(11 April 1991)

Hermann Eilts played a pivotal role in representing Washington to Egypt and vice versa in the 1973-1980 period. He knew Egyptian President Sadat as well as any American official in the period when Egypt turned to Washington and away from Moscow, and as he made peace with Israel. He provides vivid and detailed insights into Sadat’s decision-making. Sadat did not allow his pan-Arab outlook of events to overtake what he wanted first and foremost for Egypt: full return of Sinai to Egyptian sovereignty. Eilts charts the changes in Sadat’s thinking as he slowly reached for a treaty with Israel. In the end, Sadat was not going to be deterred by his Arab peers who sought to delay the fulfillment of his national interest. Neither Sadat nor the Americans could persuade Arab leaders in Jordan, Syria, the PLO, or Saudi Arabia that Sadat was simply not making a separate peace. Sadat knew full well that none of these Arab leaderships were then prepared to accept Israeli legitimacy in 1979. 

Ken Stein 8.2.2022

KWS: The beauty of doing the interview with you is, I have as a precursor the Hofstra tape. [Tape of panel on “Camp David: A Retrospective,” November 1990. Also on that panel were Bill Quandt, Hal Saunders, Samuel Lewis, and Dan Kurtzer.]

HE: Which tape? 

KWS: The tape from Hofstra.

HE: Oh, right.

KWS: So, what I can do is I can probe beyond that.

HE: Go ahead.

KWS: You said at the Hofstra conference, you said Sadat was not a lover of other Arabs, what did you mean by that remark?

HE: Sadat was an Egyptian and an ultra-Egyptian. By that I mean, Egyptians generally, not just Sadat but others as well, see Egypt and the Egyptians as the epitome of the Arab world. There is this constant identity crisis that the Egyptian faces. Is he an Arab? Is he a Muslim? Is he a Mediterranean? Is he an African? Is the emphasis Islamic, is it something else, and they are all torn on this one. Now Nasser was the epitome of the Arab aspect. Sadat, in contrast — and I think he changed in the course of his leadership period — shifted from being pan-Arab, if you will, but never giving it up, to being Pharonic, Egypt first, and therefore as he went along, he tended to emphasize the aspects of Egypt’s problems: Sinai, etcetera, more than West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, etcetera

KWS: When did that transformation take place?

HE: My own view is that it took place — I think there was always an element of Pharonic in him. I had met him first in 1966 when he came to the U.S. on a visit, but I think it really began to become important in the post-’73 period, and after the first meeting with Kissinger. He was very impressed with Kissinger. Now there’s a school of thought — and I don’t deny that this was probably a factor in his thinking — that argued that this is the school of thought that was very prominent in Israel and some Americans are also believing, that by ’73, and especially after the war, Egypt desperately needed peace because of economic problems.

KWS: By ’73, you mean before the war?

HE: No, before, but particularly after. But it could have been before, I mean, the argument is the same, essentially. He desperately needed it, and therefore everything he did to seemingly separate Egypt from the other Arab states, in terms of the peace process was the result of economic consideration. From the Nasserite brand of pan-Arabism to this greater Pharonic aspect. And I think it was emphasized, I said it a minute ago, after Kissinger’s trip. He saw the possibility of a settlement, but not just a settlement for Egypt, that was never his total intention. But Egypt was first. He thought Egypt could lead the Arabs into a peace, and I think that was one of the disappointing things that he discovered that he could not do.

KWS: How did that affect his ability or willingness to work in harmony with his Arab leaders? He wanted to be the leader, he wanted them to come along?

HE: Yes.

KWS: I don’t want to put words in your mouth. 

HE: And he always believed that they would. The interesting point is that in that period after the war of 1973, in 1974-1975, that is between Sinai I and Sinai II, and just before Sinai II, as you know, Fahmy had quit as foreign minister and deputy prime minister. Fahmy had been named right after the October War, he was not foreign minister then, he had been named. When it came to convey, Fahmy was a superb drafter, he was a superb foreign minister in many, many ways, never mind his views, prejudices, etcetera But all of the communications between Egypt and the Arab League were done by Sadat. Fahmy handled all the rest, but all communications with Arab leaders, Fahd, Khalid, Hassan — That was done by Sadat. So he kept that in his hand. He was absolutely convinced that he had the knowledge of the Arab leaders, the trust of the Arab leaders, and I think in this, he was wrong to handle it.

KWS: Why was, why did he possess this miscalculation?

HE: I can’t tell you exactly why he had that miscalculation. I would argue myself, it was partly because he was Egyptian, and every Egyptian leader believes he can handle other Arab leaders. And Sadat was Egyptian, and given the pharonic emphasis that I’ve talked about a minute ago, that he makes that aspect even more important. He didn’t see it, that the pharonic thing went another way, he saw it as the leadership role. And he felt that he could do it. And I must say that during the war, the ’73 War, King Faisal, who had had a very deep distrust of Nasser, the day I left Saudi Arabia in 1970 — and by that time the Saudis were providing economic aid — and I went to thank… Faisal said, “You know, Nasser, he’s well-behaved now, but he’s a danger, a danger to all of us, so yes I’m providing this aid, but I have no trust whatsoever in him.” And then came Sadat, who no longer projected himself as the ex-leader of the pan-Arab movement, and began to court, if you will, in political terms, Faisal, and that was the important element, that was the money aspect. Faisal, who had at the 1965 Jidda conference when they were all sitting there, said to Nasser [while] pointing to Sadat, “That is the man who got us into the Yemeni War.” Faisal, by now, had totally changed his mind. Sadat was something he could accept. 

KWS: Faisal put the responsibility on Sadat for Egypt’s involvement in the Yemeni war.

HE: That is right, for Egypt in 1965.

KWS: For Egypt’s involvement?

HE: Yes, which was in large extent true because Sadat’s brother-in-law was a Yemeni named Ahmed Bedani, a guy who had been one of the more liberal Yemenis, had gone to Germany, had trained in Germany, he is still living in Egypt, very successful businessman. And Bedani had persuaded Sadat — because of the contact was through the brother-in-law relationship — that Yemen was easy pickings in 1962. And Sadat then had persuaded Nasser that that was the case. So the Egyptians supported the republican revolution and then came the agony for Egypt of that revolution. In any case despite all of that, in Egypt and with Nasser this has hurt, this has blunted Sadat’s copy book. But with Nasser suddenly disappearing — and remember he died suddenly, it wasn’t expected [to do so], and there was a question in Egypt of Ali Sabri and Joma and all of that, and Sadat, who was vice president, while under the constitution the president of the parliament, the chairman of the parliament, has three months to call an election and Sadat outmaneuvered Sabri, etcetera..

KWS: The corrective revolution of May 1971.

HE: Right, and so Sadat comes in, corrective revolution always when it’s desirable, politically, domestically, and in the Arab world as a whole, rooting his point in Nasserism, which is after all somewhat flexible thing. And when it’s not necessary to do it, he [Sadat] goes his own way. But essentially, as I come back to what I said, Sadat was a pharaonic, in the sense Egypt comes first.

KWS: Was there anything in his personal character, Hermann, that in hindsight, looking back as you saw him evolve as a political personality, 1974, 1975, 1976, that might make you now say, “Yes, I should have seen that, I should have understood that, yes, he would do something grand and dramatic”?

HE: No.

KWS: It was totally out of character?

HE: Yes.

KWS: Or am I again putting words in your mouth?

HE: I don’t know whether it was totally out of character. I make the contrast between the Sadat that I had met, didn’t know, but I had met in 1966 when he came to the US, and he was very much of a Nasserite, and the Sadat that I then learned to know, and know intimately, two or three meetings a day, a direct telephone line every day, from the time or shortly after I got there. Sadat had changed enormously, and those who make the charge that…

HE: You want to be careful, Ken, I don’t want to be quoted on that.

KWS: I’ll keep it off the record.

HE: … that say Sadat was a chameleon, are right in terms of that earlier Sadat, and in terms of later Sadat. Now, I talked to him about this, not in terms of saying, “You’re a chameleon, Mr. President,” but, “Why Mr. President did you have this, do this and this?” “Well,” he said, “we all learned, the situation changed, we made a mistake, when Nasser…”

KWS: What mistake was he referring to?

HE: The ’67 event, where…and he blamed it not on Nasser but Egyptian Army Chief of Staff, Abdul Hakim Amr, which is of course what Nasser did. He said, “We made a mistake, and we have to recover this somewhere. And the only way to do it, we tried with the Soviets, in the 1971 treaty, they couldn’t do anything.” So, he moved in our direction. First, the business of offering to sign an agreement with Israel, which we didn’t pick up at all…

KWS: February ’71.

HE: But, then as he himself later said, “I offered to sign an agreement, not a treaty.” He made a distinction between an agreement and a treaty. 

KWS: But you understood him to be sharp enough, and shrewd enough, to make those kind of subtle distinctions?

HE: Oh, yeah.

KWS: This was just no peasant. This guy had learned a lot as…

HE: This was no peasant. 

KWS: This guy had learned a lot since he came from the village.

HE: Yeah, but let me…yeah, right, sure. Now I have to make a point. Sadat was a man of abstractions, generalities, you know, “I felt this way before, I feel this way now, we’re working in this direction, never mind the details.” Therefore, if the Israelis or somebody else says, “Well, what about what you said on this day?”, etcetera — never mind, that’s not important, it’s the generality. And that was his big problem, and that was the problem at Camp David. Because Jimmy Carter, for whom he had the greatest regard, Carter did all of this, never pressed him on points, whence A, B, C, D. Begin was a man who dotted every “i” and crossed every “t,” etcetera So, you had two totally — at Camp David — disparate persons in terms of their approach. And even going back and in terms of your question, Sadat always thought in generalities, the grand signor, “Okay, today I feel this way, I had reason to change my mind and go the other way and you should accept me as I am.” Today, today.

KWS: And don’t worry about what I said yesterday?

HE: That’s right, exactly.

KWS: If I said peace could not be achieved in five years, that’s what I said yesterday, now I think it can be achieved.

HE: Right, and you know, you can’t blame him for that.

KWS: But did you see that as an ambassador that he would do these shifts, he would — these flip-flops, did you see that in 1974 and 1975 and 1976?

HE: Um hm, in part.

KWS: I mean, if you were writing the psychological profile for the CIA on Sadat prior to Camp David for Jimmy Carter would you have added to that profile that…

HE: I did write part of that profile, yes. But you know you’re asking me questions that cannot be answered in black and white…

KWS: I understand, that’s why I have to ask them of people though, because I can’t get them out of documents. 

