148. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran


  • State

    • David Newsom
    • Dean Hinton
    • Harold Saunders
  • Defense

    • W. Graham Claytor
    • Robert Murray
  • JCS

    • General David Jones
    • General John Pustay
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner
  • Justice

    • Benjamin Civiletti
  • Energy

    • John Sawhill
  • Treasury

    • William Miller
    • Robert Carswell
  • Agriculture

    • Robert Bergland
  • White House

    • Hamilton Jordan
    • Jody Powell
    • Stuart Eizenstat
    • Lloyd Cutler
  • Vice President’s Office

    • Denis Clift
  • NSC

    • David Aaron
    • Colonel William Odom
    • Gary Sick
    • Tom Thornton


1. Cooperation with Allies. Mr. Newsom reviewed the results of Mr. Christopher’s consultations in Europe thus far. In general, the prospects of imposing sanctions on Iran do not look promising. The British are taking a firm line that they lack the legal authority to do it, and it is also evident that they do not believe politically that the sanctions will be effective. State is working on a spread sheet of what the allies are doing and what they are likely to do—both on Iran and with regard to the Soviet Union.2 (S)

Treasury will circulate today draft regulations on our own legal steps on sanctions. Mr. Christopher believes that publication of our own regulations could be marginally helpful to him in his efforts with the Europeans. The group discussed the desirability of including extraterritorial scope in our own regulations. This is a sensitive point with the Europeans and is likely to bring us into direct conflict with them if we attempt to extend our own regulations to cover the activities of U.S. subsidiaries abroad. A committee composed of Treasury, State, Commerce and Agriculture will meet today to analyze the effects of actions by U.S. subsidiaries on sanctions and the steps we can best take to increase the effectiveness of our own actions.3 (C)

The SCC generally believed that our best approach would be to call in the principal companies and inform them that it is U.S. policy to deny shipments to Iran and that we will publicize activities by U.S. subsidiaries which are not consistent with that policy. Mr. Claytor felt [Page 390] that this would be 90 percent effective and would avoid the confrontational aspects of attempting to extend the reach of our domestic regulations. (C)

Secretary Miller noted that the sanctions are showing results in at least some cases. He cited a request from the National Iranian Gas Company which is “desperate” to purchase $3.5 million in equipment which is necessary to keep a $1.7 billion project going. We are, of course, not going to agree, but Treasury is asking for additional information to try to identify the project and the precise type of equipment which is needed.4 (C)

2. Economic Warfare. Mr. Aaron noted that Henry Owen is heading a small group to do an analysis of how we are equipped to conduct economic warfare. We need more coordination in this area. The group will be in touch with the various agencies, with the objective of having some results which can be presented to the President within the week. (S)

Secretary Bergland agreed that it would be useful to call in the major U.S. grain traders and warn them about cooperating in trading activities in third countries which would circumvent our policy. He said that this would only be effective if he could threaten to publicize any untoward activity on their part. The SCC agreed that publicizing such activity would be entirely consistent with our policy and he should not hesitate to so inform the grain traders.5 (S)

3. Congressional Strategy. With Congress coming back next week, the public attention to our actions on Iran and Afghanistan will increase sharply. Mr. Aaron asked that State complete the work on the aid package for Pakistan and have it ready to go at the first of the week. By the end of this week, we should begin a systematic briefing of returning members of congress and key staff aides.6 State and NSC will work closely together on this. (C)

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

6. Public Posture. The working group which met yesterday under Jerry Schecter to examine possible themes to use in our public positions has tasked several areas of research. CIA is preparing a paper on the background and identities of some of the student kidnappers which can be used publicly. State and CIA are also doing a paper on the vulnerability and isolation of Iran and their deteriorating economic situation in the face of economic sanctions. CIA is doing a paper which [Page 391] will examine the chronology of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the actions the Soviets have taken thus far on Iran with the Tudeh Party, past involvement with the Kurds and Azerbaijanis, etc. The theme would be that the Soviets are the real enemy of Iran and that they may be preparing to move there next. Another CIA paper will examine the persecution and exploitation of Moslem minorities in the Soviet Union itself. There was a discussion of how to play the story regarding the presence of Soviet troops on the Iranian border with Afghanistan. It was agreed that we could publicly note that we are aware of Soviet forces deployed in that area, including some elements along the border directly. We would not speculate on the objectives of these forces. (C)

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

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Box 10. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter wrote “Zbig, C” in the upper right corner.
  2. The spreadsheet, “Economic Measures Related to Iran and Afghanistan: Draft #1—January 15, 1980 AM,” is attached to a January 15 memorandum from Tarnoff to Brzezinski. Under headings “Afghan Trade Measures” and “Informal Measures,” the spreadsheet was divided into columns labeled “US Action,” “US Request,” and “Foreign Reaction.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P800026–1153)
  3. Carter wrote in the right margin beside this paragraph: “Be aggressive. Europeans need US pressure.” The sense of the January 15 meeting was that foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms be excluded from the regulations for sanctions against Iran because to include them would raise old issues with U.S. European allies on the influence of U.S. multinationals on their domestic economies and politics. The meeting attendees also determined to postpone any decision until Christopher and Cooper weighed in. (Memorandum from Odom to Brzezinski and Aaron, January 15; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 22, Treasury Department 3/79–3/80)
  4. Carter wrote in the right margin beside this paragraph: “Block other sources if possible.”
  5. Carter wrote “do so” in the right margin beside the last sentence of this paragraph.
  6. Carter wrote “good” in the right margin.