'As an army, no good; as bandits, all right'
The American National Security at George Washington University has released some archival documents involving the former US State Department Secretary, Henry Kissinger. These documents reveal how the old fox and veteran diplomat conducted important talks with the world leaders, particularly with leaders like Leonid Brezhnev of erstwhile Soviet Union, late Egyptian President Anwar E1 Sadat, Mao Zedong of China and former French President Georges Pompidou in the critical period of 1969-1977.
The archive has also unveiled the minutes of Kissinger's meetings with the former US presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George Bush and senior American officials like Donald Rumsfeld.
The documents, which throw light on the style of American diplomacy, also show how the US conducted secret talks on sensitive issues.
September 1970 is known as the Black September in Arab history and sometimes is referred to as the "era of regrettable events." It was a month when King Hussein of Jordan moved to quash an attempt by Palestinian organisations to overthrow his Hashemite monarchy. The attack resulted in heavy civilian Palestinian casualties. Armed conflict lasted until July 1971 with the expulsion of PLO and thousands of Palestinians to Lebanon. This discussion in Washington took place against this background
On Sept. 6, 1970, the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked four passenger aircraft from Pan Am, TWA and Swissair on flights to New York from Brussels, Frankfurt and Zürich; and on Sept. 9, 1970, hijacked a BOAC flight from Bombay to Rome. The Pan Am flight was diverted to Cairo; the TWA, Swissair and BOAC flights were diverted to Dawson's Field in Zarqa, Jordan. The TWA, Swissair and BOAC aircraft were subsequently blown up by the rebels on Sept. 12, with no casualties. The event is significant, as it was cited as a reason for the Black September clashes between Palestinian and Jordanian forces.
In Washington, Kissinger discussed various aspects of the crisis with officials form various departments such as state, defence, CIA, JCS and National Security Council. The following officials took part in the meeting: U Alexis Johnson, Joseph J. Sisco, Rodger P. Davis (State Department); David Packard, Robert Pranger ( Defence); Richard Helms, Thomas Karamessiness; David Blee (CIA); Thomas H. Moorer, Lt. Gen. Melvin Zais, General John W. Vogt ( JCS); Harold H. Saunders, Col. Kennedy, Jeanne Davis (NCS).
Excerpts from the minutes of the meeting:
Sisco: To bring us up to date on the hijacking situation, I have had a report from Bern that we have received a counter proposal from Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP): If the three governments will release the captured commandos (Seven in all and the body of the one killed), the PFLP will release all the women, children and sick without any discrimination as to nationality -- ie. including Israelis. As a second stage, they would exchange all the rest of the passengers for the Fedayeen (numbers unspecified) held by Israel. This proposal has a certain amount of public appeal and we consider it a clever PFLP strategem. It forces the four nations to decide to act together to turn down the proposal but put pressure on Israel; or, to act on a piece-meal basis and leave unresolved the most serious problem -- the exchange of the balance of the passengers for the Israeli-held Fedayeen.
Dr Kissinger: They are using the nationals of other countries as hostages for the Israeli prisoners.
Johnson: If Israel accepts, they accept the principle of hostages.
Sisco: Just before the Bern meeting, we are told, Eban sent a private message to Home to the effect that if the four countries acted together and held out for the release of all passengers and the aircraft, Israel would reconsider its position. At the meeting, the ICRC representative said the PFLP counterproposal was discriminatory and he would not proceed on that basis. He demanded the release of all passengers, without discrimination, and the aircraft;or the ICRC would pull out of the negotiations. The UK, German and Swiss representatives took the same position, and the proposal was rejected. The UK representative then asked for the Israeli position on the exchange of the prisoners. The US representative, as instructed, let others take the lead. The Israelis took a very hard line -- in effect "no deal". The four asked that the Israeli representative go back for instructions and he agreed to do so.
Ron Zeigler is having trouble with press reports about the possibility of military intervention. We should hold to a line which neither adds to the speculation nor is absolutely categorical that nothing is intended.
Johnson: We have said previously that we are relying on diplomatic channels and the ICRC efforts. We should stick with that.
(Sisco left the room at Zeigler's request)
Johnson: The situation in Amman has quieted down.
Admiral Moorer: The ambassador has not made any recommendation for an evacuation.
Kissinger: Who is fighting whom and to what end?
