100. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • British Foreign Office Officials: Messrs. Crawford, Brimelow, Parsons, Munson
  • Mr. William J. Galloway, American Embassy London
  • Dr. Kissinger
  • Mr. Sonnenfeldt
  • Mr. Lord

[Omitted here is material on the Middle East not related to the Persian Gulf.]

Persian Gulf

Mr. Parsons recalled that the British were withdrawing their presence by the end of the year, and ending their protectorates, while trying to leave a tidy stable by getting a federation of nine states. Dr. Kissinger believed this would not work, and Mr. Parsons agreed that a nine-power federation was a nonstarter. Bahrein and Qatar were not cooperating, and the British believed they would go off on their own. This left them free to concentrate on the federation of seven states on the Trucial Coast. The Kuwaitis agreed but were stymied because of Faisal who for obscure reasons insists on a federation of nine. In response to Dr. Kissinger’s question of why he took this position, Mr. Parsons said that it was partly a hardening of the mental arteries, partly because he didn’t want to see Abu Dhabi predominant, partly his experience with Aden, and partly his suspicion of the British and his approach that anything they want he doesn’t like.

Dr. Kissinger asked whether he preferred to have seven emirates since nine was out. Mr. Parsons said this was a sticking point. Bahrein and Qatar didn’t want to alienate Faisal and go off on their own and this prevents the British from getting a federation of seven.

[Page 323]

Dr. Kissinger said there were two possibilities: either they would not go off on their own and there would be a nine-power federation, or they would go off and there would be a seven-power federation. Mr. Parsons said a third possibility was that nothing would happen, and Dr. Kissinger commented that this meant nine separate entities. Mr. Parsons said this was much more likely and Dr. Kissinger asked whether Faisal really preferred this. Mr. Parsons said it was hard to figure him out; he would like to see all options open. Dr. Kissinger wondered whether he preferred nine independent states to seven federated ones. Mr. Parsons commented this sounded ridiculous on the surface. The British couldn’t get past his blank insistence on a federation of nine and his own advisers didn’t know his reasoning. Time was running out with only six months left and a lot to do.

Dr. Kissinger asked whether a union of seven would be a single state or would they all be run independently. Mr. Parsons thought that a federation was viable, since there was a considerable infrastructure already. In response to Dr. Kissinger’s question, Mr. Parsons thought that the likely capital was Dubai or Abu Dhabi. He described some of the existing infrastructure and believed that a federation of seven was a practical possibility. Mr. Crawford remarked that it would look like a federation but with tribal autonomy. The federation would have certain governmental authorities such as security and foreign affairs.

Mr. Parsons said that anything that “our friends” could do to influence the situation would be profoundly appreciated.

Dr. Kissinger noted that Faisal was not too responsive to our leadership. He asked whether the US should try to move him toward a federation of seven. Mr. Parsons said that the US should use tactful leverage without appearing to gang up on him and make him more obstinate. Dr. Kissinger said that the US knew the problem and that its preference was the same as the British. He didn’t know what we had done.

Mr. Galloway said that we had been waiting upon the British and that our degree of influence was not great. Dr. Kissinger commented that we would talk to Faisal. He had the impression that we had not done anything and were waiting on the British. We preferred a federation of nine to one of seven, with the least favorable solution being nine independent states. There might be a low key way to talk to him. Dr. Kissinger said he would talk to Sisco about it. Mr. Parsons thanked him.

Mr. Parsons said that the other problem was the Shah and the two islands. If they solve the problem of Faisal and get a federation of seven they then face the problem of a Shah who opposed any federation as long as the two islands problem was unresolved. Dr. Kissinger commented that everyone agrees that the Shah could be on the islands and the question was one of technical sovereignty. Mr. Parsons said [Page 324]this was broadly correct; Iraq and Southern Yemen were opposed but this did not matter too much. If a couple of policemen were left and there was no talk of sovereignty, and the Shah had his garrison, he believed all parties could be brought to accept this arrangement.

The Shah had made some violent anti-British statements recently. It would be difficult to get any settlement which would not completely sell out sacred Arab soil and cause an uproar. He believed the Shah underestimated the Arab reaction to a Persian takeover. The British doubted his view and thought the wolf pack would howl. The alternative was to do nothing and let him take over when the British had gone. The trouble with that was that it would not help with the federation problem— so long as there was no settlement the Shah would oppose federation.

Dr. Kissinger asked whether he could thwart a federation. Mr. Parsons was not sure he could stymie six of the entities, but Dubai, one of the two big ones, was under the Shah’s thumb. The other six maybe could go ahead. Perhaps one could go for a federation of six with the hope of Dubai jumping on. Mr. Crawford believed that Dubai would like to do this if they could convince the Shah to keep quiet on the question of formality.

Dr. Kissinger said he was not sure of the US position and asked Mr. Galloway to comment. He said we had impressed on the Shah that the British were doing their utmost to help him. Dr. Kissinger had said that the US had not taken a position on the question of sovereignty versus garrisons. He asked whether trouble was likely to break out this spring, and Mr. Parsons said that January 1 was the key date. Mr. Parsons said that if the Shah were more reasonable on the sovereignty question, this could tide us over. Dr. Kissinger said that his impression in the talks with the Shah last year was that he wanted hegemony over the seven Gulf states. We were not sure he was for a viable federation. Mr. Parsons said that the British always had that suspicion because of some remarks he had dropped. It would be hard to get an acceptable hegemony [ federation] if he causes an Arab-Iranian split over the two islands. Dr. Kissinger remarked that this was true unless he used the islands to prevent a federation and then picked off the states one by one. Mr. Parsons said that was a very sobering thought. Dr. Kissinger remarked that the Shah was extremely intelligent.

Dr. Kissinger said that he would look into both these matters when he got back. On the first one (Faisal) perhaps we could do something in a low key way; on the second one, he would have to assess the Shah’s motive. He said that the US basically agreed with the British position to try to get the largest possible federation, nine, then seven, then six. In response to his query, Mr. Parsons said that there was nothing realistic below six, i.e., the five tiny states plus one of the big ones.

[Omitted here is material on the Bahamas and East-West relations.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 62, Country Files, Europe, UK MemCons (originals). Secret. The meeting was held in the Foreign Office.