HE: That incredible personality of Jimmy Carter had a tremendous effect on Sadat. And he had already decided after the ’73 War that he had to work with us and was willing to do so and the Kissinger thing, and Kissinger — he had great regard for Kissinger, although he didn’t, he never trusted Kissinger fully. 

KWS: I see, the distinction is that he had great regard for him, but he didn’t trust him.

HE: Well, you know…

KWS: Look, I just had an interview with Jimmy Carter last week, in which Carter said, quote to me, “This is not for the record, but Kissinger lied…”

HE: Sure, he did.

KWS: “Kissinger just blatantly lied to one side in order to make a point with the other.”

HE: Well, let me give you my view on that. I don’t know what Kissinger said to Sadat the first meeting, because I wasn’t there, I was not then named ambassador, but the next time I was. I have to say that I have never seen Kissinger lie to Sadat. The problem was not lying, the problem was telling him half the story.

KWS: I understand that.

HE: And not the half-truth, the half of the story, this and this, not saying what the other side might be, and then coming back, “Well, they said this and this,” when Henry knew along what the Israelis would say. Now you can call that lying, but it’s not.

KWS: I know the distinction.

HE: But he deliberately made the point.

KWS: I see the distinction.

HE: But that was Henry’s style. And let me say, after the first several meetings, Sadat fully understood Kissinger, fully. It didn’t mean he didn’t want to work with him. Of course, he did. But he understood; he was not deluded by this any longer, and especially — I’m sure you have it in your library — I think it must have been in late 1974 or early 1975, a book came out by an Israeli scholar, on Kissinger and his operating methods, and I forget the title of it…

KWS: Maybe it was Matti Golan’s book [The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger]

HE: Matti Golan, right. In which, of course, all of this was indicated. Sadat was sent a copy of it and was deeply hurt.

KWS: Why?

HE: There was an element of naivete about Sadat…I say none of this critically, he was a wonderful man…but anyway, but he, he had not expected that Kissinger would do this. And Kissinger’s comments in that Matti Golan book about how Assad had been hard to handle, but Sadat had been so easy to handle, that really upset him, Sadat. You remember that quote. And nevertheless, he still had to work with us, Kissinger with us. But from that point on, Sadat was somewhat more careful as I saw him. But still, he wanted to move toward a peace, and therefore he had to go along with some of these things. But the degree of confidence that he had had in Kissinger before the publication of that Matti Golan book diminished after it was published.

KWS: Was his interest in working with us was of greater interest to him than how his Arab brethren would view him?

HE: Yes. But for this reason — with Kissinger’s first trip, at the end of it, it wasn’t over yet formally, but in October, early November 1973, and Kissinger — Kissinger is very good, I mean, at this kind of thing. His [Sadat’s] purpose in the war did not, he never expected to be able to drive the Israelis out. It was to get us back into it, the negotiating process, peace process. He had tried this diplomatically…

KWS: Did you believe that or is that hindsight?

HE: No, absolutely, I believe it. He had sent [National Security Council advisor] Hafez Ismail to talk to Kissinger in Paris and in Washington. Kissinger had in effect told him, “You cannot hope to get in negotiations and diplomacy what you cannot do through war.” Kissinger had not intended this to suggest you should go to war, but to — because he believed the Egyptians had no capability to go to war — to make them realize that they should go to the negotiation table.

KWS: Parenthetically, it sounds like April Glaspie is speaking [Stein reference to.]

HE: Well, okay, all right. Anyway, having twice said that to Hafez Ismail, Sadat concluded that he had to have a fight, a war, to bring us back into it, the negotiating process, because otherwise we wouldn’t do this on the basis and so he planned this thing. He never intended to go beyond Gidi and Mitla [Passes], he never thought he could…

KWS: Sure…

HE: …’course he never got that far.

KWS: Right.

HE: Anyway, it was his — that military action was based on that principle. Now, right, and he attacked, and in many ways was more successful than the Egyptian military ever realized or anticipated. 

KWS: For sure.

HE: They had expected…

KWS: Right.

HE: …that to get through the Bar-Lev line, across the canal, get through Bar-Lev, would take at least seven days. They got through in three days. And the Israelis were in a state of turmoil and distress. So, they weren’t ready for it, and of course, the Syrians they had this damn business of the Syrians and their coordination which was never very good, and so they stopped, they paused to refit, they didn’t want to get out from under their defense umbrella. Syrians were oppressing the Israelis or hitting us in Golan within 35 kilometers of Damascus. And so the Egyptians had to attack again, to relieve the pressure on the Syrians. And at that point the Egyptian military strategy sort of goofed. They got out from under their umbrella, the Israelis hit them from the air, and there was an incredible lack of communication between Second [Field] Army and Third [Field] Army. Second Army, commanded by a tank general, who later became governor of Cairo; Third Army commanded by an infantry general. And so they crossed the canal — this is still a source of bitterness in the Egyptian Army — they crossed the canal; they sprayed these high pressurized hose water cannons. Second Army tanks came across, and you know, they didn’t expect it would be that easy, but it turned out to be. But Second Army commander, tank commander, had made preparations that if you’re going to get through a mud pile, you’ve got to have, you know, tank treads, not tank treads, but treads that your tanks can get across the mud, and he had prepared for this. Third Army commander had his rifle, infantry command, you wouldn’t believe it, he’d forgotten it. Somehow it never got to him, or if it did, he didn’t do anything about it. His first tanks got stuck in the mud. Here was Second Army through, Third Army was not. At least that’s the way the Egyptians tell it.

Before they were able to correct that, 18 hours had gone by to get Third Army tanks across. They had another breakthrough with these water cannons, and get them across, and that delayed their schedule. As I have always been told, including by Sadat, the objective was: breakthrough Bar-Lev and get to the Western side of Gidi and Mitla Passes, to the western side, that would have been another 25, 30, 28 miles, depending on where you are. And they got stuck in this damn thing. And then we’re stuck there, and by the time they had regrouped, the Syrians were hit hard and the question arose, what do you do? The Egyptians say, “We need it because we were so successful, we were four days ahead of schedule,” despite what I’m telling you here, I told you before — we weren’t ready yet to go on. It was too fast for us. And now the Syrians are hit in Golan by the Israelis.

So, the order was given to attack to relieve the Syrians. And they did and in the process of doing so got out of their air cover — that is boundary air cover — and the Egyptian Air Force wasn’t worth a damn, Mubarak, notwithstanding. And as they got out, of course, the Israelis hit them, by air.

KWS: Is that why Sadat proposed the idea of an international conference in the middle of the war, on the 16th when he made the speech at the Egyptian Parliament? The whole effort was to get the American…?

HE: The timing yes, the idea to get us in, the Soviets in, yes, they were surprised.

KWS: Who’s the they?

HE: The Egyptians, at their success. Then, by the 16th, they were no longer in that happy position, and so he proposed. Now he had been in touch with Kissinger, through Hafez Ismail…

KWS: Did Kissinger make the suggestion for the international conference or Hafez?

HE: No, the Egyptians did. Kissinger accepted it in part because the Russians were talking about sending possibly, they had mobilized some of their air divisions in Crimea, in the Caucuses. Remember this is the period of detente where we’re trying to develop detente, that the idea of an international conference came about. First, a ceasefire, but as part of that international conference.

KWS: But you’re telling me that the notion of an international conference that was part of Sadat’s speech was part of pre-negotiations that had already taken place between Hafez Ismail and Kissinger, that a conference…

HE: No, not Hafez Ismail and Kissinger. That had taken place when the war started between Kissinger, the White House, and Egypt. Hafez Ismail, well, I guess Hafez Ismail, was still involved because the channel of communication was not the State Department channel but the back channel. And so because Hafez Ismail had met twice with Kissinger, once in Paris, etcetera, Kissinger was using at that point in time that CIA back channel through Hafez Ismail, and so yes, Hafez Ismail was the intermediary. And that then, very quickly, after I got there…

KWS: You went there when?

HE: Third of November…

KWS: 1973?

HE: Yes. When you know the October 22nd ceasefire had been approved but it wasn’t working. In any case, in my first week there…

KWS: What a time to get to Cairo, it’s like Ambassador Richard Nolte getting off the plane in ’67.

HE: Right, right.

KWS: What crisis? At least you knew.

HE: Well, I didn’t ask that question. I guess my second or third day I got a copy, I must say I appreciated this because it sort of changed the whole structure of my operation. I get a copy of a message sent to me by Henry Kissinger — through back channels, he was still at NSC — saying I have sent this yesterday to Hafez Ismail, in which he had raised certain points, this time about the ceasefire and what was going to be done. Third Army the Israelis wouldn’t let sweaters through, they wouldn’t let food through, etcetera, and the Egyptians had complained about this. And here I get this yesterday to Hafez Ismail, saying certain things about what they ought to be doing. And then saying to me in the message he sent me, back channels not State Department, to pass this on to Ismail Fahmy. I must say I was annoyed because it meant that he was passing things to the Egyptian government through one of my subordinates, the CIA, who wasn’t even [my] senior. And then the shit hit the fan. I sent a message to him, on my own, “If I’m going to be here as ambassador either you send things like that to me to be passed on or you withdraw me,” and I’d been there only three or four days. Fahmy, to whom I passed the message, absolutely hit the ceiling.

KWS: He hit the ceiling because of the content or…

HE: No, not the content — the method, the fact that the message was initially passed through Hafez Ismail, Egyptian NSC advisor, was foreign minister, deputy prime minister — no, he was only foreign minister at the time, not deputy prime minister. And he said if Henry wants to handle his business through Hafez Ismail — there was deep personal rivalry as you might imagine — that’s his business, but then tell him I’m not prepared to do anything in connection with this. And so, Henry got my complaint on procedure and he got the foreign minister’s complaint. And I got a message from Kissinger saying, “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything on this. It’s the way we were doing it before, we haven’t had an ambassador before, and no, tell Fahmy whatever he wants,” and you know this was part of the rivalry within the Egyptian government as Hafez Ismail handled things, or the foreign minister handled things. So I go to see Sadat, what does he want, because he had, remember, this past association with Hafez Ismail and Fahmy was a newcomer on the scene. He had been minister of commerce, and had just been named foreign minister. So, there we were in the situation, and I had not yet seen Sadat — the idea had been that when he was ready to see me, because I was ambassador, but still head of an interest section; the formal ambassador was a Spanish ambassador. 

KWS: When did you become formally the ambassador?

