224. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State1

6231. Subject: U.S.-Saudi Military Cooperation—Discussion With Fahd.

1. (S-entire text).

2. A long meeting with Crown Prince Fahd on October 13 covered a number of topics, among them the subject of increasing bilateral military cooperation. There was insufficient time to deal with this subject in considerable detail, but the important result was that we obtained Fahd’s approval for moving ahead in our security dialogue.

3. Fahd agreed that it is advisable to hold expert-level discussions on contingency planning. I mentioned that such talks would cover items like availability of landing facilities and fuel, prepositioning of ammunition and other support for U.S. forces if sent here in an emergency situation. He said that this was very important, and he would tell Sultan to have these discussions undertaken. Fahd cautioned that the talks should be conducted with utmost secrecy.

4. Concerning security of shipping in the Gulf, I told Fahd that this meeting was the first opportunity to inform him about our thinking [Page 723] on this vital subject. We were consulting with the Saudis and countries allied with us about the possible need for coordinated naval activity in the Straits and Gulf, because of our concern about a possible situation in which harassment of shipping, closure of waterways, deterrence of neutral shipping due to high war risk insurance, or other contingency disrupted the normal flow of neutral shipping.

5. Fahd responded that the consultations between the U.S. and maritime nations have had a salutary effect, e.g. upon the insurance companies. He did not address the matter of concerted international naval action itself, but he did volunteer his appreciation for recent U.S. naval actions positioning vessels closer to the Straits and in the Arabian Sea.

These actions served to bolster the confidence of SAG and the Gulf states, and demonstrated the critical importance of regional defense. In this view, he was highly gratified about the AWACS deployment, for that system had an “excellent reputation” in the Kingdom and among the Gulf states for its contribution to air defense. He said that the early criticism of the AWACS at the UN by the Foreign Minister of Iraq was undertaken without instructions from Baghdad, while on October 11 the Iraqis had stated that they understood the role of AWACS and the security relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Fahd said that the Iraqis now realize the fundamental nature of that relationship and its benefits to the entire region.

6. Comment. Our exchange of views on security cooperation was brief and somewhat discursive, admittedly, but very significant. We have the Crown Prince’s assent to strengthening our military cooperation, and, moreover, his intent to see to it that SAG implements his determination to improve the Kingdom’s preparedness in defense matters. With this significant mandate—his agreement in principle to the course of increasing bilateral involvement in regional security measures—we have the wherewithal to begin military-to-military talks. His admonition that we must maintain the confidentiality of these discussions is one that we must observe, or we will jeopardize what we are about to achieve in the present Saudi readiness for close but discreet association with us in defense matters. I will be meeting with Sultan at an early opportunity to go into these aspects of security cooperation more extensively. End comment.

7. Dept pls repeat to USMTMDET Riyadh SA for Major General Donnelly, and elsewhere as desired.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P900077–1446. Secret; Niact Immediate; Nodis.