254. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Yemen Arab Republic1

222174. Military addressees handle as Specat Exclusive. Subject: YAR Prime Minister Visit to Washington.

1. Yemen Arab Republic Prime Minister Abd al-Ghani met with Acting Secretary Christopher August 29 for tour d’horizon with special reference to YAR view of developments in South Arabia and the evolving YARUSG bilateral relationship. Also attending the meeting were Under Secretaries Newsom and Benson, NEA Deputy Assistant Secretary Crawford, DOD Deputy Assistant Secretary for ISA Murray, Ambassador-designate Lane and YAR Ambassador Mutawakel. In an earlier meeting, PM met with National Security Advisor Brzezinski.2 Others in attendance were: NSC staffer Quandt, Crawford, Lane and Mutawakel. Under Secretary Newsom hosted luncheon for PM attended by Under Secretary Benson, Crawford, Murray, Lane and Mutawakel. The following is a distillation of the main points emphasized by Prime Minister during these meetings.

2. PM expressed his hope that bilateral YARUSG relations could evolve into one of closest possible cooperation in wide variety of fields—military, economic/developmental, and educational/cultural.

3. PM described in some detail the “Russian conspiracy” on the east and west shores of the Red Sea. In the Yemens, this conspiracy culminated in the assassination of the YAR Prime Minister June 24 by South Yemen:3 this murder was followed immediately by the attack on the President of South Yemen, during which Russian pilots bombed Presidential Palace in Aden.4 These events were the most recent reminder of what will happen in the region unless counter-steps are taken by those who oppose Soviet efforts to dominate Arabian Peninsula. The Russians want foothold in the Peninsula, which they are [Page 791] rapidly consolidating in South Yemen. In PM’s view, South Yemen will move to expand once the pro-Soviet faction now in charge of the government thoroughly eliminates all rivals in the country. After that, North Yemen will be their target.

4. North Yemen enjoys good and growing relations with all its neighbors on the Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and Kuwait. Relations with Saudi Arabia are especially close and the Saudis have been supportive to Yemen in a variety of ways, including both budget support and military cooperation. In this regard, Prince Sultan has played leading role. YAR wants USG to take more interest in the area, in helping to promote regional cooperation against the present danger of Russian-backed South Yemen. In addition, USG should establish more active, direct bilateral relations with YAR in several fields—including military. North Yemen wants to be able to defend itself against any possible adventurism from the South.

5. According to Abd al-Ghani, President Salih has confirmed his willingness to see bilateral USGYAR cooperation develop in a gradual way. American arms are an essential element of that relationship. South Yemen is being developed into a garrison from which to launch attacks on other Peninsular states and the Russian presence there is a danger to the whole area as well as the free world.

6. YAR would also like to strengthen economic and developmental cooperation between our two countries. YAR Government appreciates the current level of assistance, but would like to see it increase, both in terms of private and public sector U.S. involvement in Yemen. YAR has liberal foreign investment laws and YAR hopes that U.S. firms will invest in oil and mineral industries. There is active consideration being given by YAR to joint ventures with U.S., both Yemeni private and public sector is ready to participate. Shell is currently exploring for oil both off and on-shore and YAR would like to see some American firms involved as well. Competition between such firms would benefit YAR.

7. As for cultural and educational cooperation, YAR would like to see it increased too. YAR is appreciative of current program but wants it expanded. YAR has taken step to freeze cultural cooperation with USSR this year; USSR offers 150 scholarships for higher study each year. YAR would like to see increased USG activity in this regard.

8. YAR is grateful and appreciative of the role of the USG, under President Carter, in its active participation in seeking Middle East peace. Yemen hopes that upcoming Camp David conference is success since stability of the area which will result from peace will result in greater stability for each country in the region. This is a goal shared by each Peninsular country except South Yemen.

9. Acting Secretary Christopher, thanking PM for this tour d’horizon, stated that he agreed with PM’s assessment “in every respect.” [Page 792] He noted that Secretary Vance would very much have wanted to meet with PM, but that Secretary was on his first vacation since assuming office.

