431. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to the Acting Secretary of State1

SUBJECT

  • Technical Mission for Yemen

Discussion:

We understand Mr. Hollister has raised with you the question of the desirability of sending the proposed technical survey mission to Yemen at the present time.

We have for several months considered Yemen one of the most critical areas of the Near East. The Soviets and their satellites have been steadily extending their influence in Yemen through the supply of substantial quantities of arms and through economic measures. The two Western diplomatic residents in Yemen, the Italian and the British, have been stressing to their Foreign Offices the importance of increasing Western influence in Yemen on an urgent basis.

After considerable delay, the Imam of Yemen in April agreed to receive the Richards Mission. While the Imam did not accept the proposals of Ambassador Richards, the Mission left with the understanding that the door remained open for further discussions. ICA did not believe they could make any substantive decisions on economic assistance for Yemen without further information and suggested that a group of experts be sent to Yemen to investigate possible projects in which US-Yemeni cooperation might be feasible. This suggestion was made to the Imam by Ambassador Wadsworth in May, and the Imam accepted.2 The Imam was notified by note on July 8 that the United States was prepared to send the mission. The Yemenis replied on July 29 and suggested the month of August for the visit.

The technical group was prepared to depart early in July but their departure was delayed because a reply had not been received to our note. We were apprehensive that a reply might not be received at all because of reports of the failing health of the Imam and of the possibility of a struggle for the throne, which might seriously [Page 765]disrupt conditions in Yemen. The Imam has long been in ill health, however, and reports of his imminent passing have been heard before. His condition now seems to be improved and he has asked our Consul in Aden to come to Yemen, apparently to express his concern over the delay in the sending of the U.S. technical mission. We believe we have a commitment to the Imam, that conditions are as favorable now as they are likely to be, and that it is essential to send the technical group forward at the earliest possible moment.

The British Embassy has been keeping us informed of the reports of the British Chargé in Yemen and agrees with our assessment that urgent steps should be taken to improve the general Western position in Yemen. The British believe that U.S. economic activity in Yemen would bolster conservative elements and would make a settlement of their own differences with the Yemen on the frontier more likely. We have kept the British generally informed of our intentions in Yemen and will inform them as soon as a substantive decision is made regarding the technical group. No decision has been reached concerning the extent or type of economic assistance which might be given to the Yemen and no commitments have been made to the Yemenis other than to send a technical group. We anticipate, however, that, based on the recommendations of the technical group, we would suggest U.S. participation in one important economic project within Yemen, possibly the major road from Sana to Hodeida.

Recommendation:

That you inform Mr. Hollister that we consider an immediate increase in U.S. influence in Yemen to be of great importance and request that he authorize the sending of the proposed technical group at the earliest possible moment.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 886H.00–TA/8–257. Secret. Drafted by Newsom.
  2. Wadsworth visited Yemen in late May. Telegram 1071 to Jidda, May 23, instructed him to inform the Yemenis of U.S. willingness to cooperate with the Yemen Government in the field of economic development. (Ibid., 123–Wadsworth, George) Wadsworth reported in telegram 746 from Jidda, June 1, that his mission had been successful. (Ibid.)
  3. Acting Secretary Herter initialed his approval on August 3. That same day Herter forwarded a copy of Rountree’s memorandum to Hollister, requesting that the technical mission be sent to Yemen. (Ibid., 886h.00–TA/8–357) On August 22, in a memorandum to Herter, Hollister indicated that ICA had dispatched a technical survey mission to Yemen headed by Henry W. Wiens, Chief of the Near East Division of the International Cooperation Administration. (Ibid., 886h.00–TA/8–2257)