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

963. Subj: (U) USGYAR Relations.

1. (C-entire text).

2. Summary: The YARG wants a more direct relationship with the USG. The Yemenis are particularly interested in closer military cooperation, U.S. investment, and the participation of U.S. firms in exploration for minerals and oil in Yemen. They believe they are now on the front line of the struggle for control of the Arabian Peninsula and are entitled to be treated as full partners, not as dependents of Saudi Arabia. End summary.

3. In two recent conversations, YAR ForMin Asnaj and Special Presidential Rep Jughman have made strong pitch for closer direct USGYARG relations. Asnaj said YARG appreciates trilateral arms program with Saudis but a more direct relationship is needed. Many Yemenis, including President Salih, believe the USG is behaving like a “puppet” of the Saudis in the YAR. He knows how possessive the Saudis feel about the YAR and is well aware of their conviction that “they know best.” However, USG has its own interests in Yemen and [Page 807] in the light of developments in Iran,2 the USG should reassess its policy. The Yemen has become too important for the USG to allow its policy here to be dictated by Saudi Arabia.

4. Asnaj and Jughman proposed stronger bilateral relationships in three areas—military cooperation, U.S. investment, and petroleum and minerals exploration. Re military cooperation, Asnaj said it is obvious from SecDef Brown’s remarks in Riyadh3 that Saudi Arabia itself needs a USG commitment to its defense in present circumstances—how then can YARG rely on a Saudi commitment for its protection? What YARG needs, he said, is a direct USG commitment that USG will support YAR if it is attacked. Ambassador referred to several statements made by President Carter in last six months, but Asnaj said more is needed. Jughman mentioned, as he has before, that the YARG needs a quick reaction force which is appropriately trained and armed to counter the kind of infiltration and subversion which the PDRY is sponsoring. He hoped the USG would work with the YAR in developing such a force.

5. Concerning investment, Jughman and Asnaj said YAR wants more U.S. investment in the YAR. In this connection, the Exim Bank has an important role to play; for example, in supporting the YAR’s purchase of Boeing aircraft for Yemen Airways and the Fuller Company’s bid to construct the 100 million dollar cement plant near Umran.

6. On petroleum/minerals exploration, Jughman and Asnaj said that American companies should be encouraged to undertake major exploration efforts in the YAR. There are indications of presence of exploitable minerals, but no major exploration effort has been undertaken. As an example of the disappointments the YAR has suffered, Jughman recounted in detail the story of the last minute withdrawal of the Japanese firm Toyomenka and Santa Fe Drilling from an off-shore exploration project in 1975. Jughman mentioned that he had been told by Syrian FonMin Khaddam during his recent visit to Damascus that oil had been discovered in the PDRY. If this were true, he said, and no major minerals exploration efforts were being made in the YAR, the government would be asked why its friends (i.e., the U.S.) were not undertaking similar activities in the YAR.

7. Asnaj and Jughman said that they were working constantly with President Salih to convince him that continuation of the policy of cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the U.S. is in the best interest [Page 808] of the YAR. Because of their advocacy, Salih refers to Asnaj as “Mr. Saudi Arabia” and Jughman as “Mr. Camp David.” Salih was in agreement with this policy but was naturally disturbed by the Saudis’ direct relations with a whole gamut of Yemeni political figures, and he was also hearing rumors that the USG was grooming YAR Ambassador to the U.S. Yahya Maiwakel as his replacement. Asnaj urged USG to strengthen its direct bilateral relationship with the YAR to reassure Salih that the USG is interested in the Yemen for its own sake, not just as a buffer state next to Saudi Arabia. Asnaj concluded that an independent YAR is vital to the United States because if the two Yemens should unify under leftist-Marxist domination they could cause a great deal of trouble, both to us and to the Saudis.

8. Comment: The remarks reported above occurred in the same conversation in which these two men commented on Saudi–YAR relations (reported Sana 0937).4 The Asnaj/Jughman position is self-serving in the sense that they are both identified with the YARG’s present policy of close cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the USG; to the extent it succeeds, they will. At the same time, they are reflecting a strong body of opinion in the YAR that the Yemen is now on the front lines of the struggle to preserve the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula from Communist domination, and the USG, which has a vital interest in this struggle, needs to do more to support them. A “trilateral” relationship is not enough—they believe they need and deserve to be treated by the USG as an equal partner, not as a ward of Saudi Arabia.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790068–0134. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information Priority to Jidda.
  2. Reference is to the Iranian Revolution that ousted the pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
  3. Reference is to remarks made by Brown at the Saudi Military Officers Club on February 10. Brown reiterated the United States’ commitment to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity during his speech. (Telegram 1319 from Jidda, February 13; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790068–0385)
  4. In telegram 937 from Sana, February 12, the Embassy reported that during a February 7 conversation al-Asnaj expressed his frustration concerning Saudi-YAR relations and told Lane that he believed the Saudis did not trust the YAR Government and that Saudi Arabia was losing confidence in Salih. Lane claimed that al-Asnaj’s frustration was due in large part to the fact that he was the one responsible to Salih for Saudi-YAR relations. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790066–0630)