155. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan


  • State

    • Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher
    • David Newsom
  • Defense

    • Deputy Secretary Graham Claytor
  • CIA

    • Frank Carlucci
  • JCS

    • General David Jones
    • General John Pustay
  • White House

    • Jody Powell
    • Stu Eizenstat*
    • Denis Clift**
  • NSC

    • David Aaron
    • Gary Sick
    • William Odom
    • Thomas Thornton**

* Present for Items 1 and 2 only.

** Not present for final item.


The meeting was largely devoted to a review of where we stand on Iran at the present time and what immediate options are available to us.

1. Elections. At the moment, Bani Sadr and Madani appear to be the two strongest candidates. CIA does not believe that Ghotbzadeh has any significant support or national appeal. It is still very possible that Khomeini will identify some other candidate as his personal choice or that the election date will be delayed or both. The signs of in-fighting and chaos within the ruling group are not abating. Much of the apparent “movement” in recent days is probably due only to Ghotbzadeh’s effort to bolster his personal position by a public relations coup of some sort. (S)

2. Sanctions. Mr. Christopher felt strongly that nothing which is happening in Iran provides any basis for us to relax our pressure on the Europeans and others to institute effective economic sanctions. We may only be able to get 50–70% of what we would like, but that would still be helpful. The German announcement of support today [Page 409] was helpful and should lend support to our efforts. The stories (e.g., Gwertzman in the New York Times)2 which suggest that sanctions are a lost cause should be corrected. Secretary Vance will be seeing the British Ambassador today, and a message from Vance to Carrington may be required to keep up the pressure on the British. The Japanese are primarily concerned about the security of their oil supply, and they are asking again for access to Alaska crude. The Implementation group will look into this, recognizing that we were previously unsuccessful on the Hill. (S)

3. Military Options. Mr. Aaron suggested that it might be useful to increase our military activity enough to make the point that we still have other options. This could give the allies an incentive to look harder at economic sanctions as the lesser of two evils. The SCC discussed possibly increasing the level of our naval patrols in the Persian Gulf, possible flights by carrier aircraft into the Persian Gulf, and possible SR–71 overflights of Iran. Mr. Newsom said that any military activity which appeared to be directed against Iran would be a mistake in this period just prior to the elections since it would only tend to heighten the anti-US feeling and unite people behind Khomeini. Instead, he thought it would be preferable to conduct some kind of military operation which could be explained and understood in the Afghanistan context but which would also send a signal to Iran. (S)

General Jones suggested that a B–52 flight into the Indian Ocean to surveil Soviet naval units might be appropriate. The aircraft could fly out of Guam on a long round-robin trip without landing in the area. They could surveil Soviet units and could also link up with the carrier forces in the region. Such a mission could be flown on Sunday and become known on Monday.3 The only obstacle would be the request for overflight clearance from Thailand. In order to avoid premature announcement of the flight, the clearance request would be submitted as a C–5; however, we would go privately to the Thais through our Ambassador and inform them of our intentions and get their approval at the political level. Such a flight would be seen as a major new development by the nations in the region. The Indian reaction would be negative, but the strength of their feeling would depend on how close the aircraft came to their shores.

The SCC unanimously recommended a flight by two B–52s, and the JCS began work immediately to get the clearances in the event the flight was approved. State checked with Secretary Vance immediately [Page 410] after the meeting, and he supported the recommendation, on condition that the Thais were informed in advance and approved. (TS)

Approve a flight by two B–52s to the Indian Ocean on Sunday, January 20, conditional on prior approval by Thailand and staying a good distance away from India.4


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

8. Covert Action. A restricted group heard a brief report from Mr. Carlucci [less than 1 line not declassified]. Some new meetings have been held in the past several days, but no report was available yet. Mr. Newsom summarized the questions which are expected in the House Committee next week.5 They are interested in the timing of the decision to provide lethal weapons to the insurgents and whether it predated the Soviet invasion. Mr. Carlucci said the date of the Finding6 came after the Soviet invasion and we do not discuss with them the details of our decision-making process. There will be questions about the amount of money involved, the nature of the Huyser mission,7 and whether the elections in Iran may make any covert action program unnecessary. Mr. Carlucci and Mr. Saunders will work together closely, and in general Mr. Carlucci will lead in responding to the questions in order to avoid getting drawn into a lengthy discussion of policy issues which are outside the purview of the Intelligence Committee. (TS)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box 108. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter initialed “C” in the upper right corner.
  2. Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Plans Embargo on Iran on its Own as Allies Shun Idea,” New York Times, January 18, 1980, p. A9.
  3. January 21 and 22.
  4. Carter approved this option with a checkmark, initialed “J” beneath the options, and wrote in the right margin: “all but 1st para.”
  5. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XII, Afghanistan, Document 107, footnote 6.
  7. See footnote 9, Document 91.