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

260. Re Deptel 2682 repeated information London unnumbered.

Embassy Arab consultant delivered personally to Foreign Minister Prince Faisal December 12 first person note in sense first paragraph reference telegram together with verbal report in sense its second paragraph.

Re “FYI” reference telegram, Department is wholly correct in assuming that United States assistance in implementing “5–year plan” for strengthening Saudi armed forces is likely to be necessary quid pro quo for renewal Dhahran airfield agreement.

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It would, however, in my opinion, be wholly incorrect to assume that Saudis might be willing consider commitment on our part to provide, on cash–reimbursable basis, portion of requirements for 5–year program as starting point in negotiations.

From my many conversations with King Saud and his counselors, I am convinced that starting point and basis for negotiations must be willingness on our part to lay firm foundation, as King sees it, for future American–Saudi relations based on realistic friendship and practical cooperation.

He has told us (my telegram 128 February 18, 1954 from Dhahran3) and confirmed one year later (my despatch 1644) that our enemies are his enemies and that, in same way his father permitted us to build and use DAF during last war, he would wish us use Saudi airfields in third world war. He added, however, that “America has not fulfilled all the promises it undertook when signing the DAF agreement”; and my despatch 1815 reported my supposition that this remark had been prompted by our failure, following signature 1951 agreement, to provide grant military aid.

Today, question of grant military aid (in strict MDAP sense of term) does not arise, because King Saud, no more than Nasser, would consider signing conventional grant military aid agreement. To do so, King and counselors believe, would establish wholly unacceptable satellite relationship.

In lieu thereof, new formula has emerged in conversations following Saudi note of October 4 calling for renegotiation of DAF agreement. Expressed so far in general terms only, this formula is, in substance, as reported in paragraphs 2 and 5 my telegram 219.6 It is mentioned in King’s secret message November 20 (my telegram 2347) as well as in my telegram 242.8

Boldly put (if my crystal ball and 40 years oriental bargaining experience do not fail me) this formula, in Saudi thinking, has as its corollary today the very simple proposition that, if we will supply gratis and without grant aid agreement all equipment needed to implement King’s 5–year plan, SAG will renew DAF agreement for another 5 years with but minor modifications in its present terms. [Page 299] (Note: The word “all” has not been used thus far, but I can well imagine Yusuf Yasin starting with even larger demands.)

My telegram 242 reported estimated total cost of 5–year plan is $400,000,000; of which $65,000,000 was last of presently programmed equipment (not including spare parts and transport costs) if purchased from USG on cash–reimbursable basis. (Note: There are signs today that, in face of Israeli aggression, latter figure may be increased, e.g., by programming early delivery 7 additional jet fighter aircraft.)

Saudi thinking, to continue my analysis, can readily argue that, for use of DAF under present agreement, we undertook in 1951 to operate it as Saudi civilian airport without cost to SAG, to train Saudis as civilian airport technicians, and to supply military equipment (on cash–reimbursable basis) and military training mission (not MAAG in MDAP sense of term) for strengthening Saudi armed forces. What more natural, then, than that we should now, in far more critical political atmosphere than prevailed in 1951, accept this added undertaking for strengthening Saudi armed forces in return for use of what today is well–appointed Saudi airfield worth, because of improvements we have since made, some $50,000,000 as against less than $10,000,000 in 1951?


My own current thinking is that we would do well to go along with this new formula, because it offers both sound constructive basis for friendly negotiations designed to achieve common–interest objectives and high flexibility of position in what seems likely become difficult bargaining with SAG representatives.

For instance, if USG is prepared to go that high, we might suggest supply of equipment be on 50–50 basis or, alternately, offer to contribute major items of equipment such as tanks, aircraft and artillery, while continuing to facilitate Saudi acquisition of other needed items on cash–reimbursable basis. Money wise, this alternative is attractive because, with obsolescence, value of major items would diminish as program progressed.

Another point which Department may wish consider at even this early stage is that, while SAG will no doubt appoint negotiating team, final deal in all likelihood must be with King personally—this having been Aramco’s experience in all important negotiations—and, in last analysis, best deal with him could probably be made in Washington if President Eisenhower would invite him visit United States next spring after our preliminary negotiations here (Deptel 1259).

