Policy Statement Prepared in the Department of State 1
The United States desires to maintain close and friendly relations with the Government of Saudi Arabia. It is to our interest that a strong government control Saudi Arabia and toward this end we look with favor upon Ibn Sand’s regime, hope for a peaceful succession by the Crown Prince when the time comes, and support the independence and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia. We favor the development of education and political consciousness among the people of Saudi Arabia and a greater feeling of social responsibility on the part of the ruling class. We want to see sound development of the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and on a competitive basis in so far as new concession areas are concerned. It is a major objective that Saudi Arabia’s economic possibilities be developed to provide more services and diversify national income, since it is a primitive country which needs development in every kind of public enterprise to raise the standard of living, stabilize the economy, and promote trade and diversification of domestic industry. It is also our purpose to assure for ourselves and our friends and allies the strategic advantages of Saudi Arabia’s geographical position, petroleum resources, and the continued general antipathy of the Saudi Arabs for communism.
While US policy has been the target of adverse criticism and bitterness in some countries of the Near East, Saudi Arabia has remained firm in its friendship for the United States. It has served as our spokesman and interpreter to less friendly Arab states, and has, through the prestige and conservative nature of its King, exerted a stabilizing influence on the Near East generally. In order that we might retain Saudi Arabia’s friendship and support it is to our interest to: (a) continue our fight against Communist infiltration in the Near East and promote the stability of the area; (b) advance the security of Saudi Arabia by the sale of defense materials, training of Saudi [Page 1028] Arabian defense forces, and by assurances on appropriate occasions of American interest in Saudi Arabia’s independence and territorial integrity; (c) demonstrate our support of and confidence in King Ibn Saud and Crown Prince Saud upon his succession; (d) assist in the orderly development of the economy and public welfare of Saudi Arabia; (e) give friendly counsel to all parties to a dispute involving Saudi Arabia and encourage prompt solution of the controversy; (f) observe the utmost respect for Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty, sanctity of the Holy Places, and local customs; (g) encourage improved fiscal management and monetary stabilization; (h) assist sound American enterprise interested in engaging in desirable business or commercial development in the country; and (i) foster philanthropic, but non-religious, enterprise of public interest. In all our efforts to carry out our policies in Saudi Arabia we should take care to serve as guide or partner and avoid giving the impression of wishing to dominate the country.
The Government of Saudi Arabia is essentially a personal one and our political relations with the country are perforce closely associated with only a few officials. These are King Ibn Saud, the Crown Prince, the Foreign Minister, Prince Feisal, the Defense Minister, Prince Mansour, and the Minister of Finance, Sheikh Abdullah Sulaiman, whose position is tantamount to Prime Minister. The Deputy Foreign Minister, Sheikh Yusuf Yassin, Fuad Bey Hamza, the King’s Counselor, and Najib Salha, Deputy Assistant Finance Minister, are also important and influential officials of the Government. It is desirable to win and retain their friendship and support. A most effective way to do so is to bring many of them to the United States. The King should be invited to make a State visit to Washington. It is unlikely that His Majesty can accept because of his age, but the Crown Prince will undoubtedly be directed to come as his father’s representative, as he did in 1947.2 The Crown Prince is very eager to return. He was most favorably impressed by the United States during his previous visit and he has repeatedly expressed to Americans in Saudi Arabia a wish to come again.
Prince Feisal was very embittered by our stand and by the General Assembly action on Palestine in 1947. Although his attitude has improved he is still critical and cynical upon occasion. He has, however, expressed the wish several times during the past year to visit the United States in a non-UN capacity. We should capitalize on his incipient change of heart and urge his return. He is one of the most intelligent of the Princes and his influence is strong in Saudi Arabia, [Page 1029] especially in the Hedjaz. His good will could be very useful in US-Saudi Arabian relations on both government and business levels.
Prince Mansour has never been in the United States and, like many of his brothers, has expressed a desire to come. In his capacity as Minister of Defense it would be appropriate to arrange a visit as guest of the Secretary of Defense in connection with Saudi Arabian purchases of military equipment now possible under Public Law 621 recently enacted.3 The influence of Fuad Bey Hamza on the King is very strong. He has been in the United States, but only as a member of the Crown Prince’s entourage. If a visit could be arranged for him alone so that suitable attention could be given him, it might pay useful dividends. Likewise, an invitation to Sheikh Yusuf Yassin would flatter his ego and contribute to the cordiality of our relations with the Foreign Office.
