283. National Intelligence Estimate1
Washington, December 8, 1966.
THE ROLE OF SAUDI ARABIA
To estimate the outlook for Saudi Arabia during the next few years, particularly its role in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Contention with the UAR dominates Saudi Arabia’s foreign affairs. Yemen is currently the principal area of confrontation. Each will continue to support elements in Yemen opposed to the other, but both will be anxious to avoid a renewal of large-scale civil war or a military clash between themselves. Faisal looks to the US to protect him though he recognizes that the US commitment is only in case of unprovoked aggression. (Paras. 1-6)
- Faisal believes that the UAR is determined to dominate Aden and South Arabia when the British leave in 1968; thus Faisal will continue to help anti-Nasser elements in that area. Faisal also fears that Nasser is aiming to replace UK influence with his own in the Persian Gulf. When the UK leaves, Faisal may try to take over its role as protecting power of Qatar and the Trucial Sheikhdoms, and might even try to annex them if that seemed to be the only way to forestall Nasser’s aims. (Paras. 7-11)
- The prospects are poor for real accommodation between Faisal and Nasser. Each will continue to work against the other, not only on the Arabian Peninsula but in the Arab and Muslim world generally. Though a meeting or pact between Islamic leaders is unlikely, Faisal will continue to promote the idea of Islamic solidarity as a means of countering Nasser’s influence. Faisal will recurrently seek support from the US and the West. Nasser will look to the Soviets for help and, in addition, will both blame the US for encouraging Faisal and urge that the US curb him. (Paras. 12-17)
- Faisal’s domestic position is strong. He has the support of the nation’s principal political forces and of the military. Mounting oil revenues will bring continued prosperity and economic advance. The [Page 541] latter will be inhibited, however, by the shortage of skilled and educated Saudis. As more sectors of society are modernized, discontent with traditional Saudi rule will increase, but this is not likely to become a significant factor in the nation’s political life for some time. (Paras. 18-30)
[Here follows the Discussion section of the estimate.]
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NIEs, NIE 36.6, Saudi Arabia. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet, the estimate was submitted by Helms, and concurred in by the U.S. Intelligence Board on December 8. Paragraph references are to the Discussion portion of the estimate, not here printed.↩