135. Letter From H. Ross Perot to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

Dr. Brzezinski:

My associate has returned after spending thirty-six days in Tehran.

The situation surrounding the hostages is unstable and unpredictable. Anything can happen. Theories, opinions and estimates about what is most likely to happen have little value.

Turmoil and confusion in Tehran make it feasible to infiltrate and maintain an unconventional rescue team inside the city, as we did last February.2

Vehicles, weapons, and other equipment can be acquired in the city.

My associate is willing to go back in to assist the team. Other reliable Iranians can still be recruited to assist the operation. There is the possibility of getting aid from dissident groups of Iranians—but only if the team is in Tehran to organize such activity through carefully selected Iranians.

The cornerstone of our presentation to the CIA and Department of Defense on the seventh day of capture was to put a rescue team into position in Tehran—

—A U. S. based rescue team is of no value.

—A rescue team located in a nearby country is of some value.

—A team in Tehran is of great value. It can react quickly to events, an important asset, since most events are outside our control. The only delay would be the short time required to send aircraft to a pickup point.

While waiting in the city, the team members will get an invaluable first hand feel for the actual conditions in which they will have to operate. The rescue plan will be improved as a result of experience on the streets.

I am told that the team and its leaders are superb—this is all that matters. As I reflect upon the capabilities of this team, the present conditions in the city, and contrast this team to our inexperienced [Page 359] group of amateurs, I am convinced that the team will succeed, if we will—

—Give the team leader the resources, responsibility and authority to get the job done.

—Give the team a clear mission, without a list of restrictions, that effectively limit or freeze the plan.

—Give the leader on the ground the freedom to alter the plan, based on actual conditions, since the situation is changing daily, or even hourly.

—Get the team into position quickly.

—Resist the temptation to over-control the team from Washington.

Some senior people are overreacting to the possibility of failure. Guessing at the odds of success is meaningless, except to make other senior people comfortable enough to approve the mission. Preparation, positioning, judgement, timing, execution and good luck will determine the outcome.

For those who require an indication of the probabilities of success—there is only one way to get a meaningful forecast. Talk with the team leaders who will be going in on the ground. No one is more sensitive about success than the men who are going to be shot at. If they believe the mission plan is sound, and if they are free to use good judgement in executing it, that is the best advance indication we can have.

The organization weaknesses we discussed in our first meeting still remain. Everyone working on this project should report to one person. Departmental jealousies, arguments over roles and missions, turf disputes, etc. should be dealt with firmly. A large part of the total effort on this project is still wasted in these nonproductive areas. This is inexcusable when you consider that fifty lives, plus the lives of the rescue team members, are at stake.

The United States has completed its peaceful efforts to free the hostages through the U.N., World Court, Waldheim visit, and intermediaries from other countries, all without success. The Russians have taken Afghanistan, further destabilizing the Middle East. Today, Khomeini announced that he is going into seclusion for fifteen days. If he isolates himself from contact with the students at the compound, this introduces a number of new variables for consideration.

The probabilities of using the rescue team are increasing, and yet a team is not in place in Tehran, or in a nearby country. In contrast, we put a team into Tehran in twelve days after first consideration, and kept it hidden for thirty-five days.

The real test of advice on a mission involving possible loss of human life is—are the advisers willing to go on the mission? I will repeat the offer I made five days after the hostages were taken—“If our government feels it should not field a rescue team, because of the [Page 360] problems throughout the Middle East, our group will, if requested by the United States—

—organize a rescue team

—put it into position while negotiations continue

—wait for an opportunity

—rescue the hostages, if necessary, and escort them to safety.

Please consider this letter personal, and safeguard it from any disclosure to the public, Defense, State, CIA, or other members of your staff. The contents are yours to use as you see fit, without revealing the source.

Let me know if I can be of assistance to you.

You have my support and best wishes.


Ross Perot3
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 31, Subject File, Iran [Retained] 1/80. No classification marking.
  2. In February 1979, Perot financed the successful rescue of two Electronic Data Systems (EDS) employees imprisoned by the Iranian Government in a contract dispute. The rescue occurred amidst a prison break during the chaos of revolutionary upheaval in Iran.
  3. Perot signed “Ross” above this typed signature.