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


  • [less than 1 line not declassified] Iran (S)

My brief acquaintance with CIA’s planning and inclination, which occurred at David’s meeting on Saturday with CIA, State, and Defense2 leaves me worried about what we are able to do and what we may want to achieve. The meeting on covert planning and military support had a tone of urgency, a tactical tone, [2½ lines not declassified].

[3 paragraphs (25 lines) not declassified]

The northern tier objective, it should be added, is highly compatible with the “Saudi-centric” approach to Persian Gulf security, the approach we are following in acquiring bases in Oman and Somalia. In fact, our improved military presence in the Gulf is an essential precondition for restoration of Turkish-Iranian-Pakistani security cooperation.

Turkish Interests. [1 line not declassified] in putting together a new centralizing regime in Tehran which is not anti-Western. They do not want to see the Kurds unleashed as a fragmenting force. Both of these interests are sufficiently coincidental with ours to provide a basis for U.S.-Turkish cooperation, [less than 1 line not declassified]. The Turks, however, will undoubtedly want to extract a price in U.S. military support and economic aid.

Pakistani Interests. Zia and Khomeini are both religious conservatives and opposed to Baluchestani independence or autonomy. Zia offers us unique access to Khomeini, a credible Moslem ruler speaking of common Iranian-Pakistani interests in preventing what the Soviets are doing in Afghanistan. To take advantage of this connection, however, we must change our policy toward Pakistan significantly. That can be done more easily than many at State and Defense believe.

[Page 311]

Next Steps

We must find a way to relax the arms transfer restrictions, even if that means going to the Hill for an exception or a change in the law. [1½ lines not declassified] Once it is clear to Zia that we are prepared to move in that direction, that we will accept the damage to our relations with India, then we may find him willing to begin covert action, even before we have delivered arms.

As we make decisions on covert action, it seems critical that we make them toward the proper end: restoring the “northern tier,” not only gaining the release of the hostages. We should make intelligence approaches at the highest level in Pakistan and Turkey for discussions about the future of Iran.

The PRC on Pakistan this week,3 of course, could be the forum for recommending one of these steps along with significant changes in our overall policy toward that State.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 87, For President or Brzezinski Only File, Iran Sensitive 10/78–12/79. Secret; Sensitive; Outside the System. At the top of the memorandum, Brzezinski wrote to Aaron: “DA. Where do we stand? ZB.”
  2. See Document 113.
  3. The PRC met on December 27 to discuss Pakistan and the situation in Afghanistan. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Documents 102 and 103.