611.86A/3–1950

Memorandum, of Conversation 1

secret

Subject: United States-Saudi Arabian Relations

Participants: HRH, Prince Feisal, Viceroy of the Hejaz and Foreign Minister
Shaikh Abdullah Sulaiman, Minister of Finance
Shaikh Yusuf Yassin, Deputy Foreign Minister
Najib Bey Salha, Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance
Ambassador J. Rives Childs
The Honorable George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary for NEA
Heyward G. Hill, Counsellor of Embassy, Jidda
William D. Brewer, Third Secretary of Embassy, Jidda
Mohammed Effendi Massoud, Embassy Arab Secretary

The above group met in the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 19, 1950, to discuss current problems of interest to [Page 1132]the two governments. After greetings and expressions of welcome were exchanged, His Royal Highness stated that this personal visit by Mr. McGhee would help greatly in developing understanding between the two countries. He stated that any visit by an American official always increased this understanding and expressed the wish that more Americans could visit Saudi Arabia.

Mr. McGhee stated that he would like to summarize each important problem facing our two countries as it appears to us, and then ask His Royal Highness to comment as well as to raise any questions he might have, and discuss them fully.

The relationship between the two countries, Mr. McGhee said, is unique among all our international relationships. There is no country in this section of the world in which we have this particular type of relationship. Although it is not possible to view relations between countries as between individuals, nevertheless our relationship is stronger than could be defined by formal contracts or treaties, since it arises from the genuine personal friendships between our respective peoples.

Twice in modern history our country has come to the assistance of Europe despite the absence of a formal treaty, because of the ties between our people and the people of Europe. Our relations with Saudi Arabia are founded on strong human relationships, personal relationships between our leaders, as exemplified by the meeting of His Majesty and our late President,2 together with frequent interchanges among our peoples. All of our businessmen and oil men and government officials find that they may easily conduct their business with Saudi Arabs on the basis of human understanding. This is the underlying force which joins our two countries together and transcends all treaty arrangements.

In addition, as one analyzes it, the United States has an extremely strong interest in the American investment in petroleum in Saudi Arabia.3 This is an interest which is vitally important to the security of the United States and to the world.

American interests in oil in this part of the world, which is the greatest reservoir in the world, is largely confined to Saudi Arabia. American oil companies have a small interest in Iraq and Kuwait but the major interests that American companies have in the Middle East is in Saudi Arabia. This fact alone, if it were not for other factors, would give to our country a very great responsibility and interest in Saudi Arabia and its right to be a free and independent state.

[Page 1133]

Mr. McGhee said that he felt that since this relationship exists it is the obligation of the United States to understand the problems of Saudi Arabia and, as a friend, to assist her within the limits of American capabilities in facing these problems. Cognizance must be taken of what Saudi Arabia considers her problems, and not only what the United States considers are Saudi Arabian problems, because Saudi Arabia knows better than the United States just what these are.

It is hoped that Saudi Arabia will correspondingly judge the effectiveness of the assistance which the United States gives, taking into consideration the fact that the United States has very large world responsibilities. Only the United States, among the independent countries of the world, is in a position at the present time to take the lead in facing the grave dangers which exist in the world. This means, not only for the benefit of ourselves but for the benefit of all free nations in the world, it is necessary that the United States render assistance to nations who find themselves threatened by aggression or subversion from the north.

The United States does not have unlimited resources of wealth with which to support these grave obligations. In fact, there is an internal deficit in the American budget which imposes considerable financial difficulties. While the United States is willing and anxious to do what is possible, it is hoped that His Royal Highness and Saudi Arabia will recognize that there are always limitations to what the United States can do.

The most important thing to any nation is its security—the most important thing to the United States is its security. The United States feels that this must be uppermost in the minds of His Majesty and the people of Saudi Arabia. Security is something about which, Mr. McGhee said, he felt one must take a very broad view. One can view immediate security menaces or one can view long-range and possibly more dangerous security menaces.