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I would, too, feel more comfortable as to continuing value of King’s assurances re wartime use of Saudi airfields (see fourth subparagraph of paragraph 2 above) if King reiterated them to President Eisenhower. He might even be led, if exercise our good offices in Buraimi dispute is successful, to permit some “militarization” of DAF (e.g. stockpiling) and, on basis Suez precedent, agree to its conversion into military base in event Russian attack on Turkey.

In foregoing paragraphs, drafted as answer to reference telegram, I have made substantial answer also to most of still pertinent questions put in Deptel 218.10 Following refers specific points its paragraph 3:
Not applicable, see above.
Not applicable, but we may hear again of Riyadh–Jidda railway project.11
I should hope they would continue within framework five–year plan.
We are giving adequate current support in Buraimi issues; our testing will come if good offices fail and dispute is taken to Security Council. Palestine and North Africa will remain seriously troubling issues.
General Schlatter has already replied.
General Schlatter has answered first point. “Intended aim” seems clearly to have meant military equipment and perhaps economic aid. “Difficulties and misunderstanding”, apart from our failure to have understood and met Saudi intended aim, are of minor [Page 301] operational nature only and should present little problem to negotiators if in fact we are now prepared to meet intended aim.12
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.86A/12–1355. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London.
  2. Supra.
  3. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 711.56386A/2–1854)
  4. Not printed. (Ibid., 033.1100–TA/4–2955)
  5. Not printed. (Ibid., 786A.13/5–2155)
  6. In telegram 219, November 15, Wadsworth informed the Department of the visit to Saudi Arabia, November 10–13, of the House Armed Services Subcommittee. According to Wadsworth, during discussions with the congressional delegation, both Faisal and Saud raised the issue of the “formula” on which the Dhahran Airfield might be renegotiated. (Ibid., 033.1100PR/11–1555)
  7. Not printed. (Ibid., 611.86A/11–2255)
  8. See footnote 2, Document 193.
  9. In telegram 125, September 9, the Department informed the Embassy in Jidda that according to Harry Kern of Newsweek, the Saudi Ambassador and Sheikh Jabbar of the Saudi Embassy in Washington had indicated Saud’s desire to visit the United States. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.86A/9–955)
  10. See footnote 2, Document 190. In paragraph 3 of telegram 218, the Department instructed the Embassy to formulate estimates of prospective Saudi demands in terms of: (a) military grant aid; (b) economic grant aid, including specific project requests; (c) reimbursable aid requests; (d) U.S. support on international issues; (e) changes in MAAG arrangement; (f) specific changes in wording and provisions present Air Base Agreement. The Department queried: “In this connection what do you believe Saudis mean in note by ‘difficulties and misunderstandings’ and ‘intended aim?’”
  11. Early in 1955, the Saudi Arabian Government had begun to explore the possibilities of possible U.S. loan assistance for the construction of a railroad from Riyadh to Jidda through Medina. By October Saudi Arabia sought to interest private American and European firms in the construction of the line. According to the Embassy in Jidda, the question of the financing of the railroad was still undetermined as of then. (Telegram 184 from Jidda, October 25; Department of State, Central Files, 102.798/10–2555) Documentation on the Riyadh–Jidda line is ibid., 102.798, 886A.10, and 986A.712.
  12. On December 15, Wilkins sent a memorandum to Allen regarding the “Five Year Plan” for the development of the Saudi armed forces—a plan, Wilkins noted, which might become the basis of discussions for the extension of the Dhahran Airfield. Although MAAG had assisted in the recommendations for material in the plan, Wilkins added, it had not been approved by either MAAG or the Department of Defense. In a chit attached to the Wilkins memorandum, Allen noted: “I would be enthusiastic about a five–year economic development plan and believe we must take a strong line with King Saud, on the grounds that if he does not devote more of his revenue to economic improvement of the country, Saudi Arabia is headed straight for Communism.” (Ibid., 786A.5–MSP/12–1555)