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.

Dean Rusk2




Mission: The mission of the deployed air unit is:

To conduct training exercises and operations with Saudi air forces in cooperation with USMTM as part of our overall efforts through the years to improve Saudi forces and as evidence of continuing U.S. interest in the internal stability and security of Saudi Arabia. (The element of “show of force” is manifested by the military presence of the unit in Saudi Arabia and is acknowledged as an explicit element of the mission. However, no references will be made officially or unofficially, formally or informally, to the effect that a “U.S. show of force” is an essential element of this unit’s mission.)
To provide a limited air defense capability to Saudi Arabia to deter UAR air operations over Saudi Arabia should such air operations be resumed.

In the event the UAR resumes air operations over Saudi Arabia and UAR aircraft are detected and/or intercepted by operational USAF fighter aircraft in Saudi Arabia during the accomplishment of the mission as outlined in paragraph “a” above, this information will be reported by highest priority precedence message to the JCS. Pending receipt of instructions from the JCS, the employment of the U.S. air unit will continue to be in accordance with the terms of the mission set forth in paragraph “a” above.

Rules of Engagement: The following rules of engagement may be made effective only if directed by the JCS after the decision has been made at the highest government level:
USAF fighter aircraft, within their capability, will intercept and identify all unidentified aircraft violating the territorial air space of Saudi Arabia.
Upon interception and failure to identify as friendly, the aircraft will be considered a hostile intruder and USAF fighter pilots will exert every measure, short of actual firing at the “intruder,” to induce it to land or alter course to exit Saudi Arabian territory. These measures may include maneuvers, tactics, and signals, as well as commands on international radio frequencies. If these measures are successful, USAF fighter aircraft will escort the “intruder” aircraft to the Saudi Arabian border or to the nearest suitable airfield.
If the foregoing steps to induce “intruder” aircraft to either land or depart Saudi Arabian air space are not successful, USAF fighter aircraft will escort the “intruder” aircraft, continuing harrassment, until one of two situations occurs, i.e., either
the “intruder” follows directions to land or depart Saudi Arabian air space, or
the “intruder” is observed to commit a “hostile” act. In this event, USAF fighter aircraft will destroy the “intruder.”
For purpose of these rules of engagement, a “hostile” act is defined as firing or maneuvering to fire at USAF or allied (Saudi Arabian) aircraft, opening bomb bay doors, strafing, rocketing, or bombing Saudi Arabian territory.
  1. 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.
  2. The mission is described in a June 18 memorandum from Cleveland to Rusk. (Ibid., POL 27–14 YEMEN/UN)
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.
  4. 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.