Meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Crown Prince Faysal of Saudi Arabia September 27, 1962

Published: December 4, 2004

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EDITOR’S NOTE:

The following history item is #58 Memorandum of Conversation from a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Crown Prince Faysal of Saudi Arabia on September 27, 1962.

This conversation took place during the Secretary’s delegation to the 17th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 1962. The subjects that were discussed include Middle East problems, U.S.-U.A.R. relations and Crown Prince Faysal’s Visit at the White House.*

Participants of the September 27, 1962 meeting:

U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk

NEA–Phillips Talbot

NE–Talcott W. Seelye

Crown Prince Faysal, Saudi Arabia

Isa Sabbagh, Public Affairs Officer, Jidda

Dr. Rashad Pharoun

*Ambassador Hart forwarded suggested talking points for use by the President and/or Secretary of State in their conversations with Faysal in telegram 191 from Jidda, September 22. (Ibid., 786A.11/9-2262)

Meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Crown Prince Faysal of Saudi Arabia
September 27, 1962

#58 Memorandum of Conversation from the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Crown Prince Faysal of Saudi Arabia on September 27, 1962. The following is a list of topic areas that were discussed in the meeting.

(The following discourse took place before and during dinner.)

Yemen

The Secretary mentioned that Prince Hassan had been in touch with his colleagues that day and asked Prince Faysal to give his views on the situation in Yemen.* Prince Faysal stated that Prince Hassan had seen him before departing from New York that evening. He thought Prince Hassan was the only leader left who could command support in Yemen and criticized Imam Muhammed for having leaned on elements who had betrayed him. The Secretary commented that Prince Hassan had also seen Lord Home. Prince Faysal stated that Hassan would decide whether to return by way of Aden or Saudi Arabia once he had reached Khartoum. The Secretary asked Prince Faysal if he had any late news of Yemen. Faysal replied that the situation is still unclear, but evidently the Yemen military had taken over. It was also unclear as to whether Imam Muhammed had been assassinated or had fled. He wondered whether we had more information. The Secretary commented we had as yet received no communications from our Legation in Taiz. Mr. Talbot recalled that when Imam Ahmad had died 10 days earlier, we had heard nothing for two days. Prince Faysal noted that at that time the new regime of Imam Muhammed had postponed the release of the news of the death for a couple of days.

*On September 26, the Yemeni Army High Command overthrew Imam al-Badr and killed numerous members of the Royal family, abolished the monarchy, and announced the establishment of a “free republic.”

Arab League and Arab Unity

The Secretary asked whether the pact recently signed between Jordan and Saudi Arabia would lead to a larger Arab grouping, perhaps eventually including Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. He wondered whether such a grouping would not be conducive to Arab solidarity. Prince Faysal replied that the joint Saudi-Jordanian announcement left the way open for any other Arab country to join. At the moment, however, circumstances precluded the entry of the three countries the Secretary had mentioned: Lebanon maintains its traditional position of neutrality; Syria is preoccupied with its own internal political problems; and Iraq is in too precarious a state. The Secretary said that while his lack of full background information prevented him from speaking authoritatively, he had gained the impression that the formation of the Arab League was a step in the direction of Arab unity. Prince Faysal stated that one must look at the League’s history in order to evaluate it properly. He noted that the League had been conceived by Great Britain and that, because of this, Saudi Arabia had opposed it from the beginning. Nevertheless, the late King Abdul Aziz was eventually prevailed upon to join the League, and until about 1952 it did achieve some results. The League was weakened, continued the Crown Prince, by the advent of the Egyptian Revolution and Nasser’s attitude of condescension toward and “trusteeship” over other Arab states. Egypt, unable to control the League at that time, endeavored to paralyze it. By 1955 Egypt had reversed its posture toward the League, and instead sought to dominate it. The League’s end came at Chtaura this year where the U.A.R., in an attempt to crush the League, “destroyed itself.” The Secretary expressed the view that two factors had impaired the League’s success: the U.A.R.’s masterminding of the operation and the offsetting pull of the North African countries. Prince Faysal noted that if the League could operate in the normal fashion–each League member having equal status and influence–the organization could be successful despite North African polarity.

Baghdad Pact

The Secretary said that he did not intend to cast aspersions on his predecessors but wished to inquire if in retrospect Prince Faysal thought it had been wise to bring Iraq into the Baghdad Pact. Prince Faysal recalled that at the time of the Pact’s inception, he had advised the Turkish Foreign Minister against singling out only one Arab state for inclusion in the Pact. He said he had emphasized the importance of having several Arab states join a defense pact of this nature and the necessity that such an organization be fostered from within rather than from without. He recalled how “Nahas Pasha” of Egypt and Prime Minister Nuri Said of Iraq had discussed the possibility of a military pact composed of most of the Arab states. However, other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, had refused to acquiesce because of British inspiration. Faysal went on to state that the Baghdad Pact had been poorly timed.

