234. Telegram From the Embassy in the Yemen Arab Republic to the Department of State1

4220. Subject: President Ghashmi on Internal/External Situation. Ref: Sana 42152 (Notal).

1. Begin summary: During Oct 26 meeting, Ghashmi emphasized that internal situation is under control. Despite some anti-regime activity by leftists in the South. Acknowledging continued rumors blaming him for Hamdi’s death,3 Ghashmi firmly denied them while promising to continue Hamdi’s policies, particularly close relations with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Ghashmi conveyed impression of confident man. Given Yemen’s history of intrigue and instability, however, it is still difficult to state categorically that Ghashmi can succeed in remaining in power even though it appears for now that he is determined to consolidate both his political and military positions. End summary.

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2. On Oct 26, at my request, President Ahmad al-Ghashmi received me in his office at the military command headquarters. Primary purpose of my call was to deliver Presidential message (see reftel)4 but also I took occasion to engage in tour d’horizon with Ghashmi over a variety of internal and external matters.

3. At the onset of the half hour conversation, Ghashmi apologized for not seeing me more often during the last two weeks, but that press of work prevented him from doing so. He also admitted that he did not wish to give the excuse to other Ambassadors to ask for call because this would have wasted his time. He hastened to add that I should, however, never hesitate to come to see him whenever I wished because he considers the US and the American Embassy as sincere friends of Yemen not bound by usual protocol.

4. I replied that I fully realized his time has been limited and that I, too, had no desire to impose on him during these difficult days. I noted jokingly that I was sure he has been besieged by all sorts of people over the last few weeks offering advice and expressing their opinions. (He laughingly agreed saying he didn’t realize Yemen had so many specialists in government affairs.) I continued that as in the past I was not calling on him to offer advice or to interfere in Yemen’s affair in any way. The US Government and people wish to reaffirm their desire to see stability and prosperity obtain in Yemen and thus my Embassy and I stand ready to help in any way we can to achieve these goals in cooperation with Yemen as well as with Yemen’s other Peninsular friends. With the US, “it will be business as usual.”

5. As an example of our support for Yemen I then went through the kinds of programs we are presently engaged in in both the developmental and military areas. I noted several aid projects as well as the continued deliveries of arms under the terms of the Yemen-Saudi-US agreement. I also expressed the USG’s readiness to consider modernization of the Air Force at such time as the Saudis and Yemenis work out the details.5 In this latter regard, Ghashmi said that Saudis have not yet raised the subject but that he intends to do so at the appropriate time.

6. Ghashmi thanked me for my words of support and stated that he fully appreciates what the USG and the American Embassy have done in the past for Yemen and that now his only hope is that Yemeni-US relations will even get better. In this context, he added that Soviet Ambassador has already called on him to express desire for good relations between Soviet Union and Yemen. But Ghashmi dismissed [Page 744] this desire as “empty words.” He continued that Russians “are unhappy with me because they know what my true feelings are.” Ghashmi also emphasized need for good relations with Saudi Arabia and stressed that these relations should be marked with candor and sincerity, where a “yes” means “yes” and a “no” means “no.” He pledged to work closely with the Saudis and also expressed understanding that while U.S. does not play mediating role, it is a friend of both and therefore available as needed.

7. Ghashmi then went on to stress that the internal situation in Yemen is under control and that the army and government are working together to ensure security and stability as well as to continue the programs and policies of the late President Hamid. Ghashmi acknowledged that rumors persist in the country connecting him with the death of late President Hamdi. Ghashmi emphasized that his conscience is “clear before God” and that he is not going to dignify these charges by rebutting them.

8. Ghashmi then told me that investigations continue on the murder of the President and said that there have already been “many arrests.” (He noted in an aside that the arrests are being kept secret.) In this connection, he noted that an effort is being made to see if there is any link between the resignation of the Minister of Social Works Ahmad Qasim Dahmash and his subsequent pamphlet attack on the President shortly before the assassination. In addition he said that associates of Kibsi, his would-be assassin,6 have also been rounded up.

