84. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Followup on Security Framework in the Persian Gulf XII


  • State

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

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

    • Lt. General John Pustay
  • CIA

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

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

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

Dr. Brzezinski opened the SCC with a brief discussion of F–15s for Saudi Arabia and then turned to a longer discussion of U.S. access to military facilities in Somalia. (S)

Saudi Arms Request

The Saudi F–15 issue was kept on the agenda in the event any follow-up discussion was needed. Komer reported that it is settled on our side. Brown will raise it with Sultan on June 26th in Europe. (S)


Dr. Brzezinski announced that the PRC on Somalia will meet next week to review our broader policy toward Somalia. In the interim, however, we will pursue the present policy. Today, in the security [Page 278] framework context, we need to consider the negotiations as they relate to three factors:

—our military need for a base at Berbera;

—the nature and likelihood of the Ethiopian and Ethiopian/Cuban military threat to Berbera;

—and U.S. ability to contain and reduce Soviet influence in the region as a whole. (S)

Newsom gave a brief update on the status of the negotiations. We have had mixed responses from Siad and from Ambassador Addou. The ball is now in our court. Newsom reassured the SCC that there has been no deviation from the present policy of seeking an agreement. We are still on that course. (S)

Claytor spoke in the context of Dr. Brzezinski’s three factors, asserting that we need the base, and we also need to prevent it from falling into Soviet hands again. It is as important to preclude Soviet use of Berbera as it is to gain U.S. access. Claytor said that it would be a disaster for the U.S. to stand aside and let the Soviets take Berbera whether we have a security commitment to Somalia or not. Komer added that the Soviet position in the Horn, Dahlak Island, and Aden, places them in our rear area in the Persian Gulf region. If Berbera were added to the present group of Soviet facilities in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, our security position would be much worse. (S)

A second consideration for the U.S., Komer added, is the need to roll back the Soviets somewhere in the world. Why not in the Horn? Helmut Schmidt has encouraged us to do this. (S)

Newsom asked if U.S. access to Berbera will more likely deter or prompt an Ethiopian attack? Komer admitted that either effect could dominate but that the implications of not seeking access are much worse than risking an Ethiopian attack while we have access. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski elaborated the dilemma. The Ogaden insurgency will last, and Siad will feel freer to support the insurgency if we secure Berbera. If we don’t, however, our passivity itself may prompt an Ethiopian attack. Therefore, U.S. policy to cope with the dilemma should be to seek access to bases while refusing any assurance or support of the Ogaden insurgency. That should confront the Soviets and the Cubans with greater risks in sponsoring an attack on Berbera. (S)

There was a brief review of our initial rationale for seeking military access in Somalia. In the beginning, Bartholomew argued, it was entirely military. Now an element of denial to the Soviets has crept in. David Aaron countered that the initial rationale had been redundancy, i.e. getting as many bases as possible so that we can absorb a loss more easily. There was also a political rationale asserted from the beginning [Page 279] by the Vice President, that is, the political value of occupying a base which the Soviets have been forced to abandon. (S)

There was a brief discussion of the latest intelligence. The likelihood of a major offensive in the next few weeks is small. Some troop movement from Eritrea to the Ogaden, however, could be the beginning of a buildup for an offensive, but that buildup could not be completed before late July. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski queried Defense about our present capabilities in the region to deal with an Ethiopian, and possibly a Cuban, offensive. Although Defense was optimistic about our ability to handle a threat in the Horn, Komer admitted that our carriers can only provide air defense and limited air-ground support. Anti-tank ordnance for F–14s and A–7s is not available, a limiting factor in our capabilities. (S)

Dr. Brzezinski summed up the conclusion of the discussion as follows: An Ethiopian/Cuban occupation of Berbera, in the judgment of all present, would be a major setback for the U.S. policy in the region. We should, therefore, increase our safety margin slightly by getting into Berbera before an attack. If this proposition is valid, then we should stay on our present negotiating course, seeking access without giving in to Somali demands for greater security assurances. (S)

Komer added that we need to get other countries in the region to help us with Somalia’s demands. After a discussion of Egyptian willingness to become involved (Sadat is more enthusiastic than the Egyptian military), Dr. Brzezinski instructed Defense to prepare talking points which can be used with Egyptian Minister of Defense Ali to request combined U.S./Egyptian contingency planning for Somalia. The talking points will be coordinated with State and presented to the PRC if that is still needed and appropriate.2 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 114, SCC 320, 6/9/80, Persian Gulf Security Framework. 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 upper right-hand corner of the page.
  2. Carter wrote below this concluding paragraph: “Zbig—Make no plans or commitments to defend Somalia with US forces. We’ll discuss Friday— J.”