164. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Morocco1

293692. Subject: King’s Visit—Meeting With Secretary Brown.

1. Following is memorandum of conversation between King Hassan and Secretary of Defense Harold Brown at Blair House November 17. Colonel Dlimi attended from Moroccan side and from U.S. side, Deputy Secretary Duncan, ISA Assistant Secretary McGiffert, Executive Assistant Adm Hanson and ISA Africa Region Director Roberts. Interpreter was Alec Toumayan.

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GEODSS (S)—Secretary Brown explained U.S. interest in a ground-based, electro-optical deep space surveillance site in Morocco. It would track satellites out to 22,000 miles as part of a global network of five stations, manned by military and contract personnel, and would have both scientific and defense uses. Morocco had agreed in principle but the memorandum of understanding has not yet been signed.

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King Hassan observed that he had accepted the GEODSS in principle, just as the U.S. had agreed to sell the Cobra helicopters and OV–10 planes in principle. “But I am making no linkage,” he said. “We can get helicopters elsewhere if this is embarassing.”2

The King then asked about the size of the site (10 acres), its “civilian configuration” (scientific mission could be public, but the information has military significance elsewhere), and staffing (6–7 military, 40 contractors). The King emphasized that he wanted to be as realistic and discreet as possible about the site. There were political and security elements—“the more that is known, the more I am threatened.” He wanted the staff proportion changed, with the military—in civil dress—constituting the preponderant element because they were disciplinable and trained to be discreet. Secretary Brown agreed to adjust the ratio as possible and suggested that the civilians could be selected for discretion. The King proposed doing both, noting, “I’d feel more relaxed.”

Helicopters (S)—Picking up the King’s reference to helicopters. Secretary Brown noted that the Hughes 500 was, though less armed, more versatile and much less expensive than the Cobra—about a third less. The King said he was familiar with the Hughes and indicated that it was acceptable.3 Secretary Brown noted that Secretary Vance had been discussing the use of military equipment with the King and that such sales would be considered in this light. The King laughed and observed that the President had twice “kidnapped” the Secretary just as they were getting down to business. The next talk, however, would be at the Moroccan Embassy where “I have extra-territorial rights.”4

Mutual interests (S)—Secretary Brown then observed that the U.S. and Morocco have mutual interests, a long history of relations, and close cooperation in the defense area since the 1950s when we established bases. King Hassan responded that Morocco’s attitude toward the U.S. and U.S. equipment had been constant. Morocco had chosen its camp and was in that camp. Secretary Brown noted that the U.S. was continuing to make many ship visits, that these were much appreciated, and that hopefully the problem that Secretary Vance had been discussing would be resolved in the spirit of cooperation.

The King replied that if the two executives are in agreement, they should be able to “dress up” the terms.

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Secretary Brown cautioned that some executive agreements survive congressional examination while others do not. King Hassan observed that it seemed illogical that the U.S. should sell planes like the F–15 and F–16, with their capabilities, in the Middle East but not 150 mph helicopters to Morocco. Secretary Brown responded that he was about to bring up the Middle East case also, but to make the point that the executive had had a very difficult time persuading Congress to accept it, and in fact had barely succeeded. King Hassan then asked what the Arabs were going to do for pilots, and how long their training would be—noting somewhat jokingly that if they had chosen Mirages, Morocco could have furnished pilots. Secretary Brown pointed out that there would be no F–15 deliveries until 1981 and that pilot training would take about two years. “Everything will be finished by then”, the King concluded.

Namibia (S)—King Hassan commented that Walvis Bay was the Soviets’ real interest. It was the only deep-water port for 400 kilometers in either direction and very few people were watching it. Namibian human rights and segregation were not really involved. Secretary Brown observed that those ideas might not affect the Soviets but they did others. King Hassan responded, “We defend general concepts too, but peacefully. This ties our hands. It’s a paradox.”

Shaba (S)—Secretary Brown observed that in Shaba both the U.S. and Morocco had stood up for their ideas. This was true, the King acknowledged, but he had no illusions there—“the people are not very solid.” While he did not wish to refight old problems, he noted that Korea had its suppliers as did Vietnam. Had Zaire been fully supported two years ago, perhaps at a cost of $17 million, it could have settled matters differently in Angola.

“Now”, he said, “we are the United States in Zaire, we are only 2,000 and I fear for my men.” If the people were on Morocco’s side, he said the situation would be “okay”. But the people are against the Zairian Army and would reject all authority if they could. If there were another invasion the Moroccan forces could do little. The U.S. should recognize that it was Savimbi and UNITA, by moving their forces to the Zambian border, that had really caused the Katangan guerrillas to withdraw. Morocco is now supporting the security burden alone, and “it has cost $4 million to date.”

Secretary Brown observed that he could sympathize personally as the Defense Department had spent $15 million in Shaba support and has not been repaid. King Hassan emphasized that a solution would have to be found. “We cannot stay beyond the end of the year”, he said, “and I fear we may be headed for a catastrophe.” Secretary Brown asked to what extent France and Belgium were contributing. The King responded, “very little.” Belgium was interested in commercial matters [Page 399] and the security of the Kolwezi mine technicians; the French were concerned with intelligence. “Whether I stay or leave”, he said, “I do not know to what bank window to go.” Perhaps when the forces are withdrawn Morocco would put half of them in France and half in Belgium to recoup their costs.

Invitation (S)—King Hassan then excused himself for transferring all his problems to the Secretary and invited Mr. Brown to spend one or two days in Rabat for further talks. He would ask the President to authorize it. Secretary Brown said he would like to accept and noted that Morocco had been very supportive in Middle East-European relations. The King smiled, noted that Morocco was perhaps a far-western European country, and suggested that further discussion of the GEODSS program could be carried on with his Ambassador in Washington.

End text.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 69, Morocco: 7/78–8/80. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to Paris, Kinshasa, Brussels, Dakar, Algiers, Nouakchott, and Madrid. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room. Drafted in DOD/ISA; cleared by Bishop and in OSD and AF/C; approved by Draper. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780476–0536)
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