41. Memorandum From Jasper Welch and Fritz Ermarth of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Basing Access and Exercise Issues at Thursday’s SCC 2 (S)

The SCC needs to make some basic decisions to guide the crucial next step of political negotiations in Oman, Kenya, and Somalia for access to basing. If time permits, the SCC will also take up Harold Brown’s recommendations (sent to the President on 21 December, but not forwarded to him yet) on a broader effort to improve transit and overflight rights, and near-term options for exercises in the region.3 (S)

This memo gives you essential background and a substantive plan for the meeting, following the distributed agenda (inside cover). (S)

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There is no controversy as to what we are after: Long-term access to physically improved facilities in these four countries. In military terms, the important objectives are summarized on the table (Tab A)4 with which you are familiar. On the technical-military side, there are continuing questions as to the condition of facilities at Berbera and the cost to improve them, which the current survey effort will clarify. But they will probably not much influence our initial bargaining strategy in Somalia (in any case, we can adjust that if the survey team’s results so indicate). (S)

There is no controversy about the next step: Political negotiations should be conducted in the last week of January, probably by the Bartholomew-Murray team,5 to define access arrangements and terms with the four countries. (S)

No fundamental choices confront us with respect to Oman, Kenya, and Djibouti given our present fairly limited objectives. What problems there are are treated in this memo below. (S)

With respect to the tough issue, Somalia, since the President has already decided that he’s prepared to take some risks for access there, what we need now are a basic strategy for handling Somalia, and opening position, and the tough-mindedness to assure that we are in charge of the relationship. The operational significance of the latter is a) a stronger ambassador in Mogadishu, and b) tight discipline among our Horn specialists to get with the program we decide on. (S)

The strategy for Somalia should aim at getting the basing access we want in Berbera and Mogadishu at minimum cost in aid, security commitment, and likelihood of entanglement in the Ogaden conflict.6 We want to minimize the chance that a new US-Somalia relationship will shackle us tightly to Siad or strengthen Soviet-Cuban influence in Ethiopia in the long term. We want to leave open the possibility that this new relationship could be part of a broader effort to reduce Soviet influence in the Horn. These aims require a stingy opening position on our part with Siad, and a willingness to walk away if he gets too greedy. (S)

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These principles have the following operational application to which you should get the SCC to agree:

—The US continues to oppose Somali involvement in the Ogaden insurgency because it is dangerous for the Horn, for Africa, and for Somalia.

—The US expects that any new US-Somali relationship on security matters will make Somalia receptive to US advice and sensitive to US interests with respect to Ogaden.

—Specifically, the US will insist that none of the weapons or military goods it may supply to Somalia will be used to support the Ogaden conflict.

—While the US is interested in the security of Somalia against the Soviet-Cuban threat, any commitment the US may make will be evaluated in the light of circumstances if called into question by retaliation arising from the Ogaden conflict. And it will not apply if regular Somali forces are involved, openly or surreptitiously, in Ethiopia.

—In general, US-Somalia relations will be served if the level of violence in Ogaden is reduced and Somalia promotes ideas for a fair peaceful settlement.

US military assistance to Somalia will be keyed to the value of our basing access (not to the military appetites of Somalia).

—The US will insist that Somalia take concrete steps to improve her relations with Kenya. (S)

These positions would be explicitly or implicitly communicated to the Somalis as we talk about our base access. Note that we do not and probably cannot insist on complete Somali withdrawal of support for the insurgency. In any case, we don’t want to do that since it would simply deliver the Soviets and the Cubans a local victory and deprive us of future leverage on Ethiopia. (S)

In addition to the above communications to Siad, our strategy will have to involve:

—Toughening our representation in Mogadishu (not a topic for the SCC).

—Increasing our intelligence on the Ogaden war and Somali involvement.

