183. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

RP M 79–10061

SAUDI PERCEPTIONS OF KEY ISSUES AFFECTING SAUDI-US RELATIONS [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Saudi-US Relations [classification not declassified]

There are two schools of thought within the Saudi Government on relations with the US. Crown Prince Fahd epitomizes and is personally identified with the traditional Saudi relationship with the US, which most Saudis increasingly see as a “client” relationship. Fahd has supported the US and its policies on regional security, oil, and Middle East peace efforts. Fahd appears to identify Saudi interests with US interests; he puts great faith and reliance in the US-Saudi “special relationship.” [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

The wisdom of such close identification with and reliance on the US has come under increasingly sharp attack from two groups: conservatives who want to minimize the unsettling Western influences on Saudi society, and young, Westernized technocrats—both royal princes and commoners—who want to more aggressively assert Saudi national interests even if they diverge from US interests. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

US credibility has declined dramatically with all Saudi leaders over the past year. [2 lines not declassified] Young nationalistic Saudis have argued persuasively with their elders that Saudi and US interests diverge on issues such as the Camp David accords and oil production policy, and that Saudi Arabia should, therefore, distance itself somewhat from the US. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

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Comment [classification not declassified]

We expect additional strains in Saudi-US relations on major issues such as Middle East peace efforts and oil production levels. US attempts to exploit Crown Prince Fahd’s desire for close US-Saudi relations in order to secure pledges on oil and peace are not likely to produce the desired results. [9 lines not declassified]

[1 paragraph (14 lines) not declassified]

[4 lines not declassified] We believe further US pressure on issues like oil or support for the Camp David talks may provoke a strong anti-US reaction among Saudi leaders including Fahd. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

[heading not declassified; classification not declassified]

Saudi security concerns are the overriding Saudi foreign policy issue; US responsiveness to their request for specific defense commitments and [less than 1 line not declassified] contingency planning may well determine the course of US-Saudi cooperation for the next several years. The Saudis are convinced that the Soviet “threat” is urgent and strikes at the very survival of their regime. The lack of US responsiveness to Saudi warnings of Soviet encirclement has caused them to begin a fundamental reassessment of their relations with the US and USSR. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Comment [classification not declassified]

ORPA/ME agrees with recent assessments of the US Ambassador [less than 1 line not declassified] that the Saudi request for a defense commitment and [less than 1 line not declassified] contingency planning is a deliberate test of the US commitment to their security. If the US response is considered inadequate, we believe that the Saudis probably will move toward a more non-aligned political posture and become less accommodating toward US energy concerns and Middle East peace efforts. The heretofore unthinkable—an accommodation with the USSR—is also a possibility. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Recent signs of US support like the F–15 visit are not enough in Saudi eyes. [1 line not declassified] National Guard Commander Prince Abdallah—one of the pro-US senior princes—was critical of the visit as being an unconvincing show of force, but just enough to draw criticism of Saudi Arabia from its “progressive neighbors.” Abdallah reportedly said that rather than see such “meaningless” shows, he would prefer the US speed delivery of the F–15s Saudi Arabia has ordered and hasten the training of Saudi pilots to fly them. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Oil Policy and Production [classification not declassified]

Saudi policy is to limit oil production in 1979 to an annual average ceiling of 8.5 million barrels/day. For technical, conservationist and [Page 597] economic reasons, the Saudis do not want to continue to produce at higher levels to make up for the Iranian shortfall. The Saudis believe they have done all they can to keep OPEC price increases moderate; they consider US pressure to do more unrealistic and short-sighted. They have expressed resentment over US statements of unhappiness about their behavior at the recent Abu Dhabi meeting.2 The Saudis do not intend to spend billions of dollars to install excess productive capacity to meet an ever-growing world energy demand, particularly in light of the failure of the US to curtail its ever-rising demand for imported oil. The Saudis have made clear that they have done about all they intend to do to meet world demand. Major oil consumers, especially the US, must get serious about conservation and developing alternative energy sources. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Comment [classification not declassified]