HE: Well, I went there from the beginning as ambassador, but to recognize an American ambassador was not ’til we established diplomatic relations, which is not ’til the end of February, February 28th as I remember, 1974. After Sinai I, and not just Sinai I — that was in January, but after the withdrawal provision had been fully implemented and then we raised our flag again — Henry was there, Fahmy came, and in the embassy compound we raised the flag. But this was almost at the beginning. Within a week after my arrival, the conflict — Henry had — I objected to his using CIA channels and Fahmy objected to his using somebody else, Hafez Ismail. So Henry was faced with the awkward situation and he handled it. And I have to say for Henry that he sent me a message saying, “Please tell after you’ve talked to Sadat;” [he] said, “You know, there was a problem for Sadat too,” — Hafez Ismail and Fahmy, Fahmy was the brains of the outfit, this was the guy who drafted things.

KWS: Sadat understood the difference between Fahmy and Hafez Ismail. Hafez was a mailman.

HE: That’s overstating it. Hafez Ismail was an old confidant of his, a military guy who had been head of intelligence in years past, kind of a guy that Sadat in what you might call his more conspiratorial moods, found him easy to work with. Ismail Fahmy had been minister of commerce and then would move to foreign minister, Ismail — Fahmy, difficult though he might be, he was a brainy kind of a guy.

KWS: Did he have influence over Sadat?

HE: Not initially. But Sadat did call him in because he needed somebody, you know, in terms of blaming Hafez Ismail — Ismail was a variable guy, but he wasn’t a kind of guy who could get things out. He was not a manager. He had been in the intelligence; he had just been involved in getting things out. Ismail Fahmy, undersecretary — previously, before he became minister of commerce — undersecretary in the Foreign Ministry, had been at the UN. Here was a guy that at the time when diplomacy was becoming active again, Ismail was there. He could get out a hundred messages a day drafted by himself. As I said to you before, the only messages that Sadat, who was not a very orderly person — normally he was a man of abstraction — continued to handle, most of the Arab leaders. But it was Fahmy who drafted them. Fahmy could draft thirty messages a day, and they were superb. I mean, you might not agree with him, but this guy was good. So, Sadat — when I said to you before, to sound him out, what does he want, and he knew I was mad and he knew — Fahmy said, “Want to do it, go to Hafez Ismail? That’s fine, but then forget about me.” So it was a question which even Sadat hadn’t thought about because each of these guys was obviously wanting to be the channel of communications.

KWS: Compare for a moment Sadat’s advisors prior to the reconvening of the Geneva Conference, or the convening of the Geneva Conference in 1973 and Sadat’s advisors prior to Camp David in 1978. The capability, their style. Now I guess we can include Nabil Arabi, we include Osama [el-Baz]. Osama was just in a different league than Fahmy?

HE: Yes. Remember Fahmy was a minister, became foreign minister and then became one of the deputy prime ministers. Now here was a guy very high on the hierarchy scale. Fahmy, Hafez Ismail, everybody else, [General Mohamed al-]Gamasy, at the time of Sinai I January ’74, urged the President not to sign it. This is a disgrace to Egypt that what we were able to do in the war, what the Americans are producing is a disgrace. And, Hafez Ismail actually resigned as a result of that.

KWS: Because he wanted it signed?

HE: He would have accepted an agreement. There was no question about that. But Sinai I was so small, so insignificant in terms of territorial gain, that he said, “After all, we crossed the canal. We kept the Bar-Lev line.” Never mind the Third Army was surrounded and could have been taken, that’s because the Americans provided the help to the Israelis. Because they all knew that on the fourth day of the war, Golda Meir had called Kissinger and said, “We’re in trouble. If you do not send immediate help, we are in trouble.”

KWS: And they knew that?

HE: Oh sure, they knew all of that. They had monitored it.

KWS: Where were you during the war?

HE: At Carlisle [Pennsylvania], the Army War Compound College.

KWS: Did you know about your appointment yet, when the war started?

HE: No.

KWS: No. You only found out during the war. You got there November third, you had to find out before Resolution 338.

HE: I went down with an Army War College group to Panama and while in Panama, having dinner with our group with the SINC-South at the time, the word came through global class nuclear alert.

KWS: Defcon three.

HE: The question was, you know, there — why should we be — what’s going on? Anyway, that was a matter of a day or two. Got back to Carlisle, had a message there to see Henry Kissinger the following day in Washington. Went down to Washington. I’d known Henry, I’d not known him. And he said, “I’m going to be going to the Middle East next week. I understand you know something about King Faisal. Tell me how should I handle King Faisal.” So, I didn’t know what he was going out there for, but I told him I knew something, so we sat for an hour and he said, “Oh, by the way, you know I’m going next week.” I guess it was two days hence, to the Middle East. His first trip as Secretary of State and I think, I don’t know, I think we’ll probably be resuming diplomatic relations with the Egyptians. I was at that time named as ambassador to Bangladesh, a job that been kept open to me for a year because of a health problem. Kissinger said, “Would you like to go there?” I said, “Sure.”

KWS: Would you like to go to Cairo, he said?

HE: Yes, right.

KWS: Henry said that to you?

HE: Yes.

KWS: Who else was considered for the job, do you know?

HE: Roger Davies, Roy Atherton. On the White House side, Braunell. Now, this is Kissinger speaking to me. He said, “I don’t know whether this will work out, but if it does, how quickly can you leave?” I said, “Well, a couple of weeks.” Packing up, I recall, he said, “Fine, we’ll see what happens.” So, he went out to Egypt and his main interest in this talk was how do you handle King Faisal. He went out there, he left Egypt for Pakistan and I got a flash message at the Army War College, “You are going to be named ambassador by the White House, will be announced” — this was maybe at 8:00, 8:30, 9:00 in the morning — “before noon today.”

KWS: Before the end of the October War?

HE: Oh yes. Right. It would have been October 21. The day before the first ceasefire. “You must say nothing,” etcetera, etcetera. Fine, I’m used to that kind of thing. Noon came and the White House announced that I was named ambassador to Egypt. Henry by now was leaving to go to Saudi Arabia and then go to Pakistan. And I still was somewhat surprised, but not totally so, but on timing. At three o’clock in the afternoon I get a telegram from Henry Kissinger on his plane saying, I want you to have breakfast with me in Islamabad the morning after tomorrow.

KWS: The morning after?

HE: Yes, because I had to get there. Go down to Andrews AFB, catch a plane, and then you come back and you can pack up, right. He wanted to brief me. So, the following morning I’m in Andrews on a long goddamn ride to Islamabad. I get to Islamabad and Henry is busy with other things. The breakfast was about twenty-five minutes the following morning with Henry slobbering down fried eggs and really not briefing me on anything, other than to say, “I don’t want you to go back to Carlisle, I want you to go directly from here to Cairo. And then in due course I’ll call you back and you can pack up. It’s important that you get to Cairo…”

Tape I Side 2

HE: …..Ismail Fahmy and what I just told you — two days, three days after I got there, this message to Hafez Ismail passed through the CIA station and then Henry saying, pass this on to Fahmy, never apparently realizing that there was this kind of a problem. Fahmy saying, “You tell him if he wants to do it that way, that’s fine, but I won’t have anything to do with him.” And then Sadat saying, “I would rather have it done through the Foreign Minister, Fahmy.” And so we got into that channel which happily for me meant that the business of going back channels to the Egyptian government was almost from the beginning eliminated partly because I said I wouldn’t accept it, and partly because Fahmy took the position I did. So, from that point on, it was an open and aboveboard thing. And we then started to move in terms of first getting the ceasefire really accepted and the Israelis were preventing sweaters from getting through the Third Army, all kinds of little things, and then we got the one-on-one talks.

KWS: Was it difficult getting the Kilometer 101 talks started?

HE: Not as much as you would imagine. 

KWS: Where did the impetus for that come?

HE: From us. But the Egyptians needed it and they were willing to…

KWS: Why did Henry want the Kilometer 101 talks?

HE: Well, he didn’t realize, he made a mistake on this one. We had to get the ceasefire in action actually. The point you have to remember, in November, early November, late October-early November, was to diffuse the situation and the UN resolution had been passed and so we pressed, the Soviets pressed for military talks and the 101 talks came out of that. The proviso in the UN resolution, ceasefire resolution, about a conference was at the very end and initially none of us saw — Henry did, but we didn’t — the ending, the war, the shooting war with the conference.

KWS: Resolution 338 talks about “under appropriate auspices;” it never says, “under international conference.”

HE: No, not that, it doesn’t say under international conference. But it says…

KWS: Did Henry in his mind believe in the efficacy of an international conference?

HE: He had agreed to it with the Soviets. Now here’s where you get into the problem. The idea of a conference was to settle the political issues, if you could, and of course nobody was under any illusion that given the complexities of this problem that would be easy. So, the immediate problem was a ceasefire, and working out the modalities of that. So, it was arranged at Kilometer 101 — which first of all they couldn’t find because the marker had been changed — but the Egyptians and Israelis would meet to establish a formal ceasefire what one would normally call an armistice, but had there not been a formal war to do all of the things connected with that. [Aharon] Yariv represented the Israelis and Gamasy represented the Egyptians. He was not yet, Gamasy was not yet minister of war; he was chief of operations. And funny thing about that — and I wasn’t there, but I hear this from Gamasy subsequently — initially he found this very galling.

KWS: Gamasy did?

HE: Yes. And he said to me, “You know, Yariv is really very much of a nice person.” [He] talked about. “He offered me a cigarette and he said I didn’t want to take it, but I was polite and took it.” And [he] said, “You know, we were able to sit down and talk about things as two soldiers to one another and to my surprise, we were able to work out the disengagement between the forces and the arrangements to assure that.” And he said, “to my surprise and distress.” This is Gamasy. A day later, “When you have said everything that I have said is canceled — We don’t have any agreement.” And Gamasy saw this, as you might expect, as Israeli duplicity, and all of his earlier bitterness as a soldier whose forces had been beaten before — he had a real bitterness, even though as I said, he thought very warmly of Yariv. But now, he said Yariv had been duplicitous. What he didn’t know was that we had the Israelis to withdraw — the ceasefire and all the other provisions that would have been part of, well, I’m going to call it an armistice agreement, that Yariv and Gamasy and worked out — now this is the military side understand, not political. We didn’t ask them, Henry had asked them to withdraw. So that when a conference took place as required by the UN resolution, we did not know what [political issues] we were going to talk about in a conference. These military elements would be it, follow me.

KWS: I understand. So, the agenda for a conference would be the military items. It was, correct me if I’m wrong, but this was Henry’s way of putting the disengagement of forces talks under his control.

HE: True. Or they could have had that before.

KWS: In shorthand, that was what it was. But the resolution never said anything about an international conference. 

