131. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1


  • Iran, Christopher Mission to Afghanistan, SALT and Brown Trip to China


  • The President
  • The Vice President
  • State

    • Secretary Vance
    • Deputy Secretary Christopher
  • Defense

    • Secretary Brown
    • Deputy Secretary Claytor
  • CIA

    • Deputy Director Carlucci
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • Hamilton Jordan
    • Lloyd Cutler
    • Jody Powell
    • David Aaron


The President began by saying that the NSC would first discuss Iran and Pakistan and then reduce the membership to the statutory members for a more private session.

Dr. Brzezinski said that the Secretary of State would update the Council on the Iranian hostage situation and, time permitting, there should be a discussion of our longer term strategy towards the Iranian Government.

The Secretary of State said that we had a successful vote on Monday in the UN Security Council2 and that since that time we have been working with others to clear up the language of the resolution on sanctions. He thought this would be completed by the end of the day.3

The President asked what the prospects were for the approval of the sanctions resolution. The Secretary of State replied that he could not guarantee nine votes. He said that we had eight certain votes, but not nine. The Secretary of Defense pointed out that there will be new members on the Council. The Secretary of State responded that we would gain the vote of the Philippines who were coming on the Council, [Page 349] but we would lose Gabon. Niger will replace Nigeria and he thought that we will probably have their support if the French will help us. He said we will lose a vote on Bolivia since there is still an impasse over whether Cuba or Colombia will get that seat. He added that the Eastern Europeans, East Germany and Czechoslovakia, will, of course, be of no help.

With the Europeans and ourselves, we have five votes. If you add Niger, that is six; the Philippines, that is seven. He said Zambia is questionable; however, Manley will stick with us and that will make eight votes. However, we could not be certain until we have the text of the sanctions resolution in front of the delegates.

The Secretary of State thought the big question was whether the Chinese would stay with us. In his judgment, if we have nine votes, China will join us; but if China is to be the ninth vote, we could have some difficulties.

The Secretary of Defense asked what the chances were that Secretary General Waldheim would say that we should keep negotiating rather than voting sanctions. The Secretary of State responded that Waldheim is likely to say that there has been some progress and that there should be a few more days permitted to see if diplomacy could achieve more substantial progress. The Secretary of State confirmed the Secretary of Defense’s assessment that therefore the vote on sanctions might stretch a few days further, but not for several weeks.

The President asked whether there had been a report from Waldheim. The Secretary of State said no. Indeed, we still do not know if he will be seeing Khomeini. In any event, he did not believe that much would come out of the Waldheim visit.

The President agreed. He doubted whether the Iranians wanted to resolve the crisis at this stage.

The Secretary of State said that he believed the Afghan situation is the only thing that might change the attitude of the Iranian authorities. The Iranian Government has made two statements critical of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and they have indicated that this is supposed to be a signal of the congruence of their view with that of our own.

The Secretary of State noted that the Saudis were interested in putting together an Islamic Foreign Ministers meeting and the Secretary of State said that he had encouraged the Saudi Foreign Minister in that regard. He concluded by saying that it is clear that the Iranians see the Soviet move into Afghanistan as a threat. This is where we must place the weight of our argument.

In response to a question as to the contacts we have with the Iranians on this, the Secretary of State said that we were in contact with them through the Swiss.

[Page 350]

The President asked if there was any further comment on Iran.

The Secretary of State said that Hal Saunders is meeting with people in New York who are purporting to represent members of the Revolutionary Council. He added that he was meeting with a specific individual here in Washington who had come for this meeting. He did not wish to mention his name; but he said he was a person with real influence.4

The President said that what the Iranians tell Waldheim privately will be significant. They are in a position to keep open the possibility of a resolution of the crisis. However, he said he had no reason to be optimistic.

The Secretary of State added that Arafat is probably going to Tehran in the near future. The President asked whether Arafat will condemn the Soviets on Afghanistan. Dr. Brzezinski replied that Arafat will follow the lead of the other Arab countries.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the hostage crisis.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box 57. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
  2. December 31. See Document 128.
  3. The draft sanctions resolution is attached to the January 6 Iran Update memorandum from Saunders to Vance. The draft asks that all states impose trade sanctions against Iran and notes French and British objections to the resolution. (Department of State, Official Files of [P] David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Lot 82D85, Iran Update Jan 1980)
  4. Saunders met with Hashemi in New York on January 2. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P860159–1187) Vance met with Sadiq al-Mahdi, who had just returned from Iran, on January 3 and 4. (Telegram 2947 to Khartoum, January 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800010–0113) Saunders offers a detailed account of these informal meetings in Saunders, “Diplomacy and Pressure,” American Hostages in Iran, pp. 102–104.