The United States feels that the only important long-range security menace that faces the world is the obviously aggressive designs of the USSR. The United States accepted this view very reluctantly, and it hopes that history will reveal that it made every effort in the post-war period to cooperate with Russia and establish friendly relationships with her. Rut the United States found it impossible and discovered that they must assume a defensive attitude with respect to Russia. That is why the United States, as a normally peaceful nation, which has never waged aggressive war or spent large sums on military armament, has had to devote such a large part of its budget to military purposes.

Even though it is alien to American history and nature to provide arms to other nations, the United States has, in cases where it was felt [Page 1134]necessary to preserve the independence of nations which were being threatened by Russian aggression given large scale military assistance. First to Greece, when the Greek Government asked the United States to protect them from guerrillas, the United States gave wholesale assistance. Also, in the case of Turkey, the United States gave military assistance.4

Now the United States is prominent in the military assistance being given to the Western European countries, something provided for by the North Atlantic Treaty which was negotiated between the United States and the North Atlantic countries and which reflects the American conclusion that the security of the North Atlantic area is most vital from the standpoint both of the United States security and the security of the world. The security of this area is necessary in order to protect its great industrial potential for the nations of the world. This is not only important to Saudi Arabia and the United States, but to all free nations who desire protection from Russian aggression. The Department of State feels that in pursuing this program the United States is giving assistance to Saudi Arabia and each country in the world which wants to remain free and independent.

Since the resources which the United States has for making commitments are limited, of necessity the United States has made commitments where it was thought the most urgent situation existed from the standpoint of world security.

Now Saudi Arabia is not, fortunately, menaced by Russian aggression. Saudi Arabia has no common boundaries with Russia and fortunately has no internal Communist problem. The United States understands that Saudi Arabia would be a very valuable target in the event of a shooting war and in that event Saudi Arabia would face the problem of its own defense. The United States understands that Saudi Arabia cannot ignore her security problem from the standpoint of Russia itself.

The United States also understands fully the apprehension of Saudi Arabia with respect to her neighbors, the Hashemite Kingdoms,5 and irrespective of American conclusions as to whether or not Saudi Arabia is menaced by the Hashemites, the fact that Saudi Arabia considers herself menaced is taken into consideration. This is a question to which the Department of State has devoted much thought. It is troubling Saudi Arabia and should be analyzed by the United States to see if there is any real basis for apprehension on the part of Saudi Arabia.

Mr. McGhee said that he, himself, had had special discussions with the British Foreign Office on this problem as well as with United [Page 1135]States representatives from all over the Near Eastern countries at the Istanbul Conference. The representatives in the countries concerned do not feel that there are aggressive designs against Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi Arabia knows its neighbors much better than the United States does and the latter does not want to attempt to tell Saudi Arabia in an authoritative way what their ultimate designs may be.

The situation was analyzed, however, in this way, a way which Mr. McGhee said he thought should be reassuring to the government of Saudi Arabia. In the first place, there appears to be little basis for a community of interest in action on the part of the Hashemite countries. In the case of both countries, they have special treaty arrangements with the United Kingdom. In each case the United Kingdom has certain specific rights with respect to their own internal forces and with respect to the base rights in their areas. In both cases the countries are dependent upon the United Kingdom for the supply of military equipment, personnel, and in many cases military leaders. In our judgment the British are fully capable of restraining any action of aggression on the part of either of the two countries.

The British have assured us in a most sincere way that they have every desire to prevent such aggressive action and share the interest of the United States that Saudi Arabia be not menaced and be permitted to maintain its independence and integrity. If one considers the close relationship that exists between the British and the United States, Mr. McGhee said that he could assure His Royal Highness in a categorical way that it would not be possible in the light of these factors that these countries undertake any independent aggressive action against Saudi Arabia.

