786A.5 MSP/2–2053

No. 1450
The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Director for Mutual Security (Stassen)1

top secret

My Dear Mr. Stassen: Developments in Saudi Arabia within the past year lead to the inescapable conclusion that, if the United [Page 2436]States is to continue to enjoy friendly relations with the Saudi Arabian authorities and to maintain its preferential position in the country, Saudi Arabia must be provided grant military assistance.

Several months prior to the conclusion of the Dhahran Airfield and Mutual Defense Assistance Agreements on June 18, 1951, it appeared very probable that the agreement for the use of this strategic airfield could not be concluded unless we gave the Saudi Arabian Government reason to believe we would extend grant military aid to supplement cash-reimbursable military assistance.

In view of this consideration and the urgent view taken by the Defense Department concerning the desirability of obtaining signature of the Airfield Agreement without any further delay, the Departments of State and Defense authorized the American Ambassador on May 2, 1951 to discuss with the Saudi Arabian Government the possibility of extending some military grant assistance, should the necessary legislation be approved. At the time the Ambassador did so, he pointed out that Saudi Arabia, among Near Eastern countries, was being given special consideration for such grant assistance, which would supplement, but not supplant, cash-reimbursable assistance.

The Department of State, sharing Ambassador Hare’s belief that the United States Government was morally obligated to take appropriate action under legislation which by then had come into force, requested the Department of Defense on April 16, 19522 to concur in recommending a Presidential finding of Saudi Arabia’s eligibility for grant aid. The Department of Defense expressed concurrence in a letter dated June 13, 19523 contingent upon a political determination that grant aid was necessary to assure the continuation of adequate military base rights in Saudi Arabia. In a further communication of February 20, 19534 the Department of Defense informed the Department of State that funds for Saudi Arabian training requirements in the United States could be made available under the military assistance program for fiscal year 1953.

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It should be emphasized that the Dhahran Airfield Agreement runs for a period of ten years but is subject to cancellation or modification by either party after five years have elapsed. The Defense Department has already spent a considerable sum for development of the airfield and is now planning further expansion in the extent of installations and services in order to increase effectiveness of the base. It is expected that we shall shortly negotiate with the Saudi Arabian Government for permission to make such expansion. Such a request will undoubtedly give rise to renewed representations concerning our intentions as regards grant military aid.

It is now perfectly clear that the Saudi Arabs, even if they are not approached concerning expansion of base facilities, intend to persist in their request for grant military assistance. Inquiries regarding our willingness to extend such help have increased in recent months, and on December 1, 1952 the Commanding Officer of Dhahran Airfield was taken to task by the Saudi Defense Minister for the failure of the United States Government to take steps to provide grant aid.5

The financial obligations of the Saudi Arabian Government have greatly increased in recent years, and the present military assistance program can be carried out without outside aid only at the expense of other important development projects. This financial burden can be alleviated by a modest grant aid program in which emphasis might well be placed on student training in the United States and provision of military training equipment in token amounts. Such a program would clearly contribute directly to Saudi Arabian participation in any effective regional defense organization.

It is the view of the Department of State that United States base rights in Saudi Arabia may be adversely affected unless grant military aid is made available to Saudi Arabia. I therefore request that you recommend to the President that Saudi Arabia receive grant military assistance.

With specific reference to the purpose of Section 202 of the Mutual Security Act of 1951, as amended, the Department of State is of the opinion that (1) the strategic position of Saudi Arabia makes it of direct importance to the defense of the Near East area, (2) such assistance is critical importance to the defense of the free nations, and (3) the immediately increased ability of the recipient country to defend itself is important to the preservation of the peace and security of the area and to the security of the United States.

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The Department of Defense has joined the Department of State in recommending grant military assistance to Saudi Arabia under the provisions of Section 202 of the Mutual Security Act of 1951, as amended. In this connection, the assurances listed under Section 511(a. of the Act will be requested of the Saudi Arabian Government.

Sincerely yours,

Walter B. Smith
  1. This letter was drafted by Sturgill and Fritzlan. An early version was drafted in July 1952, and it was redrafted several times in January and February 1953. It was cleared by NE and NEA, with S/MSA concurring.

    Attached to the letter was a memorandum by Jernegan to the Secretary of State, dated Feb. 26. It recommended that the Secretary sign the letter, in order to preserve the U.S. preferential position in Saudi Arabia, and in particular the continued right to use and expand the facilities at Dhahran Airfield. (786A.5 MSP/2–2053) A handwritten note on the file copy indicates that the original was to be delivered by Jernegan to Stassen on the afternoon of Feb. 27.

  2. Document 1436.
  3. Document 1438.
  4. Not printed; the document under reference here is a memorandum by the Director, Office of Military Assistance, to the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Mutual Security Affairs. Referring to the last paragraph of the June 13, 1952, letter from the Department of Defense, which stated that Defense concurrence was subject to the availability of funds, the memorandum confirmed an informal statement previously made that the Department of Defense could make available from Fiscal Year 1953 funds the money to cover known requirements for training Saudi Arabian students in the United States for the remainder of the fiscal year. (786A.5 MSP/2–2053)
  5. Telegram 431 from Jidda, Dec. 4, reported the conversation under reference here to the Department of State. (786A.5 MSP/12–452)