265. Telegram From the United States Liaison Office in Riyadh to the Department of State and the Department of Defense1

340. Subject: (S) Saudi Plans re PDRY Attack Against YAR.

1. (S) Entire text.

2. Summary. Foreign Minister Saud informed us today that Saudi Arabia was making firm plans to attack PDRY in the event that (1) diplomatic efforts failed to persuade PDRY to withdraw; or (2) efforts by YAR (with such assistance as SAG and USG may provide) were not successful in causing withdrawal. From comments, attack would be armed incursion for limited objective of forcing withdrawal of PDRY forces from YAR. Saudi forces would withdraw immediately thereafter. Specific requests were made of the degree of support which USG would provide in the event of such action. Likewise, specific questions were asked about utilization of USG personnel in planning and advising YAR and SAG forces. End summary.

3. Foreign Minister Saud in a meeting this morning informed us of official request that the Saudi Arabian Government had made a firm decision to institute a military operation against PDRY in the event that present diplomatic efforts to persuade PDRY forces to withdraw from North Yemen were unsuccessful or if YAR forces continued to be unable to cope with the PDRY invasion. Saud said in answer to a question that he was telling us of the SAG decision not repeat not seeking our advice. Saud said that on 27 Feb he personally informed PDRY Foreign Minister Muhummad Salih Muti’ that Saudi Arabia would attack PDRY if they did not withdraw their forces from YAR.

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4. He then posed direct questions about the extent of support and aid which USG could provide in the event Saudi Arabia launched its attack. He asked specifically as to what legal constraints, if any, would apply to U.S. civilian personnel providing logistical support for the operation: what advice and assistance would be provided by U.S. military personnel in the operation.

5. Saud stated that he needed answers as quickly as possible; that the planning for the operation had already begun; that he would like to have USG military personnel, including General Cathey, USMTM Chief, consult with SAG military leaders in the planning process. DASD Murray replied that U.S. military personnel could not repeat not give advice or assistance in the planning of a combat operation without specific permission from USG. Ambassador said we would only listen to Saudi explanations. Saud asked that we request such permission forthwith; he also asked that we seek permission for USG military personnel to confer with YAR and SAG military personnel and provide advice on combat operations now going on between YAR and PDRY forces.

6. Saud opened the morning meeting with a statement that the President of PDRY was enroute to Moscow and we would therefore soon see what the master wanted its servant to do. He later added that even the conclusion of a mutual security pact between PDRY and Russia would not change Saudi Arabia’s plans as, “we are not afraid of the Russians.” (The latter was, however, said with a slight smile.)

7. Saud next stated that he was sending a letter to President Salih requesting a representative of the SAG military forces be allowed to make an onsite inspection and evaluation of the military situation in North Yemen. In our meeting with Saud the previous evening (being reported by septel),2 we had pointed out that our military personnel in Sana had not been permitted to make on site inspection of the military operations. We subsequently learned that SAG forces likewise had been refused permission to visit battle areas. Saud agreed that SAG’s representative (Col. Showayel, Saudi Mil Rep Sana) could be accompanied by OMC Chief, Col Broman, who was present at the meeting. The plan is for the two to leave this afternoon (1 March) and to report back to their governments.

8. Saud then made his announcement of Saudi intentions and his specific request for U.S. decisions as above set forth. He stated that he realized the decisions may take some time but he said the urgency of the situation required action at the earliest possible time.

9. Murray said we would pass on Saudi requests to USG.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790093–0461. Secret; Flash; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sana, and Jidda.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 266.