Davies: The 1st Brigade of the Jordanian Army and the radical Fedayeen-possibly the PLO.
Helms: It is unclear just who is involved. The King (Hussein) has said for the ninetieth time that if this present cease-fire doesn't hold, he has had it.
Kissinger: The radio report we had yesterday meant that Hussein was leashing the army, rather than unleashing it, didn't it?
Davies: Yes. He asked the army to restore control.
Kissinger: What is his game?
Helms: He wants to avoid fighting.
Kissinger: But that means his end. There is no way for him to get back control without fighting.
Saunders: He may think there is a difference between fighting now and after the hijacking crisis is over.
Helms: I don't think that is a determining factor. He is simply not willing to take on the Palestinians in his Kingdom, with the possible help they would receive from the Iraqis, possibly the Syrians. We have reports that the Fedayeen are virtually out of ammunition -- that they would have run out days ago if they had not been supplied by the Iraqis.
Johnson: What is there normal source of supply?
Helms: Various sources -- at present, the Iraqis.
Admiral Moorer: They have been buying arms and stealing them from the Jordanian Army.
Kissinger: How good is the Iraqi Army?
Helms: As an army, no good; as bandits, all right.
Kissinger: Can the Jordanians handle them.?
Helms: We don't know; probably,
Kissinger: But the Israelis could handle them easier.
Helms: No question.
Admiral Moorer: It would be no contest.
Kissinger: Can we discuss the additional assistance package for Israel which the president requested last Friday? Can we agree on a position that it shouldn't be done, but if it is done, this is a package that makes sense?
Packard: This package provides for 125 sorties. There is some dispute about the number of sites.
Kissinger: We can forward it to the president as the one making the most sense. We can tell him we have put together other packages for other contingencies.
Packard: This package includes the package already committed.
Kissinger: What will it lead to if the president sticks by his Friday decision to s end additional material ?
Johnson: The original package plus this add-on.
Package: This will double the sortie capability of the original package.
Saunders: It doubles the expendable munitions.
Kissinger: Should the president hold this for his discussion with (Golda) Meir or should we offer it now.?
Johnson: Hold it for Meir, by all means. The president can decide whether or not he wants to relate it to the New York talks.
Kissinger: Yes. Last week the president was relating it to the Egyptian violations. (to Johnson) Will you include this item in your memorandum to the president for his meeting with Meir.
Johnson: Yes. We will include our recommendation on this additional package.
Kissinger: (to Saunders) Will you do a memorandum to the president on the package.
Can we now review our hijacking contingency plans; We agreed yesterday on two categories: 1) a military evacuation of Jordan, and Z) a military campaign in support of (King) Hussein. We agreed that, if Jordanian troops could not succeed alone and outside help was required, that US troops would be preferable for the first category and Israeli troops for the second. The forces required would be roughly the same. (to Admiral Moorer) Have you been able to review what we might do?
Admiral Moorer: It is clearly understood that whatever we do from Europe must be such that it will not leak. Generals Throckmorton and Goodpaster both understand this. It is agreed that there is nothing we could do from Fort Bragg without a leak. We do have one battalion on 22-hour continuous alert plus flight time at Bragg.
Kissinger: So one battalion would be ready to go in 22 hours. Could others follow in 48 hours or when?
Admiral Moorer: There are two determining factors: The time required to marry the aircraft and the troops and that required to prepare and load the planes and troops for paradrop.
In Europe we have the Crescent Cap exercise in which one company of paratroops is prepared to load out and move in four hours. One light infantry battalion can move in 8 hours; others in increased times.
Kissinger: Can one company do anything?
Admiral Moorer: That is 484 men. They could seize and hold an airfield.
Kissinger: For 4 hours?
General Zais: There could be some paradrop follow-up if necessary.
Admiral Moorer: This is the best we can do without the risk of its becoming public.
Johnson: How long could they continue to hold.
Admiral Moorer: For several weeks. We would have the problem of readjusting our air assets. It takes 10-12 hours to get tactical aircraft to bases -- Turkey or Cyprus if we use land-based air.
Kissinger: The Turks wouldn't let us in, would they?
Admiral Moorer: Probably not. With regard to the Navy, some ships could begin to move in four hours without any public awareness. We could move two submarines into the Mediterranean to keep track of what the Soviet ships are doing. We could put ASW patrol aircraft into the central Mediterranean. We also have an amphibious operation on Crete which is due to be backloaded on Sept. 14. We have taken every action we can take now without signalling an increased alert. There is nothing else we can do now without risking a leak.
