890F.00/12–447: Telegram

[Extracts]

The Minister in Saudi Arabia (Childs) to the Secretary of State

top secret
us urgent

538. Audience with His Majesty, King Abdul Aziz, on second.

Present His Majesty, Fuad Bey Hamza, Minister of State, and Khalid Bey, Privy Councillor, and J. Rives Childs, American Minister.

As evidence importance attached by His Majesty to my audience with him, he broke all precedent by dismissing Mohammed Effendi, the Legation interpreter who as usual accompanied me to. Riyadh, as well as the Palace interpreter, and instead requested Fuad Bey Hamza, Minister of State, to serve as the interpreter; moreover, while the first [Page 1336]audience with His Majesty after arriving in Riyadh is one limited exclusively to exchange courtesies, on this occasion His Majesty, soon after mutual inquiries re our respective health, at once broached at this initial audience the purpose for which he had requested me to come to Riyadh.

His Majesty began by stating that he knew I was a sincere friend of the Arabs. My Government had taken decision with respect to Palestine which was most distasteful for the Arab world. He did not intend to speak, however, of that. That was past and the Arabs would take such measures as they deemed necessary for the defense of their interests. What would come out of it would be the will of God. He added, “Although we differ enormously on the question of Palestine but still we have our own mutual interests and friendship to safeguard.”

His Majesty stated that he was much concerned by two problems: one, the question of Russian influence and Communistic propaganda, and the second, the menace which might be offered by the Shereefian family.1

[Here follow the views of the King on the two problems and on Anglo-Saudi relations.]

The King stated that he wished to speak in the frankest possible way with me. For that reason he would define the position of Saudi Arabia in relation to other Arab states with respect to the Palestine question as it presented itself now in consequence of the decision taken by the United Nations.

His Majesty stated “I occupy a position of preeminence in the Arab world. In the case of Palestine I have to make common cause with other Arab states. Although the other Arab states may bring pressure to bear on me I do not anticipate that a situation will arise whereby I shall be drawn into conflict with friendly western powers over this question.”

His Majesty remarked that apart from Palestine his relations with the United States were of the closest. He considered that aside from Palestine there were no points of conflict between the two countries whose interests were complementary to one another.

For the above reasons His Majesty wished to inquire of me re three points on which he wished clear answers:

(1)
Leaving aside wholly the question of Palestine, what was the attitude of the United States Government toward the Government of Saudi Arabia? To put the question in another form, His Majesty wished to know how and in what manner he might rely upon the United States. [Page 1337]
(2)
Concerning the second point, His Majesty prefaced his question by remarking that a close British friend, who had been in his confidence since the days when Sir Percy Cox was High Commissioner in Baghdad, had recently informed him that it made no difference what arrangements Saudi Arabia might make with the United States as there was a secret understanding between the United States and Great Britain according to which the United States acknowledged this area as being within a British zone of political influence. His Majesty wished to know whether such an understanding existed between the United States and British Governments by which the United States recognized Saudi Arabia as being within a British political zone of influence.…
(3)
His Majesty remarked that one of the most sensitive parts of his Kingdom was the northern part (referring to the Saudi Arabian border with Iraq and Transjordan, Shereefian states) through which there would pass the trans-Arabian pipeline which was of equal importance to the Saudi and United States Governments. His Majesty wished to give that portion of his Kingdom the greatest possible protection. He had the troops but he was lacking arms.
There was the possibility of trouble being caused on that border through Communist propaganda or through the instigation of the Shereefian family. His Majesty cited a recent incident in Transjordan in which the offices and autos of Tapline had been attacked,2 and mentioned also proclamations and speeches made by prominent Iraqian leaders. It appeared to His Majesty that Saudi troops should be sufficiently supplied and trained to cope with such a situation. He desired to ascertain therefore whether the United States would supply the Saudi Arabian Government and army with the necessary materials for that purpose and precisely to what extent might the Saudi Arabian Government count upon assistance from the United States Government in this respect since the threat was one not only involving Saudi Arabia but also vital American interests.3

His Majesty observed that he had originally instructed his son, Prince Faisal, to proceed from New York to Washington upon the conclusion of the session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in order to see the President and Secretary of State on His Majesty’s behalf to obtain clear and direct answers to these three questions. However, tension had become so great in the Middle East owing to the Palestine decision that His Majesty felt it might arouse undue suspicion in the Arab world should Prince Faisal proceed to Washington [Page 1338]for the purpose of conferring with President Truman and Secretary Marshall.

His Majesty said he had, therefore, instructed Prince Faisal not to go to Washington. His Majesty added that he had the fullest confidence in me and that he had asked me to come to Riyadh to present these very important questions to me instead. He wished to ask me to communicate with my Government and to request that I be summoned to Washington to deliver his extremely important questions in person to the President and Secretary of State, to acquaint them personally with His Majesty’s attitude and to bring back to him the answers. It was too important a subject to commit to writing.

Finally, His Majesty stated that he did not expect me to attempt on my part to supply any answers to the questions he had raised. He would only ask that I conform with his requests.

I replied to His Majesty that I would not fail to discharge faithfully the great confidence he had reposed in me which I greatly appreciated. In view of the importance of the subject, I asked His Majesty if he had any objections to my dictating an account of our conversation to my confidential sercetary, Mr. Gleaton, who had accompanied me from Jidda. It was my thought that Khalid Bey and Fuad Bey Hamza could then review the memorandum which I might dictate and make any corrections they might consider necessary and if His Majesty so desired, the corrected memorandum might be submitted to His Majesty tomorrow. His Majesty said he was entirely in accord and that he left the matter entirely to the discretion of Khalid Bey and Fuad Bey Hamza and me. He would receive us both the following day.

Audience of third to follow.4

Childs
  1. For earlier expressions of concern by the Saudi Arabian Government in connection with the agitation by Transjordan for a Greater Syria, see pp. 738 ff.
  2. See footnote 2, p. 668.
  3. According to telegram 542, December 8, noon, from Jidda, Fuad Hamza stated to Minister Childs at Riyadh on December 7 that the King had in mind the equipment by the United States of two motorized divisions and the furnishing of fifty military planes. He asserted that “His Majesty would, of course, give the most binding assurances that these would not be used under any circumstances against US but would be employed only for the defense of Saudi Arabia.” (890F.00/12–847) Telegram 548, December 8, 10 p. m., from Jidda, reported that the following day Crown Prince Saud reiterated these assurances to Minister Childs at Jidda (890F.00/12–487).
  4. Minister Childs had a second audience with King Ibn Saud on December 3, reported in telegram 539, December 4, midnight, from Jidda. The King reiterated that the crucial question for him was whether and to what extent he might count on United States aid in resisting incursions from Iraq and Transjordan (890F.00/12–447).