Another essential element in cementing our friendship is to demonstrate convincingly the impartiality of our friendship toward Israel and Saudi Arabia. The King realizes the reasons for our friendship for Israel and that he cannot hope to change that situation. He does feel, however, that our interests in Saudi Arabia are greater than in Israel and that he, therefore, should expect at least equal treatment. Public statements by executive officials of the Government should avoid unfavorable references to Arab States, and the friendly sentiments so often expressed for Israel by such leaders should sometimes be matched by similar expressions about Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
It is also our policy whenever possible to meet requests of the Saudi Arabian Government. We recognize the inexperience of Saudi Arabia in dealing with complex problems and its inability to perform many services for itself owing to the paucity of trained technicians and its inefficient administration. We have accordingly rendered an impressive list of services including lend-lease aid, medical assistance, mapping, military training, agricultural development, water survey work, financial advice, and loans. We have also encouraged private American firms to render useful services to the Saudi Arabian Government.
Saudi Arabia, along with the other Arab states, was badly disillusioned with the United Nations because of the General Assembly action on Palestine. The United States should work towards re-creating Saudi Arabian respect for the United Nations and confidence in its fairness and high principles as well as to encourage its more active participation in United Nations affairs.
We have in principle favored Saudi Arabia’s desire to secure its internal defense as a stabilizing factor in the Near East and as a protection to American interests in Saudi Arabia. It is in line with our desire to strengthen Saudi Arabia politically. It cannot be expected [Page 1030] that the Saudis will be trained and equipped to a point that they could resist attack by a large power. They could be trained and equipped to deal with a limited outside attack taking the form of harassment, sabotage, and delaying tactics. A reasonable program for training and equipping Saudi Arabian forces, therefore, is in the interest of Saudi Arabia but also in our own strategic interest.
Although the continuance of US maintenance and operation of the Dhahran airport is primarily a military and aviation matter, the obtaining of more than a temporary extension for US operation of that base is essentially a political problem. The original US-Saudi Arabian agreement covering the Dhahran Air Base expired on March 15, 1949 and has been the subject of several temporary extensions since that date.
Saudi Arabia has several boundary disputes with British protected states along the Persian Gulf.4 The necessity of settling them has been stimulated by oil discoveries in the area and the possibility of additional reserves in the disputed areas. The United States is impartial toward the settlements of these conflicting claims but it considers itself a party at interest because of the interest of US firms in the area; it encourages progress in the solution of the problem in order to promote the peace and orderly development of the area; it supports direct contact between Saudi Arabia and the Sheikhdoms with British advisory assistance as more conducive to an acceptable solution; and it would support any means to arrive at a solution and any settlement which is acceptable to both sides.
Early in 1948 the Saudi Arabian Government sought our advice on the question of its sub-soil rights in the Persian Gulf offshore areas and on May 28, 1949 it issued a decree claiming rights similar to those claimed by the United States in the Truman Proclamation of 1945. At the same time the Saudi Arabian Government issued a decree on territorial waters in the Persian Gulf which is contrary to our concept of international law on the subject. On December 22, 1949, we informed the Saudi Arabian Government that its definition of inland bays and waters and the six-nautical-mile concept of territorial coastal waters described in the decree were not in keeping with international practice and we wished to record our reservations on those points.
The United States has on many occasions given assurances to Saudi Arabia to allay the King’s anxiety that the Hashemites, with or without British encouragement, might encroach upon his country. We have assured the King on numerous occasions that the political independence and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia are of serious concern to the United States and that in case of any threat we would support [Page 1031] the Saudi Arabian Government in the United Nations. We have also made clear to Arab states that it will be contrary to US policy, the principles of United Nations, and the stability of the area for any state to take aggressive measures against another. Following the Chiefs of Missions Conference at Istanbul in November 1949 the United States induced the United Kingdom to give similar assurances on its own part-Again on May 25, 1950, following the Foreign Ministers’ Meetings in London, a tripartite declaration was made to all governments of the Near East reiterating the interest of the United States, United Kingdom and France in preserving peace and stability in the area.5 It should be our policy to continue giving such assurances to Saudi Arabia whenever the King’s anxieties become aroused.
