191. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

2929. Embtel 2107,2 2133.3 Department views with concern British reply to SAG note re Buraimi. We suggest you discuss with Foreign Office in following terms:

All evidence available to Department indicates Saudi Arabia takes most serious view of Buraimi action and that considerable pressure within Saudi Arabia is on King to use force. This pressure will not diminish but will increase and continuance of dispute may result in explosion.
Partly through efforts American advisers, King has maintained moderate policy, proceeding for second time to seek resumption arbitration, and curbing more extreme followers.
In view British rejection latest Saudi request to resume arbitration, it now seems likely case will go to Security Council. We think this will tend to worsen situation. There will be charge and counter charge which will be detrimental to both sides. Effect will be further weakening of standing of Western countries.
We do not wish to comment on substance of Buraimi issue which until recently was under arbitration.
We realize arbitration may not have been perfect, but rather than throw away chance to achieve agreed settlement, we feel efforts should be made to perfect it.
Best current proposal for improving seems to be resumption of arbitration tribunal in Switzerland plus appointment of neutral commission in Saudi Arabia. We do not mean under UN auspices as in Indo China or Korea, but by selection of neutral commission by parties themselves. This procedure will take care bribery and intimidation aspect. We fear that reference to UN may bring about just type of neutral intervention by UN which UK fears.
We have reason to believe King is standing firm for present against efforts by some of his advisers to get him to accept Soviet arms offers and has refused to open diplomatic negotiations at this time. However, King plans visit India November 26… .
US shares with Britain desire to see retention UK influence in Persian Gulf area. We feel such influence can only be maintained over long run by achieving bilateral agreements on outstanding issues and preventing such disputes as this from awakening latent anti–Western feeling now manifested in troubles throughout Gulf sheikhdoms.
We are therefore impelled by what we consider seriousness of situation to bring these considerations to UK attention before attitudes have hardened and irrevocable steps are taken.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.022/11–2155. Confidential. Drafted by Wilkins and Newsom and approved by Allen. Repeated to Jidda and Dhahran.
  2. Telegram 2107, November 21, transmitted the substance of the British reply to the Saudi note of November 11 which proposed the resumption of arbitration. The British reply rejected Saudi Arabia’s suggestions for a return to arbitration, a return to the status quo ante, and the appointment of a neutral committee to observe the Buraimi area until the dispute was settled. The British note offered to discuss suggestions with the Saudi Arabian Government for improving relations between the two countries. The full texts of the British and Saudi notes are enclosures to despatch 61 from Jidda, November 23. (Ibid., 780.022/11–2355)
  3. Telegram 2133 dealt with another matter. Reference is presumably to telegram 2123 from London, November 22, in which Aldrich informed the Department, inter alia, that according to a Foreign Office official, there was no prospect of the British returning to arbitration with Saudi Arabia. (Ibid., 780.022/11–2255)
  4. On November 26, the Embassy in London notified the Department that it had conveyed the substance of telegram 2929 to the Foreign Office on November 25. The Embassy also noted that it had expressed the hope that the United Kingdom would be willing to resume arbitration. (Telegram 2171; ibid., 780.022/11–2655)