75. Memorandum From William Odom 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


  • Oman Threat to Back Out of Base Access Agreement

Ambassador Wiley’s cable (attached) reports the Omani reaction to learning about Oman’s support role in the rescue mission2 after the fact.3 Zawawi puts the matter sharply: his government is now not prepared to sign the initialled text and is reconsidering the whole matter.

Wiley recommends that we send a Presidential letter at once explaining the rescue mission in its larger context and soliciting the Sultan’s own views and advice on the regional situation. Wiley hopes that this will serve as the basis to begin a damage-limiting dialogue.

Gary Sick recommends that we do much more, specifically that the President send a personal emissary for two reasons. First, it will reconfirm for the Sultan the special and personal relationship he seeks. That is, it might change the subjective mood, which being left in the dark on the rescue mission has created in Oman. Second, it will give the Omanis a clear report on the details of the rescue mission, their role, and the larger strategic problems.

Gary also argues that such an emissary should go without publicity, that is, secretly, at least until the mission is complete.

The candidates for such a mission are:

1. Brzezinski . You obviously would perform both functions, being close to the President and also knowledgeable of the region and the details of the rescue mission.

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2. Hamilton Jordan. He apparently is highly regarded by the Sultan and would be very welcome. He might need some one to go along with the details of the rescue mission and a strategy briefing.

3. Charles Kirbo . He would have most of Jordan’s advantages but not carry the same level of prestige as Hamilton.

4. The Harold Brown trio. Brown is supposed to go to Oman in the next few weeks, but his visit is different in character from what Sick recommends. In fact, without an earlier visit by a Presidential emissary, Brown mig [omission in the original]

5. David Aaron . David would carry some of the advantages that you have but in a lower key.

Other actions that should be considered:

—Ask British intelligence to be helpful in getting our relationship with Oman back on track. The British are clearly jealous of our entry onto the scene there. The consistently advise the Omanis to suspect US intentions.

—The Saudis should perhaps be informed, but Sick argues that they will not be helpful. The Saudis, however, might be helpful in holding down criticism of Oman by Islamic states.

—Egyptian and Pakistani intelligence might also help us damage-limit for the Omanis.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Defense/Security, Ermarth, Box 8, Oman: 4–8/80. Secret. Odom added Aaron’s name by hand to the addressee line.
  2. Reference is to the unsuccessful attempt to rescue the American hostages in Tehran. Documentation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XI, Iran: Hostage Crisis, November 1979–January 1981.
  3. Not attached. In telegram 1171 from Muscat, April 27, the Embassy noted that Zawawi “said our action has undermined basis for facilities access agreement and OmanGov not now prepared to sign.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P880025–0924)