285. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia1

211437. For the Ambassador. Subject: Situation in the Yemens. Ref: (A) State 208981;2 (B) Sana 5675;3 (C) Jidda 5880.4

1. In your meeting with Prince Sultan August 14 you should convey increasing US concern about the situation in the Yemens.

2. You should make the following points:

—We are concerned about the current political drift in North Yemen, specifically the apparent weakness of the Salih government, and its implications for YARPDRY relations. We believe Salih intends to spin out the Yemen unity negotiations but that he needs to feel he has solid ground from which to resist PDRY pressures.

—We would appreciate learning how SAG intends to proceed in the current situation.

—Recent events in the PDRY add to our concern for the North. It appears fairly clear to us that a major power struggle is underway within the PDRY leadership. In these circumstances there could be increased PDRY pressure on Salih to make significant gestures toward unity. Alternatively, factions in the South could precipitate hostilities against the North in order to divert attention from or influence, power struggle in PDRY.

—In this connection we were struck by the bellicose language in the statement following the August 11 extraordinary session of the [Page 865] PDRY’s Supreme Peoples Council, which calls for “expanding the progressive revolutionary and nationalist forces and resisting the ferocious and imperialist reactionary onslaughts”.

—In these circumstances we believe it is in the interest of both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to provide the North Yemen Government with clear and unambiguous support. To do otherwise could encourage political uncertainty in the North and provide increased opportunities to the South.

—Over the next few weeks we wish to keep in close touch with the SAG on events in the Yemens with a view to exploring how each of us might best work to foster stability of YAR in order to discourage PDRY from exploiting situation.

3. If you have already cleared the way with Mansouri (para 8 ref C) you should in addition raise points in ref A re F–5 munitions with Sultan making clear that the other points you have made are in a broader context of concern about the Yemen situation.

4. Would appreciate your providing brief initial telegraphic report of Sultan’s reaction via Flash precedence August 14.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790368–0521. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Countryman; cleared by Robert S. Steven (S/S–O) and Wheelock (NSC); approved by Constable. Sent for information to Sana.
  2. In telegram 208981 to Jidda, August 11, the Department noted the Saudi request to control the distribution of spare parts and ammunition for F–5s to the Yemen Arab Republic “but Saudi request to ‘establish the principle of control’ poses a variety of problems for the US.” The Department concluded, “At this point we have no alternative but to let the first shipment of F–5 munitions be delivered.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790364–0018)
  3. In telegram 5675 from Sana, August 12, the Embassy reported on the ongoing unity talks between the Yemen Arab Republic and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Although the YAR and PDRY leaders had exchanged various messages, leading to a series of rumors of a forthcoming unity announcement, the Embassy reported that Salih “still intends to proceed toward unity very cautiously.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790365–0938)
  4. In telegram 5880 from Jidda, August 12, the Embassy described a meeting between West and Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Abd al-Rahman Mansuri that took place on August 11. West informed Mansuri of the Department of State’s response regarding Saudi control of ammunition and parts to the Yemen Arab Republic. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790366–0014)
  5. In telegram 5936 from Jidda, August 14, the Embassy detailed West’s conversation with Sultan regarding Yemen. West noted that “Sultan seemed genuinely concerned with situation in PDRY, a concern emphasized by his request for photographic surveillance and other intelligence on the situation there. His attitude towards YAR, however, was almost blase in contrast.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790369–0513)