231. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom 1

2027. Joint State/Defense Message. Embtels 1130,2 1208;3 UK Offer of Thunderbirds to SAG.

At appropriate level you should voice our strong concern at reported renewed offer HMG sell Thunderbird surface-to-air missiles to SAG. As described in Deptel 3760, December 18, 1963 (480 to Jidda)4 and detailed to Harrison and Brenchley in Washington in January, our view continues to be that Saudis have a low priority requirement for SAMs, that their purchase of such overly-sophisticated weapons would represent foolhardy drain on their financial resources and useless diversion of their scarce personnel and skills from badly needed development program. Both US and UK have basic interest in Saudi stability and orderly development which far exceeds any concern either of us has for selling weapons in that region. Encouraging SAG to put resources into extremely technical and expensive hardware of relatively marginal military value for them, particularly in face of latent internal nationalist discontent, is not the role of a friend nor is it in our mutual enlightened self-interest. As the British know, we removed the recommendation for SAMs from our technicians Air Defense Survey Report for these reasons. We believe they are valid independent of any concern that the SAG should look to us for its equipment desires in view of our training commitment.

FYI. In face FonOff demurral that HMG position different from that stated in January, we see nothing to be gained by pressing for clarification of Harrison statement to Talbot in March (London tel 4270).5

We continue deeply concerned over prospects introduction SAMs to Saudi Arabia from any source. Nonetheless, if Saudis become more responsive to British persistence in pressing Thunderbirds it would face us with necessity, albeit reluctantly, of reviewing possible US offer [Page 450]of Hawk to Saudis. However, pending further developments, do not wish to suggest to British at this time that we could be forced to make Hawk competitive with Thunderbird. End FYI.6

Will forward separate cable re Iranian Hawk question.

For Jidda: On target of opportunity basis, you and CHUSMTM should continue dissuade Saudis from acquisition SAMs, drawing on numbered points Deptel 480.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 SAUD-UK. Secret. Drafted by Moore; cleared by Bunte, Colonel Evans (G/PM), Quinn, and Officer in Charge of United Kingdom Affairs Thomas M. Judd; and approved by Davies. Repeated to Jidda, Dhahran, CHUSMTM Dhahran, and CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA for Ramsey.
  2. Dated September 7. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 1208 from London, September 15, Bruce reported his discussion of possibility of a U.K. sale of Thunderbird missiles to Saudi Arabia with Assistant Under Secretary Crawford. (Ibid.)
  4. Dated December 18, 1963. (Ibid., DEF 1-4 SAUD)
  5. Dated March 3. (Ibid., DEF 12-5 SAUD)
  6. In telegram 1558 from London, October 2, Bruce reported that he had made the demarche to Crawford as instructed. Crawford responded that the U.K. Government had not offered to sell Thunderbird missiles to the Saudi Arabian Government, but told British manufacturers it had no objections to such a sale, which it was prepared to license. (Ibid., DEF 12-5 SAUD-UK)