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

1164. Deptel 759;2 DepCirctel 2210;3 CA-12519.4 Presentation President Johnson’s letter to Crown Prince Faysal; discussion of Dhahran Airfield, General Adams participating.

Details extensive conversation with Faysal June 17 based on President Johnson’s letter are being covered by airgram. Highlights of this and accompanying discussions attendant on General Adam’s visit follow:

President Johnson’s letter was appreciated and I believe served very useful purpose of (a) re-establishing personal contact between President and Faysal; (b) reassuring Faysal of President’s continued interest in welfare and advancement Kingdom; and (c) giving strong support to continuance disengagement.
At same time Faysal did not agree with all points made in President’s letter. In particular he took exception to implication at end paragraph six that he should be responsive to desire YAR leaders to make contact with SAG. Remarking that while Khrushchev did not gain 100 percent success from visit to UAR, impact on Middle East [Page 447]should by no means be discounted, Faysal again insisted at length that source of infection and instability throughout Middle East was Nasir, and again urged us to recognize this fact and at very least stop supporting a malignant influence.
General Adams expressed to Faysal appreciation for current US military use (landing and take-offs) of Dhahran International Airfield. He hoped this use would continue. Faysal queried Prince Sultan, who had entered meeting late, and confirmed that US use was permitted and asked if there were any problems. General Adams indicated that perhaps there some facilities and working arrangements could be devised whereby if US had to come to Saudi Arabia’s aid at some future date, all would go smoothly. Faysal apparently took this as referring to secret understanding of 1963 constituting US-SAG advance ground-rules for Hard Surface (which at Faysal’s request were not to [be] disseminated in either government). He replied that US military should not misunderstand precautions taken by SAG to avert possible criticism; it implied no absence of trust. This particular probe of Faysal’s reactions was not pursued further.
However, during lengthy discussion which followed my presentation re Soviet threats in Near East, Faysal expressed alarm over Soviet-directed fishing fleet which will operate out of Egyptian base Ra’s Banas. He expressed such concern over Saudi exposure to this first Soviet presence in Red Sea that with CA-12519 in mind I used opportunity to make strictly personal observation: In retrospect I entertained divided feelings over American exit from Dhahran Airbase 1962. On one hand base had become irritant between US and embarrassment to SAG; on other hand it had afforded American military presence. Faysal nodded his agreement and made reference to his late 1960 talk with my predecessor, Ambassador Heath. He commented that during conversation he had suggested to Heath that USG take initiative to reduce embarrassing and overt aspects of its position at Dhahran Airfield so as to abate criticism which SAG was incurring from other Arabs.

Since I remembered record this conversation quite differently, i.e. that Faysal had urged that USG take initiative to withdraw completely from Dhahran Airbase before SAG forced into embarrassing position of requesting withdrawal,5 I felt that Faysal intentionally or unintentionally was changing the record. Again in strictly personal vein I asked Faysal whether he felt in retrospect that it might have been good idea if SAG and USG had agreed that instead of completely withdrawing US forces from Dhahran we had reduced our presence and after handing over DAF to SAG had retained under umbrella of USMTM some [Page 448]arrangement which would have kept a US military cadre on hand. Faysal backwatered gently, saying Nasir could always make mountain out of molehill. I responded Nasir did not need the molehill and he agreed. I was left with feeling that door not entirely shut to CINCSTRIKE needs, although chances not good.

During subsequent session with General Adams I asked latter to outline to me his desiderata which are as follows:

Category 1. Preposition at Dhahran International Airfield under US control:

Starting machines (to be tested periodically and routinely by starting USMTM aircraft).

Tools and equipment.

Repair equipment.

Few vehicles, including perhaps two tank trucks.

Extra wing tanks.

Volume this category: 2 or 3 boxcar loads.

Category 2. Preposition at DIA under US control:

Conventional aircraft ammunition including: 750 and 500 lb. bombs (500 iron bombs) 2000 rockets; 50 caliber ammo. (“For training purposes”; to be expended and replaced in training of RSAF.)

Volume this category: around 10,000 cu. ft.

(Bunkers available at DIA)

Category 3. One USAF fighter-bomber squadron to periodically visit Saudi Arabia from Turkey for training and familiarization. Three or four days each visit.

Cover for operation: “Training of RSAF.” Would involve around 70 men in each squadron. This would be a work force.

Category 4. Annual joint Saudi-US air-ground combined exercise, a smaller “exercise Delawar.” Combined HQ. Would serve as instrument for training Saudi forces and require full year’s preparation. Political timing to be determined by USG and SAG. This would be open demonstration and could be used to make US intentions clear.

While I am by no means sanguine that all or any these items are obtainable from Faysal it is conceivable that in his present mood he might agree to Categories 1, 3 and 4 without as much trouble as to Category 2. If State and DOD wish me to make further sounding I suggest following tactic: I would request private interview and pick up this portion our June 17 conversation on very informal basis. I would say General Adams had expressed to me privately his interest in Categories 1 through 4 but had as yet no instructions; and that if Faysal saw merit in some such arrangement well camouflaged by USMTM I was prepared ask Washington whether highest level US Govt might be interested.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 15-1 US-Johnson. Secret. Repeated to Lagos for General Adams, Dhahran and CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA.
  2. Document 229.
  3. Dated May 27. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 USSR)
  4. Dated June 2. (Ibid., DEF 19-4 US-SAUD)
  5. For Ambassador Heath’s November 28, 1960, conversation with Faisal regarding the Dhahran airbase, see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. XII, pp. 768769.