268. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0
- Dispatch of USAF Air Squadron to Saudi Arabia
You will recall that in a letter of October 25, 1962 you assured Crown Prince Faysal of “full United States support for the maintenance of Saudi Arabia’s integrity” as Saudi Arabia “moves ahead successfully on the path of modernization and reform”. Consonant with this assurance, you authorized your special emissary Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, while negotiating the Yemen conflict, to tell Faysal that a USAF fighter unit would be stationed in Saudi Arabia upon implementation of the Yemen disengagement agreement. In your message of March 1, 1963 conveyed by Ambassador Bunker you indicated agreement that “Saudi Arabia’s integrity and stability must be defended against external intrusions”. Ambassador Bunker told Faysal on March 7 that the USAF fighter unit would have the twin objectives of demonstrating United States support for Saudi Arabia and by its presence provide a deterrent to UAR air operations against Saudi Arabia.
Unfortunately, an endless series of delays, most recently resulting from Soviet stalling tactics in New York, has prevented the positioning of U.N. observers in Yemen, the formal commencement of disengagement and thus the dispatch of a USAF fighter unit. Meanwhile, the UAR has resumed air attack against towns well within Saudi Arabia, some of whose targets cannot be construed as military. In these circumstances Faysal, who has repeatedly emphasized that he places his primary reliance on and faith in the United States rather than the U.N., has concluded that the United States has let him down and is failing to live up to its assurances of protection. His critical message to you of June 8 reflects the depths of despondency into which he has sunk.
Your response of June 9 to Faysal’s latest message, which indicated inter alia that the United States does not back out on its promises and will dispatch an air squadron to Saudi Arabia once disengagement is fully in effect, should help to assuage his feelings and hopefully for the moment prevent him from taking some ill-advised action. However, I believe that unless the United States air squadron is moved to Saudi Arabia as soon as the first detachment of U.S. observers arrives in Yemen—whether or [Page 578] not disengagement is construed to be “fully in effect” at this point—there is real danger that already seriously deteriorating United States-Saudi relations will reach a dangerous low point. I believe that establishment of a U.N. presence in the border area between Yemen and Saudi Arabia will minimize the risk of further UAR penetration of Saudi air space and confrontation with USAF aircraft.
The Security Council has now approved the dispatch to Yemen of U.N. observers to oversee the disengagement process.1 The observers are expected to arrive about June 13. Accordingly, I recommend:
- that the USAF squadron which is now on 48-hour alert be ordered to proceed to Saudi Arabia as soon as we can certify that the first detachment of U.N. observers is in place;
- that Prince Faysal be notified of the anticipated date of arrival of the USAF unit;
- that the Saudi Government be informed that should evidence indicate that the agreement to suspend shipments to the Royalists is not being observed, the air unit would be withdrawn.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–5 US. Secret. Drafted by Seelye and Davies and cleared by Talbot. Komer forwarded this memorandum to President Kennedy on June 13; see Document 269.↩
- The mission is described in a June 18 memorandum from Cleveland to Rusk. (Ibid., POL 27–14 YEMEN/UN)↩
- Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.↩
- Secret. Drafted by Kettelhut and cleared by Hewitt, Strong, Grant, Colonel Robinson, and Komer. Additional documentation regarding the mission and rules of engagement is in Department of State, Central File DEF 19 US-SAUD.↩