42. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • SCC Meeting on Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf


  • State

    • Secretary Cyrus Vance
    • Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher
  • Defense

    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • Ambassador Robert Komer
  • JCS

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

    • Deputy Director Frank Carlucci
    • Robert Ames
    • [name not declassified]
  • OMB

    • Deputy Director John White
  • White House

    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • Hamilton Jordan
    • Jody Powell
    • Hedley Donovan
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Colonel William E. Odom
    • Captain Gary Sick
    • Thomas Thornton
    • Fritz Ermarth

Dr. Brzezinski explained that the purpose today is to cover a number of points, not all of them for decision, but as information and recommendations to the President as a backdrop for the decision he will shortly be making about our policy toward Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf region. He noted the agreement about the strategic dynamics of the Soviet military move into Afghanistan expressed at the previous SCC, the consequences for Pakistan and Iran, and also the importance of Soviet influence in Yemen and Ethiopia.

Dr. Brzezinski also added that the Soviet publication “New Times” has issued a call for all Communist states and parties to seize new revolutionary opportunities created by the present political conditions in the world, disturbing evidence of present Soviet policy directions.

Military Assistance to Pakistan

Dr. Brzezinski and Secretary Vance commented that the President’s meeting with Agha Shahi went as well as could be expected.2 Secretary [Page 158] Brown asked how we will deal with the situation if the Pakistanis insist they want $1 billion in aid while we only offered $400 million. Secretary Vance predicted that they will take our $400 million and complain, not reject our aid.

Dr. Brzezinski asked about the French willingness to sell the Mirage aircraft to Pakistan. Secretary Vance reported that the French will probably supply the Mirage. As a next step, it will be discussed at the Political Directors Meeting in London on January 24th. State will push France to make a decision by then.

Dr. Brzezinski raised the question of American A–7 aircraft for Pakistan. It was pointed out that the Pakistanis did not ask for them. Rather they asked that they be supplied with aircraft sufficient to protect themselves against the Soviet air threat, implying, of course, for the need for the US F–16 or the Mirage. The A–7, as Dr. Brzezinski pointed out, would be very useful in a ground support role along the Western frontier. Furthermore, because the U.S. has a large number, nearly 700, it can undoubtedly spare 30 or 40. Secretary Brown agreed the Pakistanis might be willing to buy some A–7s.

Military Consortium

Dr. Brzezinski asked for Defense’s proposal for a division of labor among the members of the military consortium.3 Secretary Brown submitted a paper showing which countries can produce what categories of military equipment. The issue of who pays remains to be solved, he added. Secretary Vance noted that according to Agha Shahi, the Saudis promised Pakistan $800 million for military purchases over a year ago but have not yet delivered. We should press the Saudis to make the promise good.

Concerning Japan, Vance has instructed Phil Habib to ask the Japanese for $400 million for the consortium. They may give less, but Vance feels we should ask for that much. We will get little from Britain and France, he continued, but the French should be willing to sell them aircraft and the British will certainly be willing to sell tanks and tank guns. Secretary Brown added that the U.S., France, and Germany can provide anti-tank weapons, much needed for insurgency and defense. It was also pointed out that the Pakistanis want foreign assistance for building a communications infrastructure on their western front.

Dr. Brzezinski asked if we need a big consortium figure for public and political effect such as $1 billion. Secretary Brown observed that one to one and a half billion dollars for equipment spread over three [Page 159] years could be absorbed effectively by the Pakistanis; therefore, Dr. Brzezinski’s figure is about right. Dr. Brzezinski added that we must avoid a figure which is so high that we are open to criticism that we are “saturating” Pakistan with arms the same way we did Iran.

Dr. Brzezinski added that we need a military equipment package and a concept for a division of labor which we can propose to the allies. Secretary Vance suggested that this be done at the upcoming Political Directors Meeting on January 24. Dr. Brzezinski agreed; we must supplement our delegation with technical teams sufficiently competent to make concrete decisions on both funds and equipment.

Agreed action:

—State will press France on the Mirage aircraft.

—The Political Directors Meeting will be reinforced with sufficient staff to discuss military assistance and funding.

—The U.S. will give an exemplary package to the Political Directors as a proposal for a division of labor.

