91. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran


  • The Vice President
  • State

    • Warren Christopher
    • David Newsom
  • Defense

    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • W. Graham Claytor
  • JCS

    • Admiral Thomas Hayward
    • General John Pustay
  • CIA

    • Frank Carlucci
  • Energy

    • John Sawhill**
  • Justice

    • John Shenefield**
  • Treasury

    • Secretary William Miller**
    • Robert Mundheim**
    • Anthony Solomon**
  • White House

    • Hamilton Jordan
    • Jody Powell
    • Lloyd Cutler**
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Colonel William Odom
    • Gary Sick

**Present for domestic issues only.


Domestic Issues:

1. Public Statements. Dr. Brzezinski relayed to the SCC the President’s concern about the stories that are beginning to appear about U.S. plans and other insider speculation. The record to date of maintaining the confidentiality of SCC discussions and of the Administration speaking with one voice has been very good. It is very important that any briefings or backgrounders be coordinated in advance. Jody Powell is the proper point of contact. The Vice President commented that unauthorized briefings and the usual business of building up credit with particular reporters was unjustified and unpatriotic. (C)

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2. Japan. Dr. Brzezinski briefly reviewed his meeting with the Japanese Ambassador,2 in which he had noted the rather weak UN statement and efforts by Japanese financial institutions to circumvent our restrictions on Iran. The Ambassador had agreed, noting that his country was very selfish, and promised to carry the message back. The Ambassador said he was certain the Prime Minister wanted to cooperate. (S)

3. Economic Steps. Mr. Solomon and Mr. Mundheim reported on their discussions in Europe. Surprisingly, the Swiss appear to be the most cooperative. They want any action taken to have the appearance of private actions by banks rather than a formal act at U.S. request, but they say they are prepared to act and will inform Solomon on Wednesday. Whatever action the Swiss take will be observed very quickly in the market and will have a desirable effect. The Germans were more reluctant, although they raised some “private” counterproposals stopping short of cross default. The Germans are evidently prepared to instruct their banks to declare default on Iranian loans within 24 hours of a missed payment, to accept no new deposits from Iran in currencies other than dollars, and to instruct their oil companies to insist on payment only in dollars.3 The Italians have many loans to Iran but few assets; they also have problems with oil deliveries and their large presence in Iran. They probably will have little effect on the situation. The British were very hostile to the idea of cross default. They would prefer to take measures which are directly linked to the holding of hostages and which can be lifted quickly once the hostages are released. They fear that cross defaults will get out of hand once begun and be difficult to unravel. The British tend more toward a government freeze or blocking of assets to complement our own actions. They were also not enthusiastic about intervening with the British courts. The French were neutral and cold.4

All agreed that there was reason to be hopeful. The ground had been prepared for Vance’s efforts, and if the Swiss in fact begin to move it could begin a cascade of actions by other European banks. Mr. Solomon of Treasury and Mr. Cooper of State will follow up on the [Page 238] implementation and the inevitable negotiations which will follow the Vance mission. (S)

4. Oil Purchase. Secretary Miller reported that Treasury had been requested to license purchase of Iranian oil at a contractual price of $16 per barrel by a Japanese company which is half owned by U.S. companies. The SCC agreed that such a purchase at a low price would be in our interest and that such a license should be issued.5 (C)

5. Iranian Diplomats. State will call in the Iranian Chargé, Mr. Agah, today and notify him that the Iranian embassy in Washington should be reduced to 15 people and the consulates reduced to five persons each, for a total representation of 35 people.6 An announcement will be made by State. State will reexamine the question of closing one or more consulates entirely. (S)

6. Immigration. A total of 46,000 Iranian students have been interviewed thus far, of which 37,000 are in status. Fewer than 1,000 have chosen voluntary departures; the remaining 8,000 or so face deportation hearings. Many of those will choose asylum or plead extenuating circumstances. Justice is preparing a public announcement on the status of the program within the next few days, which will be coordinated with Jody Powell. (C)

7. IEA . According to preliminary reports, Lamsdorff is resisting our efforts at import quotas and tough controls. He told Mr. Solomon that the IEA meeting was going to produce nothing meaningful. We will have more detail when Secretary Duncan returns. (C)

