319. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State0
125. I called on Prince Faisal yesterday afternoon (July 24) and for nearly an hour, listened to an almost unadulterated Nasserian exposition of the situation in the Arab Near East.[Page 731]
Faisal said he hoped the whole region would be governed on basis justice and peace; unfortunately current troubles in the area rendered difficult execution of constructive internal action. I asserted that local belief in likelihood of Russian military intervention was unfounded; Russia was at present militarily weaker than the US and the rest of the western powers, knew it and therefore would not take ill-advised action. Of course if local military action were undertaken against US troops in Lebanon, or British troops in Jordan battles would develop. If Nasser, however, did not cause further trouble conditions throughout the Middle East would improve.
Faisal remarked that, in general, sending troops to other countries was dangerous. I replied it was Syrian troops who had intervened in Lebanon and as soon as it was clear that this outside invasion would stop we would promptly withdraw our forces. Faisal countered that UAR interference had not been confirmed officially and he asserted that Jordan and Iraq had sent troops to support Lebanese Government. I denied that Jordanian and Iraqi troops had been sent into Lebanon and said decisively that there could be no doubt of substantial Syrian military intervention in Lebanon. In his last talk with the Secretary Hammarskjold had admitted that fact and it was a matter of common knowledge.
Faisal said that he was not denying that there had been Syrian intervention, but that there had been no official UN confirmation of its occurrence. He felt that “formal dispatch” of foreign troops was the cause of the trouble. I replied that US was as interested as HRH in establishing peace in the area. To this end we had not sent troops to Jordan and we were using our influence to discourage entry of troops of other countries into Lebanon or Iraq.
Prince Faisal said Saudi Government had basic objections to foreign interference in any country; it believed such interference was a principal cause of international tension and disorder, and involved consequences which no one could predict. I replied that the US worked for the cause of peace and was doing so in the Lebanese case as well. US troops had been requested by a legitimate government and we were prepared to withdraw our forces as soon as it was certain that interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs would cease. Faisal remarked that the sending of troops to Iraq would lead to results that everyone would wish to avoid; the US would have to “win over Iraq to your side” before it was too late. I expressed the hope that the new government in Baghdad would be a responsible one.
Faisal said that before, during, and after his talks with officials in the US last year he had always advised the US not to base its policies on its friendship with individuals, but to base them rather on the desire of the people involved and the national “trend” they were following. I [Page 732]replied that the elections in Lebanon last year had produced results that certain groups within and without the country had been unwilling to accept. Faisal asserted the elections in Lebanon had not been honest, to which I replied that while these elections had not been perfect—there had been vote-buying in the Biqa and wealthy men frequently spent their money to insure their election—the voting had been quite honest in the mountain area and in the south. Faisal countered that, as he had often told American officials, they were being given misleading reports. “We Arabs”, he said, “know the people themselves and how they think and I can confirm to you that the Lebanese elections last year were not honest”. [Here follows unrelated discussion.]
As we say in Arabic “when unwise people stir the fire it is wise people who get burned”. My reply was that it was sad event that the Iraqi Government had been overthrown by a small group of relatively junior officers. Faisal propounded the proposition that revolutions could not occur where the government acted in the light of the welfare and will of the people. Though Iraqi Government, he alleged, had not consulted popular welfare, and that while the coup was initiated by military officers it was really a popular revolt reflecting popular hatred. Underlying Faisal’s criticism of the late Iraqi Government was a tacit assertion that the present Government of Saudi Arabia was responsive to the will and needs of the people and thus free from the danger of revolution. At this stage I decided not to prolong the argument by defending Nuri Said’s regime which had spent 70% of its oil revenue for public works and welfare as compared to trifling expenditures of the Saudi Government for such purposes. I remarked however that it was not the people who had killed King Feisal of Iraq, but insubordinates army officers. Faisal replied this might be true but the action “reflected real feelings of people who had taken over with a vengeance”. He added that “people of every nation normally opposed violence. The Iraqi people would not have descended to the street to fight it unless they had been destitute”.
I concluded the interview by asking to see the King to present my respects, saying that I bore oral messages of friendship and best wishes from the President and Secretary to both the King and Prince Faisal.
Comment: Faisal’s manner was very friendly at the beginning and end of the interview but less so in the middle portion when he was defending the Iraq revolution and criticizing our counter intervention in Lebanon. I have the impression that while Faisal is fully conscious of the danger Nasser represents to the monarchical regime in Saudi Arabia he is determined on reconciliation with Nasser in order to buy temporary relief from radio attacks and, he hopes, defer an Egyptian plot to overthrow the present Saudi regime. I believe in order to buy time and possibly temporary security against an Egyptian-guided coup he is willing to put Saudi Arabia, like Yemen, into the UAS.[Page 733]
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] had report this morning that Saudi Cabinet last night decided to recognize Iraqi revolutionary regime.
When I see King which I hope will be Sunday or Monday (July 28–29) I plain to give him full account of my interview with Faisal.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786.00/7–2558. Secret; Priority. Transmitted in two sections and repeated to Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Khartoum, Amman and Baghdad.↩