Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)

Participants: H. R. H. Amir Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz
H. E. Shaikh Ibrahim Sulaiman
Shaikh Ali Alireza
Mr. Grew74
Mr. Henderson

At four o’clock this afternoon Amir Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia and son of Ibn Saud, King of Saudi [Page 1001] Arabia, accompanied by Shaikh Ibrahim Sulaiman and Shaikh Ali Alireza, called upon the Acting Secretary at the Department.75 Mr. Henderson, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, was also present. Shaikh Ali Alireza acted as interpreter.

Mr. Grew welcomed Amir Faisal and his party to Washington on behalf of the President. He said that the President had requested him to express the President’s deep regret that he could not be in Washington personally to receive the Amir. The Amir, of course, well understood the important nature of the duties which made the President’s absence from the United States necessary. The President had authorized Mr. Grew and Mr. Henderson to represent him in such discussions as might take place.

The Amir replied that he appreciated the fact that the President was absent from the United States in order to carry on tasks, the successful accomplishment of which would be of great benefit not only to the United States but also to the rest of the world, including Saudi Arabia. He had asked, upon the request of his father, King Ibn Saud, for an interview with the President because his father felt that as a matter of courtesy such a request should be made. Furthermore, his father desired that he express personally to the President the deep appreciation of the Government and people of Saudi Arabia for the interest which the Government of the United States had shown in the welfare of Saudi Arabia. His father was extremely gratified to have had the opportunity to establish a personal relationship with President Roosevelt,76 and had been deeply distressed to learn of his death. His father had taken some comfort, however, in the fact that reports which had come to him indicated that President Truman, like President Roosevelt, was a man of integrity and ability and had an interest in the welfare of the peoples of the Near East. His father had considered that it would be helpful for Amir Faisal to become personally acquainted with President Truman.

The Amir added that he regretted that his own presence in Saudi Arabia was needed so urgently that he could not remain in the United States pending the return of President Truman. He had, nevertheless, come to Washington in order to present his respects to the American Government and to talk with the appropriate American officials [Page 1002] on subjects pertaining to relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Mr. Grew pointed out that in terms of travel time Saudi Arabia and the United States were rapidly coming closer together. The latest schedule, computed by one of the American airlines, placed Saudi Arabia as less than 36 hours distant from Washington by air. This proximity in travel time was contributing to a sharp increase in American interest in Saudi Arabia. The outstanding work done by the Saudi Arabian delegation in San Francisco had received wide attention and approval in the United States, and had also aroused deeper interest in Saudi Arabia among Americans.

The Amir thanked Mr. Grew for his kind words and said that the Saudi Arabian delegation at San Francsico had merely tried to carry on its duties like any other delegation.

With regard to his visit to Washington, the Amir stated that he had no authority to enter into any formal negotiations on behalf of his father. His father had, however, asked him to make clear to the American Government the position of Saudi Arabia and to endeavor to ascertain the nature of various plans which the American Government may be formulating with regard to Saudi Arabia. The King had instructed Amir Faisal to say that he had absolute confidence in the United States. In view of this confidence, the King was permitting American citizens to engage in activities in Saudi Arabia of a nature which he had been unwilling to permit the citizens of any other great power to carry on. He had entrusted to American enterprise the task of developing the greatest potential source of Saudi Arabian wealth; namely, the Saudi Arabian oil fields. He was permitting American citizens to enter into other fields of activities in Saudi Arabia as well. His Majesty hoped that the American Government and American citizens would, however, understand that His Majesty could not move too rapidly in opening up his country to American enterprise. He also hoped that they would understand that in case the Saudi Arabian Government should delay in accepting certain American suggestions, it was not because His Majesty did not have confidence in the American Government or that he did not believe that the suggestions were sound. They should realize that these delays frequently arose as a result of His Majesty’s conviction that it would be unwise for him to move too fast.

Every Government and every ruler had internal and external enemies. Furthermore, every Government and every ruler had friends of proved value. His Majesty must move carefully in order not to strengthen the hand of his enemies against him or to give offense to his friends.

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The people of Saudi Arabia possessed an ancient civilization. Nevertheless, they were really children in the field of international affairs. They looked with suspicion on every innovation and on every change. It took time to prepare them to accept inventions and customs which were new to them. Unless they were thus prepared, they might be tempted to listen to the whispers of unfriendly persons to the effect that His Majesty was leading them away from the traditions and virtues of their forefathers.

Similarly, there were malicious groups among the Arabs outside of Saudi Arabia, who hate Ibn Saud and his family and wish to discredit them. Mr. Henderson, who had recently come here from Baghdad,77 must be acquainted with some of these groups. These people endeavored to spread rumors throughout the Arab world to the effect that His Majesty was selling out his people to American imperialism and was bartering the traditions of the holiest of Moslem countries for American gold.

His Majesty had for many years enjoyed the friendship of a great power. This power was also a friend of the United States. Nevertheless, the representatives of this great power showed a tendency to have hurt feelings when they observed that His Majesty was granting certain rights and privileges to American nationals which he had been withholding from their fellow nationals. They embarrassed His Majesty when they asked him why he granted these favors to Americans and not to their people. His Majesty did not wish to lose this friend. That was another reason why he must move slowly. Nevertheless, he desired that the American Government should know that in the end, he believed that most of the suggestions which have been made to him by this Government would be accepted by the Saudi Arabian Government.