Mr. McGhee said he fully understood that despite these questions Saudi Arabia is entitled to a security force. It is the conclusion of the United States that the only ultimate security any nation has is in its internal political and economic strength, and it is indeed fortunate, in a sense, that nations who are not in a position to bear a large portion of world responsibilities can devote a large portion of their energy toward internal economic development.

His Royal Highness is fully aware of the succession of events which have led the United States to send a group headed by General O’Keefe to investigate the problems of Saudi Arabia. The United States is very pleased indeed, that Saudi Arabia requested such an investigation and very pleased also that it was possible to provide such a qualified group to study these security needs. The Department understands that their recommendations have been studied by Saudi Arabia and that Saudia Arabia is in agreement with the general conclusions and recommendations.

[Page 1136]

As the President has written to His Majesty in a letter which Mr. McGhee said he would deliver to him in Riyadh,6 the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is the highest military tribunal in the United States, is presently studying General O’Keefe’s report. A most careful and authoritative study is being given to this report to determine whether or not the recommendations are the best possible for Saudi Arabia in the light of her military situation and the equipment available.

After the Joint Chiefs of Staff have completed their report it will be studied by the Department of State and what is finally agreed upon by the President will become the basis upon which the United States will assist Saudi Arabia. At the appropriate time the Executive of our Government will seek from the Congress what additional authority if any is needed in order to meet the requirements of the recommendations of the O’Keefe report. As His Royal Highness understands fully, the United States is a democracy and the Executive sometimes has difficulty in obtaining its requests from the Congress but the Executive will press this point with all possible vigor when the recommendations of the O’Keefe report have finally been agreed upon.

When the United States has this authority, the Department of State looks forward to renewing discussions with the Saudi Arabian Government, looking toward negotiations for a long-range arrangement for the Dhahran Air Base which, as the Saudi Arabian Government knows, is the desire of the United States be concluded. The United States still attaches the greatest importance to the utilization of this air base both from the standpoint of United States and Saudi Arabian security interests and the security interests of all the free nations of the world. The United States also has every desire that Saudi Arabia feel that it has in the United States a strong and ready friend who will assist it in time of adversity, and that although the United States does not feel that Saudi Arabia is at present menaced, if at any time it is menaced by aggressive action or subversive activities from any neighboring power, the United States Government will take most definite action.

Mr. McGhee then said that he thought it might be appropriate before he talked any further to inquire whether His Royal Highness had any comments to make with respect to the general question of security, although he recognized that no conclusions would be considered final before they met with His Majesty’s approval.

His Royal Highness Prince Feisal then replied that he had no doubt that everyone who is sincere in his feelings toward Saudi Arabia has been well-pleased to see the friendship existing between the two countries so greatly strengthened. He said that he was, and remained, one [Page 1137]of those who are so eager to see the strengthening of this friendship and he expressed the hope that, even though sometimes differences may exist in points of view, these differences will not have an adverse effect on the friendly relationships that exist between the two countries.

As far as security and defense were concerned, you have been acquainted with the report which was submitted by General O’Keefe’s Survey Mission.7 Saudi Arabia considers the contents of that report a bare minimum. In other words, His Royal Highness stated, “We need more but not less than that”.

His Royal Highness went on to point out that security and defense can be divided into several stages, namely, internal stability, complete security from any aggression or menace from a neighboring country, and lastly, a menace which is menacing the whole world.

Saudi Arabia must make preparations to face this aggression. The Saudi Arabian Government hopes that the United States will understand that the situation in Saudi Arabia differs from the situation in the United States or England or any other country in Europe. For this reason Saudi Arabia states that it must keep certain methods of preserving security which differ from other schemes used in the United States or Europe or in any foreign nation.

If Saudi Arabia is going to form a force just to maintain internal stability, His Royal Highness asked Mr. McGhee if he had any idea of what that would involve. Looking at the recent past, the police force is not the prime safety factor for safety and peace in Saudi Arabia. The security and peace prevailing all over Saudi Arabia is not the result of its police force, but the result of the wise system of His Majesty in governing Saudi Arabia.

