216. Letter From the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (West) to President Carter1
I am enclosing an assessment of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. I regret that it is so pessimistic. Frankly, I am as concerned as I have been at any time during my three years here. There is one positive factor which I purposely did not include in this paper—namely that I do not believe the Saudis will take any action which might endanger your reelection prospects. The entire government leadership, including Fahd, Abdullah and Sultan are outspoken in their support. They believe that without your reelection, there is no hope for peace in the Mid-East.
For example, I referred in the assessment paper to my meeting with Prince Abdullah two days ago. At the close of the meeting, he asked my opinion as to whether Saudi Arabia was producing too much oil. I replied that I didn’t think so for we needed a continuation of the present surplus to stabilize the market. He persisted by saying, “You really wouldn’t object too much if we cut back, would you?”
I replied, “I hope you don’t but if you decide to do so, for goodness sakes wait until after the election!” He laughed and said, “No, we’ve got to have President Carter reelected—it means as much to us as it does to you . . .”
Harold Brown’s meeting with Prince Sultan later this month could be very important.2 If we could indicate a favorable response on the additional equipment requested for the F–15, it would be most helpful. I have sent Harold in some detail our thoughts about the meeting.[Page 694]
Congratulations on winning the renomination—I hope the results of today’s primaries3 cause Sen. Kennedy to withdraw—at last.
Your choice of Sec. Muskie was superb. I am sending him separately a copy of this assessment.
- Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 68, Saudi Arabia: 6–7/80. Secret. The letter is handwritten. Brzezinski sent the letter to Muskie and Brown under cover of a June 12 memorandum, in which Brzezinski noted: “The President asked me to share the enclosed letter and paper with you. It raises some very serious issues that are germane to our luncheon discussion on Wednesday.” The luncheon discussion in question refers to a Muskie-Brown-Brzezinski lunch, during which arms transfers to Saudi Arabia were discussed. The three decided “(a) that Multiple Ejection Bomb Racks (MERs) were out for now, (b) to leave open the issue of conformal fuel pods and (c) that we would go ahead with KC–130 tankers with booms provided there were advance intensive Congressional consultations and that Israel was also offered the KC–130/boom.” (Memorandum from Tarnoff to Muskie, June 12; National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Subject Files of Edmund S. Muskie, 1963–1981, Lot 83D66, Box 3, 1980 Muskie Breakfast) Carter wrote the following handwritten notation on the first page of West’s letter: “Zbig—Let Ed & Fritz & Harold read.” A notation in an unknown hand reads: “Done.”↩
- See Document 217.↩
- The last Democratic primaries of the 1980 campaign took place in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and West Virginia.↩
- Reference is to the failed attempt by U.S. forces on April 24 to rescue the hostages being held in Tehran.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 212.↩
- Reference is to Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young’s resignation on August 15, 1979, due to a controversy that had ensued after he held a meeting in his apartment with a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization. More information on this episode is in Carter’s memoirs, Keeping Faith, p. 491.↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, September 1978–December 1980, Document 345.↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, September 1978–December 1980, Documents 360 and 367.↩
- See Documents 213 and 215.↩
- Reference is presumably to Brown’s letter of May 10, 1978, addressed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which gave assurances that the F–15s that the administration wished to sell to Saudi Arabia would not be equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks or MERs. (Bernard Weinraub, “Brown Says Saudis Will Accept Curbs on the Use of F–15’s,” The New York Times, May 11, 1978, p. A1)↩