38. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Improved Prospects of US Access to Bases in the Middle East (U)

The State–DODNSC team got on balance a remarkably positive reception on its recent trip to promote US access to air and port facilities in the Middle East.2 In each country the team stated that you had sent [Page 140] them urgently to make our case for improved access (e.g., port calls, air transit, and on-site storage) to support US naval presence and surge deployments in crises. (S)

The team’s hosts more than echoed our concern about Soviet exploitation of regional turbulence. They generally welcomed increased US military presence in the area, and, in varying degrees, were positive about improving our access to facilities. (S)

Displaying familiar timidity in the face of political risk, the Saudis—although not asked to afford us basing access—gave our team its coolest reception. But they said they would try to be helpful to us in Oman and Somalia. (S)

President Moi of Kenya expressed the most unqualified support for our efforts and for you personally. He simply invited us to start work with his government on the access we need, notably to Mombasa port. (S)

Sultan Qabus of Oman was receptive to increased US use of facilities on Masirah. Although not stating them as preconditions to next steps, the Omanis made clear that they see increased US basing access in the context of additional military assistance and a more formal US commitment to Oman’s security. (S)

Somalia is the most problematic case because of the Ogaden insurgency and her vast needs for political, military and economic support. Siad Barre stated those needs forcefully, but gave permission to a prompt survey of the facilities at Berbera. (S)

In each case, it was agreed that US survey teams should visit the facilities in question, as early as January. No doubt obstacles and conditions will emerge as we proceed on details. But clearly this trip was a strategic step forward in our construction of a security framework for the greater Middle East. Deciding how to proceed with Somalia will require the most careful examination and your personal attention.3 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 51, Middle East: 8–12/79. Secret; Eyes Only. Outside the System. Sent for information. Brzezinski handwrote the date on the memorandum. Carter initialed the memorandum, indicating that he saw it. Ermarth sent the memorandum to Brzezinski under a December 24 memorandum requesting that Brzezinski sign it. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 68, Middle East: Security: 9–12/79)
  2. The joint State/DOD/NSC team was led by Bartholomew and Murray, and included Ermarth. The team visited Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kenya, and Somalia December 18–22. (Telegram 325388 to Jidda, Muscat, Nairobi, Mogadishu, Dhahran, and Paris, December 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790581–0757) Christopher reported to Carter on the team’s trip in a December 24 memorandum. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 68, Middle East: Security: 9–12/79)
  3. Brzezinski wrote in the margin below this concluding paragraph: “But all in all, it was a very significant step toward a truly major Carter strategic initiative: the shaping of a security framework for the Middle East, and esp. the Arabian Peninsula. ZB.”