Everyone is talking, building up a campaign against His Majesty, saying that he is an absolute monarch spending all his money for nothing, neglecting all important projects. His Royal Highness stated that he was sure that His Majesty has the final authority in issuing any instructions, but while it may be thought that His Majesty is spending money for his own personal luxurious life, or spending it to augment his own personal wealth, on the contrary, he is spending that money in gifts to those who, if they had no money to feed themselves, would be a threat to internal stability. If the history of this peninsula is reviewed, it will be found that most of the tribes did nothing to guard the security of this country. But since His Majesty has been in power it is apparent that he is spending that money in certain areas so that those places would keep quiet and not stir up the whole situation and menace the security of this whole country.

[Page 1138]

It may be that certain of His Majesty’s employees may make mistakes, but human beings are prone to make mistakes. Nevertheless, the basic principle is there. If it is desired to consider the revenue of Saudi Arabia, which also the world has just made a big fuss about, in any other country it is not a great deal. The Saudi Arabian Government does not deny that it has certain income which would be sufficient to feed its people, but if it is desired to use this income to build a strong army and spend it on government projects, and not to make a luxurious life but merely to improve transportation and communications in Arabia along modern lines, Saudi Arabia’s funds would never be sufficient to cover all these projects. For, in spite of the fact that we do have some revenue, this alone is not sufficient for us at once to step forth and take our place among the fully developed nations of the world.

His Royal Highness stated that he desired to give Mr. McGhee certain ideas on this point and that he would now return to the main topic.

He said that if this question of the neighboring menace had been left to Saudi Arabia and its neighbors alone to settle without interference on the part of foreign powers, Saudi Arabia could have settled it very easily. Saudi Arabia’s neighbors are supported by a great foreign power and though that foreign power has no intention of threatening Saudi Arabia, yet the threat comes indirectly through their support of these neighbors. While these neighbors have been supported and have been given armaments, Saudi Arabia has been deprived of them. These neighbors have been offered a lot of arms and have been given support along lines of military education and training for their personnel while Saudi Arabia, who should it seek similar assistance, would have difficult obstacles put in its path. Despite the current high prices for arms, which Saudi Arabia cannot meet, Saudi Arabia would like to get as much in the way of military assistance as its neighbors are getting.

In addition to that, these neighbors are manufacturing a campaign of propaganda against Saudi Arabia, not only in the adjacent countries, but abroad as well. For Saudi Arabian prestige, it would be better that this point not be considered by it. Saudi Arabia has no desire to grant any aid when people are desirous of maintaining the stability of their area, but Saudi Arabia hopes that its friends will try to stop or limit such propaganda which Saudi Arabia does not consider so much a real menace and threat as something to be disgusted about.

Saudi Arabia would prefer that this area be left alone to itself, but this is impossible and the interference of foreign powers seems rather the type of action which serves to justify this whole situation. It is [Page 1139]not sufficient to say that Saudi Arabia is not directly threatened by its neighbors at the moment, for nothing is far away. Though it is not immediately threatened, the United States is taking certain measures to insure its security against Russia. It should not be necessary for Saudi Arabia to have to wait until the bell of danger rings and then make its cries for help heard. Saudi Arabia considers that it has a right to ask help of its friends. When Saudi Arabia approaches the United States it is claiming the right of friendship.

The United States has certain interests here, as Mr. McGhee says. Saudi Arabia cannot deny that the United States is a democracy with certain difficulties with Congress in the matter of obtaining appropriations, but if the President and the Government and the Department of State, who are well acquainted with the situation all over the world, felt there was a menace to the interests of the United States, American public opinion could be molded, if not for the sake of Ibn Saud, for the sake of the interests of the United States and Saudi Arabia. Mr. Childs knows, said His Royal Highness, that he is always frank and never restricts himself to the niceties of diplomatic protocol.

