40. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • SCC Meeting on U.S. Strategy for South West Asia and Persian Gulf


  • State

    • Under Secretary for Political Affairs, David Newsom
    • Assistant Secretary Harold Saunders
  • Defense

    • Deputy Secretary W. Graham Claytor
    • Mr. Robert Murray
  • JCS

    • Chairman, General David Jones
    • Lt. General John Pustay
  • CIA

    • Director Stansfield Turner
    • Mr. Robert Ames
  • Energy

    • Secretary Charles Dayan
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Colonel William E. Odom
    • Colonel Leslie Denend
    • Henry Owen
    • Thomas Thornton
    • Robert Hunter
    • Fritz Ermarth

Dr. Brzezinski opened the meeting with an overview of what is happening and what is at stake in the region. The results of this meeting, he said, are to provide a basis for a National Security Council meeting with the President later this week.2 We must deal with the continued deterioration of the U.S. position in the region. Whatever the Soviet motives for their actions in Afghanistan, they have created an objective threat and a dynamic development in the area as serious for our security and vital interests as Soviet actions in Greece in 1947.3 We must provide the President with a basis for responding adequately to this change, specifically what we should do about Pakistan and about the larger Persian Gulf region. The President believes that there will be lasting [Page 145] strategic consequences. He wants to reaffirm that there will be no zig-zag in U.S.-Soviet relations on our side. No warm up is to be expected soon. The mistake in 1968 after the Soviet action in Czechoslovakia was, in the President’s view, to ease up on Moscow too early.

The President spoke with Aga Shahi over the weekend and reaffirmed our commitment to the agreement of 1959.4 The problem is how to define the U.S. commitment under the agreement. If there is major Soviet aggression, the U.S. will respond within the limits of our Constitutional authority. The U.S. will not, however, become involved in border skirmishes. We want our support to help Pakistan to take a firm stand against Soviet forces in the region even if they are faced by a Moscow/Kabul/New Delhi axis. In that case, the U.S. will develop a U.S./Saudi Arabian/PRC/Pakistan/and eventually Iran axis as a counter.

Dr. Brzezinski next declared that the task before us is how to translate this basic stand by the President into:

—effective military relations with Pakistan and other countries in the region;

—economic assistance to Pakistan in a way that supports our broader purposes;

—a regional web of political relations to counter effectively the threat created by Soviet moves in Afghanistan.

We cannot duplicate NATO in this region; a more eclectic mix of bilateral, multilateral, and informal arrangements must suffice.

There was a brief discussion of the implications of Dr. Brzezinski’s framing of the overall context and the tasks to be accomplished. State asked if the U.S. guarantee to Pakistan against aggression was for only a Soviet attack or also an Indian attack, adding that this would be a major problem in our relations with India if it included both. Defense insisted that it must include both because the Pakistanis cannot shift forces between their western and eastern frontiers to meet the Soviet aggression without a guarantee in the east as well as against the Soviets in the west. State accepted this argument by Dr. Brzezinski and Defense that sooner or later we would have to face up to Pakistan’s security problem with India. Dr. Brzezinski said that the U.S. commitment was only against a threat from the north. Dr. Brzezinski asked at this point if there were disagreements with his analysis of the situation because [Page 146] it carries a number of assumptions which are key for further decisions. No dissenting views were expressed. Defense strongly supported the analysis. State added that we must include the nuclear issue within this policy context. State also pointed out that we must anticipate the criticism that we are merely restoring a “cold war alliance” with the rebuttal that such an alliance is inadequate for the contemporary political and military realities in the region. Dr. Brzezinski accepted both points, especially that we have in mind something more than a cold war alliance as we build a new regional security system.

The meeting next turned to specific issues for decision.

I. Military Assistance to Pakistan

In discussion of the fighter aircraft issue, Graham Claytor reported that the Pakistanis did not request specific U.S. aircraft but rather asked the United States to provide what is necessary for them to defend themselves against the new Soviet threat which includes MIG–23s and MIG–25s. There was discussion of the value of A–7 fighters for close air support along the western borders, the extent to which helicopter gunships could perform the same mission, and whether the A–7s were meant for an air defense role also.