The Amir said that certain reactions which took place following the establishment of the recent American military mission in Saudi Arabia78 would serve to illustrate what he had been endeavoring to express. The primary purpose of this military mission was to train the Saudi Arabian Army. Nevertheless, rumors were circulated, not only throughout Saudi Arabia but also throughout the whole Arab world, to the effect that the American soldiers in Saudi Arabia were the forerunners of the American military imperialism in the Near East, and that Ibn Saud, by permitting American soldiers to establish themselves in Saudi Arabia, was laying foundations for the military [Page 1004] occupation by the United States of various points in the Near East. Intelligent Arabs, of course, could perceive at once the maliciousness and the falsity of such rumors. They could appreciate the difference between soldiers sent to train troops and those sent to rule the country. However, many uneducated persons and persons not acquainted with the history and background of the United States believed these rumors to be true.

Mr. Grew expressed his appreciation of the frankness with which the Amir had explained some of the problems which King Ibn Saud was facing. He said that American officials who were assisting in the conduct of American relations with Saudi Arabia realized that the Saudi Arabian Government could not move too fast. Nevertheless, the statements made by the Amir were most helpful. The Amir could be assured that it was not the desire of the American Government to press any suggestions made by American officials upon the Saudi Arabian Government. They thoroughly understood that the Saudi Arabian Government was in the best position to decide what moves to make and when such moves could be most advantageously made.

Mr. Grew went on to state that the American policy towards Saudi Arabia was that of providing all possible economic and advisory assistance, without interference in the political affairs of the country. The United States wished to strengthen Saudi Arabia and to help Saudi Arabia strengthen itself.

Although the United States was anxious to aid the friendly power, Saudi Arabia, as much and as fast as possible, it must be borne in mind that, unfortunately, the United States was still at war. The extensive facilities normally controlled by the civilian agencies of the United States were now entirely in the hands of the Army and Navy, and were being used to the maximum extent in crushing the enemy. The American Government was hopeful that in the not too distant future, peace would come again, and that civilian facilities, based on peace-time needs, would once more be available. However, there was, of course, a possibility that the war would continue for several years.

It was hoped that Amir Faisal would bear in mind, and that King Ibn Saud would also understand, that under the American system of Government it was not possible for the State Department or for other governmental agencies to expend American funds until they had been authorized to do so by laws passed by Congress. Passage of laws, authorizing expenditure of money, usually required considerable periods of time. Thus far, in assisting Saudi Arabia, the State Department and other governmental agencies, had been able to spend funds under the authorization of lend-lease and similar legislation. It appeared that it would not be possible to continue to justify the expenditure in Saudi Arabia of governmental funds on the basis of [Page 1005] war time legislation of this character. Delays undoubtedly would take place in the preparation and enactment of additional legislation. It was hoped that King Ibn Saud would be patient until the United States could once again return to a peace-time basis. The friendly feelings which the United States had for Saudi Arabia were deep, and as Amir Faisal would see, in the course of his conversations during the next few days with various United States governmental officials, the Government of the United States was ready to prove its friendship by definite and concrete actions.

In order that Amir Faisal might receive the most complete information possible with regard to the plans of the United States with respect to Saudi Arabia, it had been arranged that, under the leadership of Mr. Henderson, the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, there would be held a series of conversations in which the experienced officers of the Department of State most directly concerned would participate.

Mr. Grew added that in case the Amir desired to see Mr. Grew personally during the course of these conversations, or if Mr. Grew could be of assistance to him or to any member of his party, he hoped that the Amir would not have any hesitation in calling upon him.

The Amir expressed his appreciation of the courtesy with which he had been received. He said that he was fully conscious of the friendly attitude of the United States towards Saudi Arabia; that in the past, the United States had fully demonstrated by action its friendly feelings; and that he was confident of the friendship of the United States for Saudi Arabia in the future.

Mr. Grew said that he was looking forward to seeing Amir Faisal and his party at the Luncheon, and the Amir said that he would be extremely happy to see Mr. Grew again at that time.

  1. Joseph C. Grew, Acting Secretary of State.
  2. The Amir Faisal had been in the United States as Chief of the Saudi Arabian delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization which met at San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945. He had been instructed by the King to call on President Truman after the termination of the Conference but the latter was attending the Conference of Berlin (Potsdam Conference), which met from July 17 to August 2, 1945. On July 23, President Truman designated the Acting Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs to carry on the conversations with the Amir.
  3. For documentation on the meeting of President Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud at Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, on February 14, 1945, see pp. 1 ff.
  4. Mr. Henderson had been Minister in Iraq until his appointment as Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs on April 17, 1945.
  5. For the establishment of the United States Military Mission in Saudi Arabia, see despatch 145, March 29, 1944, from Jidda, Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, p. 678; for the termination of the mission, see despatch 119, May 4, 1945, from Jidda, ante, p. 888.