115. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran


  • State

    • Secretary Cyrus Vance
    • Warren Christopher
    • David Newsom
    • Harold Saunders
  • UN

    • Ambassador Donald McHenry
  • Defense

    • Deputy Secretary W. Graham Claytor
  • JCS

    • General David Jones
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner
  • Justice

    • John Shenefield
  • The White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
    • Stu Eizenstat
    • Lloyd Cutler
  • Treasury

    • Secretary William Miller
    • Robert Carswell
    • Anthony M. Solomon
  • NSC

    • Gary Sick
    • Colonel William Odom


1. Economic Steps. Dr. Brzezinski relayed the President’s views that a senior official should be prepared to travel to Europe after the holidays or sooner to follow up on various economic steps.2 Mr. Solomon reviewed the positions of the various European states at this point. The French and British are now unanimously opposed to the default mechanism and there is no way we can budge them since they are convinced that they would bear legal responsibility for any losses suffered by their banks in carrying out such government instructions. Although the Swiss have briefed their banks to be punctilious in declaring defaults, they are prohibited by law from attaching assets of the Iranian Central Bank even if an organ of the Iranian Government defaults, so the actual effect will be very slight. The French and British [Page 300] are making a key issue over their demand that the agreed steps be conducted with no publicity, although they are well aware that leaks are possible. The package of technical steps, however, is now virtually complete, and Mr. Solomon saw no requirement for a U.S. representative in Europe. The SCC discussed this and agreed that initial follow-up on the package of economic steps could be handled by cable, but that it would be desirable to have a senior representative in Europe to be available for close consultations and to deal with the kinds of questions which are certain to arise during the announcement and debate of economic sanctions in the UN, which will start about next Wednesday.3 The SCC recommended that a follow-up cable be prepared by Treasury and State seeking final implementation of the agreed economic steps, but that, unless circumstances warrant otherwise, we would plan to send someone to Europe on about next Wednesday to follow through and deal with technical questions associated with Chapter VII sanctions. All agreed Mr. Solomon would be the most appropriate candidate.4 (C)

2. UN Sanctions. The President wants the allies to begin to impose sanctions at the time when the sanctions are initially requested at the UN, probably in mid-week.5 Secretary Vance said that the Europeans were planning to implement the technical steps on oil, bank deposits and the like; many of these were already being implemented. He wished to raise with the President the broader subject of when and how our allies can implement Charter VII sanctions. The list of the sanctions which we would request is still not fixed. Ambassador McHenry noted that it would be far preferable to have the UN resolution “emerge” [Page 301] from a round of consultations so it appears to be the result of consensus—even if everyone knows that the U.S. is the real author. Secretary Vance and Ambassador McHenry intended to consult immediately following the SCC meeting to decide on the list of specific sanctions which we would demand. This list will be prepared and circulated later in the day for comments before being sent to the President as an agreed recommendation by the SCC.6 The ambassadors of the nations represented on the Security Council are being called in to State today to make a firm request for their support for our efforts in the UN. They will not be briefed on the precise details of our proposed package, however, since questions remain about the desirability and legality of interrupting communications, for example. Dr. Brzezinski cautioned the SCC that the list of sanctions should be as stringent as possible. The President did not want us to look like a bunch of puffs. (S)

3. Iranian Diplomats. State will follow up on the President’s order that the Iranian diplomats who have been ordered to leave the country should get out. (C)

4. Iranian Monetary Transfers. Secretary Miller briefed the group on a series of proposed Iranian transfers of accounts from European and Japanese banks to alternative accounts of Libyan and Algerian banks. Some of these alternative accounts would in fact be held in Japan or France. It is doubtful that the allies would be willing or, in some cases, able to interfere with this type of transaction. Nevertheless, the SCC agreed that going to the allies on this issue would underline the fact that we are monitoring Iranian activities closely and would keep them alert to their commitments. It was agreed that Secretary Miller would send a message to the appropriate finance ministers. (S)

5. Unblocking Assets. Secretary Miller circulated for SCC comments a paper outlining procedures and options available to us in unblocking Iranian assets should that prove necessary or desirable at some point in the future. (S)

6. Public Posture. State will be in contact with the various clergymen and religious groups which may be involved in visits to the hostages over Christmas. They will be briefed to insist on seeing all the hostages, to take their time and not rush through a visit, and to protest publicly in Tehran if they are prohibited from fulfilling their objectives or if the [Page 302] hostages are not well. We will continue to focus on the fact that the hostages have not been seen for nearly a month by any outside observers.7 (C)

7. Australia. Mr. Solomon noted that, in his view, the economic steps which we have taken to date do not really bring effective pressure to bear on Iran. The Iranians are making $1.5 billion per month on oil sales above and beyond their import requirements, so they are well equipped to find alternative sources.8 [12½ lines not declassified]

8. Meetings. The group agreed that no further meetings would be scheduled until Wednesday, December 26, at 9:00 a.m. unless there was some special need. (U)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 18, SCC Meeting #236A held 12/22/79. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter wrote “Zbig, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. In the left margin, Carter wrote: “Before new year.”
  3. December 26.
  4. Carter approved the item with a checkmark. On Sitrep #102 by the Iran Working Group, December 23, Turner circled a paragraph on economic sanctions and underlined the clause that states that sanctions would “mean major difficulties and dislocation in the Iranian economy,” and the clause that notes that the effect of sanctions would be “as much psychological and political” since Iran’s economy was “fairly resilient.” In the margin he wrote that “this is becoming a key issue—was debated by SCC Sat [December 22]. This formulation is poor—the 2 underlined portions are almost contradictory—we should attempt to help here.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 81M00919R, Executive Registry Subject Files (1976–1979), Box 14, Folder 13: Iran)
  5. On December 21, Carter announced his intention to ask for an early meeting of the Security Council to impose international economic sanctions on Iran. He also quoted part of a Christmas carol written by Henry Longfellow in 1864 to express his desire for peace and goodwill. (Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book II, pp. 2277–2278) In telegram 330500 to USUN, December 22, the Department transmitted the text of a letter to the President of the Security Council requesting “that the Security Council meet at an early date to consider the measures which should be taken to induce Iran to comply with its international obligations.” (Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, UN and Security Council)
  6. Brzezinski sent the Summary of Conclusions and the operative paragraphs of the proposed UN resolution on Chapter VII sanctions to Carter on December 22. He noted that the latter “has been checked and approved by all agencies.” Carter initialed his approval and made comments on the text of the operative part of the resolution. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 18, SCC Meeting #236A held 12/22/79) The resolution was to call for a complete embargo on Iran by all nations in the areas of trade, finance, business transactions, and arms.
  7. In the left margin, Carter wrote: “good—try to prevent their becoming propaganda tools for Khomeini.”
  8. In the left margin, Carter wrote: “Be firm with Australia on this.”