—To fund the consortium, we will press the Japanese for $400 million and the Saudis for $800 million which, combined with our $400 million, should be above $1 billion.

—Britain and France will be encouraged to supply specific military equipment.

U.S. Assurances to Pakistan

Secretary Vance reported that we are still working out contingency scenarios to define circumstances under which we would come to Pakistan’s military assistance against foreign attack. Secretary Vance promised to have a paper by Friday or Saturday which spells these out in considerable detail for the President.

It was agreed, at Secretary Vance’s suggestion, that this is the next big decision issue which should be discussed with the President.

Contingency of a Soviet Invasion of Iran

Dr. Brzezinski proposed that the President mention in his speech that the United States has been committed to the independence of Iran for the past 30 years and remains so committed today.4 Secretaries Vance and Brown wondered if this does not so clearly imply our previous ties to the Shah that it will provoke Khomeini’s public rejection and fail to achieve the political effect in the region for which it is intended. Dr. Brzezinski observed that we must simply accept the cost [Page 160] of a possible Khomeini statement because our vital interests in the area are so great. Secretaries Vance and Brown suggested omitting reference to “30 years.” They accepted Dr. Brzezinski’s alternative language “as we have been” so that a sentence in the speech might read: “The U.S. remains committed to an independent Iran today as it has been in the past.”

Agreed action: The record of the meeting should solicit the President’s reaction to this proposal.5

Military Facilities in the Region

Dr. Brzezinski expressed concern that while progress is being made on the technical level in acquiring military facilities, we are lagging on the political level. We need to expedite giving political assurances to the host countries. Until we do, these countries are vulnerable to Soviet pressure to reject our requests. They have already been exposed in the press as potential locations for U.S. facilities; some are undoubtedly already being pressed by the Soviets to reject the U.S. request.

Secretary Vance reported that State is now drafting messages to our ambassadors in these countries instructing them to discuss political assurances. Hal Saunders added that if the President mentions these countries in his speech, it might kill their willingness. Dr. Brzezinski reemphasized that they have already been fingered in the press. The danger for us is the gap between political progress and technical progress. He proposed a Presidential message, a very candid one to Oman and Somalia, giving political assurances in principle to be followed up by more specific details at the diplomatic level. Vance and Saunders argued that any assurances must be specific because we must also consult with the Congress before we are committed to them. Dr. Brzezinski conceded that while those points may be legally valid, they do not deal with the present political vulnerability of the states we want to assist. Secretary Vance proposed that we go to these states with messages which make the following points:

—We agree in principle to political assurances and therefore want the technical teams to proceed as rapidly as possible.

—Ask the head of state if he objects to the President mentioning publicly his country in connection with U.S. military facilities.

—Promise to consult with the Congress as soon as the details on the assurances can be worked out.

[Page 161]

—Reaffirm publicly that the United States considers its interests in the region vital.

Agreed Action: A draft of the message proposed by Vance is to be cleared later today with the NSC staff.

Harold Brown said we need more flights into Djibouti. They pointed out that we already have access to Pakistan, but more permanent “military facilities” would be desirable. It was argued that we should not raise this issue with the Pakistanis until the military assistance package to Pakistan is worked out in more detail.

Agreed actions:

—Ask for more flights into Djibouti.

—Postpone discussion of “military facilities” in Pakistan for a few weeks.

Vance, Brown, and Brzezinski will call about ten key Congressional leaders to give them a progress report on our efforts to acquire military facilities in the region. The NSC staff will provide talking points to ensure that the same message is given to all ten Congressmen.

Enroute Basing and Overflights

Secretary Brown said that Defense has been ready for some time and is waiting for State to go forward, asking Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Philippines, and others about contingency overflights and base use. Some argued that to ask now might ensure a turndown. Dr. Brzezinski argued that it is important to tell these countries now that we are serious, that we are making plans, and that we may be asking them in the future but we are not asking for a positive response at present. General Jones noted that we already have effective access to countries and need no commitment; furthermore, what we need in each country is different. In Morocco, for example, we would like to pre-position fuel. The two most urgent cases are Spain and Morocco. Secretary Vance insisted that he needed a chance to check once more on the Moroccan situation before taking a final position.

Agreed action: Pending Vance’s check on the Moroccan situation, inform Spain and Morocco that we are planning for crises; vary the message to each according to what we want it to provide. State and Defense will prepare this message.

