130. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Relations with Libya and Iraq

In response to a recent memorandum from the Secretary of State,2 you asked why we should not initiate proposals for normalizing relations with Iraq and Libya.

We maintain active commercial relations with both nations, and Libya has recently indicated its interest in establishing normal diplomatic relations. Iraq is rapidly assuming a more important role in the economic and political activities of the Persian Gulf area and has resolved, at least for the moment, the border dispute and the Kurdish issue which had been a major source of irritation in its relations with Iran.

In both cases, I believe that we should be alert for opportunities to develop more normal relations. The timing, however, of any U.S. unilateral move in this direction will be extremely important since it will be interpreted by other Middle Eastern states as a signal of our intentions and could have major implications for the success of our efforts to promote an Arab-Israel settlement. Both Libya and Iraq are viewed as pariahs by their neighbors. Thus, I would recommend that any move on our part toward closer ties be carefully prepared in advance through consultations with our friends in the area, particularly the Egyptians and the Saudis, and I believe we should avoid any new [Page 421]moves in that direction while our Middle East negotiations are in their present delicate state.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Chron File, Box 130, Quandt: 2/23–28/77. Secret. Sent for information. Attached but not printed is a February 25 covering memorandum from Inderfurth to Quandt that reads: “The attached is for your information. What are your thoughts?” Also attached to Inderfurth’s memorandum is a February 23 memorandum from Quandt and Sick to Brzezinski forwarding an earlier version of the February 24 memorandum to Carter.
  2. Reference is to a February 14 memorandum from Vance to Carter concerning U.S. relations with Libya and Iraq. In regard to Iraq, Vance noted that the nation had broken off relations with the United States during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war “on the grounds that the U.S. had directly assisted Israel militarily during that conflict.” He stated that the Iraqi position concerning the reestablishment of relations derived from “the memory of U.S. support for the Kurds (indirectly through Iran) in the last stages of their insurrection ending in 1975.” Vance explained that U.S. policy “since the 1967 break has remained that we are prepared to resume relations whenever the Iraqis so suggest, and without conditions.” (Ibid.)
  3. In the margin below the paragraph Carter wrote: “ok, but moves to normalize relations may keep Iraq & Libya from trying to disrupt Mid E efforts. How can/could we move?”