266. Editorial Note

During the late summer and early fall of 1967, disagreement arose among the oil producers when the Secretary General of OPEC proposed to move the organization’s scheduled September meeting from Vienna to Beirut. Saudi Arabia concurred in the proposal, but Venezuela objected on the grounds that “Beirut venue would tend to inject politics into what should be strictly non-political conference.” The Venezuelan Ambassador in Saudi Arabia told U.S. officials that “Venezuela has [Page 473] been subjected to considerable amount of Arab pressures re supporting Arab position in Israel and re participating in Arab embargo on oil shipments to US.” He stated that Venezuela had made it “very clear” that it would not embargo oil shipments to the United States and that its “association with Arab states in OPEC must continue to be on strictly non-political plane.” (Telegram 789 from Jidda, August 27; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1967–69, PET 3 OPEC)

At the OPEC summit, which was held in Rome, a split between Iraq and Libya on one side and Iran and Venezuela on the other became apparent. Telegram 1506 from Rome, September 20, reported that an Iranian Embassy source confirmed that “effort was made to get non-Arab members agreement to limit their output in future to assist Arabs at appropriate time in putting pressure on West European customers. Stated that Iran flatly rejected all such suggestions as did Venezuela.” Also, “In discreet manner, source implied that Iran had not and would not participate in politically motivated boycott actions and was pleased with the increase in offtake from Iran which situation since June had brought about.” (Ibid.) The Embassy in Jidda reported that the Venezuelan Ambassador in Saudi Arabia believed that the prime mover behind the OPEC summit was Saudi Oil Minister Yamani who tried to make it “appear united Arab effort.” The Venezuelan Ambassador described the “basic aim of Arab states as deriving sufficient extra revenue from companies to offset new subsidies to ‘victims of Israeli aggression.’” (Telegram 1324 from Jidda, October 31; ibid.)

In late October reports emerged in the press that Yamani was advocating the formation of an association of Arab oil exporting countries. While noting that they had not yet had the opportunity to meet with him, Embassy officials reported that “In recent months the concept that petroleum should become an instrument not only of economic policy but also of international political policy has gained strength, even though Arab efforts this summer to influence the United States and certain European countries through a partial embargo on oil proved generally ineffective.” (Airgram A–180 from Jidda, October 24; ibid., PET 3 ARAB)