9. Ghashmi continued that leftist parties in Yemen are trying to take advantage of the situation and admitted there has been trouble in the South, particularly around the town of Damt. He insisted, however, that the army is ready to repel trouble from any source if Yemen is attacked or threatened. He denied rumors that the Amaliqa Brigade (President Hamdi’s brother’s unit) has in any way diminished its support of the government and characterized it as the “best unit we have.” He noted, however that the deputy Ali Hubayshi and one other of the senior officers of the brigade fled to the South after the assassination of the Hamdi brothers and after they had stolen almost one million riyals from Abdullah al-Hamdi’s office in Dhamar. PDRY has been asked to return these men but thus far no reply has been given. Ghashmi emphasized that Yemen wants good relations with PDRY but that at the same time it will not be deterred by threats or subversion coming from PDRY.

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10. Addressing himself to future political developments, Ghashmi stated that it is necessary to build a governmental system in Yemen so that rule is not dependent upon one man’s existence. He admitted that if he had been assassinated last week, Yemen would have fallen in chaos. He went on to say that he hopes to see the eventual establishment of a “majlis” as well as other institutions in order to strengthen the government when it faces crises like those of the past two weeks. He also observed that no efforts will be made to do anything about Abdallah al-Ahmar for the time being lest it be concluded that a reconciliation between al-Ahmar and the central government is the payoff of a Saudi plot against the late Hamdi. Thus, he saw no change in the situation in the North for the next few months but at the same time he expressed confidence that situation there presents no threat to the central government.

11. Expressing deep appreciation for President Carter’s message, he urged me to convey to President Carter and the American people his best wishes as well as his assurances that Yemen values its friendship with the United States and that he personally will do everything in his power to “double” the extent of that friendship and of the cooperation between the two countries.

12. Comment: As to be expected, Ghashmi said all of the right things, particularly re relations with U.S. and with Saudi Arabia, while also clearly revealing his oft expressed leanings to the right. In latter connection, it is noteworthy his statement re Saudi Arabia repeated that of Asnaj to me yesterday word for word (see Sana 4215), which tends confirm he is listening to his advisors. In any case. Ghashmi conveyed a strong sense of a man in control both of himself and of the situation. He appeared confident of his present position as well as of his plans for Yemen’s future. The only concern I could detect was over the possibility of anti-regime activities by PDRY but even here he gave no sign of being unwilling to deal with them. Looking me straight in the eye he certainly gave a convincing affirmation of his innocence in Hamdi’s death. Only time will tell, however, if he can convince both the Yemen Army and the Yemeni people of this innocence because as he admitted himself, rumors continue in Sana and all over Yemen blaming him for the assassination. Nonetheless, so far he has been quite successful and the top Yemenis, whether in the army or the government have apparently decided either to bide their time before moving against him or to support him because of the widespread belief that there is no one on the political scene at present who can take Ghashmi’s place. Yet, one has to be realistic and admit that whether Ghashmi can hold the present consensus together is still problematic, given Yemen’s long and dolorous history of political intrigue and instability. But, at this time Ghashmi appears to be determined to [Page 746] consolidate his political and military position to face whatever the future may hold.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770394–1280. Confidential. Sent for information to Jidda, Cairo, Amman, Mogadiscio, Khartoum, Muscat, Manama, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Tehran, Kuwait, Dhahran, Baghdad, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Addis Ababa, Beirut, Tunis, Rabat, London, the Department of Defense, COMIDEASTFOR, and USCINCEUR.
  2. In telegram 4215 from Sana, October 26, Scotes summarized his October 25 discussion of Saudi-Yemeni relations with al-Asnaj. Al-Asnaj informed Scotes that he planned a “quick trip” to Saudi Arabia in order to “bring Saudi leadership up to date on current Yemeni developments.” Asnaj also noted “rumors in town linking Saudis and US to Ghashmi as the forces behind Hamdi’s death. Asnaj said that for that reason Saudis and Yemenis must work together to convince the public that these rumors are not true. At the same time, over-cooperation might also backfire.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770394–0520)
  3. See Document 233.
  4. Telegram 253882 to Sana, October 21, transmitted a message expressing President Carter’s “best wishes” to al-Ghashmi. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770390–0718)
  5. See Document 230.
  6. An attempt on al-Ghashmi’s life occurred on October 17. (Telegram 4080 from Sana, October 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770381–0030)