Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Alling)

Mr. Thornburg came in today to say that, as he had told us yesterday, Mr. James Moffett had an interview with Secretary of the Navy [Page 635]Knox yesterday afternoon in regard to the plan of financial assistance to Saudi Arabia. Secretary Knox, according to Mr. Thornburg, expressed the opinion that the plan was purely a political matter and one in which the Navy would not be interested one way or the other at this point. Secretary Knox felt, however, that if the plan was approved as a political matter there was no reason why the Navy Department could not proceed with discussions regarding methods of putting the plan into effect. Apparently Mr. Moffett pressed Secretary Knox to take some further action, and as a result the latter agreed to discuss the matter with Mr. Jesse Jones.18 That discussion, so I understand, is to take place today.

Mr. Thornburg went on to say that the company’s representatives in Saudi Arabia had taken up informally with King Ibn Saud the question of sending a message to the President requesting financial aid. Apparently the King was willing to send such a message provided he received some measure of assurance that his request would be acted upon favorably. Mr. Thornburg asked whether I felt that now was the time for such a message to be sent. I told him it was my personal view that it would be better to have the situation explored further here so as to determine whether there actually was some possibility of carrying out the plan. If there did seem to be some possibility of putting the plan into effect then it might be in order for his representatives to advise the King to send such a message.

Mr. Thornburg indicated that he was going to discuss this whole question with some of his British friends with a view to seeing what, if any, action they proposed to take with a view to extending further assistance to Ibn Saud. In this connection Mr. Thornburg stated that it was his understanding that the British Government had agreed about a year ago to grant the Saudi Arabian Government a credit of £400,000, one-half of which was to be used at once and the balance in the autumn of 1940. More recently, so he understood, the British had agreed to open a similar credit for use during the calendar year 1941.

  1. Federal Loan Administrator.