357. Memorandum From the Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Jones) to Secretary of State Herter 0

SUBJECT

  • Reply to British Embassy Concerning Possible Diversion to Omani Rebels of U.S. Arms Delivered to SAG

Discussion:

On April 1, the British Ambassador presented to the Acting Secretary a letter (Tab B)1 requesting that the U.S. raise with SAG the fact that arms of American origin from Saudi Arabia were apparently being given to the Omani rebels. By Deptel 896 of April 7 (Tab C),2 we instructed Ambassador Heath upon his return to Saudi Arabia to approach Crown Prince Faisal. An interim reply was sent to the British Ambassador by the Acting Secretary on April 7, 1959 (Tab D).3 This reply said that the Department had instructed the Embassy in Jidda to raise the matter with the Saudi Arabian Foreign Office and that the diversion of U.S. arms had been discussed with Ambassador Heath, who was then on home leave, with the intention that he should raise this matter with Prince Faisal in person upon his return to Saudi Arabia.

The Ambassador approached Faisal on May 17 (Embtel 954, Tab E).4 Faisal said he was not aware that any U.S. arms had been sent to Oman from Saudi Arabia. He stated, however, that SAG was obliged to aid its “downtrodden brethren in Oman”.

On June 5 the Department informed the British Embassy informally that Ambassador Heath had taken the matter up with Prince Faisal (Tab F),5 and that the Department had sent to Jidda further instructions (letter from Mr. Rountree to Ambassador dated June 5)6 emphasizing the seriousness with which the U.S. regarded diversions of arms, and instructing the Embassy to raise the matter again in appropriate fashion in the event that further evidence of such diversions came to its attention. In [Page 791] Jidda’s Despatch 15 of July 14 (Tab G)7 in reply to Mr. Rountree’s letter, Ambassador Heath states his belief that any further approach to Prince Faisal would be unwise at this time, would be likely to anger the Crown Prince, and might drive him to act against his better judgment. According to the Ambassador, our concern over possible diversions of U.S. arms has been firmly registered with the Crown Prince and will be borne in mind by him. The Embassy will make a repeated and forceful approach to the Crown Prince should any further indications of arms diversions come to its attention.

Judging by the deliberations of the Arab League Council’s recent meeting in Casablanca, the Oman question may be agitated in the current General Assembly session.8 A definitive reply to the British on arms diversion might have the disadvantage of reminding them of a very sensitive issue which is quiet for the moment. On balance, however, we feel that our interest would be best served by making it a matter of record that we have followed through on the British Ambassador’s letter by taking up the matter with Prince Faisal; that we have stressed our continuing concern to our Embassy in Jidda; and that we have instructed the Embassy to watch for any evidence of diversions and raise the matter again with the Saudis should there be any indication that such diversions are occurring. Furthermore, an answer at this time might well forestall a possible British accusation, in case of a recrudescence of rebel activity in Oman, that we had contributed to such activity by having failed to register with the Saudis, as suggested by the British Ambassador’s letter, sufficient concern over the diversion of arms.

Recommendation:

That you sign the attached letter to the British Ambassador. (Tab A)9

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786E.56/9–1759. Secret. Drafted by Stookey and Crawford and cleared by Swihart.
  2. Dated April 1, not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., 786E.56/4–759)
  4. Not printed. (Ibid., 786E.56/9–1759)
  5. Dated May 18. (Ibid., 786E.56/5–1859)
  6. Memorandum of conversation between Michael Weir of the British Embassy and David Newsom, not printed. (Ibid.)
  7. Not found.
  8. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 786E.56/7–1459)
  9. See Document 359.
  10. Dated September 24. (Department of State, Central Files, 786E.56/9–1759)