Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XXIV, Middle East Region and Arabian Peninsula, 1969–1972; Jordan, September 1970
133. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Interdepartmental Group for Near East and South Asia (Sisco) to the Chairman of the Review Group (Kissinger)1
- Country Policy Statement on Saudi Arabia
The NSC Interdepartmental Group for the Near East and South Asia has approved the attached Country Policy Statement on Saudi Arabia. This paper is one in a series intended to provide a fresh look at our interests and objectives in various NEA countries and to review the adequacy of our policies. As in the case of the earlier papers, subject to any comment you may have, we propose to issue the attached [Page 418] paper for the guidance of all concerned with United States policy and programs in Saudi Arabia.
The preparation of this paper has had the benefit of the detailed suggestions of our Embassy in Jidda. Representatives from the following agencies participated in the NSCIG/NEA consideration and approval of the paper: State, Agriculture, AID, CIA, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Ex-Im Bank, Labor, NSC, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Treasury, and USIA.
[Omitted here is a Table of Contents.]
COUNTRY POLICY STATEMENT—SAUDI ARABIA
A. Balance Sheet
Saudi Arabia continues to make a uniquely valuable contribution to important United States interests. The U.S. balance of payments receives a direct transfusion from Saudi Arabia of well over one-half billion dollars per year from American oil company earnings, exports to Saudi Arabia, and profits from a variety of military and civilian contracts with American firms. Some $150 million in Saudi funds are in medium and long-term American investments. The U.S. enjoys military over-flight and landing privileges currently averaging at least 520 clearances annually. U.S. Naval vessels have access to Saudi Arabian ports and bunkering facilities. Saudi oil continues to be available on reasonable commercial terms to our Western European and Oriental allies. U.S. forces in Southeast Asia obtain approximately 85% of their refined petroleum requirements from Saudi Arabia and the adjacent island of Bahrain. Those Saudi funds which go to prop up Jordan and to exert at least some limited leverage on the UAR are expended in consonance with our own interest as well—at no cost to ourselves.
In return, the Saudis have looked to the U.S. for support against outside aggression. Five successive U.S. Presidents have reaffirmed support for Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity and security against unprovoked external aggression. During the period of the Saudi–UAR confrontation in 1963, a squadron of U.S. fighters was temporarily stationed in Saudi Arabia to deter Egyptian attacks.2 President Nixon expressed [Page 419] renewed support for Saudi Arabia’s integrity in his February 24, 1969 letter to Faisal.3 In terms of dollars-and-cents value to the U.S., the total U.S. Government expenditure of about $2.5 million annually for our Embassy, Consulate General, USIS, Military Training Mission, and other activities seems modest indeed.
- Saudi foreign policy reflects King Faisal’s desire to follow an independent but strongly anti-communist course in world affairs. Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic relations with any Communist state and known Communists are excluded from the Kingdom. Faisal deeply distrusts Arab radical nationalists, and particularly UAR President Nasser whom he has in the past characterized as a Communist “tool.” He has strongly resisted Nasser’s efforts to extend Egyptian influence into the Arabian Peninsula. Faisal is, however, determined to defend general Arab interests, particularly in Palestine, and shares the Arabs’ enmity toward Israel. As “Keeper of the Islamic Holy Places,” Faisal insists with considerable emotion that East Jerusalem must be restored to Arab control.4 Saudi Arabian policy seeks to maintain good relations with other oil producing and oil-purchasing states and to enhance Faisal’s own role as an Arab and an Islamic leader.
- Barring a new, major Arab-Israel conflict, no radical reorientation of Saudi foreign policy is likely during the lifetime of King Faisal. U.S.-Saudi relations have been uniformly close for more than a generation. The main ingredients of this relationship are mutuality of basic interest— in the uninterrupted flow of oil and of oil income and in the preservation of Saudi Arabia from Communist and Arab radical influences— and Saudi respect for American power and for American advice and expertise in myriad modern technical fields. U.S.-Saudi relations are expected to remain good for the five-year time-frame of this paper, provided always that our support of Israel does not go to such lengths as to convince the Saudis that they must break with the U.S. in order to protect themselves within the Arab community.