As is known, Saudi Arabia has turned away from the United Kingdom and placed more of its interests in the hands of the United States Government. However, Saudi Arabia continues to maintain very friendly relationships with the British and will continue to maintain friendly relations with them. Formerly, the British treated Saudi Arabia very well, but recently they have, in view of certain interests, tried to maintain these interests which have become a menace to Saudi Arabia.

In spite of this action on the part of the British, Saudi Arabia has continued to maintain friendly relations with them and it hopes that these friendly relationships will continue. However, to maintain friendly relations with the British does not prevent Saudi Arabia from looking out for its security and preparing its defenses. Saudi Arabia’s interests are more closely related to those of the United States now, and because of this sharing of interests Saudi Arabia feels that the United States Government should be more willing to help support Saudi Arabia.

His Royal Highness said that Saudi Arabia had many problems, involving financial and economic questions, communications, public works, cultural development, and health. He said he was giving Mr. McGhee a complete picture of Saudi Arabia’s situation so that he would understand the situation well. What is left unclear may be completed and cleared up by Mr. Childs.

Mr. McGhee then stated that he fully appreciated the factors which His Royal Highness had mentioned and that Saudi Arabia does have the need for security. He said that the United States has every desire [Page 1140]to assist in meeting this need and particularly, out of this special friendship which His Royal Highness has been kind enough to refer to, the United States feels that it is incumbent upon it to assist Saudi Arabia in providing these forces, and that, of course, is why General O’Keefe made his survey and why we are giving such earnest consideration to his report.

Concerning economic development, this is something in which the United States Government has taken increased interest in connection with the statements of our President in his inaugural address concerning Point Four. It is the desire of the United States Government to help Saudi Arabia in its development program which His Majesty has undertaken and is pursuing so vigorously. It is thought that the United States can assist Saudi Arabia in two ways.

First, Mr. McGhee said that he was very pleased that Saudi Arabia has put forth a request for some money to assist in developing very specific projects. Although the request had been sent to the Department since he left Washington, he had seen a statement of it and the projects seemed to be sound. As His Royal Highness knows, the Export-Import Bank granted a loan at one time to Saudi Arabia. Mr. McGhee said that although final decision on the granting of the loan would be made by the Bank, he felt that the Bank would consider favorably these new requests and he stated that he would discuss this matter with the Bank when he returned to Washington. Saudi Arabia can be sure that from every political standpoint, it is the earnest desire of the United States that these projects be carried out.

The other way in which the United States can be of assistance is through the President’s Point Four technical assistance program. In the requests that have been made to the Congress, there is a request for a considerable sum for technical assistance to Saudi Arabia. This sum is not large in comparison with the cost of the projects, but the amounts which can be spent on technical assistance are limited. It will make it possible, if Congress acts favorably on this request, for the United States to send to Saudi Arabia American technicians who can come and assist in solving the basic problems which Saudi Arabia must face before it can effect this development.

These technicians will, of course, be provided on a grant basis. The types of technicians which are required depends upon the wishes of the Saudi Arabian Government, but, from Ambassador Childs’ discussion with this Government and United States discussions with Saudi Arabian officials, it would appear that among the most important problems that Saudi Arabia faces are the problems of ground water exploitation, the improvement of agricultural methods, improvement of transportation, and technical assistance in various fields such as finance and administration.

[Page 1141]

As soon as authority is received from the Congress, the United States Government will enter into detailed discussions with the Saudi Arabian Government on their desires. The United States Government feels that technical assistance and the loans from the Export-Import Bank, augmented by private investment, will assist Saudi Arabia in its development. The United States on its side is gratified that American investors, both oilmen and others, have chosen to come here to work with the Saudi Arabian Government and that the Saudi Arabian Government has cooperated with them so well. One small but typical example is the recent negotiations for a cement plant in which the Export-Import Bank has assisted. Part of the Point Four Program is to provide legislation which will induce the participation of private investors through reducing some of the risk of foreign private investments. The United States Government hopes that in the future more American business men will come here, if the Saudi Arabian Government so desires.

