78. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Follow up on Security Framework in the Persian Gulf—X


  • State

    • David Newsom, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • Matthew Nimetz, Under Secretary for Security Assistance, Science and Technology
    • Peter Constable, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
    • David Gompert, Deputy Director, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
  • Defense

    • W. Graham Claytor, Deputy Secretary
    • Frank Kramer, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs
  • JCS

    • Admiral Thomas Hayward, Acting Chairman
    • Lt. General John Pustay
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner, Director
    • Robert Ames, NIO for Near East and South Asia
    • Chuck Cogan, Chief of Near East Division
  • White House

    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • William E. Odom
    • Jasper Welch
    • Gary Sick

Dr. Brzezinski opened the meeting by adding one issue to the agenda, Somalia base access (S)

Defense Deployment Schedule

Defense was tasked to produce for this meeting a schedule of deployments in the region which will meet the “presence level” recom[Page 261]mended by Harold Brown earlier this spring for the remainder of the year. That level includes (a) ground forces of at least a battalion size, (b) at least two aircraft carriers, or some land based air equivalent, and (c) the present surface combatant level of naval forces. (S)

Claytor recommended a reduction. The Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) now in the Indian Ocean is departing in the next few days. Claytor proposed not to replace it until June 25. As a revised “presence level,” he recommended ground forces in the region only 70 percent of the time. He asked that we emphasize to the President that the new MPS (Maritime Pre-positioning Ships) will be in the Indian Ocean by late June. That will allow us to deploy a mechanized brigade, 12,000 men strong, on 12 days notice. As an additional reason for not replacing the MAU, Claytor noted that it cannot exercise in the region. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski and David Aaron asked why Defense was not proceeding with a MAU exercise. It was pointed out that not only have we made a “presence level” decision but the JCS has earlier recommended, and the President has approved, a gradual series of port calls leading to ground forces exercises later this year. (S)

Moreover, the Soviets are, for the first time ever, conducting a small amphibious exercise on South Yemen’s island of Socotra. While the Soviets are doing this, we will be taking our amphibious forces out of the Indian Ocean. Dr. Brzezinski suggested that this is the wrong signal at the wrong time which undercuts the U.S. credibility in the region and the President’s credibility in general. (S)

Nimetz argued that it is not a drawdown but a temporary gap until June 25. Defense argued that we do not exercise the MAU because of political problems. The JCS also talked about the risks of taking forces away from the Pacific and Mediterranean. At present, Libya is a problem for the Sixth Fleet. Dr. Brzezinski agreed that a gap in our MAU deployment may be acceptable if its reappearance in June is accompanied by an exercise. State agreed to look into the possibilities in Kenya2 although reluctantly. (S)

It was agreed that a cable would be drafted for clearance, inquiring about exercise possibilities in Kenya this summer. It was also agreed to recommend a gap in the MAU or ground forces deployment until June 25th on a one-time basis. (S)

Exercise Schedule

Defense presented its exercise schedule, generally describing the BEACON COMPASS scheme for involving U.S., British, French, and [Page 262] Australian naval forces in exercises in the Arabian Sea. This is an old and well established series which also includes Oman and Kenya. The Army and Air Force will have to wait and see what exercise options open up. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski asked about exercises with Jordan. Defense reported that the issue has been discussed with Bin Shaker and that both the U.S. and Jordan have follow-up work to do for some extremely modest combined activities. (S)

Next, Dr. Brzezinski asked State about getting Habib to explore an exercise with Oman. State has serious doubts that Oman will accept. (S)

Newsom asked what the purpose of the military exercise schedule is. It was explained that the initial NSC tasking had been for an exercise schedule with a military rationale to improve our contingency operation capabilities and at the same time to support a political strategy of building confidence in our security commitments to the region. The Defense paper3 provides neither. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski tasked State to develop a political strategy for the Defense exercise schedule. (S)

Allied Efforts to Support the Security Framework

State presented a paper with a comprehensive listing of each NATO country’s military, economic, and foreign policy activities in the Persian Gulf. Based on this activity and our own policies for the region, State recommended that we encourage a division of labor with our allies according to the following priorities:

1. Most important is that our allies increase their commitments to NATO’s defense. This is the greatest contribution they can make while the U.S. is building a security system for the Persian Gulf region. (S)

