780.022/9–2852: Telegram

No. 1478
The Ambassador in Saudi Arabia (Hare) to the Department of State1


179. In reply Deptel 153, Sept 25,2 believe that we shld not refuse SAG request mediate. It wld be one thing for us to intervene gratuitously but quite another to turn down plea mediate and I feel [Page 2476] we cld not do so without risk prejudicing solution Buraimi problem as well as our own general position vis-à-vis SAG.

Furthermore, suggest wld be inadvisable sell SAG short on its Buraimi position. Despite conflicting claims, SAG wld appear have quite tenable position on basis historical association and tribal affiliations although latterly ties had tended lapse until recent Saudi rapprochement with certain Buraimi elements and assertion renewed direct interest. As consequence, wrangle in SC cld be embarrassing Brit and at same time exacerbate Saudi feelings if, as seems likely, nothing definite materialized. Surely there are sufficient such precedents not to relish creating another.

In circumstances I can see no line of action preferable to that outlined by Dept in ref tel and wld hope presentation cld be such that both sides wld appreciate our disinterested desire be helpful. Specifically, as far as Brit concerned, I find difficulty believe they wld feel justified in construing our mediation as act of non-cooperation, particularly when alternatives are so unattractive.

Fact is that Buraimi case is but one of a series of pieces unfinished business in Arabian peninsula and is inescapable that their resolution in this day and age must take indigenous feelings, forces and institutions into account and not depend solely for solution on fiat of an outside power. This makes, it is true, for somewhat awkward situation but it wld be act of political negligence not face facts. As I have repeatedly stated, I do not feel motives of either Brit or Saudis in these matters are beyond question and it is consequently our thankless task to act as honest broker in interest of parties concerned, of area stability and of our own position.3

Recommend reply, if necessary of interim nature, be made immed to Saudi Amb in order stay restiveness of Saudis, especially King.

  1. Repeated to London and Dhahran.
  2. Not printed. It said the Department of State was considering accepting Saudi Arabia’s request for mediation and asked for the Embassy’s comments on its plan. The Department was also considering a proposal for a standstill arrangement and withdrawal of both parties from Buraimi, followed by a proposal for the resumption of the boundary conference. If these were not accepted the Department would consider proposing arbitration. (780.022/9–2552)

    The reference telegram had also been sent as telegram 2175 to London. In its reply, telegram 1767, Sept. 26, the Embassy in London said it realized that vital U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia were in a sensitive status but, since our whole policy in the area had been based on cooperative efforts with the British, mediation between the United Kingdom and a country in the area would threaten the entire basis of our fundamental policy. It recommended discussing the matter with the British before coming to a decision. (780.022/9–2652)

  3. Telegram 186 from Jidda, Sept. 30, advised the Department of State that, since the idea of a so-called standstill agreement would come up in any discussions with the Saudis and the British, the Department might want to know that the Embassy read the record as showing that both parties seemed to have interpreted the agreement as applicable and nonapplicable to Buraimi as it suited them at the moment. As far as the Embassy knew the disputed areas had not been clearly defined either at the London Conference in 1951 or the Damman Conference in 1952 and applications of a standstill agreement were subject to varying interpretations. (780.22/9–3052)