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


  • Yemen Developments Since Your Departure

Increasing Yemeni ties with the Soviet bloc and Yemen’s association with the United Arab Republic have been the most dramatic developments in Yemen since your departure. Soviet Ambassador Kisselev, who visited Yemen from January 13–30 to present letters of credence as Minister, reportedly offered the Imam a 100 million rouble (about $25 million) development loan for construction projects together with unconditional aid in other fields including an aerial survey of all “natural Yemen”. There has so far been no confirmation that the loan offer has been accepted, but additional satellite technicians have arrived, while a Soviet Legation under an Arabic-speaking Chargé d’Affaires is being organized.1

Following the proclamation of the UAR, Yemen announced that it would form a “federal union” with the new state. However, negotiations in Cairo between the Egyptians and a Yemeni delegation under Crown Prince Badr appear to have produced considerably less. Nasser has informed Ambassador Hare that a UAR-Yemen “confederation” will be set up with Nasser and the Imam alternately presiding over a [Page 797] council of six representatives each from the UAR and Yemen with responsibility for “different areas of coordinate activity”. Yemen will retain its international status, but the UAR will probably be delegated to represent Yemen abroad as a matter of general practice. Prince Badr returned to Yemen on January 17 to submit the proposed confederation plan to the Imam.

An abortive plot by conservative elements, including minor supporters of Prince Hassan, to assassinate the Imam and overthrow the government on January 22–23 seems to have been first encouraged and then betrayed by pro-Egyptian elements in an apparent effort to justify to wavering pro-Western elements in Yemen the need to adhere to pro-Egyptian and pro-Soviet policies. Twelve of the leaders were executed on January 26. Amid public allegations of his implication in the plot, the British Charge was declared persona non grata on January 27 but the U.K. Legation remains open. However, there has been increasing Anglo-Yemeni tension along the disputed frontier with both sides strengthening their border forces. The Yemen Chargé protested the latest of a series of British “attacks” in a call on Mr. Berry on February 18.

Our Consul has been in Taiz since January 19, but there has been no progress with respect to the U.S. aid and legation proposals because of Yemeni preoccupation with the above developments and the Imam’s continuing indisposition. Representatives of Jersey Standard who arrived in Taiz on January 23 finally were received for a cordial half-hour meeting with the Imam on February 17, during which they emphasized Jersey’s primary interest in the coastal and offshore areas provided these are legally free. Yemen subsequently offered Jersey its choice of areas in the country except the northern two-thirds of the coastal strip, which is “reserved for a European firm”.2 The Jersey representatives have agreed to return to New York to discuss this proposal with the company before giving a final answer and are planning to leave Yemen on February 24. We have instructed our Consul to make a further effort after the departure of the Jersey team to obtain a formal Yemeni response to our aid and legation proposals. If it appears that Yemen’s association with the UAR will end foreign diplomatic representation in Yemen, our Consul has been authorized to indicate that we would desire to open an appropriate consular establishment.

On February 13, the British Embassy formally proposed to the Department that some joint consultative procedure be established to consider future courses of action with respect to Yemen. We are withholding [Page 798] a reply in order to ascertain the views of U.S. intelligence agencies as to the desirability of preparing a joint intelligence estimate of the Yemen situation with the U.K.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786H.00/2–2158. Secret. Drafted by William D. Brewer of NEA/NE.
  2. At the 352d Meeting of the National Security Council, January 22, Allen Dulles reported on events in Yemen in his intelligence briefing as follows: “In Yemen, Mr. Dulles emphasized that the Soviet bloc countries were making a strong drive. The Soviets have made an economic offer of $35 million. The Chinese Communists have offered Yemen a loan of $16 million with no interest. Mr. Dulles expressed the view that a dangerous situation, from the U.S. point of view, existed in Yemen.” (Memorandum of discussion by Gleason, January 23; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)

    In an unnumbered telegram from Taiz, February 25, Consul Crawford argued that the West was in a better position in Yemen “than apparent on surface.” (Department of State, Central Files, 786H.00/2–2558)

  3. We believe this phrase may refer to an ENI concession proposal made to the Yemen authorities in January, 1958 apparently through the Italian Charge in Taiz. [Footnote in the source text.]