In this connection, it is the desire of the United States Government to negotiate with the Saudi Arabian Government a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation which will serve as a basis here on which business may be conducted. The treaty would, of course, correspond to the wishes of His Majesty. It need not be a complicated treaty. The United States Government feels that the negotiation of such a treaty would symbolize the close and friendly relations between the two countries.

Prince Feisal then stated that he was pleased with such assurances that the United States will assist Saudi Arabia in the economic field in the ways Mr. McGhee had mentioned. Since His Majesty will ultimately determine the final points of such aid it was not his wish to go too deeply into discussion of the economic questions. Assurances from Mr. McGhee that the United States Government is ready to help Saudi Arabia with this is sufficient.

Mr. McGhee replied that there were two special questions which he would also like to discuss. One was the question of the dispute over the eastern boundaries of Saudi Arabia.8 The United States Government recognizes, of course, that this is Saudi Arabia’s problem and a problem of great concern to Saudi Arabia. Since, however, the dispute is largely with the British, and the British and Saudi Arabia are both good friends of the United States, the United States Government is reluctant to see them in a dispute.

[Page 1142]

As a good friend to both, the United States Government will do all it can to assist in reaching a settlement, since it would help greatly from the standpoint of security and the development of the country for this question to be settled. Mr. McGhee said that he did not feel that it was appropriate for the United States to inject itself directly into the question, since it is a problem for the Saudi Arabian Government and the British. The two parties should be able to devise a method of working out the problem.

The United States Government was pleased that the Saudi Arabian Government put forth the suggestion of creating a fact-finding commission, since we felt that this was a constructive step. If a fact-finding commission could be created by mutual agreement, the United States Government feels a most useful step would have been taken in narrowing the existing area of disagreement. Once this area of disagreement has been determined, the question can be narrowed even further by straight diplomatic negotiations. Any remaining problems can possibly then be dealt with by means of arbitration. Mr. McGhee said that he understood that this was the suggestion of the Saudi Arabian Government and that he would like to offer the good offices of the United States Government if this could assist in any way the reaching of an understanding with the British.

Shaikh Yusuf Yassin then stated that most of the difficulties involve disputes over some islands in the Persian Gulf. The Saudi Arabian Government is perfectly sure that these islands are part of this country, and they belong to Saudi Arabia, and no neighboring country has any right whatsoever to take them. Saudi Arabia has given a concession to Aramco, which is represented by the American Government and the Saudi Arabian Government should have help from the American Government, which is Aramco’s government.

More than that, as has been stated, Saudi Arabia has on several occasions had difficulties with its neighbors but has always managed to settle these without interference of a foreign power.

Prince Feisal said that the Saudi Arabian Government had written to the British Government with reference to this, and the British had no proof to the claim. From the Saudi Arabian Government’s communications, Mr. McGhee could come to the conclusion that the British had no proof and no right to these islands. His Royal Highness said that he would like to invite Mr. McGhee’s attention to the fact that Saudi Arabia does not want to create any differences with the British or with neighboring countries. Saudi Arabia has been silent for many years and they have taken the initiative.

[Page 1143]

Aramco told the Saudi Arabian Government that British agents had stopped them from continuing exploration work. It was requested that all parties be withdrawn pending the working out of a settlement.

As an example of the validity of the British claims, His Royal Highness said he would mention that many years ago Britain requested through the Saudi Arabian Government that India be permitted to establish a lighthouse on one of the islands, and the British stated that that did not affect sovereignty over those islands, and now they present their claims.

