16. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State 1

416. 1. Official Saudi reaction to signature Turk-Iraqi Pact,2 as we may expect it to be enunciated, can I believe be best estimated from remarks made by Prime Minister Prince Faisal during courtesy call I paid him February 23. There has as yet been no published comment.

Faisal had returned February 21 from Cairo where, according information given Embassy’s Arab consultant by reliable palace source, he and Deputy Foreign Minister had negotiated with Egyptian Prime Minister Nasser and Foreign Minister Fawzi draft text of bilateral defense agreement with view its signature should Turk-Iraqi Pact be consummated.

Faisal’s remarks to me seemed harsher version of Government of Egypt line reported by Embassy Cairo. I interrupted several times to argue strongly fundamental logic and benefit to Arabs of our position. Full text by air pouch.3 Highlights his position follow:

Cairo Conference was not failure. On contrary we gained much from full if sometime heated discussions.

Arabs and US are not enemies. On contrary we seek same end, defense against Communist Russia, though by different means. Now, with your backing, Nuri Said has set back Arab relations with West by 30 years.

Last December Arab League for first time recognized possibility of Arab-Western cooperation. Then, as we were considering means to implement new policy, MenderesNuri bombshell fell. Today whole atmosphere is inflamed against you.

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Arabs are again asking: What have we had from US entering Near East? They answer: Palestine. They believe policy of US and its allies is to break ACSP in interest of Israel.

They believe too its aim is to make Arab states appendages of Turkey and Pakistan. We have been willing cooperate with Turkey but not as her tail.

We have lost confidence in the West. To regain it you should drop this plan, strengthen and have confidence in Arab unity, work directly with Arab states and not behind the scenes through Turkey.

We can cooperate both with northern tier of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan and with West. Why cannot you build northern tier without Iraq, strengthen Arab League and tier both into strong structure area defense?

If there be war, we know Near East will again be battlefield. So strengthen this second line of defense. It is to common interest. That is all we ask of you.

Harmonize your strategic view with Arab feelings. If you insist on Iraq joining northern tier, you will have lost Arab confidence. Surely you do not want to fight in unfriendly countries. And what we want is to cooperate with you. If we do not do so, fault will be yours.

2. Read in this form there is much that is persuasive in, Faisal’s argument, and I felt he was for most part sincere in advancing it, so far as it went. He spoke, however, with such unwonted vehemence and was so impervious to my counter plea (in essence that Iraq could join northern tier and continue loyal member Arab League) that I could not but sense bitterness in defeat which boded ill for future Saudi-American relations and an underlying jealousy rooted in Saudi-Hashemite rivalry.

Support for this analysis is given by discussions I have had with several of my colleagues and by two further reports from Embassy’s Arab consultant. Visiting in Riyadh ten days ago, he found strongly anti-American sentiments in palace circles: They had offered friendship and collaboration; we had replied with policy which was wrecking Arab League. Again in Taif February 25, day after signature Turk-Iraqi Pact, he found Defense Minister Prince Mishaal outspokenly critical US foreign policies North Africa and Near East.

3. On both latter occasions Mohammad Effendi gathered too impression that question of Dhahran Airbase as raised by Bashayan in [Page 25] Iraq Parliament (paragraph 2, my telegram 392 February 14)4 was still rankling King and Royal Councillors. He believes it likely King will raise question with me when, as already arranged, I present Admiral, Cassady in Riyadh March 10.

I plan play this by ear but would welcome Department comment. Jernegan’s letter February 10 gives helpful background.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 682.87/2–2755. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Amman, Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, London, Tehran, Tel Aviv, and Tripoli.
  2. Telegram 618 from Baghdad, February 24, reported that the Turkish-Iraqi Treaty was signed at 11:45 p.m. on February 23 and formally announced during the morning of February 24. (Ibid., 682.87/2–2455)

    On March 1, Secretary, Dulles sent the following message to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said:

    “I have received news of the conclusion of the Iraqi-Turkish Mutual defense pact with much pleasure and I ask you to accept my felicitations and all good wishes in your endeavors on behalf defense of international peace and security.”

    The message was transmitted to the Embassy in Baghdad in telegram 551. (Ibid., 682.87/3–155) On March 2, a similar message from Dulles was sent to the Embassy in Ankara to be delivered at Ambassador Warren’s discretion to Prime Minister Menderes. (Ibid., 682.87/3–255)

  3. Transmitted in despatch 133 from Jidda, February 27. (Ibid., 682.87/2-2755)
  4. Paragraph 2 of telegram 392 described a Saudi press report that quoted statements made by Iraqi Senator Bashayan about the Dhahran airfield. (Ibid., 780.5/2–1455)