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

3638. Dept pass CINCEUR; Geneva for Ambassador Crawford. Subject: Saudi Arabia Reaffirms Support for YAR President Iryani. Ref (A) Jidda 3527; (B) State 164692.

Summary: Prince Fahd reaffirmed SAG’s full support for President Iryani and its desire that he remain in office. SAG has prompted Consultative Assembly and COS Maswari to write Iryani letter (a) accepting his views on replacement for Mohammed Ali ’Uthman and (b) withdrawing supposedly troublesome Zaydi militia from Taiz and Hodeidah. King Faisal moreover has sent personal letter to Iryani pledging support and asking that plans for resignation be canceled. Fahd added that he had personally cautioned Ambassador Sudairy about statements attributed to him and had even offered to replace him if Yemenis so desired. End summary.

1. During meeting with Minister of Interior Prince Fahd August 25, Ambassador expressed concern of USG over reports that President Iryani was considering resignation. It would be unfortunate, we felt, if President Iryani were in fact to resign since he seemed more able than any other figure to contain Yemen’s centrifugal forces within present political framework. Our Ambassador in Yemen has made careful assessment of situation and was convinced of importance Iryani’s role as conciliator and figure best qualified to hold country beset by so many divisive forces together. Accordingly we suggested SAG might wish to send message to Iryani in Syria, where we understand he is on vacation, urging him not to resign. As a second step we thought it would be helpful if it were more widely known in Yemen that SAG fully supports Iryani and wished suggest message might be sent to Saudi Ambassador in YAR so that through him Yemenis would understand Iryani enjoyed Saudi Govt’s complete support.

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2. Prince Fahd replied that he could give Ambassador a full report on this matter since it had been discussed at highest levels of SAG and with YAR COS General Maswari and FonMin Nu’man, both of whom had recently transited Saudi Arabia. Prince affirmed that SAG was deeply concerned at reports of Iryani’s possible resignation and had looked into its possible causes. These appear to be (a) desire of Zaydi chiefs to replace late Mohammed Ali ’Uthman, a Shafa’i, with one of their own sectarians; and (b) high-handed behavior of some of Zaydi militia among Shafa’i populations of Taiz and Hodeidah. SAG had, therefore, convinced Zaydis in consultative assembly, and also Army COS Maswari, to send letter to Iryani stating their willingness to accept his nominee to succeed Mohammed Ali ’Uthman and adding that troublesome militias were being withdrawn. This letter carried by COS General Maswari to Iryani in Syria about two days ago.

3. Prince Fahd stated that in addition, King Faisal was sending private letter to President Iryani via FonMin Nu’man asking Iryani to withdraw his resignation. Letter supposedly states that such resignation would not be in interests of Yemen or Arab nation, or any responsible elements. Letter affirms King’s full confidence in President Iryani and SAG’s desire to be helpful in every way possible. Fahd commented to Ambassador that SAG sincerely wanted Iryani to stay in office because if he stepped down ensuing chaos and confustion would certainly be harmful to SAG’s interests. Ambassador said again that he hoped message to Iryani might be supplemented by message to Ambassador Sudairy, who was widely known in Yemen, to make it clear also in his contacts that SAG had full faith in Iryani.

4. Speaking most privately, Prince Fahd said that he had also spoken with Ambassador Sudairy to effect that certain statements critical of President Iryani were being attributed to him in Sanaa. Upon analysis, Fahd added, these statements were traceable to various troublemakers who wished to mar harmonious relations between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Fahd had nevertheless stressed to Ambassador Sudairy need to guard against even certain personal expressions of opinion—since these might be misinterpreted. Fahd also said that as further indication of SAG’s desire to cooperate with YARG, FonMin Nu’man had been told Yemenis could, if they wished, even designate some Saudi of their choice as SAG’s Ambassador at Sanaa.

5. Ambassador thanked Prince for this frank exchange of views and expressed belief that Saudi démarche to President Iryani should have beneficial effect on his future action and that Saudi Govt had reacted most wisely in this case.

6. At beginning of meeting Ambassador gave Prince Fahd summary outline of various types of U.S. assistance that had been and would be [Page 659] provided to YAR April 1973–June 1974. Prince thanked Ambassador, saying such summary would be useful to him.

7. [1 paragraph (7 lines) not declassified]

  1. Summary: The Embassy reported success in obtaining official Saudi support for embattled YAR President ’Abd al-Rahman al-Iryani, who had contemplated resignation.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Volume IV, May–December 1973. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Sana’a, Beirut, Kuwait City, and the U.S. Mission to Geneva. President Iryani threatened to resign, alleging that Riyadh had allowed Saudi Ambassador Sudairi to oppose him. Other events also concerned U.S. Embassy officials, who approached the Saudis on the issue, in particular Princes Sultan and Fahd, reported in telegrams 2198 and 3527 from Jidda, May 29 and August 18, respectively. (Ibid.) The Department approved Thacher’s approach in telegram 164692 to Jidda, August 22. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]) On Iryani’s resignation in 1974, see Document 207.