HE: It called for a conference.

KWS: It didn’t.

HE: Yes, it did; yes, it did.

KWS: No, it doesn’t.

HE: I’m sorry I disagree with you. [Eilts may have referred not to Res. 338 in his conversation with KWS, but to Res. 344 which called for an international conference]

KWS: I’ll show you the text.

HE: Go ahead. Henry and the Soviets had agreed to a conference. It should be the last thing in the resolution. Not very clear on exactly who does it, but…

KWS: It says, “under appropriate auspices,” but never lists a conference.

HE: Under appropriate auspices was this, do we and the Soviets run it or does the UN run it. We and the Israelis, if we go down the road a little beyond what we’re talking about now, no one wanted the UN to convene it, the Soviets did not. The Soviets did not want the UN convening of it, nor did the Israelis. The funny thing was the Israelis on this one and the Soviets were in agreement, that it shouldn’t be the UN running it. The Egyptians wanted UN [to] convene it and we went along with it. Anyway, we pulled the rug out from under the Kilometer 101 talks, so that whatever was being discussed there could be the subject at a Geneva conference, because we didn’t want to go into detail [at Kilometer 101].

KWS: That means there was Israeli acquiescence.

HE:  Oh, absolutely.

KWS: Why did the Israelis want a conference?

HE: The resolution was there had to be a conference of some sort. [Eilts continued to insist that Resolution 338 called for a conference.] And they had the same view — what are we going to discuss at a conference if the generals resolve the military issues? Then a conference is going to be a talk about the political issues and we’re not ready for that. So, the Israelis and we agreed that to pull the rug out from Kilometer 101, ceasefire’s in effect, but all of the detail — withdrawal, how far, and who does what to what — let that be the subject of the first Geneva conference. Otherwise, we don’t have anything to discuss other than items on which none of us have any agreement. Now the Egyptians don’t know that, but that’s what we did.

KWS: Was it later explained to them?

HE: No, the Egyptians still say the Israelis reneged after Yariv had made his offer and they’re still bitter about that. Poor Yariv is still, whenever I see Gamasy, he says he’s such a nice person and then he didn’t follow through. It wasn’t Yariv though. He was ordered by his government to withdraw everything he had proposed to them and they were on the point of agreement. So, I don’t think Yariv was told this, but withdrawn, but we — Henry — urged Ismail to do this so the military could be the subject of the first meeting because we [the Israelis and the U.S.] didn’t want to get involved in some of the more complex problems.

KWS: From your vantage point in Cairo, after November third there was a definite effort to leave off of the agenda difficult political issues.

HE: For the first meeting of any conference, yes.

KWS: But was there in Kissinger’s mind or in the department’s mind that these issues political issues would then be tackled? Did anybody even think about the West Bank and the Palestinians at this time?

HE: No.

KWS: It wasn’t even remotely…

HE: Absolutely not. Now you know when you talk about the department’s mind, the department was not really involved, if you are talking about the department as a whole. Kissinger worked with a small group of people: Hal Saunders, Roy Atherton, Joe Sisco. Sure, I’m sure there must have been people in the department who were thinking this ought to be done on the Palestinians, but that never figured, that never entered. Henry’s instructions were what I’ve said, and that’s the way we operated. So, we pulled the rug out from under Kilometer 101 so that the subjects that had already been discussed there would now become the subject of the first conference.

KWS: But in fact, they weren’t. 

HE: Yes, they were. Except, well I’m not quite right there. We went to Geneva, just before Christmas of 1973… 

KWS: 20th, 21st.

HE: …with the intention — if Geneva remained — of talking about some of the disengagement points that had been part of the Kilometer 101 talks, but that the Israelis had pulled back at our request. And at the first session as you might expect — I should say we had a certain amount of problems, first of all getting a date, then getting people to come, what conditions…

KWS: The letter of invitation to the conference, Henry says in his memoirs, should have been drafted by a theologian not by a diplomat.

HE: Maybe.

KWS:  Your draft letter of invitation…

HE: But that was by the secretary general. Initially the Soviets didn’t want that and there was a disagreement. The Israelis didn’t want that either, they didn’t want UN auspices. They were willing to have U.S. and Soviet — they would have preferred no Soviet — but they didn’t want the UN there. And the Soviets felt that way too. In early December 1973, Assad appeared in Cairo, had two days of talks with Sadat. At the end of the two days, I was summoned to the Egyptian foreign minister’s office Ismail Fahmy, and there also was the Soviet ambassador. And there was Abdul Khalim Khaddam. And they said we want you to know that our two governments, Egypt and Syria, have agreed to attend an international conference in accordance with 242 and 338 in Geneva on the following conditions — and then as Soviet ambassador and I were there, we took it down — to be convened by the UN Secretary General and participation, each of the Arab states. Not the Palestinians…

KWS: Not the PLO…

HE: No Palestinians, never mind the PLO. That at a latter point in the conference — later point, later point, no date indicated — the question of Lebanese participation and Palestinian participation would be considered. Initially, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Jordan was not represented at this, these are the two foreign ministers, and of course Israel on the other side, but to be convened by the UN. There were several other points…

KWS: Did it speak about the agenda at all, Hermann?

HE: To discuss first of all military arrangements to ensure the present ceasefire and then to begin to discuss the issues that are involved in the Arab Israeli problem, but without identifying them, general…

KWS:  But it said something about Arab Israeli problem.

HE: Oh yeah. Now I remember the Soviet ambassador was very upset about this. What they were saying — the two foreign ministers and Ismail Fahmy was doing the talking —was what we had been passing, everything we had been passing, they were now saying to us the two governments agree on.

KWS: Who was saying, the Egyptians and the Syrians were saying, or the Egyptians were saying?

HE: Fahmy was there, was the spokesman. Abdul Khalim Khaddam was there, didn’t say anything but speaking for both, Fahmy was speaking for both. Sadat and Assad were still in Cairo.

KWS: How did Kissinger get Fahmy to lay down what was really our plan?

HE: We had been talking to him about that before.

KWS: And he was willing to go along with it?

HE: He went along with it.

KWS: Reluctantly, willingly?

HE: No, they had some problem. But they — the big point at issue was when Kissinger had been there on that first trip which was only several weeks before, he had agreed that there would be Palestinian participation, without saying PLO or anything of this sort. Now, because of the Israeli objection, we were saying — that’s where we had the problem before this particular meeting I’m talking about — “Sorry, whatever we had agreed to earlier, Henry Kissinger, on Palestinian participation; no that’s got to be deferred to a later point in the conference.” And there we had a lot of problems, Lebanon nobody cared about.

KWS: So twice now the Egyptians have been stung by a change of a position by the U.S. First are the Israelis.

HE: But the first time they ignore it. They know, they may have guessed it later…

KWS: But the second time was when Henry directly told Fahmy [that] we have to step back on this because of the Israelis. 

HE: Henry didn’t tell them [the Egyptians]; he expected me to tell them, that what Henry had approved before the fifth point was the Palestinians would participate; we now feel the Palestinians can participate not at all.

KWS: How did they handle that? 

HE: They were mad about it.

KWS: But they went along with it.

HE: Yes.

KWS: And the Syrians from what you know, what was their reaction?

HE: I suspect the Syrians — of course the Syrians never cared for Arafat, but the Syrians in this joint meeting — Khaddam said nothing in it. But Fahmy allegedly speaking for both presidents said that and agreed the way it was put, that the Palestinians participate at a later point in the conference, no date put upon it. But at a later point.

KWS: And this is still before invitations are issued? Invitations still have not been issued?

HE: Right. But we are now in early December. But they were willing to go now and that was the outstanding issue, whether they would go. And both governments are now willing to go.

KWS: In early December?

HE: Yes, when Assad visited Cairo. Now… 

KWS: And in three weeks the Syrians were gone.

HE: Yes. We went out of that meeting, Soviet ambassador Vinegradov — and he was very upset because the conditions that Fahmy had listed, presumably with Khaddam’s agreement. He sat there speaking for both presidents, “We’re not what the Soviets wanted right away.” They want the Palestinians there right away, they didn’t want UN auspices and they had a couple of other points that were not that important. I remember we walked up and down the bank of the Nile, and you know what he said, “You know this is unacceptable, surely you’re not going to accept it.” And I didn’t say to him, “These are our conditions, these are the points we made to him.” But all I could say was, “I think we will accept these.” Anyway, they [Soviets] wanted to go to the conference, they wanted to be part of it, so they swallowed that down, and they accepted it. Now, Assad went back to Damascus…oh, and with that agreement we were able to set a date. Our problem had been setting a date and the date was set just before Christmas. Thinking that the Egyptians would be there, the Syrians after all we’d been told, Cairo, they’d come, Jordanians we had gotten separate word they were never really very much involved but they had agreed to come. Palestinians, we left it up to the Arabs to tell them they would come up later, same thing with the Lebanon. So the date was set. Assad goes back to Damascus and a day or two later, the Syrians announced they’re not going to go to the conference. Never mind what we were told. And the way the Syrians explained their reneging is that Sadat had lied to them about what the purpose of the conference was to be. 

KWS: Not the composition or who would be there.

HE: What the purpose was to be. The Syrians claimed, they understood the purpose of the conference to which they had agreed was to tackle the substantive issues — they didn’t use the word substantive but that was their effect — of the Arab-Israeli problem, territorial withdrawal and all of that, 242. Which, of course, the Syrians hadn’t directly accepted through 338. And so Sadat had lied to him. The Egyptians sent Gamasy to Syria to try to point out that it would be bad if they did not go. Gamasy came back saying Assad is under great pressure from radical elements of the Ba’ath who don’t agree with all of this and therefore has had to renege. What they’re trying to do is topple the country. By then we had an Egyptian, Israeli, Jordanian agreement. We would have liked the Syrians there. And so the date was set. We get closer to the date almost every day. Assad finally sends word to the Egyptians, I will send two officers — and they were not military officials — to be part of the Egyptian delegate but not as a Syrian delegate. And so, Geneva opened with this court of characters.

KWS: And that’s how the Syrians were represented?

