22. Memorandum From Gary Sick, William Quandt, and Fritz Ermarth of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • SCC on Middle East Security (C)

This is a particularly difficult moment to hold a discussion on developing a “consultative security framework”. With two potential partners to that framework, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the trend of our relations is in the opposite direction. State and CIA, both of which are skeptical of this exercise in any case, may be especially reticent because of the current situation. (C)

The success of this meeting will depend in large measure on your setting the stage in your opening remarks. Without being too abstract or theoretical, you may want to spell out your thoughts that led to the suggestion that this meeting be held. The change of regime in Iran, the peace treaty, current problems in our relations with Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the Yemen crisis, and our continuing dependence on expensive Persian Gulf oil are all adequate reasons for taking a fresh look at security problems in the area. You could add that we are emerging from the post-Vietnam pattern of looking primarily to regional influentials to protect our interests. (C)

You will want to encourage each of the principals at the meeting to react to your initial comments and to the paper (Tab A).2 To add concreteness to the discussion, we suggest that you raise the current problems we are having with Saudi Arabia. On the one hand, we want to press the Saudis hard to live up to their commitments. At the same [Page 69] time, we must be aware that interjecting ourselves publicly into an inter-Arab quarrel has its disadvantages. Egypt and Saudi Arabia may decide at some point—as they often have in the past—to stop feuding and resume normal relations. However, US Congressional and public attitudes may not be so easily reversed if we have adopted a tough public posture critical of the Saudis. (S)

A second concrete issue for discussion is our military presence in the region. Defense has done some work on this. State is not enthusiastic. Schlesinger will probably support Brown’s approach. (C)

To conclude the meeting, you should summarize the main points of the discussion and recommend that State and Defense take the lead in chairing follow-on PRCs dealing with the diplomatic and military discussions of our security presence in the Middle East. (C)

If you have time on Thursday or on Friday morning, we would like to meet with you.3 (U)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Defense/Security, Ermarth, Box 5, Middle East Security Planning: 5–6/19/79. Secret. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “ZB has seen.”
  2. Attached but not printed is the undated paper entitled “Framework for U.S. Security Policy in the Middle East,” which Brzezinski sent to Vance, Brown, Schlesinger, Jones, and Turner under an April 13 memorandum; see footnote 2, Document 21. In the April 13 memorandum, Brzezinski suggested that the first meeting should concentrate on “the sources of insecurity and instability in the Middle East. How are these likely to manifest themselves in the near future? “What is the net effect of the change in Iran and the conclusion of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel on our security interests in the area? “What are the constraints on enhancing our security presence in the area? “To what extent can we strengthen consultative security relations among the nations of the Middle East? Who are the prime candidates for such arrangements?”
  3. Sick, Quandt, and Ermarth met with Brzezinski on the morning of Thursday, May 10. The conversation generated a number of talking points for the upcoming SCC meeting. In a May 11 memorandum, Sick, Quandt, and Ermarth provided Brzezinski with the talking points. (Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 30, [Meetings—SCC 164: 5/11/79])