- The Palestine question is the chief area of misunderstanding which could seriously damage U.S.-Saudi relations. The Saudis see U.S. policies in the area as overwhelmingly pro-Israeli at the expense of other U.S. interests in the Arab countries. King Faisal feels deeply about this issue and also knows he is under pressure from his own people as well as from other Arabs to demonstrate that he is not an American “lackey.” He is disturbed by his inability to influence U.S. policy on the Arab-Israeli [Page 420] issue. The frustration and resentment this predicament causes among Saudis could result in a serious deterioration of U.S.-Saudi relations. For their part, the Saudis are sympathetic to the aims of the fedayeen and have officially sanctioned salary withholdings and other voluntary financial contributions which eventually reach fedayeen coffers. USG warnings that the fedayeen undermine the search for a peaceful settlement and constitute an internal threat to moderate regimes in Jordan and Lebanon have been unavailing in the face of Saudi emotionalism on this issue. The May 30 sabotage of Tapline by commandos of the ANM-affiliated Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine cost the fedayeen some sympathy in Saudi Arabia. However, the Saudi Government has reaffirmed its support for Fatah which Faisal continues to consider politically reliable. Flowing from this primary problem— Palestine—is the King’s belief that the U.S. seriously underestimates, or is indifferent to, the danger of Communist encroachment into the Middle East, either directly or through the growing Soviet presence in some Arab radicals, whom Faisal uniformly regards as “Communists.” The King believes U.S. policies toward Israel encourage the Arabs to look increasingly to Moscow for support while undermining the standing of moderate Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The Saudis are also concerned regarding future developments in the Persian Gulf where they would like the USG to play a more positive and helpful role. We do not agree with the Saudis’ view that the danger to Saudi Arabia is solely external in nature but have had little success thus far in encouraging Faisal to carry out political and social changes that might undercut the appeal of leftist revolutionaries within the Kingdom. We have also given the Saudis no reason to believe that we will attempt to solve their problems with Israel or Iran for them but have instead encouraged them to work for peaceful settlements of outstanding issues in cooperation with other regional states.
- Consequently, there are signs of an erosion in our position in Saudi Arabia over the past two years. Our preoccupation with Vietnam, our failure to support the Saudis as vigorously as they believed was warranted during the Saudi-UAR confrontation over Yemen, our temporary suspension of arms shipments to Saudi Arabia at the time of the June 1967 conflict, what is seen as our partisanship for Israel, and our inability to persuade the Israelis to evacuate their troops from the Saudi island of Tiran (occupied during the 1967 hostilities) have all combined to call into question the credibility of our assurances of support for Saudi Arabia. Now aging, King Faisal is in an increasingly bitter mood and may reluctantly conclude that he must turn more and more to other sources than the U.S. for assistance. The Saudis are already seeking to reduce their dependence on the U.S. for arms and military expertise. Over the long term, this could mean less Saudi receptivity to U.S. advice as well as a less favorable climate for American business in Saudi Arabia.
- The Saudi economy, supported by expanding petroleum production, has enjoyed rapid and relatively stable growth during King Faisal’s reign. Thus far the rapid growth of the economy, from which most individuals have benefitted, has served to minimize existing problems. The Saudi GNP is increasing at roughly 10% per year. There has been great emphasis on developing a sound infrastructure for economic development through improving highways, air, and sea communications; upgrading of educational standards, including schooling for girls; and expansion of radio and television networks which are now the greatest forces for social change in the Kingdom. With the country’s large income from petroleum, the shortage of manpower more than any scarcity of cash is likely to be the main factor in delaying more rapid economic development. However, in the past year, growing military expenditures and subsidies to Jordan and the UAR have curtailed some desirable civil projects. It should also be noted that thus far Saudi Arabia has had only minimal success in diversifying the economy and reducing its dependence on petroleum.
- The pace of social and political reform, however, has been slow. Continued conservative internal pressures, the King’s focus in recent years on foreign policy matters, and the regime’s attempts to insulate itself from radical Arab influences have discouraged efforts to modernize the Saudi political and social structure. In the long run, Saudi economic and technical progress may well boomerang if political and social liberalization fail to keep pace with the aspirations of an increasingly sophisticated citizenry.
