193. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia1

11678. SecDef for Isa. Subject: US–SAG Discussion of YAR Defense Requirements. Ref: Jidda 3568, 4621, 3835, 173; Sanaa 1136, 0055; Amman 290.

1. Appreciate Embassy Jidda’s careful analysis of present status of Saudi-YAR relationship and of Saudi aid to Yemen (Jidda’s 173). We agree that discussion of military aid with Saudis has usually resulted in Alphonse/Gaston type dialogue with Saudis subsequently expressing dissatisfaction with USG unwillingness take greater role in Yemen security matters. We also recognize that, with exception Kamal Adham, Saudis most concerned with Yemen affairs are unlikely to give up patronage of influential tribal leaders and military figures, both North Yemeni and dissident South Yemeni, through whom SAG attempts to influence developments to its south. On balance, however, we consider that continued frank dialogue between us and SAG on Yemeni matters is required if misunderstandings are to be avoided and our respective responsibilities for helping YAR are to be clearly established. Accordingly, we hope that prior to arrival of YAR delegation you can again review with Saqqaf and with Prince Sultan our present thinking about current Yemeni/South Yemeni situation.

2. You may say that we appreciated receiving Saqqaf’s assessment last November of situation between two Yemens. We understand and share Saudi concerns over PDRY and potential it has as base for subversive activity elsewhere in peninsula. We have also noted that Soviets did step up their aid to PDRY at time of recent border hostilities with YAR. In light of November 25 Moscow communiqué at conclusion PDRY President Salim Rubai Ali’s visit to USSR, it seems clear that [Page 639] Soviets will continue to support their client state for advantages it gives them.

3. At same time, our assessment of recent developments Yemen may be somewhat different than that of SAG. Experience during recent border fighting showed that South Yemeni exiles of National Union Front (NUF) and northern tribesmen who moved south to PDRY borders were fragmented, badly disciplined, and operated on their own with little or no control by YARG or YAR Army. Consequently, they unable mount effective military campaign. In fact, campaign gave PDRY basis for which seek additional aid from Soviets and closing of ranks between two rival groups within South Yemen’s National Front (i.e. the pro-Soviet ideological hardliners led by Abd al-Fath Ismail and so-called “Maoist” group led by Salim Rubai Ali). Therefore, we did not find October 28 Cairo Agreement to accept ceasefire and work for unity between two Yemens to be capitulation by YAR. Instead, Cairo Agreement and subsequent Tripoli Summit of Yemeni leaders have provided a rubric to end at least for time being border warfare which had become inconclusive and in which poorly-organized and uncoordinated forces operating from YAR were beginning get worst of it. We believe that PDRY too was anxious for ceasefire since it also has political and especially economic weaknesses. PDRY’s GNP has plummeted since Suez Canal closed. Economy further aggravated by impact recent hostilities, shift of more resources from civilian to military sector, and extravagant nationalization measures.

4. US under no illusion that unity between two Yemens will occur. Communist regime in Aden seriously divided over issue of unity. It fearful of overwhelming numerical superiority of YAR which would engulf PDRY if union should occur. Moreover there are indications that Soviets suspicious of unity concept and may be counselling Aden government against it. Accordingly, PDRY can be expected to do everything possible to work against implementation of real unity by supporting individual acts of terrorism (mining, assassinations) in YAR and stimulating confessional split between northern Zaidis and southern Shafiis. We also believe that new al-Hajri government which more conservative in outlook than its predecessor is very much aware of PDRY potential for acts of subversion and will be on lookout to counter them. While we believe Iryani and al-Hajri are skeptical that any real progress toward unity will be achieved under these present conditions. YARG nevertheless wants to be in position to demonstrate to Yemeni people and to other Arab states that responsibility any failure in unity moves clearly fault of PDRY. We believe SAG recognizes political advantages this posture for YARG and appreciates value of avoiding public comments against Yemen unity that would embarrass al-Hajri government.

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5. We believe best way to continue isolating PDRY and neutralizing its potential threat to Saudi security is, first and foremost, to help build up YAR’s economy. To do this effectively, however, requires that assistance which is provided to Yemen be channeled through YARG mechanisms. Not only will it strengthen central government against competing pressures of tribes and army but assure some accountability. We recognize important role SAG has played in providing budget support to YARG and for project assistance now underway. We hope that SAG’s generosity will continue at this critical time when President Iryani needs all support he can get. For its part, USG is now initiating a grant aid program involving over ten specific projects for which we expect to obligate several million dollars and which is to be supplemented by food aid starting with one million dollars in FY 73. We plan to augment this aid by undertaking English language program, scholarships, having private foundations play role in public administration and seed development, and encouraging UN agencies augment aid especially through World Food Program.

6. At same time, USG recognizes that training and improvement of YAR Army is needed. To make YAR Army effective, however, we believe will take long period of time and should not be done at expense of needed economic development. Problem we both face is lack of good information or judgment of what is really needed. YARG requests for arms are in vaguest terms. Many types of arms clearly appear to be beyond the YAR Army’s ability to use and maintain. There no idea of what useable Soviet equipment is in YAR inventory and what logistics, training and operational problems occur with substitution or intermixture of arms obtained from other sources. Moreover, in light recent border fighting, it appears deficiency in YAR Army may not be so much lack of equipment as lack of training, organization, leadership, and control over and coordination with other para-military units such as NUF. We hope therefore that SAG and YAR military will consult soon to review YAR’s equipment on hand, new equipment needs, possible sources of supply and training. We also believe would be worth considering encouraging incorporation of Saudi-supported NUF units into YAR Army.

