59. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Oman1

63088. Subject: PM Director’s Talk With Omani Foreign Minister Zawawi.

1. (Secret)-entire text.

2. Summary: —In a 2-hour conversation on March 3, PM Director Reginald Bartholomew and Omani Foreign Minister Zawawi covered the following topics: Bartholomew informed Zawawi of the SCC decision not to provide economic assistance, to consider possible facilities improvement projects in the Musandam Peninsula, and to provide written expression of our interest in Oman’s security in the form of a Presidential letter.2 Security assistance, facilities improvements and regional reactions were also discussed. Zawawi expressed disappointment on not receiving economic assistance, raised the problem of delays on FMS cases, and suggested that the Oman Government handle contracting for facilities improvements. Proceeding with increased U.S. access to Oman was not conditional upon resolving these issues. End summary.

3. Omani Foreign Minister Qais Zawawi accompanied by Omani Ambassador Sulaiman met with PM Director Bartholomew March 3rd. Also on the U.S. side were PM Deputy Director David Gompert, NEA/ARP Director Countryman, and PM Special Assistant Edgar (notetaker). The following topics were discussed.

4. “Economic assistance:” Bartholomew informed Zawawi of the SCC decision not to provide economic assistance which Oman had requested (dols 100 million annually for 5-years). Bartholomew explained that we were sensitive to the importance of having a dimension of the program which related to civil and economic needs and had taken a very hard look at the problem. Unfortunately, given broad cuts in economic and military assistance programs necessitated by budget reductions to combat inflation, it was not possible at this point to meet their request. We have, however, maintained the dols 50 million in FMS.

5. Zawawi expressed Oman’s strong disappointment at our response. He argued that the amount involved was not too great and [Page 206] that it was the minimum required to convince their people that there would be a significant economic benefit out of the relationship with us. He argued that if the U.S. were as serious about the situation and as concerned about the stability of the region as Oman, some solution should be sought. Oman had responded positively and cooperatively and wished to see our relationship proceed, and he did not see how he could go back and explain our decision.

6. Bartholomew responded that we felt that access was a benefit not just to the U.S. but to both of our countries, just as we felt that helping strengthen Oman was in both our interests. In this context we had brought their proposals on economic assistance and doing something in the Musandam back with us and considered them very seriously, even though we understood they were not conditions for proceeding with a relationship in the interest of both sides, including increased access. Our budget constraints are real, but Oman will feel the impact less than a good many others. We will try very hard to give our facilities improvements a direct civil pay off.

7. Zawawi rejoined that the question of security was of prime importance and that the assistance was not a condition to proceeding with the new relationship. Pointing out that dols 100 million over 5 years was not a “big deal,” he emphasized the necessity of convincing the people that our cooperation was not just in the security field. In fact, he said, (in a comment that may have been facetious) if necessary, they would lend the money to the U.S. so we could give it back to them publicly; anything to show the Omani people that they would benefit economically from the relationship. (Note: —We suspect Zawawi meant to say dols 100 million for each of the next five years, vice over the next five years).

8. “Improvements in Musandam:” Bartholomew explained that the team which had surveyed Musandam had just returned. In general, we share Oman’s assessment of the importance of the area. However, in view of slashes in economic aid, we will have to justify anything we do in military terms. We have the question under active review and are not now in a position to decide. Zawawi responded only to point out that a port or airfield in the Musandam would be of military significance.

9. “Security assurances:” Bartholomew informed Zawawi of our intention to record our interest in the security of Oman in the form of a Presidential letter to the Sultan, which might well come in response to the Sultan’s letter which Zawawi was about to deliver to the President.3

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10. “Security assistance:” Noting that the Omanis now had the report of the military requirements survey team, Bartholomew asked about their thinking on how they would proceed. He also noted that C–130’s would not be available by National Day (November, 1980), but that we would take a sympathetic look to see what we could do to help get 6 tanks by then.

11. Zawawi replied that they were going to buy (4) C–130’s but would wait until spring of 81 since training would also take that long. He had been quoted a price of dols 14/15 million for aircraft with spares. Zawawi then proceeded to elaborate on the problems of lead times. The two examples he gave were 175 MM guns and Sidewinders. He claimed that they had been quoted a lead time of 45–50 months on delivery of 175 MM guns and that they could buy 130 MM guns from the Soviets for less, with a delivery of 3 weeks. On Sidewinders, he said they had been quoted a lead time of 24–30 months. They had an urgent need for the first 50 or 60 within 6 months. He could get air-to-air missiles from Europe sooner and cheaper.

12. Bartholomew replied that he had been unaware of the problems on the 175 MM gun, but would look into them. Commenting that lead times were a problem, he explained it would be part of our new relationship to be as sensitive and responsive as possible and to expedite these matters. In this regard, he suggested that it was important to make contact on the political level as well as the technical level to make sure the systems works. Bartholomew also pledged a full faith effort to make sure this aspect of our relationship is managed correctly.

13. Further on security assistance, Zawawi expressed the desire of his MOD to see where they stand on FMS, costs, and availability before moving the list of equipment recommended by the survey team.

14. “Facilities improvements:” Zawawi raised the question of whether Masirah would be improved to accommodate both U.S. and Oman aircraft, and left a paper describing Omani plans for Masirah.4 Bartholomew replied that we hoped to get a preliminary version of a detailed facilities improvements plan out to them soon.

15. Zawawi then said that the Oman Government would like to handle the contracting for construction, putting out requests for tender, and acting as the customer, subject of course to our approval at each step. Bartholomew replied that he would look into this though he was quite sure it would present difficulties. There are numerous regulations governing military construction that we would have to observe.

16. “Regional reaction:” Bartholomew asked whether the Omanis wanted to take the lead on briefing any of the regional states. Zawawi [Page 208] said he would get a reply back to us but thought basically they could do most of the briefing themselves.

17. Zawawi commented that general opinion in the Gulf was officially not very favorable. There was a great deal of sensitivity to an open and declared relationship with the U.S. Iraq has called on the Gulf states to turn against any strategic relationship. The Saudis had stated publicly that there was no problem requiring an outside presence and had not been responsive on financing the Oman purchase of Sidewinders.

18. Bartholomew answered that if we manage correctly, our access will become part of the landscape, just as MIDEASTFOR has become.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800120–0532. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Vedgar ( PM/ISP); cleared in PM, NEA/ARP, and S/S; approved by Bartholomew. Sent for information Immediate to Abu Dhabi, Doha, Jidda, Kuwait, Manama, and Sana.
  2. See Documents 57 and 58.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 60. For the President’s letter, see footnote 2, Document 66.
  4. Not found.