1. Memorandum From William Quandt and Gary Sick of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Four-Year Goals in the Middle East

In the Middle East region, there are three broad areas in which to consider our foreign policy objectives. Most critical is the Arab-Israeli conflict, which will affect virtually all of the others in some fashion. But also important are the development of cooperative relations with key Middle East countries and a number of issues in the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean area.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Peace in the Middle East is a goal to which the United States is deeply committed. Our interests and our friendships require it. But a conflict which has remained unresolved for over fifty years cannot be brought to a sudden end. Our objective, therefore, over the next several years, should be to begin the process of seeking a peaceful settlement.

By the end of this year, we expect that a framework for negotiations will exist. We could then urge the parties to develop a set of principles that would outline the shape of a final peace agreement. For example, all parties to the negotiations might be asked to agree that:

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  • —The purpose of the negotiations underway is to achieve a peace agreement that will guarantee the sovereignty of all the states in the area. To this end, the parties commit themselves to work toward a termination of all hostile actions and to the eventual normalization of their relations.
  • —Peace must be based on mutual recognition and the establishment of agreed and secure borders which do not constitute a source of future conflicts.
  • —The parties are committed to work for a peace agreement that will meet the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people.
  • —The parties agree that a peace agreement should be implemented in stages and that during the transition to full peace special security measures for all sides will be essential.

The next step in negotiations, presumably during 1977, would be to work on specific tradeoffs such as the end of belligerency for partial Israeli withdrawal in Sinai and the Golan Heights. Next one might turn to the Palestinian issue, perhaps seeking a solution within a confederal Jordanian-Palestinian context.

As Israel is asked to make concessions on territory and on the Palestinians as part of the negotiating process, the United States will want to maintain a continuing and close dialogue on security issues, on arms transfers, and on U.S. guarantees of the various parts of the peace agreement. We will probably have to accept the reality that very high levels of arms transfers to Israel will be required throughout this phase. Only at a considerably later point in the peacemaking process can we anticipate the possibility of reductions.

To the degree possible, we will want to keep the Soviet Union out of the substantive part of the negotiations. The one area in which the Soviets could be tested as to their intentions would be in trying to induce the Palestinians to moderate their position on Israel’s existence. We should make it clear that we expect the Soviets to use their influence with the PLO to bring about acceptance of the essential points of UN Resolutions 242 and 338.

Middle East Development Prospects

Much of the Arab world is on the threshold of rapid socio-economic change. Everywhere independence has been achieved, but only rarely has serious attention been devoted to development. In the last part of this decade, however, we can expect a more serious concentration on domestic issues. The United States will therefore have an unusual opportunity to assist in the development of an important part of the world. Since Arab capital is abundant, the US contribution will be primarily through technological assistance, our private sector activities, and some ideas that will promote regional cooperation. To a large degree, the same is true for Iran.

More specifically, the US should try at an early date to revitalize our ongoing bilateral economic relations with key countries. Joint com[Page 3]missions that already exist in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran should be made to work more effectively. Particularly in the case of Egypt, our efforts need a higher degree of coordination for maximum political and economic impact.

In the initial stages of our effort to promote development, we may have to take initiatives and provide leadership. Our goal, however, should be to encourage the countries of the area to assess their own needs and to do their own planning. We should then try to improve our ability to be responsive to their needs.

US Governmental efforts should appropriately be directed at Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The private sector will remain active in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and increasingly in Algeria and Iraq as well. By 1980, we should be able to count on a very high volume of trade with the Middle East, relatively modest transfers of US aid, with the exceptions of Israel and perhaps Egypt, a very large private sector involvement in development activities, and ongoing government-to-government consultations on economic issues.

[This general issue should be raised during the staffing process with State, Treasury and Commerce for suggestions on specific instrumentalities and courses of action, which extend beyond our technical expertise.]

Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf

US interests in this area revolve almost entirely around questions of oil production, price and supply, together with protection and encouragement of the considerable US commercial investments in the region. From these interests, we derive an immediate stake in the security and stability of the Persian Gulf region, both in terms of the regional balance and in terms of our strategic relationship with the USSR. Our present situation in the area, with the exception of oil prices, is basically favorable, and realistically we would have no grounds to be dissatisfied if our position four years from now was essentially the same. However, fundamental trends at work in the area may tend to erode that position. By the mid-1980’s, these trends could create a much more difficult situation for US policy as Iraq begins to replace Iran as the second largest oil producer in the Gulf, as Soviet requirements for outside sources of oil possibly become more acute, and as Soviet capability to project military influence into remote areas comes to rival our own. Therefore, our policies over the next four years must be designed to preserve our present advantages while establishing policies designed to cope with foreseeable problems just over the horizon.

We should attempt to expand the favorable climate for commercial exchange with Iraq into other areas, with the objective of reestablishing diplomatic relations at some point within the next four years. Barring [Page 4] major political disturbances, Iraq will emerge as a major regional power in the Gulf area over the next 5–10 years, and it is in our interests to be in a position to encourage them to adopt more moderate positions and reduce their dependence on the Soviet Union. Our success will depend heavily on internal developments in Iraq and on the progress toward a settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute, which is the single greatest impediment to improved US-Iraqi relations. We should, however, be alert and responsive to even incremental shifts, demonstrating our willingness to meet them at least half way. A realistic objective over the next four years would be to establish a relationship with Iraq comparable to that which we now have with Algeria or Syria.

We should encourage the development of closer cooperation and coordination among the nations of the Gulf on political, economic and security matters. Although such initiatives must originate in the region, we can stress our support for such an evolution in our normal diplomatic contacts and visits and by offering preferential treatment to economic, technical and security assistance requests which have a regional or multilateral dimension.

We should begin to explore with the USSR the possibility of establishing mutually acceptable limitations on military presence in the Indian Ocean area. At the present time, neither superpower has a major military capability in the area, but the basic support structure for a larger permanent presence is being established. It is in our long-term interests to develop meaningful limitations on US-Soviet military presence, whether by formal agreement or by the development of unwritten norms of behavior, which will serve to inhibit a sizeable Soviet buildup. Otherwise, the Soviet interest in protecting its sea lanes through the area, its determination to establish itself as a global military power, and the momentum of its rivalry with China for influence in the Third World may lead to a continuing upward spiral of Soviet military presence which will directly affect the security of our own oil supply and which would be difficult and expensive for us to counter effectively.

In terms of oil pricing and supply, our most direct and powerful influence lies in our own domestic energy policy and our diplomatic influence with other energy consumers. The more we can help to flatten the world demand curve for oil and the more we can demonstrate our determination to explore vigorously alternative energy technologies, the more weight will be given to our arguments in favor of adequate production at manageable prices.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Chron File, Box 130, Quandt: 2/1–2/77. Secret. Sent for information. Brackets are in the original.