361. Background Paper From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to the Under Secretary of State (Herter)0


Following preliminary negotiations in Cairo during February, 1957 and subsequent discussion of a draft agreement in Yemen, Crown Prince Badr, Yemen’s Foreign Minister, arrived in Damascus on March 2 and announced that a “federal union” between his country and the United Arab Republic would be proclaimed within the next few days. According to the Damascus press, the agreement will become effective as soon as signed by Prince Badr and UAR President Nasser. This formal act has not yet, as far as we know, taken place.1

While the extent of Yemen’s ultimate association with the UAR cannot be finally determined until the Yemen–UAR proclamation has been issued, preliminary information available to the Department indicates that the new agreement will fall considerably short of the “federal union” described by Prince Badr, since it will apparently not modify Yemen’s sovereignty or independence. Nasser informed Ambassador Hare on February 17 that the Yemen–UAR association would not be a real union but rather some sort of confederation, with Yemen retaining its international status. Nasser’s description of the association was confirmed and amplified by Qadhi al-Amri, Yemeni Deputy Foreign Minister, in conversation with our Consul in Taiz on February 22. According to both Nasser and Al-Amri, the principle elements of the Yemen–UAR [Page 799] agreement are: (a) a “High Council” consisting of Nasser and the Imam of Yemen which must approve all recommendations of other bodies; (b) a “federal council” consisting of 6 Yemenis and 6 UAR representatives which will be in permanent session in Yemen. This council will have advisory duties with respect to foreign, military, economic and educational affairs; and (c) a “Military Affairs Committee” with powers identical to those given the joint command under the 1955 Egyptian-Saudi-Yemeni pact (this joint command has never functioned). According to Al-Amri, any UAR troops sent to Yemen will come under Yemeni command. While the UAR may by agreement represent Yemen abroad in certain countries where Yemen does not now have diplomatic representatives, Al-Amri has informed our Consul that the Yemen delegation in Damascus has been instructed not to agree to the termination of foreign diplomatic representation in Yemen, and the Yemeni Charge d’Affaires here has informally indicated to us that he believes there will be no change in his status.

With such information as is available to us as a guide, the Department intends to proceed in its relations with Yemen on the assumption that Yemen continues as a sovereign entity. We therefore consider that our offers to assist Yemen economically and to open a resident U.S. Legation should stand. Because of preoccupation with the Yemen-UAR negotiations, the Imam has so far made no formal reply to these proposals. According to Al-Amri, the Imam is in favor of accepting the Legation and some economic aid, but a definite Yemeni reply cannot be expected for “at least one month”. He has requested our Consul to stand by in Aden for further negotiations and we have asked our Consul to submit his recommendations on how to proceed.

The Department continues to regard the preservation of a pro-Western position in this strategic corner of the Arabian Peninsula as an important U.S. objective. U.S. economic aid was originally offered to Yemen in part to strengthen this over-all Western position and we, therefore, would regard any withdrawal of aid offers while they are under consideration by the Yemen Government as likely to have an adverse affect on over-all U.S. policy objectives in this area.

  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Near East. Secret. Rountree sent this paper to the Under Secretary at Herter’s request for use during OCB discussions.
  2. On March 8 Yemen federated with the United Arab Republic forming the United Arab States.