—Political (covert) action to explore alternatives to Siad (at least as a source of leverage). (S)

We are, to put it somewhat pessimistically, seeking a kind of control over Somali behavior that the Soviets failed to secure. But by arming Siad to the teeth they gave him options we shall not give him. (S)

The other major questions for Somalia concern military aid and financing. The consensus of the Bartholomew-Murray team is that we [Page 153] should be operating in the range of Option I (for openers) in the State/PM paper (Tab B).7 And we should try to get the Saudis to finance more than 50% of the package. (S)

Meeting Plan


You should advise the group that this portion of the agenda is very rich in opportunities for distraction into trivia. Hence you should summarize points that seem straightforward or on which there is working-level consensus, considering them decided unless there are objections. (S)

—A political team will visit Oman, Kenya, Somalia, and, if possible, Djibouti between 24 January and 2 February. (S)

—Since we are after extensive, redundant access we shall pursue all options seriously, unless (as possibly in Somalia) insuperable obstacles arise. (S)

—It is agreed that extensive consultations with our allies, especially the UK and France, and our friends in the region should promote patterns of multilateral security cooperation we can build up in the longer term. (S)

—We should encourage Saudi support, but not become hostage to their timorous ways. (S)

Somalia (See Tabs B and F8)

—We are agreed that we are after long-term access to both Berbera and Mogadishu, but that the overall difficulties of the Somali case will require a step-by-step approach (in which we concentrate initially on our activities and quids pro quo out no more than two years). (S)

—We do want an access agreement that defines the status of our personnel. Joint US-Somali use of facilities is agreeable. (S)

—You should then turn to the nexus of Ogaden and a security commitment, laying out the strategy proposed above. The only specific points of view on this that have surfaced in our debates, (other than the usual arguments among Horn specialists) is the view of General Lawson that Berbera and Mogadishu may, in the end, not be worth the trouble. On a security commitment as such, our position should [Page 154] be that US presence and a new relationship alone should add considerably to Somali security if Somalia behaves herself, and that we are willing to give our interest in Somali security appropriate public expression. (S)

—Get agreement to opening discussion on military assistance as per State Option I (Tab B) and to seeking Saudi assistance. (S)

Oman (See Tabs C9 and F)

Oman is the most important potential host, but poses no serious problems. (S)

—Our objective is long-term access and facilities improvement programs for Masirah and a port/airfield combination on the mainland (either Muscat or Matrah, and Seeb). (S)

—In initial negotiations we should be prepared to lay out our long-term (5 year) objectives. But, if the Omanis insist, we should concentrate on plans and access arrangements over the next two years. (S)

—We should open negotiations with military assistance offers in the area of State’s Option II on (p. 16, Tab C). Saudi financing should be sought. (S)

—Consultation and cooperation with the UK will be done throughout. (S)

—The only (somewhat) contentious issue is the character of a security commitment to Oman. I think it is now recognized that it is in our interest to give Oman a solid security commitment. Most of the difference will be on the Omani side owing to Arab sensitivities. But if we show reluctance it will undermine our entire confidence-building effort. We should give a commitment to assist Oman against external threats and externally assisted internal security threats (it is hard to imagine a serious purely internal threat in that country in today’s world—but this should be discussed). We should take our cue from Oman as to the form and publicity of such a commitment, within our own legal limitations. (S)

Kenya (See Tabs D10 and F)

Kenya presents no serious problems requiring SCC debate. In the longer run, a closer US-Kenyan security relationship will probably lead to greater economic assistance. (S)

—We should, in initial negotiations, simply state our near and longer-term desires for access, and hear Kenyan terms. (S) (See Tab D)

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—We should express our determination to use possibly improved US-Somalia relations to improve Somali-Kenyan relations. (S)

—A security commitment is not likely to be needed. (S)

Djibouti (See Tabs E11 and F)

There are no major policy issues to be resolved on Djibouti unless Somali problems lead us later to seek greater access there than we now seek, largely in deference to local and French sensitivities. Basically, we are asking for expanded routine use (P–3 flights and ship visits) and some commitment on Djibouti’s part to give us crisis access on a larger scale. (S)


—We shall keep the key Congressional committee chairmen apprised of the access effort, informing them of our objectives and soliciting reactions before the political negotiating teams next visit the region. (S)