Saudi Arabian law does not permit the establishment of Christian churches in the country, nor are services lawful. The spiritual needs of the large number of Christians living in the Dhahran area have been taken care of by assembly in private on Aramco premises and on the air base under the auspices of the Air Force chaplain. The regularity of such assembly attracted the attention of local Arabs who entered and witnessed the proceedings. Saudi Arabian officials asked that such services be discontinued and that the chaplain be recalled. The Embassy and the Foreign Office, however, never allowed the subject to become a matter of official record because it was recognized that our Government could not agree to depriving American citizens of their spiritual requirements, nor could the Saudi Arabian Government approve what the Haditha forbids. It was accordingly agreed that Christian services hereafter should be conducted in the strictest privacy behind locked doors and the chaplain recalled would be replaced.6
It is our policy to encourage the Saudi Arabian Government to take sound measures to build up the economy of the country, lending our assistance where appropriate, and to foster the creation in Saudi Arabia of conditions conducive to expanding multilateral world trade. We should also encourage eventual Saudi Arabian adherence to the GATT.
In seeking to exercise our influence in Saudi Arabia in support of world trade expansion, we must recognize the limited experience of Saudi Arabs with the western world. We are confronted with a lack of understanding by all but a few leaders of the whole pattern of western economic, political, legal, and cultural life, which is infinitely [Page 1032] more complex than their own. They do not yet understand the desirability and mutual advantages of a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation with the United States of the type which we are now proposing to more advanced countries, and which we hope ultimately to conclude with the Saudi Arabian Government. However, we believe it would be useful to explore with them the possibilities of enlarging the area of our economic and commercial relations which can be appropriately covered by treaty. Our Ambassador has accordingly been authorized to discuss with the Saudi Government an abridged draft of our standard Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation.7 This action had been deferred until the conclusion of a Point IV agreement which was signed on January 17, 1951.8
We should encourage Saudi Arabian participation in regional economic activities which are consistent with the provisions of the GATT, having in mind not only the possible economic advantages of Saudi Arabia’s cooperation with other states of the Arab world, but also the desirability of accustoming the Saudi Arabs to a role in more developed types of economic activity which will lead them to fuller appreciation of interdependent world economic problems and the need for a cooperative approach to them.
The United States has strong commercial, political, and strategic interest in the progressive development of Saudi Arabian oil resources and the maintenance of Saudi Arabia’s income at a high level.9 These objectives were threatened by the closure of sterling markets to oil produced in Saudi Arabia. All of Saudi Arabia’s known oil resources are under concession to American companies. Aside from political considerations, these American companies were able to obtain the concession in Saudi Arabia primarily because the Government was convinced that its income and other benefits would be greater under development by American than by British or other interests. If these American corporations are to maintain their concessions in Saudi Arabia it is essential that royalty payments and other benefits be not less than the Government might expect to receive under development by other interests and oil development and benefits must be maintained at least on a parity with neighboring countries and sheikhdoms where concessions are held by British chartered companies. The American firms marketing Aramco oil in the sterling and continental areas were supported by the United States in their negotiations with the British to overcome the disabilities forced on them. As a consequence, Cal-Tex, Ltd. reached an agreement with [Page 1033] the British Government in accordance with which an increasing proportion of Cal-Tex sales to the sterling area would be paid for in sterling with the goal being to reach 65% payment in sterling by 1952. In as much as this agreement requires the company to reduce the dollar cost of its operation, it required, among other things, coordinate agreement by the Saudi Arabian Government to accept up to 25% of royalty payments in sterling. There still remains the problem of working out with the Saudi Arabian Government the rate at which it will accept sterling royalties. A short term agreement has also been concluded by Cal-Tex with the French for payment in francs of 25% of their purchases of Aramco crude. These arrangements and the international situation generally have made Aramco cutbacks in production unnecessary and forestalled a reduction in income which would have been difficult for the Saudi Arabian Government to accept.
The influence of Aramco on the Saudi Arabian economy and on our political relations with that country is so great that Aramco’s policies and actions must be carefully watched and, if need be, guided. It can do a great deal to preserve American prestige and interests in the area and to combat communism. For example, Aramco’s labor policy toward its 14,500 Arab workers is not only of nation-wide importance in Saudi Arabia, but is a critical factor in the development of western orientation and democratic processes. The Department should, therefore, encourage Aramco to pursue progressive and enlightened policies in connection with wages, housing for Arab employees, training and education, and to shift responsibilities to Saudi Arabians as fully and rapidly as possible.
