139. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran/Pakistan


  • State

    • Warren Christopher
    • Harold Saunders
    • Richard Cooper*
  • Defense

    • W. Graham Claytor
    • Robert Murray
  • JCS

    • General David Jones
    • General John Pustay
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner
  • Justice

    • John Shenefield*
  • Energy

    • John Sawhill*
  • Treasury

    • Robert Carswell*
  • Commerce

    • Secretary Phillip Klutznick
    • Homer Moyer*
  • OMB

    • James McIntyre*
  • White House

    • Lloyd Cutler**
    • Hedley Donovan
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
    • Henry Owen*
  • Vice President’s Office

    • Denis Clift*
  • NSC

    • Colonel William Odom
    • Gary Sick
    • Thomas Thornton

*Domestic Issues Only

**Domestic Issues and Shah


Domestic Issues:

1. Emissary. Richard Cooper will depart for Europe by this weekend and be prepared to begin discussions with the Europeans on Monday.2 Some of the preparations for these discussions are dependent on the outcome of the sanctions vote on Iran in the Security Council. Specifically, we must decide whether to ask the allies to impose the full body of sanctions3 defined in the resolution. A number of them lack the legal basis for taking such action in the absence of UN authorization. (S)

2. Sanctions on Iran. Dr. Brzezinski expressed his concern that our economic/diplomatic approach against Iran is running out of steam. Even if sanctions are approved by the UNSC, how will they be applied, how will they affect the Iranians, and what effect if any will they have in getting the hostages released? If we do not get the sanctions, the allies will be reluctant to impose sanctions unilaterally and the Iranians will conclude that the international leverage against them has been reduced. How much time would it take for economic sanctions to have an effect? There is little time left on the political side, where our efforts are being perceived to have failed. (S)

[Page 367]

Mr. Christopher said it would be difficult to get the nine votes. The key nations are Zambia, Tunisia and China. Calls are going out from the President this morning. If we get the nine votes, there is no certainty whether or not the Soviets will veto. The chances of a Soviet veto have noticeably increased. However, if we get sanctions, we should press ahead with implementation. If we fail, it will be a blow, and we must work hard to get our allies to assist us in keeping up the pressure. Economic pressures, withholding of spare parts and the like have an effect on the Revolutionary Council, but they do not have much effect on the students4 or Khomeini. (S)

The present state of the Iranian economy is rather pitiful. The imposition of sanctions would be felt immediately in terms of its psychological and political impact. Some say it will merely stiffen their backs, but that is far from certain. The economic effects will be slower in coming, but will impact on their ability to maintain their military forces. Admiral Turner added that it will also affect the oil sector and manufacturing due to lack of spares which are running down. CIA has examined the effects of sanctions, but they would take another more detailed look at the implications.5 (S)

Dr. Brzezinski noted the ability of the Rhodesian whites to withstand sanctions for ten years. Even if sanctions are voted, this precedent will be cited to undermine our public credibility. We need the means to counter this. Admiral Turner said that a study would not provide the kind of ammunition which could effectively counter those arguments. Secretary Klutznick observed that there was also a question of how many nations would choose to impose sanctions, even if voted. Mr. Cooper replied that our first priority would be the major Western European allies plus Japan and Canada. That covers most of the commercial relations and spare parts on which Iran relies. Our second priority would be the smaller European states, and third priority would be the Third World—largely for show. (S)

Mr. Christopher agreed that we need to have a contingency plan on how to proceed if there is a veto. It will require a lot of arm-twisting on our allies. Perhaps we will need a team of emissaries to go out to the major nations. State will start work on developing such a team, possibly including prestigious private individuals, and directed at Western Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada and the ASEAN nations. [Page 368] Dr. Brzezinski wondered if it might be desirable to take some dramatic act, e.g. having the President appear before the General Assembly. He was concerned that we have done nothing serious to intimidate the Iranians since late November when we did intimidate them. They now discount our efforts. Khomeini must be brought face to face with the unpalatable alternatives. Mr. Christopher said they had looked at the General Assembly option, but we would want to be certain we could get two-thirds before we tried it. Also the UNGA has no enforcement authority. (S)

