90. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State 1

3999. Subj: FAA. Ref: State 179688; Dhahran 1199.2

1.
We concur with premise underlying Dept’s message: there is indeed precious little time left to accomplish a difficult task and moment has come for imaginative consideration every possible means achieve it. British perhaps are agged [aggrieved?] by sense of past failures, particularly in Aden, but Gulf situation contains two important elements which seem to us augur better prospects for FAA: Gulf states are lucky to possess the money which Aden does not have and to lack the great impetus to radical political forces inevitably created wherever British are driven out instead of leaving of their own accord. But Aden aftermath also has probably left British reluctant push rulers hard towards [Page 284]ephemeral federation, and UK may be tempted too by possibility retaining special positions in individual states of economic interest to them.
2.
From viewpoint of US interests the more unity in the Gulf the better. Fragmentation provides greater opportunities for subversive elements to infiltrate individual entities and for sudden coups. It is essential particularly that small, weak, poor units like Ajman and Ummal-Qawayn not be left drift by themselves as highly vulnerable targets of opportunity to radical and subversive forces.
3.
Bahraini membership would bring to federation commercial and administrative skills not available elsewhere and any federation dependent solely on limited administrative talents now to be found in Dhubai and Abu Dhabi would face serious weaknesses at outset. Yet we recognize too inclusion of Bahrain would force new federation to labor under stresses and strains of suspicions which inevitably accrue where one member of any political grouping is much stronger than others. If Bahrain remains willing try for federation we gather Qatar would not want to be left out. On balance we come down in favor continuing efforts include Bahrain.
4.
However, it must be for UK to decide point at which diminishing returns are reached with respect efforts have Qatar and Bahrain included. We recognize that tactics required bring federation into existence and proposals for post independence aid by UK will probably be affected by precise nature of goal for which British will be striving. Thus a federation including Bahrain would have some modest administrative and commercial experience on which to draw. If Bahrain and Qatar to be excluded, then British should probably begin thinking now of where and how key British officials need to be inserted into governmental structure of new federation. From here we find it difficult judge extent to which sheikhs would welcome skeletal British manning of their federation’s bureaucracy, but would think smaller units particularly would welcome such continued British presence.
5.
With so little time remaining, it seems imperative to us British should engage very soon in continuing and determined effort bring about some feasible FAA. To make British effort fruitful, we wonder if HMG might not select top representative with capable staff of one or two come to Gulf and remain on spot moving constantly but discreetly among Gulf states, Tehran and Riyadh in effort establish elements of agreement among all parties as foundation on which FAA can be built. To achieve results will require constant nudging, cajoling, plus endless tact and patience on part British team.
6.
With regard Saudi role, we keenly aware SAG quite unhelpful so far though we believe they still favor grouping of nine. British need to press Saudis send top representatives to Gulf to indicate clearly Saudi hope FAA will come into existence and succeed. US should seek opportunities reinforce British pressures on Saudis to whom we [Page 285]can reasonably point out that their constant complaints about being encircled by hostile forces are hardly consistent with their hands-folded attitude toward their crucial eastern front. US could be helpful too, we believe, by discussions in Washington and London intended draw British out on goals they think can be realistically tackled and tactics necessary to accomplish them. In such context, we could suggest establishment of team on spot in Gulf area working continuously to find common elements in sheikhs’ differing viewpoints. At same time, we should under no circumstances tempt weary British with notion that we might assume for them principal burden of infusing life into FAA.
7.
If we are to nudge Saudis to play more helpful role, perhaps there may be means also for encouraging Iran support FAA despite Shah’s preoccupation with little islands matter. Might it not be possible at some stage point out to Iranians that their present posture of opposition to FAA may neither get them what they want with regard Tunbs and Abu Musa nor allow beginning steps to create political institution which seems to promise best prospects for defending region against the very subversion and radicalization which GOI fears most. Iranian opposition seems to us supply convenient excuse for those sheikhdoms which seek delaying tactics as best means increasing their own bargaining power. In long run, creation of FAA would seem as important to Iranian goals in Gulf as possession of little islands themselves.
Thacher
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 FAA. Secret. It was repeated to Dhahran, Kuwait, London, Tehran, CINCSTRIKE/CINCMEAFSA, and COMIDEASTFOR.
  2. Telegram 179688 to Dhahran, October 31, transmitted the Department’s request for information on current negotiations, but also added that the view of the British Embassy in Washington was that the “UK and Rulers have no definite plan of where to go from here.” Telegram 1199 from Dhahran, October 28, reported on the failure of recent meetings in Abu Dhabi. Other responses to the Department’s request for information are in telegram 1224 from Dhahran, November 2, and telegram 978 from Kuwait, November 3. (All ibid.)