75. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

[Omitted here are a cover page and a map. See Appendix A.]


  • The Persian Gulf: Groping Toward a New Power Balance2
[Page 241]


British guardianship of the Persian Gulf kept the peace but froze the political makeup of the area for a century. The prospective withdrawal of British forces in 1971 promises to change this situation.

For the US, the principal concerns for the next several years are whether weakness and turmoil in the small Gulf states might lead to interference by the larger regional powers, intervention by a revolutionary Arab state, or threats to the American commercial involvement in oil production in the Gulf.

On the whole, we think the chances favor the situation in the Gulf rocking along without serious disruption for at least a year or two after the British pull out in 1971. Virtually all the riparian Gulf states—the Arab Amirates which are trying to federate as well as Iran and Saudi Arabia—have a stake in avoiding turmoil. Other Arab states ideologically inclined to make trouble for the conservative sheiks are likely to be distracted by domestic concerns and by their confrontation with Israel. Moreover, the proposed Federation of Arab Amirates need only carry out a few of the functions of a state in order to serve its essentially passive purpose of preventing trouble among its members.

Yet a number of troublesome contingencies can be identified. For example, cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia—important to the Federation—could easily degenerate into competitive interference in the lesser states. Again, revolutionaries may try to take advantage of the UK departure to overthrow sheikly rule—a development most likely to occur on Bahrain. In these contingencies, at least some of the contending parties would turn to the US for diplomatic support. American oil interests however, are not likely to be seriously damaged, though the commercial position of the major international oil companies in the Gulf—as elsewhere—will probably be eroded over time.

[Omitted here is an 18-page Discussion section.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–044, Senior Review Group Meetings, Review Group NSSM 90 5/21/70. Secret.
  2. This memorandum was produced solely by CIA. It was prepared by the Office of National Estimates and was coordinated with the Office of Current Intelligence, the Office of Economic Research, and the Clandestine Services. [Footnote is in the original.]