HE: Not formally Syria. The Syrians say we were not in the conference. Now the conference gets underway, as you might imagine. Kissinger, Gromyko, Abba Eban, Fahmy, I forget who the Jordanian prime minister was, each making his speech, setting forth as you might imagine such position of his government. And first of all, of course, the secretary general opening it, in all of this happening, delegations behind the representative. And immediately at the end of the first day, Kissinger gets up and suggests the conference be —so — to suspend, it’s Christmas time around the eve of Christmas and of course it doesn’t mean a hill of beans to Fahmy, or to Gromyko or to the Jordanians or to the Israelis, but everybody agrees, we’re going to suspend until the tenth of January. So, everybody has made their set speech and off we go. Poor Vinegradov who was Gromyko’s deputy ambassador to Cairo, he decides he doesn’t want to go back to Cairo he’ll just stay in lovely Geneva until the tenth of January, waiting for the conference to resume. In the meantime, between the day just before Christmas, the 21st, and January 10th, we and the Israelis and the Egyptians worked out, and this is largely Kissinger’s pressure at Israeli behest, persuading Sadat, “Let’s not continue with Geneva, it’ll only cause problems. Let us, the U.S., do the shuttle effort.” And while Fahmy was uneasy about this, on the Egyptian side, I can’t speak for…

KWS: And his unease was built on…

HE: That we would not be honest, if you will, about it. He would have preferred a conference, and he didn’t fully trust ??. Sadat said, “Okay, let’s do that, might be a better quicker way.” And so came January, poor Vinegradov sitting in Geneva, not the worst place in the world to be — we in effect jettisoned a new date and Kissinger starts his first Sinai shuttle effort, eventually leaving after ten days of going back and forth to Sinai I. Much to the distress of the Soviets and much to the distress of many, many of the chief Egyptian leaders, Fahmy, Gamasy, Hafez Ismail, [journalist Muhammad] Hassenein Heikal because the final result of what Sinai I looked like was so much less than what they thought they ought to get for having gone through Bar-Lev, never mind the Third Army, that they were bitterly disappointed. Hafez Ismail resigned, Heikal wrote some very, very nasty editorials and was fired by Sadat because it was embarrassing to his policy, Sadat’s policy, which he had decided in this period to shift the old Egyptian policy and develop a new one, U.S.-Egyptian relations and Heikal’s articles were an embarrassment to that, so he was fired.

And so we are in January 1974, Sinai I, a very modest agreement, military agreement. And, Sadat, from the moment we signed it said, “Now you have to get a similar one for Syria,” although he had his problems with Assad. Nevertheless, he said, from the very beginning, “You have to get an agreement, a disengagement agreement with Syria.” Kissinger said yes, but he felt absolutely no sense of urgency about it. For reasons you can appreciate, the Israelis were not happy, the Israelis had found the shock of the October 1973 war traumatic, just up for election, the very idea — even though Sinai I was a very, very modest thing, After all, it changed a seven-year-long situation where they’d been on the canal —so, the Israeli government said, “Look we need some time to absorb all of this before we can do anything,” and of course the Syrians were the last guys in the world that they would want to negotiate with. So we had made a commitment to them — Henry, we, weren’t going to press for any more action soon, give them a chance to absorb all of this domestically.

And then we got screwed, as I say. Sadat said we need a Golan one too, but that’s fine, there was no indication of time on that. The thing that screwed us, we had had a commitment from Faisal at least. I didn’t get it, I mean, Kissinger thought he’d got it from that first and only meeting he had had with Faisal. After that time, he always said to me afterwards, “You told me how to handle him and then he did this to me, try to explain it.” Anyway, he thought he had a commitment from Faisal that if we got some kind of agreement between Egypt and Israel, the Saudis would lift the embargo, the oil embargo, the oil embargo was a problem. So, he got this thing and so Kissinger expected Faisal to lift the embargo. Assad went down right after the Sinai I agreement to Saudi Arabia and he pressed Faisal, he said, “If you lift the embargo now, they’re not going to do anything with us [Syria],” and so we found to our distress, to Henry in particular, that the King said, “Sorry, whatever I told you before, the embargo’s not going to be lifted.”

So I was sent down from Cairo because I knew Faisal. To talk…to talk to him and Faisal said, “We’ve been through this before, I told you before,” and I told him and he said when Assad came down, he said, “What are you going to do on Syria?” and I didn’t know what we were going to do on Syria. I said, “President Sadat has said there must be something on Syria and I know the President and Secretary Kissinger are thinking about this.” He said, “That’s not what I want to know, I want to know what you’re going to do.” And there was no answer because we didn’t, we weren’t expecting anything, we wanted to fuzz that point, for a time anyway. And there we were with this damn oil embargo still on us despite the Sinai I. So the combination of that, which was beginning to hurt, plus Sadat saying we need a Golan one too, and that was the lesser of the two aspects.

KWS: Did Sadat ever want the U.S.-negotiated Syrian disengagement?

HE: Oh yes, absolutely. He pressed us on this. After, immediately after Sinai I, now there must be one for Syria. Absolutely.

KWS: Why did he press us on this? What were his motivations for pressing the U.S. on this?

KWS: I think the relationship between Egypt and Syria. That, while it had been played in the way the war was handled.

KWS: And maybe the way the conference was handled?

HE: Yea, he was mad that Assad had pulled out of that one [conference]. 

KWS: Did he feel that Assad really pulled the rug out from under him?

HE: Funny thing was, up to the signing of Sinai II.

KWS: September 1975.

HE: Right, Sadat always said Assad’s fine, he’s okay, it’s these Ba’ath party people around him that are causing the problem. He’s got to — he’s not a free agent. 

KWS: Is that true? From your vantage point or was that being invented to give Assad an excuse?

HE: No. I think, well, you’re asking me a sequential question. I don’t know whether Assad was a victim of the Ba’ath or whether Assad lead the Ba’ath. I can argue it either way, that the more you’re tough, the more an Assad can lead; if you’re talking about an Assad who’s willing to do some compromising, you may have problems with radical members of the Ba’ath. My point simply is, I was serving in Syria. I know Assad, Sadat always said — until after Sinai II, when the Syrians[?] really clobbered Egypt, and up to that point he always said — “Look, this fellow’s alright, he’s under tremendous domestic pressure, you have to be tolerant with him. you have to be understanding.” Even when he did the same kind of things I’m talking about, not ’til Sinai II, then he suddenly turns around and he said, “I always saw him as my friend. I always thought that he was dominated by the Ba’ath. Now I know he has taken that same negative direction.” That was not ’til September 1975. Up ’til that time, Sadat was constantly a defender of Assad, not of Syria but of Assad and his role in Syria. Now, so we have Sinai I. We would rather not do anything for the time being because of our commitment to the Israelis. Faisal pulls this one out, and so Kissinger has to act. Prematurely, before he wanted to. And of course, the April, early May shuttle effort, thirty days or whatever it was with Assad, was much more difficult than it had been in the effort with Sadat. Because even though the Syrians had also been defeated, Assad held out. And several times during that period, we thought negotiations would collapse. All kinds of little things were in the way. Kissinger had not met Assad before. We had a charge d’affaires there; they had not been as willing to go back to full diplomat relations as Egypt had been so we had a charge d’affaires, who was very capable.

KWS: Who was it?

HE: I’ve forgotten his name, I’ll think of it — who had sent word in terms of this is what Kissinger’s going to propose which would have been similar, we’re talking about Golan I, a similar — except in a Syrian context — to Sinai I. Skotes, Thomas Skotes. Very able guy. And he had heard — and he had no contacts with us but then, he had no contact with Khaddam, but he had gotten word. Any way he had gotten word, back-word, “Assad objects to this, Assad objects to that” — and the proposed agreement, disengagement agreement. So Henry appears on the scene, delegation Skotes is there and Henry not knowing Assad before [says], “I understand, Mr. President, you have some objection to this particular provision in the agreement.” Hafez al-Assad sat there and said, “No, I don’t have any objections to it,” gives me a look of surprise looking and Skotes. He [Henry] said, “I understand you have some objection to this agreement.” Hafez al-Assad sat there perfectly immobile, “No, no, no, that’s not right.” So, the third time. “No.” And this time Henry is turning to Skotes and saying, “But Mr. Skotes told me you have objected to the …” Assad said to Henry, “Mr. Kissinger I don’t object to these, I object to the whole agreement.” And I have to say that ran over Henry, his experience — Henry thought was the greatest thing that had ever happened to him. 

KWS: This was the negotiating Golan I?

HE: Right, Golan I. First meeting, we were all there, Skotes charge who had said this…

KWS: You weren’t there?

HE: Yes, I was there, I was called over. I wasn’t there for the 31 days, I was there for the first two days.

KWS: Wasn’t there a similar story told about the draft invitation letters for the ’73 conference? Where Assad sat with Henry and Joe Sisco for eight hours and went through the draft letter and at the end Assad just turned to Joe and said, “I don’t care what you do, I’m not going.”

HE: Don’t know that one.

KWS: Joe told that one last week.

HE: Did he? That’s news to me and I have never heard that. It was in connection with the Golan agreement that I know. Now, and they started negotiating when Roy Atherton was tough. The Saudis had told us if you get to [illegible] it’ll be easy, got the Israelis to agree Quneitra had to be given up, demilitarized, but that wasn’t enough for him, it really was not. Every step of the way when we finally got [illegible] finally got to a point on in the, the Golan, a UNEF force, a United Nations force. Now at that time, I’m not there any longer but I hear this, using the UNEF precedent in Egypt. Assad said he didn’t want that. Kissinger had a very hard time on it. Finally prompting a requesting to Sadat, “And you send somebody over to talk to the Syrians about the UNEF force.” This is not at, in, in the Golan. Gamasy was sent over, Gamasy was the nominal commander of both forces. He had not been during the war, he had only been G3 but by the time we’re talking, April ’74, he was minister of war in Egypt, and so…

KWS: Was it already changed to minister of defense or was it still minister of war?

HE: Defense. Right. I — so Gamasy went over to talk to them that a UNEF force — the Syrians had had no experience with this, the Egyptians had experience with them before and this wasn’t such a bad thing, etcetera. the Syrian were exaggerating what kind of a possible encroachment this might be on their sovereignty. I remember seeing Gamasy when he came back. He said, “Let me tell you, they’re tough, they’re tough, don’t want to listen to anything.” But maybe as a result of the Gamasy thing — you never know what really prompts Syrian action in the final analysis — they agreed to something. But in typical Syrian fashion, it was not the Egyptian UNEF model, it was the UNDOF force. Anyway, and then of course for a limited period of time, three months to be, six months to be renewed every time, that’s fine. So we had now Golan I.

KWS: Did Henry ever get impatient with Assad? 

HE: Not during that period. No, only after September ’75. Up to that time he was very, very tolerant, very understanding of Assad. Assad was his friend. I know him, he’s fine, he’s fine.

KWS: Did Sadat at all concern himself about the Palestinians yet at this time? 

HE: He always spoke about the Palestinians should participate.

KWS: But he knew there wasn’t a method to which they could participate because Geneva was essentially on hold. 

