175. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco) to Secretary of State Rogers 1


  • Saudi-Southern Yemen Border Fighting—Information Memorandum

Peoples Republic of Southern Yemen (PRSY) forces have engaged Saudi border guards at a remote location (al-Wuday’ah) east of Yemen in the undemarcated frontier area between Saudi Arabia and South Yemen on the edge of the Empty Quarter. Our information indicates that the PRSY 30 Brigade attacked and occupied the Saudi post, causing a number of Saudi casualties. The Saudis are now flying reinforcements to the area. The Foreign Ministry has informed our Embassy in Jidda that Saudi Arabia will, of course, have to retaliate.2

PRSYG Cabinet members and public media are having a field day. They are alleging that Saudi Arabia has committed aggression, that “American imperialism and intelligence backed the Saudi strike,” that the attack was instigated by “oil companies operating inside Saudi Arabia,” and that Saudi aircraft are being flown by “mercenaries” since Saudi pilots have themselves been jailed by their own government because of suspected dissident activities. The PRSYG has called the incident to the attention of the Arab League and the UN.3 The Saudi radio said on November 26 that PRSY troops had attacked without provocation and that Saudi forces had counter-attacked.

While this is likely to be a war of words rather than a major military confrontation,4 it will pose additional embarrassment to Saudi Arabia at a time when that government is increasingly regarded in Arab circles as domestically unpopular and identified with the United States. If asked by the press, we plan to limit our comments to the statement that we have seen reports of the incident, including the Saudi statement that PRSY forces attacked without provocation.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 32–1 SAUD– SYEMEN. Confidential. Drafted by Brewer and cleared by Davies. A copy was sent to INR/RNA, IO/UNP, U, J, and C.
  2. As reported in telegram 3902 from Jidda, November 27. (Ibid.)
  3. Apparently PRSY lodged a complaint before the UN, but the complaint did not result in any resolutions.
  4. A fuller account of the Wadia incident is in airgram A–365 from Jidda, December 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 32–1 SAUD–SYEMEN) See also Document 176.