64. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Followup on Security Framework in the Persian Gulf—V


  • State

    • Under Secretary for Political Affairs, David Newsom
    • Assistant Secretary Harold Saunders
    • Director, Political/Military Affairs, Reginald Bartholomew
    • Counselor, Matthew Nimetz
  • Defense

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

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

    • Director, Admiral Stansfield Turner
    • Deputy Director, Frank Carlucci
    • Robert Ames, NIO for Near East & South Asian Affairs
    • [name not declassified]
  • OMB

    • Associate Director Edward Jayne
  • White House

    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • William E. Odom
    • Jasper Welch
    • Gary Sick

Dr. Brzezinski opened the meeting with a brief discussion of the agenda. Dayan’s report will be postponed until the next meeting. Pakistan should also be discussed at the next SCC. Finally, the issue of TOW missiles for Oman is added to the discussion today. (S)

[Page 222]

Rear Bases

Dr. Brzezinski asked Defense to report on the follow-up issue from the Komer paper, rear bases.2 Harold Brown declared that we definitely need rear base capabilities if we are to deploy to the region a U.S. military force of any significant size for several months or more. There are several ways to acquire such support basing. First, overbuilding Saudi facilities could solve part of the problem, but views within Defense differ on how much. Second, Egypt is the most desirable location, and Berenice and Ras Banas are prime candidate bases. There is no doubt about the need. The real question is how, when, and whether we can acquire such bases without unacceptable political consequences. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski asked if U.S. military personnel would be required at those bases. Brown answered that we could man them with a few U.S. contract civilians and many Egyptians. The Egyptians, he added, have shown considerable technical capability in logistics and support activities. Brown next asked General Jones to comment on the rear base issue.3 (S)

General Jones pointed out that, for the contingency of “holding the Soviets,” if this means the USSR pouring division after division into the area, we cannot do it. At the other end of the spectrum, a very small contingency, we can operate without a major rear base. For contingencies in the mid-range between these two extremes, bases are imperative, particularly for the U.S. Army and ground activities. Like Harold Brown, General Jones favors Berenice and Ras Banas. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski pointed out that there appears to be no request for a decision today beyond authority to study and propose such basing. Harold Brown agreed and offered to provide a paper within two to three weeks for State and CIA reaction. There was some discussion of basing in Turkey, the Sinai, and other areas. All were judged impractical or politically too sensitive to raise now. (S)

It was agreed that Defense will produce a paper on rear bases and submit it for State and CIA reaction before proposing it to the SCC. (S)

[Page 223]

Overbuilding Saudi Facilities

The next military issue, getting the Saudis to build their facilities to support our contingency plans, is, in Harold Brown’s view, something we should talk to them about as soon as possible. We know now that they are not building airfields and storage areas to the level we might desire. General Jones said that a military-to-military approach might get better results than an approach at the political level which makes overbuilding look like a political favor to the U.S.4 (S)

There was discussion of how to justify such an effort to the Congress for bases, which would be built by the Corps of Engineers. In particular, there would be worry about the threat to Israel of larger airfields. Harold Brown argued that we can disaggregate these issues by private contractor construction and by choice of bases to overbuild, i.e. not those closer to Israel. (S)

It was agreed that this issue would be looked at in the context of the foregoing discussion and the Defense study on rear bases. (S)

Guiding FMS Sales to Saudi Arabia

Dr. Brzezinski asked how we are to do this. Newsom said that we need to define U.S. needs before we can take such an approach. Brown conceded the point and also noted the difficulties caused by other foreign sales such as French equipment in Saudi Arabia. It can only complicate our contingency planning. (S)

Matthew Nimetz pointed out that we can make progress on this issue only after Ambassador West comes to Washington and we work out with him Saudi FMS requests and justification to the Congress. In particular, Nimetz is concerned about explaining the Saudi absorptive capacity for more and sophisticated weaponry which we might want to sell for our contingency use. Komer emphasized that there are, indeed, two concerns here. First, the Saudi absorptive issue and second, consideration for our use. We will have to work out a way to manage both within our legal constraints. (S)

