294. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State 0
121. Deptel 133.1 President Nasser received me 1700 hours July 11 for 90 minute tour d’horizon prior my departure home leave. Approximately 30 minutes spent discussing Yemen situation.
I reviewed with President my conversation with Ali Sabri reported Embtel 64,2 then transmitted concerns expressed in reference Embtel. To these I added own observations UAR situation in Yemen apparently growing more involved and difficult, with Sallal position somewhat eroded, tribal discontent flaring up, and UAR faced with prospect of costly and inconclusive guerrilla operation. I therefore invited President not only to answer my specific inquiries but to indicate what course UAR proposes to extricate itself from Yemen.
In answer, President Nasser stated:
- Heart of difficulty lay in unexpected lag between acceptance disengagement proposals and beginning UN operation.
- During this period help emanating from Saudi Arabia (although not in all cases officially from SAG) has aggravated problem. Tribal fighting has broken out in demilitarized zone, arms and money from Saudi Arabia still coming into Northwest Yemen, and Badr and/or SAG propaganda among tribes pictures royalist triumph imminent, thus stirring up trouble.
- Immediately after disengagement UAR had brought some troops home in hope they need not be replaced. But continuation outside help to royalists and tribal fighting led to troop rotation instead of withdrawal.
- Conditions of disengagement against which UAR withdrawal promised not yet met. Saudi aid, either official or unofficial, has continued and Badr and royal family still in Gizan area. While disengagement proposals did not specifically call for removal Badr and royal family from border as such, this had been fully discussed with Bunker and formula of “denying territory” to royalist leaders meant to encompass it.
- UAR now engaged in quelling tribal resistance in northwest and around Saada. It is Nasser’s objective to bring home full battalion of [Page 640] troops in August, by which time he hopes northern tribal resistance will be ended. When I asked pointedly if I could report this to my government as his intention, he replied affirmatively.
- UAR intends to keep its aircraft away from borders and avoid any clash with USAF. Nasser asked whether Americans would be flying in clearly marked American craft or whether they would use Saudi planes. I replied I did not know but it seemed to me probable American pilots in course of training Saudis might be in Saudi planes. In any case, question really irrelevant for essence of problem was to keep UAR planes away from border.
I then raised question of unconventional, allegedly poison gas, bombs being used. Nasser said a Napalm bomb called “Opal” was being used against crops and some villages and it was this which had given rise to reported poison gas. He noted “Daily Telegraph” had always been extremely hostile to him and its reports on poison gas were to be discounted. I replied information at my disposal would seem to indicate something other than Napalm was being used, specifically not the “Opal”. I did not give any names to bomb but said my report suggested it might run the gamut from phosphorous to mustard gas. Nasser then said “a bomb” was being used which had been manufactured in UAR, of which he did not know precise chemical content. However, it must be relatively simple since chemical capacity of UAR unsophisticated.
I strongly urged use of unconventional bombs and weapons self-defeating in Yemen since they were probably militarily ineffective, opened UAR to strong attack in international community, and strongly aroused deep concern in USG. Nasser agreed bombing operations in desert country much less effective than small arms and light weapons, saying this had been clear lesson of Palestine campaign. However, he could not sit in Cairo and direct military operation in Yemen as to specifics of weapons and tactics. If military commander in Yemen felt air bombing and support was necessary for troops, the decision would be his.
I again reviewed matter of SAG support for royalists, stating clearly our judgment it had ceased and citing Faisal’s letter to Badr withdrawing support as evidence. Nasser replied his intelligence services had reported some seven days ago a Faisal-Badr communication coming through SAG Minister of War withdrawing support, but at same time money and ammunition had come across border. I urged UAR, as large and mature state, could well afford take lead in disengagement movement by at least symbolic troop withdrawal. Nasser returned to charge support from Saudi Arabia continuing and Badr presence in [garble—Jizan?] area breaking spirit of disengagement. He said a start had to be made by all parties at once, and SAG had thus far demonstrated only bad faith. When I pointed out UAR was getting itself into difficult position where inconclusive guerilla warfare could sap resources and erode position, [Page 641] President shrugged his shoulders and said, “what else can we do but keep on?” He then returned to his purpose of removing full brigade in August, believing by that time situation within Yemen would be better.
Comment: Instructions for interview mentioned reference Department telegram not received. Nasser appointment only fixed at 1400 hours July 11, giving me no time usefully communicate with Department. I was surprised Nasser saw me this early, since on other occasions he has waited until day before my departure. This haste explained in conversation today when Nasser said he is going to Alexandria morning July 12 for rest over weekend preparatory to President of Ivory Coast State visit and July 23 celebrations.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 UAR-YEMEN. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Also sent to Jidda, London, USUN, and Taiz.↩
- Dated July 11. (Ibid.)↩
- In telegram 64 from Cairo, July 6, Badeau reported on a conversation with Ali Sabri, in which he registered strong concern over reports that the UAR was using poison gas in Yemen. (Ibid., POL 27 SAUD-UAR)↩