121. Telegram From the Consulate General at Dhahran to the Department of State1

77. From Anderson.2 In an initial interview August 233 King stated he believed situation critical because of public opinion in area favoring nationalism and the talk on both sides of using force which creates a condition under which peaceful settlement is difficult. He appreciates US opposition to use force and believes US and Saudi Arabia have many aspects of the problem in common and that we have a common objective to find a solution that will preserve the peace of the area. He believes our positions toward working out such an arrangement are not far apart. He earnestly desires find solution and intended send mission to review situation and seek solution. He appreciates my mission and believes it makes Saudi mission unnecessary for moment.

Stressing Egypt has right to do as it wishes toward domestic enterprise provided rights to users are preserved, he emphasized that Egypt had recognized international aspects of Canal and had promised to meet responsibilities of operations and maintenance. He seemed quite prepared accept such promises himself and believes they should be acceptable to other nations.

Pointing out SA committed under treaty to go to defense Egypt in event attack, he said any attack on Egypt would be attack on [Page 274] whole Arab world. He proposed England and France withdraw forces sent Mediterranean and Egypt similarly reduce mobilization as first step to reestablishment of friendly relations, needed prior conditions to peaceful solution.

Most dangerous aspect in King’s mind is fact Communists have gained as result threat to use force and actual use would give Communists further opportunity intervene. He stressed neither Saudis nor US wished this. He opposed internationalization any waterway because it would make Communists “partners”. He stated that if Suez was internationalized with Russia a willing or unwilling participant the world could demand similar internationalization all waterways such as Panama, Dardanelles, with result we would have them as undesirable partners in all world waterways.

He stressed several times Egypt would not agree to any infringment its sovereignty over Canal but believes Egypt willing take steps restore confidence through negotiations of a new convention. King would be willing to help arrange such convention.

To my point Nasser’s breaking contract and strong words created lack of confidence the King said that was “thing of past”. Egypt in his opinion was bidding to carry out international user right to Canal and willing accept international advisory board if agreement “not dictated”.

Prince Faisal who participated with Yusuf Yasin and Jamal Husseini in meeting asked why world should anticipate breaches of contract by Nasser when free passage has not yet been denied.

In my general reply to Saudi positions, I placed heavy emphasis on proposal approved by 17 nations at London and their desire respect sovereignty of Egypt and at same time insulate by a control board daily operations of the Canal from politics of any nation. This is to high interests private users as well as nations. King said however he frankly doubted Egypt would ever agree to this arrangement.

I further emphasized that any solution must preserve peace and at same time restore continuing confidence in Canal operations. I suggested Western world would in event confidence in Canal is not restored seek alternative methods shipment, alternative source petroleum and be forced by necessity, “mother of invention” produce new sources energy. I told King that obviously this was detrimental to his intent and not in Egypt’s interest which desired maintain revenue from Canal. With that he agreed. Emphasizing we have so many common interests with Saudi Arabia in production and use of petro I stressed we did not wish for such situation to arise and would be pleased work with Saudi Arabia in seeking means of avoiding these contingencies.

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First impression is that King and his advisors are seriously worried and greatly fear that a solution unacceptable to Egypt would jeopardize peace in the area and promote Communist interests.

However, he has not yet put forward any specific suggestions as an alternative to our London proposals, other than general statement that Egypt would agree to supervision that did not impinge on her sovereignty. While he appreciates that any obstacles to traffic through the Canal would be to his detriment, he has not yet expressed any feeling that his interests are diverse from Nasser’s.

This represents summary preliminary exchange in friendly two hour audience. Meeting with Faisal this afternoon to discuss London proposal in detail and hope for private audience after dining with King this evening.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–2356. Top Secret; Niact. Received at 9:46 p.m. Repeated Niact to London and pouched to Jidda.
  2. Anderson arrived in Dhahran early in the morning of August 23. He reviewed the situation with Ambassador Wadsworth and discussed the Aramco viewpoint with Fred Davies, Chairman of the Board of Aramco, before proceeding to Riyadh. Other members of the party accompanying Anderson to Riyadh were David D. Newsom of the Department of State, Wilbur Eveland of the Central Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Wadsworth, Alfred Jenkins of the Embassy, Embassy Consultant Mohamed Massoud, and personal attendant Naim Nakkad. (Chronology of Special Mission to King Saud; ibid., NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Report of Special Mission to Saudi Arabia August 20–27, 1956)
  3. An unsigned memorandum of this conversation is ibid.
  4. Also during this meeting, Anderson gave to King Saud the text of the Five-Nation Proposal and presented a personal message from President Eisenhower. See the editorial note, infra.