160. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Saudi Arabian Thoughts on US-Saudi Relations—Your Meeting Today with
  • Prince Sultan

Last night the Saudis passed [less than 1 line not declassified] the attached policy paper on closer cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the US2 which they would like you to be aware of prior to your talk with Sultan today. Sultan will pass you the original of this paper during the meeting.3 The paper is a formal Saudi policy paper approved by King Faisal. This is in addition to a letter from Faisal which he will give you.4

The attached paper discusses ways by which the US and Saudi Arabia can cooperate more closely. Its conclusions have already been summarized in my briefing memorandum to you.5 It is organized to (a) review our mutual interests; (b) note dangers to these interests; and [Page 512] (c) cite ways in which we can move more closely together. This is an unusually well-reasoned paper.6 It reflects the first significant Saudi effort, growing out of discussions with American friends, to relate to us in terms of a broad common strategy rather than in terms of parochial Saudi interests in the Arabian Peninsula.

A. Mutual Interests

  • —Saudi Arabia is in a very strategic position and sits on the largest proven oil reserves in the world. It is stable and conservative.
  • —The US has interest in containing the Soviet threat and continuing the flow of oil. The latter will be increasingly important to the US, which is becoming more dependent on foreign oil.
  • —The US and Saudi Arabia, therefore, have a common interest in strong regional security and stability and joint cooperation in this task.

B. Dangers to Mutual Interests

  • —The Soviets have long-term objectives in the area and are able to absorb short-term setbacks with the Arabs. They have made great headway. The US has not exploited similar situations. That some Arabs have not gone Communist is not the result of American foreign policy but results from the fact that some Arabs can withstand Communism. The fact that Western interests have not yet been decisively threatened does not mean the Soviet threat is not real. The USSR already has several alliances and treaties in the area.
  • —The Iraqis seek expansion in the Gulf, even paying the price of a treaty with the Soviets.
  • —The South Yemen regime at the tip of the Gulf is infiltrated by both Soviets and Chinese and is active against North Yemen and Oman.
  • —Though China has not penetrated the area, they support rebels in Oman, the regime of South Yemen and Palestinian guerrillas. They will use these forces to establish themselves.

C. US-Saudi Deterrents

  • —It is in the interests of Saudi Arabia and the US to work together to meet these dangers. This does not imply a treaty or a pact, but simply means cooperation in the protection and defense of Arabia, the Red Sea area and Persian Gulf.
  • Political deterrents would include the collaboration of friendly states ready to resist Soviet dangers. Saudi Arabia should cooperate with the Gulf states, Iran, Jordan and give support to North Yemen and Oman. The US should play a positive role.
  • —Saudi Arabia must have the military capability to develop defense belts to protect its own frontiers and those of neighboring friendly states.

Saudi Arabia concludes that [these points were covered in your brief]:7

  • —Saudi Arabia cannot find security only within its own borders; the existence on its borders of friendly states is the only basis for planning long-range security of Saudi Arabia. Further, cooperation with Iran and with Jordan and the maintenance of the Jordanian regime is highly important. Likewise, neighboring states of North Yemen and Oman must be stable and viable.
  • —Saudi Arabian cooperation with Iran takes effort by both sides. The Shah must recognize that, although Iran is stronger, cooperation with Saudi Arabia is necessary.
  • —Saudi Arabia and Iran must work together to create good circumstances in the new Union of Emirates.
  • —Saudi Arabia, in modernizing its armed forces, is aware that a new strategic concept taking into account the situation in the western Indian Ocean and Mid-East must guide its development.
  • —Saudi relations with Egypt under Sadat are a great improvement after years of conflict with Nasser. The Saudis would like to reduce Soviet influence in Egypt and the Egyptians would like to reassert their own independence from the USSR. This must be the principal regional strategic goal for all of us. Saudi Arabia is using its relationship with Iran to create circumstances in which Sadat may disengage from Moscow.
  • —The US should work for that disengagement by putting pressure on Israel to arrive at an Arab-Israeli settlement.

Suggested response: You can say that you found this paper very thoughtful and an excellent basis for our continued cooperation.8 [Your talking points already address the specific points.]9

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. III. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Attached but not printed. A translation of the undated policy paper, “Toward Closer Cooperation Between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America,” is ibid.
  3. Nixon placed a large checkmark in the left-hand margin. The original referred to here, with an undated and unattributed cover letter from the Saudi Foreign Ministry, is ibid., Box 761, Presidential Correspondence 1969–74, Saudi Arabia: King Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, 1972.
  4. Nixon placed a checkmark next to this sentence. Faisal’s June 5 letter is attached but not printed.
  5. Dated June 15. Saunders also sent briefing material to Kissinger on June 13. Both are ibid., Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. III.
  6. Nixon placed a checkmark next to this sentence.
  7. Brackets are in the original.
  8. Nixon placed a checkmark next to this sentence.
  9. Brackets are in the original.