246. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State1

5225. Subject: Willingness of King Faisal To Change Saudi Oil Policy.

Prince Fahd, Saudi Minister of the Interior and brother of King Faisal, told me in Riyadh today that the King has concluded that the Arabs have efficiently made their point by imposing a boycott on the U.S. and restricting oil production; that the Arabs have shown the world they could cooperate and that oil was indeed an effective weapon. He was now prepared to ease the boycott on the U.S. and resume production provided the Arabs can see concrete steps being taken toward a just peace in the Middle East.
Fahd said that an agreement on the schedule of Israeli withdrawals from Arabs lands would be sufficient indication for the Arabs to move. Even private Israeli assurances to the USG that it would withdraw might be sufficient to allow the Saudis to act.
At the same time the boycott would be lifted the Arabs would announce that the action had been taken because of assurances given them by President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger that they intended to work for a just peace in the Middle East; that the Arabs believed the President and the Secretary would devote their full energies to this end. It would also be announced that if Israel became recalcitrant, or if the [Page 696] U.S. dropped its efforts, the Arabs would have no choice but to reimpose the boycott.
Fahd believed Egypt would support the Saudi position as would Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Algeria, Kuwait and even Syria probably would not oppose it. Strong opposition, of course, would be expected from Libya and Iraq.
Fahd said Faisal intended to defend this position in the current Algiers meeting2 but he added that he had not been authorized by the King to tell me this.
I said I was grateful to hear this but reminded him that the Israeli election was scheduled for December 31 and it was not conceivable that the present Israeli Government could take any significant action before then. Even immediately afterwards it would be difficult for the new Israeli Government to reach concrete decisions. In the meantime, the United States would become very cold, factories would close and the U.S. public reaction could very easily turn against the Arabs.
I asked if there were not some action which could be taken very quickly? Could not Saudi Arabia ease the boycott somewhat on the basis of statements already made by Secretary Kissinger? And could it not lift it entirely on supplies to our military forces who serve as a shield for them as well as us? Finally, could not the December 1 scheduled cutback in oil production be eliminated? (I explained that any further cutback would hurt third countries who were potentially friendly to the Arabs; it would not hurt the U.S.)
Fahd said he wasn’t sure what could be done now; in fact he wasn’t certain that the action currently favored by the King would be carried out if there were serious opposition from other Arabs. He suggested that it would be very helpful if the President were to send a personal letter to the King. The President could spell out the harm the oil embargo was doing to the U.S. and the world; he could refer to old personal friendships and to the common struggle against Communist penetration in the Middle East and could refer to his determination, as expressed by Secretary Kissinger, to reach a just peace in the area. Fahd said he thought such a letter would strengthen the King’s hand and his determination.
Comment: While it would of course be preferable to have the boycott lifted with no references to any reimposition, such a statement would probably have to be included in the announcement in order to get other Arabs’ approval and to avoid the accusation that Saudi Arabia had capitulated to the Americans.
Fahd is certainly the most amiable of the Saudi princes and the most pro-American and there’s no doubt that he personally hopes the boycott can be lifted. However, unless he was being deceitful (which I doubt), this message reflects the King’s current thinking. It is highly unlikely that Fahd would have been this explicit without the King’s approval. We have learned from other sources that the King was greatly disturbed at being forced by U.S. actions to impose the boycott, that he was particularly disturbed by the thought of weakening of U.S. armed forces, and that he is most likely looking for some action—almost any action—by U.S. to give him reason to change Saudi Arabia’s oil policy.
Action Requested: That the President send a letter along the lines suggested by Fahd as soon as possible, preferably tying it to some specific event, e.g., a reference to the opening of the Peace Conference. We will submit a draft for your consideration tomorrow.3
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. IV. Secret; Nodis. A stamped notation on the telegram indicates that it was received at the White House Situation Room at 8:11 a.m., November 27.
  2. The Arab League Summit was held in Algiers November 26–28.
  3. Telegram 5236 from Jidda, November 27; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files.