353. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs (Rockwell) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Rountree)0


  • Situation in Kuwait

As of the morning of February 11, neither we nor the British Embassy have had any official comment on press reports of a state of emergency in Kuwait and of a possible shift in power to Sheikh Abdullah Mubarak.1

[Page 783]

We have only these facts on the situation (as of the date of our last reports, February 8):

The Ruler, disturbed by attacks of nationalist elements in Kuwait on Iraq and by evidences of excessive sympathy for the UAR, on February 5 closed two weekly newspapers and four clubs and arrested a number of the younger reformists.
The Supreme Council of Subah Sheikhs met continuously thereafter for at least two days, reportedly to arrange a reshuffle of ministerial portfolios among the Sheikhs. One of the most significant changes reported from this meeting was the transfer of authority for the Police Department from Sheikh Sabah al Salim, brother of the Ruler, to Sheikh Abdullah Mubarak, uncle of the Ruler who is already head of the Public Security (Army) Forces. If this has taken place, it would put all of Kuwait’s armed forces under Sheikh Abdullah Mubarak; this may be the basis for press reports that he had assumed power.
The possibility has long been considered that the Ruler, who has frequently stated he does not wish to be Ruler, might voluntarily relinquish his authority. Recently, Sheikh Abdullah Mubarak has been generally considered to be favored by the British (and probably by the Ruler) as successor. While a transfer of power to Sheikh Abdullah (age 44) would leave the Subah regime in power, it would not necessarily be a favorable omen for Kuwait’s traditional relationships. Sheikh Abdullah, an opportunist, has of late been seeking to curry favor with the UAR and nationalist groups. Further, he lacks the restraining (though weak) hand which the Ruler has exercised upon the various factions within Kuwait’s sheikhly family. [8-½ lines of source text not declassified]
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786D.00/2–1159. Confidential. Drafted by Newsom.
  2. On February 12, Allen Dulles briefed the NSC on “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security,” including the following: “In Kuwait Mr. Dulles said that the Iraqi developments had caused consternation and that some riots may well occur. The Kuwait ruler may decide to join the Arab League (with British acceptance) as a means of protecting himself from being overthrown by some of his own people.” (Memorandum of Discussion at the 396th Meeting of the NSC, February 12; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)