HE: Exactly.

KWS: I mean, he knew bilateral talks were exclusionary.

HE: That’s right, except when… he was disappointed, bitterly disappointed. When Henry first came and when — I pointed out to you — before the fifth point of a five-point thing he had had, was the Palestinians would participate, then when I got there my first instructions were to tell the Egyptians that, “Sorry we feel the Palestinians can’t participate.” We’re still talking about Geneva at that time, not the time I’ve been talking about just now. “Sorry, for a variety of reasons, we think the Palestinians should participate later.” “Not at the early stages.” Sadat was not happy about this because he said, “But I told the Palestinians they’re going to participate.” And Fahmy was furious about it. He said, “You people are caving to the Israelis” and we were on it. But nevertheless, he accepted it. Sadat with less acrimony than Fahmy, Fahmy for weeks afterward was bitter about this. He said, “You really, you pulled a fast one,” and he kept saying, “You pulled it on the president, you knew you were going to do this.”

KWS:  Who is he pointing his finger at?

HE: Kissinger. Fahmy and Kissinger never got along. Fahmy had deep mistrust of Kissinger and he was, and when he said you he meant Kissinger. But anyway, going back now, the Palestinians are by this time, for the time being out of it all because we’re not talking about the conference, we’re talking about carrying on the step-by-step process.

KWS: And still no discussion yet about Jordan?

HE: Yeah. After, after we got Golan I. In other words, in May, uh, the question arose, What next? We proposed to Sadat we should now go for a Jordanian accord in the West Bank. Interestingly enough Sadat said, “That’s fine with me but only if you’re working on a second Sinai agreement.” In other words, the two must be concurrent, not sequential as Sinai I , Golan I had been. He was now — we were suggesting maybe West Bank I. He said West Bank and Sinai II. Because he argued that though, that Sinai I had been so modest and it caused him so much domestic problems, that he had to have a further Sinai agreement. And that that could not wait until a Jordanian agreement. Now that was partly due to the fact that he frankly didn’t give a damn about Hussein in Jordan. He had no objection to [illegible] them there, but Sinai II had to be done.

KWS: Am I correct in remembering that Sadat met Hussein in summer of ’74, in either Alexandria or ….

HE: Yes, Alexandria. Yeah.

KWS: And that’s where Sadat proposed the idea that the Palestinians would be the sole legitimate representatives, or the PLO could be?

HE: No, he always denied that, always denied that. He claims he never did. In fact, when he went to the Rabat conference he told us he was going to fight, he said I want you to know that strong pressure the Palestinians reneged.

KWS: The PLO reneged.

HE: The PLO reneged. Hussein and I have talked about, he was talking about the Alexandria meeting and said, “I’m going to fight this.”

And then after, when he was at the Rabat meeting, middle of the night I got a call from one of Fahmy’s principal aides, Ambassador Omar Sirry saying, “Can you come to the foreign ministry?” I guess I went there at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. There was a message from Sadat saying, “I’ve had to agree to the PLO being named sole legitimate representative. And the reason is, and once you know this, please get it to the [U.S.] president, Henry, right away, that Hussein in speaking of what the Israelis offered him, and said they had offered him less than six kilometers not even as far as Jericho and that this was not to be interim but to be the final agreement.” And with that he said the whole sentiment of the conference shifted, that Hussein was obviously not the right guy, not because of anything having to do with Hussein but because of the — and so the PLO was named. Now the PLO had of course already been tentatively designated, the previous Algerian summit. In any case that was his flash explanation to us but he obviously didn’t fight for his case and he didn’t care for Hussein and vice versa. That was an attitude that was deeply reciprocated.

Anyway, so here we are after Sinai, after Golan I, and we get into this business, do we do something for Jordan? Henry wanting to do it, but Sadat saying, “Well, that’s fine, but nevertheless it’s also got to be a second Sinai agreement.” And bear in mind by this time we’re in the summer and Sinai I having been so very, very modest, having aroused so much discontent with the Egyptian political elite, and yes, working on Golan, that was fine, but the Soviets had stopped their aid because we had snookered them out and the Egyptians were beginning to feel both the economic and the military thing. On the military side, the military was complaining, “We’re not getting spare parts and modern equipment.” So there was a need for Sadat to justify his policy of working with us and having jettisoned everything he had been involved with before. And he had made this commitment to the Israelis to give them time to see. So we said we couldn’t do both the Jordanian and an Egyptian thing, but we were not really interested in doing either unless we could have gotten an easy deal on the Jordanian side. So, here we go through the summer of ’74 into the fall, nothing happens, Soviets having stopped their aid, more and more, Nixon having come in June, followed by Simon a month later, promising a quarter of a million dollars in economic aid, but the Congress is not acting, no indication of that. Kissinger had promised earlier military equipment and that fell through. He wanted to do it through Saudi Arabia, and I objected to it. And then with the Nixon’s Watergate thing, that whole thing was out.

TAPE II, Side 1

HE: …and this was an easy way out. Henry stayed on as secretary of state, yeah, he was moved out of the NSC job. But that wasn’t it, it was the — the problem was how much did it delay us, was that whereas Kissinger — Nixon was sharp on foreign policy and picked up things very quickly, Ford had to be educated and Ford was much slower to make a decision on things and Ford I think very quickly came to the conclusion that Henry was too sharp for him. And so he wanted to reduce Henry’s influence, and as I say, as you know, he removed him from the NSC job. And that may have had an effect. But if you say if in turn, did it really slow us down, no I don’t think our pace would have been slowed in any case, that wasn’t it.

KWS: And there was no interest at that time in ’74, late ’73 or ’74 to even contemplate again going back to an international conference?

HE: Absolutely not.

KWS: This was all in…

HE: Now, no. Let’s wait a minute, no absolutely not, no. Seventy four, seventy…after we had jettisoned it — although Sadat would occasionally speak about a Geneva conference as though this were still the umbrella — no, no, no. He and we had an agreement we were not going to putz around with Geneva except as a stamping of approval authority for Sinai I, Sinai II, Golan I. After Golan I, the Soviets said, okay, they would agree they rubber stamped it, but never again if they were not involved. It was very embarrassing for the Soviets, Golan I. Gromyko showed up in Damascus while Kissinger was there and Assad wouldn’t even see him. You know, really this was very embarrassing. Anyway, so, here we are, early May, Golan I, we’re not going to be able to get anywhere with a Jordanian agreement partly because the Israelis were willing to give so little, and partly because Sadat wanted a second Golan — …Sinai and felt he needed that and we couldn’t, Henry felt we couldn’t do two at the same time. So the summer passes into the fall with no action until August, uh, October. In October, the Soviets — who had stopped virtually all of their economic and military aid as a punitive gesture, we who had promised economic aid, military, that we’re not able to produce, a growing sense of disenchantment, the economic situation in Egypt getting worse — Soviets decide that this was the time for them to make a move. So they invited in October 1975.

KWS: October of ’75?

HE: Four.

KWS: Seventy-four.

HE: Invited the minister of defense and the minister of economics, one of them, the Egyptian minister of economics, to Moscow and they put out before him all kinds of goodies, military aid, economic aid, that they would do if the Egyptians — well, this would be done, they offered to do it, but only if Brezhnev would come in January of ’75 and if at that time the Egyptians agreed to jettison our step-by-step approach and agree that any further peace efforts would only be through the Geneva forum. So these guys came back and boy it had an impact. The military was upset, the politicians, the economists, everybody else was upset, the guys who, like Galli who had said, “You wait and see, after Sinai I the Americans are going to freeze the situation, you wait and see.” Now they were saying, “You see, we told you so.” So, question was, what do you do? The Americans had let them down, Sadat had committed himself to the Americans, his own face was under pressure. The army was pressing it, the economic situation was lousy, and so what to do? He called me and said, “Here’s the situation, Fahmy was there,” he said, “Got to do something.” He said, “What’s your view?” And I said — well, I couldn’t tell him we had told the Israelis we had relayed this, but I’m not surprised the Soviets have done this — “Obviously the Soviets can’t get you anywhere in the peace process area. We ought to continue this, one needs a little time to digest some of these things. They’re going to have to say…” I felt a little wicked on this, but I said that, saying in effect, “To me, we’re not quite ready yet, but we realize we’re in a bind to do something.” [I] go to Sadat, say, “Okay, we’re ready to start the peace process up, we have to first talk to the Israelis.” I wouldn’t have to tell him that because he knew it. But then he started up, in a two-stage process. Now we’re talking about the end of October, early November. First stage, Henry will come out for three weeks at the end of November, early December and Henry would do Egypt, Middle East as a whole, will go back and then in late February, early March, we’ll start the real shuttle effort for peace. Now, that caused problems.

KWS: Why?

HE: Why two stages? Why not if he’s coming out do it once and for all because they had been waiting for all…for so long. Why two stages, they couldn’t understand that. Fahmy and Gamasy in the meeting I held with Sadat, I was carrying, I finally had to carry a presidential letter from Ford to him saying, “Mr. President. I strongly urge you to accept.” I was there when Sadat — Fahmy and Gamasy, both of them saying — “Mr. President, we suggest you accept the Soviet thing. We still will move toward peace, Geneva, but you can’t trust the Americans.” They said that very openly, “Can’t trust them.” They had promised us early, and they turned to me and said, “No disrespect to you, don’t do it.” They’ll tell us this and we’ll — and they all felt the pressure, the domestic pressure. And Sadat really was in a pickle. He turned to me at one point and said, “Hermann, what do you think I should do?” I said, “Mr. President, I’m the American ambassador, I’m here presenting the presidential letter. I can only say I hope you accept the president’s views on this. And all I can say is I think, I’m convinced, that Henry will do what he says he’s going to do and that President Ford means it. And let’s not go back to Geneva, you know what will come out of Geneva.” “Yes,” he said, “I’m not happy about that, but you haven’t done anything, nothing happened in the last six months. And here we’ve got that you’ve promised, President Nixon promises aid, the Congress hasn’t approved anything yet. So where are we, we are in a bad spot.”

KWS: Was he using Geneva as a lever on us? Trying to take it out of Henry’s control? 

HE: Well, you know you can never exclude the possibility of Geneva as a lever, but not because he was using it, but because the Soviets had now put it to him and he was really torn.

KWS: Yes, but Sadat was clever enough for him to know, it didn’t matter who put it to him, his objective was to get something for Egypt. If he had you believe it was the Syrians who were twisting him, that makes him look better. Sadat wasn’t beneath doing that.

HE: Yeah, the point though…of course not, by no means…the point was that by the end of October, early November of ’74, there was a disillusionment that we were going to do anything.

