293. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Mubarak Meeting


  • U.S.

    • President Jimmy Carter
    • Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Robert Strauss, Personal Representative of the President
    • Robert Hunter, National Security Council
  • Egypt

    • Vice President Husni Mubarak
    • Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal

The President began by saying that he had had good phone calls this morning with both Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat.2 They were both in good spirits. There is growing trust and mutual respect between them, and a developing friendship. Both Begin and Sadat had pledged their commitment to a comprehensive settlement, and to resolve autonomy questions. To Begin he had said that the big impediment was the settlements. Begin acknowledged that this was a problem. He did not say when, or all of it, but it could be put in the past and resolved. It was a good talk. The President had called from Camp David. Begin’s (?) attitude had been friendly and constructive in his assessment. He (The President) hopes and prays that there can be movement without delay on settlements. What does the Vice President think?

Vice President Mubarak said that he wants to convey President Sadat’s best regards. He looks forward for good results of the autonomy talks by the end of the year. He has three points: first of which is a message from President Sadat.3 (President Carter read it.)

The President said that it was a good message.

Vice President Mubarak said that he had three issues to discuss, and had done so with Vance,4 Brzezinski, and Strauss: political problems, economic questions, and military equipment Egypt needs. Beginning with economics: he would present their requirements. After the Treaty, Egypt has had no source of currency except for the U.S. The Arabs are not providing them with hard currency. There is no other way but the U.S. He has asked for some requirements like wheat. He talked with Vance that they are getting 1.5 million tons, and need 500,000 more. Vance had said that the U.S. can afford 100,000 more; but that is very, very difficult for Egypt. He has talked with Khalil and Sadat; they said to speak with the President and his Administration, since this is vital: it [Page 946] is the food of the people. If Egypt could buy it elsewhere it would do so, but it can’t. On maize, he asks for 100,000 tons more; 20,000 tons more of edible oils; frozen chickens, 5,000 tons more; and animal fats, 40,000 tons more. They have asked for rice since their population is increasing, and they must send some to Sudan, which is in a crisis. He had a message from Numeiry’s aides asking for wheat and sugar; Egypt has to send it from time to time when it is needed. So, he is asking for 60,000 tons of rice. Also about 250,000 tons of iron. If it were a gift—as with the Japanese—this would be even better! These are nearly the whole requirements, and are very vital for the Egyptian people. He has talked with Vance and Strauss and Brzezinski. He told Vance that he would not leave here without a solution! Where can they buy it? So he insisted! (Note: all this with humor.) President Sadat two days ago had told him to tell of the urgency of increases, that they have no money to buy these commodities elsewhere.

The President asked what the level of wheat shipments to Egypt had been over the past five years.

Secretary Vance said that Egypt is getting about one-third of the world-wide total. It is very large. Shipments to other countries are in dollars; Egypt gets its in terms of quantity. Therefore Egypt gains the benefit that it does not have to worry about fluctuating prices.

The President asked how much was shipped three–four years ago.

Ambassador Ghorbal said it was one million tons. Last year it was 1.5 million. Now they badly need to have 2 million tons.

Vice President Mubarak said that this was the point: Egypt has a difficult situation on wheat. It has no relations with the Arabs; if it did, then it could buy elsewhere. But it can’t find it.

The President asked whether other Egyptian aid programs could be reduced to provide more here. What about their CIP program?

Secretary Vance said that he would take a look at it, but there are difficulties there. Therefore we hadn’t gone forward.

Vice President Mubarak said that he had talked with Khalil: this is difficult. Egypt needs all the items, and their sources are limited. This is a problem for this year.

The President said that he understood. The total is difficult, with the budget, the Congress, and our other aid programs.

Vice President Mubarak said that they can’t find the money anywhere.

The President said that he understood.

Vice President Mubarak said he would stay until he gets it!

Ambassador Strauss said that if his wife stays, as well, that is ok.