- The American role in the Saudi economy is large and profitable. Almost one half the direct profits from Saudi oil go to the U.S. and virtually all of the oil continues to flow to the free world. A recent barter deal with Romania, the first flaw in the otherwise Western aspect of Saudi oil operations, was temporarily suspended at Faisal’s order. No basic problems are pending between the Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco) and the Government. However, Saudi Government determination to strengthen the position and future role of Petromin, the state oil enterprise, and mounting Saudi pressures on Aramco to maintain an acceptable level of offtake loom as possible sources of friction in the future. The issue of Saudi Government “participation” in Aramco’s concession and its owners’ down-stream operations, raised in general terms by the Minister of Petroleum in 1968, will not go away but is unlikely to be pushed in the near future. U.S. Government agencies and private enterprise continue to play a major role in economic development activities, including the television network, the mobility program for the Saudi armed forces, mineral resources exploration, and desalination. However, the Saudis are actively seeking alternative [Page 422] sources of expertise and American firms face growing competition from Japanese and European companies, both for petroleum concessions and for lucrative development project contracts.
- For the near future, the Aramco labor scene will probably remain under control and the company’s mechanism for handling employee grievances will continue to be reasonably effective. Labor unions or other workers’ societies continue to be banned in Saudi Arabia. Yet a great deal remains unknown about the dynamics of the Aramco labor force, which because of its relative sophistication and its concentration in the Eastern Province has the potential for serious harmful action against the company and the regime.
- There is no immediate serious external threat to Saudi Arabia. Saudi security was enhanced, in the short run, by the Six Day War. This provided the opportunity for Nasser to liquidate the Yemen adventure while Faisal agreed to pay the UAR a quarterly subsidy of $25 million “until the effects of the aggression have been liquidated”. This arrangement, plus the mutual need to maintain Arab solidarity vis-à-vis Israel has resulted in a UAR/SAG détente. Although Royalist-Republican contacts are in abeyance, the moderate Republican leadership’s desire for improved relations with Faisal should further lessen the danger to Saudi Arabia from the Yemeni civil conflict. There is tension between the Saudi Government and the leftist-oriented regime in Southern Yemen but the latter is hardly likely to be capable over the near future of supporting activities which would seriously threaten Saudi security. The Saudis are even more concerned by what they regard as Israel’s expansionist designs, citing Israel’s refusal to evacuate Tiran Island as proof of Israeli aggressive intentions. While Saudi Arabia was not actively engaged in the June 1967 war, a Saudi Army reinforced brigade has since been stationed in southern Jordan where it might well clash with Israeli forces in the event of new Arab-Israeli hostilities. The Saudis have no confidence that the U.S. would come to their support in the event of an Israeli attack on Saudi Arabia. This assessment is reflected in the Saudi Government’s continuing build-up of its own military forces and in its efforts to diversify its sources of military equipment and expertise. However, the Saudis do continue to value USG military sales to help provide reassurance against any renewed Egyptian threat. Moreover, the Saudis are increasingly uneasy over what they regard as an activist Iranian policy bent on assuring Tehran’s dominance in the Gulf after the British go.
- Over the longer range, however, the Saudi Government will still value the U.S. Government’s assurances of support. The Saudi regime sees a looming external threat from the Soviet Union, assisted by Arab radical [Page 423] regimes dependent upon the Soviets for military, economic, and diplomatic support. Saudi relations with the more radical Arab states—Iraq, UAR, Syria, YAR and PRSY—remain cool to poor and the Saudi regime continues to be on its guard against subversion from these quarters. The Saudis are also concerned over the implications of the British withdrawal from the Gulf in 1971. Saudi Arabia has historically cultivated a great power protector. King Faisal still sees the USG in this role but would like us to do more to support conservative and pro-Western forces which, in his view, are now an excessively heavy burden on Saudi Arabia.
- Despite their recent purchase of some military equipment from other countries, the Saudis continue to look to the U.S. as their principal source of military equipment and military expertise. The Saudi purchase of military equipment from the U.S., taken over a period of years, has averaged $62 million annually. This represents an important economic advantage to the U.S. in terms of our over-all gold-flow problem. More importantly, it shows our continuing interest in Saudi security. U.S. material and training, through our Military Training Mission and by private civilian contractors, are involved in a wide range of projects, including: increased ground mobility, air defense, automotive and armament maintenance, increased airlift, radio communications, increased firepower, and improved facilities, administration, logistics, and training for Saudi military personnel. As of mid-1969, however, the French appeared to be making a strong effort to increase their share of the Saudi market for military equipment; Britain is the principal supplier of jet fighters to the Royal Saudi Air Force; and Pakistan has become an increasingly important source of military expertise for the Saudi air and naval forces. Saudi Arabia has fostered this competition for economic reasons and possibly to avoid becoming solely dependent upon U.S. sources.
