59. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran


  • The Vice President
  • State

    • Secretary Cyrus Vance
    • Harold Saunders
  • Defense

    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • W. Graham Claytor
  • JCS

    • General David Jones
    • General John Pustay
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner
    • Frank Carlucci
  • Justice

    • Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti**
  • Energy

    • Secretary Charles Duncan**
    • John Sawhill**
  • Treasury

    • Robert Carswell**
    • White House
    • Stuart Eizenstat**
    • Lloyd Cutler**
    • Hamilton Jordan
    • Jody Powell
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Colonel William Odom
    • Gary Sick

**Present for discussion of domestic issues.


Domestic Issues:

1. Update. Secretary Vance reported on efforts under way at the UN to get a Security Council resolution in the next few days which will call for the immediate release of hostages, a peaceful resolution of the problem and directing the Secretary General to report urgently to the Security Council.2 All U.S. embassies in the region are being directed to begin quietly reducing the numbers of Americans who may be subject to further attacks. The situation is becoming increasingly dangerous as the Ayatollah focuses on “believers versus infidels.” The [Page 154] announcement by the Kurdish Democratic Party that they are prepared to act in unity with Khomeini in the event of U.S. military intervention is perhaps indicative of greater support throughout the Arab world on that issue. (S)

2. Energy. DOE is conducting a survey of the oil companies to get a better fix on the gasoline production versus draw down of crude reserves. They will continue to report as the information becomes clearer. It would be premature to take the issue to the President at this point. The IEA meeting went well,3 but the IEA is probably going to ask the U.S. for more visible leadership, specifically some tough steps on the energy front, e.g., a move toward rationing or an increase in excise taxes on gasoline. (C)

3. Iranian Assets. There was considerable confusion in the international markets concerning Iran’s intentions to meet their financial obligations. Thus far there has not been a cascade of seizures. It was the judgment of the SCC that we should not push the Export-Import Bank to declare Iran in default during the next few very dangerous days. The Bank would prefer to follow its usual procedure of trying to negotiate a settlement.4 (C)

4. Iranian Exports. State, Commerce and Treasury will meet today to review our position on exports of food and other commodities. Although we have taken a public position exempting food and medicine from the freeze, should we be in the position of pushing the unions and others to continue loading ships? This question will be reviewed tomorrow.5 (C)

5. Immigration and Civil Rights. There have been a number of complaints about the rights of Iranians being violated by being fired from jobs, refusals to serve them, etc. The SCC agreed that the Attorney General should let it be known that violations of U.S. law will not be condoned. (C)

6. Public Posture. Jody Powell will consult with State and provide for the meeting tomorrow a list of actions which we could promote to demonstrate U.S. popular solidarity with the hostages. Bruce Laingen, for example, has suggested that church bells be rung each day at noon, [Page 155] and this seems to be catching on. A flood of telegrams to the UN or Iran was also mentioned. (C)

7. Shah. Iran intends to bring suit against the Shah. One suit will probably seek the return of his assets to Iran and the other will attempt in some fashion to bring him to account for crimes. We have always said they could resort to our courts, and there is no immediate decision required on our part. However, we may later wish to consider filing an amicus brief or otherwise intervening if the question arises about Iranian standing in our courts, especially while they continue to hold hostages. (S)

Political-Military Issues:

1. International Court of Justice (ICJ). The SCC agreed that we should be prepared to request the ICJ for a finding on interim measures for protection and release of U.S. hostages. It is anticipated that the Court could act within a week to ten days. Going to the ICJ would complete a record of having exhausted all available remedies under international law. It does not deprive us of the right of unilateral action while the case is under consideration, although it may make certain actions more difficult. Under the terms of our treaties with Iran, they can renounce jurisdiction by the ICJ by simply sending a telegram; therefore, we should not reveal that this course of action is under consideration. All agreed that no approach should be made to the ICJ until 24 hours after the Security Council resolution, to avoid providing an excuse for Iran to delay on the grounds that the matter was under consideration by the Court.6

