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

872. Deptel 558.2 US-SAG Military Relationship.


On May 3 I met with Saqqaf and delivered to him for advance study copy of President’s message to King.3 Saqqaf read it carefully and remarked it was “good letter.” I then delivered to him summary list of measures we had taken to be helpful to SAG, in particular MODA, which contained Deptel 558. Saqqaf looked it over, commented it was important. I then asked his advice whether I should detail this list orally to King when I saw him. Saqqaf suggested that instead I might wish inform King I had delivered it to Saqqaf.

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May 5 Meeting with King (Embtel 869).4

Upon delivery Presidential letter (signed original and Embassy translation) to Faysal in presence Saqqaf, I noted President had made general reference to US Govt desire be helpful to Saudi effort modernize its military forces. While I had delivered to Saqqaf comprehensive list of what we had done, I wished draw HM’s attention to certain specifics:

USG was now prepared to transfer to SAG without cost the F-86 aircraft currently on loan to SAG after completion overhaul and repairs at US expense. I would be discussing details of this with Saqqaf in near future. King seemed pleased, commented he was surprised to hear this since had understood these aircraft were to be taken out of Kingdom. I said this would be only for purpose repair, which could not be accomplished in Kingdom.
USG now ready sign military construction agreement, as US reply to Sultan’s requests for changes in draft text were now in hands Foreign Ministry or MODA itself.
Noted CHUSMTM had been informed by Sultan during meeting same day that MODA definitely wanted DOD evaluation team to weigh Lockheed and Northrop package offer re fighter aircraft and related ground equipment. Secretary McNamara had said in earlier letter to Sultan he was prepared send team and I would therefore notify Washington immediately that it was desired.
Noted MODA request made to General Adams (CINCSTRIKE) one year ago for survey military vehicle requirements. We had performed survey immediately and delivered final report to MODA followed by letter of offer December 1964.5 This was under study in MODA.
Noted we had presented Air Defense Survey Report in Riyadh January 1964.

I then commented that so far as I could determine US had answered all Prince Sultan’s requests. However, I stood ready to check into any matters King might feel were outstanding. King thanked me, saying “We appreciate all your efforts and will try to find the road to cooperation with you in all respects.” He had no specific questions but noted there were two considerations he wished mention. First, there was no use buying military equipment which Saudis could not operate. “We are lying to ourselves if we think we are ready to use certain equipment. We need help.” Secondly, Faysal noted prices for much of equipment were very high. While SAG was obliged to buy equipment, since it [Page 476]could not just look on when it was being attacked, he wanted expenditures to benefit his people and country as a whole. I assured him we were not interested in urging him to spend heavily on military equipment and that Secretary McNamara’s letter drew particular attention to costs. King responded Secretary McNamara had talked only about technical matters. “More important even than price is that we be able to make use of this equipment. McNamara did not touch on this, he turned it over to you, the politicians.” As Faysal was being purposely vague at this point, I felt it much the better course not to ask him to be more specific and turned to other matters separately reported.

Comment: I draw two interpretations from Faysal’s remarks, which were made in low key. First, he leans toward American equipment and backing, is not yet satisfied with UK or French relationship and hopes USG will assist, directly or indirectly, in operating his air defense equipment, particularly by facilitating or at least not impeding the hiring of pilots and technicians for supersonic aircraft and related ground equipment. Secondly, I believe Faysal has always been more conscious of price tag involved in developing modern military forces than has Sultan and that cumulation of military budgeting at this point has become rather staggering. Recent relaxation in Yemen threat, coupled with his own desire to avoid wasting money, makes him reluctant grant early approval for major air defense expenditures unless package is sound and represents “force in being.”


That DOD evaluation team be sent as soon as possible to Riyadh, giving earliest advance notice to CHUSMTM for clearance with Sultan.
That Lockheed be informed by Dept now that Lockheed team, which will soon be handling terms C-130 sale at Riyadh (Deptel 574)6 should stay away from discussion with MODA of terms of defense package fighter aircraft plus ground environment, and if approached by MODA staff on such matters it reply it understands DOD evaluation team at (or about to begin) work and while company stands ready study any Saudi requests discussion thereof would be best postponed until evaluation team has rendered report and latter fully studied by MODA; lastly that Lockheed team leave Saudi Arabia as soon as C-130 sale papers signed, to avoid or cut down overlapping presence at Riyadh with DOD evaluation team and thereby obviate basis legitimate complaint by Northrop.
That Northrop be informed of foregoing procedure and be asked to stay clear of Saudi Arabia until evaluation report rendered and studied.
That thereafter both companies await further indication from MODA or USG before again visiting Saudi Arabia on air defense packages.
That foregoing procedure be explained by me to Saqqaf for relay to Sultan, CHUSMTM following up and discussing details with MODA as required.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 19 US-SAUD. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Dhahran, London, CHUSMTM Dhahran, CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, and DEFREPNAMA Paris.
  2. Dated April 27. (Ibid.)
  3. Document 245.
  4. Dated May 6. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 15 YEMEN)
  5. Not found.
  6. Dated May 6. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 SAUD)