180. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, October 5, 19551


  • Renewed Saudi Arabian Request for Military and Economic Assistance


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Abdullah Al-Khayyal of Saudi Arabia
  • Mr. Mohammad Mahdi, Third Secretary, Embassy of Saudi Arabia
  • Mr. David D. Newsom, NE

The Ambassador began by stating that it was his purpose, while here, to establish closer and more friendly relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States. The Secretary stated that he appreciated this. The Ambassador then stated that, in accordance with this, he would like to request military and economic aid from the United States.

The Secretary said he understood we were already extending aid to Saudi Arabia and asked Mr. Newsom for particulars. Mr. Newsom stated that we presently had a reimbursable military aid agreement with Saudi Arabia, under which we had sold them various items, including, most recently, nine B–26 aircraft. In addition, we had approved the sale of 18 M–41 tanks and Defense was currently processing the sale. In addition, facilities at the Dhahran Air Base, all of which become the property of the Saudi Arabian Government, and the activities of our military assistance group represent almost $50,000,000 in aid over the past few years. Mr. Newsom also recalled that the United States, in 1954, offered Saudi Arabia a grant military aid agreement, but that the King did not feel he could sign [Page 276] the agreement required by our legislation. Finally, Saudi Arabia was receiving Point Four aid, but terminated the program.

The Ambassador then said they needed arms to strengthen their army and economic assistance for their ports and their railways. The Ambassador said the arms would be for their own defense and for the defense of the area.

The Secretary answered that, within the limit of our resources, we were sympathetic with Saudi Arabia’s needs, desired to be helpful, and were giving assistance.

The Ambassador then asked if they could get such arms as they might request through the reimbursable aid agreement. The Secretary referred to the exchange of notes constituting a reimbursable aid agreement and stated that, in accordance with the provisions of this agreement and in principle, the United States Government was willing to sell such arms to Saudi Arabia as the Saudi Arabian Government might request.

The Ambassador asked whether the request to purchase 18 M–47 tanks, which was previously made and withdrawn, could be submitted again. The Secretary expressed his willingness, in accordance with the reimbursable aid agreement, to again consider this request.2

Ambassador Khayyal referred to the former request for grant military aid and asked if the United States were still willing to supply under an agreement. The Secretary said that if His Majesty’s Government has changed its mind, we would again consider complying with the request. He explained that there were agreements required by legislation, however, which Saudi Arabia would have to sign.

Ambassador Khayyal asked if the U.S. could give Saudi Arabia “most favored nation” treatment with a minimum of conditions. The Secretary said we would not impose conditions which were not required by the legislation.

The Secretary indicated, however, that even though the United States and Saudi Arabia might reach agreement on grant aid, it would not mean funds would be available immediately for such aid. These were appropriated by the Congress and, when the present budget was considered, there appeared to be no possibility of an [Page 277] agreement with Saudi Arabia. A new budget would not be in effect until the middle of 1956.

The Ambassador raised the question of grant economic aid, as well. (Mr. Newsom asked, after the meeting with the Secretary, whether the Ambassador meant to include Point Four aid in this as well. The Ambassador said he did.) The Secretary said the Department would study this question with the Ambassador.

Turning from this discussion, the Ambassador said he had another point to make: The Arab and Muslim countries consider Saudi Arabia a special friend of the United States, yet they are surprised and disappointed that Saudi Arabia should have so little influence on United States policy in the area.

The Secretary answered that, although we did not speak of it very much, Saudi Arabia did have an influence. In the case of Israel, for example, we have, knowing Saudi Arabia’s attitude, taken a cautious and reserved position and have not done things which Israel wanted. U.S. policy in recent years has been not to give more aid to Israel than we are giving to the Arab states. This policy has developed, in part, from the respect we have for Saudi Arabia.

Further, the Secretary said, we have used our good offices with the British to bring about some progress in the border problems and he understood some progress was being made in this question.

The Ambassador answered this by saying that he appreciated this friendship, but the United States had given nothing tangible; in three years Saudi Arabia had had nothing but promises. The Secretary responded by saying that the United States did not consider its friendship in terms of dollars, that some of our best friends, the Latin American countries, received nothing from us. Our aid had to be on the basis of the need and the danger to any given country as judged by the threat of the atheistic despotism which we were attempting to counteract.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786A.5–MSP/10–555. Confidential. Drafted by Newsom. Approved by Dulles on October 12. In telegram 183, October 12, the Department conveyed the substance of this conversation to the Embassy in Jidda. (Ibid.)
  2. In telegram 150, October 5, which transmitted an account of the Ambassador’s conversation with Prince Mishal, Wadsworth recommended that the Saudi request for 18 M–47 tanks be received favorably. The Ambassador also noted that Saudi Arabia had inquired about the possibility of receiving six C–119 aircraft. “I realize both questions may be awkward at this time but as Department already realizes”, Wadsworth concluded, “early favorable answer might tip scales our favor in what today must be great debate in highest Saudi court circles: shall they in turn accept Soviet arms offer?” (Ibid.)