183. Paper Prepared by Harold H. Saunders and William B. Quandt of the National Security Council Staff1


For President

Oil and Politics in Saudi Arabia: King Faysal’s reassuring views on Saudi oil policy were reported yesterday. [less than 1 line not declassified] has added his personal views on the growing pressures on the Saudis to use their oil for political purposes, despite the declared policy of King Faysal to the contrary.

There is a very strong popular tide in the Arab world that favors using oil as a weapon against the United States. While the Saudi ruling group appears to be cohesive and the chances of a coup are small, [less than 1 line not declassified] emphasizes that pressures could build up if the royal family falls out of step with the Arab mainstream, which is increasingly insistent upon exploiting the “energy crisis” to Arab advantage. The regime could become increasingly isolated, and to overcome this the Saudis might capitulate and impose oil production limitations. The sincerity of present assurances by Saudi leaders of their desire for full cooperation is not in doubt; rather, it is the weakness of the leadership in the face of a trend toward militancy on oil issues that is of concern.

Reflecting a sensitivity to public opinion, King Faysal recently told the President of Aramco that the US must do something soon to change the course of events in the Middle East;2 America’s friends are being isolated. The King stressed that it would be increasingly difficult to hold off the tide of opinion that was now running so heavily against the United States. He asked the oil companies to try to help bring about a change in US policy. The Saudi chief of intelligence added that the Saudis would find it particularly difficult to stand alone in the event of a renewal of Egyptian-Israeli hostilities, an event they fear is likely.

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  • Jidda 1891, 080853Z May 73
  • Jidda 1909, 081427Z May 73
  • Critchfield to Saunders memo, 5/8/73
  • Waller to Saunders memo, 5/8/73

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1298, Saunders Files, Saudi Arabia, 1/1–5/30/73. Secret; Sensitive. Incorporated into the President’s May 11 daily briefing as part of a memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, May 11. (Ibid., Box 51, Presidential Daily Briefings, May 1–15, 1973)
  2. King Faisal reiterated this position in a meeting with ARAMCO officials the week of May 20 in Geneva. Faisal warned the oil executives if U.S. policies in the Middle East remained unchanged, Saudi Arabia would be increasingly isolated in the Arab world. Since the Saudis did not intend this to happen, American interests in the area could no longer be preserved. (Memorandum of conversation, May 30; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 SAUD)
  3. None is attached. Telegram 1891 from Jidda, May 8 is ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. IV. Two almost identical memoranda from Critchfield to Saunders, May 8, are ibid. Telegram 1909 from Jidda, May 8, is ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, PET 6 SAUD. The memorandum from Waller to Saunders was not found.