347. Memorandum From the Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula-Iraq Affairs (Newsom) to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs (Rockwell)0


  • List of Reforms U.S. Might Support for Persian Gulf States

The Western position in the Persian Gulf may be strengthened by encouraging the states concerned to undertake internal reforms and to deal directly with their Arab neighbors on questions of mutual interest. As the protecting power for the shaikhdoms of the Gulf, the U.K. has in recent months followed a policy of encouraging such inter-Arab contacts as an evolutionary step which can be comprehended within the existing British treaty framework. Regarding internal reforms, aside from the minor shaikhdoms on the Trucial Coast which still possess only rudimentary administrations, the three major Persian Gulf states—Kuwait, Bahrein and Qatar—are fast developing modern educational, health and social facilities on the basis of their unparalleled oil income. As a result, Western efforts should be directed at stimulating modest political reforms to satisfy the demands of public opinion which have been generated by the rapid economic progress. Local British officials are generally aware of this situation but have found it impossible to offer more than mild counsel in recent years in view of (a) the U.K.’s lack of responsibility for the internal affairs of the shaikhdoms; and (b) the vulnerability of British advisers which was brought to a head by the Suez crisis. As appropriate, however, encouragement should continue to be given along the following specific lines:

1. Increased Popular Participation in Government:

Patriarchal rule in the three shaikhdoms should be modified by (a) establishing advisory councils of responsible merchants, as apparently [Page 775] was done in February in Kuwait, out of which perhaps legislative bodies could grow; and (b) increasing emphasis on non-shaikhly direction of the government departments. It is worth noting that increased popular participation in the governments of Kuwait and Qatar, if not Bahrein, might well not endanger stability or pro-Western interests to the same extent as would be true, for example, in the AU, since the local populations in the shaikhdoms have profited more directly from the oil revenues and, having a greater economic stake, have more to lose in any radical governmental changes.

2. Governmental Modernization:

Efforts should be continued to inaugurate modern legal and administrative systems which would safeguard the rights of the common people against shaikhly whim. The recently-introduced Bahrein labor code, fostered by the U.K., is an example.

3. Wise Use of Oil Revenues:

Much has already been done to provide schools, hospitals and other public facilities. Caution should in some cases now be exercised to avoid the creation of overly lavish facilities which will prove too costly to maintain, while there will be a growing need to find suitable investment opportunities for the income expected in ensuing decades.

4. Development of Professional Class:

Following natural predilection and easy profits, most younger citizens of these shaikhdoms have turned to commerce. Efforts should be intensified to give advanced training to doctors, teachers and other professional men who should then be encouraged to assume responsible positions in their local communities.

The foregoing suggestions, if properly carried out, would facilitate the gradual development and modernization of the Persian Gulf shaikhdoms without imperiling internal stability or the fundamental authority of the ruling groups. Over the long term, moreover, such modest measures may well prove the only way in which more violent changes may be avoided. It would appear in the Western interest to stimulate recognition of this fact on the part of the ruling groups concerned, but the foregoing review would serve to indicate the relatively limited extent of Western capabilities in this regard.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.022/3–3159. Secret. Drafted by Brewer.