336. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia0

829. Embtels 653, 654, 655 and 659;1Deptel 822.2 Dept has misgivings re [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] means King Saud has employed ask you call on him which tends cast American Ambassador in conspiratorial role. [1 line of source text not declassified] Dept would prefer that you not proceed Dhahran while King is there if reasonable grounds can be found excuse your failure do so. If you think this not feasible and that you must proceed Dhahran, you should exercise extreme [Page 758]caution to avoid any suggestion USG, through your call on King, desires intervene in SaudFaisal power struggle in support of either person. It should be made clear to all, including King, that USG has great respect for Faisal and is firmly convinced financial reforms he has instituted are in best interests of Saudi Arabia. Re support for either party, you should stress as appropriate that USG does not as matter of policy intervene in internal affairs other countries and that questions of authority within Saudi government are for decision by Saudis. Should you make visit to Dhahran and see King there, believe it desirable in interests maintaining balanced public image USG impartiality in Saud–Faisal struggle [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that you take initiative pay early call on Faisal. In view extreme sensitivity these matters, believe utmost caution also necessary in Smith’s talks with Mohammed Ali Reza to avoid giving latter or others impression Ali Reza enjoys any special relationship with USG.

Faisal’s illness (re which would like know more) could pose very real problems re future US relationship with Saudi Arabia and we recognize possibility [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reassert his authority if Faisal should be incapacitated for any length of time, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] efforts by King to do so however could have serious unsettling political effects in Saudi Arabia and could disrupt progress toward financial stability which Faisal has been able achieve. Nor can possibility be excluded that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] efforts by King to reassert control could trigger as yet unidentified [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] elements in Saudi Arabia to oppose such move and perhaps organize political action of their own. In these circumstances we believe it essential that we show absolute impartiality in Saudi power struggle and maintain friendly relations with all major protagonists.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786A.00/4–1460. Top Secret; Niact. Drafted by Eilts, cleared by Meyer and in substance with Hare, and approved by Lewis Jones.
  2. In these four telegrams, April 13 and 14, Heath reported that Saud had contacted him through intermediaries with certain requests and information. First, Saud wanted Heath to meet secretly with him in Dhahran. Next, Saud confided to Heath through an intermediary, Ali Reza, that since Faisal’s ill-health required surgery, Faisal would have to take a leave of absence, [text not declassified] (Ibid., 611.86A/4–1360, 786A.00/4–1360, 786A.00/4–1360, and 611.86A/40–1460, respectively)
  3. Dated April 14. (Ibid., 786A.00/4–1460)
  4. In telegram 663 from Jidda, April 15, Heath reported that he shared the Department’s misgivings about being cast “in a somewhat conspiratorial role” by Saud, but believed that his refusal to see Saud would cause great speculation. Heath suggested that after the discussion with Saud, he should meet with Faisal for a personal visit. (Ibid., 611.86A/4–1560)

    Heath met with Saud on April 20 and with Faisal on April 21. (Telegrams 684 and 698 from Jidda, April 22 and 26; ibid., 786A.11/4–2260 and 786A.00/4–2660)