In as much as Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth is an expendable resource and it possesses no other significant wealth, it is essential that the Saudi Arabian Government secure its future economy by utilizing as much of its oil revenue as possible to establish new and more lasting sources of income.
Recent experience in providing Saudi Arabia with financial counsel indicates that, whether because of lack of experience in complex financial matters, the influential position of members of the business community, or political considerations, the government is not yet ready to give mature consideration to intelligent long-term financial policies. Nevertheless, we should continue our efforts to counsel the Saudis in financial and monetary matters when appropriate opportunities are presented, although we must avoid putting ourselves in the position of assuming responsibility for monetary measures undertaken by the Saudi Government.
Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to introduce modern budgeting and accounting practices in respect of government revenues and expenditures and to develop a comprehensive and long-range program [Page 1034] for modernizing and adapting the Saudi Arabian monetary system to meet the requirements of the Saudi economy. Such a program can be undertaken only under the direction of competent foreign advisers, and the Saudi Arabian Government should be induced to recruit and place their reliance on such advisers. It is our objective to provide advisers on monetary and fiscal matters under the Point IV program. It is likely, however, that Saudi Arabia will not recognize the need for this kind of action until it has tried other monetary schemes and found them unsuccessful. It is to be expected that patience, friendly and detached advice, and the immutable force of circumstances will bring the Saudi Arabian Government around slowly to orthodox financial practices. The financial aspects of our diplomatic activities in Saudi Arabia are at present, and will probably be for some time to come, as important as the political aspects. Meanwhile the Saudi Arabian Government is casting about for every means of keeping its Treasury full, short of the obvious one of putting its financial house in order. It continues to meet its financial problems on an ad hoc basis relying upon Aramco to see it through when other means fail. Aramco is currently being pressed to provide greater financial benefits to the Saudi Arabian Government.
The Saudi Arabian Government notified Aramco that it wished to revise certain conditions of their concession agreement for the purpose of obtaining higher revenues. It cited as reasons for revision the more generous terms of the Pacific Western Agreement, other concession arrangements in other countries, and the unexpectedly large oil resources in Aramco’s concession area. Negotiations were begun in early December, 1950 which resulted in the signing of a new agreement on December 30, which has satisfied Saudi demands for a complete revision of the 1933 Aramco concession and should minimize chances of major friction during the immediate future. The agreement brings into the Near East for the first time the “Venezuelan principle” of a 50–50 division of net profits gained from oil operations and is expected to have far-reaching effect on other oil-producing countries in the Near East.
Aramco, in adopting the 50–50 principle, has assumed liability for payment of Saudi Arabian income taxes which for 1950 will bring total estimated company payments to approximately 33 cents. These payments may be made in any currencies accruing from oil sales and will now be based on International Monetary Fund exchange rates in place of the free market rate of gold on which the former agreement was based. Aramco officials hope that income taxes paid to the Saudi Arabian Government will be credited against company taxes in the US and that this financial increase to the Saudi treasury will settle all outstanding problems with the Saudi Government. Problems involving Aramco’s Trans-Arabian Pipeline subsidiary still exist, however, [Page 1035] and the implementation of the new agreement can be expected to give rise to some measure of controversy such as Saudi Arab inquiry into Aramco prices to parent companies. However, the new agreement, together with the anticipated high level of production and sales should guarantee good relations between the company and the Government.
The conclusion of the agreement has been a source of great concern to the British who recognize that these liberalized terms may lead to a demand for a new round of royalty increases throughout the area. Iraq, which has recently been granted an increased royalty of approximately 33 cents per barrel in the Iraq Petroleum Agreement of August 1950, is now likely to demand further concessions that may lead to increased tension in Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) relations with the Iraq Government. The Aramco settlement has also served to emphasize to the Iranian Government that its original demands for a “Venezuela-type” of profit-sharing formula for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) were not unrealistic and are now in line with the new trend in the Near East. Iranian officials have expressed hope that American generosity in Saudi Arabia will have a favorable effect on Iranian negotiations with the British company, which looks with disfavor, however, on the Aramco terms. After two years of parliamentary debate which has delayed a settlement of the AIOC problem to the detriment of company-government relations and the economic and political stability of Iran, the Iranian parliament has put the matter in the hands of a parliamentary oil commission which is expected to insist on financial terms comparable to the Aramco agreement, in addition to a number of other concessions. Meanwhile, the Gulf Oil Corporation is approaching the US State and Treasury Departments, the British Government, and AIOC, which shares the Kuwait concession with Gulf, with a view to reorganizing their corporate structure in Kuwait in order that the company may be put in a position to offer and to profit from an Aramco type of agreement.
