222. Telegram From the Embassy in the Yemen Arab Republic to the Department of State1

339. Subject: Soviet Arms to Yemen. Ref: Sanaa 293.

Summary: Contrary to reftel, there may have been no MIG–21’s delivered to YAR over last weekend.

1. Reftel was written after Soviet ship with deck cargo of six MIG–21 crates was seen docked in Hodeida by Emboff on 29 January. We assumed these were aircraft which Ghashmi had twice told us were enroute and which intelligence reports led us to expect.

[Page 701]

2. Emboff able monitor unloading of ship much but not all of the time it in port and on his return to Sanaa 31 January he reported that he saw ship depart Hodeida will all six crates on board. He spotted one tracked vehicle being unloaded, apparently some type of artillery tractor or tank recovery vehicle. Subsequently another Emboff, who also in Hodeida on other business, counted five of apparently same type of tracked vehicle. From guides available at post Emboffs cannot positively identify vehicle, but its crane and truck type cabin windows suggest it is tracted, armored engineering, or tank recovery vehicle, not fighting vehicle.

2. We could conceiveably have missed unloading of MIG–21’s during first day ship in Hodeida, before Emboff saw it. If so, however, aircraft boxes not rpt not at Hodeida airport.

3. Other crates being unloaded were small, suggesting spare parts and maybe engines and ammo. Volume was not great.

4. Emboff sighted some light towed guns, apparently 45mm or 57mm anti-tank type.

5. Ship was met by Chief of Staff Ahmed al-Ghashmi and Soviet military delegation which in country for occasion.

Comment: So far as we can tell at the moment, the one shipment to date looks like limited one which Hamdi has been describing to us, Brits, Jordanians, and some Saudis. It certainly too early to close the door on advanced Soviet aircraft and tanks for YAR however. A disgruntled air force officer insists that there is a deal for 12 MIG–17’s, 12 MIG–21’s, 4 MI–8 helos and 4 AN–26 transports. He says trainees have left YAR for eight month MIG–21 conversion course in Soviet Union. We will pursue these matters through other sources in coming days.

  1. Summary: The Embassy attempted to clarify for the Department what Soviet equipment had been delivered in Hodeida for Yemen after initial reports indicated that a substantial Soviet arms shipment, including MiG–21 aircraft, had been delivered.

    Source: National Archives, RG 84, Sana’a Embassy Files: Lot 79F206, DEF 19, Military Assistance/YAR Arms. Secret. No time of transmission indicated. Repeated to Jidda, Amman, Cairo, Muscat, Tehran, and Kuwait City. Drafted by DCM Ransom; cleared by DATT Prados. Telegram 293 from Sana’a, January 31, reported an extensive shipment of Soviet arms, including jet fighters and T–55 tanks, debarked from ships at Hodeida. (Ibid.) Telegram 411 from Sana’a, February 8, confirmed that no new Soviet equipment had been shipped to Yemen; Saudi sources contacted by Prados indicated that the heavy equipment seen on the ships was destined for the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. (Ibid.)