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

6239. Subj: Faisal-Scranton Talk.2

After long meeting with Saqqaf earlier in day in Jidda, Governor Scranton had two hour private meeting with King Faisal in Riyadh evening December 7. Governor informed that Faisal generally reiterated his known views. Subjects covered as follows:
Communism in Area. Faisal went round Arabian Peninsula outlining Soviet and ChiCom strength various states. Yemen is under Soviet influence. So is PRSY whose leadership leftist. (At Governor’s request, Faisal agreed Saqqaf should prepare paper on PRSY for forwarding to Scranton.) Syria most leftist state in area. Iraq less influenced by Communists and situation there still salvageable, although King obviously dislikes leftist oriented Baath. In UAR communism also strong, but many Egyptians do not want it. Same applies to Algeria. Faisal expressed concern about Kuwait, which is now thinking of taking Soviet equipment. Despite ample funds, Kuwait not as stable as it ought to be. Spoke at some length about vulnerability of Trucial states to leftist subversion.
Saudi-Iran Relations. Faisal expressed his pleasure about recent meeting with Shah. Stated it his intention to cooperate fully with Shah to try to bring about a settlement of problems of Gulf.
Arab-Israel. Faisal repeated well known views. Israel is unique situation in history of mankind. Outsiders came in and expelled people already there. Faisal questioned whether it good that Israel exists in long run, at least not as a theological state. He could accept Jews in area if they did not seek impose theologic issue. He contended Israel is essentially a leftist, Communist state which is constant threat to area stability.
On what should be done to resolve problem, Faisal contended most important element is Israeli withdrawal to former boundary lines. On Sharm al-Shaikh, Sinai and Suez aspects, Faisal would go along with whatever UAR wants. Matter entirely up to Egyptians. Straits of Tiran should be open.3 Tiran and Senafir Islands should be returned to him.
Arab refugees should be granted right to return. Of 1948 refugees, Faisal thought less than 5 percent would want to go back. Displaced persons of 1967 hostilities should also be allowed back. Most of them will do so.
Faisal was his customary strong self on Jerusalem. It is Holy City of Muslims. Jews have no right be there. Unless Israelis withdraw from it, Muslims will declare holy war to recover it. He willing to die for it.
Arab Leaders. Faisal was dispassionate in his comments on Arab leaders. Hussein had at times in past been vacillating, but should be supported. He was not bitter about Nasser, but wished keep him at arm’s length.
Saudi-U.S. Relations. Faisal was clearly pleased with Mr. Nixon’s election. Toward end of conversation he grasped Governor’s hand and clutched it while expounding on U.S.-Saudi friendship, danger of Israel and Zionism and Communist threat to area.
Security. Faisal did not appear be concerned about security in Saudi Arabia. Felt he can control situation here, but was worried about what is happening around him. Large part of area already Communist-influenced and, unless Jordan is helped to recover from effects of June, 1967, hostilities, it too can fall.
Comment: Governor was struck by dispassionate nature Faisal’s presentation. Faisal looked tired, but obviously welcomed opportunity make his views known to new administration through Governor Scranton. Saudis are very pleased about Governor’s visit.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 US/SCRANTON. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to Tehran, Beirut, Cairo, Moscow, Kuwait, and London.
  2. Telegram 279191 to Jidda, November 28, transmitted a message from President-elect Nixon to King Faisal, stating that he was sending Governor William Scranton on a fact-finding tour of the Middle East and hoped that the King would be able to receive him and to give him a full and frank exposition of his views on the local situation and the region as a whole. (Ibid.)
  3. Documentation on Tiran and Senafir islands, which were occupied by Israel in June 1967, is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, volumes XIX and XX.