Military Exercises and Deployments in the Region

Secretary Brown raised Diego Garcia. There are two issues, present use, and longer term construction programs. Komer argued that because Diego Garcia is the only reliable base in the Indian Ocean, we need to undertake the expansion. General Jones said that it would cost [Page 162] about $500 million spread over the next five years. Dr. Brzezinski reported that the British Opposition Leader Callaghan had encouraged the United States to move fast on Diego Garcia. Secretary Vance cautioned that Margaret Thatcher may look at it differently.

Dr. Brzezinski observed that this will outrage Indira Gandhi. Komer added that what we are doing for Pakistan will outrage her even more. All agreed that India’s sensitivities should not make us hesitate on the expansion.

Agreed action: OMB will look into funding not for this year but for FY 1982 and later.

Next the discussion turned to military exercises. General Jones reported that a Marine amphibious unit, about 2,000 strong, and a group of four to six ships can exercise in any number of places in the region, Oman for example, and Egypt. Followup units, up to a Marine brigade, can also participate.

Dr. Brzezinski declared that an exercise is needed for its political effect as a demonstration of American determination to remain in the area. Secretary Vance replied that privately political leaders in the region will like it, but publicly they will have problems. He therefore recommended that an exercise be held in Diego Garcia. Secretary Brown insisted that such an exercise makes no sense, and therefore would have no desired political effect, perhaps even an undesired effect. Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt were discussed as possible exercise sites. Dr. Brzezinski proposed that we ask Oman and Saudi Arabia, and if they turn us down, we should ask Egypt where a positive response is almost assured. Secretary Vance asked that this be delayed ten days until after the President’s speech.

Dr. Brzezinski next raised the question of a U.S. airborne brigade projected into the region for an exercise, possibly a combined exercise with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This could take place later in the spring or summer. Secretary Vance argued that the political problems are simply too great for us to attempt this. Dr. Brzezinski agreed that we should not overload ourselves with this undertaking but that Defense should look into the costs, planning, and other details.

Agreed actions:

—State will go forward and seek political assurances on enroute basing and overflights.

—We will wait ten days and seek permission for a military exercise in Oman or Saudi Arabia, then Egypt if the first two are not forthcoming.

—Gently probe Jordan on the possibilities of a combined US/Jordan/Saudi Arabian exercise.

[Page 163]

[Omitted here is a section on Yemen. This section is printed as Document 294.]

Afghanistan Insurgency

Secretary Vance reported that Agha Shahi calls the insurgency in Afghanistan “a dangerous lightning rod” and, therefore, a very difficult decision for General Zia. Dr. Brzezinski commented that a massive insurgency at present is probably not in our best interest. Rather a low-level and enduring insurgency is essential to keep the Islamic states mobilized against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Secretary Brown added that Agha Shahi’s comments were probably not meant to indicate that Zia will be backing out, but rather to keep the option open for the future.

Afghanistan Refugees

State reported that it is possible for the United States to provide bilateral aid for refugees in Afghanistan as well as aid through the UNHCR.

Agreed action: State was tasked to prepare a plan for providing at least a small part of their refugee aid through bilateral channels and present it at the next SCC on refugee support.

Dr. Brzezinski observed that the large degree of consensus on all agenda issues today may negate the need for an NSC meeting with the President on the same topics. All agreed and Secretary Vance added that the next issue we need to discuss directly with the President concerns the contingency scenarios for Pakistan and the assurances we give that government.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 40, Brzezinski, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia 2/1–5/80: Briefing Book [I]. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes of the meeting are not attached. In the upper right-hand corner of the first page, Carter wrote: “Zbig—These are very serious matters. The discussions are necessary but any proposal for contentious action must be submitted to me first J.”
  2. See footnote 4, Document 40.
  3. Reference is to an international consortium to provide military assistance to Pakistan.
  4. Reference is to the President’s upcoming State of the Union address; see Document 45.
  5. Carter neither approved nor disapproved the recommendation. In the margin below this recommendation, he wrote: “Covered on Meet the Press.” President Carter was interviewed on “Meet the Press” on January 20. Responding to a question about economic sanctions against Iran, he said: “We want a stable and independent Iran, and we want a secure Iran.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, p. 113)