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


  • Indian Ocean Access SCC on (Kenya, Somalia, Oman, Saudi Arabia) (S)


The primary purpose of this SCC is to review and approve the instructions to the political negotiating team going to the four countries next week. The SCC should also review our legislative strategy and timing. (S)

The draft instructions to the political team (at Tab A)2 are in very good shape, in our view. They have been extensively worked by the interagency team, including thorough coordination within State and with OMB. They provide a good substantive guide to the overall effort and the issues before the SCC tomorrow.3 (S)

The principals should appreciate—and you may wish in opening the meeting to mention—several fundamental points: (S)

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—The Indian Ocean access campaign is at the cutting edge of our effort to build a security structure in SW Asia in terms of its importance and its difficulty. It is one of the most visible (unfortunately) and concrete things we are doing. Its immediate military benefits will be important but modest. It will not revolutionize our military posture in the area. At the same time, although Afghanistan has increased both our need for access and local anxieties about Soviet power, the political impediments to progress remain severe. For these reasons, we must conduct this effort ever mindful that 1) it should give us options for dramatic increases in local presence through surging and exercise activity; and 2) that it should help create the political basis for regional security collaboration. (S)

—There is a widespread sense among Washington experts, and people in the area, that it’s “later than we think,” especially on the Arabian Peninsula, that the forces threatening stability from the PDRY, and within Saudi Arabia and Oman are more advanced than our strategy accounts for. Because of local political sensitivities, we stress modest access objectives and low visibility. But we may have to prepare ourselves to move beyond these initial conditions quite rapidly, not only in response to overt Soviet threats, but to deal with heightened internal security problems in Oman and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, we must recognize that our new relationship with Somalia will oblige a more comprehensive political strategy toward the Horn. [5 lines not declassified] (S)

The state of play logistically is as follows:

—The technical facilities survey teams are still in the area, due to return by 30 January. Their initial reports have permitted refinement of our access objectives. The most significant result so far is that Berbera looks more attractive than we expected, and Masirah somewhat less so. This does not alter our plans; it merely confirms us in our original determination to seek diversity and redundancy in access. (S)

—The political team will depart on 1 February because of airline schedules, proceeding to Nairobi, Mogadishu, Muscat, and Riyadh, between 3 and 10 February. (S)

—Ideally, we wish to nail down the framework of agreement including concrete next steps (e.g., military-needs survey team to Somalia) and leave certain details (e.g., status of US personnel) to embassies. We may, however, have to continue high-level negotiations in some places, most likely Somalia. (S)

Meeting Plan (Very Fast Track)

You may find yourself so pressed for time as to be unable to work through the programmed agenda. If principals have read the draft instructions at Tab A and been appropriately briefed, it would not be unsafe for you to proceed as follows:

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—The draft instructions look satisfactory. Do other principals agree?4 (S)

—If Siad is not at all forthcoming on Ogaden issues and does not agree to next steps on access without final agreement on security assurances and military assistance (which depend heavily on his Ogaden line), the team should merely agree to report back to Washington. (S)

—It is absolutely essential that we keep tight control of publicity on this effort, especially as it concerns the views and positions of host countries. Only Public Affairs officers should discuss this with the press, on the basis of tight guidance, until we move into the public congressional phase. (S)

Meeting Plan (According to Agenda)

General and Item I

—You should open the discussion as you see fit or along lines suggested above. Please be aware that the agenda contains items which can easily divert discussion, e.g., whether we want to pay base access fees in Oman.5 On some of these things, the team can call for instructions when we see what we are up against. (S)

—You should ask General Jones for a brief overview of our access plans and the results of the technical survey teams, and ask Harold Brown to comment. This is largely to assure that the principals are clear and ratify our objectives. Details are found on pp. 5, 8, and 14 of the draft instructions (Tab A). (S)


—There seem to be no issues to resolve for Kenya. Our main immediate problem is to control publicity. Over the longer run we’ll have to develop guidance to explain our access activities to other African countries. (S)


—You are thoroughly familiar with the problem: to link our position on Ogaden to what we offer on security assurances and assistance. We think the instructions are sound on this score. The linkage is made effective at this point in the relationship by our willingness to walk away if Siad is not reassuring. (S)

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—Siad will almost surely find our security assistance offer too modest. He will express an urgent need for help on air defense. Beyond specifics we propose on p. 9 (Tab A), we’ll deal with this by proposing a survey of his defensive needs (thus fending off the issue for the moment), and we indicate a willingness to get carefully into the air defense business by broaching the possibility of installing air surveillance radar at Berbera (partly for our own protection). (S)

—The team will need license to go to the “high option” on military assistance (p. 10, Tab A). (S)


—A peripheral but valuable move: We should remove Oman from the list of countries that are “dangerous for Americans.” There is no objective need for Oman to be so listed, and it is insulting to Oman.6 (S)

—To Oman, security assurances are more important than military assistance. We expect no problem in offering what the Omanis have said they want, a low-profile statement of our interest and commitment. (S)

—The issue of base access fees has caused some controversy at the working level. State favors our being willing to go up to $10 M because they expect the Omanis to want base access fees, there is precedent in Bahrain, and our military assistance offer doesn’t go beyond what we would want to do for Oman anyway. DOD is ill-disposed because we have no control over what happens to fee money (much of it will line pockets in a graft-ridden country). DOD prefers to offer additional effort to upgrade facilities or infrastructure which will redound to common benefit. OMB warns that Congress will object to paying access fees as a “back door” device for supplying military assistance or aid funds. The right instructions (as in the draft, p. 15, Tab A) are to be reluctantly willing.7 (S)

Saudi Arabia

—The only real issue is a general one: how much we wish to rely on Saudi Arabia for political and financial support. Our aim is to get as much support as we can but mainly for the purpose of creating a more reassuring and cooperative relationship and to decrease Saudi timidity on security collaboration. The instructions are sound. (S)

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Legislative Strategy

—All recognize the need to inform key leaders of our objectives and plans before the political team depart for the region. (S)

—As to the timing of legislative submissions, the most desirable course would be to wrap up enough of the money issues (military assistance and facilities improvement costs) to permit covering them in an FY80 supplemental that includes Pakistan and other steps. Should we not advance the access negotiations that quickly, we may have to consider an additional supplemental request, despite Congressional objections to such incremental approaches. In view of the urgency of the situation, it would not look good to domestic critics or to local countries were we to take the leisurely approach of funding initial Indian Ocean access activities through FY81 ammendment. OMB is prepared to comment on this. (S)


Please make a point of the third tick under Very Fast Track above. We must maintain tight control on publicity. No backgrounders except by Public Affairs officers under tight instructions. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 32, [Meetings—SCC 264A: 1/80]. Secret. Sent for information. Copies were sent to Sick, Henze, and Funk. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates that Brzezinski saw it. There is no indication that Aaron saw the memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed are the undated draft instructions.
  3. The SCC meeting took place on January 30; see Document 50.
  4. Brzezinski drew a vertical line in the left-hand margin next to this and the two following points.
  5. Brzezinski underlined the phrase “base access fees in Oman” in this sentence.
  6. Brzezinski drew a vertical line in the left-hand margin next to this point.
  7. Brzezinski drew a vertical line in the left-hand margin next to the first four sentences of this point. He drew a vertical line and wrote a checkmark in the left-hand margin next to the sentence that begins “DOD prefers to offer” and wrote a question mark in the left-hand margin next to the last sentence.