7. In presenting these views, you should note that US considers security assistance for YAR as a regional matter and that we look primarily to Saudi Arabia, Iran and possibly Jordan to help in this effort. We are hopeful that YAR’s relations with Iran will soon be back again on track. Were US to enter into a direct military relationship with YAR, by providing arms and personnel to train YAR armed forces, we feel this could give the Soviets opportunities entrench themselves still more deeply in Aden. However, we also continue to wish to encourage and support regional defense cooperation. We are therefore prepared do following:

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(A) Consider sympathetically Saudi requests to transfer US military equipment obtained under FMS which can be effectively utilized by YAR forces (we have previously explained why RSAF F–86s and T–33s are type of equipment that should not be transferred) following consultations between SAG and YAR military reps:

(B) Resupply SAG on FMS basis with replacements for equipment it transfers to YAR:

(C) Examine possibility of selective FMS cash sales of spare parts and other equipment to YAR armed forces. Latter would now be possible since YAR has recently been added to list of countries eligible for FMS. However, as YAR does not have foreign exchange to make many, if any, direct purchases under FMS, assume SAG would have to provide needed funds. FYI: We are aware, that in the long run, and if the inventory of US equipment should become substantial, logistical realities might make the complicated process of supplying spare parts through third countries unworkable. The USG might then have to consider supplying such items directly to YAR through FMS, either at Yemeni or third country expense. End FYI.

8. Any training which SAG could provide Yemeni officers in its own institutions would be highly desirable. When training can demonstrably not be provided in region, we would be prepared offer small number of training slots for Yemeni officers (not in any case to exceed two or three annually) in US service schools on FMS basis at Saudi expense.

9. You should conclude by mentioning that we will welcome continuing to receive SAG views on military situation in Yemen. This is area where we have little hard information. We are also seeking independent assessment from Iran but recognize latter may take time in coming so long as YARGOI relations not patched up.

10. FYI: We have given careful study to suggestion contained in para 5 of Jidda 3621. Other than munitions control licensing approval, there no US statutory obstacle to SAG purchasing commercially C–130s specifically for use by RSAF in YAR. We understand that orders placed now with Lockheed would bring delivery in 1975. We would also be prepared to consider Saudi request for formal transfer of C–130 aircraft to YAR Air Force provided we satisfied aircraft could be effectively operated by YAR and that USG received written assurance from YARG that aircraft would not be further transferred by YARG without USG consent. Alternatively, Saudis might consider purchase of civilian version of C–130 (L–100) similar to model now in use by Kuwait Air Force for YAR. Purchase new aircraft would of course be subject negotiations on price and availability with manufacturer. Price C–130 without spares now approximately 5 million dollars. However, opportunities offer credit terms remote. YAR not on list of coun [Page 642] tries to which we extending FMS credits, there no FMS credits for Saudi Arabia in FY 73 under continuing resolution authority, and EXIM financing of military aircraft for YAR prohibited under US law because YAR not a developed country. We have also looked at possibility of leasing C–130 aircraft. This is costly alternative. Dry lease costs alone approximately 500,000 annually. Operating costs, spares, training, etc. would more than quadruple this figure. We would guess that Saudis would not consider paying high lease costs for aircraft used by YAR and would use instead own C–130s.

11. FYI: We agree that there could be some advantages from experienced Jordan Arab Army staff officers undertaking in depth review of Yemeni military situation and requirements. However, we think any Jordanian involvement in Yemen should come as result of Saudi or at least YAR initiative. Ground work for such a mission would need be carefully prepared with Saudis (who, as you correctly point out, may be less than happy to see their special role in Yemen encroached upon by Jordanians) as well as with Yemenis. Also, we would not wish to add Jordanian to Saudi and Yemeni pressures on US to get deeply into military assistance field with YAR, nor would we wish encourage King Hussein press USG for additional funds in order to support possible deployment of Jordanian personnel or equipment to Yemen.

12. FYI: With respect to possible transfer of Jordanian or Gulf state Hawker Hunters to YAR Air Force, problems of support for these aging aircraft could be worse than those YAR would find in supporting obsolete US F–86s. As far as Gulf states are concerned, we defer to judgment of Embassy Kuwait but would assume that both Kuwait and Abu Dhabi (only Gulf states with Hawkers) would be unlikely to make them available to YAR until their own follow-on aircraft needs have been met. Thus, it likely be matter of years rather than months before Hawkers from those sources might be ready for transfer to Yemen and same problems of support for obsolete aircraft would prevail. End FYI.

  1. Summary: The Department responded to the Embassy’s analysis of Saudi Arabian, Yemeni, and U.S. policies toward the Yemen Arab Republic and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. It then discussed future policy options for isolating the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia Volume III, September 1 1971–April 1973. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Dickman and Wrampelmeier; cleared in PM/MAS, L/PM, T, DOD/ISA, OSD/DSAA, AID/NESA, EUR/SOV, and USAF, and by Ransom, Noyes, and Atherton; approved by Sisco. Repeated Priority to Amman, Kuwait City, Sana’a, Tehran, USCINCEUR, and the Department of Defense.