September 20, 1978 – Cyrus Vance: The Man On The Flying Trapeze –
September 20, 1978 – The Camp David accords drew applause and much hand-shaking the day before. The real test now was how to sell it to the other Arab nations. The job fell to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who took to the skies for some turbo-charged Shuttle Diplomacy to make the case for peace in the Middle East. And it was no easy task.
Jordan‘s King Hussein promised to give the peace proposal “serious consideration”, but didn’t say if would join the peace talks with Israel. Next stop was Saudi Arabia, where Vance faced the most crucial step in the acceptance process. The Saudis, whose vast wealth derived from oil, wields considerable influence over the Middle East and the West. And even though some blanch at the adage “what the Saudis want, the always Saudis get”, the truth is relatively spot-on. And the Saudi reaction to the Camp David Accords has disturbed the White House, to put it mildly. The Saudis charged that the accords could not be considered a final acceptable formula for peace. And what Vance was attempting to do was explain the Accords in the American view as a chance for peace. No one expected the Saudis to do a flip-flop just because they heard from Vance. The Americans realize that just blunting Saudi criticism would be an uphill fight. But the hope was the initial discouraging blast was not their last word on the subject. There was also the hope that U.S.-Saudi divisions on the Accords would not affect U.S.-Saudi relations. The Saudis represent the most important source of U.S. imported oil.
Meanwhile, President Carter was scheduled to meet Sudan’s President Gaafar Numeiry to see what Numeiry thought of the Camp David Accords. And the other Arab nations were holding a Summit in Damascus. Syria’s Assad wasted no time blasting the PLO’s Yassar Arafat for signing a unilateral agreement with Israel, saying he was turning the Arab world into a time of darkness by turning his back on his Arab brothers.
And so went this September 20, 1978 – no easy answers and a lot of hanging questions via The CBS World News Roundup.