223. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia 1

571. Joint State/Defense Message. In course US-UK talks January 29–302 (full rnemcons being pouched) US again repeated arguments against supplying overly sophisticated weapons to Saudis (waste of Saudi money, strain on scarce personnel resources, lack of capability to maintain and operate). UK spokesmen noted our mutual agreement to principle of opposition to introduction offensive weapons, but indicated FonOff problems in seeking discourage British arms salesmen from supplying these or overly sophisticated items to Saudis. FonOff could not forbid British firms from trying sell when these firms aware that Saudis would turn to Swedes, Swiss or French if UK were banned from competition. Also was not possible to confine sales to White Army only. Thus, in British view, burden is clearly on US, with its Military Training Mission and position of primacy, to dissuade Saudis from purchase unneeded or undesirable items; UK fully expected US to do this.

Concerning British Aircraft Corporation attempts sell Canberras (which BAC proposed to Saudis as part of “package” together with Lightning interceptors and Thunderbird missiles), British said FonOff position against licensing their export would be greatly strengthened if US able state it would refuse export licenses for Douglas A-4E’s. Department position was that, while we not able make flat commitment at this time, it probable thai USG would refuse license export of A-4E’s to Saudis since they do not have characteristics to perform any mission which would be meaningful in terms of Saudi air defense requirement (in contrast to shorter range, supersonic F-5A and F-104H type recommended in Air Defense Survey Report); and since their acquisition, together with other aircraft, would result in further proliferation different types of weapons in Saudi arsenal, additionally complicating the increasingly severe logistics and maintenance problem.

Comment: British, while acknowledging validity of reasons for excluding offensive and overly sophisticated arms, have emphasized that [Page 430]they see US as having the responsibility for curbing Saudi appetites. Additionally, although Douglas has received license(or export technical data on A-4E’s, it apparent that SAG decision purchase this aircraft would seriously complicate our arms supply program for Saudi Arabia. Thus Embassy and CHUSMTM should continue efforts wherever possible to dissuade Saudis from endeavoring purchase inappropriate items of whatever national origin. In this context suggest you re-emphasize to Saudis multi-mission capability of F-5A and F-104H as close support aircraft in addition to interceptor role, a fact which would seem to preclude need to purchase other types aircraft such as A-4E or comparable foreign configuration. (In this regard, we pleased to note from USMTM message CI I 643 that MODA Joint Committee recommends deferring consideration acquisition surface-to-air missiles.)

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 12–5 SAUD. Secret. Drafted by George C. Moore (NEA/NE); cleared by Davies, Bunle, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Regional Affairs Frank K. Sloan; and approved by Jernegan. Repeated to London, Dhahran for CHUSMTM, and CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA.
  2. A memorandum of conversation recording the January 30 U.S.-U.K. talks on arms sales in the Arabian Peninsula is ibid., NEA/ARP Files: Lot 69 D 547. CHRON 1964, Telegrams to Aden.
  3. Not found.