31. Memorandum From William Odom of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

Political-Military Planning for the Arabian Peninsula:

Harold Brown’s memo on planning for the next Yemen crisis and the Arabian peninsula provokes my comment.2 No matter what planning we do at the NSC level, we cannot compensate for inadequacies in “organizational” structure in the region and on the peninsula. Projecting forces and military equipment into the peninsula will not necessarily prevent the two Yemens from getting together, reduce Saudi fear of a strong anti-Soviet North Yemen, integrate Oman into the peninsula security system, and take advantage of the anti-Aden tribes in eastern South Yemen. We are wasting valuable time by not changing the MAAG missions to emphasize (a) peninsula-wide security planning; (b) military management assistance vice “military sales”;[Page 113](c) support of covert actions in South Yemen. We do not need a bigger MAAG in Riyadh; we need a properly staffed smaller MAAG with a different charter, one extending beyond Saudi boundaries. (C)

In addition to a new mission for the MAAG, we need to press forward with the Middle East Command. JCS has the options stopped cold. They need a prod from above to produce options which (a) take command of the MAAGs away from EUCOM; (b) give the new command direct and full control of intelligence and operations for both local defense and deployments into the region. JCS’s first proposal split command authority, leaving the MAAG with EUCOM and the “operations” with REDCOM in Florida. We must ensure that a truly unified option is offered. (S)

We need a two-prong strategy in the region, particularly on the Peninsula. First, local defense. Local defense will not develop through military sales alone. I have spent several hours with General Lawrence who recently assessed the region, developed a defense scheme for North Yemen, and proposed a number of steps to improve Saudi capabilities. His account is not unlike my assessment a number of years ago on Vietnam. Our approach, pouring in FMS, not insisting upon proper management and staffing capabilities within the host regime, runs the risk of destroying the very regime we want to save. The U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean will not prevent such an outcome. Internal fragility of the regimes on the peninsula is the primary enemy. F–15s do not compensate for fragility, and they may contribute to it. (S)

I watched the first years of the U.S. assistance effort to Iran. We tried to develop a proper infrastructure. We soon gave way to the military-sales-above-all approach. I personally knew several Iranian officers who began as serious young lieutenants and grew into “corrupt” colonels 15 years later. The corruption also infected our MAAG. I can only wonder about the MAAG in Riyadh, especially in view of its proposal for expansion. (S)

The second prong should be our force projection into the region. Again, the need for a unified U.S. command is crucial. It can provide the C3I essential for a smooth operation. If we depend on EUCOM, we get a refraction through the prism of a “Central Front” outlook. (C)

These views are fully shared in ISA. Some in the JCS share them but cannot act on them. They threaten Navy turf and SACEUR’sturf. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Geographic File, Box 15, Southwest Asia/Persian Gulf—2/79–12/79. Secret. Marked “FOR DR. BRZEZINSKI ONLY.” A table entitled “East Europe: Arms Deliveries to Yemen (Aden) and Yemen (Sana)” is ibid.
  2. Reference is to a September 28 memorandum from Brown to Brzezinski in which Brown noted: “I believe it would be desirable to do some politico-military anticipatory planning with respect to contingencies with which we may be faced in the coming months.” Brown went on to “suggest we start with the scenario of a renewed PDRY attack on North Yemen and/or attack on Oman.” Sick sent the memorandum to Brzezinski under an October 1 covering memorandum. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 56, Yemen)