181. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco) to the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (Thacher)1

Dear Nick,

As you are aware, Sayyid Umar Saqqaf expressed his concern to me in New York on October 21 about the radical regimes in Syria, Iraq, and Southern Yemen.2 Indicating that he was speaking without instructions, Saqqaf wondered if the USG and Saudi Arabia could exchange views on developments in those countries. During our subsequent luncheon in the Department on October 26, I offered to provide Sayyid Umar through you with our current assessment of the political situation in the three countries. These assessments, prepared by INR, have now been completed and are enclosed.3 Their preparation took longer than I had hoped since it was necessary to wait for the dust to settle a bit in Damascus and Baghdad after the respective power shifts within these two regimes.

You may at your discretion review these assessments with Saqqaf on the understanding that they will be closely held within the Saudi Government and not conveyed to representatives of any other government. At the same time, you may wish to seek Saqqaf’s own assessment of how recent developments in Syria and Iraq are likely to influence those two governments’ relations with Saudi Arabia.

In sharing these assessments with Saqqaf, you should not give him any grounds to suspect that the USG is prepared to go beyond such exchanges to an exchange of views (which he seemed to be suggesting to me) on “doing something” about the radical regimes in these countries. In fact, when reviewing the situation in Southern Yemen, I hope you can especially stress our assessment that the National Front regime [Page 559] in Aden, despite its unpopularity, seems very firmly in control of Aden and most of the hinterland as well. As recent reporting from USINT Sanaa (see specifically Sanaa cable 308)4 has pointed out, indigenous revolts within PDRY frontiers are likely to be a more serious threat to National Front control than poorly coordinated incursions by motley exile bands across the frontier.

At the same time, if SAG officials are seriously concerned about the possibility of new PDRY attacks in the south (Jidda’s 3940),5 then they should seriously reconsider the policy of support for the National Union Front which can only give the Southern Yemenis a relatively plausible excuse for having another bash at the Saudis. Perhaps this would be a good occasion to remind Saqqaf how poorly other such acts of Saudi “assistance” have turned out.


P.S. I am deeply concerned over what appears to be increasing unreality of Faisal.

Joseph J. Sisco6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 3 UAE. Secret; Limdis. Drafted by Wrampelmeier and cleared in NEA, NEA/ARP, NEA/ARN, and INR/RNA.
  2. As reported in telegram 2645 from USUN, October 22. (Ibid., POL 15–1 SAUD)
  3. All are attached but not printed. One of the reports, undated, entitled “People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen,” argued four points: (1) the Marxist PDRY Government followed a pro-Moscow line; (2) Soviet military and civilian advisers and technicians played a major role; (3) the USSR had the use of Aden port and Socotra Island but was not building a major base on the latter; and (4) the Soviets were unwilling to “increase their aid or their military presence in South Yemen under present circumstances.” The report looked briefly at East German and Chinese activities. It concluded that the PDRY was unpopular but well entrenched.
  4. Telegram 308 from Sanaa, November 7. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 13 SYEMEN)
  5. Not found.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears Sisco’s typed signature and an indication that he signed the original.