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

3116. Subj: Reported Execution PDRY President Salim Rubayi Ali.

1. We have no reason to doubt reports reaching us by radio from Aden that Salim Rubayi Ali and two others have been executed.2 We doubt that rebellion can continue without his leadership.3

2. It is clear that our major and perhaps only hope of manipulating South Yemen from within has been destroyed along with Salim. It is also clear that rivalries within South Yemen were not rpt not playacting but real and mortal differences within top of leadership in PDRY.

3. Observers in Middle East will draw little comfort from fact that two Chiefs of State in Middle East who sought to limit cooperation with Soviets were killed in same week. We believe it inevitable that any Middle East leader thinking of opposing Soviets will be given pause by these events, and that Soviets now loom larger in this part of the world.

4. From perspective of Sana, events can be read in two ways. One is that rebellion will inevitably be followed by purges in army which will weaken PDRY in any effort it may wish to launch against YAR. Repression which will follow murder of only PDRY leader with any popularity will also stay the hand of Abd al-Fattah Ismail in his efforts to export revolution. Alternative view is that al-Fattah has at last cleared last obstacle to completely radical policy of subversion against Dhofar and YAR and cooperation with Soviets and Cubans in major military efforts. Yemenis, of course, expect rapid increase of pressure from South; that is, they subscribe to second view expressed above. Embassy Sana is divided in its opinion this subject but, whichever reading of future events is adopted, it is clear that something, sooner or later, will have to be done to contain South Yemen and its backers.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780265–1200. Secret; Priority. Sent for information to Abu Dhabi, Amman, Jidda, Kuwait, London, Manama, and Muscat.
  2. Fighting broke out in Aden days after al-Ghashmi’s murder in Sana. The New York Times reported that on June 26, a pro-Soviet “people’s militia” led by Abdel al-Fattah Ismail defeated troops loyal to Salim Rubayi Ali, who was arrested and executed. (“South Yemen Chief Reported Slain, But Pro-Red Group Stays In Power,” The New York Times, June 27, 1978, p. Al)
  3. Salim Rubayi Ali had been a moderating influence in Marxist South Yemen. Reference is to his efforts at softening the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen’s Marxist stance and moving toward a rapprochement with North Yemen.