—It would be desirable if some of the funds needed for this effort (which cannot be defined before the survey teams report back) be secured in an FY80 supplemental. You will want to solicit the views of principals on the timing of security assistance requests, if time permits. (S)



At the President’s urgent request Harold Brown prepared a memo on the basing access problems of our getting into the region, and recommended a comprehensive political approach to improving our historically uncertain access. This memo was sent to us on 21 December, and to SecState, the Chairman, and the DCI. We forwarded it to you with a cover for the President and a summary of Harold’s action recommendation on 8 January.12 Graham Claytor sent you a “what’s happened” memo on 11 January. All this material is at Tab I.13 (S)

Harold’s diagnosis and recommendation are sound. The latter call for efforts with “enroute countries” (principally UK, Portugal, Spain, Egypt) and “receiving countries” (Saudi Arabia, Oman) to sensitize them to the extraordinary importance of basing access in crises, to create greater willingness to give it to us. State is developing specific [Page 156] diplomatic initiatives and time-tables to act on these recommendations. A State/PM paper reflective of their initial efforts is at Tab J.14 (S)

Meeting Plan

—After soliciting comments from principals on the Brown memo, seek agreement to its recommendations and to prompt State/DOD efforts to implement them. (S)

—Ask whether we should not give particularly urgent attention to those countries where physical improvement to facilities is required to make access meaningful. For example, Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to expand airfields and POL storage as a “receiving country.” (S)


After a brief discussion of two kinds of exercise options (marines and a light army brigade), Monday’s SCC 15 directed that a paper be prepared on the political value (and risk) of near-term US exercises. State/PM undertook to do this with CIA assistance. At this moment, unfortunately, this task is not fulfilled. If there is time for the subject at all, I suggest the following:

—Retask State/CIA and schedule the matter for another meeting.

—Reiterate interest in marine exercises into Oman, possibly Egypt.

—Ask the Chairman to comment specifically on the desirability and feasibility of a light army (e.g., brigade of the 82nd Airborne) exercise any time in 1980. (One of his subordinates fears that such an exercise would reveal more weakness than strength.)

—Discuss the value of continuing exercises of tactical air units into the region. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 107, SCC 254, 01/17/80, Southwest Asia, Persian Gulf & Yemen. Secret. Sent for information. Printed from a copy that does not bear Welch’s or Ermarth’s initials.
  2. January 17; see Document 42.
  3. Reference is to a December 21 memorandum from Brown to Carter entitled “Access and Overflight Rights in a Persian Gulf Contingency.” The focus of the memorandum was “the near term measures likely to be most immediately profitable in improving access and overflight, but we also discuss longer term actions and programs.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory File, Box 84, Sensitive XX, 1/80)
  4. Tab A, an undated table entitled “Indian Ocean Facilities and U.S. Access Objectives,” is attached but not printed.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 38. The team returned to the area in early February. See Documents 49 and 50.
  6. Reference is to the Somali-Ethiopian conflict in Ethiopia’s Ogaden desert. Documentation on this conflict is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVII, Part 1, Horn of Africa.
  7. Reference is to a paper prepared in PM entitled “Indian Ocean Access” which Ermarth and Welch attached as Tab H to their memorandum. The paper references the charts on specific countries and provides additional detail and issues for discussion. Tabs A–F referenced in this memorandum, none printed, were attached to this paper. Tab B is an undated chart entitled “Military Assistance Options for Somalia.”
  8. Tab F is an undated chart entitled “Security Commitment Alternatives.”
  9. Tab C is an undated chart entitled “Military Assistance Options for Oman.”
  10. Tab D is an undated chart entitled “Military Assistance Options for Kenya.”
  11. Tab E is an undated chart entitled “Military Assistance Options for Djibouti.”
  12. See footnote 3 above.
  13. Attached but not printed.
  14. Attached but not printed at Tab J is an undated paper entitled “Diplomatic Strategy for Increasing Access to Facilities and Overflight Rights in States Enroute to Southwest Asia.”
  15. January 14; see Document 40.