2. AWACS Deployment. A possible base has been identified at an isolated location in Egypt in the Eastern Desert. Two AWACS aircraft can fly non-stop from Oklahoma to Egypt. Refueling aircraft would be required from the Azores, four KC–135 tanker aircraft would have to be positioned at the Egyptian field, and support equipment would have to be brought in via 26 C–141 flights or 10 C–5 flights or a mixture of the two.7 The Secretary of State believes strongly that such a large movement would become known and could endanger the hostages in this period before Ashura. He felt that even approaching the Saudis concerning overflight rights or to get their reactions could be dangerous at this moment. Nevertheless, the JCS felt that we should take whatever steps are possible to expedite deployment of the AWACS in the event they should be needed. The clearance process and filing of flight plans [Page 156] virtually insure that the movement will become public, and it requires some time to complete. It is doubtful that the planes could arrive before December 1 in any event. Building up a base capability in Egypt without the AWACS could be seen as more menacing than the AWACS itself. JCS will examine our options for review at the meeting tomorrow. (TS)

3. Congressional. Since a Congressional resolution on Iran is probably inevitable, the SCC agreed that we should attempt to get a resolution as favorable as possible. State and the White House will follow through. It was also agreed that a stronger position of opposition to the Hansen mission8 should be made public since he played into their hands and diverted attention from the basic issue. This could provide the basis for another round of criticism of the way our hostages are being treated. (C)

4. Longer-Term Options. Dr. Brzezinski reported that the CIA finding had been approved9 and they can proceed with propaganda and other actions provided for in the finding. The DCI will use its report to the President on additional options, which is due November 28, to explore longer-range alternatives. This will be considered at the SCC on Wednesday.10 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box 106, SCC 210 Iran 11/26/79. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter wrote “Zbig, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. Carter wrote in the left margin: “UNSC seems to be deliberately delaying action.”
  3. The IEA Governing Board met in Paris November 16. At this meeting, the U.S. delegation urged the IEA to advance its scheduled January Ministerial level meeting to December prior to OPEC’s December 17 Caracas meeting. The IEA agreed to meet December 10 to focus on oil import limitations. (Ronald Koven, “Acts by Key Allies Back Iran Oil Ban,” Washington Post, November 17, 1979, p. A12; Steven Rattner, “Miller Cites Plans to Cut U.S. Oil Use,” New York Times, November 24, 1979, p. 29) See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXVII, Energy Crisis, 1974–1980, Document 244 and footnote 3 thereto.
  4. Carter wrote “somewhat reluctantly” next to his approval of this item.
  5. Carter underlined the phrase “pushing the unions,” then wrote in the margin: “no.”
  6. Carter underlined “prepared” and wrote “ok” in the margin next to the first sentence of this item, then wrote “Get my approval first” next to his approval of the item.
  7. Carter underlined the phrase “via 26 C–141 flights or 10 C–5 flights” and wrote in the margin: “This seems ridiculous.”
  8. Carter wrote “ok” in the margin next to this paragraph. Representative George Hansen (R–ID) traveled to Iran in late November, met with some of the hostages, later stating they were being treated well. The administration publicly rebuked his proposal for a congressional inquiry into the Shah’s rule. (Edward Walsh, “President, Hill Rebuke Hansen for Iran Mission,” Washington Post, November 27, 1979, p. A1) In his debriefing, Hansen argued that his mission was “a reasonable and responsible initiative,” that he held the “strong view” that the students holding the hostages were not amenable to instructions from Khomeini, and that the students might release the hostages if Hansen’s idea of congressional hearings into the Shah’s misuse of U.S. resources was pursued. He also met with 19 hostages. (Memorandum from Atwood to Christopher, November 30; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P800010–1202)
  9. See the attachment to Document 54.
  10. November 28. See Document 67.