890F.7962/4–2448: Telegram

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

top secret

224. General Harper1 and I, Sanger, Colonels O’Keefe2 and Snyder3 spent April 21 to 23 Riyadh where we had several audiences [Page 236] with His Majesty and long exchanges views with Thaikh Yusuf Yassin, Deputy Foreign Minister. His Majesty could not have been more cordial in his welcome of us and spoke with great frankness and spirit utmost friendliness his defense problems about which he is deeply concerned. His Majesty exhibited keen realization of threatening world situation and recognized Saudi Arabia might well become one of centers of operations in any world conflict. He stressed present vulnerability and defenseless character in particular oil installations.

General Harper outlined at length what Department Air Force able offer in way funds and training Dhahran air base.4 His Majesty listened most attentively and asked pointedly, “Is that all?” When General Harper assented, His Majesty expressed great disappointment and said he was going to speak frankly as one friend to another. He then said he had requested US Government some months ago for concrete military aid. With present acute situation, he stated Saudi Arabian needs as consisting of four Saudi Arabian groups of 20,000 men each, fully equipped and trained in mechanized warfare. Implicitly we [he?] recognized that he would rely on US for any defense against a major power but emphasized Saudi Arabian forces he had in mind would not only assist our defense plans but would be available to him for use in developing defense his borders against Hashemites whom British were arming. It was stated in event attack by Russia, there was no doubt in His Majesty’s mind but what we would come immediately his defense but suppose, by way of example, Saudi Arabia were attacked by Bahrein. We would probably be content to refer matter to UN.

King stated, “Truly and actually, I never believed US Government would give me this kind of reply to my request for aid. What General Harper has to offer is satisfactory for a time of civilization and peace but it is not for today. There are hostilities all around us. War may be with us very soon. If the Americans are to arrange to give such training as offered at Dhahran, at Nejd, and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, that would not be useful in such critical circumstances. I do not know of any other government except the British from which I can get help. In the past, British have been my friends and have given me considerable assistance but since discovery of oil and granting oil concessions to Americans, British have changed in their attitude. They are now supporting Hashemites. Truly I am in a critical situation. British themselves will not harm me but Hashemites groups will. My enemies are saying I have given Saudi Arabia over to the Americans. My enemies in Islamic countries spread rumors I have even permitted [Page 237] Americans occupy holy places. If the Americans are really my friends they must change the offer that General Harper has brought. America must help me at least as the British are helping the Hashemites”.

It is our thought Departments of State and Defense should draft without delay informal agreement using existing Dhahran air base agreement as basis in which there would be incorporated provisions relating not only continuance our use Dhahran but other airport facilities as well, and in which provision would be made for specific military aid we may be in position furnish for defense Saudi Arabia. One of striking statements made by Shaikh Yusuf was “You should think of Saudi Arabia as your own territory in elaborating your defense plans”. As reported previously, His Majesty is averse to treating question continuance our occupancy Dhahran air base apart from broad general question Saudi Arabian defense. One of reasons for this and perhaps controlling one is that if we furnish him specific military aid he has in mind he can then justify to Arab world facilities he is prepared and entirely ready to grant to US at Dhahran as well as elsewhere. Such an agreement, it is believed would satisfy His Majesty’s request for mutual defense pact and would have other obvious advantages.

Attitude His Majesty may best be summed up in statement “do something concrete now or tell us that you are going to do nothing”. Under these circumstances we suggest the various studies now being carried on in Washington regarding US defense plans in Saudi Arabia be pushed to a rapid conclusion. If decision these studies is negative King should be so informed as quickly as possible. If on other hand it is decided we will take active steps to defend the Arabian Peninsula we suggest that a party of American technicians under auspices Department Defense come to Saudi Arabia and confer with King and his advisers, and be prepared submit cost program to SAG which they would be expected to bear. It is opinion His Majesty and our opinion the time for talk has passed and it is imperative group which is sent to Saudi Arabia should be empowered to make commitments which might be incorporated in agreement referred to above.

To summarize in words Shaikh Yusuf, “if US should offer adequate military aid US Government may ask what help it may need and His Majesty will grant it. In fact His Majesty will not wait for you to make requests. He will make the offers to you when needed”.

We are confident if problem Dhahran air base treated on foregoing basis we need have no concern regarding our ability obtain facilities Saudi Arabia we may desire for our own defense needs.

Sent Department 224, repeated Dhahran 125. Department please pass Department of Air for ASNF.

  1. Maj. Gen. Robert Harper, Commanding General of the Air Transport Command.
  2. Col. Richard J. O’Keefe, the designated successor to Col. Seeds as Commanding Officer of the Dhahran Air Field.
  3. Col. Harry R. Snyder, Chief of the Air Training Mission at the Dhahran Air Field.
  4. In telegram 111, April 6, 7 p. m., the Department had informed Jidda that $1,500,000 had been allocated to recondition the Dhahran Air Base (890F.7962/4–248).