46. Memorandum for the Record of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Summary of Conclusions, SCC Meeting on Horn of Africa, 26 January 1978, 7:00–8:45 p.m., White House Situation Room


  • State:

    • Cyrus Vance
  • Defense:

    • Harold Brown
    • General George Brown (JCS)
  • CIA:

    • Stansfield Turner
  • NSC:

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski (Chairman)
    • Paul B. Henze (Notetaker)
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The purpose of the meeting was to review the latest developments in the Horn, consultations with friendly governments2 and recent contacts with the Soviets3 and Cubans. Possibilities for U.S. initiative in the political, diplomatic, and military spheres were reviewed. The adequacy of intelligence available was discussed and opportunities for improvement in collection were considered. The problem of publicity was discussed. Congressional interest was also discussed. The Chairman noted that the President had recently sent messages to Brezhnev and Mengistu.4 It was the consensus of the group that the U.S. Government should be cautious about taking actions that would in themselves encourage a sense of crisis or confrontation with the Soviets or that would commit us prematurely to positions that could limit our flexibility. It was agreed that the following principles should guide actions during the next few weeks:

• We will continue efforts to impress upon the Soviets the seriousness with which we look upon their involvement in the Horn and the political problems which it causes for us.

• We will endeavor to broaden contact and dialogue with the Ethiopians in hope of encouraging them to reserve some freedom of action.

• We will continue to seek advice from our allies and other friendly governments to enlist their aid in impressing upon the Soviets & Cubans5 our serious concern, but we will be cautious about encouraging those who are inclined to help the Somalis to make commitments that they would expect us to back up.

• We will accelerate study of our own capabilities and those of other governments to intervene in the situation in ways that could complicate or make more costly the Soviet/Cuba intervention, but we will underwrite no action at this time.

• We will consider underscoring our concern by military movements designed to have psychological and political impact.

The following specific requirements were set for study/action with results to be reported back as soon as possible:

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• Presidential letters to Giscard, Tito, Obasanjo, Perez and Desai will be sent. Messages to other Heads of State/Government will be considered later.6

• Measures to improve intelligence collection through SR–71, U–2 and/or a SIGINT collection ship will be studied urgently and recommendations prepared.

• The JCS will prepare plans for deployment of a naval task force in the Red Sea as soon as possible.7

• Through military [less than 1 line not declassified] the Iranian, Saudi, Egyptian and Sudanese governments will be sounded out on their capabilities and intentions for providing support to Somalia. We will not go beyond these discussions until we again talk to Sadat.

CIA’s covert action proposals for internal Ethiopian initiatives will be deferred for later consideration; the proposals for action outside Ethiopia were endorsed.8

• An ambassador to Ethiopia will be dispatched in the near future.

• No action will be taken to inform the Ethiopians that pipeline military items will be held up.

• A determined effort will be made to avoid unnecessary publicity about the Administration’s stance and actions in respect to the Horn.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files 1977–1981, Box 184, SCC 055 Horn of Africa, 1/26/78. Secret; Sensitive. Prepared on January 27. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. No minutes of the meeting have been found.
  2. See Document 44.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Documents 72, 74, and 75.
  4. For the President’s message to Chairman Mengistu, see Document 42. For the President’s letter to Brezhnev, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 77.
  5. Henze added “& Cubans” by hand.
  6. See Document 48.
  7. Henze wrote, “study only” in the right margin.
  8. See footnotes 3 and 6, Document 52.