890F.77/10–146: Telegram

The Ambassador in Egypt (Tuck) to the Secretary of State

top secret
most immediate

1641. For Loy Henderson.25 General Giles, Regional Director TWA, has requested me to transmit the following Top Secret message which King Ibn Saud has asked him to deliver urgently to President Truman.

In consenting to forward this message which I consider important, I wish to make it clear that it is not my intention to poach on the preserves of our Minister to Saudi Arabia. Giles has assured me that he would have given the message immediately to Childs at Jidda but for the fact that the latter was absent in the Yemen.26 The gist of the passage as given verbally by King Ibn Saud to Giles at Riyadh on September 28, 1946 is as follows:

The King first informed Giles that the message he wished delivered to President Truman was of the utmost secrecy and urgency and that not even Prince Faisal or his Saudi Arabian Minister in Washington were aware of it. The King said that he had pledged his word to his people to build a railway from the east coast of Saudi Arabia to Riyadh27 which he wished his people to operate. This railway would serve to bring into the country oil equipment and supplies and would aid in developing the hinterland. The King said that a road alone would not serve the country effectively as motor transport was constantly in need of repair and is therefore of limited use. He added that he intended to fulfill this pledge to his people at whatever cost and he looked for assistance to President Truman and the American people as his only true friends. The King said that British interests were both selfish and restrictive in character and that he believed that the British were secretly friendly to the Jews. The King expressed to Giles his great hope and faith in the US and declared that he would always remain our friend although on occasion his pronouncements in regard to the Palestine question28 might indicate otherwise.

[Page 749]

King Ibn Saud stated that he would exhaust every means at his disposal in the hope of obtaining American assistance for this proposed railway construction project but if American help was not forthcoming, he would not hesitate to seek British assistance which he believed the British would gladly offer. Failing either American or British help, he would be obliged to seek recourse to some other powerful nation (presumably Russia).

The King concluded the interview by reiterating his firm intention to build this railway which he said would be the “crowning glory” of his reign.

This message has not been repeated to Jidda.

  1. Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  2. Minister Childs had left Jidda to present his letters of credence to the Imam of the Yemen; see despatch 69, September 17, from Jidda, p. 925.
  3. The Saudi Arabian Minister of Finance had left Jidda en route to the United States on July 29. On August 6, Minister Childs had advised the Department in airgram A–86, 1946, that one of the principal purposes of this visit was understood to be the raising of a loan of $50,000,000 to finance construction of a railway from Damman to Riyadh. (890F.51/8–646) Abdullah Suleiman discussed the question of the railroad with President Truman on August 14 (Memorandum of Conversation by R. D. Muir, Acting Chief of Protocol, filed under 890F.002/8–1446) and with Acting Secretary of State Acheson on October 10 (Memorandum of Conversation by Mr. Sanger, filed under 890F.77/10–1046).
  4. For documentation on this question, see pp. 576 ff.