10. Christopher informed PM that USG hoped to increase its funding of participant exchange grants from 100 in this FY to 176 in next FY. He emphasized how important USG considers educational exchange, agreeing with the PM that advanced training for Yemenis is essential for the development of the country. Christopher noted that the PM is splendid example of graduate of American university who has served his nation. USG would like to be even more forthcoming in this regard and Acting Secretary asked PM to “let us know” if there is more USG should and can be doing.

11. Regarding military cooperation, Christopher assured PM that USG wants to move into new era with YAR. USG wants to assist in the construction of a sound defense system for the YAR. We understand urgency of YAR’s problem and in that respect are ready to airlift equipment to the YAR in an early and timely fashion, as we have informed President Salih.5 Christopher emphasized that this new relationship has to be a phased modernization program for the YAR military. It has to take place a step at a time and cannot happen overnight. USG is sure that Yemen shares our view that equipment must be effectively used.

12. Since our military relationship with YAR is essentially three-cornered (Saudi Arabia, YAR and USG), it will require patience and understanding on the parts of each government involved. Patience will bring progress. Underlying this step by step process is USG interest in looking at priority items needed by YAR to promote its self-defense.

13. On economic front, USG wants to be helpful as well. Yemen is one of few countries where we hope to increase aid next fiscal year. We want to be supportive of Yemen’s five-year plan goals. We think we should concentrate on agriculture and institution-building which will have greatest long-term effect on overall development of Yemen. As for the private sector, Yemen should make known what opportunities exist. USG would like to see greater U.S. private sector involvement in Yemen. At this point, PM specified that in both oil and minerals industries there may be such opportunities for the private sector. While Shell has not yet found oil, there have been encouraging reports. Yemen would like to see American oil firms involved. There may also be opportunities in copper and iron ore mining.

14. In this regard, PM noted once again how supportive Saudi Arabia has been with budgetary grants. In addition Saudi Arabia [Page 793] finances projects directly with bilateral investments as well as through multilateral institutions such as Arab funds and World Bank.

15. Secretary asked PM to describe some of the prospects and problems of the five-year plan. PM replied that results of first two years are encouraging although there are several bottlenecks in Yemen. In first two years, four billion dollars has been invested in infrastructure projects—mainly roads, agricultural projects, education and health. YARG would like now to move in promoting small scale industries in more effective manner. PM underscored YAR commitment to active private sector role. He noted that the major bottleneck is human resources, a lack of skilled and educated professional people. Thus the intense YAR interest in training large numbers of Yemeni youth. Over one million Yemenis now work in Saudi Arabia and while this does “wonders” for the Yemeni economy in terms of remittances (ninety-nine percent of Yemen’s foreign exchange earnings, he said), it also creates problems such as labor shortages and inflation (since local wage rates must keep up with those prevailing in Saudi Arabia). As a result, costs of projects have overrun tremendously. Imported inflation and twelve-fold increase in wages in three years have led to necessity to renegotiate most contracts.

16. Christopher thanked PM for his detailed and interesting summary of Yemen’s situation, noting that USG looked forward to increasingly close relations. In an atmosphere of mutual understanding and patience, “we’ll do our part,” Christopher stated.

17. During meeting with National Security Advisor, PM was told that U.S. attaches great importance to the YAR and is concerned with recent developments in that part of world. PM replied that YARG was thankful for President’s statement of support for the YAR’s efforts to develop its economy and defend its territory.6 He thought there was an all-out effort to disrupt stability in Southwestern Arabia.

18. Dr. Brzezinski asked PM about situation in South Yemen. PM replied that now that moderate President has been killed, the field there is open to the far leftists. He expected that by October of this year the three parties now in existence in PDRY would be merged into single Marxist party. PM noted that PDRY military forces are still divided internally but that within one year he would expect the Marxists to have consolidated their position. During June fighting, the South Yemeni militia, with support of Russians and Cubans already present in PDRY, had defeated the PDRY Army.7 Border between North and [Page 794] South Yemen is now closed: there is no fighting along the border but the South has massed troops in some areas.