2. Facilitating U.S. enroute access for military contingencies in the region is the next most helpful thing the allies can contribute. They should be pressed to provide that access. (S)

3. On military exercises and deployments we should encourage our allies to go through with those they have already planned but not to do more at this time. (S)

4. We should encourage the British, French, and Australians to improve their rapid deployment capabilities, but we should not encourage them to go beyond their current plan. (S)

5. We should encourage the allies to expand their security assistance to key regional countries, particularly Turkey, but also Oman, Somalia, [Page 263] Djibouti, and Sudan. We should encourage them to maintain at least the same level of economic aid to Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan and to expand economic relationships with the smaller countries in the region. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski asked what the major problem is with the allies with respect to this division of labor. State answered that it is getting them to take up the slack. It was also pointed out that the Europeans may not clearly understand this division of labor. Defense responded that Harold Brown will be briefing on it at the DPC in NATO. There were no dissenting views on the State paper. It was agreed, therefore, to adhere to this division of labor for the foreseeable future in asking the allies for support in the Persian Gulf. (S)

Saudi Financing and Security Assistance in the Region

State provided a review of Saudi financing for security assistance for countries in the region. The most striking conclusion was that of eight countries where we have asked for Saudi assistance, only one, North Yemen, has actually received aid. For all other cases the Saudis have dragged their feet and failed to give tangible support. This is true even for Morocco where the Saudis were pressing the U.S. to act. Nimetz argued that we must face this issue squarely and take it to the Saudis. Newsom suggested, while it may be in part explained by Saudi bureaucratic ineptness, it may also indicate a Saudi reluctance to provide direct security assistance and a preference to provide only economic assistance. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski asked if it would not be useful to produce a set of talking points, setting forth the comprehensive review of Saudi and U.S. security assistance to the region, and discuss it with the Saudis. Nimetz strongly supported this proposal. He argued that until we have a dialogue, we will get nowhere. We tend to sit in our offices and assume that the Saudis will assist if we ask them, but we never press them in a vigorous and persistent fashion. Newsom agreed that it might be useful for Ambassador West to approach the Saudis on this matter. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski tasked State to produce a draft set of talking points for the next SCC. They should:

—Explain the U.S. security assistance to the region.

—Provide a view of the threat.

—Offer a plan for collaboration.

—List specific Saudi failures.4 (S)

[Page 264]

The SCC will review these talking points at the next meeting and consider Ambassador West as a channel for proposing them and a possible follow-up by Harold Brown in a meeting with Saudi Defense Minister Sultan, perhaps in June. (S)

Somalia Basing Access

State presented briefly two conflicting reports we have on Somali changing attitudes about granting U.S. military access to facilities in Somalia. First, there is the report from Mogadishu that the Somali Politburo has reached a decision setting aside the economic aid level for the present and making a U.S. security pledge far more important. This seems to be a green light for proceeding with our access agreement with Somalia. The Somali Ambassador in Washington, however, reported to Bartholomew yesterday that the Politburo decision is a ruse by Siad. The assistance level remains important. (S)

Aaron suggested that we respond to Siad by offering the same security pledge that we previously tabled and also offering to conduct an amphibious exercise in Somalia some time in June as a demonstration of our security commitment. This might resolve two problems at once: an agreement with Somalia and our need for an exercise site in the region for the MAU. There were no dissenting views expressed on this proposal. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski, therefore, tasked State to review this approach and to bring to the next SCC a proposed message to Siad making these two offers. A recommendation to the President on the matter will not be made until the SCC has reviewed that draft message.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, General Odom File, Box 44, Security Framework: 5/1–15/80. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes are not attached and were not found. Carter wrote “Zbig C” in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Attached but not printed is a May 14 memorandum from Odom to Brzezinski recommending that Brzezinski send the Summary of Conclusions to Carter. Odom noted: “I could compress the Summary of Conclusions, but I believe the President might profit from exposure to a more textured account of State’s and Defense’s reluctance to implement his military presence decision. Also, I believe it is important to get the five points on a division of labor with the allies spelled out and endorsed.”
  2. Carter underlined “Kenya” and drew an arrow to a note he wrote in the left-hand margin that reads: “Exercises in Egypt?”
  3. For the papers discussed at this meeting, see footnote 3, Document 77.
  4. Carter wrote “ok” in the left-hand margin next to these suggested talking points.