18. Telegram From the Department of State to Multiple Diplomatic Posts1

33242. Subject: U.S. Posture Toward Persian Gulf States. Refs: A) 78 Muscat 1611;2 B) Kuwait 99;3 C) Abu Dhabi 70;4 D) Cairo 594;5 [Page 53] E) State 3732;6 F) Kuwait 147;7 G) Kuwait 227;8 H) Muscat 080;9 I) Abu Dhabi 188.10

1. Secret-entire text.

2. We have read with great interest comments of various posts on changing perceptions among the Arab Gulf states of the regional strategic balance and implications for U.S. relations with these states. Posts’ views have been factored into extensive Washington policy view of U.S. posture toward the general region in the wake of events in Iran, Afghanistan and South Arabia and the apparent growth of anxiety among friendly moderate states in the region about the regional security situation. In this review we have carefully evaluated the U.S. policy posture toward the Gulf since the British withdrawal in 1971 and the development of the Gulf states and our relationship with them.

3. On the basis of this review we believe that U.S. policy of encouraging regional cooperation and orderly development of our bilateral relations with each of the states remains a fundamentally sound policy. In our presentation and implementation of it, however, we need to reflect recognition of changing circumstances, which include not just the weakening of the Iranian contribution to stability in the region, but [Page 54] also the significant progress which the Arabian Peninsula Gulf states have made in developing strong societies and strengthening the trend toward regional cooperation.

4. Action addressees should therefore seek an ongoing dialogue with host governments on the political and security environment in the region and the U.S. response to it. In these discussions you should stress the following general themes:

—U.S. interest in the region is longstanding and ongoing and we have watched with great attention the development of the Gulf states over the last decade and the regional environment in which this has occurred.

—We recognize our common interest with the Gulf states in the security and orderly development of the area and the importance of close cooperation among the states themselves in furthering this objective.

—We assume host governments have appreciated that U.S. response to changed circumstances when British withdrew from Gulf in 1971 reflected a measured effort to develop a sound modern relationship with the area without assertively seeking the degree of presence which might in itself have been a destabilizing factor in the region.

—We believe that this U.S. posture has made some contribution to enabling the states of the Gulf to demonstrate their ability to prosper and progress as independent states and to soundly lay a basis of consensus for closer cooperation with one another.

—In view of the encouraging development on the Arab side of the Gulf and the changing circumstances in neighboring countries, such as Iran and Afghanistan, we welcome closer consultation with host governments on their perception of regional environment and their sense of proper U.S. response to it.

—In this connection (ref E), we seek a closer dialogue with host governments on their security concerns in an effort to define with greater specificity the exact nature of the threat they see to stability in the area.

—We tend to share assessment (ref F) that primary route for assuring stability in the area is continued emphasis on building strong societies in each of the Gulf states with careful attention to orderly economic and social progress including respect for internationally recognized standards of human rights.

—In the wake of events in Iran we are confident that host governments share our impression of the importance of permitting political institutions to evolve in a way that permits governments to keep in sensitive touch with and reflect the aspirations of their peoples. We are aware of the sensitivity of host governments to this aspect of orderly [Page 55] development; we have watched with great interest and sympathy efforts of Kuwait and Bahrain to experiment with representative government and have shared disappointment of those governments that previous experiments with this particular type of institution have not been fully successful. With respect to political institutions we have no particular advice to offer, and certainly no particular ideology or institution which we seek to promote, but we do look forward to sharing with friendly governments in the area views on their efforts and our own to make government more responsive to the people.

—We want to continue to seek to find ways in which U.S. official and private technology and other assistance might help host governments to achieve their development goals.

—We have been impressed by the development of a consensus for regional cooperation within the region and it remains our policy to encourage this trend.

—In view of recent events in the region we assume host governments will carefully consider intensifying their search for the most effective method of working together in the interest of regional security.

—We remain prepared to assist host governments as appropriate in meeting legitimate defense needs and in considering our response in this area, we want increasingly to consider implications for regional security cooperation.

—Host governments should be assured of U.S. determination to maintain capability to preserve a global strategic balance and to maintain/promote great power relationship which will serve to deter outside intervention into the Gulf region.

—In this connection economic cooperation between U.S. and host governments, particularly OPEC governments, can develop in ways that will strengthen the ability of the U.S. and its industrial world allies to preserve global balance.

—In working to strengthen our relations with the Gulf states we want to stay in close consultation with our allies in the industrial world who have important interests in the area parallelling our own and also with Arab states such as Egypt and Jordan which have an avid interest in the security of the region.

