422. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State2

201. Following reports highlights my Yemen visit October 25–29.

Imam, Crown Prince3 and Hasan Ibrahim (Yemen Minister to London, now acting as chief Royal Counselor for Foreign Affairs) spoke with me at length and with unprecedented frankness of country’s political and economic problems.

Imam had obviously decided, following extensive negotiations with Gabler-Awalt Party, grant exclusive mineral concession covering entire country to newly formed Yemen Development Corporation.4 It followed, if I read his mind correctly, that he should be able look to US Government for helpful cooperation in broader political and economic fields as well, notably in seeking basis for conciliation Yemen-British relations which had now reached impasse.

I could sense in their attitudes atmosphere of high dramatic decision. Yemen for first time would frankly open door to foreigners, as Saudi Arabia had done in signing Aramco concession twenty years ago. Development program based on known agricultural resources and assumed great mineral wealth could not fail, especially if undertaken with American financial and related technical assistance.

Crown Prince in particular listened intently my exposition US policy aims and effort contribute towards area stability and progress. [Page 749] I tend share Abu Tuleb’s view modernization program must center on his person.

As first steps he hopes undertake projects already approved by UNTA experts (Hodeida Port, Sanaa electricity and triangular Hodeida-Sanaa-Taiz road) but readily seized concept concurrent need for economic-financial survey (as in Iraq) as basis long-term development program. He has charged Gabier with preparing project for privately financed cement plant.

Special political questions discussed were Yemen-British relations, raised by Imam, and Soviet overtures raised by me as directed Deptel 198, October 21.5

On former Imam was bitterly expostulatory. My audience, he apologized, had been delayed half hour so he might personally hear British Government’s answer to his latest proposal that they cooperate in establishing peaceful conditions as prelude to discussion outstanding differences. British military action against southern (protectorate) tribesmen had been “barbarous”; he could not ignore their suffering, for they had always looked to Imam as spiritual leader and for succor. British answer had been “spurning of hand he had extended”.

Hasan Ibrahim later explained reply had ignored Imam’s offer and “stiffly” asserted Britain had no intention intervene in Yemen affairs and would expect Imam refrain from intervention in those of Aden protectorate. He added that he himself had received similar rebuff from Macmillan last August: Britain could and would itself maintain order in territories under its protection.

(Note: This would seem another example of “pattern of toughness” in British handling of south Arabian affairs, latest other examples being occupation of Buraimi October 26 and RAF “buzzing” October 28 and 29 of Aramco gravity meter camps in southwestern region of Saudi Arabia–Abu Dhabi “disputed area.”6 Details of latter will be given Department by Duce of Aramco.)

Re Soviet overtures, Imam forcefully reaffirmed opposition communism but with equal force stressed Israeli threat to Arabs. I was however able elicit later from Hasan Ibrahim and Crown Prince reasonable assurance that affirmative action was unlikely on current [Page 750] Soviet proposal7 for exchange diplomatic missions. Details by pouch.8

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 123 Wadsworth, George. Secret. Repeated to London and Cairo; the Embassy asked that the telegram be pouched to Aden and other posts as the Department desired.
  2. Muhammed al-Badr.
  3. On November 2, the consulate in Aden informed the Department that the Imam had authorized and approved the signing of a minerals and petroleum concession with an American-owned company, the Yemen Development Corporation. (Telegram 26 from Aden; ibid., 846C.2553/11–255)
  4. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  5. For information on U.S. interest in the Buraimi affair, see Documents 164 ff.
  6. On November 1, the Embassy in Cairo reported that Yemen and the Soviet Union had concluded a Treaty of Friendship on October 31. (Telegram 859; Department of State, Central Files, 661.86H/11–155) On November 2 the Embassy in Cairo forwarded the text of the new accord. (Despatch 490; ibid., 661.86H/11–255) The Embassy in Jidda reported, in part, on November 4: “Our impression is that simultaneous signing October 31 of Yemen-Soviet Treaty and Yemen development corporation concession is further example hardening Arab trend towards policy of neutralism as between East and West and endeavor profit from both. We still believe Yemen unlikely accept diplomatic mission from Moscow.” (Telegram 205; ibid., 661.86H1/ 11–455)
  7. On January 16, 1956, the Embassy in Jidda transmitted the record of Wadsworth’s visit to Yemen in despatch 95; ibid., 123– Wadsworth, George.