180. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Message to King Faisal re Yemen

You will recall that I sent you a memo recommending that the President send a message to King Faisal commending the reconciliation of Saudi Arabia and Yemen which resulted in Saudi recognition of the YARG on July 23.2 You returned it to me, asking whether Yemen is very left-wing, and, if that is the case, we should pick some other occasion for a Presidential letter. The following should clarify:

The present Yemeni republican regime is actually fairly moderate in Arab terms. From 1962—when a civil war resulted in the overthrow of [Page 557] the Imamate and the installation of radical republicans—until 1967, Yemen was a virtual UAR protectorate and Saudi Arabia militarily supported the royalists. That radical power structure was the one that broke relations with the U.S. in 1967 following the June war; however, at the same time, Nasser was forced to withdraw his troops, thus abandoning the regime. In November 1967 the extremists were overthrown by a more moderate—albeit republican—tribally-oriented group which has since remained in power. Despite intermittent royalist-republican fighting, King Faisal found himself dealing with a Yemeni government more of his own persuasion and less radical in ideology than in the pre-1967 YARG.

With Faisal’s approval (and the President’s), earlier this year the U.S. established an Interests Section in care of the Italian Embassy in Yemen.3 In March at the Jidda Islamic Summit, the Saudis and Yemenis worked out a compromise arrangement whereby a royalist faction was included in the republican government and King Faisal was apparently satisfied that the YARG was properly oriented in the direction of Islamic principles.4 Saudi recognition followed on July 23 and the governments are now engaged in discussions to increase ties, giving special priority to Yemen’s urgent economic needs. [The Yemenis receive some economic aid from the Soviets and Chinese Communists.] The YARG has also expressed interest in increasing its ties with the West; the French have extended recognition.

From King Faisal’s view, this could be considered an act of statesmanship on his part to come to terms with the republicans after eight years of Saudi-Yemeni warfare. Given his familiar and persistent theme of radical encirclement, no doubt his greater concern at the moment is with the extremists regime in South Yemen. Closer Saudi-YARG relations could be viewed as one—although small—step towards increasing the chances for stability in the Arabian peninsula.

Recommendation: That you seek the President’s approval via the attached memo of a brief message to King Faisal. [Text cleared by Mr. Keogh.]5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. II. Confidential. Sent for action. All brackets are in the original. A handwritten notation by Kissinger, dated August 24, at the top of the memorandum, reads: “I still don’t think this is a good idea.”
  2. Memorandum from Saunders to Kissinger, July 27. (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 178.
  4. Discussed in the April 2 Intelligence Note RNAN–13, “Saudi Arabia-Yemen-Islamic States: Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference and a Yemeni Sub Plot.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 13–6)
  5. Attached but not printed. There is no indication that the letter was sent. A handwritten note at the bottom of the first page of the memorandum indicates that the Department of State was notified on August 31 that Kissinger did not concur in the recommendation.