3. Iranian Students. Mr. Claytor outlined the present situation. There are 227 Iranian trainees in this country, 216 of whom are in flight training. Another large group is in ROTC at various universities. Our objective has been to maintain their good will toward the West, but the lack of actual flying is having the reverse effect. Morale is going down and the Air Force is worried about possible incidents. The British have the same problem and are following our lead. The Congress will probably raise this again when they reconvene. He proposed a deadline of February 1 or the end of the semester, as appropriate, for terminating training. The students would have the choice of seeking asylum if they wished to remain. The political attitudes of these students have not been systematically surveyed. Many of them are afraid to talk. We know that many of them were pro-Shah, that many are anti-Khomeini, and a few of them are pro-revolution. Dr. Brzezinski noted that facing them with this choice forced them to burn their bridges and could make them return to Iran bitter with the U.S. He thought that would eliminate a possible useful asset. At some point it might be useful for them to return to Iran in uniform as a group. If this is not a domestic issue, which it does not appear to be at present, and if their presence has no bearing on the fate of the hostages, he would prefer no change. General Jones said that on training grounds it made no sense to keep them here, but if there was a political judgment that it was useful, they could continue. All agreed that the students should stay put for the moment.6 (S)

4. Iranian Assets. Mr. Carswell noted that private companies are beginning to attach the new funds which we licensed to be brought in to pay salaries and operating expenses of the staffs of NIOC, Iran Air and other Iranian companies with personnel in this country. The staffs are a mix of Iranians and Americans. Unless we take action to prevent these attachments, these organizations will close up and return home. Is this what we want? Mr. Sawhill noted that the NIOC personnel have continued to maintain a dialogue with us and he thought it was useful [Page 369] to have them here. All agreed that we did not have to take a decision on this until after we see what happens with sanctions at the UN. Depending on that vote, this action might be included as part of a package. The issue will be reviewed again on Monday. (C)

Political-Military Issues:

1. Shah. We have reports that he wants us to locate a different country of residence for him.7 What are our responsibilities? Mr. Christopher noted that the complaint was registered by the Shah’s staff, specifically Armao, who has been plagued by poor relations with the Panamanians. It was not clear whether this request came from the Shah or from Armao and others. The Shah may want to move off the island, and he might be happier doing that, or perhaps he would feel less bilked by the Panamanians. Our information indicates that relations with Royo and Torrijos are at least superficially good. We need to take a hard line.8 Until the hostages are released, we have no capability to find another residence. The Shah is going to have to learn to live in a country where he is not king. He was unhappy in Morocco, in the Bahamas, in Mexico and now in Panama. We have no alternatives available. It was agreed that Lloyd Cutler and Mr. Christopher will talk to Armao when he comes to Washington this weekend and see what can be worked out. Dr. Brzezinski noted that the Shah might pick up on the President’s statement to congressional leaders that, in the event of a threat of extradition, the President would accept the Shah back to the United States. However, this situation appeared to be more of a case of being dissatisfied with his accommodations. (S)

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

4. Senate Select Committee. Mr. Aaron noted that there are reports that the SSC on Intelligence had requested declassification of the CIA analysis on the effects of permitting the Shah to return to the United States. Admiral Turner said he was unaware of this, but no action would be taken without a high level review. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains Files, Box 10. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter wrote “Zbig, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. January 15. His mission was to consult with European allies on a coordinated response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Should the Soviets veto the Iranian sanctions vote, Cooper was to consult on ways to impose sanctions despite the veto. A statement of his mission’s purpose and a January 1 discussion paper for economic sanctions on Iran is in Department of State, Records of the Secretary of State, 1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Presidential Breakfasts Jan/Feb/Mar 1980.
  3. Carter underlined the phrase “whether to ask the allies to impose the full body of sanctions” and wrote “yes” in the left margin.
  4. Carter circled the word “students” and wrote “They’re not” in the left margin.
  5. Turner sent the January 10 paper, “Economic Sanctions Against Iran,” prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency, to Brzezinski that afternoon. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 82M00501R: 1980 Subject Files, Box 14, Folder 1: C–372 Iran) Turner had provided Carter, Mondale, Vance, Brown, and Brzezinski with a January 4 paper entitled “Free World: Trade Ties with Iran.” (Ibid.)
  6. Carter indicated neither approval nor disapproval of the item and wrote in the right margin: “What do the students prefer to do? Ask them with a confidential questionnaire.”
  7. As reported in telegram 6660 from Panama, January 7, Armao described to Moss a long list of difficulties faced by the Shah and his entourage in Panama. He wanted Jordan’s and Cutler’s assistance in moving the Shah from Panama as soon as possible. Moss recommended no U.S. involvement, not least because the Shah “has no where else to go.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 60, Panama 6/79–1/80)
  8. Carter wrote in the left margin next to this sentence: “Minimize our involvement.”