[2 paragraphs (12 lines) not declassified]

Harold Brown said that we must detach ourselves for a moment and ask ourselves what we are trying to do. Is it not illegal for us to engage in internal police support activities for the Saudis? Considerable discussion of this point followed. The action, police support against terrorism, it was argued, is legal. If counterinsurgency is our aim, the [Page 224] question is how far to go, argued Harold Brown. Dr. Brzezinski said that this is the same issue he posed some time ago, how to buy time for the present Saudi regime.5 (S)

Next there was discussion of how the Saudis would react to our offer. Dr. Brzezinski said that they will not like it; our problem is how to sell it to them. State pointed out that there are [1 line not declassified]. CIA acknowledged this and argued that we should, therefore, approach the Saudis at a very low level.6 (S)

Dr. Brzezinski ended the discussion by tasking CIA for a paper on their programs for the next SCC which will be circulated and commented on by INR at State. (S)

Next Dr. Brzezinski asked Harold Brown to comment on DOD’s efforts to support internal stability in Saudi Arabia. Harold Brown listed a number of things that we might do:

—[2 lines not declassified] (S)

—[2 lines not declassified] (S)

—The U.S. military advisory effort might go beyond what the CIA proposes in its counterterrorism programs. (S)

—How to coordinate the contingency use of other forces in the region might be raised, although this is an extremely sensitive subject for the Saudis. (S)

—[2 lines not declassified], something that was sorely missed during the Mecca incident. (S)

State was concerned with the implications for military sales that any such defense advisory efforts might have. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski tasked Defense to prepare a paper on the above points for the next SCC and to take into account State’s comments on military sales. (S)

TOW Sales to Oman

Dr. Brzezinski expressed the President’s concern about the long lead time for U.S. TOW deliveries to Oman as they are now scheduled. Harold Brown explained that this is a long established and well known delivery rate for U.S. FMS. If, however, we want to make an exception for Oman, we can divert from other FMS sales, or we can take the equipment from the U.S. Army. If we do that, we can deliver the total amount by the end of July 1980, but the Army will file a complaint [Page 225] about the adverse implication which the Secretary of Defense will have to waive. The waiver must also be explained to the Congress. (S)

The discussion centered on the psychological impact that rapid TOW delivery would have. Dr. Brzezinski suggested that we split the delivery, making it half in July and half by the end of the year in order to sustain the psychological effect on the Omanis for a longer time. (S)

Next, the discussion turned to our need for an FMS stockpile. We are frequently taking sorely needed equipment away from our own forces for FMS emergencies. Tunisia was a recent example. Both State and Defense underscored the importance of developing a stockpile which allows a delivery rate equal to or better than the Soviet delivery rate. We are measured against the Soviet performance by states in the Persian Gulf region. (S)

It was agreed that Harold Brown will take steps to speed up delivery by diversion from the Army this year if the President approves. As soon as the President’s decision is known, State will notify the Omanis and consult with Congress.7 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 111, SCC 289, 3/17/80, Security Framework. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes were not found. Carter wrote in the upper right-hand margin: “Zbig—Discuss all of this carefully with John West before proceeding. My guess is that Saudis, Egyptians & Israelis will object to any US basing in their country. J.”
  2. See Document 63. Following the March 10 mini-SCC meeting, the Department of State produced an annotated version of the Komer Action Program to show the status of each recommendation. The annotated Action Program was sent by O’Donohue and Saunders to Christopher under a March 13 memorandum in preparation for the March 17 SCC meeting, which was originally scheduled to take place on March 14. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P870147–0499)
  3. Carter wrote in the left-hand margin next to this and the next three paragraphs: “I also do not want any public failure or rebuff, which I consider almost inevitable. Past experience indicates that all of this will be in the news before any decisions can be made.”
  4. Carter wrote “Very doubtful” in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph.
  5. Carter wrote “Discuss w/Cutler & w/West” in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph.
  6. Carter wrote “Who at a low level can make a decision?” in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph.
  7. Carter wrote “DoD, Give me a quick analysis & proposal” in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph.