The Secretary of State to the Lend-Lease Administrator (Stettinius)
My Dear Mr. Stettinius: The Government of Saudi Arabia is the only major political unit in the Near East which has not been made eligible for lend-lease aid.43
Saudi Arabia lies between the vital Red Sea and Persian Gulf shipping routes and across the direct air route to India and the Far East. The Government of Saudi Arabia has been highly sympathetic to the cause of the United Nations and has accorded United States Army aircraft the right to fly over certain uninhabited zones of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the Army may at any time wish to obtain extensive air facilities in Saudi Arabia. However, the Department is of opinion that it will be difficult to obtain additional privileges from the Government of Saudi Arabia unless we are prepared to furnish certain direct assistance to that country.
The practical elimination of the Moslem pilgrim traffic to Mecca because of war conditions has destroyed one of the principal sources [Page 855]of foreign exchange of the Government of Saudi Arabia. The economy of the country has so far been kept going by assistance given by the British and by advance royalty payments of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company. It is believed probable that the British and the American oil company can continue to furnish the exchange needed by the Government of Saudi Arabia for purchases from nearby sources such as India, but it would be very helpful if it were possible for Saudi Arabia to be able to obtain additional assistance in the way of civilian supplies from the United States.
An exception to the general rule of cash payment for civilian supplies furnished under lend-lease to Near Eastern countries would presumably have to be made in the case of Saudi Arabia. However, it is believed that such assistance would amount to a relatively small sum. Total exports from the United States to Saudi Arabia in recent years have averaged considerably less than $5,000,000 annually, and in the first ten months of 1942 equaled $466,000. General imports into the United States from Saudi Arabia during the same period have averaged less than one-third of the value of exports to that country.
King Ibn Saud’s unswerving sympathy for and loyalty to the United Nations’ cause have been of inestimable value, and his prestige and influence in the Arab and Moslem world are great. Lend-Lease assistance would constitute recognition of his loyal and courageous attitude and would facilitate the prosecution of the war. Accordingly, I hope that prompt action may be taken to make Saudi Arabia eligible to receive lend-lease aid.
- Under provisions of the Lend-Lease Act approved March 11, 1941; 55 Stat. 31.↩