286. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran and Afghanistan


  • State

    • Warren Christopher
    • David Newsom
    • Peter Constable
  • OSD

    • W. Graham Claytor, Jr.
    • Frank Kramer
  • JCS

    • Lt. General John Pustay
  • Justice

    • John Harmon
    • Judge Charles Renfrew
  • Treasury

    • Robert Carswell
    • Robert Mundheim
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner
    • [name not declassified]
    • Charles Cogan
  • ICA

    • Robert T. Curran
    • White House
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • Hedley Donovan
  • Office of the Vice President

    • Denis Clift
  • NSC

    • Gary Sick
    • Marshall Brement
    • Thomas Thornton
    • Alfred Friendly


1. World Court Decision. Mr. Christopher said he thought we would get a good decision from the World Court.2 At present, however, he did not favor going back to the Security Council after the decision since this would merely provoke additional debate and lead to another Soviet veto. If the Soviet judge on the ICJ should vote for the decision, we should review our position since we might be able to bring new pressures on the Soviets. We should be able to use the decision effectively for public presentation in favor of our position. All agreed that we would not plan to return to the Security Council pending further review after the decision is announced. (C)


Plan to return to the Security Council

2. Iranian Visas. There have been approximately 700 applications for visas by Iranians. Approximately half of these have been granted on the basis of medical needs, rejoining families, and other humanitarian reasons. The other half have been rejected. We have not been swamped with requests. Of those cases which have been granted, nearly half have been minority applicants, and the conditions applied in those cases are considerably more lenient than for other Iranians regardless of their position. The sharp difference between minorities and other Iranians is becoming very evident, and Mr. Christopher felt we should adopt a more liberal standard for granting visas to non-minority Iranians. Specifically, we should be more flexible in granting visas for medi [Page 785] cal treatment.4 At present, we are allowing visas virtually only for deathbed cases. Each case should be examined carefully in terms of need, but we should be more flexible in permitting cases of real need. He also suggested that we apply more liberal standards on permitting families to rejoin. At present this is limited only to mothers, fathers and children. He would propose extending this to include brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts.5 All agreed that some liberalization of the rules was justified, with careful verification of each case. (C)

Approve some liberalization, with close verification of each case

Maintain very tight restrictions as at present6

Iranian students are a special category composed of three different groups. The vast bulk of Iranian students, perhaps 50,000, were admitted on the basis that they could remain until they completed their studies. They are not a problem from the visa point of view. About 7,000 students have visas with specific time limits, some of which are expiring. Gary Sick noted that he had been contacted by the Provost of MIT on behalf of the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs pointing out several cases of students whose visas are expiring in the near future despite the fact that they are about to complete work on a PhD. The SCC asked for additional information to review this at a later time. A third group of about 100 Iranian students had valid visas for the duration of their studies but happened to be trapped outside the U.S. (e.g. a weekend field trip to Canada) when the order was imposed and they have not been able to return. Mr. Christopher found the application of the rule in these cases capricious and recommended permitting these individuals to return. The SCC agreed.7 (C)

3. Travel of U.S. Citizens to Iran. There are a number of possible cases emerging, from individual family members wishing to travel to Iran, to lawyers representing Iran who need to consult with their clients, to Ramsey Clark who apparently intends to attend the forthcoming conference in Iran related to the rescue mission. Dr. Brzezinski asked State and Justice to examine the various cases, define some rational distinctions, and provide recommendations to the SCC on those which require high level decisions. (C)

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4. Iranian Claims Legislation. Mr. Christopher noted that there is a very real chance that the proposed legislation8 would lead to hearings on the Hill and considerable pressure by various interest groups for amendments to be attached either vesting assets or providing special consideration for certain groups. The legislation itself does not provide any real pressure on the Iranians and it may have the effect of complicating an eventual settlement by getting us tied up in legal constraints. The families of the hostages are opposed to the legislation on the grounds that it will make an eventual settlement more difficult. There is no enthusiasm on the Hill and no pressure to proceed since it is going to set off a lobbying campaign. There is no public pressure to proceed. We may have been mistaken in recommending this in the first place, but we are now committed since the President has announced it. All agreed that there was no reason to hurry the process. Treasury will proceed to put the finishing touches on the legislation, and it will be reviewed next week by the SCC.9 (C)

[Omitted here is material on Afghanistan.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box 113, SCC 314, Iran & Afghanistan 5/20/80. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter wrote “Zbig, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. In its final decision, rendered May 24, the ICJ unanimously determined that Iran must release the hostages immediately, that no hostage could be subjected to a trial or provide witness in any trial, that Iran was obliged to make reparation for injuries caused to the United States, and that the Court would determine the form and amount of this reparation if the two sides could not come to an agreement. Argumentation before the Court and the Court’s ruling are in Department of State Bulletin, May 1980, pp. 36–69, and July 1980, pp. 43–70, respectively.
  3. Carter approved this option with a checkmark and initialed “J” in the right margin.
  4. Carter underlined the phrase “for medical treatment” and wrote in the left margin: “ok, but only for serious cases where US offers unique treatment.”
  5. Carter underlined “brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts” and wrote “no” in the left margin.
  6. Carter approved this option with a checkmark, crossed out the phrase “as at present” at the end of the sentence, and initialed “J” in the right margin.
  7. Carter approved this item with a checkmark and initialed “J” in the right margin.
  8. The revised claims legislation, which did not include a clause on standby vesting authority, is attached to a May 14 covering memorandum from Lori Damrosch, Special Assistant to the Legal Adviser. (Carter Library, Records of the White House Office of Counsel to the President, Lloyd Cutler’s Files, Box 33)
  9. Carter wrote at the end of this sentence: “No hurry.”