60. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

1. Meeting with Families of Embassy Tehran Hostages—I met with about forty family members of Embassy Tehran hostages today in the Department. I assured them that the release and safety of their families is uppermost in our mind and that we will continue to work around the clock. I described in particular our current efforts at the United Nations to obtain their release.

Dave Newsom continued the session and spoke about our efforts to ensure regular visitation and proper care for the hostages. He also read a message to the families from Bruce Laingen praising the character and conduct of the hostages and urging patience and restraint. The tenor of the initial questions from the family members was disturbed and many were particularly forceful in criticizing the decision to admit the Shah. However, after they expressed their feelings and frustration, there was a general recognition of the need for patience and restraint aimed at securing the release of the hostages. The group decided to draft a public statement along these lines. They also indicated interest in having periodic meetings until the hostages are released, with the next one possibly scheduled following the December 2 Iranian referendum.

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

4. Iran—Warren briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, more than 100 House Members, and Tip O’Neill today on the situation in Iran.2 A good deal of interest in the activities of George Hansen was evidenced. Warren characterized them as unhelpful, and explained that promises of Congressional hearings on the Shah before the hostages are released undercut our efforts. Frank Church and Clem Zablocki both issued statements after the meetings to the effect that hearings would be considered only after release of the hostages.

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Deep concern was again expressed in the Foreign Relations Committee over the Soviet role. Jack Javits urged that we be in touch with the Soviets at the highest levels with respect to the situation. Questioning also centered on the Mecca incident and its impact on the internal situation in Saudi Arabia and on the US posture in the Islamic world. George Ball’s interview yesterday inspired a number of inquiries on Henry Kissinger’s advice.3 Several Members pressed for details on the decision to let the Shah in the country, and Warren outlined in some detail the humanitarian considerations upon which our decision was based. Members also wanted to know why it took so long for the Pakistani army to come to our assistance.4 Warren indicated that it was a matter of concern that we are studying, but pointed out that moving armies is frequently a time-consuming process.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the hostage crisis]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Box 14. Secret. Carter initialed “C” in the upper right corner.
  2. See footnote 8, Document 59.
  3. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on November 25, Ball stated that the Shah might not have been admitted to the United States were it not for the “enormously obnoxious” pressure exerted by Henry Kissinger. (“Report Kissinger Tells Shah to Stay, Chicago Tribune, November 26, 1979, p. 2) Carter wrote in the left margin of this memorandum: “The press reported that you met to ‘soothe an angry Kissinger.’” The Washington Post reported that Vance met with Kissinger at the State Department on November 26 to “soothe” Kissinger. (Robert G. Kaiser, “Vance Briefing Aimed at Soothing Angry Kissinger,” Washington Post, November 27, 1979, p. A6)
  4. See footnote 5, Document 56.