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

458. King’s Interest in Visit to US.

In interview with Kermit Roosevelt December 16, King Faysal talked of his interest in visiting US. King said he had thought of possibility of going in spring of 1965 but now felt there were so many pressing matters which would over next few months require him remain Saudi Arabia that he would not be able to go until later. Faysal mentioned also that he had already received several invitations travel to other friendly states and that he had to take into consideration in order in which he made official visits abroad.

It apparent to Roosevelt, however, from King’s remarks that he deeply interested in early trip to US and that he desires very much develop warm personal understanding and sense reassurance from contact with President Johnson of kind to which Faysal attached so much importance result his meeting with President Kennedy in Oct. 1962.

In talk later with Faysal’s son, Prince Mohamed, and Mohamed’s brother-in-law, Omar Azam (who is very much member of family’s inner circle), Roosevelt found both affirming Faysal’s desire to visit US, although neither seemed to have any idea as how King hoped visit could be arranged (informal, official, or state).

Embassy officer who good friend of Abdulla Thanayyan, young sportsman and pilot who is close to Mohamed Faysal and other members of Royal family, has received broad hints of Faysal’s interest in travel to US. Few days ago Thanayyan said he understood Faysal believes he could not, in view his elevation to kingship appropriately travel US again unless officially invited. Apparently topic has been considerably discussed in Royal family recently. Dhahran’s 1562 is evidence of this also.

Faysal’s dwelling on possibility of visit to US indicates his continued preoccupation with US-Saudi relations, his sense of dependence on US and his desire strengthen ties on which he places great reliance. Official or state visit would seem logical and mutually beneficial endeavor from several viewpoints: [Page 457]

1.
Faysal as monarch will be undertaking state visits to various countries using this traditional means reinforce relationships important to success his policies. Appropriate that strength of US-Saudi link should be particularly emphasized by early visit to US.
2.
Visit would seem fit well into pattern our present policies toward Near East as whole. Faysal seems uncontroversial figure among US public and has received generally favorable US press. While regarded by radical Arab elements as symbol of “outworn” regimes, yet Faysal presents in reality image of modern Saudi desire for progress and reform as new leader sharply contrasting in outlook and reputation to King Saud. His presence in US would reflect our clear intention encourage sincere endeavors of a tradition-rooted regime meet in orderly, evolutionary fashion inevitable challenges of modern Western civilization.
3.
As continuing demonstration US interest and friendship for Arab world, Dept may be considering invitations to one or two Arab leaders for visits in 1965. Since Faysal has never before been official US guest, he would seem highly eligible candidate.
4.
Lastly and most fundamentally, USG invitation to Faysal would be worth more than almost any other gesture we could make in terms strengthening US-Saudi relations, establishing favorable atmosphere in which we could move ahead with variety of measures we would like see implemented strengthen prospects of secure and stable future for Faysal regime.

In suggesting Faysal visit to US we are, of course, fully aware many complex policy and programming problems which must be resolved permit it to take place. With, no doubt, many other official visits by heads state and government under consideration question timing may be specially difficult one. Barring any sharp deterioration situation here or in Near East generally, believe Faysal would be inclined go at almost any time convenient for President despite his remarks to Roosevelt. However Faysal would find it difficult be away for period of annual Muslim Haj (pilgrimage) extending this year from about six weeks before to one month after April 12 when Saudi monarch traditionally receives visitors coming for pilgrimage and performs key role in holy rites. Hopefully by end of Haj, Yemen situation, for whose resolution his presence here indispensable, would be nearer solution.

Hope foregoing can be reviewed with Ambassador Hart before his return Jidda.

Thacher
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 15-1 SAUD. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to Dhahran. No time of transmission appears on the telegram.
  2. Not found.