170. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Saudi Desire for Assurances of Our Support and Protection

Prior to returning for consultations Ambassador West met with Crown Prince Fahd February 14. Fahd indicated intensified concern about the Soviet threat posed through the Horn of Africa and the Yemen to Saudi Arabia. In addition to expressing worry about increasing Soviet influence in the Horn of Africa, Fahd indicated there is evidence that the more radical elements in the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen are gaining control and are planning to cooperate in the overthrow of the moderate Yemen Arab Republic regime.

Fahd requested Ambassador West to ask you privately what the position of the United States would be if Saudi Arabia has to defend itself from Soviet aggression through the Horn and the Yemen. Ambassador West sought to reassure Fahd about U.S. concern for Saudi welfare, noting particularly your decision to proceed with the F–15 sale as evidence of our determination to enable Saudi Arabia to defend itself. Fahd noted that the Soviet threat could well manifest itself in infiltration and subversion rather than open military aggression.

John West feels that the Saudis, while reassured by your action on the F–15 sale, are feeling increasingly threatened and in need of further assurances of U.S. support. I am attaching a copy of West’s memorandum on his meeting with Fahd at Tab 1.2

As you know, since 1950 your predecessors have sent to Saudi leaders a number of written assurances of our interest in and support for the security of the welfare of Saudi Arabia. Such general assurances, which have stopped short of any specific commitment to defend Saudi Arabia, have been buttressed by exchange of intelligence and diplomatic consultations, our military supply and training relationship, and in 1963 the temporary stationing of U.S. Air Force aircraft in Saudi [Page 548] Arabia at a time when the Saudi leadership felt particularly threatened by the civil war in the Yemen Arab Republic.3 A summary of Presidential assurances to Saudi Arabia is attached at Tab 2.4

I believe it would be helpful if you would give Ambassador West a letter to King Khalid, to be delivered through Crown Prince Fahd, containing your assurances of concern for Saudi security and welfare. A proposed text is attached at Tab 3.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs, Historical Files Pertaining to Saudi Arabia 1973–1990, Lot 91D410, Box 2, Presidential Letters to S.A. (Reassurances). No classification marking. Printed from a copy that does not bear Vance’s initials. Atherton transmitted the memorandum to Vance under a March 13 action memorandum recommending “that you send the attached memorandum to the President which suggests that he give West a letter to King Khalid containing assurances of concern for Saudi security but stopping well short of making a specific commitment.” (Ibid.)
  2. Attached but not printed is West’s undated memorandum to Carter and Vance.
  3. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XVIII, Near East, 1962–1963.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Attached but not printed.