221. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Iran and Afghanistan


  • State

    • Secretary Cyrus Vance
    • Harold Saunders
  • OSD

    • Secretary Harold Brown
    • W. Graham Claytor*
  • JCS

    • Lt. Gen. John Pustay*
  • CIA

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner*
  • Justice

    • Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti*
  • Treasury

    • Robert Carswell*
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
    • Lloyd Cutler*
    • Ray Jenkins*
    • Henry Owen*
  • Office of the Vice President

    • Denis Clift*
  • NSC

    • Gary Sick
    • Alfred Friendly*

*Present only for discussion of item 1


1. Sanctions Against Iran. Dr. Brzezinski opened the meeting by noting that the President wishes to move expeditiously to implement the sanctions agreed at Camp David over the weekend. Consequently, it is necessary to inform the allies as quickly as possible. The three areas to be discussed are: (1) imposing formal economic sanctions; (2) expulsion of Iranian diplomats; and (3) conducting a census of claims against Iran. (S)

[Page 591]

Imposing Formal Economic Sanctions. The papers are prepared for the President to sign. It can be implemented at any time by a Presidential signature and subsequent publication of appropriate regulations in the Federal Register. Treasury raised the question of whether we should not proceed with the proposal approved at the March 18 meeting2 to advise U.S. companies to seek a license or Treasury interpretation prior to any direct or indirect export of goods to Iran. This would permit Treasury to exhort companies to prohibit action by their subsidiaries, which is an extraterritorial limitation not included in the UN sanctions. The SCC agreed that, in the context of imposing formal sanctions, we would announce that we will ask U.S. companies to direct their overseas subsidiaries to respect the restrictions outlined in the sanctions and to discuss with Treasury any proposed exports by their subsidiaries before such exports are made.3 (C)

Timing of Announcement. It was agreed that the announcement of the entire package of sanctions would be made at a coordinated press briefing. The details will be worked out between Jody Powell, Hodding Carter and Alfred Friendly. The date of the announcement would be determined by the deadline which we convey to Bani-Sadr. Secretary Vance noted that we will probably be unable to get the message into Bani-Sadr’s hands before Thursday. We should allow him sufficient time to act before proceeding. After some discussion, it was agreed that our deadline to Iran should be Monday, March 31, with the announcement to be made on Tuesday if they do not comply.4 (S)

Message to Bani-Sadr. The draft text of the message to Bani-Sadr was discussed and revised. The revised text was forwarded separately to the President.5 (S)

Sanctions by Allies. Henry Owen asked whether we should not ask the allies to impose sanctions, as we are doing. Secretary Vance replied that we had been through this at considerable length with the allies and we know they will reply that they have no legal basis for imposing such sanctions and could not get them through their parliaments. A UN resolution would be necessary to provide the necessary legal basis. Since we know they will not agree, we would be better advised not to ask. Mr. Cutler observed that a formal order by the ICJ might help in this regard. Secretary Vance said it might help a little, but that was still some weeks away.6 (S)

[Page 592]

Census of Claims. Treasury said that the census could be initiated at any point, once a decision is made. (C)

Expulsion of Iranian Diplomats. Dr. Brzezinski asked how much time we should give the Iranian diplomats to depart the U.S. Mr. Saunders said that we should give them several days to get their affairs in order. He suggested a deadline of Friday after the announcement is made. That was acceptable to the SCC. Mr. Saunders added that we can probably expect a number of the diplomats who hold green cards to ask for permission to remain in the U.S. (S)

Approve departure deadline by Friday (April 4) after the announcement.7


Students. Treasury pointed out that they are currently licensing about $10 million every two weeks for financial support of Iranian students in this country. That will be a problem once their consulates are closed. Mr. Saunders said that the Iranians will have to devise a method for supporting these students, probably through a protecting power. It was agreed that a working group chaired by State and including Treasury and Justice would meet to work out the details for handling the students. Secretary Brown noted that we have the additional question of Iranian military students training here. He believed that it was to our advantage to let these students complete their training, but this is likely to become a sore point again as it was in the past. [1 line not declassified] Most of the students express no hostility toward the U.S., and most of them say they want to return to Iran to help improve the situation. They are understandably keeping their heads down. We need to be prepared to deal with questions about their presence which are certain to arise. The SCC agreed that the Iranian military students should be permitted to remain to complete their training despite the sanctions.8 (S)

Seizure of Assets. Although there is no present plan to seize Iranian assets, draft legislation is being prepared in the event it is needed. (S)

2. Message to Allies. At this point the meeting was reduced to the restricted group, which reviewed the message to be sent to the allies informing them of our proposed steps on Iran. The message text was provided separately to the President.9 (S)

[Omitted here is material on Diego Garcia and Pakistan.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Box 10. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Carter wrote “Zbig, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. See Document 210.
  3. Carter approved this item with a checkmark and initialed in the margin.
  4. Carter approved this item with a checkmark and initialed in the margin. He announced the sanctions on April 7; see Document 246.
  5. See Document 220.
  6. The ICJ met March 18–20 to hear U.S. oral arguments in the case brought against Iran concerning the hostages. See Department of State Bulletin, May 1980, pp. 36–60.
  7. Carter approved this option with a checkmark and initialed in the margin.
  8. Carter approved this item with a checkmark and initialed in the margin.
  9. The draft is in Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 31, Iran 3/80. See Document 223.