249. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron) to President Carter 1


  • Military Relationship with North Yemen

We have had a military assistance program with North Yemen for several years in which we provided equipment while the Saudis paid [Page 774] for it and monitored the introduction into the North Yemeni Armed Forces. All parties agreed that this system has been cumbersome and unresponsive. (S)

A meeting is scheduled for Saturday, July 29, in Saudi Arabia for a formal review of the program.2 At our request, State and Defense have prepared coordinated guidance for the U.S. participants which would accelerate the current program, demonstrate U.S. willingness to cooperate in giving North Yemen a more effective defense capability, and hopefully prod the Saudis into a more cooperative posture than in the past.3 (S)

Most of the guidance simply involves improved management of military sales which were approved some time ago. However, there is one new issue. Some time ago, we approved the transfer of four F–5B trainers to North Yemen from Saudi Arabia. The Yemenis have requested purchase of 12 additional F–5E aircraft to partially replace their present force of Soviet MIGs. The Saudis have been considering whether or not they would be willing to pay for these aircraft. We anticipate that the Saudis will agree on Saturday4 to buy the 12 F–5s, and we would like to be able to respond positively to their request. (S)

The proposed guidance reads: “If Saudi Arabia requests agreement to proceed with the sale of additional F–5s, you should respond that the Administration is prepared in principle to give favorable consideration to providing an appropriate number of aircraft. But as Saudis are aware, we cannot make a formal commitment until we have consulted with Congress. Under any circumstances . . . formal notification could not take place until the Congress returns in February 1979.” (S)

[Page 775]

RECOMMENDATION: That you approve the draft guidance accepting a commitment in principle to give favorable consideration to sale of additional F–5Es to North Yemen. State and Defense concur.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 56, Yemen. Secret. Sent for action. Carter initialed the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the memorandum. Sick sent the memorandum to Aaron under a July 26 memorandum, recommending that Aaron sign it. Sick noted that Denend concurred with the recommendation.
  2. No record of the July 29 meeting has been found. However, Murray discussed the Yemen Arab Republic’s military needs with Sultan in Taif on August 1. At the meeting, Murray also reported on his meeting with Salih the evening before. (Telegram 5695 from Jidda, August 3; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780318–0675)
  3. In a July 19 memorandum, Brzezinski recommended that Vance and Brown prepare draft guidance in advance of the July 29 meeting in Riyadh. Brzezinski noted: “We should be prepared to make concrete proposals about how our existing program can be expedited, how training bottlenecks can be overcome, and what type of high impact accelerated deliveries we would be prepared to consider in cooperation with Saudi Arabia.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 92, Yemen: Arab Republic (YAR) (North): 4/77–7/78) Duncan provided the Department of Defense guidance in a July 22 memorandum to Brzezinski and Vance. (Ibid.) The Department of State response on July 25, which Wisner transmitted to Brzezinski, was in the form of a draft cable to Jidda, Sana, and Riyadh. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 56, Yemen)
  4. July 29.
  5. Carter approved this recommendation and initialed in the right-hand margin next to it.