81. Telegram From the Department of State to the Consulate General in Dhahran 1

75074. Subj: Bahraini Call on Sisco.

Summary: Bahrain Foreign Affairs Director Shaykh Mohammed bin Mubarak and Legal Advisor Baharna called on Assistant Secretary Sisco and Deputy Assistant Secretary Atherton May 14. Discussion centered on Persian Gulf situation in wake successful SC action on Iranian claim2 and in anticipation UK withdrawal. Mubarak requested increased US presence in Gulf. He said Bahrain believes FAA best hope for future but only if well organized with strong central authority. He added if FAA does not so develop, Bahrain will be forced go it alone.

Sisco congratulated Mubarak on outcome SC action and, looking forward to future in Gulf, asked what can US do to be helpful. Mubarak said Bahrain wanted more direct contact with US. Bahrainis appreciated their relations with ConGen Dhahran but believed in changed circumstances US should have permanent office in Bahrain, either consulate or trade office. He noted trade offices of Saudis, Pakistanis, Australians, and Iraqis already established and said Bahrain under some pressure from Soviets for closer relations. He anticipated Soviets would increase these overtures, not only toward Bahrain but also other Gulf states.
Sisco asked what Mubarak saw in Gulf’s future. Mubarak said Bahrain regards FAA as best bet, but only if it is strong. Bahrain believes FAA should be founded on five principles: (1) constitution; (2) strong central authority; (3) fair representation in National Council; (4) common budget; and (5) common defense and foreign affairs. If these principles not followed, FAA will fail.
Sisco asked about the prospects for the FAA. He said US realized there were variety of views among Rulers and differing stages of development among shaykhdoms. He emphasized his belief that there should be progressive outlook in area. This was 20th century and force of desire for modernization strong. He noted he had expressed himself to King Faisal recently in same terms. He asked Mubarak what hurdles there were in FAA’s path.
Mubarak said situation would become clearer next month when FAA Rulers met. (He later told Deptoffs that precise time and venue not yet fixed.) Problem is that Rulers are looking at FAA in different ways. For example, Qatar’s new “constitution” proclaims it as independent, sovereign state but at same time FAA member. Trucial states attempting line up either with Shah or Faisal for support. What was needed was push for FAA along lines above-described five principles. He said he had told UK’s Luard3 that UK was not giving enough concrete advice on formation FAA. Rulers must agree now on form of FAA and time is growing short.
Mubarak said he neither optimistic nor pessimistic at this stage, but next two months should tell story. Bahrain prefers FAA but will have to act independently if FAA fails.
Sisco urged Mubarak to let us know if we can be helpful. We have thus far stayed in background, but situation is changing. We feel it very important matters be arranged before UK leaves. Regarding area in general, Sisco said he understood from his recent talk in Tehran that Shah wants to play helpful and significant role. Saudis also want stability in area. Mubarak reiterated that FAA offered best hope for stability. Even if FAA failed and Bahrain initially applied for UN membership independently, Bahrain would keep option open to join FAA later. Regarding area countries, he said FAA really can work only if Saudis, Iranians and Kuwaitis support it actively. Other FAA members apparently do not yet feel urgency move ahead that Bahrain does. Bahraini people actively pushing Bahraini Government on all fronts, and it not at all sure that Bahrainis will accept FAA unless it fulfills their expectations. In light recent Winspeare mission,4 Bahrainis may even demand right to vote on whether they wish to become part of FAA. Sisco said that if FAA can show progress, he felt there would be a predictable favorable response from the area’s people.
Sisco reverted to matter American presence and asked about MIDEASTFOR. Mubarak said Bahrain welcomes MIDEASTFOR now and after UK departure. US should start making arrangements for post-UK period. He stressed that what Bahrain wanted was US “presence, not a base”—a token of Bahrain’s link with the West. Sisco said we are considering carefully what sort of US presence we should have. We want to help if our help is wanted but do not want to import cold war into area. We regard Persian Gulf as important area in transitional stage. We look to enlightened leadership from Shah, Faisal and other leaders, including Bahrainis. US can only play complementary role. Primary reliance will have to be on indigenous leadership. Sisco said we have made no decisions yet but in general we see mutual benefit in establishing modest US presence on Bahrain.
In later discussion with Atherton and Deptoffs, Mubarak and Baharna said Arab-Israel issue, if not satisfactorily solved, would have deleterious effect on Persian Gulf.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 BAHRAIN IS. Confidential. Drafted on May 14 by Gatch (NEA/ARP); cleared by Murphy (NEA/ARP) and Atherton; and approved by Sisco. It was repeated to Jidda, Kuwait, London, Tehran, USUN, CINCSTRIKE–CINCMEAFSA, and COMIDEASTFOR.
  2. On May 11, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 278 (1970) endorsing the report of the Secretary General’s Personal Representative (Vittorio Winspeare Guicciardi) and its conclusion that the majority of the people of Bahrain wished independence and denying Iran’s claim to the island. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1970, pp. 284–287) The Iranian Senate unanimously approved the UN Report on May 18. (Telegram 2153 from Tehran, May 19; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL BAHRAIN IS) The Defense Intelligence Agency prepared an Intelligence Summary, “Developments in the Persian Gulf,” May 27, which noted that Bahraini independence would improve chances for regional stability. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–156, NSSM Files, NSSM 66)
  3. Parliamentary Undersecretary Evan Luard.
  4. Vittorio Winspeare Guicciardi was appointed Personal Representative of the Secretary General to ascertain the wishes of the people of Bahrain. (Telegram 31680 to Dhahran, March 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 BAHRAIN IS) He was in Bahrain from March 30 to April 18. (Telegram 60678 to Jidda, April 23; ibid.)