271. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran


  • State

    • Acting Secretary Warren Christopher
    • David Newsom
    • Harold Saunders
  • OSD

    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • W. Graham Claytor, Jr.
    • Robert Komer
  • JCS

    • General David Jones
    • Lt. General John Pustay
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
    • Hedley Donovan
    • Lloyd Cutler
  • Office of the Vice President

    • Denis Clift
  • NSC

    • Gary Sick


(There was a preliminary discussion of Cuba to be reported separately.)

[Page 739]

Next Steps on Iran

Dr. Brzezinski asked the group to step back and consider the longer track of our strategy on Iran. Before the rescue operation, we were proceeding with economic sanctions, allied pressure, and were considering a range of other alternatives including secondary boycotts, cutoff of food and medicine, and interruption of communications via INTELSAT. The allies have reaffirmed that they are prepared to follow through on sanctions. Should we take some additional actions of our own? (S)

Secretary Brown said it was his inclination to let the allies proceed down their own track of sanctions as the focus of attention before we do something ourselves. Secretary Christopher agreed, noting that the reason many of the remaining actions available to us were not taken previously was because they had so many adverse consequences. State was preparing a paper looking ahead at the changes in our strategy which were required by the new circumstances. This would be completed and available for circulation by the end of the day. It could be discussed at the SCC meeting on Thursday.2 All agreed. (S)

Mr. Cutler noted that the claims legislation was being completed. At this point the legislation does not include any standby authority to vest assets, which means that it has no real bite.3 Mr. Cutler thought the legislation should be reviewed before going forward. It was agreed that this issue would be taken up at the SCC meeting on Thursday. (C)

Dr. Brzezinski noted that it would be useful to have a clearer idea of just what steps the allies are taking and what commitments they have accepted. We should also examine the impact these steps are likely to have on Iran. State and CIA agreed to prepare a brief paper on this subject.4 (C)

Admiral Turner noted that he had met yesterday with a group of hostage wives and mothers. It had not been a pleasant meeting. He thought it would be useful if the “cash register could start ringing” for these people. He suggested an initial payment of $50,000 per family and $1,000 per day for each day of captivity, with the money to be taken from Iranian assets. Others argued that the amount of money would be too small to be of real concern to the Iranians, and the impression would be created that the families are getting rich as a result of the situation. Mr. Saunders noted that State had had some recent meetings with the hostage families which had not been as grim [Page 740] as Admiral Turner’s had evidently been. Dr. Brzezinski said it would be useful for a small group to look into tangible things we could do as a government to help the morale of the hostage families. It was agreed that a group would meet today under the chairmanship of Sheldon Krys of State who has been closely involved with the Family Liaison Action Group which has done such an excellent and imaginative job in dealing with the problems of the hostages’ families.5 (C)

Secretary Brown noted that hearings are beginning on the Hill into all aspects of the rescue operation. Thus far we have maintained our position that details of the operation beyond the termination point would not be discussed, but Senator Jackson and others intend to press very hard for full information on the ground basis of determining if the plan was well-conceived and had a realistic chance of success. We may not be able to maintain silence indefinitely, and this was a tough policy choice to be made. Admiral Turner agreed, noting that more and more details—correct and incorrect—about the rescue plan are appearing in the papers, which will make it difficult to remain silent. Moreover, the Intelligence Committees are insisting on being informed about CIA actions on the grounds that it is a covert action. Mr. Cutler had talked to Bill Bader of the SFRC staff. Secretary Brown thought that it might be useful for the President to meet with key leaders as he did immediately after the operation last week to update them. This may be essential if we are to hold the line on not revealing details of the plan. All agreed that the various agencies should be careful to follow the same line in their various testimony so that one agency did not get out in front of the others. (S)

(At that point the meeting was reduced to those who had participated in the planning of the rescue operation.)6

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Box 10. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. In the upper right corner, Carter wrote: “Zbig, J.”
  2. May 1. The meeting took place on May 2. See Document 275. The paper, “Diplomatic Strategy for Iran—The Period Ahead,” is Document 273.
  3. In the left margin, Carter wrote: “Let it bite.”
  4. See footnote 3, Document 275.
  5. That afternoon, Sick met with representatives from the Department of State, CIA, and the services responsible for liaison with the hostage families. He reported that other than the attitude of one CIA family, overall morale was “less pessimistic” than Turner’s account. Sick noted the families needed funds for travel to meet with the President. He suggested using Iranian assets to facilitate such travel. (Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Box 14)
  6. See Document 272.