189. Memorandum of Conversation1

[1 paragraph (1 line) not declassified]

Summary: In a conversation [1 line not declassified] on 1 July 1973,

Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Fahd stated that he was currently giving his personal attention to strengthening U.S.-Saudi relations and wanted to provide his assurance that Saudi Arabia’s petroleum resources would never be cut off or curtailed to the detriment of the U.S., Western Europe, or Japan. In a subsequent conversation [less than 1 line not declassified] on 17 July 1973, Saudi Defense Minister Sultan also stressed the special relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and called for greater understanding of certain Saudi actions. In assessing the situation, [less than 1 line not declassified] points out the problems caused by King Faysal’s increasing irascibility, citing this as one of the reasons for the private démarches by Princes Fahd and Sultan.

1. On 1 July 1973 [1 line not declassified] met with Saudi Minister of Interior and Second Deputy Prime Minister, Prince Fahd ibn ‘Abdal-’Aziz al-Sa’ud, in Jidda. As you know Prince Fahd is considered to be the de facto successor to King Faysal ibn ‘Abd-al’Aziz al-Sa’ud and is chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council of Saudi Arabia. During the cordial discussion with [less than 1 line not declassified], Prince Fahd said that King Faysal had delegated specifically to him the task of overseeing and strengthening U.S.-Saudi relations. The Prince stated that he was now giving this matter his full and enthusiastic attention and that within this mandate he wanted to provide his solemn assurance that the problem resources of his country would never be cut off or curtailed to the detriment of the “United States, Western Europe, or Japan.”

2. Prince Fahd further indicated that Saudi Arabia has “declared and undeclared” policies in several areas, including petroleum. Although Saudi officials may make certain statements in the context of Saudi Arabia’s public posture, his country’s undeclared policy will be to continue to provide the United States with the petroleum it requires. At the same time, the Prince added, the Saudis will look to the U.S. for help with their area concerns such as a settlement of Arab-Israeli dispute, and the threats posed to Saudi Arabia by Iraq and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Prince Fahd appeared particularly concerned with Iraqi intentions toward his country.

[Page 500]

3. Although King Faysal alone finally will decide Saudi policy, Prince Fahd’s remarks are consistent with those [less than 1 line not declassified] in which the King and the Prince assured President Nixon that Saudi Arabia would continue to cooperate fully with the United States by providing as much oil as it could.2 Prince Fahd realized that he was going on record for the highest policy level of the U.S. Government and his position as heir apparent and head of the Supreme Petroleum Council gives further significance to his words. The specific inclusion of Western Europe and Japan, although not surprising, represents somewhat of an expansion of the assurances provided in our previous memorandum.3

4. In a subsequent private conversation [less than 1 line not declassified] on 17 July 1973, Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan ibn Abdal-’Aziz al-Sa’ud provided further insight on current thinking within the royal family regarding U.S.-Saudi relations. Prince Sultan was aware his remarks would reach high-level officials in the U.S. Government. As reconstructed [less than 1 line not declassified] Prince Sultan’s remarks were as follows:

“The Americans know, because we have repeatedly made representations to them on the subject, that certain aspects of American policy cause serious embarrassment to Saudi Arabia from time to time. A recent example would be the assurances that American officials have given publicly to the effect that Phantom aircraft provided to Saudi Arabia will never be used against Israel, and so forth. We basically understand why you have to make these statements, and in the end we live with them because we know that your reasons for giving us large-scale military assistance can only be that you want Saudi Arabia to be strong; this we appreciate and do not want to change.

“At the same time, we hope that the U.S. Government realizes that we are constantly under attack, sometimes in very subtle ways, because of our relationship with you. Our enemies say that our oil income will be invested primarily in the United States or will be used to buy American goods instead of serving the welfare of our own people or the Arabs in general; they say our military assets will never be contributed to the common cause against Zionism, but will be employed only to establish a Saudi sphere of influence, with Washington’s blessing, over our small neighbors. There are many other examples that could be cited. To combat these and other similar charges, we must [Page 501] make statements or adopt positions from time to time that show that we are independent of American control.

“It should be a jointly-accepted condition of our partnership, therefore, that each side must make generous allowances for the different set of political realities under which the other party functions. The highest levels of leadership on both sides must cooperate in this, because we understand the whole situation as lower levels of government cannot. [6 lines not declassified]”

5. In assessing the current situation in Saudi Arabia in light of these conversations, [less than 1 line not declassified] has provided the following comments to which we in Washington fully subscribe:

“It is my view that King Faysal’s closest advisors and brothers, especially Princes Fahd and Sultan, are anxiously concerned that in his increasing senility and irascibility, King Faysal is going to make public statements which will antagonize the United States and prejudice the special Saudi-American relationship which Fahd and Sultan, in particular, believe is critical to the long-term survival of the Sa’udi regime. Princes Fahd and Sultan are worried as well that some of the King’s more prominent advisors, such as Oil Minister Ahmad Zaki-al-Yamani and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sayyid Umar Saqqaf, will take advantage of the King’s emotional and psychological vulnerabilities and adopt public postures with respect to the Saudi-American relationship which serve their personal ambitions as opposed to the interests of King Faysal’s brothers and heirs apparent. Rather than taking these concerns in full candor straight to the King, which they apparently fear to do in the old man’s present state of mind, Princes Fahd and Sultan have, we believe, decided that the only other course open to them is to make sure that the United States government is thoroughly persuaded of the steadfastness of their personal commitments to a ‘special relationship’ with the U.S. Then, even if the King is tactless and indiscreet in his public attitudes, the American reaction will be tempered by the knowledge that the next generation of Saudi leadership is going to be more cooperative.”

[3 lines not declassified]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. IV. Secret; Sensitive. Transmitted to Kissinger on July 26.
  2. See Document 181.
  3. This July 25 memorandum summarized a July 22 meeting with Adham. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. IV)