19. Letter From President Carter to Secretary of Defense Brown1
The immediate purpose of your trip is to restore and reinforce confidence in the United States among our friends in the region. In doing so, you should begin to lay the basis for security collaboration among the U.S. and key states in the region—Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Consistent with our strategy in the peace negotiations, we should be aiming for a situation in which Egypt and Israel are not isolated from the rest of the region.
To that end, you should place very high emphasis on the need for the rapid conclusion of an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty as the first step in a wider process of Israeli-Arab accommodation. You should make it clear that our ability to develop regional cooperation will be severely handicapped, and perhaps even negated, by continued Israeli-Arab hostility. That hostility intensifies internal strains in the Arab countries, contributes to growing radicalization, and opens doors to the reentry of the Soviet Union. You should, therefore, indicate that the United States expects a forthcoming attitude from our friends on this issue in [Page 57] order to facilitate greater regional cooperation on wider strategic matters.
With the foregoing as a key point of departure, you should forcefully express our recognition of the strategic importance of the region, its strategic location, its vital resources, and its crucial role in establishing healthy patterns of internal development and North-South relations. Make it clear that we see the region to be under serious threat from Soviet power which is systematically exploiting internal instability as well as regional conflicts.
With or without a grand plan, determined Soviet efforts, as evidenced in the Horn of Africa, the PDRY, and Afghanistan, now abetted by turmoil in Iran, could lead to general disorder or the imposition of dominant Soviet influence, which the U.S. and its friends cannot tolerate.
To counter these threats, the United States sees the need for an integrated strategy for regional security to which it is prepared to make a strong political and military contribution. This strategy should be comprised of several elements:
—Rapid progress in bringing peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors, first and foremost between Israel and Egypt, but in a manner which progressively draws support from Arab moderates for subsequent peace negotiations.
—New forms of bilateral and multilateral collaboration in security management, including military assistance, intelligence cooperation, and contingency planning.
—Increased U.S. military presence in the region, possibly including increased naval presence and new collaboration on basing arrangements. You should explore reactions to possible forms of enhanced U.S. presence, without making any specific commitment at this point. Upon your return, I expect a full report on steps that can be taken to strengthen our position in the area.
—Concerted measures to counter radical forces that now provide a base for the intrusion of Soviet influence.
—Cooperation in oil matters that builds on the common interest of the U.S., its allies, and the region’s moderate states in security and economic development.
You should emphasize our conviction that a new strategy for peace and security in the region will require new policies on the part of the U.S. and the governments of the region, demanding the resolve to effect them at home and internationally.
We will do our part, but will expect in return enhanced cooperation from each of the states that you will be visiting.[Page 58]
In addition to a review of regional security along the lines indicated above, you should discuss with the Saudis the nature of the “special” relationship they say they desire. You should seek their views on specific security concerns. At their initiative, this could include discussion of oil field security. You should agree to more systematic security consultations, including the possibility of some joint contingency planning directed at threats from Soviet surrogates in the region.
In conversations with Saudi leaders it should be emphasized that it is vital that American policy have the support of the Congress and the American people. You should note that it is a reality of our political system that the success of our cooperation with them on security issues is dependent in considerable measure on U.S.-Saudi cooperation in the peace process and on economic issues.
With regard to specific arms transfer issues, you should indicate that a decision on air munitions will be made by me after my conversations with Fahd. You might also indicate to the Saudis that, subject to my final approval after the Fahd visit, we expect to continue with the modernization program for two Army brigades and four National Guard battalions. Following the discussions with Fahd, I will review also the issue of nominal FMS credits for third country military assistance.
President Sadat believes that Egypt can play a constructive regional role in support of moderate states and in limiting Soviet influence, provided a peace treaty with Israel can be achieved and Egypt receives American support. Egyptian leaders should be encouraged to think realistically in these terms, consistent with their objective of alleviating Egypt’s economic problems, and to focus on specific situations, such as Sudan, Oman, the Emirates, and Yemen where an Egyptian contribution to security may be possible. We should seek to initiate the development of a close U.S.-Egyptian security relationship for the post-treaty environment. It is particularly important that the Egyptians understand that our ability to sustain a long-term security relationship with Egypt depends upon peace with Israel.
With regard to specific arms transfer issues, you can offer to send a survey team to survey Egyptian air defense requirements; indicate to the Egyptians that the United States will review the question of FMS in the light of regional developments; and that I am prepared to consider favorably the sale of 800 APCs for Egypt in the context of progress on the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. You should make the Egyptians understand the congressional sensitivity on this point, and [Page 59] reiterate again the connection between regional security and Israeli-Arab accommodation.
In your meetings with Israeli leaders, you should provide assurance that the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security remains firm. You should seek to gain understanding of Israeli perspectives of their security problems, especially those that would arise from a reduced military presence in the West Bank and Gaza. You should also encourage Israeli leaders to develop a regional approach to security matters, building on the common interests of Israel and the moderate Arab states in limiting hostile Soviet and radical influences within the area. The critical relationship between the Arab-Israeli peace process and regional security should be emphasized.
On specific bilateral issues, you should:
1. Convey the conclusions of the survey for the relocation of two Israeli air bases from the Sinai, but without commitment as to the extent or terms of U.S. financial assistance;
2. Agree in principle to provide equipment and technical assistance in overcoming the loss of intelligence and early warning stemming from Sinai withdrawal, the details to be developed in the course of ongoing security consultations.
3. The air base relocation aside, avoid any commitment in regard to Israeli requests for FY 1980 financial assistance in excess of the $1 billion in FMS and $785 million in security supporting assistance.
4. You can indicate to the Israelis that I am prepared to consider favorably the sale of 960 APCs and 200 Howitzers in the context of progress on the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. You should make the Israelis understand the congressional sensitivity on this point, and reiterate again the connection between regional security and Israeli-Arab accommodation.
King Hussein will be seeking both general assurance of American support and specific commitments to supply arms of greater sophistication. You should encourage him to adopt a supportive role toward the peace negotiations, particularly as they turn to the West Bank/Gaza issues. You should also open the prospect of greater U.S. assistance in meeting his legitimate security needs in the future as Jordan becomes more actively involved in the peace process. You should specifically:
1. Discuss Jordan’s security requirements now and during a period of protracted negotiations about the future of the West Bank, reaffirming our commitment to continue with military modernization programs which have already been agreed.[Page 60]
2. Agree to consider Jordan’s additional defense needs, but without commitment to a favorable outcome.
3. Agree to continue detailed defense consultations through the existing Joint Military Commission in the spring with regard to Jordan’s future security requirements.
- 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. Carter’s letter is the final version of Brown’s draft instructions; see footnote 2, Document 15. An undated note from Vance to Carter suggesting additional revisions to Brown’s instructions is in the 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.↩