Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge, Arabian Peninsula Affairs (Awalt)


Subject: Visit of Prince Misha’al, Saudi Arabian Minister of Defense, with Mr. McGhee.

Participants: HRH Prince Misha’al, Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia
Sheikh Asad Al-Faqih, Saudi Arabian Ambassador
NEA—Mr. McGhee
NE—Mr. Kopper
Mr. Stabler
Mr. Awalt


Mr. McGhee welcomed Prince Misha’al warmly to the State Department and expressed his hope that the Prince was enjoying his visit to the United States. He also informed him that the Department would be glad to be of any service possible to him. The Prince thanked Mr. McGhee for his kindness and assured him that he was thoroughly enjoying his first visit to this country. He added that he was not interested in political affairs but in defense matters and he emphasized strongly his interest and that of his Government in seeing the United States move rapidly on fulfilling its commitment regarding military training of the Saudi Arbian defense forces. He observed in this connection that the services of one training mission (sic.British) have been concluded leaving a gap which he is most eager to have filled as soon as possible. Mr. McGhee assured him that we were equally eager to implement our commitment re training and some [Page 1069] officers had already been designated for early departure to Saudi Arabia to offer advice on the construction and other facilities required by the training forces and observed that the construction was a necessary prerequisite which the SAG was to provide. HRH agreed that this work was a Saudi responsibility. He also added that the SAG had full confidence of the good intentions and friendship of the United States but reiterated that an early demonstration of it by the training operations was highly desirable. Mr. McGhee pointed out that American friendship for Saudi Arabia was unique in the Near East and had been repeatedly demonstrated through the benevolent operations of Aramco; the establishment of DAF, which was a tremendous source of strength and security to Saudi Arabia; extension of financial assistance through Lend-Lease and Ex-Im Bank loans; the tripartite declaration of May 1950, which was arranged at the request of the King for assurances on Saudi Arabian security; and more recently by the MEC plan. He emphasized that under this plan the United States had no wish to interfere with or embarrass Saudi Arabian-Egyptian relations, but he suggested that blind support of the Egyptian position would serve no useful purpose to the SAG. He said MEC would help build up the forces of Saudi Arabia which had fine fighting instincts and had the use of an exceptionally fine airbase and a uniquely defensible area which would be most useful to Middle East defense. HRH expressed his appreciation of Mr. McGhee’s comments and said that Saudi Arabia was not against the British but observed that the Egyptian position represented the demands of over sixteen million people which could not be ignored. He hoped that some satisfactory agreement could be reached but he was afraid that in the meantime clashes would occur which would cause the situation to deteriorate. In that case, he said, the canal, surrounded in a hostile area, would be indefensible in the long run. Mr. McGhee suggested that Saudi Arabia, as a friend to both sides, was in a most advantageous position to counsel moderation. In this connection, he said, it was his understanding that Saudi Arabia, owing to the prestige of His Majesty, King Ibn Saud, enjoyed the privilege of speaking last in Arab League Councils. This offered Saudi Arabia the opportunity of influencing its brother Arab states toward paths of reason and moderation. Prince Misha’al agreed that that was true but pointed out that the Arab states expected Saudi Arabia to carry US support with it. Mr. McGhee replied that we have no desire to impose our will on anyone and said that Saudi Arabian acquaintance with such outstanding Americans as Mr. Davies, General Day, Ambassador Hare, General Bradley, Secretary Finletter, General Collins and others was firm evidence of our good will. HRH said the King appreciated this fully and cited as a recent example of the King’s preference for this country an offer from the British, [Page 1070] when he was in London enroute to the United States, of various planes for Saudi Arabia. He said he referred the offer to his father, the King, who replied that he should refuse the offer with thanks because only American planes and equipment were wanted in Saudi Arabia. The Prince remarked that he had been instructed to negotiate for the purchase of one Constellation and ten two-motor planes, possibly Convairs, while he was in this country. He said he had accepted General Day’s recommendation that the Constellation was too large and expensive for their needs and that ten Convairs were more than were required at the time. Accordingly, he was interested in purchasing only four Convairs and hoped that the Department of State could assist him in obtaining earlier delivery than seemed likely and also in obtaining a reduction in the unit price per plane in accordance with the DAF Agreement. Mr. McGhee told HRH that the Department would be very glad to render any appropriate assistance but added that the commercial policy of this Government might forbid interference in commercial relations between his Government and a private American firm. In regard to price discounts, he remarked that it was his understanding that the DAF Agreement provided for assistance in obtaining repair parts including engines, but did not envisage such assistance in regard to whole planes. The Prince agreed that this was true with respect to planes for the Saudi Arabian Airline but he said it was also his understanding that we would assist his Government in obtaining planes for defense purposes. Mr. McGhee agreed that this was true in respect to ten Super DC–3s or their equivalent or twelve fighter planes intended for the Defense establishment in Saudi Arabia. The Prince assured Mr. McGhee that there was no difference between transport facilities of the Defense establishment and the Saudi Arabian Airline and added that the latter operation was a responsibility of his Ministry. Mr. McGhee assured HRH that the Department would be very glad to confer with our Defense authorities and assist in any way possible.