Mr. McGhee stated that he felt sure that Saudi Arabia had a basis for its claims. Although the United States does not feel that it can decide this for itself, it is sure that justice will be given to the claims of Saudi Arabia. The United States thinks that the Saudi Arabian Government has been very patient in this matter. If the United States can assist in any way in setting up procedures to evaluate these claims and arrange a settlement on a fair basis, it will be very glad to do so.

Prince Feisal replied that the Saudi Arabian Government had suggested procedures but that the British have not as yet sent a reply.

Regarding the other matter, Mr. McGhee said that he would like to discuss briefly the shortage of dollars, and its effect on the sale of Saudi Arabian oil on the world market. He said that, as His Royal Highness knew, there had been a tendency on the part of the British to purchase oil from sterling sources rather than from dollar sources and, while in some cases the decision has been based on purely legitimate necessity for conserving foreign exchange, the United States Government feels that the decision, in many cases, has been based on actual discrimination against Saudi Arabian oil.

It is, of course, in the interest of both countries that the oil production of Saudi Arabia be maintained at its present high level. This is, of course, very important to the Saudi Arabian Government since oil royalties are its principle source of income. When the United States Government recently discussed the matter with the British, we protested to them in very strong terms the action they have taken. The question is currently under discussion with the British with the end in view of protecting Saudi Arabian sales in the world market. Various compromise proposals have been discussed, which involve receipt of sterling by the American companies for a part of the proceeds from the oil. Mr. McGhee said that he would like to reassure His Royal Highness that the United States Government has the interest of Saudi Arabia fully at heart in this question and will press the matter to the utmost. Mr. McGhee said that he had as his personal assistant in [Page 1144]these negotiations Mr. Funkhouser,9 formerly Petroleum Attaché in Cairo, who is known to the Saudi Arabian Government.

Another question concerns the possible union of Iraq and Syria.10 The position of the United States Government with respect to the proposed union is very clear. This position was stated to the countries concerned, to the British, and to all interested governments, namely, that although we would not oppose union which came about as a result of the freely expressed will of the people, that we would oppose any union which was the result of outside force or which was not freely accepted by the people. At the same time the United States expressed great concern over the actions or reported actions taking place, because the United States saw no evidence that the impetus toward union arose from a genuine desire on the part of the people concerned. The United States Government knows, of course, fully well the position of the Saudi Arabian Government in respect to this question, and it was largely influenced by the position the Saudi Arabian Government took.

The United States Government is gratified that the Saudi Arabian Government has seen fit to extend aid to Syria,11 and feels that this is a generous and constructive action which will help Syria through grave difficulties. It is the desire of the United States that Syria emerge as a strong independent democracy to take its place among the nations of the Near East and that it acquire some political and economic stability which it badly needs. The United States Government hopes that Saudi Arabia through its great influence on Syria will influence Syria toward this objective.

The United States Government feels that Syria has a great opportunity in its participation in the program which has been recommended by Mr. Clapp,12 and for which some $54,000,000 will be supplied by the United Nations, to be available for Syria (and for other countries immediately adjacent) not only to assist in actually feeding the refugees but also to be used in benefiting Syria. This assistance implies no political obligations on the part of Syria, but the United States Government feels it would be one of genuine benefit to Syria.

[Page 1145]

Mr. McGhee said that he had presented to Congress the request for some $27,000,000 for this program, and it was his earnest desire that Syria should participate in this program. All these funds are for the benefit of the Arab states and for their economic development, as was clearly stated in the Clapp Report.

Prince Feisal then commented that, concerning the question of Syria-Iraq union, as is known all Saudi Arabia’s activities are for the benefit of the independence of Syria. One may hear that something is desired by the people when in reality it is not. All nations are not like the United States in stating what they would like, with full freedom. For example, in Bulgaria, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia, it will be said following the elections that the officials have actually been elected while in reality they have not.

Mr. McGhee replied that he fully concurred that there is no evidence at present which would lead one to believe that this is true of the nation of Syria. The United States Government does not have evidence that the people of the nations involved want union.

