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


  • Yemen (U)

We attended an interagency meeting on North Yemen, today, at which Ambassador Lane was present. The meeting was called to find ways of implementing the President’s directive on seeking a constructive relationship with President Salih. (S)

This effort will produce some ideas about assistance, and there was no disagreement about doing what we can. However, it became clear in the meeting—without dissent—that what we are talking about can’t do the job. The “critical mass” for doing anything that will have any real impact on President Salih is far higher than we have any capacity of providing, unless we are prepared to indent for a major budget supplemental. This would be in the order of hundreds—not tens—of millions of dollars. (S)

[3 lines not declassified] The long and short of this aspect of the problem is that the Saudis have not sorted out their attitudes towards the Yemenis. Until and unless they do, there is little of value we can do that will have an impact on Salih (Lane stressed that Salih is unimpressed with symbols); and if the Saudis are prepared to act in a truly forthcoming way, then there is little we need to do independently, at least on the assistance track. (S)

Beyond these observations, our sense is that we are not thinking through clearly the assumptions behind the President’s directive: i.e. that a) Salih is amenable to blandishments from us, of a size that is within our capabilities; b) we do have some real opportunities to affect Yemeni policy directly; and c) the Saudis are prepared to sort out their attitudes and take a line that can itself effectively shape events in North Yemen. Thus we believe we should do some hard analysis of these factors before proceeding further—especially in light of the budgetary implications of our trying at this point to beef up our relations with Salih. (S)

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[1 paragraph (5 lines) not declassified]

This memo is to forewarn you that the formal proposal that will come forward through the bureaucracy will not be what the President wants, for want of options, not lack of willingness to find them. We will keep a close eye on it. If you want, you could raise it at the VBB.2 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 93, YAR: 1–3/80. Secret; Sensitive. Outside the system. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates Brzezinski saw it. Brzezinski wrote in the margin: “DA your reaction? ZB 2–27–80.”
  2. Reference is to the weekly Vance-Brown-Brzezinski lunch.