- Saudi Arabia has enjoyed a relatively high degree of internal political stability. However, the regime’s concern about internal security intensified in May, 1969, as a consequence of the military take-over in the Sudan and the sabotage of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline by radical leftist Palestine commandos. These concerns have been heightened by subsequent military coups in Libya and Somalia. A wave of arrests of known or suspected dissidents, both military and civilian, began in June/July, 1969.5 To date the SAG has denied that its investigation has discovered any evidence of anti-regime coup plotting although some of the officers arrested were allegedly in contact with the UAR and other radical Arab governments. The regime appears to be in full control of [Page 424] the situation and seems determined to show its strong arm. However, over the long term the arrests are likely to aggravate anti-regime feelings, particularly within the military, and in the long run encourage more underground activities among disaffected officers even if there were none before. On balance, however, internal security seems reasonably well-assured during the lifetime of King Faisal (now in his mid-sixties). While the regular armed forces may now be increasingly suspect in the eyes of the regime, the separate, tribal-based National Guard (with a strength—28,000 men—about that of the regular armed forces) supports the regime. Strong factional rivalries exist within the Royal Family. These interests will probably be sufficiently compromised, however, to permit the orderly succession of Crown Prince Khalid. The nascent Communist National Liberation Front was dealt a hard blow by the arrest of many of its leaders in 1964 although it and other clandestine political organizations such as the Ba’ath and the Arab Nationalist Movement are probably continuing secret efforts to recruit new members, particularly among non-Saudi expatriates in the Kingdom.
- Beneath the surface of apparent domestic tranquillity, however, there are areas of potentially serious weakness. Saudi Arabia still lacks a meaningful national consciousness. An undercurrent of inter-provincial rivalry has traditionally existed between the xenophobic people of Najd, the political and spiritual heartland of the Kingdom, and the more cosmopolitan people of the Hejaz, the Kingdom’s commercial and cultural center, who also make up the majority of the regular army officer corps and the educated civilian elite. The fact that Saudi oil resources are all located in the Eastern Province has been important in discouraging any political tendencies which could divide the country. This situation and the continued loyalty to the throne of the Najdi tribes and the National Guard constitute considerable protection against a military coup. But the internal dissident threat is likely to grow as more people become better educated, urbanized and modern. Reluctant to broaden the base of political participation, the regime is faced with the classic dilemma that its rapid economic progress will have a short-range effect of giving potential opposition elements greater base from which to operate.
We are doing what little we can to encourage an orderly evolution which would forestall the possibility of a radical reordering of the country. In the meantime the U.S. is providing technical assistance to the Saudi public security forces on a reimbursable basis in order to upgrade their quality.
An assessment of the current Saudi cultural/psychological situation indicates that Saudi/U.S. friendship cannot be taken for granted. The anomaly of our position in Saudi Arabia is that it is currently all-pervasive, yet has little political depth. It rests largely on the personal disposition [Page 425] of King Faisal, a handful of senior officials, various public security agencies, and public media systems. Below that layer public sentiment opposes us and is probably simply biding its time to show this. Traditional Islamic views remain strong. The permissiveness of Western society is condemned. There is a growing emotional identification with Arab nationalism on the part of younger Saudis. Anti-American sentiment has increased since the Arab-Israeli conflict and could take the form of demonstrations or attacks on American personnel and property (such as occurred in June 1967) in the event of another outbreak of hostilities.
II. U.S. Objectives
- Maximum protection for our substantial interests in Saudi Arabia. These include (1) continued availability of Saudi oil, on reasonable commercial terms, to our Western European allies and Japan, (2) preservation of the substantial American capital investment in the country, and (3) continued overflight and landing privileges for U.S. military aircraft and bunkering facilities for U.S. naval vessels. The continued denial of these facilities to forces hostile to the U.S. and other friendly states serves our interests, as does Saudi opposition to Communist overtures for diplomatic relations. Our aim, therefore, should be the maintenance of the existing close, friendly, and mutually beneficial relationship with the U.S. by whatever Saudi regime may be in power. This will require continuing Saudi understanding of the value of this relationship to basic Saudi interests. At the same time, it will also require continuing efforts on our part to identify the U.S. with those interests, not only in the eyes of King Faisal and the present Saudi leadership but also in those of the younger Saudi generation nurtured on virulent Arab nationalist propaganda.