KWS: We weren’t going to do anything…

HE: That’s right, because nothing had happened for six months, and these charges of Gale and others — and Gale’s very influential — They’re trying to freeze the situation, you’ll see they’ll freeze it, it’s a Sinai I line and that’ll be it. And this was beginning to be believed. Never mind that Geneva might be the most effective thing, but we were freezing it, was the view. And Sadat had tied himself to us against much public criticism. So he was deeply worried. Finally he said, “Alright, now go along with it, but tell Henry we have got to move, we cannot continue this.”

KWS: Did Sadat indicate how much he wanted that?

HE: About how much he wanted that, oh of Sinai. That was always his decision. Also the West Bank, also Golan, there was never any time in all of these negotiations that when it came to territorial points that Sadat did not indicate the maximum Arab demands with the single exception of Jerusalem. He was never strong…

KWS: So in all of these discussions he had with you or with the Americans it was the same, essentially, as the speech he gave at the Knesset.

HE: Yes. All the time. There was never any change in those…

KWS: No inconsistency?

HE: None at all. No, his first point always was Sinai, and the others came later, but always full return. There was never any inconsistency from the beginning to the end, but the point was moving. He accepted the step-by-step thing and how you get there.

KWS: At Hofstra you said [that] one of Carter’s key successes at Camp David was his ability to delink, to split off Sinai…

HE: Yep.

KWS: …from the West Bank.

HE: Uh hm.

KWS: But you knew from your previous experience with Sadat that if push came to shove, he was going to go for what his own needs were first. But not sacrifice, not give up the goal of getting what he wanted either for Golan or for the West Bank.

HE: That’s right.

KWS: But you couldn’t have been surprised at Camp David when he agreed to Carter’s willingness to do that.

HE: No, because I had sent Carter a telegram through back channels in response to — one Sunday morning, got a flash thing through back channels, “I have to know by noon, what do you think — if there’s any possibility of a separate peace, that is, Egypt and Israel and not counting the others?”

KWS: You got this from Carter?

HE: Well, it came from the White House, it was back channeled by [Zbigniew] Brzezinski. And I remember writing a long message that Sunday morning, pointing out what I call a series of circles — what Sadat’s preferences are, what were his second preferences, what his third, but ending up saying, yes he will accept this, on the understanding — but it won’t be easy — on the understanding that this does not involve a renunciation of Arab rights to the West Bank and Golan. Jerusalem always….

KWS: But this was before Camp David?

HE: Yes, it was in preparation for Camp David. Would have been I guess a week or two before, or was it [Walter] Mondale who was sent out to extend the invitation?

KWS: [Cyrus] Vance.

HE: Vance, Vance, right. Sunday morning.

KWS: August 3rd, the letters…

HE: You must have a copy, I don’t know…

KWS: No, I’ve got a copy of the letters that Carter wrote to Sadat.

HE: No, I’m talking about, I’m talking about this…

KWS: Memo.

HE: …this flash, maybe five, six pages that I wrote on the Sunday morning, indicating…that was always his view. He was a pharonic as I said in another context, that means Egypt first, but that doesn’t mean neglecting the others, giving lesser attention, but it doesn’t mean you know, giving that up. In any case, here he now agrees much to the distress of Fahmy and to a lesser extent Gamasy — Gamasy very much of a soldier, “Alright Mr. President,” Fahmy saying, “Mr. President, whatever you decide is fine, but I think you’re wrong — so I send this back.” And Henry comes out in the end of uh, some time in November, late November, on a trip going around, really just talking. Now, Henry’s purpose, primary purpose on this initial trip was to try to persuade the Israelis to agree that the oil fields be given up and that they withdraw to Gidi and Mitla that was the deal. The Israelis had a whole series of political objectives that had been presented through Henry through me to Sadat earlier, and Sadat had very angrily rejected — stop attacking Israel in the media, stop pressing governments in Africa and elsewhere not to have diplomatic relation, allow? Israeli ships through the Suez Canal which wasn’t open yet but which would be reopened — a series of things of that sort. It all came in a bunch. Sadat really hit the ceiling. He said, “How could you even present that to me, how could Henry allow this?” So this time now, Henry — on that first trip having learned the lesson — was trying to get this Israeli flexibility on Gidi, Mitla, and later the oil field, and at the same time to get Sadat to be willing to go beyond a purely military agreement with some political aspects. On that first trip he didn’t get very far but he — in, in Egypt. But he did come away with the impression in Israel that he had an agreement to give up the oil fields.

KWS: This is 1975.

HE: 1974. We’re talking about November 1974.

KWS: Still 1974.

HE: And, uh, goes as far back as Gidi and Mitla. So that while we did not yet have on the Egyptian side any significant political concessions, boycott or something, that he felt as he had promised Sadat, Ford had promised him in the two-stage thing in March to do it. So out he came again in March. We were up in Aswan and he shuttled again in between Aswan and Israel. And we pushed very hard to try to get Sadat to agree that in a new, a Sinai II agreement Sadat would agree to renounce belligerence. Sadat was absolutely adamant on this one; we tried to make the distinction between the state of belligerency and the state of war, which is a little bit farfetched but we did. And the argument was, and this came from Meir Rossenne who developed that idea that the state of belligerency doesn’t mean diplomatic relations, normalization, it’s just military and a state of war means the other.

Sadat said, “No, no, no, absolutely not.” Gamasy and Fahmy were there. They agreed to a non-resort-to-force clause in place of this which would be incorporated. So that was the best we would ever do, we got from him a tentative commitment to allow certain terms of the boycott list, they would make the choice to allow, not Israeli ships but Israeli-bound cargoes, through the canal once the canal was reopened. And those were the main things, they would, they would ease their militant — their media attacks — and so Kissinger went on and in Israel he found out contrary to his belief, he had not had a real agreement from the Israelis to give up Gidi and Mitla and the oil field.

So Kissinger broke off the negotiations and went back to Washington. I remember the message he sent to Sadat, he was very upset about it, “We’re going to begin a reassessment.” There’s a story around that Sadat broke these off. No, it was not Sadat, it was Kissinger. He never came back. Kissinger sent a message saying, “No way.” And this was a great shock, raised the question with Sadat’s policy working with the U.S. directives, what was going to happen next.

That was March, in fact if I remember correctly, as I was driving back from Aswan March 25th, the day King Faisal was shot, I remember even now. Now, the reassessment went on, that wasn’t easy. A group of senators sent this letter that I’m sure you’ve seen: Lay off Israel. But we undertook then a mini-shuttle effort in which I went back and forth between Cairo and Washington carrying Egyptian views and Simcha Dinitz in Washington was getting Israeli views. And for the next three months quietly this is the way it worked while we were narrowing the points of disagreement until — and I say this was the most difficult period I’ve had in my life in the sense that I was on a plane to and from Washington every week for three months. It was really difficult.

We finally narrowed the gap to a point in late August that Kissinger felt he could announce that he was ready to make another try. And the assessments had gone by the boards by then, that we had the positions with the two parties, that we knew what they were. There were several vague points — who was going to control a certain road — but essentially from what it had been in March to what it now was in the end of August we had it within manageable…Henry came out. New round of disengagement talks and out of that we got Sinai II. 

KWS: Still again with all of this enchantment that Sadat has had, we’re still not talking about a conference formula again. Still…

HE: Absolutely not.

KWS: Still letting it sit.

HE: Absolutely not. We’re going to get that Sinai II thing.

KWS: Any delivery yet from the Congress on aid?

HE: Oh yeah, the aid bill was passed just before Christmas in 1974: $250 million. The first money began coming in ’75. After Sinai II, it went up to a half billion, so aid was coming in. Military assistance, no. 

KWS: But Sadat thought this was sufficient? Or at least the beginning?

HE: Yeah, he saw it, right. And he always said, “Well, you know, these are beginnings, In due course, when we get further along, we hope for more.” And he always asked for more. Now…

KWS: You don’t think it motivated him to go to Jerusalem at all, for more money?

HE: No, no. So now we get Sinai II. And we’re all waiting what the Syrian position’s going to be. The Syrians had been mutedly critical in the period before, but the Egyptians kept pointing to the fact that it had been mutedly so. Then Sinai II was signed and suddenly the Syrians clobbered the Egyptians, clobbered them for having betrayed them [by signing Sinai II]. And it’s at that point that Sadat began to say, “Assad my friend, this guy, is under the control of the Ba’ath, he’s no longer, whether he’s right or wrong is not the point,” but that’s the way it happened. Now, this is September 1975; 1976 is the election year. We get a message from Ford for Sadat saying, “Mr. President, next year is a presidential election year. I can’t do anything, which you will appreciate. But when I’m reelected,” and he anticipated being reelected, “we’re going to drop the step-by-step approach for a comprehensive settlement.”

KWS: Ford said this, right.

HE: Ford said this is October 1974. I was instructed…

KWS: October 1974?

HE: ’75, after Sinai II.

KWS: And when was the Brookings Paper?

HE: Oh, that was, well about that same time I guess, yeah. Maybe, but I don’t know whether Ford was affected by it, he may have been. In any case — and this was not Kissinger’s idea, Kissinger and Ford were having problems. Kissinger in fact was very doubtful that he would stay on. That’s right. Anyway, so here we go to, I go to Sadat with the message from Ford: can’t do anything 1976, election year, when I’m reelected, comprehensive. Sadat was delighted. He said, I’m pleased, we’ve gone as far as we can with the step-by-step approach, it — got to now go to a broader agreement. He was worried that he was paying too much of a price, he kept saying…

KWS: But in the…

HE: “By giving all this back to Israel, not just the Arab system, I keep paying this and this and in the end, they’ll still be in part of Sinai, and elsewhere. This is fact,” he said, “if this is what the president [meaning Ford] has in mind, is willing to do, I can hold the situation in 1976.” Now he didn’t realize at the time what Lebanon would do, but Lebanon developed in a major way in late ’75, ’76, and they preoccupied all Arab attention. So Sadat who might otherwise have been clobbered for that Sinai II agreement was not because of the preoccupation. And here is Sadat expecting Ford to be elected.

KWS: Why did Ford choose the comprehensive approach? What was it that, I mean, what was it that Ford was thinking of?

HE: Ford decided that, uh…

KWS: …adopting a method other than Henry’s?

HE: Yeah, it was. Ford and Henry were at odds and Ford decided that that was the way to do it.

KWS: Where was Ford getting his advice from under these circumstances?

HE: I think Scowcroft had a bit of advice.

KWS: So Scowcroft and Henry were not [on good terms].

