174. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia1

141. Embtel 104.2 General thinking regarding our attitude closer Saudi-Soviet relations remains as outlined Deptel 56.3 Should King consult you specifically regarding Soviet arms offer you may in your discretion take following line verbally:

US is now making available arms and technicians. Saudi military needs are being met in accordance with agreed program keyed to ability Saudi Arabians to man and maintain new equipment. US wishes continue cooperate in building Saudi defense. Decision to provide tanks is solid evidence to this end.
There are undoubtedly other sources supply, but His Majesty may well wonder whether he wishes change in middle of program and obtain unaccustomed equipment which his forces could not as effectively utilize. It would not be in interests sound Saudi defense [Page 268] to acquire equipment with which his officers and men have had no experience and which would complicate their training at this stage.
Introduction Soviet arms into Saudi Arabia would require of necessity introduction Soviet technicians. His Majesty may wish give serious thought to advisability introducing Soviet technicians to work closely his armed forces.
Although US is hopeful after Geneva conferences of possible settlement some East-West issues, we continue to be aware, as is His Majesty, of fundamental expansionist policies world communism and its efforts strengthen communist forces throughout world.
All evidence we have indicates renewed interest Soviet in Middle East influenced in part, at least, by desire frustrate collective security arrangements in area. Unprecedented statement Soviet Foreign Office regarding Middle East in April this year indicates Soviet attitude toward Near and Middle East. Bulganin before Supreme Soviet in August mentioned Soviet objective of neutral Near East (copies by pouch).4

Logical conclusion would seem to be that as Middle East states and especially Saudi Arabia are strengthening themselves USSR calculates that if it cannot achieve neutrality through persuasion it may be able accomplish this objective through proposal to establish diplomatic relations and supply military equipment.

In summary, old Arab proverb of camel and tent continues valid.

If Saudis raise issue Dhahran Base rights you should in your discretion frame your reply in context of belief SAG continues welcome Base Agreement and that US through MAAG and MDA continues carry out its obligations.

FYI Dhahran Base rights policy under study in anticipation Saudi request reopen negotiations. End FYI.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 661.86A/9–1955. Secret. Drafted by Newsom and Wilkins and approved by Jernegan. Repeated to Dhahran.
  2. In telegram 104, September 8, Wadsworth reported that the King had expressed “keen satisfaction” concerning the proposed delivery of 18 M–41 tanks ordered by Saudi Arabia. The Ambassador noted that the King might soon raise the question of the renewal of the Dhahran Airfield agreement.

    Wadsworth also noted, in reference to the matter of the Dhahran Airfield, that the “Embassy’s Arab consultant tells me Prince Faisal has since referred in conversation with him to Prince Mishaal’s remarks to General Schlatter, saying in effect: “It is substantially true, as Mishaal says, that, despite assurances held out to us when signing, we have gained relatively little from DAF agreement and that, had we rented it, we should have had some reasonable return.” (Ibid., 611.86A/9–855)

  3. Document 170.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. In anticipation of renewed negotiations on the use of the Dhahran Airfield, Murphy wrote to Gordon Gray, Assistant Secretary of Defense, on August 18, requesting Departments of Defense and the Air Force estimates on the importance of the base to the United States, “in the light of Saudi Arabia’s strategic and military position and its importance as a supplier of oil.” Murphy also requested estimates of the provisions of the Dhahran Agreement which the interested Departments might wish to modify in any future negotiations. (Department of State, Central Files, 711.56386A/8–1855)