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

208. Reference: Deptel 223,2 London unnumbered, and last sentence my telegram 2073 reading “King Saud is sorely troubled by [Page 287] crisis in Saudi–British relations as result Buraimi occupation, and I have good reason believe he looks to USG for help”.

On October 31 I delivered Acting Secretary’s message (Deptel 212, repeated information London 24004) to Royal Counselor Khalid Bey who undertook communicate it at once to King Saud. He said in substance:

This is important and welcome communication, important to Saudi–American relations and reassuring to us. His majesty is deeply concerned and troubled not only by British action in occupying Buraimi but also because of arrest of certain shaikhs of area whom British handcuffed and took to Dubai where they are held in prison.

His Majesty will not act precipitately, but he will exhaust every effort to maintain his rights, even to breaking relations with Britain should developments so dictate. He has already decided in principle to take dispute to Security Council.

Before taking definitive action however he will consult Prince Faisal who is returning from Cairo November 2 and Yusuf Yasin and Abdul Rahman Azzam whom he has called from Geneva. He is also consulting Richard Young in US.

On November 2 I attended lunch and on November 4 and 5 dinners given in King’s honor. At lunch protocol official told me King was “extremely annoyed” British Chargé d’Affaires was present. Same day, by palace order, Chargé was not invited to either dinner; and there is reason believe King has said he will not receive British Ambassador–designate Parkes.

At dinner November 4 Prince Faisal told me dispute would be taken to Security Council after emergency meeting Arab League Political Committee to meet in Cairo this weekend and preparation of case by legal counsel. I asked if he had received Mister Hoover’s message. He answered “Yes, but we don’t yet know USG position”. I replied my only later news was “matter is under active review” (Deptel 2215). He commented he could not “see how British could have done such a thing”.

At dinner November 5 King showed me marked special favors, enquiring, inter alia, if meeting that morning between General Schlatter and Defense Minister Prince Mishaal had been satisfactory and welcoming forthcoming visit Armed Services Subcommittee. He did not mention Buraimi but said he wished “discuss matters” with [Page 288] me, if not before leaving for Riyadh November 7, then during my visit there November 12.

(Note: General Schlatter had, with my approval, enquired re “modifications” in Dhahran Airfield agreement desired by SAG. Gist of answer was SAG wanted help in strengthening its armed forces and that details of modification should present no problem. (I have had similar assurances from King through Khalid Bey and from Prince Faisal.) We will try to answer Deptel 2186 shortly.

Same day Abdul Rahman Azzam lunched with me. He had received two telegrams from Young (Deptel 2227) and agreed “from strictly legal viewpoint” with Young’s advice as to steps precedent to submission Buraimi dispute to Security Council. However, he could not “in conscience and as Arab” recommend following them, for “King’s honor was at stake, and tribes were looking to him to act; even throne might be threatened”.

He then argued that he at Geneva following British arbitrator’s resignation, and SAG here had made abundantly clear to British Government and world Saudi desire resume and continue arbitration. British on other hand had sabotaged it for simple reason they saw they would lose. To again ask them to arbitrate would imply admission some truth in their charges of bribery, et cetera; there was none.

I have known Abdul Rahman many years; he was truly incensed. He added “I am man of peace and I have recommended pacific settlement of this dispute, but as Arab my heart is with those who want to fight. You know these people; their honor is at stake.” (Department please compare with Khalid’s opening remarks, above.)

Comment: There is much rumor that “white army” has been alerted. Semi–official “Bilad al Saudia” reports popular subscriptions, e.g., half month’s salary by Saudi Air Force officers; and King himself told me November 2 of one of half million dollars.

If Department concurs my recommendation Armed Services Subcommittee should visit King November 12, I venture suggest appropriate instructions be sent Durbrow in Bombay or Addis Ababa; and I should appreciate further guidance supplementing Deptel 223 before November 11.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.022/11–655. Secret; Niact. Repeated to London and Cairo.
  2. Supra.
  3. In telegram 207, November 6, Wadsworth informed the Department of his conversation with the King regarding the proposed visit to Saudi Arabia of a five–member House Armed Services Subcommittee. Wadsworth noted that the upcoming visit might be “signally beneficial” to relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–PR/11–655) The committee, consisting of Congressmen Melvin Price, W. Sterling Cole, George Miller, Walter Norblad, and William Bates, was scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia between November 10 and 13. For documentation on the visit, see ibid., 033.1100–PR/11–1555.
  4. See Document 185.
  5. In telegram 221 to Jidda, sent also to Dhahran, November 3, the Department authorized the consul general and the Ambassador, inter alia, to inform Aramco and the Saudi Government that the Department was expressing its concern to the British over their action and that it was urging a return to arbitration. (Department of State, Central Files, 780.022/10–3055)
  6. In telegram 218 to Jidda, sent also to Dhahran, November 3, the Department requested the Embassy to estimate what Saudi Arabia might demand during the forthcoming negotiations on the Dhahran Airfield. Wadsworth was also instructed to suggest counterproposals which might be employed in meeting the Saudi demands. In preparing his estimate, the Department instructed Wadsworth to “keep in mind that Department does not presently assume retention base so essential that we are willing attempt meet unreasonable or exorbitant Saudi demands.” (Ibid., 711.56383a/10–1155)
  7. Not printed. (Ibid., 780.022/11–455)