- Preservation of Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity and political independence from unprovoked aggression and subversion. Although Saudi Arabia’s own armed forces are being expanded and modernized, they are still incapable of defending Saudi Arabia from attack by a major foreign power or even by one of Saudi Arabia’s stronger regional neighbors. Protection of our own interests in Saudi Arabia, therefore, will continue for the foreseeable future to require our active support. U.S. willingness to support Saudi Arabia’s integrity will continue to be a principal determinant of the successful achievement of our other policy objectives in Saudi Arabia.
- A developing and modernizing Saudi Arabia capable of preserving internal stability and national unity. U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia require a stable and prosperous country capable of evolutionary development. This will require an acceleration of political and social reform programs, as well as continued investment in economic development, responsive to the growing aspiration of the Saudi people. Delay in political [Page 426] and social reform not only feeds domestic unrest but tends to discredit the U.S. within Saudi Arabia and elsewhere by seeming to associate us with an unenlightened, archaic social and political system. On the other hand, progress in these fields would enhance Saudi prestige and give added weight to its moderate voice in Arab and world affairs. In the meantime, development of a more efficient and better coordinated internal security apparatus is urgently needed, both to maintain political stability and to preserve public order in a country with over 7,000 American citizen residents and millions of dollars of American-owned property.
- A positive Saudi role in strengthening stability and furthering orderly development elsewhere in the Peninsula. A strong, independent Saudi Arabia is vital to preservation of stability in the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi willingness to play a more active and constructive role vis-à-vis its neighbors would reduce tensions in the area. Saudi Arabia, together with Iran, is expected to play a major role in preserving stability in the Gulf after the British withdraw in 1971. Because of the close USG/SAG relationship, Saudi support for efforts to end the Yemen civil war and, eventually, Saudi willingness to provide economic aid to Yemen, would help pave the way for improvement of our own relations with Yemen while reducing the likelihood that hostile forces could again use Yemen as a base for aggression or subversion against Saudi Arabia. Continuing Saudi support for other moderate regimes in the area, e.g., Jordan, is also important to us, as is Saudi acquiescence in concrete steps that Jordan and the UAR might take to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- A continued Saudi contribution to US balance of payments efforts. We will want the Saudis to continue to maintain a climate favorable to American capital investment in the development of Saudi Arabia’s natural resources and to effect any changes in existing oil concessions through negotiation, not unilateral action. We will also wish to preserve full access by American business on a reasonably competitive basis to contracts for goods and services; to expand the already substantial U.S. share of the Saudi market; and to enlist continued and, as possible, increased Saudi cooperation in measures to reduce our gold out-flow problem.
In formulating our basic strategies to achieve the above objectives, we must keep firmly in mind the following two considerations:
- In the highly centralized system of authority that currently exists in Saudi Arabia, the focal point of decision making will for the immediate future continue to be King Faisal . Hence, the dialogue with the King and his principal advisers will remain crucial. Although increasingly disenchanted with what he regards as U.S. policies and actions in the [Page 427] Middle East contrary to Saudi interests, the King and most other members of the Saudi “Establishment” remain fundamentally well-disposed toward the U.S. This ingrained confidence of many older and middle-aged Saudis in the U.S. and in American technical accomplishments, is an important U.S. asset in Saudi Arabia and one that we should rightly seek to preserve. However, in the longer run we cannot assume the continuation of the political and social order upon which U.S.-Saudi cooperation was built. Our problem will be to devise policies and courses of action which both preserve the momentum in the long-standing orientation of the present Saudi Government yet do not overlook the growing number of younger Saudis who view the United States more critically. We will need to give serious attention to a more vigorous U.S. effort in Saudi Arabia if our interests are to be assured in the long term.
- As long as the Arab-Israeli conflict remains unresolved and we are suspected of partisanship for Israel, our immediate efforts will have to be directed at the more limited goal of holding on to what we have in Saudi Arabia. We should, of course, take advantage of any opportunities which may arise to strengthen our position. Should there be a new and longer Arab-Israeli conflict, our present assets in the country would hardly remain unaffected. Against the backdrop of the foregoing, we suggest the following strategies:
A. Maintenance of our active interest in Saudi Arabia’s integrity and independence. We should maintain our limited security undertaking which continues to contribute to our considerable influence despite the erosion of Saudi confidence in the U.S. since 1967. We should also recognize, as the Saudis do, that in moments of real crisis only we have the power and influence to protect Saudi Arabia and our own substantial interests there. This of course gives us a special interest in doing what we can to defuse tensions in the Peninsula likely to erupt into serious threats to Saudi security.
