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Ronald Reagan Administration: Letter to Congress on the Deployment of U.S. Forces in the Multinational Force and Observers

(March 19, 1982)

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

On December 29, 1981 I signed into law Public Law 97 - 132, a Joint Resolution authorizing the participation of the United States in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) which will assist in the implementation of the 1979 Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel. The U.S. military personnel and equipment which the United States will contribute to the MFO are now in the process of deployment to the Sinai. In accordance with my desire that the Congress be fully informed on this matter, and consistent with Section 4(a)(2) of the War Powers Resolution, I am hereby providing a report on the deployment and mission of these members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

As you know, the 1979 Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel terminated the existing state of war between those countries, provided for the complete withdrawal from the Sinai of Israeli armed forces and civilians within three years after the date of the Treaty's entry into force (that is, by April 25, 1982), and provided for the establishment of normal friendly relations. To assist in assuring compliance with the terms of Annex I to the Treaty, so as to enhance the mutual confidence of the parties in the security of the Sinai border area, the Treaty calls for the establishment of a peacekeeping force and observers to be deployed prior to the final Israeli withdrawal. Although the Treaty called on the parties to request the United Nations to provide the peacekeeping force and observers, it was also recognized during the negotiations that it might not be possible to reach agreement in the United Nations for this purpose. For this reason, President Carter assured Israel and Egypt in separate letters that ``if the Security Council fails to establish and maintain the arrangements called for in the Treaty, the President will be prepared to take those steps necessary to ensure the establishment and maintenance of an acceptable alternative multinational force.''

In fact, it proved impossible to secure U.N. action. As a result, Egypt and Israel, with the participation of the United States, entered into negotiations for the creation of an alternative multinational force and observers. These negotiations resulted in the signing on August 3, 1981 by Egypt and Israel of a Protocol for that purpose. The Protocol established the MFO and provided in effect that the MFO would have the same functions and responsibilities as those provided in the 1979 Treaty for the planned U.N. force. Included are: the operation of checkpoints, reconnaissance patrols, and observation posts; verification of the implementation of Annex I of the Peace Treaty; and ensuring freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran in accordance with Article V of the Peace Treaty. By means of an exchange of letters with Egypt and Israel dated August 3, 1981, the United States agreed, subject to Congressional authorization and appropriations, to contribute an infantry battalion, a logistics support unit and civilian observers to the MFO, as well as a specified portion of the annual costs of the MFO. The U.S. military personnel to be contributed comprise less than half of the anticipated total MFO military complement of approximately 2,500 personnel.

In Public Law 97 - 132, the Multinational Force and Observers Participation Resolution, Congress affirmed that it considered the establishment of the MFO to be an essential stage in the development of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East. The President was authorized to assign, under such terms and conditions as he might determine, members of the United States Armed Forces to participate in the MFO, provided that these personnel perform only the functions and responsibilities specified in the 1979 Treaty and the 1981 Protocol, and that their number not exceed 1,200 at any one time.

In accordance with the 1981 Egypt-Israel Protocol, the MFO must be in place by 1300 hours on March 20, 1982, and will assume its functions at 1300 hours on April 25, 1982. Accordingly, the movement of U.S. personnel and equipment for deployment to the Sinai is currently under way. On February 26 five unarmed UH - 1H helicopters (which will provide air transportation in the Sinai for MFO personnel), together with their crews and support personnel, arrived at Tel Aviv; on March 2 approximately 88 logistics personnel arrived at Tel Aviv; on March 17, the first infantry troops of the First Battalion, 505th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division arrived in the Southern Sinai; and by March 18 a total of 808 infantry troops, together with their equipment will have arrived. These troops will be equipped with standard light infantry weapons, including M - 16 automatic rifles, M - 60 machine guns, M203 grenade launchers and Dragon anti-tank missiles.

The duration of this involvement of U.S. forces in the Sinai will depend, of course, on the strengthening of mutual confidence between Egypt and Israel. The U.S. contribution to the MFO is not limited to any specific period; however, each country which contributes military forces to the MFO retains a right of withdrawal upon adequate prior notification to the MFO Director-General. U.S. participation in future years will, of course, be subject to the Congressional authorization and appropriations process.

I want to emphasize that there is no intention or expectation that these members of the U.S. Armed Forces will become involved in hostilities. Egypt and Israel are at peace, and we expect them to remain at peace. No hostilities are occurring in the area and we have no expectation of hostilities. MFO forces will carry combat equipment appropriate for their peacekeeping missions, to meet the expectations of the parties as reflected in the 1981 Protocol and related documents, and as a prudent precaution for the safety of MFO personnel.

The deployment of U.S. forces to the Sinai for this purpose is being undertaken pursuant to Public Law 97 - 132 of December 29, 1981, and pursuant to the President's constitutional authority with respect to the conduct of foreign relations and as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Armed Forces.


Ronald Reagan

Sources: Public Papers of the President