19. PM noted intense Saudi concern about developments in South Yemen and said Saudis and YAR are consulting closely and cooperating in order to defend themselves. Saudis, however, cannot provide all the military assistance YAR needs and this is why Yemen is looking toward the U.S. The Russians are helping the extremists in the South consolidate their position: meanwhile YAR is hoping to work with more moderate elements in South to lessen the danger of attack on YAR and to increase independence of South Yemenis. Most Arab countries have a “presence” in South Yemen but relations with them are are now “frozen” following a decision of Arab League in early July.8 The one exception is Libya which has declared its strong support for PDRY. All other Arab states worry that South Yemen is becoming more Communist than Arab.

20. Brzezinski said that U.S. has had and will continue to have question of Aden under discussion with Russians. He asked if YAR had discussed problems with either Shah of Iran or President Sadat. PM indicated there had been some discussions but no joint policies have been worked out. Brzezinski recommended that both Yemenis and Saudis hold discussions with Iranians and Egyptians. He reiterated USG’s great interest in stability and peace in the Peninsula area, saying that the first response to any threat from South Yemenis should be an Arab response but that if there were a threat from a major power the USG would make its concern unmistakably known.

21. In closing the conversation, Brzezinski noted that U.S. is considering Saudi proposals regarding military assistance to YAR and hopes to be forthcoming. USG has deep interest in YAR security, he reiterated.

22. During luncheon, Newsom noted that USG is waiting for YAR President Salih to indicate whether our initial arms impact package would be acceptable to him. USG is ready to expedite delivery, by airlift, of that equipment, most of which is part of trilateral (Saudi, USG, YAR) agreements made over past three years. PM responded that, while he was not privy to detailed military thinking of President, he had impression that President Salih was waiting for USG response to his list of requests which he had submitted in reaction to what he considered inadequate USG initial offer.9 Salih is working under pressure which is both external (South Yemen) and internal (YAR military). He must assure that YAR has wherewithal to defend itself against possible aggression from South. He must also be able to con[Page 795]vince YAR military that they can definitely depend on U.S. sources of supply if they take steps which will result in cut-off of Soviet supplies and spare parts. In sum, PM thought that President Salih felt that USG offer did not take adequately into consideration the “new situation” which Yemen faces after events of June and that package offer was nothing really new. On the other hand, he had the impression that USG considered Salih’s list excessive: that list contained what Yemeni military thought they needed to match ongoing buildup in South Yemen. He made further point that YAR military wants equipment to be in hand and would not be satisfied with political assurances and support which civilian officials valued more highly than military. Murray noted that it was not completely accurate to say that our package offer contained nothing new, there are new items included. Newsom, Benson and Crawford stated that in USG view this package offer was “first phase” and that discussion would be ongoing about further equipment deliveries. USG was ready to get moving with program if YAR was.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780356–0934. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by A. Peter Burleigh (NEA/ARP) and Lane; cleared by Crawford, Benson, Quandt, Murray, and Thomas G. Martin (S/S–O); approved by Newsom. Sent for information Immediate to Jidda; sent for information to Abu Dhabi, Addis Ababa, Cairo, Kuwait, Mogadiscio, Muscat, Moscow, Tehran, the Department of Defense, USMTM Riyadh, CHUSMTM Dhahran, and USCINCEUR Vaihingen.
  2. According to an August 28 memorandum to Brzezinski from Quandt, Brzezinski was scheduled to meet with al-Ghani on August 29 at 2 p.m. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 92, YAR: 8/78)
  3. See Document 243.
  4. See Document 244. The New York Times reported that the planes were MiGs of the South Yemeni Air Force. (“3 Marxists Said to Share Power in Southern Yemen,” The New York Times, June 28, 1978, p. A7)
  5. See Document 251.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 251.
  7. See footnote 2, Document 244.
  8. See footnote 6, Document 247.
  9. See Document 251.