200. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • South Yemen Threat and North Yemen—Message from Ambassador Helms

In the context of the Brezhnev visit, Ambassador Helms called your attention to a recent cable from our embassy in Sanaa, North Yemen, reporting on a talk between our Ambassador and the North Yemeni military chief (Tab B). The cable was sent to you when it came in. The purpose of this memo is to give you a brief reply if you want one.

The burden of the North Yemeni message is that it desperately needs military assistance, that Saudi Arabia—whom the US has encouraged to play such a role—is very slow on promised military aid, that meanwhile South Yemen is being heavily supplied by the Soviets, including through third parties such as Iraq and Syria, and that the fear of invasion is again raised. Helms particularly draws your attention to the theme of the Soviet role, presumably since it relates to the general point of great power responsibility in helping defuse regional conflicts.

Just after the above message arrived, another came from Saudi Arabia (Tab C) saying the Minister of Defense had approved and sent to Faisal a proposal for emergency shipment to Yemen of arms covering about four-fifths of the equipment urgently requested by Yemen. In addition, the Saudis have almost completed a plan for overall strengthening of Yemeni defenses at a cost of about $275 million; they are wondering how much the US will help finance that.

Thus one of the problems here is that we are making an effort to get the Saudis to shoulder at least financial responsibility—with our technical help—for security in the Peninsula, and they are at this point slow and inefficient. There is some Soviet-supported buildup in South [Page 653] Yemen, and the North Yemenis are nervous. Nevertheless it seems reasonable for us to persist in our efforts to keep the Saudis out in front on issues of aid to Yemen and Oman and not to jump in and do the job for them.

RECOMMENDATION: That you approve for dispatch by backchannel the message to Ambassador Helms at Tab A.

  1. Summary: Saunders informed Kissinger of a message from Ambassador Helms in Tehran, which emphasized the necessity of military aid for the Yemen Arab Republic. Saunders also recommended that, although the Saudis had been tardy in shipping weapons to Sana’a, they take the lead, ahead of the United States, on this issue.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 641, Country Files, Middle East, Yemen Volume I, 1972–December 1973. Secret. Sent for action. At the top of the memorandum a note written in an unknown hand reads: “Action completed. Message was sent.” Attached but not published are Tabs A-C. Tab A is the draft telegram to Helms. Tab B, telegram 1090 from Sana’a, June 18, details the conversation between North Yemeni President Iryani and Ambassador Crawford. Tab C is telegram 2573 from Jidda, June 21, reporting the conversation between Minister of Defense Prince Sultan and Ambassador Thacher.