162. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1

SUBJECT

  • Arms Sales to the Middle East

Attached at Tab A2 is a memorandum from State asking for your authorization of Congressional consultations in January on a proposed arms sales package to the Middle East. The package would consist of:

[Page 534]
Country Aircraft Number
Israel F–16 50–150
Israel F–15 25
Saudi Arabia F–15 20–60
Egypt F–5E 40–120

In these preliminary discussions the numbers will be left purposely vague so that attention can be focused on the concept of the package approach. If the past is any guide these discussions will leak to the press within hours.

The two most important points to be considered in making this decision are the following:

1. If we really want to make the Egyptian and Saudi sales, the package approach is certainly the least painful way to win Congressional approval. In the case of the F–15s for Saudi Arabia, it is probably the only way to do so.

2. On the other hand, public opinion and editorial comment may well be dumbfounded by the spectacle of the US pressing forward with this huge arms sale (the package is worth more than $8 billion) just as peace appears to be breaking out. Those we consult on the Hill will be unlikely to feel this way—they will be more concerned with our arms sales policy per se, and with balancing Israeli and Arab interests, but I expect that this reaction may well be prevalent once the decision becomes publicly known. The Soviets and the European arms suppliers may not only be taken aback by the announcement of this sale, but may find in it reason to doubt our credibility in urging them to adopt a policy of arms sales restraint.

I therefore recommend that you direct State to do all the preparatory work for these consultations—talking points, Q&As, etc.—but that you reserve final approval until January when we will have a better idea of what is going to happen in the Middle East.3

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files, FRC 330–81–0713, Arms Transfer—Middle East Package, Folder 2. Secret. Sent for action. Brzezinski hand-wrote the date on the memorandum.
  2. Not attached and not found.
  3. Carter checked the Disapprove option and wrote in the margin below it: “I want first to see entire FY1978 arms sales package. J.”