62. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Followup on Security Framework in the Persian Gulf—IV


    • Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher
    • Under Secretary for Political Affairs, David Newsom
    • Assistant Secretary Harold Saunders
    • Director, Political/Military Regional [Reginald] Bartholomew
  • Defense

    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • Deputy Secretary Graham Claytor, Jr.
    • Ambassador Robert Komer
  • JCS

    • General David Jones, Chairman
  • CIA

    • Director Stansfield Turner
    • Robert Earle
  • OMB

    • Associate Director Randy Jayne
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • NSC

    • William E. Odom
    • Jasper Welch
    • Gary Sick

Dr. Brzezinski opened the meeting with a brief mention of items for next week. We will ask Secretary Dayan to report to the SCC on his recent trip to Saudi Arabia.2 The Saudi Arabian internal security proposals should be related to Matt Nimetz’s activities. The Komer paper will be treated at a mini-SCC early next week3 and the results presented to the SCC following. (S)

[Omitted here is a section on Pakistan.]

MAU Exercise

Dr. Brzezinski asked State to clarify its view on the advisability of a Marine Amphibious Unit exercise in the Persian Gulf region.

Christopher argued that we should not move too rapidly in order to avoid souring of our relations in the region. We should not push any one to accept an exercise. The Iraqis, for example, are pressing the [Page 217] Omanis to avoid a military relationship with the U.S. It is better at the present time, therefore, that the MAU stay afloat or make port calls, not engage in an exercise. (S)

Brzezinski asked if State’s view includes all countries in the region, Kenya for example. Christopher replied that it does. Brown expressed the view that the two best possibilities are Kenya and Egypt in that order. Brzezinski agreed with Christopher’s overall assessment but suggested that “to push” is an expression that prejudices the decision. Should we not ask rather than push? Christopher argued that for the U.S. to ask is to push. Brzezinski agreed with regard to Kenya but not in the case of Egypt. Sadat will make up his own mind. It might give Sadat a boost, although what the Israeli reaction would be is uncertain. (S)

It was argued that although Sadat may be eager for an exercise, it would isolate him even more in the Arab world, something we cannot afford because Sadat is too valuable to us. As a challenge to this view, it was asked if having no MAU exercise would make him any less isolated or would it improve the possibility for future negotiations? In response to this question, it was argued that others in Egypt than Sadat perceive a serious internal threat from the PLO and therefore put a higher priority on eventually resolving the PLO problem than on the short run gain that might come from a larger military relationship with the U.S. (S)

General Jones suggested an alternative approach to exercises in the region, what he called a stair-step approach. The object is to accustom states in the region to a MAU presence. Acceptance of the present deployment is the first step. The second step can be port calls during which dignitaries come aboard the ship. A third step could involve port calls with helicopters flying non-operationally. These early steps will allow a military-to-military relationship to develop which could be used to prompt local military authorities to ask the political leadership for a combined exercise with the U.S. Once that step is achieved, we can give publicity to an exercise, even TV coverage, which will ratify a public acceptance. The important thing is a successful long-term presence, not just for an exercise this spring. In order to execute this approach, Jones asked that the regional commander have authority to deal directly with the ambassadors in the countries involved in the region. (S)

This approach was well received with three small caveats. First, Turner is anxious that we not press Oman early for fear of destroying that relationship. Second, Newsom wants Washington clearance on the last step where helicopters will be involved rather than leaving it to our ambassadors. Third, Christopher prefers to begin with one or two [Page 218] ships at a time not an armada-size port call. Fourth, State needs some lead time with the helicopter step in order to inform the Congress.4 (S)

[Omitted here are sections on Iran and Afghanistan.]

General Jones added a caveat about the fiscal implications for our Persian Gulf strategy. Harold Brown argued that in one way we have addressed it, that is, in telling the Europeans and Japanese that we may shift our emphasis to that region in military programs. Jones responded that this may be true with regard to one carrier or two carriers in the Pacific Ocean but not in the fullest sense. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Meetings File, Box 20, SCC Meetings: #285 Held 3/7/80, 3/80. 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 page. Odom briefed Brzezinski on the agenda of the SCC meeting and forwarded background papers in a March 4 memorandum. (Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 110, SCC 285, 03/07/80, Security Framework)
  2. See Document 210.
  3. See Document 63.
  4. Carter drew a vertical line in the left-hand margin next to this and the preceding paragraph and wrote “ok.”