57. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Security Framework for the Persian Gulf—III


  • State

    • Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher
    • Under Secretary for Political Affairs, David Newsom
    • Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern & South Asian Affairs, Harold Saunders
    • Reginald Bartholomew, Director of Political/Military Affairs
  • Defense

    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • Deputy Secretary Graham Claytor
    • Under Secretary for Policy Robert Komer
  • JCS

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

    • Director Stansfield Turner
    • Robert Ames, NIO for Near East & South Asia
    • OMB
    • Deputy Director John White
    • The White House
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
    • NSC
    • Henry Owen
    • Jasper Welch
    • William E. Odom
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I. Political and Economic Presence in the Region

Dr. Brzezinski noted that none of the State recommendations appear controversial.2 Harold Brown, however, raised two caveats. First, the absorptive capacity of countries in the region for military aid is a critical matter. Saudi Arabia is a terrible offender, purchasing far more than is needed. Second, our embassy in Saudi Arabia tends to be an amplifier for the Saudis’ requests.

Dr. Brzezinski asked what our capabilities are to assist with internal security in Saudi Arabia. We are caught in a historical paradox. The things that will promote rapid development of the economy and political participation will also bring crises and probably disintegration of the present system. Our need for the next decade is internal stability rather than rapid change. Our policy, therefore, should be to direct Fahd away from buying F–15s toward achieving effective control of the population and the social forces of change. Should we develop a strategy in this direction? Internal stability for five or ten years would be a very good deal for the U.S.

Dr. Brzezinski next asked who in the government is in a position to prepare such planning. Komer said no one is. Christopher added that we are not good at it, and our laws proscribe many actions required for such a strategy. [7 lines not declassified]

It was agreed:

a. To develop a program for internal security assistance to Saudi Arabia.

b. To develop an approach to persuade the Saudis to accept it.3

Turner added that any approach should be regional, not just a single country approach, because terrorists operate across borders. Turner also observed there are a number of reports of skepticism about the U.S. longer-term determination to stay in the Persian Gulf; we have not yet persuaded states in the region that our present policy is serious.

Actions recommended by the State paper and approved by the SCC:

—Near term visits by senior U.S. government officials to the Gulf and by senior Gulf state officials to Washington.

—Financial and commercial actions:

a. Review our present posture with Congress and the IRS on U.S. tax on investment income of the Gulf countries.4

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b. Consider liberalization of our regulations on taxation of overseas Americans in bidding on foreign projects.

c. Provide a clear set of guidelines for the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

d. Take a position on repeal of current boycott language.

e. Increase the number of trade exhibits and missions we sponsor in Gulf States.

f. Approve the late April Franchising Mission to the four Emirates.

g. Continue planning for the FY 1981 promotional events, i.e. trade missions and major exhibitions.

—Economic and technical assistance: Respond to UAE unofficial approaches on reimbursable technical assistance, linking this with a concept of a business council or joint commission that would institutionalize Treasury Department access to this capital surplus country.

—Explore extending technical assistance to Bahrain at a level of $2–3 million annually.

—Saudi Arabia: The problem is not strengthening this relationship but keeping the variety of our efforts with the Saudis in harmony.

II. Military Presence in the Persian Gulf

a. Naval presence. Harold Brown reviewed three options in the Defense paper.5 Option one includes maintaining one carrier battle group in the Indian Ocean on a continuous basis, periodic land-based TACAIR deployments; periodic battalion-size exercises, probably in Egypt and Oman; and frequent B–52 operations. Discussion centered mainly on an enhanced version of this option.

All agreed that we should maintain our present level of two carrier battle groups until the hostage situation in Iran has been resolved. Dr. Brzezinski asked if we could hold the present level as long as the Afghanistan situation6 remains unresolved and then move to Option 1.

Harold Brown responded that to keep two carrier battle groups for the remainder of this year will virtually destroy the Navy’s budget and resource programs. Thus he recommends that after an Iran settlement, we drop to one carrier battle group and explore the use of periodic TACAIR deployments to substitute for the second carrier.

General Jones expressed concern that a dramatic reduction i.e., removing one carrier battle group, will be the wrong signal in the region at a time when we should be improving our overall military [Page 201] presence. Therefore, General Jones recommends that when one carrier battle group is removed, TACAIR be more or less continuously deployed in and out of Oman and Egypt. This would make up for the drop in naval air and at the same time lessen the resource demand on the Navy.

Christopher expressed a preference for Option 1 and noted that General Jones’s approach sounds too much like permanent bases in the region for TACAIR.

Turner added that carriers won’t have much impact on the Soviets because of their limited range toward the north. At the same time we must ask the question how can we take this decision without looking at the effect on our military presence in the rest of the world.

Brown admitted that keeping one or two carrier battles in the Indian Ocean would require a drawdown from the Pacific or Mediterranean. Moreover, another $150 million minimum operating cost will be incurred per carrier battle group.

There was further discussion of General Jones’s proposal to keep TACAIR more or less permanently in the region as a substitute for the second carrier. Harold Brown observed that his position was very close to Jones’s. At issue is only what time period the TACAIR would deploy. Christopher and Turner observed that the TACAIR might create the impression of an increased military presence rather than a substitute for the second carrier battle group. Dr. Brzezinski and Brown added that such an impression is desirable.

