113. Memorandum From William Odom of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • Covert Action and U.S. Military Contingency Planning (S)

The meeting with CIA, Defense, and State, on the compatibility of our military contingency planning and our covert action planning, took place on Saturday morning, December 22.2 David asked for the following options to be developed:

[4 paragraphs (6 lines) not declassified]

5. Political consequences of seizing the oil region in the south, in particular, what would it take to hold the oil, denying its production and sale by Tehran and Khomeini’s government?

6. [less than 1 line not declassified]

CIA is producing a paper on five of the six points. I and Defense were to produce something on the fifth point, holding the oil fields. (S)

Putting the Khuzestan Oil Fields in “Trust.”

Occupation of the oil producing region in the south could be done one of four ways:

Iraqi Invasion. This might take them away from Tehran, but the Iraqi hand on the oil spigot would not be easy to control. The other adverse political implications for the Persian Gulf littoral states makes this something to be prevented, not encouraged.

Admiral Madani Turns the Region Away from Tehran. If Admiral Madani, whose power in the Khuzestan region seems strong, were to abandon appearances of support for Khomeini’s regime, this would certainly take the oil away from Khomeini and give us some chance of influencing the internal developments in Iran. No one, however, seems to believe Madani can be brought to do this.

U.S. Invasion of the Khuzestan Region to Control the Oil. This, of course, is not remotely within our military capability, even if we drew [Page 298] half our troops from Europe to execute the operation. Furthermore, 90 days would be required to begin to position three or four divisions in the region. This option is wholly unrealistic.

Mine or Blockade Oil Shipping from Iran. This can be done. It is very cheap. It can turn off the oil spigot. In time it would dry up Iranian hard currency credits. It would also hurt the Japanese and the Europeans who might become less than publicly supportive of the scheme as they anticipated the inflation and decline in expected economic growth forced on them by this action. (S)

David appears convinced that putting pressure on Khomeini is the way to make him yield, and Gary Sick argued that the cut-off of oil production brought down the previous regime. Thus, cutting off oil exportation would put pressure on Khomeini, encourage his domestic enemies, and push the neutral Bazaari elements into opposition. (S)


—The only effective way to stop the oil exportation is through blockading or mining. Our military capabilities can give us this option with some warning and preparation time.

—Precisely what impact cutting of oil exports will have on Khomeini and the hostage situation is unclear.

—The only way to force significant disruption of the Iranian economic interaction with the West seems to lie in stopping the oil flow. If that is desired because other measures (UN Chapter VII) fail, blockading becomes attractive.

—The mining or blockading option could become an important step for supporting other actions—such as the Azeris in the north, that cannot be determined now. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, General Odom File, Box 27, Iran 11/78–11/79. Secret; Sensitive; Outside the System.
  2. Turner’s briefing material for the December 22 meeting is an untitled December 21 paper. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 82M00501R: 1980 Subject Files, Box 13, Folder 1)