Although the US Government can publicize and capitalize to some extent on the American aspects of the Aramco deal, which will bring Saudi Arabia higher revenue than that received by Iran and Iraq, we cannot at this time criticize AIOC and IPC as companies whose policies are less liberal than that of Aramco. Since Aramco hopes for US tax credit for most or all of the taxes paid to the Saudi Government, in the end the US Government rather than Aramco may be the source of increased payments to Saudi Arabia. However, Aramco’s introduction of the partnership principle is believed to have been a dramatic and timely answer to the Communist line regarding Near East oil company “imperialism”. We believe in general that there is hope that the 50–50 principle will, despite other concession contract negotiations, result in increased basic stability in the Near East. We consider the Venezuelan profit-sharing formula an almost inevitable development [Page 1036] and one which represents as firm and defensible a basis as can be reached for the stabilization of concessions. We believe that Near East oil companies can at this time afford to pay increased benefits in return for their concessions in these uniquely rich oil reserves and thereby promote Western economic, political and strategic interests.
In an effort to increase its revenue from taxes, the Saudi Arabian Government hired the services of a private American income tax expert, Mr. John F. Greaney, to come to Saudi Arabia in August 1950 to study the tax system and recommend means of reorganizing it. An income tax has now been enacted in Saudi Arabia; it will be our purpose to see that its application is non-discriminatory with respect to American enterprise. Saudi Arabia should also be urged to collect and publish basic statistics relating to such matters as foreign trade, monetary circulation and prices.
The United States should try to influence the Saudi Arabian Government to use its own and borrowed capital on projects or programs which will increase its food production, improve transportation, and distribute more widely the benefits of improved public health and educational facilities. Loans to cover essential import requirements of consumer goods should not be encouraged, because current income of the Kingdom is large enough to cover such current expenditures even after a considerable portion of future royalties are obligated for development projects.
To further the objectives of economic development policy, the United States should assist in the accomplishment of desirable projects and programs by making available, on a cooperative basis, US technicians and demonstration materials and by sending Saudi Arab nationals abroad for technical training. A survey of the resources of Saudi Arabia and the drawing up of a broad plan for their development appear desirable. We should also encourage private US investment and commercial activity in Saudi Arabia, endeavoring especially to diversify US commercial interests so that the US is not identified exclusively with oil development.
US policy on economic development assistance to Saudi Arabia, as well as to other Middle East countries, is aimed at raising living standards in order to foster political and economic stability. This is especially important in Saudi Arabia since the increasing volume of oil being taken out of the country by American companies leads the people to expect that they will derive direct economic benefits. Sharing of such benefits should be more extensive in order to avoid future possibilities of unrest. We should continue to urge and assist Saudi Arabia to carry out the reforms necessary to permit the effective utilization and distribution of the government’s income from oil royalties. This income constitutes the bulk of the national income of Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi Arabian Government should be encouraged to view it [Page 1037] as available for the improvement of the economic life of the whole population and to develop an attitude of responsibility and trusteeship toward its utilization.
Saudi Arabia will have available from time to time, for the granting of concessions, areas released from the Aramco concession as well as certain areas offshore. In order to insure maximum development of Saudi Arabian oil resources, we should encourage acceleration of Aramco relinquishments of all areas which the company cannot reasonably plan to develop in the near future. We should continue to favor the granting of concessions covering such relinquished areas, on a competitive and non-discriminatory basis, to firms of the US and other nations friendly to the United States, independent of firms now holding concessions in the Middle East.
We support TWA in its management of the Saudi Arabian Airline so long as the relations of this company with Saudi Arabia remain in conformity with US aviation and political policy.
We desire to press the negotiation of a civil air agreement and to ease the present restrictive regulations against air traffic in connection with Israel. We also want to negotiate a long term Dhahran Air Base agreement to replace the short term arrangement now existing. We are agreeable to the continuation of American technical and managerial assistance to the Saudi Arabian Airlines. We wish to encourage Saudi Arabia to develop its aviation facilities and to establish an adequate civil aviation department, possibly with some advisory American personnel. We also want to advance a training program for Saudi Arabs in aeronautics.