[Page 947]

Vice President Mubarak said that the second issue is military. He had talked with Harold Brown and David McGiffert on two items:5 the Air Force and the Navy. They had discussed the long-term plan. First, there are the 35 F–4 Phantoms. Then there would be other modern aircraft, starting in 1983. This puts the Air Force and Egyptian power in an awkward position. They have had no replacements since 1973. They had some MiG–23s, but they are all grounded or transferred to the States (sic!).6 The bulk of their planes are Mirages. These are not sufficient for their pilots and stability of the air force. There is Afghanistan and Aden; there is trouble involving Kuwait and Bahrain (which they had expected long ago). He has talked with Saudi Crown Prince Fahd about the Soviet position in Aden, which is dangerous. The situation could lead to a cancer in the Arabian Peninsula. It could be carried to the Gulf and oil. The UAE is open; Kuwait is open. Only Oman is strict enough in letting people in. With the others, it is easy for the Communists to work and build themselves up there. Therefore there is trouble in Bahrain and Kuwait. Two years ago, Bahrain froze its Parliament with six Communist members. They are afraid of the situation. Trouble has started. With regard to Sudan, the U.S. knows the problem, linked to Libya. Ghaddafi is doing what he can to remove the Sudanese regime. This means getting at Egypt, and means a Soviet plan. If they “reach” Egypt, they will push Communist groups, and find other countries easier to act against. On Morocco, Hassan asked for Egyptian help. Egypt sent four C–130s, each carrying eight tons of arms. They did this in secret, on request. Morocco wants to carry on relations, but secretly. So many Africans are against Morocco dealing with Egypt. So they have sent 27 tons and are contracting for other arms, with the Arab Organization.

They said ok, and Morocco should send transport, to limit the amount of arms (?). Also, Somalia and Chad have asked Egypt for ammunition and machine guns. And these demands on Egypt affect the power of its armed forces. If the Soviets feel its power is going down, particularly in the Air Force, and the Soviets feed elements to other Air Forces, then there will be an imbalance. Egypt has 74 fighters; Ghaddafi has 154. Libya has 2,700 tanks, and will get 1,000 more later. Egypt has 1,700 tanks. In the correlation of forces, Libya alone has more arms. This doesn’t mean it will dare do anything to Egypt, if they use Libyan crews in the tanks. But others are there—the East Germans and the North Koreans (which are said to be only for training, not for con [Page 948] flict with Egypt). But Libya has more planes and tanks. He said to Harold Brown on the Phantoms: 35 is not a fair number. That means no replacements, and there will be nothing else until 1983. But what about spare parts? Therefore they ask for more Phantoms: it is easier to get them than the F–15 or F–16, which would not come before 1983. Brown said that the U.S. could speed up some F–16s, before the end of 1981. Egypt needs more modern aircraft; and the quickest way to cover that is with F–4s, just to face what is going on in the area. If they have to wait for the F–16s, what can they do in these two years? With regard to Libya, the Soviets push from time to time. Egypt must face this, and help stability; it can’t just sit on its hands.

With regard to the Navy, there was a plan for two destroyers. Brown had agreed that they are very old. One can get to Alexandria safely, but it is not sure that it can carry on; and the other one might not get there. This would create a very bad image in Alexandria. The Soviets would seize the opportunity to point that out. Egypt is keen to keep the image of the United States in good shape. He told Brown that a worsening image would be detrimental to both of us. The Arabs would raise hell; and the Soviets would point to it—therefore, there would be a bad image. Brown was convinced, and talked with Defense Minister Ali. There could be two frigates; but these are too costly—$800 million each. The Defense Department is looking for a solution in lighter ships, on the condition that they would have enough range, to reach places like Oman.

There has been no answer on the Phantoms. Brown had said that it would be difficult to take them from the U.S. Air Force. This could not be in 1980, as Sadat had asked, but maybe a few. Egypt would consider this very vital. They need more Phantoms now. They need to train on them. They can’t go to 1981–82 without covering this period with active airplanes.

His third point is what Sadat did in Haifa. He has sent this message. There is one other thing: Sadat found Begin not to be in good shape. He put no pressure on Begin at Haifa. Sadat says that he will build bridges, and prepare the floor, to give the President a chance to act in the good atmosphere which Sadat is working to create. Now there is the role of the U.S. Sadat is doing as much as he can in preparing the way for the U.S. Sadat says he knows the President will do his best. Sadat does not want to have heavy U.S. pressure on Begin now. The U.S. needs to start convincing Begin of the importance of the full autonomy issues. The U.S. should be talking issues now, building to the end of the year, to reach a precise conclusion.

