15. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to
President Carter 1

SUBJECT

  • My trip to the Middle East

I believe this trip will be an important one in the eyes of the countries I am visiting. It is the first visit of a Secretary of Defense to each of these states and, more significantly, it comes at a time of great tension and turmoil in the area. The Soviet Union and states of the area—moderate and radical—are watching and weighing American attitudes and actions.

I see the broad objectives of my trip as, first, to express in word and deed that the United States shares an interest in the security of the region, and second, to stimulate additional momentum toward an Egypt-Israeli peace settlement.

I attach draft instructions for your review and approval.2 If you agree with them, I ask that you issue them to me. I especially call to your attention five issues requiring your scrutiny and decision:

1. Linkage of security and political/economic issues. I would not seek specific commitments on peace or economic policies, but would emphasize the importance of cooperation in the latter areas if the U.S. is to be able to help provide a security shield against external opponents.

2. Regular Security Consultations. I propose to establish mechanisms for regular security consultations with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt. This mechanism would be a vehicle for continuing dialogue on a range of security matters.

3. Arms Supply. I propose meeting a limited number of the specific arms supply requests of each of the countries.

4. U.S. Military Presence. Without U.S. commitment, I propose to sound out Saudi Arabia on the desirability, from its point of view, of various forms of U.S. military and intelligence presence.

5. FMS Credits. I propose to offer post-treaty FMS credits to Egypt in principle and to propose to Saudi Arabia the possibility of at least [Page 37] nominal U.S. financial (FMS) participation in third country assistance programs, eg., Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, and Egypt.

I realize these are decisions on which there may not be full agreement within the government. I believe, however, that the Middle East is of such great importance that we must accept a more active leadership role on security matters in order to counteract the developing lack of confidence in the United States which has been exacerbated by events in Iran. We will need to manage this process carefully. I believe the approach contemplated by the draft instructions is a prudent first step.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Trips/Visits File, Box 112, 2/9–19/79 Brown Visit to the Middle East: 1/79–2/10/79. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Attached but not printed. The final version of Brown’s instructions is printed as Document 19.