28. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to Secretary of State Dulles0


  • U.S. Position Re Actions Required to Hold Persian Gulf Positions for West


Following your discussion with Foreign Minister Lloyd1 we have given further consideration to the possible necessity for U.S.-U.K. military intervention or other resolute steps in the Persian Gulf area.

[Page 94]

The situation in Kuwait, Bahrein, Qatar and Saudi Arabia does not at the moment appear to threaten access to the petroleum resources of that area sufficiently to justify immediate military occupation. The introduction of British troops in Kuwait or the other Persian Gulf Shaikhdoms or of U.S. troops in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia might insure temporary short-term control of the oil fields. Unless such action were requested by the Governments concerned, however, it would be likely to provoke the most adverse political reactions not only on the part of the local populations but also from the ruling families concerned. Strikes and sabotage might well threaten petroleum production which currently is proceeding normally. The possibility of some sudden change in the situation cannot be discounted and the Department and the Department of Defense are now considering measures that could be taken against such contingencies. It is possible that the Ruler of Kuwait might in a severe emergency request British troops. These are already stationed in Bahrein and are being reinforced. The chances of a request for U.S. troops from the Saudi Arabian Government appear to be remote. [5–½ lines of source text not declassified]

[2–½ lines of source text not declassified] As you know, one reinforced U.S. Marine battalion is now en route to the Persian Gulf and may arrive within the next two weeks. [2 lines of source text not declassified] While it is envisioned that this force will remain afloat in the vicinity of the Gulf unless the security situation is deemed to call for their use, we are concerned at the possible difficulties of keeping their presence secret. We believe, that, if any risk exists of their presence and mission becoming known, the entire matter of their assignment to this area should perhaps be reviewed. It is our understanding for example that the ships on which they are being transported are not air conditioned and the possibility of their cruising for any length of time in the Gulf area without touching a port may be limited.

A background paper giving information regarding Persian Gulf oil installations and military forces presently available in the area is attached (Tab A).2 A map of the Persian Gulf area is also attached (Tab B).3


That, with respect to the Persian Gulf, you authorize us to prepare a telegram to London5 giving the U.S. position as follows:
The U.S. continues to support the present special British position in the Persian Gulf;
We would strongly counsel the U.K. against military occupation of Kuwait unless either (i) the ruling family were to give its prior agreement; or (ii) an emergency situation had already been created by an Iraq-type coup in Kuwait town or by a serious deterioration of public security;
We suggest that the U.K. for the present keep forces in being in the Persian Gulf area, presumably Bahrein, sufficient to assure a prompt takeover of Kuwait or Qatar within 36 hours in the event that the security situation should, contrary to present indications, suddenly deteriorate to a marked degree.
That, with respect to Dhahran, you authorize us to inform the British that, while our military forces in the Gulf area are being increased, we do not now contemplate military occupation of the Dhahran area.6 While the present Government of Saudi Arabia may not follow a fully pro-Western policy, we do not contemplate any immediate threat to petroleum production. Our determination remains firm, however, to take suitable action should a rapid and unlooked for deterioration in the security situation in this area occur.
In view of the extreme danger to the situation in Saudi Arabia which could result from any disclosure from U.S. or U.K. sources that we are planning to move forces into the Persian Gulf [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that you speak personally with Secretary McElroy in order to insure that there will be no formal or informal statements made which would lead to this conclusion. Unless there can be further assurances that the movement of Marines from Okinawa to the Persian Gulf can be achieved without any possible implication that they may be used in Saudi Arabia and without raising speculation on their possible landing in Iraq I believe we should review again the decision made to move troops to this area.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.00/7–2358. Top Secret. Drafted by Newsom and Brewer, cleared in draft with Kohler, Mathews, Reinhardt, and Earl R. Beckner, Chief of Fuels Division, Office of International Resources, Bureau of Economic Affairs.
  2. According to an attached copy of telegram 777 to London, July 31, Lloyd and Dulles discussed the Middle East question the evening of July 19 into the next morning. The discussion on the Persian Gulf was as follows: “Lloyd reported British reinforcements en route Gulf and decision required within two-three days as to whether these should occupy Kuwait against wishes Ruling Family. While concerned lest successful coup occur Kuwait without warning as had happened Iraq, Lloyd said he had concluded there were sufficient differences between position Kuwait and Iraq to justify relying on ability move swiftly into Kuwait in case trouble. Meanwhile believed British should avoid increasing tension and thus not occupy oil installations against wishes Ruling Family. [4–½ lines of source text not declassified] Conclusion reached US and UK were disposed hold on to their positions and oil producing areas in Gulf but that military capabilities and desirability intervention uncertain and required urgent study which now being undertaken in Department.”
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Not found.
  5. Dulles initialed his approval of recommendation 1.
  6. Sent to London as telegram 1033, July 23. (Department of State, Central Files, 780.00/7–2558)
  7. According to a July 24 note from Greene to S/S, Dulles had the following reservations about recommendations 2 and 3:

    “The Secretary feels that the second and third recommendations on this must be thought through more carefully. He does not want to be in a position of telling the British that we are increasing our military forces in the Gulf area unless we are in fact going to do so. He does not consider that having a Marine battalion pause briefly in the area and then move on would in fact be an increase in our forces. He notes too that if the Marines actually get to the Gulf they cannot wait there very long while we make up our minds. The Secretary understands from Mr. Reinhardt that a working group is studying this matter now. I suggest that the results of their labors be awaited before we present to the Secretary for decision the two questions of where the Marines go and what we tell the British.” (Ibid., 780.00/7–2358)