202. Memorandum From Robert Hunter and Gary Sick of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Mecca (U)

Latest CIA information this morning is a report that there may be some Saudi National Guard soldiers inside the Mosque shooting out. If so, the implications of the incident could go up dramatically. Harold or Cy may have had more on this at the lunch. (S)

In any event, there would be value in [less than 1 line not declassified] approaching Prince Turki today, to get a sense of what is happening. (S)

If that report is untrue, then the incident can be viewed more in terms of propaganda. If so, the key to exploiting the Mecca incident will be what the Saudis say about the people involved: are they Shia? do they have links to Khomeini? were they inspired by Khomeini? Our statements (however put out/planted) can only reinforce (or try to deflect) what the Saudis say. (S)

Assuming the Saudis do make some connection, they still have to consider the consequences of “telling it like it is”: fear of Iran, divisions within Islam, stirring up internal dissension within various countries, perhaps even some tensions within Saudi Arabia. Thus the Saudis may be reluctant to put out the whole story—assuming that Khomeini/Shias are the moving force. (S)

We should consider the following:

  • —going directly to the Saudis ([less than 1 line not declassified] Prince Turki is probably the best channel) rapidly, with our own information on Khomeini’s destabilizing efforts with various Shia communities; plus reinforcement of the intelligence on the Iranians infiltrated into Mecca [less than 1 line not declassified];
  • —seeking advance notification from Saudi Arabia on any statements they will make on the character of the people holding the Mosque;
  • —if the Saudis see a link to Khomeini/Shias, but are reluctant to pin the blame squarely—especially if it is because of Saudi relations with Iran—we could offer to intensify our involvement with Saudi Arabia, to do what is necessary to protect the Saudis against Iran (military relations, economic discussions, [less than 1 line not declassified]). (S)
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For us, the best outcome would be for the Mecca affair to be pinned directly on Khomeini. Second best (with far greater consequences) would be for the onus to be put on Shias, writ large. In the former case, pressure would be on Shias to demonstrate loyalty to Islam and against Khomeini; in the latter case, the divisions stimulated within Islam could have serious implications. But the choice is probably not up to us. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Chron File, Box 142, Sick: 11/16–30/79. Secret; Sensitive. Outside the System.