Kissinger: To recap, we could have one-company in within four hours plus flying time. We could have an infantry battalion in within eight hours plus flying time. The rest would follow -- how soon?
Admiral Moorer: Within 24-28 hours, including alert time and flight time.
Kissinger: What gaps would there be after the battalion gets in? How long does the battalion have to hold?
Admiral Moorer: 24 hours alone; 48 hours before a brigade could get in. You understand that two battalions are under strength due to the general worldwide draw-down of the Army. In the meantime, we could start moving units of the 82nd Airborne.
Kissinger: Would it be possible to put this on a chart?
Admiral Moorer: Yes, but the situation changes by the minute. For example, some European units are now moving to training areas and would have to be brought back.
Kissinger: It's easier for you to visualise these things than for me. The president will be deciding this issue in a condition of stress. Can we give him an idea of the magnitude of the problem?
Admiral Moorer: I think this is as far as we can go now.
Kissinger: It sounds right to me.
Packard: I suggest, rather than supply a plan now, that the chiefs keep the plan updated and when the president needs it he can call for it and get an updated plan.
Admiral Moorer: We could give you one to give you the feel of it. You should call us before you give it to the president, however.
Kissinger: I assure you no decision will be taken to implement any plan without the chairman and secretary Laird in the room. I was thinking of this for illustrative purposes.
Packard: (to Admiral Moorer) Your people should keep this updated.
Admiral Moorer: We have been keeping an updated plan since June.
Kissinger: Can we discuss the second operation -- to support Hussein. I'm aware of the argument that it wouldn't do Hussein any permanent good and it would be better if the Israelis did it, but we had better have a plan on the off chance we have to do it. There is one additional alternative. The president wants us to consider using aircraft against the Fedayeen -- not necessarily ground forces. If the King should ask for help, we should consider providing air support.
Admiral Moorer: Our first recommendation is that we should not get involved. If we do, our first preference would be for the use of air against ground units, LOC., etc. One problem is that the Fedayeen provide no discrete targets.
(Sisco left the room again at Zeigler's request)
If the Iraqis should come across, their LOC would be visible and could be attacked by air either from carriers or from Cyprus.
Kissinger: Can we have an operational plan?
Johnson: This would require a minimum of forward air controllers
Admiral Moorer: It is a feasible option.
Kissinger: Can you work it out?
Admiral Moorer: Yes. The Independence ( aircraft carrier) is only 100 miles from the beach.
Packard: This would require only giving an order to the carrier. (Sisco returned)
Admiral Moorer: Our third preference would be a ground operation in Jordan. The principal problem here is logistics. Initially, at least, we would have no seaport. We would require over flight facilities, or a move across Israel, a base in Lebanon, etc. The main difficulty would be fuel. If we had to mount a sustained operation, we would need ground access to Jordan proper.
Admiral Moorer: We would need clearance to move across Israel or Lebanon.
Packard: (to Admiral Moorer) You should emphasise your caveat that you recommend against the operation.
Admiral Moorer: Yes, I recommend against it. The problem is logistics. An air operation could be done, but a ground operation would be a real problem.
Packard: Not to mention what would happen if the Soviets intervened on the other side.
Admiral Moorer: The Soviets have good reaction capability. They are capable of moving from Black Sea ports in about 120 hours. They could have ground forces to Egypt or Syria within 15 - 16 days.
Kissinger: Once we put in our four brigades, that's it then, unless we bring in troops from Germany.
Admiral Moorer: No. We could take troops from Europe or from the US. We have a Marine Battalion in the Mediterranean, some Marine Battalions on the West Coast. We would be stripped clean, however. If this should happen, we are at a mobilisation level. If we got in a situation where there were indications that the Soviets were coming in, we shouldn't monkey around. We should tell the Soviets we mean business and show them by augmenting the 6th Fleet, moving tactical fighter squadrons and putting SAC on alert.
Johnson: We may want to do those things as a deterrent before the Soviets move.
Helms: Yes. If you wait until they move you're finished.
Admiral Moorer: Yes, we should establish a deterrent. We should call for partial or full mobilisation, ask for a budget supplemental, divert materiel from Southeast Asia. We can't do it half-way; we have to be convincing.
(To be continued)