Prince Feisal stated that this is really what is worrying Saudi Arabia, namely that there shall be no action which will be said to represent the desire of the nation but which may not be so. Saudi Arabia was always helpful to the Syrians when the previous President was in power.

As regards Mr. Clapp’s report, there is one more point: when the Arab refugees take residence in the country where they are, there will not be anyone left to claim residence in the home country of Palestine.

Mr. McGhee replied by pointing out that the Clapp Report does not prejudice a political settlement. The Report rightly addressed itself to two problems which must now be faced; namely, how the refugees will live and eat from day to day, and how those countries affected by hostilities can develop economically.

His Royal Highness replied that Israel did not come into line in the case of the General Assembly resolution, but in the case of the earlier resolutions the Arab states were forced to come into line.

Mr. McGhee stated that the United States had pressed Israel with every means available to make Israel come into line. Certain notes which the United States Government had sent to Israel have been made public and are probably known by the Saudi Arabian Government. He wished to assure His Royal Highness that it is a great source of regret to the United States that Israel has not carried out the resolution.

Prince Feisal stated that Saudi Arabia would not like to see America either give Israel another loan or give financial assistance in any way. Saudi Arabia would appreciate any assistance which the United States could render to enforce the resolutions of the United Nations.

  1. A notation on the last page of the source text read “Drafted at American Embassy, Jidda. Copied in NEA.” Although no drafter is indicated, it was possibly drafted by McGhee. Despatch 153, April 3, from Jidda, reported “An extended account of this conversation was made and taken back to the United States by Mr. McGhee.” The despatch was an account of McGhee’s March 18 to March 24 visit to Saudi Arabia. Enclosed with it were a translation of a Saudi Arabian newspaper account of McGhee’s arrival, and the memorandum of conversations of March 22–23, infra. (110.15MC/4–350)

    Despatch 50, April 10, from Dhahran, contains additional information on his trip. McGhee was in Dhahran from March 20 to March 22 and March 24 and 25. On March 25 he made a brief trip to some oil well sites and then, with Ambassador Childs and Consul General Parker T. Hart from Dhahran, flew to Kuwait. There they were received by Shaikh Abdullah As-Salim Al Subah in a formal visit at the palace. McGhee returned to the United States on a commercial flight from Basra, Iraq, on March 26. (786A.00/4–1050)

    A summary of the source text was prepared in the Department of State on April 7 and sent by McGhee to the Secretary of State on April 11 (Secretary’s memoranda, lot 53D444). Lot 53D444 is a comprehensive chronological collection of the Secretary of State’s memoranda and memoranda of conversation for the years 1947–1953, as maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State.

  2. See documentation on the meeting between President Roosevelt, King Farouk of Egypt, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and King Saud, in Egypt, on February 13–14, 1945, in Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. viii, pp. 1 ff.
  3. See documentation on the participation by the United States in the development of the petroleum resources of the Near East, pp. 9 ff.
  4. See documentation on United States economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey, Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, pp. 1 ff.
  5. Jordan and Iraq.
  6. McGhee met with the King on March 22 and 23; see the memorandum of conversations, infra.
  7. Ante, p. 1112.
  8. For documentation on boundary disputes between Saudi Arabia and the Sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf in special treaty relations with the United Kingdom, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, pp. 91 ff.
  9. Richard E. Funkhouser of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs.
  10. For documentation on this topic, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, pp. 180 ff.
  11. In telegram 63, February 2, from Jidda, not printed, the Ambassador reported the Deputy Finance Minister of Saudi Arabia informed him that the Saudi Arabian Government signed an agreement on January 31 to loan Syria $6 million, without interest. The loan was to be repaid in Syrian products over the 4-year period from 1955–1958. (883.10/2–250)
  12. The first interim report of the United Nations Economic Survey Mission for the Middle East, whose chairman was Gordon R. Clapp, was signed on November 6, 1949; see editorial note, Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, p. 1472.