169. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State1

39. (1) King Saud’s Private Secretary Abdullah Bilkhair told me at state dinner last evening for President Sukarno he had highly confidential news for me to communicate my government only. It was this:

Prince Faisal had received (circa two weeks ago) invitation visit Communist China. Question whether he should accept had been discussed and argued at length in Royal Diwan and with King. Consensus royal counselors was he should accept; it was “good way to get to know other side.” King, however, had personally decided to contrary as His Majesty wished no relations with Communists. Telegram expressing regrets had therefore been sent Peking two days ago.

Bilkhair asked what I thought. I answered I believed decision wise and wholly consistent King’s position as given me at July 10 audience (mytel 17, July 152) and in written reply later sent me (text being forwarded by despatch 12 July 233).

Following are two key passages from King’s written reply which I had in mind:

Our very special attitude towards communism is well-known to US Government and to world. It is to our interest that communism [Page 262] not infiltrate into any area of Middle East. In opposing communism, we do so on basic religious belief and Islamic principle, in which we believe with all our heart, and not to please America or Western states.

My position, in particular, of Moslem Arab King, servant to Holy Shrines, looked up to by 400 million Moslems in East and West, is extremely delicate and serious before God, my nation and history.

(2) During dinner Deputy Foreign Minister Yasin made appointment call on me later during evening. On arrival he said he wished speak of urgent matter; His Majesty wished me and US Government know of it since no other diplomatic representative would be informed. Yasin then said:

His Majesty received yesterday telegram from his Minister in Tehran reporting Soviet Ambassador had visited him and requested him convey to SAG desire of Soviet Government to establish diplomatic representation in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Minister asked if this was personal suggestion or request from Soviet Government. Soviet Ambassador replied “an official request from Soviet Government”. I asked Yasin convey King my highest appreciation his confidence; I had been greatly encouraged by His Majesty’s words and his opposition to communism at my July 10 audience; I would report this new development to my government in strict confidence.

Yasin replied he had King’s reply to my démarche re Syria and were [he] read two passages quoted above. I said I believed King would be guided in this new matter by same strong “religious belief and Islamic principles;” and Yasin, perhaps by way of indicating concurrence my remark, told me of Prince Faisal having declined invitation visit Communist China.

(3) For after dinner coffee I was seated after President Sukarno to King’s right, Bilkhair acting as interpreter. He had earlier spoken with me of King’s conditional approval lifting ban against Time (see my immediately following telegram4). I asked name its correspondent who had covered July 19 visit of tanker Saud the First.

Sukarno picked up subject. En route to Egypt, he said, while visiting New Delhi he had asked Nehru what he thought of Time reporting (July 4 issue) of his visit to Russia. Nehru who had not read article replied “I haven’t time for Time.” Sukarno then asked if we had read its reporting to Bandung conference; this was not, he said, “way to make friends in Asia”.

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I have wondered if he will endeavor influence King Saud to establish relations with Russia and Communist China.

(4) As I have no specific guide as to Department’s thinking in these questions, would appreciate its comment.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.86A/7–2555. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution.
  2. Not printed; in telegram 11 to Jidda, July 9, the Department instructed Wadsworth, in part, to express to the King U.S. concern that current instability in Syria “provides opportunities for extension communist influence.” (Ibid., 611.86A/7–955) Having conveyed this message to the King on July 10, Wadsworth, transmitting the King’s views on the situation in Syria, conveyed his impression that the King “welcomed this démarche, based as it was on Communist threat to Arab world and to Syria in particular.” (Telegram 17 from Jidda, July 15; ibid., 611.86A/7–1555)
  3. This despatch transmitted Saud’s written reply to the U.S. démarche. (Ibid., 611.86A/7–2355)
  4. In telegram 40 from Jidda, July 26, Wadsworth reported that according to Bilkhair, Henry Luce, Time’s publisher, had instructed his representative to apologize to the King for any offense given in the magazine’s reporting on Saudi Arabia. The King was reportedly prepared to lift the ban on the condition that the Department confirm Luce’s intention to apologize, and that it obtain assurance that Time would not “attack Saudi Arabia as in the past.” (Ibid., 911.6286A/7–2655)