Despite current statements by Crown Prince Fahd that Saudi Arabia is willing to compensate for the shortfall in oil production caused by the turmoil in Iran, we believe current Saudi policy remains to produce no more than 8.5 million barrels/day on an annual basis, to resist US pressure to spend billions of dollars to increase future productive capacity, and to slow considerably Saudi development plans. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Under US pressure, Crown Prince Fahd has indicated willingness to rescind the oil price increases and production limitations announced in late January by Oil Minister Yamani. Such a move, however, would further weaken Fahd’s domestic political position [2 lines not declassified]. US insistence on rescinding Yamani’s orders has alienated the Oil Minister and probably has embarrassed and angered Fahd deeply. It ultimately may erode Fahd’s willingness and perhaps even his ability to cooperate with the US.3 A rescinding of Yamani’s orders—which Saudi leaders believe are justified and in Saudi national interests—is likely to cause sharp anti-US feelings within the government and stiffen opposition to future cooperation with the US. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Fahd’s willingness to expend political capital for the US can be expected to diminish sharply if the US is not forthcoming in meeting Saudi security [Page 598] concerns, and, secondarily, its concerns on the Middle East peace issue. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Middle East Peace [classification not declassified]

The Saudis see the Arab-Israeli issue as directly affecting their own national security. To be pushed to support a peace agreement that does not have at least moderate Arab acceptance would, in their view, increase radicalism in the Arab world or possibly cause Palestinian retaliation. In either event they see themselves as a prime target. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

The Saudis have two “non-negotiable” demands for a general Middle East peace: that Arab territory—including East Jerusalem—captured in the 1967 war be returned to Arab control, and that the Palestinians have the right to self-determination, including the possibility of a separate West Bank state. Saudi suspicion of the Camp David accords has hardened along with a suspicion that the US supports a separate Egyptian-Israeli peace rather than the general Middle East peace it espouses. The Saudis believe the Camp David accords will lead only to a separate peace and the isolation of Egypt from the Arab world. Saudi Arabia would then be forced to further align itself with the more hard-line Arab states, further straining ties with Cairo and Washington. The Saudis would like to see the Camp David accords dropped and the peace process returned to the United Nations, where the Arabs would negotiate as a bloc, preventing unilateral Egyptian moves for a separate peace. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

Comment [classification not declassified]

Egyptian President Sadat’s negotiations with Israel present Saudi leaders with a dilemma. The Saudis want to remain on close terms with Sadat, but they see their own security in the Arab world, and the best means to reach a general Middle East peace, in Arab consensus, not in unilateral negotiations like Sadat’s. The Saudis would prefer to avoid having to choose between Sadat and the majority of Arabs who reject the Camp David accords as inadequate. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

During the past year, the Saudis have moved away from Egypt and the US on the peace issue. If an Egyptian-Israeli peace is signed that does not contain strong “linkage” to Palestinian rights of self-determination on the West Bank and Gaza, we believe the Saudis probably would go along with the sanctions voted at the Baghdad Summit last November.4 The Saudis do not act in dramatic ways and there is flexibility in their position on the peace issue, but the failure of US efforts to convince them to support the Camp [Page 599] David accords should make clear that they will not support what all the Arab world sees as a separate Egyptian-Israeli peace. Saudi unhappiness with the Camp David accords has had a spillover effect on other aspects of US-Saudi relations, increasing the doubts of those who question the wisdom of close Saudi identification with the US. [classification and handling restriction not declassified]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 67, Saudi Arabia: 1–3/79. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. Prepared in the Middle East Division, Office of Regional and Political Analysis of the National Foreign Assessment Center. Carter wrote in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the memorandum: “Cy—info JC.” Brzezinski sent a copy of the memorandum to Vance under a February 5 memorandum, in which he indicated that Carter wanted Vance to see the memorandum. Inderfurth signed the February 5 memorandum for Brzezinski. (Ibid.) Attached to another copy of the intelligence memorandum is a February 2 memorandum to Carter from Turner, in which Turner noted: “Attached is a thoughtful memorandum on the attitudes of Saudi leaders towards the United States which I think will be of interest to you at this time.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 81M00919R, Executive Registry Subject Files (1977–1979), Box 14, Folder 22, C–382, Saudi Arabia)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 175.
  3. Carter sent a message to Fahd on January 30 thanking him for the Saudi decision to maintain its oil production level. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXVII, Energy Crisis, 1974–1980, Document 185. In telegram 1010 from Jidda, February 1, West wrote: “Our apparently successful efforts to persuade Prince Fahd to reverse the recent Saudi oil pricing decision may well be a pyrrhic victory. Whatever the economic benefits may be to USG, and in the Saudi view they are infinitesimally small, we will have exacerbated existing divisions within SAG and damaged further Fahd’s credibility here.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850027–2583)
  4. See footnote 2, Document 175.