311. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to Secretary of State Dulles0
- Saudi Arabian Plot Against Nasser
You will recall that on March 3 word was received from King Saud that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] a coup d’état in Syria would bring in a new government [3–½ lines of source text not declassified]. On March 5, in a preface to a speech in Damascus, President Nasser stated that a plot had been uncovered against the United Arab Republic. Major Serraj elaborated on this at a press conference on the following day and implicated King Saud as the source of three checks paid to Serraj for the purpose of overthrowing the Nasser control of Syria and establishing a new regime under Serraj. The United States was implicated by Serraj’s report that he had been informed that the United States knew of the plot and had agreed to recognize the new government.
Evidence released by Serraj and by the United Arab Republic Government in succeeding days built up a case against Saud which was widely believed, even in Saudi Arabia. There can be little doubt that the King’s prestige in the Arab world has been lessened by this event. While the report of the plot appears also to have some impact in Saudi Arabia, there is little evidence that the impact has been great enough to threaten seriously the King’s present position.
We have denied any involvement in the plot and have protested to the United Arab Republic Government on its continuing insinuations that the United States is seeking to overthrow that government. We have had evidence that at one point Saud was so alarmed [1 line of source text not declassified] that he considered attempting a rapprochement with Nasser. We have expressed to him our view that he should remain firm in the face of the United Arab Republic propaganda campaign and that any gesture toward Nasser would be considered a serious sign of weakness. We have subsequently heard that he is now considering the possibility of severing diplomatic relations with the United Arab Republic. In our reply, we have not lent encouragement to so dramatic a move at this time.
Meanwhile Egyptian press and radio attacks against the King continue and the Egyptians have withdrawn 250 military and civilian advisers from Saudi Arabia.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.8A/3–1458. Top Secret. Eyes Only the Secretary. Drafted by Newsom and cleared in draft by Dorman. A note on the memorandum indicates that the Secretary saw it on March 18.↩