786A.5 MAP/2–951

Memorandum by the Officer in Charge, Arabian Peninsula Affairs (Awalt), to the Deputy Director, Office of Near Eastern Affairs (Kopper)1

top secret

Mr. Mitchell has recently replaced Mr. George A. Brownell as Special Adviser to the Secretary of the Air Force. He asked me to call on him yesterday at his office in order to brief him on the general background of the negotiations in Saudi Arabia. We discussed the events leading up to the opening of negotiations in Riyadh on December 14. Mr. Mitchell said that he had read through the material recently submitted by Ambassador Hare and that there were some questions which had arisen about which he would like to ask. In the first place he said that some of the modifications in the JCS recommendations which the SAG negotiators had asked for would be difficult to obtain from JCS. He made a particular reference in this connection to the combat air force and the base maintenance shop. In respect to the combat planes I remarked that I hoped that JCS could give approval because it would for many years be merely a matter of principle. I pointed out that the SAG had no pilots and would have to start from scratch in training of flying personnel which would require at least three and possibly five years before we would be called upon to sell any of the planes required. Mr. Mitchell asked if the State Department attached great importance to approval of the combat air force and I replied that that would depend entirely upon the importance the Department of Defense attached to the Dhahran Air Field. I recalled that the Ambassador had stressed that this was one of the matters about which there was unanimity of opinion in the Saudi Arabian Government and that recent efforts to obtain fighter [Page 1045] planes and training through British channels were indicative of the seriousness with which the SAG viewed it. Mr. Mitchell then told me that getting an agreement for Dhahran Air Field was a matter of very great importance and had a very significant place in our strategic planning. He also added that defense plans for Dhahran were of a rather urgent nature which called for the completion of certain construction projects by July or August of this year. I told Mr. Mitchell that I was very glad to have this information because the last statement of policy on it by JCS was nearly three years old. I also added that this made it all the more important that JCS should not give a refusal to the Saudi Arabian request. In a subsequent conversation with Col. Malcolm on this subject he asked whether this opinion should also be applied to furnishing bombers and he pointed out that in one of the Jidda Embassy despatches mention was made that Emir Mansour wished bomber, training and reconnaissance planes. I told him that I believed the terms of the act under which Saudi Arabia became eligible for military assistance automatically precluded us from providing weapons of offense such as bombers. Col. Malcolm agreed and added that it would also be unnecessary to provide reconnaissance planes because their function could be just as well performed for their purposes by fighter planes and have the additional advantage of being considerably more economical.

The SAG request for overall training is also a matter which might offer some difficulty, Mr. Mitchell said. I agreed that it was a knotty problem and one which we had tried to pin down more closely last fall prior to Ambassador Hare’s departure. We had endeavored at that time to obtain information regarding the phasing of training operations over a period of years which would be coordinated with the acquisition of military equipment. We were unable to get a statement other than that training would be offered. Now that the SAG request for training had passed beyond training in the use of the new equipment only, I said that I felt it was more important than ever that JCS indicate with some precision just what we could do over a given period of time.

In view of SAG reluctance to enter an agreement for twenty-five years, Mr. Mitchell said that USAF was considering what period would be the shortest beyond which we would not be interested. He said that general opinion now was in favor of a ten-year period but that was not necessarily definitive. Any further reduction, however, would probably have to be referred for a decision to the Joint Chiefs.

Mr. Mitchell said that he thought it would be difficult to provide a base maintenance shop because that could be a very elaborate and expensive establishment which might be generally unsuited for Saudi Arabian needs. He said that he believed JCS would go along with supplying mobile equipment through the third echelon and that an [Page 1046] arrangement might be suggested whereby the major overhaul of engines and other equipment could be done outside the country while substitute parts would be supplied on loan. I told him that I thought the economy of an arrangement of that kind should appeal to the SAG but I stressed the importance of having some base shop of a non-mobile character which could be as modest as JCS might care to recommend. That would enable us to approve the SAG request and still meet the requirements of practicality.

Mr. Mitchell referred again to the importance that Dhahran had in defense thinking and stated that the Carney letter to Admiral Sherman had received the urgent attention of the Joint Chiefs who were in the process of considering a position paper2 on the importance of DAF. I asked Mr. Mitchell if the importance now attached to DAF would continue if and when other base right arrangements were agreed to in Aden as a part of the NATO plans. He assured me that it would.

  1. A handwritten note in the margin read: “This is a very interesting and significant paper. BYB [Burton Y. Berry] should know. Am holding copy for GLJ [G. Lewis Jones]. SKCK [Samuel K. C. Kopper].” Berry apparently saw the memorandum, since lines are drawn through his initials in the upper corner of the page.
  2. No copy of such a paper has been found in Department of State files.