Ambassador Strauss said he wanted to make the record clear. Do the Egyptians want a completion of Powers and Responsibilities by the end of the year? Our record shows that Egypt wants to start at the end of the year with possibilities.

[Page 949]

Vice President Mubarak said that Sadat had said the U.S. should start convincing Begin now, and push the Powers and Responsibilities negotiations. By the end of the year, more pressure should be created. There should be increasing pressure and by the end of the year something precise, so that the Arab world (the Saudis and other moderates) would know something is being done. They wait for results by the end of the year. It is very important to start the convincing, and applying pressure after November 19. Sadat is therefore doing his best with Begin, building bridges, and preparing the ground for the President to go forward.

The President said that he appreciated that Vice President Mubarak could see Vance, Vice President Mondale, Brown, Strauss, and Brzezinski. It has been a constructive visit. He hopes the Vice President has learned of some of the limits on what we can do in our aid programs to Egypt, Israel, and others. The Vice President and Sadat know of the enormous demands on us from Asia, NATO, as well as the Middle East and parts of this Hemisphere. We have to balance what we can do with the Congress versus what we want to do to honor requests from our friends. He committed himself to Sadat, when they first met, to make a substantial increase in food. We have honored our commitment, with mutual benefits in our friendly relations. He wants Egypt, Sadat, and the Vice President to see us as their friend. We treat Egypt as a special friend, despite our worldwide obligations on aid, with other countries being even poorer. One-third of our PL–480 goes to Egypt. All other countries get allotments in dollars. If the price goes up, the quantity goes down. Egypt is special; it gets no tonnage cuts. He approved an increase in the 1.5 million tons of wheat by 100,000 tons. He doesn’t know whether that can be increased. He will work with Vance, and consult with leaders in Congress to see if that can be modified in some degree. He doesn’t want to mislead the Vice President: we are approaching our limit with Congress in this next year. On the other items, Vance should consider them, and report7 back to him (the President).

Secretary Vance said that some money is unspent. Only on rice would we have to go back to Congress. He thinks we can help, despite the limits, and work our way through.

The President asked if this means a short-fall on wheat and rice.

Secretary Vance said that rice can be handled.

The President said that we will do the best we can. He thinks that we will not meet the full Sadat request, but he will see about modifying the 1.6 million tons in wheat.

[Page 950]

On military issues, he had not heard a report yet on the Vice President’s meeting with Harold Brown. He knows that it has always been the Egyptian attitude that the Gearing class destroyers might not be adequate. In Alexandria, he had proposed that the Egyptians take a cruiser, but they had said no. If they decide they want small, more modern ships, and no Gearings, then he will honor what Harold Brown recommends. There are increasing difficulties with the reduction of our F–4s. There is a feeling that the F–4 level is now minimal for us to have adequate reserves. He will wait for Harold Brown’s assessment before responding.

On peace, President Sadat has been heroic. The Vice President should tell him that the President appreciates his good wishes. We will continue to work with Sadat in harmony. It is important that Egypt and the U.S. be close in the talks. We need to know Egypt’s negotiating attitude, so we can honor the desires of Sadat. Sometimes it is difficult for him to be more forceful—as in protecting Palestinian rights, promoting the autonomy talks, preventing settlements—than is Sadat. It is hard when we take a strong position, and Sadat is more accommodating. We need to keep in touch, and keep our attitudes in a common approach. If Sadat is too sensitive about upsetting Begin, and expects him (the President) to be the only tough negotiator, then that is difficult for him (the President).

Secretary Vance said that he had talked with Ezer Weizman about Lebanon,8 who said that Sadat had not taken a strong position.

Vice President Mubarak said that Sadat did talk about this to the Israelis.

