352. Special National Intelligence Estimate0

SNIE 30–5–58


The Problem

To estimate the outlook for the special British position in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Peninsula area.2

Summary and Conclusions

The UK and indirectly Western Europe as a whole derive major benefits from the special economic, strategic, and political position which the British have in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Peninsula area. This position is being increasingly jeopardized by radical Arab nationalism symbolized by UAR President Nasser, by reformist-nationalist opposition within the area, and by the hostile attitudes and activities of [1 line of 2-column source text not declassified] certain local notables. (Paras. 5–13)
For some time to come the UK will probably try to retain intact the substance of its present position in the area through tactical adjustments and compromises, though remaining ready, as it has frequently asserted, to employ force. We believe that for the next year or so, the British will be successful in achieving this end, although the pressures on the British position in the area are likely to increase and could seriously undermine the British position in specific areas even before the end of the period. (Paras. 14–16, 19)
Over the longer run, the British will probably be compelled to accept elimination of their political control and curtailment of their economic prerogatives as well. However, any adjustment that they make to Pan-Arab nationalism will be reluctant, slow, and piecemeal. There is a possibility that an eventual agreement between the Arabs and the UK will be reached which will be based exclusively on their common dependence on oil. Such a solution would be difficult to achieve and [Page 782] would at best take years because of the UK’s reluctance to give up control and because of the erratic and emotional nature of the Arab nationalist challenge. (Paras. 17, 20–25)
Any serious impairment in the availability of Persian Gulf oil on terms favorable to the UK and Western Europe would have important implications for the US. It would probably necessitate large-scale US economic assistance, adversely affect Free World defense arrangements, and create situations which the Soviets could readily exploit to their advantage. In the event of British use of force, the US might find itself confronted with a Soviet threat aimed at frustrating the British action. British use of force would also impair US efforts to come to terms with the Arab nationalists. In addition, US oil company operations and US Navy use of British facilities in the area, as well as US Air Force facilities in Saudi Arabia, would almost certainly be adversely affected by loss of the British position. (Paras. 31–32)

[Here follow the “Discussion” portion of the estimate with sections headed “The British Stake,” “The Arab Challenge,” “Probable British Policies,” “The Outlook for the British Position,” and “Implications for the US,” and a table on Middle East oil reserves and the British share of production in 1958, and a map of the Arabian Peninsula.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. This Special Estimate, submitted by the CIA, was prepared by CIA, INR, and the intelligence organizations of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Joint Staff. All members of the United States Intelligence Board concurred in it on October 28 except the representatives of the AEC and FBI who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside their jurisdiction.
  2. Supplements and brings up-to-date NIE 30–57, “The British Position in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula,” dated 19 February 1957. [Footnote in the source text. NIE 30–57 is ibid.]
  3. i.e., in Aden, the Aden Protectorate, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrein, Muscat, Oman, and the Trucial Sheikhdoms. [Footnote in the source text.]