127. Telegram From the Consulate General in Dhahran to the Department of State1

112. Following is from Ambassador in Riyadh. Subject: King Faisal’s Views on Various Middle East Problems.

Summary: In lengthy audience with King Faisal Feb 3, he reiterated his concerns about growing Communist influence in ME and about Zionist territorial ambitions. He hoped new administration will devise more “balanced policy” toward Arab-Israel conflict. Suggested first step in peace settlement ought be ascertaining Israel’s territorial intentions. If these reasonable and compensation offered, he thought Jordan could agree. Remained adamant however that Israelis must leave old Jerusalem. Re Yemen he noted SAG is urging both Royalists and Republicans to work out compromise and thought situation there might become clearer in two or three months. He still waiting for indication Shah’s intentions re Bahrain and continues favor nine-member FAA to include Bahrain.

On evening Feb 3 I had three-hour audience with King Faisal during which we reviewed various Middle East problems. Rashad Pharaon also present. Summary of Faisal’s observations follows:
Communist influence in Middle East. At outset Faisal launched into his customary expression of concern about growing Communist influence in Middle East, Israel and what he described as “anti-Arab policy” of previous administration largely responsible for boosting Soviet influence. Already UAR, Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and South Yemen are Communist or Communist-oriented states. Jordan is exposed to Communist threat and, unless USG and SAG continue support Hussein, it too may fall. Only Saudi Arabia is left as island of moderation in what has now become leftist sea. SAG is receiving constant criticism from other Arab states for its pro-US policies. He hoped new administration will seek to stem tide of leftist influence by adopting policies which strengthen few Arab moderates who remain.
I assured Faisal that new administration is fully aware of importance moderate Arab friends such as he.2 I cautioned, however, that problem of combatting Communism Middle East area is a difficult one. Much depends on peoples themselves. As I had several times previously discussed with him, moderate Arab govts can help themselves by accelerating political, economic and social reform. Faisal contended latter concept only partially true. Communist tactic is to exploit liberal movements and ultimately take them over. Saudi people, for example, are not yet ready for greater voice in political processes. Faisal recalled ruefully that in 1957 he had had three-hour talk with late Secretary Dulles in which he had argued against what he claimed was contemporary USG “plan” to topple Syrian Govt. He now saw that he had been wrong. He felt sure that even now USG has “ways” of combatting Communist regimes in area.3
Zionism. As is his wont, Faisal’s discourse quickly spilled over from Communism into Zionism. He sees Zionism as another part of Communist conspiracy. Introduction of Zionism into Middle East and its territorial ambitions have been chief causes of area instability. Zionists disclaim territorial expansion design, but Protocols of Zion4 demonstrate otherwise. USG should be alive to Zionist threat and danger it poses to American interests in Middle East.

I told him my understanding Protocols of Zion is a spurious document. He insisted on its validity. When I twitted him on being able to buy Arabic, English and French editions of that book otherwise bare Jidda book market, he engagingly admitted that SAG has had copies printed. He stated very frankly that SAG is doing this to make “Zionist threat” more widely known.

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Arab-Israel. Adverting to substance of USG reply to Soviet note, which I had earlier conveyed to King through Saudi FonOff, I took opportunity explain that there had apparently been some misunderstanding about our reply.5 It was part of continuing exchange with Soviets and not intended as comprehensive policy statement. He wanted to know if new administration had endorsed it as UAR specifically claimed. He recalled UAR had told Saudis and other Arabs that US representative, when giving text to UAR, stated it had new administration’s endorsement. I told him that this was not so and invited his attention to subsequent UAR press efforts back away from their earlier charge. He did not pursue point, but expressed fervent hope that President Nixon will take new look at Arab-Israel problem and devise policy based on “right and justice”.

