The Officer in Charge of Arabian
Peninsula–Iraq Affairs (Fritzlan) to the Ambassador in Saudi Arabia
Dear Mr. Ambassador: I find that one of the most pressing and difficult problems facing me at the moment is the question of grant military aid for Saudi Arabia. Although I am aware that you have been waiting some time for a response from the Department regarding developments over the past few months, it seems more practical to comment on the matter in this form rather than by telegram, for the situation has been and still is one of some complexity and sensitivity.
You will recall that in July NEA prepared documentation requesting a recommendation for a Presidential finding in favor of grant military aid for Saudi Arabia.2 The case progressed as far as our people in S/MSA, where it ran into considerable opposition for a number of reasons, among which was the feeling that priority should be given the developing situation in Egypt. (See attached memorandum dated August 13, 1952 from Mr. Martin to Mr. Jernegan.3) My understanding of some of the background on the matter is that it was agreed in a talk with the S/MSA people that an effort should be made to get a more positive endorsement from either the MCS or Defense before presenting the case for Saudi Arabia to the Director for Mutual Security. Mr. Bryan of S/MSA and Mr. Daspit undertook an exploration of the possibility of obtaining a stronger endorsement, which resulted in a decision that the time was not opportune to request an endorsement. It was [Page 2432] thought that a further delay might see development of such an opportunity.
Meanwhile, however, the situation in Egypt came rapidly to a head, and Saudi Arabia became at most a secondary consideration. The general opinion seemed to be that so long as the Egyptian problem was up in the air, there was no possibility of considering Saudi Arabia for grant military aid. The same situation prevails now and, it appears, will prevail for the foreseeable future.
Last week a strong concerted effort on the part of State and Defense to have Egypt found eligible for grant military aid failed. The President and Mr. Harriman reportedly took the view that a decision on such a matter should more properly and advantageously be made by the new Administration. An important added factor in the failure to secure grant military aid for Egypt was that the Government of Israel and Jewish groups in the United States protested strongly. The Israeli Government argued that Israel’s security would be threatened and that if arms aid were given any Arab state, it should be given at the same time to Israel and in suitably proportional amounts.
Nevertheless, the Department intends to press for a favorable finding for Egypt as soon as possible after the change in Administration. If a favorable finding is not forthcoming, then it is Alec Daspit’s opinion that there is no chance of securing a favorable finding for Saudi Arabia this fiscal year. If the finding for Egypt is favorable, then he believes it becomes an open question whether the Department should attempt to secure a finding for Saudi Arabia. He feels that if you could provide the Department with some more ammunition to give added weight to a case for Saudi Arabia, the prospects of securing grant military aid for Saudi Arabia would not be altogether unfavorable. Whatever the outcome on the matter of grant arms aid for Egypt, NEA feels that as strong a case as possible should be made for such aid for Saudi Arabia.
Prospects for Fiscal 1954 are considerably brighter. At this stage, Defense and State have a firm policy in so far as possible to initiate a grant military program for the Near East area and have jointly recommended that a significant sum be specifically authorized for this purpose in MSA legislation for Fiscal 1954. If Congress approves, there is no question in Alec Daspit’s mind that Saudi Arabia will be a recipient, but not within the proportions you and General Day mentioned to Yusuf Yassin during the DAF negotiations in May 1951 and probably not in advance of receipt of aid by one or two of the other Arab states.
In summary it would appear that: (1) there is little if any chance of securing a favorable finding for Saudi Arabia in Fiscal 1953 [Page 2433] unless Egypt is found eligible; (2) there is considerable doubt regarding a favorable finding for Saudi Arabia in Fiscal 1953 even should Egypt be found eligible; and (3) there is good reason to believe that Saudi Arabia will be found eligible under Fiscal 1954 legislation but not for one-third of an area program and not in advance of all other countries in the Near East. Therefore, it would appear profitable to do some thinking regarding the effects of these situations on our relations with Saudi Arabia. The following questions come to my mind:
- What would seem to be the consequences of a further delay in obtaining grant military aid on (a) further implementation of cash-reimbursable program, including operation of the MAAG and student training, and (b) the possibility of securing the SAG’s agreement to periodic training flights to be conducted by the Strategic Air Command, for which instructions are now in preparation?
- Is it reasonable to assume that there is no chance or, at most, small chance of success in negotiating for additional requirements without first giving the SAG some indication of our attitude regarding grant military aid? (The requirements described in the Department’s Instruction No. 7 of July 8, 19524 are still undergoing revision in the Department of the Air Force and, I understand, will now include a request for stationing a permanent fighter squadron at DAF.)
- Should grant aid not be made available to Saudi Arabia prior to the renewal date of the DAF Agreement (December 18, 1955), would the SAG be likely to agree to renewal?
- Can you conceive of other means besides grant military aid which would satisfy our implied commitment to the SAG and preserve or perhaps enhance our basic political relationship with Saudi Arabia and our preferential position there?
- How would you relate the matter of grant military aid to the question of Saudi participation in MEDO?
I have no doubt that these and other questions have been occupying your thoughts for some time. As you stated in one of your telegrams, they are of an importance which justify unrelaxed attention.
I suggest the desirability of making your comments a part of the Department’s official records.5
With best wishes,
- This letter was drafted by Sturgill and cleared by NE and NEA.↩
- Documentation on this topic is in Department of State file 786A.5 MSP.↩
- Not attached. The memorandum listed a number of reasons why it appeared difficult to justify grant aid for Saudi Arabia, the main one being the “seemingly half-hearted endorsement. of the Department of Defense. (786A.5 MSP/8–1352) The Defense position is stated in the letter of June 13, 1952, from the Acting Secretary of Defense to the Secretary of State, Document 1438. On this topic, see also the memoranda of conversation by Sturgill, Documents 1441 and 1443.↩
- The instruction under reference here is Instruction 1, dated July 8, 1952, not printed; for a brief summary, see footnote 2, Document 1435.↩
- For the Ambassador’s answer, see telegram 621 from Jidda, infra. A letter by Hare to Fritzlan, dated Mar. 15, gave a more detailed answer to the questions in this letter. A handwritten notation by Daspit on the Mar. 15 letter, which is not printed, noted that the purpose of the letter had already been served. (786A.5 MSP/3–1553)↩