153. Memorandum From the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Bremer) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • Your Breakfast with the President Friday, January 18, 1980

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

6. Iran.

(a) Status of Sanctions. Chris and Dick2 found two causes for the European reaction on sanctions: (1) With varying degrees of emphasis, they argued they could not impose sanctions under their existing law and that going to parliaments would be difficult; (2) they questioned the efficacy of economic sanctions at the present time and the advantage this might give the Soviets. All indicated, however, they would continue informal financial and oil measures. And Genscher has now told us that the Germans have decided to impose on their own a range of sanctions.

Dick Cooper recommends we should not press for full implementation of the UN sanctions resolution. In the end, we will not succeed; and we could generate considerable ill will in the process, at a time in which we need to reinforce and demonstrate our solidarity. Dick also believes, however, we can enlist European cooperation in an embargo on exports of manufactured goods (excluding those related to outstanding contracts) if we are willing to push hard enough. If we decide to push ahead with this, we will need to mount a major negotiating effort encompassing Japan, Canada and the smaller European countries as well as the major European countries, and encompassing for political reasons some Third World countries as well. The last point is especially important to the French.3

(b) Study of Soviet/U.S. Options. You may wish to tell the President that the Department has begun an urgent, but extremely close-hold, study of possible Soviet options for intervention, political and military, [Page 405] into Iran and of possible U.S. countermeasures. A draft of the current outline is attached at Tab 4.4

7. Panama and the Shah. The two Panamanians—Gabriel Lewis and Rory Gonzalez—are on their way to Tehran following their meeting with Ham Jordan and Hal Saunders Wednesday.5 There have been press stories each of the last two mornings indicating exchanges between Royo and Ghotbzadeh, although Royo has not publicly acknowledged that the subject is the extradition of the Shah. In two recent conversations, Dick Cottam has expressed his concern—without our having referred to the Panamanian track—about the increasingly “desperate quality of Ghotbzadeh’s actions.”6 Cottam also specifically cited Ghotbzadeh’s desire to begin the extradition trial of the Shah before the elections and his anger that the Panamanians want the hostages released first. Ghotbzadeh said the hostages could be released only after the trial started. Cottam pointed out that Ghotbzadeh is uncertain whether he will have any role in the new government if Bani-Sadr is elected.

It looks as if chances are less than even that the Panamanians will be able to bring off the release of the hostages in this pre-election environment in Iran if they hold to their position. Even if Ghotbzadeh were prepared to try, other Presidential candidates might block him if it seemed he would reap political benefit from that step. Our only course at the moment on this track is to wait for further word from the Panamanians, who will be in Tehran over the weekend.

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

  1. Source: Department of State, Records of the Secretary of State, 1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Presidential Breakfasts Jan/Feb/Mar 1980. Secret; Sensitive. A stamped notation in the upper right corner reads: “CV.”
  2. Warren Christopher and Richard Cooper.
  3. Tab 2, “Economic Measures Related to Iran and Afghanistan: Draft #3—January 16, 1980 PM,” is attached but not printed. The spreadsheet is appended to a section of the memorandum dealing with allied reaction to Afghanistan.
  4. Tab 4, draft outline, “Possible Soviet Military Moves in Iran,” January 13, is attached but not printed.
  5. According to Jordan, he, Saunders, Precht, Turner, Sick, and Kirbo met with Lewis and Gonzales in the White House Situation Room on January 16 from 7:30 until 10 a.m. Jordan conveyed to the Panamanians America’s “strong desire” to begin negotiations. Lewis stated that Panama would bow out once negotiations between Iran and the United States had begun. The two Panamanians then left for Paris to meet with Villalon and Bourguet, and from there to Iran. (Jordan, Crisis, p. 110) No other record of this meeting has been found.
  6. Memorandum of conversation, January 17. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Box 31, Iran 1/11/80–1/31/80)