253. Summary of Conclusions of a Mini-Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Saudi Arabia


  • State

    • David Newsom, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • Harold Saunders, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Defense

    • David E. McGiffert, Assistant Secretary of Defense, for International Security Affairs
    • Robert J. Murray, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern, African, and South Asian Affairs
    • Lt. General Ernest Graves, Director, Defense Security Assistance Agency, US Army
  • JCS

    • General William Smith
    • Major William Cook
  • DCI

    • Robert Ames, NIO for Near East and South Asia
    • Charles Herseth, Office of Economic Research

    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • William Quandt
    • Gary Sick

The Mini-SCC reviewed the background of the Saudi withdrawal of their offer to finance the purchase of Egyptian F–5s2 and considered next steps in attempting to reverse the Saudi decision. The group agreed to recommend the following approach:

1. Assistant Secretary of Defense McGiffert will visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia to discuss the issue with Defense officials in both countries. Precise terms of reference will be worked out with State. The principal objective will be to sound out the Egyptians on their views of accepting the payment schedule previously proposed by the Saudi Minister of Defense, which will require about $100 million in financing [Page 843] by Egypt. Mr. McGiffert will take advantage of the letter from Prince Sultan3 to indicate that we do not consider the question closed, to provide the Saudis an avenue to reverse their decision gracefully, and to get a clearer reading of Saudi intentions. (S)

2. State will prepare a broader political approach which will attempt to get the Egyptians and Saudis together and to brief the Saudis on what we anticipate in the next round of negotiations on the West Bank/Gaza. This would be accomplished by Ambassador Hermann Eilts in discussions with both the Egyptians and the Saudis4 in the course of his departure from Egypt (currently planned for May 20).5

3. The group recommended that the Presidential letter6 to King Khalid on this subject be held for the moment. The Saudis are at a high peak of emotion at this point, and the response could well be negative. Such a letter might better be delivered by Ambassador West when he is out of the hospital and ready to return to Saudi Arabia in about ten days to two weeks. (S)

4. The group proposed that this issue be discussed further at the luncheon meeting between Secretary Vance, Secretary Brown, and Dr. Brzezinski later in the day.7 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 120, SCM 066, 05/11/79, mini SCC, Financing of Egyptian F–5 Planes. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 251.
  3. Not found. Brown wrote to Sultan regarding the F–5 issue on May 15. See footnote 4, Document 254.
  4. Eilts met with Mubarak and Sadat on May 15, to inform them that he intended to meet with Fahd to discuss the deteriorating Egyptian-Saudi relationship. Both leaders “welcomed the idea and reaffirmed GOE’s desire for good relations with Saudis.” Eilts reported that though Sadat “blamed Saudis for ‘accelerating’ deterioration of relations between the two countries,” the Egyptian President agreed to halt press attacks against Saudi Arabia, drop a proposed attack on the Saudis in a speech he was to deliver that day, and would be prepared to “re-establish a dialogue, even if covert, with Fahd.” (Telegram 9875 from Cairo, May 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790219–0011) Eilts met with Fahd on May 16 in Rome. Fahd concurred that the “deterioration should be arrested” and agreed to a stop to Saudi press attacks on Egypt, but would not agree to a resumption of a dialogue. “Given [the] tenor of [the] conversation,” Eilts noted, “it was inopportune to raise F–5 funding question.” (Telegram 13183 from Rome, May 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790222–0919)
  5. Eilts’s appointment ended on May 20 and he was succeeded as Ambassador by Atherton on July 20. In the intervening period, Freeman Matthews served as Chargé d’Affaires.
  6. See Document 254.
  7. No record of this meeting has been found. The Egyptian F–5 issue was discussed further in the context of the Persian Gulf Security Framework in a meeting of the SCC which took place from 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. on May 11. The minutes of this meeting are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula.