309. Memorandum From Robert Hunter of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Arab Summit

The Arab Foreign Ministers meet in Tunis Wednesday and Thursday,2 and the Summit is on the 20th.3 I convened an interagency meeting this morning on the subject.4 The following were the conclusions:

Lebanon: The Lebanese want this to be the first agenda item, to get some serious consideration for their initiative. The Saudis will not get out in front on this question, which they see as foundering on the future of Haddad. They are more concerned with using the Summit to mediate between Algeria and Morocco (which is unlikely to succeed). Boutros’ meeting in Damascus5 over the weekend did not give much basis for real optimism. So far, we have stayed low-key, approaching [Page 1008] only the Saudis.6 We should consider slightly more involvement, perhaps with talking points to selected Arab participants. This can be judged on the basis of the Foreign Ministers meeting.

Rejectionists: They will no doubt try to put together some rhetoric, if not some concrete action. They will set the tone of the meeting. Saudi Arabia, lacking a consensus among the moderates, is inclined to be passive. The pressure to move to consensus, however, is on the hardline side, not the moderate side (as was true at Baghdad I and II). We should make this point to Saudi Arabia and other moderates, in order to try shifting rhetoric, and also to give Lebanon a better chance of being a focus of attention instead.

Israel: A key factor in the Summit will be the impending deportation of Mayor Shaka.7 There is a consensus in Israel on this point, and not much give. But if it happens, the likelihood of stronger rhetoric out of the Summit, and coalescence around hardline positions, will increase considerably. The peace process will be damaged on the West Bank. Newsom is talking to Nehushtan; we should consider going to the Vance/Strauss level immediately.8 Revelation of their settlement plan before the Summit will also have a serious effect.9

Oil: Even with Iran, it is unlikely that any new steps will take place on oil at the Summit, although 1) Ghaddafi is almost certain to raise it; and 2) there is a good chance that there will be a declaration on [Page 1009] oil in relation to the future—e.g. the exchange of Israeli and Egyptian Ambassadors in February.

Sanctions against Egypt: New steps are unlikely to be taken; however, there is a good chance of a declaration listing a series of punitive steps following the exchange of Ambassadors.

Eastern Front: It will probably be raised by Syria and/or Iraq and the PLO, but is unlikely to be established. At most, there will be a declaration of intention. If it does get serious consideration, it will sink the whole Lebanon initiative.

Hussein initiative: It is essentially dead at the moment; in particular, Arafat has cancelled his trip to Amman this weekend (presumably because of Iran), and Hussein can’t move without coordination with the PLO. Failure of this effort leaves the moderates without an issue around which to coalesce.

Hostages: Iran will no doubt be discussed privately. If the hostage issue is still unresolved, it is possible that the Summit could take a position (most likely privately conveyed); we should consider asking Waldheim to send a message to the Arab League Secretary-General if the situation is not resolved this week.

Iraq: It will work hard to dominate the Summit and drive it in a hardline direction, but might be disposed to be more moderate if we were to have a preliminary discussion about common problems with Iran. This should not even be considered until the hostages have been released, and then balanced against the risks of our later being associated with any Iraqi action against Iran.

Sadat: We should suggest to him gently that he say nothing publicly to inflame the Summit.10 (S/S)

In general, Arab Summits are not helpful to our interests. We are helped, however, by the number of items on the agenda (also including the Euro-Arab dialogue and aid to Jordan, PLO, etc.), and a lot of disarray among the rejectionists. (S)

