words of the Secretary of Defense are heard as a commitment whether it is 81, 82 or any other time. Any discussion of the study should be prefaced with a clear statement that this would involve no commitment as to when or how we would provide funds.

Mr. McIntyre said he would want to [talk?] to the President to see how he would deal with the question of budget levels.

Secretary Brown said that he had told Weizman on several occasions that there would be $1B in FMS credits and $750M in SSA, and not more than that on an annual basis.

Mr. McIntyre said that we should not leave the impression that that level will continue in perpetuity; however, that is a subject that is probably left unsaid at this point.

Secretary Brown said he was worried about talking security with these countries without something to offer his own.

[Page 596]Mr. McGiffert wondered how he could possibly be quiet on the entire list.

Mr. Saunders said that there were certain items that they had requested that certainly could be granted which didn’t cost money and could be incorporated within the current aid levels.

Secretary Brown said he was afraid that such discussion would not send a positive signal. However, he thought he could avoid making new financial commitment.

Mr. Saunders said he didn’t think it would be so negative. He thought the general objectives spelled out in the paper were excellent and provided a good basis for talking seriously with them about security needs. We could also discuss their specific needs and relate those to the situation in Oman and Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

Secretary Brown said that that was true as far as the Saudis, and that it was easier since there were no financial problems there; however, on the Saudi case there were Congressional problems.

Mr. Christopher wondered what you could say to the Israelis on any of these subjects without making a commitment.

Secretary Brown said there are some things on the list that could be discussed without any new financial commitments. By discussing the study, we could show we have done something on the airfield situation. We can assure them that some work can be done on the airfields without an impact on the Israeli economy; however, no decision can be taken at this time. He felt that what was required was a decision memo for the President which had to be done immediately for him to examine some of the critical specific issues.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 73, PRC 090, 2/1/79, Secretary Brown’s Trip to Middle East. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The complete minutes of this meeting is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula. Found attached to the minutes was a February 2 note from Sick to Aaron relaying a telephone conversation that morning in which Barry Blechman of ACDA informed Sick that ACDA Director George M. Seignious was “furious at being excluded from the PRC yesterday on Harold Brown’s Middle East trip. They [ACDA] were under the impression that the meeting had been cancelled.” Sick reported to Aaron that he “pleaded ignorance” and noted that perhaps “because of the fact that I see only one dimension of the problem, I do not understand the circumstances when ACDA is invited and when they are excluded.” (Ibid.)
  2. The final version of these draft instructions is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula.