373. Memorandum From the Special Assistant for Communist Economic Affairs (Terrill) to the Under Secretary of State (Dillon)0


  • Assessment of Bloc Tactics and Intentions in Yemen—Strategic Implications

Current Sino-Soviet activities in certain underdeveloped countries of maximum opportunity (Yemen, Afghanistan, Guinea, Cuba) seem immediately directed toward precluding or eliminating any counterbalancing Western presence and establishing a position of outright dominance. The strategic (as opposed to political or psychological) [Page 817] implications of such efforts are substantial. The situation in Yemen is particularly precarious at the present moment and requires a timely U.S. decision.

Strategic Implications of a Dominant Bloc Position in Yemen:

A client regime in Yemen would be useful to the Bloc for mounting strong political and subversive pressures against both Aden and Saudi Arabia. In the event of war the Bloc could use Yemen as a forward base to neutralize Aden and command the Red Sea area.

The Soviets already dominate civil aviation in Yemen and have constructed oversize bunkering facilities at Hodeida port, suggesting that they are already preparing to exploit the strategic assets that they hope to obtain through pre-emptive control of the GOY.

Bloc Tactics in Yemen:

Since our bilateral aid agreement with Yemen was signed last November, the Bloc has sharply accelerated its activities. The 800-odd ChiComs engaged on the Hodeida-Sana’a road project have started working around the clock.

British and Italian sources report that the number of Soviet “technicians” in Yemen, principally at Hodeida, has recently risen from some 150–200 to some 400–600, with a commensurate increase in the tempo of activity at the Hodeida port project.

In a frank evaluation of the current situation in Yemen (Tab A),1 the Imam’s pro-Western younger brother, Prince Abdul Rahman, has told our Charge of Bloc pressures on the GOY to accept unlimited aid offers, including takeover of the entire U.S. program.

Most recently our Chargé has reported (Tab B),2 that the Chinese Communists have offered to build the Mocha-Ta’iz-Sana’a road. The Ta’iz-Sana’a road is the backbone of the planned U.S. aid program and the Imam has now insisted that the U.S. agree to build the Mocha-Ta’iz stretch as well. The ChiCom offer is, therefore, an obvious attempt to shut us out.


The Bloc evidently attaches strategic importance to Yemen and is attempting by all means to preclude the inauguration of U.S. aid activities.
It appears we must meet the Imam’s demand for the Mocha-Ta’iz road if we are to succeed in establishing a presence in Yemen. I [Page 818] understand ICA is preparing, for your consideration, a proposal to add this project to our Ta’iz-Sana’a road project at a modest incremental cost.
U/CEA believes this additional undertaking is warranted since it seems necessary to the establishment of a U.S. presence to meet the immediate situation as well as to provide a basis for influencing the orientation of the government which will succeed the decrepit Imam.
  1. Source: Department of State, NEA/NE Files: Lot 63 D 81, Yemen, U.S. Economic Aid, 1960. Secret. Drafted by Coon. A note on the source text indicates that Dillon saw this memorandum.
  2. Telegram 3 from Taiz, July 3. (Ibid., Central Files, 786H.5–MSP/7–260)
  3. Telegram 5 from Taiz, July 4. (Ibid., 886H.2612/7–460)