Harold Brown asked that we recommend to the President that he make a public statement about our commitment to keep at least one carrier battle group in the Indian Ocean. No one else supported this view. Political reasons, both domestic and foreign, were advanced against it.

It was agreed:

a. That we maintain the present level of two carrier battle groups until the Iranian hostage situation is resolved.

b. That we accept Option 1 as modified by Harold Brown to include more frequent TACAIR deployments to the region. We shall request the first TACAIR deployment in Egypt. It was judged better to delay such a request to Oman. Harold Brown and General Jones will try to find common ground on how much time each year TACAIR should be in the region.

b. B–52s to Diego Garcia. General Jones recommended that we approach the UK quietly to get permission for B–52 recce flights staged through Diego Garcia. Once that is obtained, we will tell the Congress just before the mission and try to complete a mission before it becomes public knowledge. General Jones also asked for permission to fly [Page 202] B–52s non-stop from Michigan through the Mediterranean, across Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Oman, eventually landing in Guam. Finally, he asked permission to open discussion with the Portuguese about B–52 staging at a Portuguese base. Most discussants liked Jones’s approach in the staging of B–52 recce flights through Diego Garcia. Christopher preferred that we only take the first step consulting with the UK, and then review the matter in light of the Iran situation.

It was agreed:7

a. To go to the UK for permission for the B–52 recce flights8 and then discuss the issue at the next SCC meeting.

b. That the non-stop flight from Michigan to Guam be approved if Egypt, Oman, and Saudi Arabia will grant overflight permission.

c. That State will raise the B–52 staging issue with the Portuguese at an upcoming opportunity.

Allied Deployments. Dr. Brzezinski asked Defense if it is clear what we want from the allies. Harold Brown replied that our talks with the Australians have clarified what we want from them, and he recommended that we encourage the British to go ahead with their planned deployment of two destroyers, three frigates and three or four auxiliaries to the Indian Ocean in 1980.

Concerning the French, Turner recommended that we ask the French to allow a carrier to participate in our Mediterranean fleet activities. This would substitute for drawdown of a U.S. carrier. Brown reported that the French have recently turned us down on such a request which passed through military channels.

It was agreed that Defense would draft a message for State to review and pass to the French at the political level. Dr. Brzezinski may also make an approach from the White House as a parallel effort.

Enroute basing. There were no objections to the series of efforts under way by State to improve our enroute basing access for deployments to the Persian Gulf.

Oman. Two issues were discussed. First, language for an agreement on security assurances; second, the form of the agreement.

All agreed that the form should be a Presidential letter.9 The language for such a letter was agreed as follows:

“In line with my general view of vital U.S. interests in the Gulf Region, I want to emphasize that the security and independence of Oman are of great importance to the U.S. The new cooperative arrange[Page 203]ments which have been concluded by our two governments are tangible evidence of our concern in this regard and are a mutual response to threats to the security of the sovereign nations of the region. Any such threat to the independence and territorial integrity of Oman would be regarded by the U.S. with grave concern, and in that event it would be our firm intention to consult promptly with your government on an appropriate reaction in accordance with our constitutional process . . . .10

The legal view in State is that this is not a bilateral agreement but merely a unilateral expression of U.S. intent. It does not, therefore, fall under the Case Amendment requirements for consulting with Congress.

It was agreed, however, that we shall keep the Congress fully informed of the details of the letter.

Additional assistance for Oman, Somalia, and Kenya. It was agreed to stand pat on the question of additional assistance for the present. Harold Brown asked that we make an exception for certain helicopter training programs with Kenya.

Dr. Brzezinski observed that such completion was fully within the President’s earlier guidance on assistance to these countries.

MAU exercise. Christopher asked that we postpone the issue until next time. Dr. Brzezinski observed that we had decided at the last meeting that we have already made the decision to have an exercise;11 the only question is where, in Kenya, Oman, or Egypt. The choice should be with State because Defense is indifferent from a military viewpoint. Christopher said that he might want to reraise the question of an exercise at all.

Pakistan. It was agreed that, because the issue is urgent, Harold Brown will read the Pakistan papers over the weekend and that all principals will be called early next week and asked if they have objections or questions which will require a meeting. If there are none, State’s recommendations will stand approved.

The next SCC 12 will take up the items not discussed on today’s agenda:

  • 1. Possibly Pakistan.
  • 2. Further discussion of a MAU exercise.
  • 3. The Komer paper on regional strategy.
  • 4. Post-settlement Iran.
  • 5. Afghanistan neutralization proposal.
  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 30, NSC/SCC Minutes, 1/16/80–2/29/80. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes are not attached and were not found. Carter wrote “Zbig J” in the top right-hand corner of the first page.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 56.
  3. Carter wrote “ok” in the left-hand margin next to these points.
  4. Carter drew lines from points a, b, c, and d and wrote a question mark in the left-hand margin next to each. Carter wrote to the left of these notations: “This is not the forum to change tax laws, etc.”
  5. Not found.
  6. Carter underlined “the Afghanistan situation” and wrote “may be permanent” in the left-hand margin.
  7. Carter wrote “Keep me informed” in the left-hand margin next to this line.
  8. See footnote 3, Document 129.
  9. See footnote 2, Document 66.
  10. Carter wrote “ok” in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph.
  11. See Document 56.
  12. See Document 62.