51. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • The Skeleton of a Strategy for the Middle East

The purpose of our Persian Gulf strategy is to protect our vital interests there—interests shared with Europe and Japan. Because the projection of Soviet power and influence into the region is the major threat to those interests at the moment, countering those is the first priority strategic task.

In effect, we have to complete the third phase of the great architectural task undertaken by the United States after World War II. We constructed an alliance in Western Europe; we undertook explicit defense commitments in the Far East; we built CENTO, a regional security organization that never really flourished. Now we need to shape a more flexible framework for regional security in the Middle East. That regional security framework will have to avoid excessive formality, adapt to the realities of intraregional conflicts, and facilitate varieties of participation by concerned friends both in the region and in the other two central strategic zones, Western Europe and the Far East.

The following outlines a number of steps we are either taking or need to consider taking in order to fulfill your vision of the security requirements and American interests in the region. The essence of our strategy is to strengthen our presence and capability by

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  • —establishing facilities for U.S. forces;
  • —strengthening friendly governments and the security cooperation among them; and
  • —reducing the influence of the Soviet Union, its surrogates (Cuba, the GDR) and its friends (PDRY).

You are well aware of our work on obtaining facilities in the region and improving our rapid reaction force capabilities. We plan to strengthen friendly governments and the security cooperation among them by engaging in joint efforts to protect Pakistan, support the Afghan rebels, and reduce the threat of the PDRY against Oman, North Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In the latter connection, we will also be cooperating with our European allies, and possibly the Jordanians and Egyptians, both in operations and contingency plans. Our long-term objective can be described as a Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean region with a permanent U.S. naval presence and surge capability, an Afghanistan whose neutrality has been restored, a strengthened Pakistan, a more cohesive and cooperative Iran, and an Arabian Peninsula free from threat from the PDRY.

We have taken a number of actions to begin the implementation of our Persian Gulf strategy. A status report follows.

Please indicate whether you would wish an NSC meeting on some of the following subjects, whether some of them in your judgment should be dropped, and whether you have any specific or general guidance that you could give us as we continue to work on the following:

Actions Undertaken and/or Ongoing

1. Political/Diplomatic:

  • —The State of the Union Address.2
  • Agha Shahi visit to Washington.3
  • —Reaffirmation of the 1959 Agreement with Pakistan, new definition of assurances, and consultations with Congress.
  • —Development of political assurances for states providing military facilities (Oman, Somalia, Kenya—before SCC).
  • —Approaches to Spain, Morocco, and others about enroute basing and overflight support (in progress).
  • Christopher trip to Europe on Afghanistan and East-West relations.4
  • Brown mission to China.5
  • —Clifford mission to India.6
  • Brzezinski/Christopher mission to Pakistan.7

2. Economics:

  • —Actions for the Persian Gulf region:
    • • Economic aid package for Pakistan: bilateral (ready); multilateral (being negotiated).
    • • German efforts to reschedule Turkish debt.
    • • Bilateral refugee aid to Pakistan.

3. Military:

  • Bartholomew/Murray mission to Oman, Somalia, and Kenya for military facilities (in progress).8
  • —Technical teams for base surveys in Oman and Somalia (there).
  • —Initial effort to create a military consortium for aid to Pakistan (Japan, Saudi Arabia, U.K., France, and FRG—underway).
  • —Bilateral U.S. military aid to Pakistan.
  • —Military exercises:
    • AWACS to Egypt.
    • • B–52 flights over Indian Ocean.
    • • Marine Amphibious Unit enroute to the Arabian Sea may conduct one or more exercises if local states agree (Oman, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt), and if you approve.
  • —Increased U.S. Naval presence in the Indian Ocean (two carrier battle groups).
  • RDF (forces allocated, JTF in progress of formation, limited contingency planning).

4. Intelligence:

  • —Special efforts toward Iran.
  • —[less than 1 line not declassified]
  • —[less than 1 line not declassified] mission to Saudi Arabia.
  • —Several “Presidential findings.”
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Actions Under Consideration

  • 1. Political/Diplomatic:
    • —Meeting of the seven foreign ministers on aid to Pakistan (being scheduled).
  • 2. Economic:
    • —7-nation consortium for Pakistan: German lead on Turkey.
  • 3. Military:
    • RDF sea-lift improvement: rapid acquisition of commercial RO/RO ships and SL–7 class transports.
    • —Expansion of Diego Garcia facilities.
    • —Brigade exercise in Egypt (employing forces now based in the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, for example).
    • —Contingency planning with Jordan and with U.K. and France for a crisis in Arabian Peninsula.
  • 4. Intelligence:
    • —Iraq connection.

Additional Steps to Consider

  • 1. Political/Diplomatic:
    • —Western Summit (in addition to the foreign ministers meeting).
    • —Propaganda offensives against Cuban and GDR involvement in the Persian Gulf region.
    • —Steps to accelerate the West Bank autonomy talks.
    • —Further high level China/U.S. visit (President to China; Hua to U.S.).
  • 2. Economic:
    • —Long-term program of economic aid to Turkey and Pakistan by Europeans and Japan.
    • —Alter U.S. position on sanctions toward Iran.
  • 3. Military:
    • —Form a separate U.S. unified command for the Persian Gulf region.
    • —Shift our military assistance groups into training and management assistance, not just military sales (critical for all MAAGs on the Arabian peninsula).
    • —Military facilities in Pakistan.
    • —French aircraft carrier to replace U.S. carrier in the Mediterranean?
  • 4. Intelligence:
    • —[less than 1 line not declassified]
    • —[less than 1 line not declassified]
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 77, Persian Gulf: 1–10/80, 2. Secret. A January 29 memorandum from Vance to Carter entitled “Blueprint for Implementation of Your State of the Union Message” is ibid. Brzezinski’s memorandum is also printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 140, from a copy with Carter’s handwritten comments.
  2. See Document 45.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 40.
  4. Christopher visited London December 31, 1979, for a meeting with U.K., French, German, Italian, and Canadian officials. He also visited Brussels January 1 for an emergency meeting of the North Atlantic Council.
  5. Brown visited China January 6–13.
  6. Clifford visited India January 30–31.
  7. Brzezinski and Christopher visited Pakistan February 1–3 and Saudi Arabia February 3–5. Information on preparations for this trip is in telegram 22784 to Islamabad, January 27. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800046–0689) Documentation on their meetings in Islamabad is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIX, South Asia. For Brzezinski’s report on the meetings in Riyadh, see Document 207. He and Christopher reported on their mission in the February 6 meeting of the SCC; see Document 208.
  8. See Documents 49 and 50.