I asked him what he thought ought to be done to break present Arab-Israel impasse. He responded could not speak for Arab states directly involved and SAG is only interested by-stander. In his view, however, first step should be to obtain a clear indication of Israel’s territorial intentions. Unlike on previous occasions, he did not this time speak of June 5 armistice lines, but referred to “secure and recognized boundaries.” Arab states, who had been “treacherously attacked” by Israel and defeated, could not be expected to state what such boundaries should be. They, and indeed all Arab states, are fearful that Israel harbors territorial ambitions at their expense. Israelis must be induced lay their cards on the table and indicate what they want. If their territorial demands are reasonable and compensation is offered, he thought Jordan would be willing and able work out something. SAG will accept anything which parties directly involved agree upon.
Faisal made it clear however, that Jerusalem is single exception to his willingness accept such rectification of boundaries. He insisted that Israelis must get out of Jerusalem. Failing this, SAG will not accept any peace settlement and will seek to rally Arabs and Muslims against it.
I noted that UAR intentions are also unclear. It equally necessary, therefore, for UAR to stipulate what it means by a state of peace. Faisal answered that he assumes this should mean freedom of navigation in Suez Canal and through Straits of Tiran. When I asked if UAR had specifically stated this to him, he said it had not. SAG and UAR have not discussed this matter. Faisal noted that refugee problem will also have to be tackled, but would not be drawn out as to how he thought this should be done.
Faisal expressed his deep distrust of Soviet proposal,6 which UAR had also given to SAG, but spoke approvingly of French Four-Power conference idea.7 In response my point that outsiders cannot impose peace on area, Faisal agreed this could not be done militarily. He thought, however, that Four-Powers should sit down and decide what they mean by UNSC Resolution of Nov. 19678 since neither Arabs nor Israelis are likely be able to do so. He saw nothing wrong with Four-Powers developing a general blueprint for peace settlement, with possible alternatives, which might then be used by Jarring9 to pursue his efforts. Thus far, he opined, despite all USG’s past claims of some progress in Jarring mission, he could see none. He was fearful that unless some new guidelines are soon given to Jarring, his mission will get nowhere. If area states do not accept Four-Power ideas on a peaceful settlement, and here he did not specify any particular state, he thought Four Powers could exert pressure by means of sanctions or in other unspecified ways. Essential element, he stressed, is to get real peace efforts underway soon. Time is on no one’s side. He applauded Pres Nixon’s inaugural comments on the quest for peace10 and hoped Middle East will be given high priority. I assured him that, along with Vietnam, ME is receiving high priority in new administration’s planning. I invited his attention to President’s January 27 press conference comments,11 which he recalled reading. I hoped before long to be able to tell him a bit more about how new administration’s thinking is evolving. I said was sure new administration would welcome his wise consel as long-term and proven friend of US.
Yemen. I noted apparent strengthening of YAR as Royalist position seems to be deteriorating, and asked for his views on how he believes Yemen situation will unfold. He responded that, while there are indeed differences in Royalist ranks, he does not consider Royalist position so weak that they should be written off. He recalled SAG has stopped all aid to Yemeni Royalists. In response persistent Royalist appeals, SAG continues to urge that they find some way to work out peaceful coalition settlement with Republicans. He stated that “both sides have been in touch with us,” but gave no details. SAG had replied to both that they should work out settlement which should be neither a monarchy nor a republic. He again mentioned “State of Yemen” concept. If Republicans and Royalists can agree on form and content of such coalition govt, SAG will “bless” it.
Faisal thought that it is still premature to believe that some coalition settlement is not possible. He opined in two or three months situation should be somewhat clearer. He thought we all ought to wait for this period before making any new judgments on Yemeni situation.
Iran and Gulf. In answer to my query Faisal said there have been no new developments in Saudi-Iranian relations. He noted ratifications have recently been exchanged for median line agreement and that Saqqaf hopes shortly (no date mentioned) to visit Tehran for first of periodic reviews which were decided upon during Shah–Faisal meeting. He also referred to Shah’s New Delhi statement re Bahrain.12 Perhaps when Saqqaf visits Tehran, Iranian thinking on Bahrain issue may have evolved somewhat more and Shah will have found an honorable way out of his dilemma. Faisal again emphasized, however, that SAG considers Bahrain as an independent Arab state.
On lower Gulf islands, Faisal disclaimed any talks with Iranians. He noted these islands belong to individual lower Gulf principalities or to FAA, if it becomes effective, and that SAG is simply not in a position to give other people’s territory away.
He thought movement toward a more effective FAA, while slow, continues. Although FAA concept is receiving “needles” from British, Iranians, and some of lower Gulf rulers themselves, sooner or later all will realize need for unity in order to protect themselves from subversion. In his view any federation without Bahrain will not succeed. FAA should be nine-member grouping to include Bahrain.
Faisal suggested that the USG should develop “assets” in lower Gulf principalities. I noted our Consul General in Dhahran has informal jurisdiction over lower Gulf area and frequently visits there. [Page 404] Faisal thought this was very good, but urged that we develop widest possible body of contacts in these states.
Comment: Various non-political matters discussed are being reported separately.13 Meeting was relaxed and cordial. Faisal looked tired, but was certainly mentally alert. His theme throughout was hope that new administration will show more concern for Arab sensibilities.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. I. Secret; Exdis. It was repeated to Jidda.
  2. In a February 24 letter to Faisal, Nixon stated his desire to maintain cordial ties, his intent to make the Arab-Israeli dispute “a first order of business,” his support for UN Security Council Resolution 242, and U.S. “support for the integrity” of Saudi Arabia. (Telegram 28507 to Jidda, February 24; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL SAUD–US) Faisal’s response is in telegram 896 from Jidda, March 17. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. I)
  3. A copy of the September 23, 1957, memorandum of conversation among Faisal, President Eisenhower, and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, is attached to a February 11 letter from Eilts to Brewer. During the meeting, Eisenhower stated that the United States was deeply concerned over developments in the Middle East, particularly Syria, and was “anxious for the countries in the area to develop in accord with their desires.” Faisal responded that he was “hopeful that everything in the end would be worked out ‘in a good manner.’” Both stated their concerns over any potential Soviet presence in the region. (Ibid., RG 59, NEA/ARP Files, Entry 5633, Box 4, Saudi Arabia Correspondence with Post 1969)
  4. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery written by the Okhrana (secret police) in late 19th century Tsarist Russia, claimed that a secret Jewish cabal was plotting to take over the world. The Protocols have remained in circulation since 1905.
  5. Telegram 267 to Jidda, January 23. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. I)
  6. The Soviet proposals, given to France, Britain, and the United States on December 30, 1968, included a time schedule for Israeli troop withdrawals in two stages, free navigation through the Straits of Tiran, and a Security Council decision on guarantees for Arab-Israeli borders. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, Document 374.
  7. On January 17, the French proposed that the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union meet with the UN Secretary General to determine how best to contribute to a just and durable peace in the Middle East. The United States agreed in principle with this approach on February 5. Documentation on this is scheduled for publication ibid., 1969–1976, volume XXIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1969–1972.
  8. Reference to UN Security Council Resolution 242.
  9. See footnote 9, Document 3.
  10. For the text of President Nixon’s inaugural address, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 1–4.
  11. Nixon commented that the Middle East situation required new initiatives and new leadership; that the Middle East was a powder keg that needed to be diffused; and that any potential future conflict had to be avoided since it might involve a confrontation between the nuclear powers. He also said that although the United States would devote a significant amount of effort, ultimately, the problem had to be settled by the parties in the area. See ibid., pp. 15–23.
  12. See footnote 2, Document 72.
  13. Not further identified.