256. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Military Assistance to Yemen

Our strategy for supporting the outcome of the Camp David Summit requires that we respond to King Khalid’s letter of August 21 expressing deep concern about the security of North Yemen and proposing an expanded U.S. military sales program.2

He proposes:

  • —12 F–5Es (you had previously approved these in principle as a follow-on item to the impact package)
  • —Two C–130 transport aircraft
  • —100 M–113 armored personnel carriers
  • —64 M–60 tanks
  • —Associated training and support by U.S. personnel

As indicated in Cy’s memo3 these proposals are basically sound and Cy and Harold recommend approving them subject to some reservations on the armor mix and financing arrangements. King Khalid suggested that we fund this roughly $300 million package on a 50–50 basis with Saudi Arabia, as opposed to the previous arrangement where we provided expertise, equipment and training and the Saudis paid. There is no realistic possibility we could share the financing of the package with the Saudis, but all agree that we should try to be as forthcoming as possible on other aspects of this proposal.

This conclusion has been given added urgency by Secretary Vance’s departure this evening for the Middle East and talks with Saudi leaders.4 I agree with Cy that we should respond to the Saudis as follows (Defense concurs).

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—Approval in principle to provide the equipment the King suggested

—Offer to discuss with the Saudis alternatives to the tanks and APCs (2–3 year lead time) in the form of V–150 armored cars with TOW, which could be delivered in the near future

—Agree to provide appropriate U.S. training in Yemen for American equipment

As for financing State proposes a commitment to seek up to $50 million in FMS credits for Yemen over time.5 I concur with OMB that this proposal has not been adequately staffed. Yemen is one of the poorest nations in the world, and a loan on normal FMS terms would hardly be better than a demand that Yemen carry the costs themselves. If the Saudis guarantee the loans and agree to repay them, we are offering only a “gimmick” that will persuade no one that we are being responsive.

Moreover, if the credits are to come out of FY 79, we will either have to reprogram or ask for a supplemental. Neither is very attractive. On balance, we do not believe that even a partial response of this nature is likely to have much effect on the Saudis and it could unfortunately come to haunt us later. I believe we would be on firmer ground to stress our willingness to provide training assistance wherever possible but to be honest about our inability to provide grant financing.


That you approve responding to King Khalid along the above lines.


Approve but also offer $50 million FMS

As amended

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 92, YAR: 9–12/78. Secret. Sent for action. Carter initialed the first page of the memorandum, indicating that he saw it.
  2. See Document 253. In telegram 4628 from Sana, September 19, the Embassy noted that al-Ghani had informed Ransom that Khalid had requested that the United States initiate the arms deliveries proposed in the impact package (see Document 257). (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780381–0681)
  3. Reference is to Vance’s September 19 memorandum to Carter, wherein Vance outlined the issues, background, financing, implications, and recommendations related to the Yemeni request. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840167–0926)
  4. Vance traveled to Jordan September 20–21, Saudi Arabia September 21–24, and Syria September 24. For the memorandum of conversation of Vance’s September 21 meeting with Fahd on the Arab-Israeli peace process, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, August 1978–December 1980, Document 65.
  5. Carter wrote “no” in the right-hand margin next to this sentence.
  6. Carter checked this option, initialed, and added: “If Saudis are helpful on C David agreement. J.” A response to King Khalid along the recommended lines was sent in telegram Tosec 100034/239585 to Vance in Amman, September 20. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780384–0680) Vance discussed the situation in South Arabia with Sultan on September 22. He summarzied his meeting in telegram Secto 10038 from Riyadh, September 22. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780387–1166)