94. National Intelligence Estimate1
THE PERSIAN GULF STATES
To estimate probable developments and trends over the next several years in the Persian Gulf.
Though our basic concern in this estimate is with the prospects for Kuwait and the British-protected states—Bahrain, Qatar, the Trucial States2 and Muscat/Oman—we will also consider the ambitions and capabilities of the larger states bordering the Gulf—Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia—to control or influence developments, as well as the role of countries outside the area, particularly the UAR and the USSR. In addition, we will examine the likelihood of a British withdrawal and its consequences for the Gulf.[Page 207]
- Massive oil revenues and the accompanying influx of people and ideas are bringing change and ferment to the Gulf. At the same time, the UK, as part of its retrenchment from east-of-Suez commitments, is reassessing its role there. It seems likely that it will be at least three to five years before the UK abandons its special military and political position in the Gulf. But increased trouble in the Gulf or economic problems at home might hasten British departure.
- The UAR is the most influential of the regional forces working against the British position and other Western interests. Nasser enjoys some support in the area among reformist and dissident elements, and Cairo Radio has a wide audience. Nasser will continue to aid local forces of discontent, though this will not be as easy as in South Arabia. Nasser will receive little support from other radical Arab states. The USSR, while supporting Nasser and generally encouraging movements directed against Western interests, will be wary of direct or open involvement in Gulf maneuvering.
- Nasser will be strongly opposed by both King Faisal and the Shah, and less openly by the Kuwaitis. They all fear that UAR influence in the Gulf would be a threat not only to their interests but also to the stability of their own governments.
- So long as the British remain, we would expect general political stability in the Gulf. Kuwait is likely to preserve its security and independence by a policy of neutrality in Arab affairs and of financial handouts to potentially predatory Arab states. Qatar and some of the Trucial States that enjoy large oil revenues may successfully follow Kuwait’s example after the British leave; the others will probably look to Saudi Arabia for protection.
- In Bahrain, the situation is more volatile, and instability and occasional violence are likely. Terrorism is likely to mark at least the final stages of a British withdrawal, and some form of radical regime will probably emerge in Bahrain after the British depart.
- The oil-producing states in the Gulf will continue to press the Western oil companies for a greater share of the profits, and recurrent crises in country-company relations are probable. Although these efforts will reduce the share of profits to the companies, they will not materially affect the flow of oil to the West.
- A British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf would provide the USSR with some opportunities to expand its influence there. However, the USSR’s course would be complicated, requiring a careful balancing of regional forces. On the whole, we do not think it likely that the Soviets will make dramatic advances.
- The US will be urged to take over some of the British responsibilities in the Gulf. If it did so, it would become the principal target of Arab revolutionary propaganda and subversion and would become involved in a variety of dynastic rivalries and troublesome political disputes.
[Here follow the Discussion section and an annex.]
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency: Job 79-R01012A, ODDI Registry of NIE and SNIE Files. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet, the estimate was submitted by Director of Central Intelligence Helms, and concurred in by the U.S. Intelligence Board on May 18.↩
- The seven Trucial States are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Qaiwain, Ras al Khaimah, and Fujairah. [Footnote in the source text.]↩