5. In follow up to visit of Omani Foreign Minister Zawawi to Washington we are looking at possibility of encouraging similar ones by Foreign Ministers or other appropriate Cabinet members of the other Gulf states to pursue our dialogue at the Cabinet level.

6. We will be proceeding shortly to pin down dates for official visit of Shaikh Zayid of UAE. We will be looking in the coming months to the possibilities for other official visits from Gulf leaders and visits to the area by senior USG officials.

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7. For Abu Dhabi and Muscat: You should inquire of host governments as to their receptivity to visits from Defense Attache stationed in Jidda and on basis of response and outcome of such visits we will be considering further desirability of attache presence, resident or non-resident, in UAE and Oman.

8. Info addressees (except Baghdad and Moscow) should brief host governments on the general lines of U.S. policy response to Gulf states as laid out above.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790060–0555. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Twinam; cleared by George Muller (T), Saunders, J. Brian Atwood (H), Robert M. Maxim (HA), Kreisberg, O’Donohue, Carol C. Moor (INR/DDC/OIL), Quandt, McGiffert, and Richard Castrodale (S/S–O); approved by Newsom. Sent Priority to Abu Dhabi, Doha, Jidda, Kuwait, Manama, and Muscat. Sent for information Priority to Amman, USINT Baghdad, Bonn, Cairo, London, Moscow, Paris, Sana, and Tokyo.
  2. In telegram 1611 from Muscat, December 9, 1978, Wiley recommended the reassessment of U.S. relations with Oman, stating that the United States should “think in terms of building a larger community of interests with Oman and of raising somewhat our past very low official profile.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780509–1004)
  3. In telegram 99 from Kuwait, January 7, the Embassy endorsed “Wiley’s well-conceived recommendation” regarding Oman, as elucidated in telegram 1611 from Muscat, December 9, 1978. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790009–0338)
  4. In telegram 70 from Abu Dhabi, January 9, Dickman offered his assessment of U.S.-Omani relations: “With all respect for the views ably set forth by my colleagues in Kuwait and Muscat, I question whether as a knee jerk reaction to events in Iran we wish to leap into a closer and more active relationship with the Sultan, especially in military security matters. My reservations about this step are derived from more than a feeling that we seem to have a fatal fascination for absolute monarchs, especially potentially wobbly ones. I see potential problems for both Qabus and for his UAE neighbors from such a US embrace.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790010–1129)
  5. In telegram 594 from Cairo, January 10, Eilts noted that Sadat was concerned about the “threat to Arabian Peninsula/Gulf area stability which might result from Iranian developments.” Eilts concluded that “Sadat is genuinely worried about situation. He would welcome anything that we might be willing to do that would strengthen Oman and the Gulf States.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790014–0425)
  6. In telegram 3732 to multiple Middle Eastern posts, January 6, the Department noted that if discussion of the Iranian situation turned to Persian Gulf security, U.S. representatives could assure host governments of “continuing U.S. interest in and concern for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula stability.” The Department also instructed the Embassies that “it would be helpful to ongoing policy review in Washington if you could try to draw out host governments somewhat on the precise nature of the threat.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790008–01845)
  7. In telegram 147 from Kuwait, January 9, the Embassy described the reaction to the Kuwaiti Crown Prince’s 19-day visit to Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states and noted that regional security dangers had been discussed during his visit. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790012–1257)
  8. In telegram 227 from Kuwait, January 15, Maestrone reiterated earlier comments made in telegram 99 from Kuwait, January 7 (see footnote 3 above), noting: “None of the Gulf States, except for Saudi Arabia and Oman, is a viable partner in a security arrangement.” Maestrone also commented: “Naturally, any action we might undertake to promote a more active US presence in the Persian Gulf should be a subject of consultation with Saudis, whose policy interests are so closely linked with many of ours.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790103–0523)
  9. In telegram 80 from Muscat, January 18, Wiley noted the comments he had received from his colleagues in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, stating that some sort of common ground between the two viewpoints should be found. Specifically, Wiley believed that “it is time we step up our past very low profile in Oman, but I also agree with Ambassador Dickman that we should be careful to avoid projecting an image of all out American military involvement that would make Oman a target for the nationalist and leftist elements in the area.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790027–0961)
  10. In telegram 188 from Abu Dhabi, January 22, Dickman offered additional observations on the future of U.S.-Omani relations in response to the comments made by Maestrone (see footnote 8 above) and Wiley (see footnote 9 above). (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790038–0069)