A draft civil air agreement in simplified form was submitted to the Saudi Arabian Government for its consideration in February 1950. In view of Saudi Arabian delay in discussing the proposed draft, we have asked for an extension of one year to September 30, 1951, of the existing arrangement.10
It is our hope that an adequate inland transportation system can be developed by Saudi Arabia. It is not our policy to propose United States financial assistance for the development of railroads. US assistance should be made available to Saudi Arabia for road, highway, airport and harbor construction, and an Export-Import Bank loan of $15,000,000 was extended August 5, 1950 for those and similar developmental projects.
The general policy of (a) giving diplomatic assistance to US communications companies in establishing or maintaining communications circuits with foreign countries on a non-exclusive basis and (b) favoring the development and conduct within foreign countries of communication services controlled by their own nationals is especially [Page 1038] apropos in the case of Saudi Arabia. There is now a direct radio telegraph circuit to New York from Jidda. In November 1949 the US Government persuaded the Saudi Arabian Government against renewing the monopoly agreement they had with the British owned Cable and Wireless Company, Ltd., on international telegraphic service.
The greatest handicap to Saudi Arabia’s advancement is the lack of education among its population. We must encourage Saudi Arabia to broaden its educational system along non-parochial lines toward the end of providing a modern elementary education for all children of the country. More secondary schools should be established beyond the ten now reported. Scholarship encouragement should be given to those wishing to go to college abroad, in the Near East and in the United States. Vocational schools for boys and home economic centers for girls are needed. Above all, the ruling class should be persuaded to give their children western education through the college years in order to fit them for their later responsibilities.
c. relations with other states
King Ibn Saud has had very close and friendly relations with the United Kingdom but as American influence has increased in Saudi Arabia, Britain’s position has declined. Britain’s relative inability to compete with American goods and services; limitations on the use of sterling; the imperialistic reputation of the United Kingdom; the Saudi Arabian fear of hostile encirclement owing to British treaty relations with Hashemite Iraq and Jordan and territorial disputes with neighboring British protected principalities; and the general decline of British power and prestige since the war, all have tended to relegate the United Kingdom to a secondary position in Saudi Arabian esteem.
The Saudi Arabian Government has shown strong preference for the United States in many ways. It granted us rights to the Dhahran Air Base. It rejected an alliance with the British in 1948 and sought a tripartite arrangement including this country, or a bilateral alliance with us alone. It has sought military assistance from the United States, and the King has on several occasions sought assurances for the security of Saudi Arabia in a way which indicated his distrust of the United Kingdom because of its special relationships with adjoining states and principalities. It has been difficult for some British official and business people to become reconciled to this changed situation, but the Foreign Office is pleased that United States interests are there to share British responsibilities in the area generally.
Because of the large number of pilgrims coming to Saudi Arabia from the East Indies, Saudi Arabia’s relations with the Netherlands [Page 1039] were formerly of some importance. In May 1950 the Netherlands turned over its Legation to the Government of Indonesia. Dutch interests are now largely confined to the Netherlands Trading Society, an old established banking institution in Jidda.
Turkish influence in Saudi Arabia, once predominant, is now confined to the Turkish Legation at Jidda, the sharing of certain social customs, and some family ties.
Saudi Arabian relations with other Arab Moslem states are mixed. Ibn Saud fears Iraq and Jordan which are ruled by the Hashemite family, former rulers of the Hedjaz. He suspects King Abdullah’s plan for a “Greater Syria” as a threat to the territorial integrity of his own country. He is also suspicious of the cordial hospitality offered by Iraq and Jordan to the Rashidi princes who covet the northern Nejd. Saudi Arabia has a good working basis of friendship with Lebanon and in May 1950 Lebanon opened a new modern hospital in Jidda. Syria was on very friendly terms with Saudi Arabia but the political instability of its Government has disturbed the firmness of these relations. A loan agreement was concluded with Syria in January 1950 by which Saudi Arabia agreed to lend Syria $6,000,000 in three installments and to give technical assistance in the Latakia port development. Only the first installment of $2,000,000 was paid to Syria and it is unlikely that any more will be forthcoming. Saudi Arabia does not consider Syria sufficiently anti-Hashemite and there is influential opinion that Saudi Arabian security is better protected by the tripartite declaration of May 25, 1950 and by arms purchases. Ibn Saud’s closest important contact in the Arab world is with Egypt. Ibn Saud has a paternal feeling toward King Farouk. They have exchanged official visits.… Ibn Saud has endeavored to exert a tempering influence on Farouk in Egypt’s relations with the United States. Saudi Arabia has close relations with Pakistan, and its friendship with Afghanistan was notably advanced by the state visit of King Mohamed Zahir in March 1950. Ibn Saud expressed his hope to the King during his visit, and to the Government of Pakistan, that a peaceful, friendly, and satisfactory settlement could be reached in the boundary dispute between those two Moslem states. Relations with Iran are friendly but not cordial. Diplomatic relations broken off after the pilgrimage incident of 1943 have been re-established. Saudi Arabia’s desire to be friendly was manifested in May 1950 when, contrary to local religious tenets, it allowed the body of Resa Shah Pahlevi to be brought to Medina for prayers by the tomb of the Prophet before being flown to Tehran for final interment.
