70. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Somalia1

57913. Exdis—Distribute as Nodis. For Amb only from Secretary. Subject: The Secretary’s Message to Siad. Ref: Mogadiscio 0398.2

Please seek an immediate appointment with President Siad to convey to him the following points:

1. The United States and Somalia share certain basic objectives concerning the situation in the Horn. It is imperative that we work together to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict. We understand your sympathy for the people of the Ogaden and their strong desire for self-determination. However, we believe that this goal cannot be achieved through the use of force. We share your view on the importance of reducing Soviet influence in the region. An Ethiopian/Cuban/Soviet victory in the Ogaden fighting could entrench them in the Horn of Africa. However, we believe such an outcome can only be avoided through a negotiated settlement.

2. In the past we have outlined principles which we believed took sufficiently into account the interests of all parties as to be an acceptable basis on which to build a negotiated settlement. These principles called for a Somali withdrawal from the Ogaden, the concurrent withdrawal of all foreign combat forces, the placing of neutral observers in the Ogaden during withdrawal to ensure no reprisals are taken against the inhabitants, and a commitment to begin discussions with regard to the political future of the Ogaden.

3. The United States still subscribes to these principles as the best foundation for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. We believe that they are in the interest of Somalia. However, it is clear to the United States that the longer Somalia refuses to accept them as a basis for negotiation, the more difficult it will be for Somalia’s friends to exert their influence on other nations to negotiate on the basis of these principles.

4. The best intelligence available to the American Government indicates that the Somali military position in the Ogaden is gravely imperiled in the face of the current Ethiopian offensive. Somali troops now face Ethiopian forces bolstered by well-trained Cuban combat [Page 188] troops of division strength aided by substantial Soviet logistical support and Cuban and Ethiopian air support of considerable magnitude. It is our assessment that the Somali troops cannot survive this offensive without unacceptable losses of men and materiel. It is also our view that Somalia’s military defeat could force it to negotiate on the basis of principles which are totally detrimental to its interests.

5. The President believes that the only way to achieve your objectives and the only way to enlist the active diplomatic support of the United States and other friendly nations in the region is to announce and implement a withdrawal of Somali forces from the Ogaden. This must be done in the very near future if you are to avoid a destruction of your forces and a possible invasion of your homeland. You may say publicly that your announcement was in response to a personal appeal from President Carter to take action to bring the human suffering to an end now when we appear to be engaged in a new round of violence of a scale unprecedented in the Horn of Africa involving active participation by outside powers.

6. With Somalia’s agreement to withdraw, the United States is prepared to initiate a broad diplomatic initiative in support of the above principles designed to marshal the force of world opinion in deterrence of an Ethiopian/Cuban invasion of Somalia.

7. Once you have taken the necessary steps to implement your withdrawal, the President will commence consultations with the Congress to seek authority to provide Somalia with some defensive weapons and discuss with other nations the possibility of their also supplying such weapons. You may state publicly that the President is also willing to ask the Congress for additional economic assistance to Somalia under such circumstances. You may also state that the US has indicated that it is prepared to contribute to efforts which might be organized to bring about the recovery of the war-ravaged areas of the Ogaden. But we must repeat that US assistance to Somalia will only be forthcoming after you have publicly announced your intention to withdraw Somali troops from the Ogaden and they have returned to the Somali side of its internationally-recognized frontiers.

8. You should be under no illusion that if you do not take the necessary steps to withdraw your forces from the Ogaden, the United States will come to your assistance if you are invaded. As long as Somalia’s forces remain in Ethiopia, American law prohibits the provision of aid to Somalia, even if Somali territory were invaded.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840176–1588. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Spiegel (S/P) and Post (AF/E); approved by the Secretary, Moose, Christopher, Harrop, and in S/S–O.
  2. In telegram 398 from Mogadiscio, March 1, Ambassador Loughran discussed Siad’s dilemma over withdrawal from the Ogaden. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850070–1702)
  3. In telegram 458 from Mogadiscio, March 8, Loughran reported on his meeting with Siad during which he delivered the message. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850070–1710)