238. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1


  • Renegotiation of the Dhahran Airfield Agreement
Reference is made to a memorandum by the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), dated 29 June 1956, subject as above.2
The detailed views and recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with regard to the negotiating suggestion made by the Department of State are contained in the Appendix hereto.3
In their memorandum to you dated 13 December 1955, subject: “Renegotiation of the Dhahran Airfield Agreement with the Government of Saudi Arabia,”4 the Joint Chiefs of Staff informed you that they considered that the military importance of Dhahran Airfield is sufficient to warrant granting moderate economic, military and/or diplomatic concessions to Saudi Arabia in exchange for the continued use of Dhahran Airfield. Further, they recognized that over-all U.S. national objectives may warrant the making of still further, and perhaps major, concessions to Saudi Arabia in order to protect U.S. national interests in the Middle East and strengthen the special U.S. position in Saudi Arabia. The Joint Chiefs of Staff reaffirm this evaluation.

With respect to the maximum extent to which concessions should be offered to retain Dhahran Airfield, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that in addition to any concessions in the political and economic aid spheres which may be decided upon by other Departments of the Government, concessions in the military sphere should not be substantially in excess of those outlined in the Appendix hereto. In this connection, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are concerned that concessions offered during the renegotiation of the Dhahran Airfield Agreement not be such as to prejudice U.S. military rights or military rights negotiations elsewhere.

The wartime use of Dhahran is not based upon the Dhahran Airfield Agreement, but rather upon the word of King Ibn Saud and his successor, King Saud, that, in the event of war, all facilities of Saudi Arabia will be made available to the United States… . The use of Dhahran Airfield fulfills current U.S. wartime requirements for an in-being, operating, and manned base in the area. Such a base must be developed during peacetime. Without the peacetime facility at Dhahran, capable of providing an immediate wartime use, wartime use of Dhahran will be limited to emergency landing rights.

There is no alternate base in the general area of Dhahran which is currently capable of satisfying all of the U.S. military requirements presently being accommodated at Dhahran. Any alternate base which would satisfy U.S. military requirements would necessitate base rights, funds, and construction to provide the needed facilities. Assuming that base rights for a fully satisfactory alternate could be obtained without delay and that funds were made available for the construction of additional facilities, the earliest date of beneficial occupancy is estimated to be late 1959.
The only U.S. military requirements currently being fulfilled at Dhahran that could be moved to an alternate, and undertaken at an acceptable cost, are the inter-theater air transport and the intra-theater air logistics operations. Bahrein, Shaibah (Iraq), and Baghdad West (Iraq) are considered to be the most satisfactory alternates to Dhahran for these air transport operations. Construction of additional facilities (minimum communications, housing, storage, and medical) will be necessary at any site selected as an alternate for Dhahran. In the event that the current negotiations for renewal of the Dhahran Airfield Agreement are unsuccessful, it will be necessary to obtain additional base rights elsewhere in the general area in [Page 385] the near future to meet at least some of the requirements currently met at Dhahran.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Arthur Radford5
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Service, JCS Records, CCS 381 Saudi Arabia (2–7–41) Sec. 11. Top Secret. A copy of the memorandum is in Department of State, Central Files, 711.56386A/7–656.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The Appendix, not printed, is entitled “Comments with Respect to Suggestions by the Department of State for Possible Utilization in the Current Renegotiation of the Dhahran Airfield Agreement,” and consists of 10 paragraphs of discussion under the following headings:

    1. The Possibility of the Saudi Arabian Air Force Utilizing Dhahran Airfield; 2. The Provision of Civilian Personnel for the Maintenance of Equipment Purchased from the United States; 3. Limited Grant Military Aid to Saudi Arabia Under an MDAP Agreement; 4. The Establishment of a Saudi Arabian Air Force Training Program at No Cost to Saudi Arabia; 5. An Augmentation of the Current Army Training Program in Saudi Arabia; 6. An Offer to Assist in the Maintenance of Saudi Arabian Air Force Planes and Equipment at No Cost to Saudi Arabia; 7. Additional Construction at Dhahran Airfield; 8. Simple Credit Arrangements to Saudi Arabia for the Purchase of Arms, Ammunition and Military Equipment; 9. Reduced Prices for Military Equipment; 10. Reduction of the Rights and Facilities Available to the United States at Dhahran under an Arrangement Which Would Continue to Permit the Transit of USAF Planes, Possible Use in Time of Hostilities, and the Exclusive Right to Provide Civilian Technicians for the Airfield.

  4. Not printed. (National Archives and Records Service, JCS Records, CCS 381 Saudi Arabia (2–7–41) Sec. 11)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.