786A.00/9–350: Telegram

The Chargé in Saudi Arabia (Hill) to the Secretary of State

secret
priority

127. Immediately preceding Embtel 1261 is factual report Riyadh visit and was repeated Dhahran. Following observations made to Department only;

I consider it most unfortunate that subject of military aid for SA was brought up at this time. This is practically the keystone our present relations with SA and is vitally connected future negotiations long term DAF agreement. This subject is top level importance and should if possible be handled only by chief of mission after carefully conceived plan of action.

It is elementarily obvious that O’Keefe could not call on King and discuss subject described without immediately reopening delicate question of military aid and this is exactly what happened. I am surprised that matter of this importance and potential reactions was not fully discussed by USAF with Department and mutually cleared and Department’s instructions issued before we acted.2

Furthermore I fail see what was the necessity our having audience with King. Fuel tank proposition was discussed in Riyadh by Ambassador Childs with YY3 when he making good-bye visit and YY indicated there probably would be no difficulty and Ambassador so informed O’Keefe. The activities US soldiers is within terms DAF agreement article 16 and simple notification would have sufficed if even that was deemed necessary.

Likewise bomb storage proposal is logical move these days and would have surprised no one. It could have been taken up casually by Foreign Office note and without fanfare. Although this subject [Page 1186]started with Top Secret classification it is now known to usual Palace group including interpreters.

Only encouraging feature during audience was that King maintained friendly attitude throughout never losing temper or speaking harshly. Even when making some of his strongest statements he looked at me and spoke smilingly as if seeking assurance his remarks being understood and not rousing fears. This created instinctive impression that despite his disappointment that USG has so far failed to meet his requests he realizes he has at present no better alternative than to go along with US.

Neverthless I wish to assure Department that the much worn theme of the “O’Keefe report still being studied in Washington” is rapidly becoming unpleasant to Saudi ears and they beginning consider it as delaying tactics and double talk on our part.

New subject: towards end of audience King said that Aramco also not cooperating with him completely and that he does not believe anything they say. He said even on purchases made for him they charge him “ten times as much as cost.” I replied that if His Majesty would permit me to say so in my opinion Aramco had pursued a very honorable and honest course with SA.

Further details by despatch.

Hill
  1. Not printed; it reported a visit by Hill and O’Keefe to Riyadh on September 2, during which O’Keefe requested permission for the U.S. Air Force to store 5,000 tons of ordinary bombs at Dhahran Airfield, set up a rifle range and bring in more small arms, and construct an underground fuel tank. His request brought immediate complaints from the King and Yassin that the United States was only interested in protecting the Dhahran Airfield and Saudi Arabian oil wells. They then repeated their requests for American arms. (786A.00/9–350)
  2. Telegram 76, August 29, from Washington, answering a query from Jidda, had informed the Embassy that O’Keefe’s request for an audience with the King was “presumably on subject creation bomb dump DAB.” (786A.56/8–2950)
  3. Yusuf Yassin, Acting Foreign Minister.