82. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


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


  • State

    • David Newsom, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • Peter Constable, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
    • Reginald Bartholomew, Director Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs
  • Defense

    • W. Graham Claytor, Jr., Deputy Secretary
    • Robert Komer, Under Secretary for Policy
  • JCS

    • General David Jones, Chairman
    • Admiral James Lyons
  • CIA

    • Stansfield Turner, Director
    • Robert Ames, NIO for Near East and South Asia
    • Gray Cowan, NIO for Africa
  • White House

    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • Mr. David Aaron
  • NSC

    • General William E. Odom
    • General Jasper Welch
    • Captain Gary Sick

Marine Amphibious Exercise

State presented a paper2 recommending that our Ambassadors approach the Governments of Egypt and Kenya by June 1 to explore the possibility of a combined exercise with our amphibious force (the MAU) later this summer. Kenya as an exercise site occasioned no disagreements. Concerning Egypt, State asked that Defense list in priority all the requests for military activities with Egypt in the near future. If a MAU exercise is at the top of that list, then State supports the June 1st approach. If not, the exercise should be weighed against tother hings to avoid overloading Sadat politically with a U.S. military tie.

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Defense replied that an F–4 deployment, a survey team for Ras Banas, and possibly a request for permission to send nuclear powered ships through the Suez Canal are the only military activities now planned, and Egypt desires all of them. This is a very short list, it was agreed, which should not rule out a MAU exercise.

Defense asked for some flexibility in getting a MAU into the Indian Ocean. It will not arrive precisely on June 25 but perhaps as late as mid-July. The delay is required to permit a MAU exercise in Spain in late June and in Tunisia July 6–11. No one objected to this delay, but two political questions were raised with respect to Spain.

First, Dr. Brzezinski asked if the MAU exercise in Spain could possibly cause embarrassment during the President’s stopover in Madrid. Although Defense described it as a long-standing routine exercise, State was asked to review the matter and render a judgment about the political advisability of conducting it during the President’s visit.

Second, the MAU exercise in Tunisia, Dr. Brzezinski pointed out, could be presented as part of our response to the recent Tunisian request for military aid. State was tasked to give the President a report on Tunisia early next week which will mention the MAU as part of a reply to the military aid request.


Because of recent reports of a possible Ethiopian attack, Somalia, as a possible MAU exercise site, was discussed separately. The reassessment of all the intelligence indicates no imminent attack, and a six-ten week period required for preparations before an offensive toward Hargeisa-Berbera would be feasible. Nonetheless, Dr. Brzezinski added, we need to ask:

—Do we go ahead with an agreement now?

—Drop the idea of an agreement?

—Go into Berbera with a MAU deployment in order to deter an Ethiopian offensive?

After considerable discussion and debate on these questions, it was decided that the issue must be put to the President. Furthermore, both Secretaries Muskie and Brown must be present for discussion of the issue before a recommendation can be made.

State argued that we should go ahead with the security agreement. When Ambassador Petterson is in town next week, we should prepare him to go back and seek completion of our access negotiations. At the same time, State argued repeatedly, a MAU exercise in Somalia is ill-advised before an agreement is signed. It would encourage Siad to believe he had us hooked and could, therefore, raise his price for an [Page 274] agreement and at the same time do as he pleases in the Ogaden. A MAU exercise after an agreement would have some of the same undesirable consequences. It would also risk U.S. ground troops being involved against an Ethiopian offensive, a matter requiring consultations with Congress under the War Powers Resolution. State insisted that there is no significant new intelligence to alter our earlier assessment about an Ethiopian threat. It is, therefore, all right to sign an agreement because the risk of serious hostilities is not great.

Defense argued that we should go ahead with a MAU exercise as soon as possible, even before an agreement is signed. This would help us with MilCon legislation on the Hill.

Dr. Brzezinski argued that it makes no sense to conduct a MAU exercise before a security agreement is signed. Thereafter, we cannot, as State argues, refuse to conduct such exercises and to meet and defeat any Ethiopian incursion endangering U.S. facilities. If we will not meet the Ethiopian threat, then we cast serious doubt on our credibility for dealing with other threats in the region.

David Aaron recalled our cautious approach to the first Ogaden war in 1977. State opposed sending a carrier to Berbera because it might involve us in a war. Defense opposed it because they feared the carrier would prove vulnerable to attack. The consequence was an easy Ethiopian victory. We cannot repeat this performance. We can distinguish between military actions in the Ogaden and larger Ethiopian incursions into Somalia. Our criterion for responding militarily must be when a U.S. facility is in danger. Aaron also raised the possibility of a political settlement approach to the Ogaden.

Claytor and Dr. Brzezinski agreed that we can draw the line between actions in the Ogaden and Ethiopian attacks sufficiently large to threaten our interests in Somalia.

State noted that we had to take account of the Soviet naval activities in the Gulf of Aden if we decide to defend Berbera with air and/or ground forces. Dr. Brzezinski pointed out that this would be a rise in the threshold, calling into question our ability to deal with the Soviet threat anywhere in the world.

All agreed that the choices in this case are not easy, that the political consequences domestically, within the region, and vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, could be far-reaching, and that Muskie, Brown, and Brzezinski should discuss them with the President soon.

It was agreed that State will prepare materials for an SCC next week, when Ambassador Petterson is in town, about next steps in our security relationship with Somalia.

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Saudi Regional Assistance Financing

State presented a draft cable for Ambassador West 3 to use in approaching the Saudis on their overall assistance to regional military security. It is impressive because it shows that, contrary to a belief widely held, particularly in OMB, the Saudis contribute very little to security assistance. Dr. Brzezinski supported the State approach, but suggested a slightly revised presentation of the data, less detail on U.S. country-by-country commitments, greater emphasis on the overall U.S. figure, and a request to the Saudis for their country-by-country funding. Harold Brown, in his June meeting with Sultan, can review the issue again.4

Defense argued that the cable should not be sent; Harold Brown should raise the issue with Sultan first. Defense further argued that we are getting nowhere with our dialogue with the Saudis. We need to get past the details of F–15 fuel pods. Dr. Brzezinski responded that we are moving toward a more effective dialogue as evidenced by Secretary Dayan’s energy talks and Secretary Miller’s talks on monetary affairs. Harold Brown can now add the security dimension to the dialogue. Defense insisted that the Saudis’ response will be to ask about the F–15 fuel pods and to chide us about how little money we put up for regional assistance.

All agreed that we must resolve the F–15 issue before we can expect significant progress on the overall security dialogue. It is, however, an issue with political dimensions that only the President can decide. Harold Brown will be raising it with the President soon.

Dr. Brzezinski tasked State, Defense, and the NSC Staff to revise the cable to Ambassador West.

Next SCC Agenda

Dr. Brzezinski prescribed next week’s agenda as follows:

1. The Somali security agreement issue and instructions for Ambassador Petterson.

2. Follow-up on the F–15 issue with Saudi Arabia.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, General Odom File, Box 45, Security Framework: 5/16–31/80. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes of the meeting are not attached and were not found. Carter wrote “Zbig J” on the first page. Carter also wrote: “We should be cautious about becoming involved in the Somalia/Ethiopia military actions now or future” above the first paragraph.
  2. Not found.
  3. Under a May 28 memorandum that he signed for Tarnoff, Bremer sent a copy of this draft cable to Mondale, Brown, Jones, Turner, and Brzezinski. (National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, General Program Country Files 1980–1984, Lot 86D371, Box 2, Saudi Arabia 1980)
  4. See Document 217.