180. Summary of Conclusions of a Presidential Review Committee Meeting1


  • Summary of Conclusions: PRC Meeting on Southwest Asia and Saudi Arabia


  • State

    • Warren Christopher (Chairman), Deputy Secretary
    • David Newsom, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • Harold Saunders, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Treasury

    • Secretary Blumenthal
    • Anthony Solomon, Under Secretary for Monetary Affairs
    • Fred Bergsten, Assistant Secretary for International Affairs
    [Page 585]


    • Secretary Brown
    • Charles Duncan, Deputy Secretary
    • David McGiffert, Assistant Secretary for International Security
  • Office of Management and Budget

    • Dr. John White, Deputy Director
    • Ed Sanders, Associate Director for International Affairs


    • Stanley Marcuss, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Regulations
  • Energy

    • Harry Bergold, Assistant Secretary for International Affairs
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff

    • General David C. Jones
    • Lt. General William Smith
  • Central Intelligence Agency

    • Dr. Robert Bowie, Deputy Director for National Foreign Assessment
    • Robert Ames, NIO for Near East and South Asia
  • White House

    • Dr. Brzezinski
  • National Security Council

    • Thomas Thornton
    • William Quandt
    • Rutherford Poats

The PRC met to discuss the broad question of strategy in Southwest Asia (the region from Yemen to Bangladesh) as well as specific issues relating to Saudi Arabia. (S)

1. Regional Strategy. There was a broad consensus on the existence of domestic instability in many parts of this region that either has external effects or could be exploited by outside forces. While there are many interrelationships, differences within the region preclude a single strategy except in the broadest terms. The Indian subcontinent, Iran and the Arabian peninsula do, however, comprise logical sub-regions. The group recognized that there was no clear correlation between amounts of resources expended and positive results; the region is sufficiently important, however, that we should make a major effort to get whatever resources we believe are necessary, and we should develop greater flexibility in applying resources such as security supporting assistance. Several members commented on the need for better analysis of the economic problems of the area and how they relate to political and security factors. The State Department also offered to circulate a list of current US commitments to the states of the region. (S)

[Omitted here is material unrelated to Saudi Arabia.]

3. Arabian Peninsula. While our strategy for South Asia looks to a prominent Indian role, there is no similar strong point in the Western part of the region where the situation is potentially more explosive. There is greater concern about US capabilities and commitment and hence greater need for an active US role of reassurance. We need to communicate to the Arabs that our interests in the area are vital and we will defend them. This could become more than an academic exercise if the Saudis feel that they must eliminate the threat from the South Yemen regime. It was widely agreed that the US is now perceived by many in the area as uncertain of its purposes and failing to be responsive to the needs and concerns of the area. (S)

4. Saudi Arabia. Treasury presented an analysis of what we want from the Saudis and the leverage we have over Saudi decisions. Three related Saudi oil/economic decisions are of great importance to us: continuation of present high-levels of production to make up for the shortfall in Iranian output and to reduce upward pressure [Page 586] on prices; moderation on future oil prices; investment now to expand productive capacity in the 1980s to 12.5 million bpd and perhaps as much as 14–16 bpd. The decision to expand production is the most essential and will require investments in excess of $5 billion just to get to 12.5 mbpd. Our primary ability to influence these Saudi decisions lies not in the economic area, where our choices are limited, but primarily in the political/security area. We must recognize that the Saudis see the Arab-Israeli conflict in security terms as well. It is this relationship between Saudi economic decisions and what we can do in the security area that we should focus on in preparation for Secretary Brown’s trip and for Fahd’s visit to Washington. We should pay particular attention to the risks of developing a tight linkage between these two sets of issues. (S)

Congressional support for Saudi Arabia is slipping, largely because of Saudi actions at Baghdad and in OPEC.2 This may complicate our ability to meet Saudi security concerns. The Saudis are particularly anxious now because of events in Iran, the apparent course of the Egypt-Israel negotiations toward a separate agreement, and the strengthening of Arab radical forces. Coupled with Saudi weakness from the standpoint of internal and external security, these external threats have made the Saudis more reliant upon our support and more fearful that it will not be forthcoming. (S)

5. Capabilities for Action. We need to look at our economic and military resources for meeting the needs of some of the countries in the region. A suggestion was made that we might try to shorten lead times for delivering certain types of military equipment by advance purchasing. This would help to overcome the belief that we are unable to respond quickly to meet the requests of our friends. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 72, PRC 088, 1/23/79, Saudi Arabia and Southwest Asia. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes are not attached and were not found. Brzezinski sent the Summary of Conclusions to Carter under a January 29 memorandum, requesting that he approve it. Carter initialed the memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. See footnotes 2 and 3, Document 175.