14. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Jones) to Secretary of Defense Brown1


  • The Middle East/Persian Gulf: Updating National Policy (U)

(S) This complements the earlier memorandum on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.2 It addresses the need for an overall strategy for the Persian Gulf region, and provides some specific proposals in that regard.

David C. Jones
General, USAF
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
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Paper Prepared in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy3

THE MIDDLE EAST/PERSIAN GULF: Updating National Policy


The security of the Persian Gulf and continued Free World access to the region’s petroleum resources are of vital interest to the United States. Particularly in light of recent events in Iran, the Horn of Africa, and the PDRY, there is a critical need for the development of a US national policy for the entire region. Such a policy should provide the necessary framework for the coordinated implementation of various diplomatic, economic, and military initiatives.

Several factors warrant consideration during policy formulation. These include the critical strategic importance of the region’s petroleum resources, the US commitment to the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the significant impact of recent Soviet gains throughout the area.

Although policy objectives delineating vital US interests should focus on the expanding overt Soviet threat, US initiatives to counter lower levels of conflict should also be included. Initiatives in these areas will in turn deter larger scale confrontations as it is considerably more difficult to dislodge an established influence base than to deter initial entry.

A review of the current regional situation indicates that the two contingencies considered the most likely in the near term are these:

  • —Attack by the PDRY, with Cuban assistance, on the YAR and/or Oman.
  • —Incursions by Iraq on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

While efforts to enhance the capabilities of Saudi security forces are ongoing, existing security arrangements to protect the oil fields are minimal at best. (It should be noted, however, that the Saudis have been especially sensitive to any US overtures to assist in oil field security in the past).

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With regard to the two contingencies cited, incursions by Iraq would have an immediate and direct impact on the US unless Saudi Arabia is provided significant outside military assistance. In the PDRY case, Saudi Arabia would be drawn into the conflict which in turn would threaten US interests. By assisting the Saudis with the PDRY problem, the US would serve its own best interests which include the need for stability in the region.

The formulation of a comprehensive national policy that signals heightened US concern and the desire to expand our role in Persian Gulf security should begin with a major policy statement by the President. Such a statement, preceded by consultation with key congressional leaders and set in the context of recent events in Iran,4 would establish the overall framework for the new approach and could have a significant impact on both the Soviet Union and the Middle East. The statement would also provide a useful backdrop for the forthcoming trip to the area by the Secretary of Defense.

An expanded discussion of specific military initiatives that should be coordinated with selected diplomatic and economic efforts commences on page 13.

The Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are prepared to assist in further policy development and initiative implementation as appropriate.

[Omitted here is the table of contents, the 15-page paper, and Tabs A–H.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Defense/Security, Ermarth, Box 4, Middle East/Persian Gulf: 1–3/79. Secret. Brown initialed the memorandum on January 23. Attached but not printed is a January 23 covering memorandum from Hanson forwarding the memorandum to Brzezinski. The covering memorandum also notes that Brown had sent a copy of the policy paper to Carter.
  2. Not found. Oil production in Iran came to a standstill on December 28, 1978, following strikes and continuing unrest. Documentation on U.S. concern about oil supplies and the vulnerability of Persian Gulf, and particularly Saudi, oil facilities is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXVII, Energy Crisis, 1974–1980.
  3. Secret.
  4. The Shah left Iran for permanent exile on January 16.