213. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Sultan Qaboos’ Call on the President


  • His Majesty Qaboos bin Sa’id
  • Sayyid Tarik bin Taimur al Sa’id, Personal Advisor on Diplomatic Affairs and Senior Ambassador
  • Qais Abdul-Munim Al-Zawawi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Ahmed Macki, Ambassador of Oman
  • The President
  • The Secretary of State
  • Lt. Gen. Scowcroft
  • Ambassador Wolle

Responding to the President’s expression of welcome and his inquiry about the flight to Washington, His Majesty said the long trip from London earlier in the day had been comfortable and that the sunny weather here was an improvement on the cloudy, nasty conditions in London. The President stated that we are proud of our long, long association with Oman going back to 1833, the time of President Andrew Jackson, who indeed was farsighted to establish such a relationship. He added that we think this long and good foundation of our relations can be expanded upon.

The President asked about the American Peace Corps volunteers in Oman. Sultan Qaboos responded that the volunteers are in such fields as social work, health and agriculture, and that they are doing a good job in their scattered locations around the country. The President expressed pleasure in hearing of their contributions and noted that while the US has had good luck generally with the Peace Corps, there are bound to be exceptions. He spoke of an effort in recent years to upgrade their skills. Originally, some volunteers had felt too strongly that they had primarily a social mission or objective, but over the past ten or twelve years most of these had been eliminated in favor of individuals with specific skills to offer. Also, the Peace Corps has recruited a number of older persons, including retired craftsmen with [Page 672] skills in agriculture and construction, for example. Such volunteers wished to contribute their talents to mankind for a few years before final retirement, and their presence has added sound balance to the program.

The President said he would appreciate the Sultan’s assessment of the situation in Dhofar, particularly the efforts of the South Yemen Government against Oman. Sultan Qaboos responded that the South Yemenis indeed do support the Dhofar terrorists, which they call revolutionaries, to the extent that recently they have been shelling Omani positions with guns and mortars from their side of the border. They also provide weapons and training to the terrorists. Some 500 young Omanis have been taken across the border into South Yemen for Marxist indoctrination and education in two schools, one bearing the name “Lenin School.” The aim is to prepare them for subsequent infiltration and trouble-making in Dhofar. In doing all this, the South Yemenis have Soviet support and advisors, some Cuban advisors, and some support from East Germany and North Korea. Asked by the President if Red China has been involved, the Sultan replied that they were at one stage but have not been helping for the past two years or so. Chinese support tailed off about the time the Soviet support began.

Sultan Qaboos said that his government is trying to put an end to the Dhofar terrorism and guerrilla warfare, and that there has been much progress. He said Oman’s Iranian friends are assisting, for which he is very grateful. He stated that most of the territory that had been under terrorist influence has been more or less pacified. Once Omani Government rule is established in a given area, he tries to give his people their due by setting up schools and clinics, making water available and providing job and farming opportunities. The Sultan said he is convinced that the affected persons now realize clearly that the Government really wants to help them. He added that both his own forces and the Iranian troops have suffered some losses in the past month in the course of a campaign against the terrorists, who are situated in difficult terrain and hiding in caves and forests. However, he hoped soon to be able to say that his forces are in control of the entire area. Even then, the situation would remain problematic for a long time to come if the South Yemenis continued on their present course.

The Secretary remarked that the Aden regime is certainly a very cantankerous group, one that has also been giving the Saudis a good deal of trouble.

The President stated that the US supports Oman’s efforts to regain its territory and control it. He realized there had been one or two Omani requests to which, for our own supply reasons, we had been unable to accede—in particular, a request for the TOW missile. Nonetheless, it remains our policy to do what we can to help nations that help [Page 673] themselves, nations such as Oman which have the aim and ambition of improving the lot of their people. The Sultan assured the President that Oman’s aim is to build itself up, provide greater educational opportunities, strengthen its own economy and make full use of its resources. One day Oman’s oil would disappear, and his people in the meantime must develop their agriculture, fisheries, minerals and so forth. He said he certainly has no intention of getting involved in other peoples’ internal affairs, and he does not like it when others interfere in Oman. The President commented on how fortunate we all would be if only this were a universal attitude.

Asked if Oman is trying to increase its oil output, the Sultan referred to the two new offshore concessions now being explored by American and French companies. Both are about to start drilling, and there is great hope for gas as well as oil. The President inquired whether the present oil producing area is located in the regions of guerrilla warfare, and was told that all known oil areas are further to the north and east.

On learning that the Sultan plans to remain in the US only three days, the President encouraged him to come again to have a good look at the country, including the midwestern heartland as well as our more publicized vacation areas such as Florida and California. When the Sultan said he would like to do this sometime, probably crossing the Atlantic by sea, and asked what the best season would be, the President suggested anytime from May to October. While not recommending Washington itself in mid-summer, he noted that His Majesty probably is accustomed to much more heat, if not humidity, than Washington offers even then.

The President commented that the Shah has been travelling this week to Jordan and Egypt. The Secretary, noting that he was aware of the Sultan’s acquaintance with the Shah, said the Iranian ruler is indeed an impressive person and stated that we have invited him to visit the US in May.

The Secretary asked how the Iranian troops are doing in Dhofar. Responding, the Sultan said they are doing well, though in this kind of a guerrilla encounter there is no substitute for experience, in knowing where to look and what to do. Asked by the President whether the South Yemenis helping the guerrilla are true Yemenis or are recruited elsewhere, the Sultan described them as mainly Yemeni but with some elements from the Gulf. They also have a local South Yemeni militia that is recruited when they are in trouble.

The President asked if aircraft are useful in the kind of fighting in progress in Dhofar. Sultan Qaboos said that helicopters prove particularly helpful and add mobility to the efforts of his forces. Also, British fixed-wing Strikemaster aircraft are used for low-level attacks when conditions and the terrain permit. The President commented on how [Page 674] useful the older, slower planes had been in the Korean War for low-level missions. The Secretary said that once in Korea the North Koreans sent an old-fashioned biplane over Seoul and the South Koreans simply couldn’t hit it.

Sultan Qaboos presented one request. He said Oman has sought to buy some American-made telescopic sights for rifles in its possession but has been “turned down.” He hoped these might be made available. The President asked General Scowcroft to look into the matter, and told the Sultan he was glad the matter had been brought to our attention. He commented that this type of sniper-scope device has become far more sophisticated in recent years, and recalled seeing work being done on such equipment by an Army research team at the University of Michigan about twelve years ago. General Scowcroft added that some modern sight-vision devices actually make use of starlight.

The President asked if there is anything by way of technicians, in any special areas, in which the US might be helpful. The Sultan responded that he could not say there is just now, but perhaps in the future. When the President stated that we feel strongly that if we can we want to be helpful, Sultan Qaboos said Oman is a young country in the midst of a self-development effort, and needs all the assistance it can get.

The President declared that he was pleased to note the British are not going to pull out their support from Oman. In agreeing, the Sultan remarked that at one stage he had been afraid the British might leave. The President said that the US has some very serious problems together with the British in helping enable them to finance some of their important external activities.

On departing, Sultan Qaboos thanked the President very much for the time taken to receive him.

  1. Summary: Sultan Qaboos and President Ford discussed U.S.-Omani relations, the Dhofar situation, arms supply, and other topics.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 8, Ford Administration, January 9, 1975. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Oval Office at the White House. Drafted by Ambassador Wolle. Another record of the conversation, the White House’s version, is attached but is not published.