General Jones agreed that helicopters would be useful but added that A–7s would provide much greater air ground capability. All agreed that we should encourage the Pakistanis to use the French Mirage fighter for the larger air defense problem against the Soviet Union.

Tasking: State was asked to:

1. determine whether the Mirages will in fact suffice to meet the threat;

2. clarify with the French their willingness to provide Mirages;

3. with Defense, consider A–7s for Pakistan, about 30.

II. Bases, Political Assurances to Host Nations, and Increased RDF

Bases. Dr. Brzezinski raised the question of a base in Pakistan. General Jones said “facilities” (“bases” have a poor political connotation, it was observed) for air and naval deployments to Pakistan would be a significant advantage. Others pointed out that such U.S. facilities in Pakistan would drive India into closer cooperation with Moscow against Pakistan. Most all agreed that this is possible, but there were differing views on whether we should take the step and the risks it involves. Dr. Brzezinski added that we should consider it but not over load our relations with India by taking the step now.

Tasking: State and Defense will develop a paper on U.S. military “facilities” in Pakistan, describing their purpose, possible Indian reaction, and what those reactions would entail for the United States.

Military Consortium for Pakistan: State reported that George Vest and Peter Constable will be going to Europe for discussions about [Page 147] British, French, and Saudi Arabian participation in the military consortium. Dr. Brzezinski added that the Japanese should also be asked to participate. Newsom and others were less enthusiastic about bringing the Japanese in. It would be a new step for them. Newsom and Owen suggested we emphasize greater Japanese economic aid to Pakistan in forms that will release Pakistan domestic funds for military purposes. There was some question about the Japanese laws permitting financing of direct military aid to Pakistan. Dr. Brzezinski argued that the Japanese have greater interests in the area than the U.S. Thirty years after the war, when they are economically powerful, surely they can contribute to the security of the Persian Gulf. We should raise the issue with them even if they do not accept our proposal.

Tasking: State will check what the Japanese law permits. Defense will produce a paper outlining a specific division of labor among the members of the military consortium, integrating each country’s contribution to meet the overall Pakistani military needs in the most efficient fashion possible.

Political Assurances to Host Nations: Defense made clear that the technical survey teams can proceed to Oman and Somalia without providing their hosts with “political assurances” on what the U.S. will give for the bases. Work is presently under way to produce a military-economic aid package for each host country with appropriate “political assurances.”

Tasking: State will provide a paper which sets forth the assurances for each country, the form in which the assurances should be given, and what consultations with Congress are appropriate.5

Diego Garcia: It was recommended that we expand the runways and the storage facilities on Diego Garcia. Conservationists may lobby against this construction. When Dr. Brzezinski asked whether we actually need this expansion in light of acquisition of bases in Oman and Somalia, State and Defense pointed out that it is much better to have a larger number of small bases to absorb minor setbacks if we must abandon some bases in the future.

Tasking: None.

Improved RDF Capabilities: General Jones made a presentation at this point in which he pointed out that Soviet military deployments into Afghanistan will fundamentally change the military threat to our allies on the Persian Gulf:

—Soviet fighter aircraft based in Afghanistan will be able to reach the Gulf of Hormuz, a wholly new development.

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—Soviet armored ground forces could reach the waters of the Arabian Sea through Baluchistan in 10 to 12 days if unopposed.

—Preferred Soviet land routes to Tehran probably still remain those from the Caucasus. Soviet heavy military ground forces on this route could reach the oil field regions in the vicinity of Kuwait in 10 to 12 days.

—Using sealift from the Black Sea, the Soviets could project forces through the Suez Canal to the Persian Gulf in about 21 days.

—One Soviet airborne division, about 8,000 troops, with organic armor vehicles, could land anywhere in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf in two to three days if all Soviet airlift is employed.

General Jones outlined our options for rapid short-term measures to meet this changed Soviet threat by early spring this year:

1. Our naval presence in the Arabian Sea will eventually have to be reduced to one aircraft carrier battle group. We do not have sustaining power for the two there at present.

2. Tactical air power projected into Egyptian and Jordanian bases can improve our air projection capability. We should also request that the Saudis “over build” their air fields, something we can do privately with no political costs, but something which will greatly enhance their capability to support “fly in” of U.S. fighter formations.

3. Prepositioning of heavy equipment and supplies backed up by a significant increase in our sealift capability can give us a much larger and earlier force projection capability into the region. To achieve this in the next two to three months, General Jones proposes the following package:

a. Purchase two RO/RO ships which will hold the prepositioned equipment for one mechanized brigade and ground support equipment for three fighter squadrons.

b. Lease three cargo ships to be prepositioned with dry cargo supplies, ammunition, water, and fuels.

c. Followup supply from the U.S. can be moved through the Suez Canal in 11 days by SL–7 class sea-land ships. General Jones proposed to lease a fleet of eight SL–7s, six of which would be kept in use and two of which would be under conversion to a RO/RO capability.

d. The overall cost for this package is estimated at $450 million.

The advantages of this proposal are:

—The deployment time for getting heavy ground forces through the region would be cut from roughly 25/28 days to 5/8 days through prepositioning.

—For the first time we would have a followup sealift supply capability in the SL–7s which travel at 33 knots, a difficult speed for an enemy to locate and intercept.

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—This capability could be exercised for demonstrations in the region by late spring or early summer.

Tasking: Defense is to submit the proposal in detail to OMB6 and have the results available for the NSC meeting.

Exercises. Dr. Brzezinski insisted that we need ground force exercises in the area soon in order to improve the local sense of confidence about American commitment to the region. General Jones agreed that he could speed up the deployment of two Marine units, one from the Eastern Mediterranean and one from the Pacific to exercise in Oman and Somalia by March. Airlift of ground forces from the United States would be extremely expensive. General Jones prefers not to take that step but rather only exercise the Marines now. General Jones argued that more importantly, if we purchase the two RO/RO, which are ready for immediate delivery and loading, we can use them for exercises in March or April, exercises that will have a much greater psychological effect for a lesser cost than projecting airborne units with no armor from the U.S.

Tasking: State will give us a paper by Thursday on the political effects that exercises would have.7 Defense will provide a paper recommending specific exercises.8

[Omitted here is Section III on consultations with India and Pakistan.]

IV. Consultations with North Yemen

The danger of an imminent union between North and South Yemen was discussed. An NSC working group recommended that we pursue a two-track strategy, U.S. demarches to President Salih in North Yemen and a Saudi Arabian demarche to Salih. Most argued this is an unpromising course of action. Dr. Brzezinski pointed out that we should consider a much more fundamental political change in South Yemen. It is clear that U.S. interests in the area could be greatly damaged by a union of South and North Yemen. Egypt and Jordan interests would be similarly hurt, not to speak of Saudi Arabia’s concern. We should, therefore, consider a joint action to bring about a fundamental political change in South Yemen. A discussion followed on Saudi capabilities to do this, which were judged wholly inadequate, and the difficulties of getting Egyptian and Jordanian cooperation.

Tasking: State [less than 1 line not declassified] to consult on preparing a high level mission to North Yemen to make Salih aware of the depths [Page 150] of our opposition to a union of the two Yemens. Dr. Brzezinski suggested that [less than 1 line not declassified] might be an appropriate person to head such a mission. A NSC-chaired working group will prepare a paper on the Yemen problem.9

[Omitted here are sections on refugees, international support for U.S. policy, the Middle East peace process, and aid to Pakistan.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 31, [Meetings—SCC 250: 1/14/80]. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes of the meeting are not attached and were not found. In the upper right-hand corner of the first page, Carter wrote “No comment now C.”
  2. No NSC meeting was held. See Document 43.
  3. On December 25, 1979, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan, taking control of cities and military installations. President Carter addressed the nation on January 4, calling the invasion a “serious threat to peace because of the threat of further Soviet expansion into neighboring countries in Southwest Asia.” For the full text of the address, which outlined steps the administration would take to thwart Soviet aggression, see Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, pp. 21–24. It is also printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 136.
  4. Carter met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Agha Shahi from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. on January 12. The memorandum of conversation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIX, South Asia. The 1959 U.S.-Pakistani Agreement for Cooperation pledged the United States, under certain conditions, to assist Pakistan against external aggression.
  5. Not found.
  6. Not found.
  7. January 17; not found.
  8. Not found.
  9. See footnote 1, Document 294.