Yemen leans heavily upon Saudi Arabia for guidance in important matters.… Relations with Kuwait and Bahrein are very close and friendly and members of their ruling families are welcome visitors to Saudi Arabia.…[Page 1040]
Ibn Saud is suspicious of all Jews and he hates Zionists and their doctrine. He is strongly opposed to Israel.… He does not contemplate establishing diplomatic or economic relations with Israel. He fears the Jewish state as a bridgehead into the Near East of Communistic ideas and influence. Out of religious conviction this hatred of Communism is deep and strong. He has kept Saudi Arabia free of its influence and he can be counted upon to oppose Russia and Communistic policy and doctrine. His prompt approval of United States’ action in Korea and subsequent endorsement of the UN Security Council resolutions illustrate his attitude. Saudi Arabia maintains no diplomatic relations with Russia.
The King does not hold Italy in high esteem and he is in favor of independence for the former Italian colonies. Neither does he have a high regard for France who holds Moslem North Africa in dependent status.
Saudi Arabia is a luke-warm supporter of the Arab League and has been a moderating influence in it. Ibn Saud’s distrust of Hashemite motives has made it difficult for Saudi Arabia to have full confidence in the Arab League. Intra-League rivalries have broken it into two opposing blocs, Egypt-Saudi Arabia and Iraq-Jordan, which constantly compete for the support of Lebanon and Syria. Saudi Arabia has joined the security pact within the Arab League from which Iraq and Jordan have remained aloof.
Saudi Arabia’s attitude toward the United Nations is one of disillusionment since November 29, 1947 when the General Assembly voted on partition of Palestine. The Saudi Arabian Chief Delegate, Emir Feisal, was bitter in the extreme and he has remained cynical toward it. Saudi Arabia considers the United Nations the tool of the big powers where their interests are concerned. The King was quick to endorse action in Korea against the Communists, but his support is prompted by friendship for the US rather than by confidence in UN. Saudi Arabian confidence in UN can only be restored if UN takes as firm a position against Israeli violations of UN resolutions as it did in Korea.
d. policy evaluation
From about 1931, when American interests in Saudi Arabia first began to take active form, until near the close of 1947 our relations with Saudi Arabia were unusually good. As a result of our policy toward Palestine, Saudi Arabian friendship for the United States cooled considerably, particularly because Prince Feisal, the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, took our policy as a personal rebuff. Even during this period, however, King Ibn Saud maintained a balanced viewpoint and constantly exerted a restraining influence upon Arab extremists. Now that the Palestine problem has entered a less acute phase, our relations with Saudi Arabia are improving. If we continue [Page 1041] to take a firm position regarding the frontiers of Israel and the Arab refugees, if we stand firmly against Soviet expansion, if we give sympathetic study to all reasonable Saudi Arabian requests for assistance, and if we do not attempt to upset the basic religious pattern of life in Saudi Arabia by too rapid an introduction of western ways, our relations with Saudi Arabia will become increasingly cordial. To bring this about we should continue to help the Saudis to develop the petroleum and other resources of their country and to use the income to modernize Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has a long way to go to meet the social standards and responsibilities of other nations, but it is trying very hard to improve itself and it has done well, considering that its sustained efforts have been only a postwar development. It has also had the serious internal obstacle in the fanatical religious opposition to change and the growth of western influences. It behooves us, therefore, to applaud what Saudi Arabia has done and is doing, and not criticize it for what it has not yet been able to do.