Courses of Action:
- We should be prepared appropriately to recall to SAG our continuing interest in the country’s integrity against unprovoked outside aggression, taking care to retain flexibility regarding any possible implementation.
- While we should seek to avoid giving the impression of an open-ended U.S. commitment to defend Saudi Arabia under all or any circumstances, it is equally important that our security assurances not be further weakened in SAG eyes or others. Planning for the future disposition of our naval presence in the region should take into account the likely psychological impact on the Saudis, particularly if U.S. forces were withdrawn from the waters adjacent to Saudi Arabia.
- We should welcome a wider international interest in Saudi Arabia’s security, such as the developing British, French, and Pakistani involvements in the Saudi defense effort. At the same time, these cannot be a replacement for our own continued efforts (see D below) if we are adequately to safeguard U.S. interests.
B. Demonstrate that close USG/SAG relations pay dividends for SAG . Particularly in view of the Arab/Israeli problem, we should be prepared to take positive action to demonstrate to King Faisal and to other Saudis that the U.S. has not lost interest in its Arab friends and that continued close cooperation with the U.S. is still in the Saudi interest.
Courses of Action:
- Continue our present dialogue with the King and his key advisers to improve understanding, if not acceptance, of our policies and actions in the Middle East. Keep Faisal informed of our efforts to support the moderate regime of King Hussein in Jordan.
- Continue to do what we can to seek Israeli withdrawal from Tiran, on the understanding that Saudi Arabia will make no move to militarize the island.
- Extend an invitation to King Faisal to visit Washington by spring of 1970. Meanwhile, we should encourage senior U.S. Government officials who may be travelling in the area to exchange views with Faisal as a means of retaining his personal interest in the U.S. connection.
C. Encourge SAG to devote more attention to improving relations with its neighbors in order to further stability in the Peninsula, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf regions.6
Courses of Action:
In part because of past differences over Yemen, we have less influence with the Saudis on Peninsula issues than on other matters. We should nevertheless:
- Continue appropriate efforts with SAG towards an eventual rapprochement with a moderate, even if Republican, regime in Yemen;
- Note, as necessary, the counterproductive nature of any future Saudi adventures in support of PRSY exiles;
- Hold before SAG the desirability of improved relations with Ethiopia, particularly with reference to both the Yemen and PRSY issues;
- Quietly encourage greater Saudi contacts with Muscat and Oman and the Trucial States, through exchanges of visits and more active Saudi representation; note the favorable impact of Saudi aid already extended to the Trucial States as a means of encouraging further similar activities;
- Promote, as we can, greater Saudi/Iranian cooperation, notably on Gulf matters. Encourage Kuwaitis to continue playing a constructive role in this region.
D. Maintain an effective Military Training Mission (MTM) and remain willing to meet legitimate SAG requests for military equipment and services on a sales basis. Our continued MTM presence and willingness to assist in the modernization of the Saudi military/security establishment has been a key element in preserving our influence. Such a posture lends credibility to our assurances of support for Saudi Arabia’s security, acts as a quid pro quo for our special overflight and landing privileges, enables us to monitor and to some extent influence the rate and direction of the Saudi military build up, preserves our entrée to key elements of the Saudi armed forces, encourages the development of a pro-U.S. orientation within the Saudi officer corps, serves as an important source of hard currency earnings, and helps reassure the large American community as to local stability. We should, however, consider Saudi requests carefully in order to do what we can to discourage any undue SAG military build-up that would seriously curtail the orderly progress of economic development. Any USG refusal to assist the Saudis in meeting their reasonable military sales requests would not deter them from making such purchases elsewhere but definitely would lead to a further erosion of Saudi confidence in the U.S.
Courses of Action:
- Seek to focus Saudi attention on rational, long-term procurement policies reflecting a clear set of Saudi priorities and resources, as well as USG technical support capabilities. Explore, if requested to do so by the Saudis, the possibility of carrying out a detailed study of the overall Saudi military establishment and making appropriate recommendations on future force goals. To do so, we should be willing to execute the component projects of such a plan in orderly fashion, thus preserving the U.S. role as the principal source of military equipment and expertise to the Saudi armed forces.
