21. Interagency Intelligence Memorandum1

SUBJECT

  • The Security Situation in the Arabian Peninsula-Persian Gulf

OVERVIEW

In the aftermath of the October War, the oil-rich states of the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf have emerged as a potent new force. While their new-found prominence has added another dimension to the future stability of the area, the security of the Peninsula and Gulf states revolves basically around a complex set of relationships which have been operative for a long period of time. In this memorandum, we will examine both traditional and new factors which will help determine how secure and stable the countries of the region will be over the next few years.

In some ways recent events have enhanced the stability of the area:

—King Faisal has achieved unprecedented prestige throughout the Arab world by his actions during and after the October war. Thus he is less susceptible to attack from Arab radicals, and his hand in playing a leading role in the stability of the Peninsula and the Gulf area has been strengthened.

—Vastly greater oil revenues, if used effectively, might hold down the discontent that has provided a fertile ground for radical movements elsewhere; it will also pay for additional modern arms, and perhaps even buy off potentially hostile neighbors.

Overall we see strong pressures for change—but within a traditional social framework. Certain developments would be of little consequence to the US. Replacement of one ruler of a small state with another, or even the replacement of the conservative regime in one of the lesser states with one of radical orientation would not necessarily interfere with our interests.

But there is some cause for concern:

—Rivalries and frictions among Gulf and Peninsula countries are about as intense as ever. Especially troublesome are those between radical and conservative regimes; they give rise to perennial strains such as those between Iraq and Iran, between Iraq and Kuwait, between [Page 107]the two Yemens, and between South Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They keep alive the protracted rebellion in the Dhofar province of Oman.

—As the Gulf states achieve higher levels of development spurred on by increased oil revenues, the political sophistication of the area will also increase making it a more fertile ground for radical ideologies.

—An upheaval led by revolutionary forces in the larger oil-producing states is unlikely at this point, but if it occurred it would be difficult or impossible to reverse and would threaten the US position in the Gulf as a whole.

—Turmoil in one of the lesser states might lead to Iranian intervention, which in turn could set the Arabs, including Saudi Arabia, against Iran. We do not think this will happen, but if it did it could badly erode US relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. The relationship between the Saudis and Iranians is good, and although it is not likely ever to become close, most leaders on both sides recognize the importance of avoiding any real deterioration.

[Omitted here is the discussion and tables.]

  1. Summary: The intelligence community assessed the security situation in the Gulf region after the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973.

    Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79R01099A, Box 12, Folder 9, The Security Situation in the Arabian Peninsula-Persian Gulf. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified].