105. Telegram From the Embassy in Somalia to the Department of State1
1. (S–Entire text)
2. At his request, I met with President Siad at Villa Somalia this morning (May 19). When he said he had been expecting me to call him, I replied that I had been waiting for him to call me. I said that on the basis of last week’s dinner meeting (reftel A), I had understood either he or General Samantar would be presenting to me the Somali Government’s latest negotiating position. He laughed and said he had instructed Samantar and the others to meet with me and my staff so that in an informal setting we could come to a clearer understanding of what needed to be done to nail down an agreement. In addition, in Nice he had told Addou to explain the Somali position to Washington (reftel C).
3. He went on to say that the counterproposal had not, as we had interpreted, laid down conditions. The economic and military assistance elements of the counterproposal were intended merely to spell out to us Somalia’s needs.6 Nor had the Somalis intended to make it appear that the US would have to endorse Somalia’s Ogaden policy. When I noted that their written document had conveyed quite a different impression, he responded that for this reason he had set up the dinner meeting to provide a way to dispel any misunderstanding.[Page 286]
4. After I had mentioned the need for a decision on the agreement on use and the construction proposals, he said that “in principle” the Somali Government had no problem with these. The Somalis would, as they had indicated, suggest some minor modifications to the agreement on use, but, again, these and the construction proposal were “ok.” Nevertheless, he still needed from us some greater sign that we wanted a true friendship with Somalia. He said, “give me the possibility to win my antagonizers (sic) and not to lose face with the party, the Parliament and the people.” He repeated that he needed to be able to convince them that in coming to an agreement with the United States he would be “bringing them a true friend.”
5. Siad cited some difficulties that agreement with the United States on the facilities would cause Somalia. He said he had no doubt that Iraq would cut the supply of crude oil to his country. The Soviets would press for repayment of the heavy debt Somalia owes them. Moreover, “once we sign,” the Soviets would put added pressures on Somalia.
6. In the face of these and other difficulties, he hoped that Washington would be “more flexible” in its approach to cementing a friendship. Getting down to specifics, he listed the following as suggestions (he emphasized they were not conditions) as to what the US could do in this regard:
A) The US would undertake to provide adequate air defense for Somalia. He said that what he needed was not a specific amount of money, but a clear indication that we will provide him sufficient assistance to meet his most pressing air defense needs.
B) The US should tell its European friends “to pass on to Somalia some ground force defensive weapons.”
C) The US should convince “your Arab friends to act to solve Somalia’s immediate balance of payments difficulties.”
D) In the event the Iraqis do cut off Somalia’s oil, the US “would convince the Saudis to send US crude oil.”
7. He added: “Let us not stick on the $40 million, but be flexible to overcome this impasse.” He then said that there was one further means by which we would come to an understanding and sign an agreement. He said that because of the past, and because of hostile propaganda, “Washington has all the reason to doubt me.” He wanted to overcome this and to be able to discuss the mutual interests of Somalia and the US face-to-face with US leaders. To do this, “I really would like to go to the US and talk.”
8. Concluding, he repeated that he was making suggestions aimed at seeking a way out of the “current impasse” between us. He said he accepted that what we were offering was a beginning, and in fact [Page 287] what he wanted most from a long-term relationship with the US was assistance in overcoming the “poverty of my people.” However, he said that, in view of Somalia’s current serious security problems, he had to ask us to give him the means to be able to explain to his people that a close relationship with the US would indeed be highly beneficial to Somalia.
9. Comment: Siad made no mention of a “security guarantee.” The dinner meeting, Addou’s conversation with Bartholomew, and today’s meeting all produce a different version of what the Somalis want from us. The ambiguity could lie in a problem of cross-cultural communications (and with the Somalis this should not be underestimated), in imprecision in Siad’s own thoughts, in changes of mind, or in Somali bargaining tactics. Yet in all of what they have told us, there is a consistent thread: to Siad, our offer is not enough to meet his political needs, and he wants something of more consequence to demonstrate to doubters in the army and the Central Committee that agreement with the US will bring more advantages than disadvantages to Somalia.
10. In this regard, from today’s and previous conversations, it is clear that to Siad an invitation to visit the US has a very high priority. He would view this as something which he could show to Somalis as evidence of US friendship for Somalia. And of course it would add lustre to his position as Somali leader.
11. Siad made no reference to the aide memoire of which General Samantar spoke. To the contrary, he indicated that he will be waiting for our response to what he told me today.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800246–0770. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.↩
- In telegram 1949 from Mogadishu, May 10, the Embassy described a meeting between the Country Team and the Somali Politboro on the Somali Government’s wish to reach an agreement on facilities access. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800400–1085)↩
- Telegram 1969 from Mogadishu, May 12, corrected the text of telegram 1949. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800234–0631)↩
- Telegram 127081 to Mogadishu, May 14, reported on Addou’s meeting with Siad as related to Bartholomew, in which Addou described the internal workings of the Somali Government and the possibility of facilities access. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800238–0689)↩
- In telegram 2049 from Mogadishu, May 15, Ambassador Petterson gave his assessment of the internal workings of the Somali Government as it related to facilities access for the United States. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800240–0115)↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Region; Arabian Peninsula, Document 78.↩