HE: I know. No, they were on good terms. They were on good terms. Nevertheless, they had decided, — I must, I have to tell you that it came as a surprise to me. But nevertheless, I was instructed to say we’ll go comprehensive. The message was signed by Kissinger. Now, whether he would have done it or not, you know, doesn’t know, but anyway. So, 1976 goes by, we do have one offer in the course of ’76, unexpectedly from Yigal Allon, which we were not expecting, saying to us, “Please tell the Arabs, the Egyptians, in return for non-belligerency, we will withdraw to an El-Arish, Ras-Muhammad line. In the case of Golan we will withdraw,” and he didn’t specify the number, “a certain number of our forward settlements. In the case of the West Bank,” it was very vague, “we will be prepared to discuss with the Jordanians some, work some arrangements,” but very vague. Well, that never got anywhere. Sadat to whom it was presented, said, “What return for belligerency, Arish-Ras Muhammad, they’re still in one third of Sinai, that’s no deal. We’re talking about non-belligerency if they’re within twenty miles of the border, then we’ve got a deal, but not Ras, Arish-Ras Muhammad,” therefore it never went anywhere. So 1976 went by. And much to Sadat’s disappointment Ford is not reelected, Jimmy Carter is.

KWS: Sadat have any idea who Carter was?

HE: Everything he knew about him was bad. I remember right after the election he said, “You know, this is a great shock.” First of all, of course, Ford had made this commitment. In looking at this man Carter, he made in his election speeches all kinds of pro-Israeli statements and was really worried about him. This is a really pro-Israeli guy coming in. Then perhaps a week or so later he said to me, still uneasy about it — this is in November 1976, December 1976, right after election — “Well,” he said, sort of philosophically, “I understand Mr. Carter is deeply religious, and anyone who is deeply religious must be alright.” It was sort of a comforting thought, the religious aspect. But he, the Carter administration came, as far as he was concerned there was a deep sense of uneasiness. Now when he came in, the Carter statement first about a Palestinian homeland.

KWS: Let’s stop for a minute. Answer me a question about January ’77 and the food riots.

HE: Yea, what about it?

KWS: We responded pretty quickly, did we not? To his needs for wheat?

HE: No, we had been providing wheat before, we really did nothing about the food riots. That would have done — that had been part of our aid program from the very beginning. It was the easiest way to do it, you can take it out of grain resources. 1977 food riots were the result, we had been pressing — we, the IMF, or the IMF and we supporting them, to undertake what was called price rationalization, market value instead of these subsidies, and they had putzed around on it for very understandable reasons, they had been doing it, and then we had been pressing; we finally got a guy named Abdul Munim Qaysuni named as deputy prime minister for economic affairs, much to the distress of the then prime minister, uh, he named three or four of his buddies to be his co-ministers in the economic area and they then responded to our and IMF pressure to reduce the subsidies which meant raising prices. And then one fine day, something got screwed up. In al-Ahram and other Egyptian papers there was a list of all of the prices that were going to be raised. Qaysuni always said I never did that, the economic ministers said they blamed the prime minister for trying to stuff. Anyway somebody — the whole list, if it had been this item, that, this item this week, that item next week, it might have worked, and all of it. And that just brought everybody ?? And those riots, I was there at the time, they were worse than in 1952. All of Egypt, all of Egypt.

KWS: Worse than January ’52?

HE: Oh, much worse, much worse.

KWS: Groppies wasn’t fired on, huh?

HE: Well, Groppies wasn’t really important in it, everything else was. That was it in ’52. Anyway, and in every city, and the police couldn’t handle it. And so they had to call in the army and nobody knew whether the army would be willing to shoot. They used their paratroop brigade, their elite brigades. The orders were first to, three-fold thing, call the commanders to call on the mobs to stop; if they didn’t do, shoot over their heads; and if they didn’t, then to shoot at them. And in two places, in three places in downtown Cairo, they got to that second stage and one place they got to third stage. Troops had to shoot, and the troops were loyal. But the question always was, if you call in the regular army, not just the elite paratroopers brigade, would they have been — and it was a mess, it really was. Unbelievable, I’d never seen anything like it. And it scared them, and it still scares them to this day, it seared in the memory of every Egyptian politician, that what happened because of price rationalization. So they’re all afraid to do anything about it. But we didn’t do anything. We had provided food before, we provided it afterwards, but we did nothing to help them in the immediate aftermath of that at all. There was no immediate — and Sadat lost control. He went up to Aswan and for a three-day period didn’t hear him…for three days he had, I had a direct line to wherever he was, I couldn’t get him.

KWS: Was there any other ambassador had a direct line to him?

HE: No, nobody, I couldn’t get him, I could get him anywhere else and I’d been able to get him up there, they just were not answering. He really chickened on this one. It was Gamasy who stood up and took control, then when Sadat reappeared on the third day, the first step was to rescind all of the prices. Well, of course that meant the whole price rationalization thing was deferred. And of coursewe’re still in that kind of an argument with Egypt. Sadat has these worries but says he’s a religious guy so he can’t be all bad. The Carter administration takes over, the president makes one of these fireside chat kinds of thing, the Palestinian homeland. That pleases Sadat enormously. Equally so in that first couple of weeks of the Carter administration, Carter sends a message to Sadat, who comes to me, saying, “We’d like to move toward a comprehensive settlement.” In other words, the idea that Ford had ended up with, now Carter had sensed, and says, comprehensive settlement. That pleases Sadat very much, that plus the Palestine homeland thing, even though Carter changes that in a later broadcast to entity, but that pleases him.

Vance comes out and Vance is very different from Kissinger. Initially Sadat doesn’t know what to make of Vance because while Sadat had come to know Kissinger and his pickiness, nevertheless he was willing to work with him. Now here was Vance, very much the lawyer, very much straight down the line, uh, and sometimes saying things as a lawyer that Sadat didn’t like and what could be done and what could not be done. But then Sadat is invited very quickly to Washington to meet with Carter. 

KWS: April.

HE: Now. That meeting was in many ways a watershed. Sadat went there, not entirely certain what he would find, but he came away very, very impressed with Carter. Very dedicated to him, very convinced that in contrast to some of the people he’d known before in the U.S. government, Carter was a person on whom he could rely. Now maybe that’s that religious element in part, but in any case, whatever Sadat saying to me the president had taken him up to the quarters upstairs in the White House and very impressed. When we were talking, and I must say, this is one thing I always thought Carter played a seminal role in, Carter talking about the comprehensive idea, moving toward a conference, Geneva, which pleased Sadat. That’s what he wanted, said something about normalization etcetera, and Sadat responded, “Oh well, if we can make peace, that’s enough, it will be for the next generation to work out these other things.” Carter was not content with that, said, “Mr. President, you’re asking me to push the Israelis on a territorial settlement. All of these things must be part of it, normalization, etcetera.” Part of that meeting Carter, Sadat said, “Well, maybe we could have this kind of thing in the next five years, that’s already different from the next generation.” But it was that process…

KWS: Let me, let me interject here, and say to you that on the 19th of February about seven weeks ago with President Carter, he said, Carter said to me — quote — about that meeting, “As disappointed as I was with Rabin, I was overjoyed with Sadat.” “There was a rare” — quote — “a rare harmony between me and Sadat and when we met it was an immediate sharing of trust,” Carter’s words. Carter went on to say, “Not only was Sadat willing to take off the limit of five years” — quote — “Sadat was willing to seriously consider recognizing Israel if that were necessary.”

HE: Yeah. Although the President’s overstating how far he had got on that one. The basic thing, I would absolutely agree with, Sadat came away from that meeting absolutely enchanted with, that Carter was going to work on this, and we were going to get to Geneva in the comprehensive settlement. And as you know, Carter spent the rest of 1977 on what I call the building blocks of getting to Geneva. He had met with Rabin, Sadat then, he met with Assad in Geneva, and out of that we had a little bit of a problem because out of the meeting with Assad, came the suggestion that instead of individual national delegations, Arab delegations, there’d be a united Arab delegation. Sadat didn’t particularly like that.

KWS: Why?

HE: Because he felt that this would mean the Syrians might have a — be able to restrain him from doing what he…

KWS: That’s essentially what you said in this New York Times letter to the editor in ’82.

HE: Well, I have not changed my mind.

KWS: No, no, I mean you said something to the effect that I can say categorically, that Sadat did not go to Jerusalem because he was afraid of Syria’s involvement. In fact was he was fearful of, he was fearful that the Syrians would have an impact upon his decision-making.

HE: Absolutely. Yeah, right. It was hard persuading him, and the only argument that had any effect was that the united Arab delegation enabled us to get Palestinians into it. That was the thing that caused him to accept it, the united Arab delegation. 

KWS: That caused Sadat to accept it.

HE: That caused Sadat, yes. He never liked it but we got Palestinians in it ….Ahmed Said…

KWS: And this was after the May meeting?

HE: Right. So, so we have those meetings. We have the united Arab delegation which they accept, reluctantly Sadat accepts. Then comes Begin elected, that distresses Sadat terribly, he’s really worried about this, but after Begin speaking with Carter, it still goes on as far as he know along the track that had been established earlier. No change in Palestinians, Edward Said and Ibrahim Abu Lughod.

So now we get to the fall, the beginning of the fall of ’77, and there are two things, one the October first U.S.-Soviet joint declaration, which the Israeli revisionists and others will have it was the cause of Sadat’s decision. That’s bullshit. Sadat was absolutely delighted about it. We all know the dangers of the Soviets. We talked about how we’re going to contain them and prevent their mischief making. This is great, the idea that that agreement caused him to go another direction was nuts.

KWS: You used a temporary maneuver…

HE: Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised, enough said, but it was brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, Sadat I remember he said, “That’s brilliant,” absolutely not the slightest objection to this. The second thing being the business of an agenda, and here I have to tell you, I think the president messed it up a little bit, the so-called working paper. That in October first Dayan came and then Fahmy and Dayan again, which was to be the terms…

KWS: …the fourth working paper…

HE: Right, the final one, which started earlier. Dayan came, you know they were all coming for the UN meeting. Dayan was invited there, because he had written some things on what the terms of reference were to be for the Geneva Conference. We wanted to get there in December, at the latest in January. Dayan writes out some things hasn’t apparently, from what I hear — and I was not there but from what I hear — did not demur. Fahmy comes a week later for the UN, comes down a couple of days later to Washington. President shows him this. Fahmy looks at this. Fahmy, this is an Israeli, this is not what we want. And ? apparently said, “Well, change it any way you want to.” And so Fahmy sits down and changes it, which of course we did not like.