204. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter 1

1. Consultations with Saudi Arabia Regarding Possible Temporary Reduction of US PresenceDave Newsom held a meeting this afternoon to examine the security situation of the 35 plus thousand Americans in Saudi Arabia, in the wake of the recent Mecca Mosque incident, some signs of Shia dissidence in the Eastern Province and the generally unsettled situation in the Moslem world. In addition to Department officials, the meeting included Dean Brown of the Middle East Institute and former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Parker Hart. There was general agreement that under present circumstances a large or sudden drawdown of official Americans would have an unsettling effect on not only the Saudi Government but also the private American community.2 We concluded that the preferable course of action at this point is to instruct John West to consult with Prince Fahd about our concerns for the security of US citizens in Saudi Arabia and what further appropriate steps should be taken to ensure their safety. Thereafter, we intend to consult with leaders of the private American community in Saudi Arabia and their parent companies in the United States. We will reserve a decision on any further action towards a temporary reduction of US personnel and dependents pending the results of consultations with Crown Prince Fahd and the American business community.

2. Occupation of the Grand Mosque, Mecca: Situation Report—The situation in Mecca has apparently not changed appreciably over the last 24 hours. A small group of gunmen are still believed to be holding out in the labyrinthine basement of the Grand Mosque with an unknown number of hostages. In response to an urgent Saudi appeal, we have airlifted riot control equipment which should reach Saudi Arabia by 1800 hours local time November 29.

Several prominent Arab leaders have visited Riyadh to give moral support to the SAG in the wake of the Mecca episode, including the Amirs of Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, the Vice President of the UAE, Yasir Arafat and King Hussein.

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There have been incidents in the Eastern Province, some with fatalities, between police and Saudi Shiites participating in banned Moharram rituals. Elsewhere in the Kingdom the situation is calm.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to Saudi Arabia.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 40, State Deptartment Evening Reports, 11/79. Secret. Carter initialed the memorandum.
  2. Carter wrote “no precipitous withdrawal” in the left-hand margin next to this sentence.