The President said that speaking about it, and being forceful, are different. On several occasions—concerning settlements, Lebanon, and the talks—he has tried to be forceful, but Israel says that the U.S. is being tougher than Egypt. He knows the need for good Sadat-Begin relations, but we also need to carry out Camp David. Begin is stubborn and courageous. He will say no if he means no; he will say yes if he means yes. On several occasions, we have been more forceful in carrying out the Camp David Accords than has Egypt. Israel takes advantage of the weaker country. Therefore, there is a need for us and Egypt to work more closely together.

Vice President Mubarak said that Sadat does not want the U.S. to be in an awkward position.

The President said that he does do it. We need to know beforehand if Sadat wants us both to be soft. It is no good for Sadat to be soft, and expect him (the President) to be hard. We need to deal with difficult [Page 951] issues—such as Jerusalem, settlements, and a comprehensive settlement. We both need to be forceful, in public and in private. Jews in America constantly say: why are we tough, when Sadat doesn’t care? Therefore, there is a need to talk more closely and be more in concert—not only a part vs. Israel, not one weak and one strong.

Vice President Mubarak said that sometimes Sadat makes easy relations with Begin, so the President can get a good attitude from Begin in order for the U.S. to push forward. He does not want to put the U.S. in the position where it has to be forceful, and is in a corner. Sadat does not want to put the U.S. in any critical position.

The President agreed, but said that that is the result.

Ambassador Strauss said that Weizman had bragged on the President as a peacemaker, but had greater difficulties with the President than with Egypt. He (the Ambassador) told the Vice President this morning that this is a problem, and makes matters difficult. We agree—Khalil, Israel, the U.S.—on moving the autonomy talks. It is a little difficult to have no hard push until December, or after November 19. Therefore no positive results can be had on January first, if the pushing starts on December 15. Results will only come in the spring, if we are fortunate. The pace started with the Vice President, Sadat, Khalil (?) and him (the Ambassador). He sold this to Israel, to work at lower levels. This will take all of us to be successful.

The President said that it wasn’t hard to get the Israelis to delay. He referred to the Israeli cabinet decision to permit Israelis to buy Arab land in the West Bank. What is the Egyptian position? We don’t know. He assumes no Arab will like it.

Vice President Mubarak agreed.

The President said that if we speak, and Egypt is quiet, this will be difficult for us. If we make this most important, then there may be a problem with the talks. Therefore, it is important to have more consultation. He told Begin this morning that the settlements are their most difficult policy. Lebanon, as well. Both hurt Israel throughout the world.

Secretary Vance said that both cause trouble in the Arab world and in general. Unless we and Egypt work together, it will be tough to get our objective of a real truce in Lebanon. It takes time to get progress in the autonomy talks; if there is a Lebanon truce, that will buy time.

The President said that this discussion had been helpful. Most of the Egyptian requests we can accommodate, but not all. Vance and Brown will talk about it. He thinks there will not be much increase in wheat. We will look at the budget worldwide.

(The meeting ended at 2:30 p.m.)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 36, Serial Xs—(5/79–9/79). Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room. Carter’s handwritten notes related to this meeting are in the Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 1, Egypt, 11/77–11/81.
  2. No transcripts of these telephone conversations have been found. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter spoke with Sadat from Camp David from 7:39 a.m. to 7:44 a.m. Carter then spoke with Begin from 7:45 a.m. to 7:49 a.m. (Carter Library, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. See Document 289.
  4. Vance met with Mubarak in his office at the Department of State on September 11, where the discussion covered the current state of the peace process, Egyptian military needs, and economic assistance. A full memorandum of conversation for this meeting was produced on September 13 and is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 18, Egypt: 7–9/79. Vance met with Mubarak again on September 14 to discuss Egypt’s requests for more commodity and PL–480 aid for FY 1980. A summary of this meeting is in telegram 243222 to Cairo, September 16. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790422–0608)
  5. The memorandum of conversation of Mubarak’s meeting with Brown, September 17, is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330-81-0446, DEM Memcons/Reporting Cables.
  6. According to an August 3 memorandum from Gates to Kimmitt and Sick, Vance, Brown, and Brzezinski decided at their luncheon meeting the same day to “proceed quietly with the purchase of Egyptian MIG 23’s.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 12, Egypt: 8–9/79)
  7. Not further identified.
  8. See Document 292.