We must prove our friendship for Saudi Arabia by exploring ways of assisting King Ibn Saud to strengthen his defense which will also be valuable in enabling the Crown Prince to hold the country together on the death of his father.
We enacted legislation in 1950 under which Saudi Arabia became eligible for arms purchases in the United States for defense purposes. We have also completed and approved a survey of what these purchases should be, although the problem of financing such purchases remains to be solved. Even with strict budgetary control it would be difficult to find the means to purchase the equipment recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to maintain the military establishment in Saudi Arabia that the program will require. We should, therefore, discourage Saudi Arabia from taking on a commitment it cannot meet. This would be in keeping with our policy toward many other countries and it would accord with the importance attached by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the strategic and geographic position of Saudi Arabia vis-à-vis Russia.
It has become increasingly evident during the swift expansion of American political, economic, and strategic relations with Saudi Arabia that for our objectives to be adequately realized, both we and the Saudi Arabs must achieve genuine understanding of each other. To this end, it is our policy to give the greatest encouragement and aid to American public and private efforts which are being devoted to the leveling of linguistic and cultural barriers. It remains obvious, however, that the Saudi Arabs themselves have the greater obstacles to overcome, for they must reach an understanding of the whole pattern of Western economic, political, legal and cultural life, which is infinitely more complex than their own. Only when the Saudi Government [Page 1042] officials with whom we deal are equipped intelligently to cope with such problems as modern finance and trade can our two countries work efficiently together.
There are two routes by which this understanding can be reached: (a) by encouraging Saudi Arabia to develop closer contact with the parts of the Arab world which are rapidly reaching such an understanding; and (b) by drawing them into closer relations with other friendly and enlightened peoples. The first route will afford the most immediate results, but it is toward the second, which is the more difficult but the sounder, that we must direct our strongest efforts. For the present, our attention is devoted to the strengthening of a nuclear group of Saudi Arabs who will be equipped to comprehend our system. Only when comprehension has thus become really strong and they themselves have been able to raise the general educational level of their people can there be hope for full, mutual understanding. Meanwhile, we should encourage and promote wherever possible the development in Saudi Arabia of modern media for public instruction, such as radios, press and films.
We can be more effective by encouraging a broader knowledge of Arabic among Americans in both official and private capacity, in Saudi Arabia. The study and use of a foreigner’s language is a compliment which he never fails to appreciate, and it is always the most effective means of overcoming the obstacles to sympathy and understanding.
In summary it may be said that apart from complications created by the Palestine problem, our policy toward Saudi Arabia has been markedly successful. It has caused King Ibn Saud to say that outside of certain Arab states the United States is the closest friend of Saudi Arabia. And at the same time our policy through its encouragement of American private investment has helped the Saudi Arabians to modernize their country at an unprecedented rate.
- Department of State Policy (Information) Statements were concise documents summarizing the current United States policy toward, the relations of principal powers with, and the issues and trends in a particular country or region. The statements were intended to provide information and guidance for officers in missions abroad. They were generally prepared by ad hoc working groups in the responsible geographic offices of the Department of State and were referred to appropriate diplomatic missions abroad, under cover of formal instructions from the Secretary of State, for comment and criticism. The Policy Statements were periodically revised.↩
- For documentation on the Crown Prince’s visit, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, pp. 1331–1333.↩
- For information on Saudi Arabia and Public Law 621, concerning cash reimbursable military assistance, see the editorial note in Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, p. 1182.↩
- For documentation on boundary disputes between Saudi Arabia and the Shaikhdoms of the Persian Gulf in special treaty relations with the United Kingdom, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, pp. 91 ff.↩
- The Tripartite Declaration Regarding Security in the Near East was published in the Department of State Bulletin, June 5, 1950, p. 886. For documentation on the declaration, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, pp. 122 ff.↩
- See despatch 155 from Jidda, April 3, and telegram 124 from Jidda to Dhahran, May 7, ibid., pp. 1155 and 1173, respectively.↩
- Documentation on a possible Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation between the United States and Saudi Arabia is in Department of State file 611.86A4.↩
- Telegram 454 from Jidda, January 17, informed the Department of State that Saudi Arabia had signed a Point Four agreement (800.00 TA/1–1751).↩
- For information on U.S. interest in Saudi Arabian oil resources, see pp. 268 ff.↩
- Documentation on the negotiations between the United States and Saudi Arabia on a proposed civil air agreement is in Department of State file 611.86A94.↩