198. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to Secretary of State Vance and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Security Relationship with Saudi Arabia

I have reviewed the several pending military assistance requests by Saudi Arabia—what John West, in his cables, describes as “irritants” in our security relationship with that country. I suggest we clear away these irritants prior to the visits of Prince Sultan or the Crown Prince. None of the irritants is of such magnitude that removing it to Saudi satisfaction should be saved for later bargaining. Some of the irritants, such as LANCE,2 cannot be removed to Saudi satisfaction in any case. But by providing firm answers now to these issues that have been pending for some time, we establish a good atmosphere for subsequent discussions with Fahd and Sultan on larger and longer-term matters.

There are two principal items about which we can do something positive. The first is the payment of interest on the trust fund which we have recently discussed and which I hope can be soon resolved.

The second is our failure to supply more F–5 munitions. I recommend we put the F–5 munitions matter before the President promptly, asking him to authorize me to tell Sultan that we are prepared to recommend additional munitions sales to the Congress in September.3 We promised further sales over three years ago. The types of munitions proposed are already in Saudi inventory. A good military case can be made for the additional munitions. Finally, a major military argument I propose to use in definitively turning down Sultan’s request for the LANCE is that the interdiction mission that would be assigned to LANCE can better be assigned to the F–5; it is obviously essential to making this argument effectively that we not at the same time withhold the ammunition.

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I recognize the possible delicacy of the F–5 munitions issue with Congress and that we may have to invest some significant effort to overcome opposition. However, there is not likely to be a better time in the next year or so to propose this sale to Congress than now.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 67, Saudi Arabia: 8–11/79. Secret. Brzezinski wrote Kimmitt’s and Sick’s initials in the upper right hand corner of the memorandum and drew an arrow pointing to the initials.
  2. Reference is to the February 10 request by the Commander of the Saudi Land Forces (SALF) for U.S. “consideration for the purchase of the Lance Missile for the SALF.” (Telegram 1375 from Jidda, February 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790070–0553)
  3. Brzezinski underlined this sentence and placed a vertical line in the left-hand margin next to the entire paragraph.