8. Espionage Tribunal. State, CIA, Defense and Mr. Cutler are to consult on the best approach to deal with charges of U.S. interference in Iranian domestic affairs which we could anticipate coming out of a tribunal. State is extending its White Paper to cover the period since Mossadeq. In the first instance, all agreed that we would focus on abuse of the hostages and the fact that convening such a tribunal while they are being held was an additional form of abuse. If the hostages are released, interest in the tribunal will decline. Mr. Cutler will take the lead in examining legal steps we could take to obstruct participation in such a panel by respected American or European figures.7 (S)

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Political-Military Issues:

1. AWACS . For the moment, the AWACS will remain in Europe for several weeks. Talks are continuing with the Egyptians, but it is clear that their idea was for the planes to come only prior to a U.S. action. They may be amenable to some other form of cooperation. Secretary Brown is to write Mubarak. It was considered unwise to send a Defense emissary such as David McGiffert until a decision has been taken on the military cooperation program for Egypt. (S)

2. Huyser Mission. Because of the Shah’s book,8 as well as a political effort by certain individuals, attention is being focused on the Huyser mission as having permitted the collapse of the Shah’s regime. This is not receiving heavy attention at the moment, but it will be quite important in the post-mortem following the hostages’ release.9 For the moment, all agreed that it sufficed to take the position that Huyser’s mission was to hold the military together so it would be intact for whatever moderate government was likely to emerge after the Shah’s departure. His objective was to smooth the transition and keep the army from falling apart. (S)

3. U.S. Strategy. Dr. Brzezinski drew attention to the story in the New York Times this morning10 suggesting that our strategy of exerting pressure on Iran in favor of a more moderate leadership was not working. Instead, the country is being polarized and pushed toward the left. Should we continue on the same path or should we force the issue to a head by a real jolt at some point? The Vice President agreed that we needed to take stock of our position and consider whether our strategy had any real prospect of achieving the release of the hostages. We should consult the most expert views available, not only in our government agencies but also in the academic community and among our allies. Mr. Carlucci observed that most expert opinion was agreed on the fact that Khomeini did not yield to pressure and that it promised to be a long process. All agreed that the question was fundamental and that a high-level review should be conducted as soon as Secretary Vance returns from his consultations in Europe. One of his objectives was to seek their best judgment on the evolution of events. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Box 17, SCC Meeting #224 held 12/10/79. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter wrote “Zbig, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. Memorandum of conversation, December 7. (Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Box 34, Memoranda of Conversation 9/79–12/79)
  3. According to a December 10 memorandum from [name not declassified] to Turner, CIA analysis indicated that the Swiss and the Germans were not as cooperative as the meeting discussion indicated. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 81M00919R: Executive Registry Subject Files (1976–1979), Box 14, Folder 12: C–372 Iran)
  4. Carter wrote in the left margin: “Push hard. We will go public if necessary to encourage European help.”
  5. Carter approved this item with a checkmark and initialed in the right margin.
  6. On a December 6 memorandum from Vance, next to an item suggesting that Iranian diplomatic and consular representation in the United States could be reduced from 188 to 35, Carter wrote: “This is excessively generous, but ok. Have them cut to these numbers. You didn’t say what they can do re student funds without the consulates. How do they take care of students in Miami? LA?” (Carter Library, Plains File, Box 14)
  7. Carter wrote in the left margin: “I want an excellent White Paper. Post-hostage inquiries and criticisms must be assessed immediately & accurately.”
  8. The Shah’s memoir, Answer to History, was published in 1980. Excerpts appeared in London on December 7 and were subsequently reviewed by FBIS. (Department of State, Records of David D. Newsom, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Subject Files, 1978–1981, Lot 81D154, Briefing Book: The Shah, Memos)
  9. In the left margin, Carter wrote: “Detail in White Paper.” General Robert Huyser visited Iran in January 1979. Documentation on this is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. X, Iran: Revolution, January 1977–November 1979.
  10. Presumably a reference to an article by John Kifner, “Impasse Over the Hostages,” New York Times, p. A1.