140. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Tarnoff) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Iraq’s “Pan-Arab Charter”

You asked in your memorandum of February 26 that Iraq’s proposed Pan-Arab Charter be analyzed to determine whether we might promote a positive outcome of any Arab consideration of it.2

It is important to note that the text of this Charter was presented in a public speech in Baghdad in which Saddam Hussein acidly criticized the past and present actions of the Iraqi communists. In that context, therefore, our analysis shows that, although some of the Charter’s provisions are directed against both superpowers, it is aimed principally at the Soviets. This is consistent with the attitudes taken by the Iraqis towards the Soviets in the aftermath of the invasion of Afghanistan.

At the same time, the Charter strongly rejects any foreign military presence or bases in any Arab state and calls for resisting such developments by all available means, including by isolation and political boycott. If the Charter is ultimately accepted by a sizeable number of Arab states, this provision of the Charter could cause problems as we seek access to facilities in Oman and Somalia. We had expected, however, that Iraq and others would oppose our understandings with Oman in any event.

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The Iraqis are now trying to convene an inter-Arab summit to approve the Charter. It seems likely that a majority of the Arab states will attend, although Syria is now undertaking efforts to convene a separate conference of the so-called “steadfastness” states, possibly as a countermove to the relatively positive response Saddam Hussein has already received to his Charter proposal.

Some of the Charter principles are indeed compatible with our longer range principles (e.g., commitment to international law pertaining to the use of water, airspace, and zones by any state; resolution of disputes by peaceful means; affirmation of the principles of nonaggression, neutrality, and non-alignment, etc.)

Next steps

In the light of this analysis, we believe any effort we might undertake to exert influence directly on inter-Arab deliberations would be risky and could perhaps unravel the generally anti-Soviet direction the Charter initiative has already taken. At the same time, it would appear to be to our advantage to work indirectly and to find occasions to:

—reemphasize publicly that the U.S. does not intend to interfere in any way in the internal affairs of the countries in the region, whether Arab or non-Arab, and that the U.S. supports the independence and integrity of all these countries;

—make it known that, in view of increasing Soviet expansionism in the region, we believe that a more united Arab stand is needed to strengthen the ability of the individual Arab and non-Arab states in the Middle East to resist Soviet penetration;

—explain that our response to the Soviet threat in the region has been prudent, reemphasizing that the U.S., while seeking to enhance its capacity to bring military power to bear in the region, does not seek bases in the area;

—continue to seek ways to create a more effective dialogue with Iraq on events in the Gulf and Southwest Asia.

Peter Tarnoff3
Executive Secretary
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 34, Iraq: 1/77–3/80. Secret; Nodis. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates that Brzezinski saw it. Brzezinski wrote Sick’s initials on the first page of the memorandum and drew an arrow pointing to them.
  2. On February 8, Saddam proposed a Pan-Arab Charter, “which would ‘regulate relations among the Arab countries’ and their ‘commitments’ to non-Arab states.” The Charter also called “upon Arab states not to grant ‘any kind of facility to foreign forces under any pretext’,” and encouraged “‘resisting and boycotting’ any Arab regime not adhering to this policy.” (Telegram 39105 to USNATO and IntSum Collective, February 12; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800076–0551). On February 26, Brzezinski sent memoranda to Turner and Vance. His memorandum to Turner reads: “After reviewing the elements of President Saddam Hussein’s proposal for an Arab national charter, the President noted that we should analyze the charter proposal to determine whether we might promote a satisfactory outcome through the Saudis and others.” The memorandum to Vance was similarly worded. Both memoranda are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 46, Iraq: 1/79–2/80.
  3. Deputy Executive Secretary Raymond G.H. Seitz signed for Tarnoff.