- Meanwhile, continue with our present practice of responding promptly and positively to Saudi requests for assistance in procurement and training, while limiting financial help to normal credit availabilities.
- Continue a modest level of FMS credits or credit guarantees in future years.
- Continue to support from MAP funds an effective military training mission in Saudi Arabia with sufficient personnel to do the job. A [Page 430] serious run-down in the size and effectiveness of USMTM would jeopardize its role as principal military adviser to the Saudi Armed Forces, arouse Saudi fears that U.S. interest in Saudi security had lessened, and give rise to concern on the part of the large American community in the Eastern Province.
- Continue to make available, on request and at Saudi expense, the services of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to supervise existing or new military construction projects. The Saudis have confidence in the Corps’ integrity and professional capability.
E. Preserve and, where possible, expand our few other official assets in Saudi Arabia. Both the more immediate “holding operation” and a possible future broadly based program of support for Saudi Arabia will require a skillful deployment of our assets, which are primarily people—qualified American personnel. Apart from the partial MAP funding of USMTM (for which the Saudi Government pays two-thirds of the expenses), all services which we provide to Saudi Arabia are reimbursed by the Saudis.
Courses of Action:
- Improve and enlarge the facilities and program possibilities of the American Cultural Center in Jidda and, as feasible, the scope of information and cultural activities in the USIS-operated English Language Center in Riyadh. USIS, with the support of other elements of the U.S. Country Team, has a major role in implementing our coordinated youth program to cultivate potential young Saudi leaders. English language training deserves to rank high in our activities. We should consider the possibility of introducing Peace Corps personnel or similar volunteers as English language teachers. Present opportunities for education and training of Saudis in the U.S. should be continued and increased.
- Continue our present cooperation with the Saudis in the fields of desalting, minerals exploration, and police training when current agreements expire. Be willing to consider, on a reimbursable basis, providing advisers on either a long-term or a TDY basis as requested by the Saudis. We should be particularly alert to opportunities to assist Saudi Arabia in the areas of manpower planning, labor legislation, and training of Saudi personnel in labor relations and labor standards.
We shall seek within existing legislative constraints to be responsive to occasional requests for technical assistance on short-term, specific projects, or for topping off salaries and allowances of American technicians, professors, or advisers where that would encourage them to accept contracts with Saudi Government agencies or private institutions.
F. Mobilize American business and private efforts to strengthen the American position and to refurbish the American image in Saudi Arabia. [Page 431] Private American companies operating in Saudi Arabia are direct beneficiaries of our close relationship. More than any other company, Aramco has done much to further the U.S. image in Saudi Arabia. Raytheon and other American private firms operating there have also generally inspired the confidence of the Saudis in their integrity and professional competence, providing an asset which can be exploited through appropriate U.S. Government and business coordination. More American firms should be encouraged to explore the possibility of operating in Saudi Arabia.
Courses of Action:
- Department of Commerce should make stronger efforts to encourage American manufacturers and companies to sell American goods and services to Saudi Arabia on commercially attractive terms. Other agencies not regularly represented in Jidda, such as Treasury, Agriculture, and Export-Import Bank, should recognize the importance of Saudi Arabia to their programs and be responsive to Saudi interest in economic cooperation.
- To the extent possible, find ways to use more effectively the person-to-person contact potential of the more than 7,000 Americans in Saudi Arabia to advance basic U.S. interests. Our Embassy is continuing, to the extent its limited personnel resources allow, orientation programs for new private Americans to brief them on local customs and conditions and to acquaint them with the rationale for our policies. In particular, the U.S. Government’s dialogue with Aramco and other major firms should be maintained.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1319, NSC Secretariat, Unfiled Material, 1969. Secret. Drafted by Rassias and Boughton. A handwritten notation by Kissinger reads: “Al—Status? What happens next?”↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XVIII, Near East, 1962–1963, Documents 268–270.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 127.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 10.↩
- As reported in telegrams 619 from Dhahran, July 9 (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 SAUD) and telegram 126767 to Jidda, July 30. (Ibid., POL 29 SAUD)↩
- A discussion of the Saudi policy of “immobilisme” is in telegram 115459 to Jidda, July 11. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. I)↩