149. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to President Nixon1
- Secretary Rogers’ Visit to Saudi Arabia
We now have Secretary Rogers’ complete report on what he describes as his “whirlwind” 24-hour stay in Saudi Arabia.2 He reports that he is reassured about the “steadfast friendship” of King Faisal, despite his obsessive preoccupation with the “Zionist-Communist conspiracy” and his “understandable” concern that he will be vulnerable to Arab criticism on his friendship for the US as long as the Arab-Israeli dispute festers. The Secretary also makes the following observations:
- —Despite the anachronism of the Saudi monarchy, progress is being made in Defense, education and other fields and there is evidence of some modernization. The Secretary was especially impressed with the “young, vigorous and handsome” court ministers who are seeking to bridge the gap between old and new but in ways that can assure internal security.
- —The Saudis appeared to be generally satisfied with our bilateral relations.
In his substantive talks, four hours of which were with King Faisal,3 the Secretary discussed the following areas:
- —On the Arab-Israeli conflict, Faisal continues to accept any peace settlement agreed to by Israel, Jordan and Egypt and claims a direct substantive interest only in Jerusalem. Faisal favors a strong US presence in the Middle East and believes that a peace settlement will lead to the Egyptians telling the Soviets to get out. He felt prolonged absence of a settlement would benefit the Soviets. He regrets that Israel has created the impression that the US will support Israel no matter what it does.
- —In reply the Secretary stressed your determination to maintain a steady course and called attention to your statements on “insubstantial” border changes. He said we have stressed to Israel that time is working against them but there is a limit to what we can do with friendly countries—we can only persuade.
- —On the Persian Gulf, the Secretary urged greater Saudi direct contact with the Sheiks in order to help bring about an early federation of the Trucial States and close cooperation with the Shah.
- —On North Yemen, which is anxious to improve relations with the US, the Secretary made clear we are ready to move to full diplomatic relations whenever conditions make it possible. The Saudis see our presence there as a counter to the Maoist and Soviet activity in South Yemen. At Faisal’s urging, the Secretary says he will take another look at providing some additional small amount of economic assistance to North Yemen.
The Secretary extended to King Faisal your invitation for an informal visit here in late May. He was clearly pleased and “wants to accept” but feels that in the absence of some demonstrable progress toward a peace settlement, such a visit would only open him up to attack by the more radical Arabs. He appears to want to wait to assess the atmosphere following the rest of the Secretary’s trip before replying definitively.4
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. II. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. A notation on the first page indicates the President saw it. Rogers met with Nixon on May 10 to discuss his trip. According to a transcript of the tape recording of this meeting, Rogers discussed Faisal’s health, his interest in Jerusalem, and his “absolute obsession” with Zionism. According to Rogers, Faisal thought that “Zionism is the cause of all evil in the world,” and that it was “the father of Communism.” Nixon replied that Faisal’s obsession was “kind of like Hitler with the Jews.” Rogers also discussed Faisal’s innate intelligence, Fahd, the summer arrests, and Saudi Arabia’s “total support” for the United States “under all circumstances.” Paraphrasing Faisal’s remarks, Rogers continued, “Whatever we do on the Middle East—whether he likes it or doesn’t like it—he will support us.” Rogers was likewise impressed by the young Saudi government ministers and said, “Although they are related, they are strong looking, vigorous fellows, and a lot of them are quite interested in social improvement,” to which Nixon added, “A lot of them are training in the West.” The editors transcribed the portions printed here specifically for this volume. (Ibid., White House Tapes, Conversation 496–13)↩
- Rogers’s report is in telegram Secto 95/3675 from Beirut, May 3. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 7 S) Rogers was in Saudi Arabia May 1–2 during a trip to Western Europe and the Middle East from April 26 to May 8.↩
- As reported in telegrams Secto 98/3678 and Secto 99/3679 from Beirut, May 3. (Ibid.) Talking points for Rogers were transmitted in telegram 1346 from Jidda, April 27. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. II)↩
- According to Thacher, Faisal accepted the invitation because of “his conviction that it could be of very great value and importance for President Nixon to hear from King Faisal directly central points of the Arab case,” recalling the “favorable impact” he had had on Kennedy in their 1962 meeting. (Telegram 1610 from Jidda, May 15; ibid.)↩