We also discussed the potential impact on the Gulf Arabs of the Iranian situation. The consensus was that we will be better placed for low-key discussions with countries like Saudi Arabia on security, and that the Iran situation would continue the Saudis’ drift back to us (as [Page 1010] with the Yemen operation and support for Morocco). The problem of military presence would remain, however, and there will be greater awareness of internal vulnerability. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 36, Serial Xs—(10/79–12/79). Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A stamped notation in the upper right-hand corner reads: “ZB has seen.”
  2. The meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers, charged with preparation for the November 20 Arab Summit, took place in Tunis November 15–17. Although no final communiqué was issued, two working papers, one on the Arab-Israeli dispute and the other on the situation in South Lebanon, were produced. The papers are summarized in telegram 8924 from Tunis, November 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790532–0812)
  3. The Arab Summit, attended by 22 delegations, took place in Tunis November 20–22. The final public resolution of the conference, approved unanimously, addressed Middle Eastern political developments since the 1978 Baghdad Summit, specifically criticizing the Camp David process, the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, the U.S. role in both, and Israeli “aggression in South Lebanon.” Telegram 9072 from Tunis, November 24, which summarized the resolutions, also reported that while “as far as we can observe, little was achieved in moving the Government of Lebanon and the PLO towards a mutually satisfactory modus vivendi, nor on strengthening the presence of the UN forces in southern Lebanon.” “Secret accords” on Lebanon were “said to take note of PLO’s commitment to abstain from military operations against Israel from South Lebanon and to abstain from announcing in Lebanon operations undertaken in occupied territories.” Moreover, the Summit reportedly recommended the PLO and Lebanese Government conclude an agreement regarding both parties’ armed presence in South Lebanon through bilateral accords and pledged a total of $2 billion to Lebanon over the next five years. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790541–0904)
  4. No memorandum of conversation for this meeting has been found.
  5. On November 12, Boutros summarized for Dean his November 10 meetings with Khaddam and Assad and outlined the Lebanese position for the Tunis Summit. (Telegram 6304 from Beirut, November 12; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850029–2534)
  6. West met with Saud on November 11 to discuss the issue of Lebanon at the Summit. West summarized the Lebanese Government’s desire for a strengthened ceasefire in which “no armed elements” in Lebanon “would attack anyone else,” cooperation of all parties with UNIFIL, and the introduction of Lebanese Army units and civil authorities in southern Lebanon. Moreover, West emphasized the U.S. effort to give “strong support” to Lebanon. (Telegram 7789 from Jidda, November 12; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790008–0629)
  7. On November 8, the Israeli Government decided to deport Nablus Mayor Shaka from the West Bank following remarks in which he was alleged to have voiced support for terrorist attacks on Israel in a meeting with an IDF official. (Telegram 3600 from Jerusalem, November 9; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790516–0552) A transcript of the conversation between Shaka and IDF Coordinator General Danny Matt that was passed by the IDF to a correspondent of the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram 24144 from Tel Aviv, November 13. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790523–0918)
  8. Vance sent a letter to Begin on November 14, expressing both his concern at the “repercussions that a deportation order would have on the overall political atmosphere in the West Bank” and hope that Israel would find “other ways to handle this problem.” (Telegram 296222 to Tel Aviv, November 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850050–2196) Vance’s letter was delivered to the Prime Minister’s office on November 15. Lewis reported that Begin’s initial reaction was to regard the letter as “somewhat ‘out of bounds’ since Shak’a matter remains sub judice.” (Telegram 24385 from Tel Aviv, November 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850050-2177)
  9. On November 15, the Israeli Government announced plans to add 10–15,000 new housing units per year to settlements in the West Bank. (Dial Torgerson, “Israel OKs Huge Increase in Settlers on West Bank,” Los Angeles Times, November 16, 1979, p. A7)
  10. On November 14, the Egyptian media reported an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation in which Sadat asserted that Egypt had “overcome” the effects of cuts in aid from Arab states as a result of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. Moreover, Sadat predicted that the autonomy talks would be completed in 2–3 months, Hussein would join the negotiations and “assume responsibilities for the West Bank,” and that a “hysterical” Arab reaction would accompany the scheduled exchange of ambassadors between Egypt and Israel. (Telegram 23421 from Cairo, November 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790524–0802)