74. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran


  • State

    • David Newsom (left after 20 min.)
    • Harold Saunders
  • Defense

    • Robert Komer
  • JCS

    • General John Pustay
  • Justice

    • John Shenefield**
  • Treasury

    • Anthony Solomon**
  • CIA

    • Frank Carlucci
  • Energy

    • John Sawhill**
  • White House

    • Stuart Eizenstat**
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Colonel William Odom
    • Gary Sick

**present for discussion of domestic issues


Domestic Issues:

1. Shah. Mr. Eizenstat suggested that at some point, and in an appropriate context, we should consider announcing that we have no intention of assisting the Shah to return to power. All agreed that this could be a useful gesture, but the timing and formulation would be important. It will be kept under close consideration. (C)

2. Partial Release of Hostages. The question of the release of Laingen is academic for the moment since the Foreign Ministry is unwilling to provide assurances of safe passage outside the building. Concern was expressed on the effect on the hostages and the public of any impression that the senior officers were leaving the rest behind. (C)

3. United Nations. Work is going forward on the Security Council meeting for this evening. A draft statement was circulated by State. [Page 187] Efforts are continuing to get as many nations as possible to speak on behalf of release of the hostages. The Soviets are being unhelpful by requesting that no meeting be held tonight. Mr. Newsom will raise with Secretary Vance the advisability of raising this directly with Dobrynin today. (C)

4. Iranian Assets. Mr. Solomon said that there is a noticeable erosion of our position on the assets frozen in U.S. banks abroad. An adverse court ruling in London may come within a matter of days. Mr. Solomon stressed the urgency of deciding on a course of action. The options are: (1) proceed to ask our allies to adopt financial sanctions of their own, which would then assure their intervention on our behalf in their own national courts; (2) ask our allies to intervene with their courts for a delay in judgment on the grounds that this is a sovereign matter between governments; or (3) we can begin taking steps to withdraw on the foreign freeze as gracefully as possible. (TS)

Mr. Solomon stressed that option (1), getting our allies to impose sanctions, will be very tough and will require extreme pressure, including threats to the allies that a failure to respond will adversely affect our overall defense relationship. He did not believe that a strongly worded letter from the President would suffice nor would the prospect that we might take some military action against Iran which would ultimately interrupt oil supplies. The British, in particular, were not concerned about Iranian oil. (TS)

The second option, getting allied governments to persuade the courts to stay a judgment, would protect our present freeze position but not place more pressure on Iran. The U.K. is the key since that is where Iran is presently challenging us in court. Mr. Solomon reported that the British told us informally that they wanted to stay neutral and avoid getting involved in the case. (TS)

The rationale for the third course of action would be that we have now determined that sufficient assets exist within the United States to cover prospective claims; therefore, there is no need to hold assets abroad. It would be seen as a retreat but perhaps less so than if the U.K. court ordered the freeze lifted. (TS)

Mr. Solomon stressed that option (1) would take very significant pressure at the highest level and should not be undertaken unless we were determined to follow through. Moreover, it was becoming increasingly difficult as each day passed. Mr. Komer noted that if we interfered with our NATO defense relationship, we would be threatening self-defeating action which might not be credible. [Note: The fact that the U.K. wants a decision in the near future that we will help modernize the U.K. deterrent does provide us with very significant leverage over this key country. Moreover, U.K. refusal to help could [Page 188] make Congressional approval of a Trident sale problematic. This aspect was not discussed in the SCC. D. Aaron]2 (TS)

Mr. Solomon urged a full presentation of this complex issue be made to the President at the first of next week. In the meantime, letters to heads of state are being prepared on a contingency basis for option (1); the political and legal implications of option (2) are being examined by Treasury, Justice and State; and a draft message to Mrs. Thatcher is being prepared by the NSC. (C)

Political-Military Issues:

1. Espionage Charges. In light of the announcement by the “students” that one American has confessed to CIA activities, the SCC agreed that our public posture for the moment should be limited to “no comment,” with emphasis on the fact that these individuals have been held under duress for a month. The final draft of a guidance statement on this issue will be circulated today for final approval. (C)

2. Embassy Security. State will coordinate with Defense about payment for security items now being airlifted to embassies in the Middle East. (C)

3. AWACS Deployment. Two C–141s are scheduled to fly into Cairo West (which is where U.S. aircraft normally land). Equipment will be offloaded and sent overland or in Egyptian air transport to the isolated base where the AWACS will operate. Eight additional C–141 flights are planned. Flights will be spaced to avoid drawing undue attention. (S)

4. Naval Deployments. A Soviet ship is trailing the Midway, but the Kitty Hawk has not been surveilled as yet. The Iranians launched a P–3 reconnaissance flight this morning for the first time. (S)

5. Egyptian Comments on U.S. Military Action. Roy Atherton has reported on the secure line from Cairo3 that Prime Minister Khalil is very concerned that any U.S. military action involving Egypt against Iran could appear to be part of a US-Egyptian alliance. He made clear that whatever President Sadat has promised would be done, but we should be sensitive to the need not to associate Egypt directly with any military attack. If some form of military action is required, he felt that a blockade would avoid the worst reaction. (TS)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 17, SCC Meeting #216 held 12/1/79. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter initialed “C” in the upper right corner of the page.
  2. Brackets are in the original.
  3. Atherton called Saunders on a secure telephone line, November 30. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 17, SCC Meeting #216 held 12/1/79)