Kuwait

The Secretary commented that Mr. Gromyko had said to him a few days before that the Soviet Union was reviewing its stand on Kuwait’s membership in the UN. Prince Faysal noted the difference between “reviewing” a position and “changing” a position and wondered how the Secretary interpreted this remark. The Secretary said his experience with the Soviets led him to conclude that when the Soviets speak of reviewing a position, they usually end up making modifications. Accordingly, he was optimistic that the Soviets would not veto Kuwait’s application the next time it is proposed.

Syria

Mr. Talbot recalled his visit to Riyadh several months ago when Prince Faysal had mentioned the importance of U.S. aid to Syria. He hoped the Prince was pleased that the U.S. had since provided Syria with a stabilization loan. Prince Faysal said he welcomed this because of the importance of Syria’s stability to the area. He hoped the U.S. would contribute more assistance, especially now that Syria had established a constitutional government.

(The following discourse took place after dinner.)

U.S.-U.A.R. Relations

The Secretary reiterated his admiration for the wisdom, quiet approach and clarity of expression which had been demonstrated by the Crown Prince during his appearances at the United Nations in 1948 when the Secretary had been a member of the U.S. delegation. For this reason particularly he welcomed this opportunity for a frank exchange of views with the Crown Prince. U.S. friendship with Saudi Arabia, as well as the mutuality of interests between our two countries, requires close and frank consultation. The Secretary noted that U.S. attitudes are often misunderstood by contending parties in the area (such as Pakistan and India) and we do not want Saudi Arabia to misunderstand our posture toward the U.A.R. Basically, the U.S. supports the independence and integrity of all states. In the case of the U.A.R., we are fully aware that the U.A.R. is doing things vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia which we do not approve and we would like to have the benefit of Crown Prince Faysal’s thinking on the U.A.R. The Secretary mentioned three possible alternatives in the conduct of U.S. policy toward Egypt: (1) we could have nothing to do with the U.A.R.; (2) we could place our full support behind the U.A.R. and prop up the regime; or (3) we can maintain a form of American presence in the U.A.R. as an alternative to the Soviets. He noted that we had elected the latter course, so that the U.A.R. would not be abandoned to the Soviet Union and in order that we can be in a position of exercising moderate influence. On the latter, he said, we are not always successful.

Prince Faysal noted that his frankness has often been his weakness. He said it pained him to discuss inter-Arab problems with an outside power. (Note: A further exchange between the Secretary and Prince Faysal clarified the fact that the Prince was pained not at the Secretary having introduced the subject but by the fact that the state of Arab relations had reached such a turn.) Prince Faysal stated that there is no problem at issue between Saudi Arabia and Egypt–unlike the relationship between India and Pakistan. It is only that the U.A.R. has chosen to attack Saudi Arabia with the evident sole aim of destroying it. Prince Faysal stated that no Arab would wish to deny any Arab people the kind of support the U.A.R. is receiving from the United States. With regard to the three alternatives cited by the Secretary, he, too, would dismiss the first two alternatives. He favored the U.S. conducting normal relations with the U.A.R., including economic aid, providing the U.S. uses its influence to deter the U.A.R. from a policy of intransigence and subversion of other Arab countries. Prince Faysal stated of all Arab countries, only Saudi Arabia has been consistent in its policy toward the United States. In spite of occasional differences of opinion between our two countries, he said, Saudi Arabia has always considered friendship with the U.S. a cornerstone of its policy.

The Secretary expressed concern at the development of an arms race in the Middle East, and expressed the view that Nasser’s arms program seemed beyond his defensive needs. He feared that Nasser would one day use the arms against other Arabs in the area. Prince Faysal stated that Saudi Arabia is not afraid of the U.A.R.’s military strength since he found it inconceivable that Nasser would attack with military force. (The Secretary interjected a note of personal satisfaction with this assurance from Prince Faysal.) Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia was concerned with U.A.R. infiltration tactics as employed in Yemen. In response to the Secretary’s question, however, he expressed confidence in the loyalty of the Saudi Army and in the absence in Saudi Arabia of effective U.A.R. subversive groups. Prince Faysal emphasized that he had not come to the U.S. to advocate any severance of relations with the U.A.R. nor did he wish harm to the Egyptian people. He stated that while he was speaking personally, he wished to emphasize that the directives from King Saud did not differ from the views he was expressing.

U.S. Global Responsibilities

The Secretary expounded on U.S. responsibilities in the world: the confrontation with the Soviet Union (Communism) on every continent and in different ways, e.g. militarily in Europe where we are forced to keep 400,000 soldiers, guerrilla type of Communist tactics in Viet Nam and more subtle tactics in Africa. In certain places, such as Ghana, we have with difficulty not “given up” and kept our pride; but the overall consideration has made it imperative that we maintain our presence until, hopefully, the situation changes and Ghanians look for an alternative. The Secretary stated that throughout the globe our policy has had one thread of consistency; namely, our concern for the welfare, independence and security of people. The Secretary expressed optimism that if the countries outside the Communist World managed to live through the danger, we would see more and more people turning away from Communism. The greatest danger lies in the Communists’ resorting to violence at moments when, and at places where, they felt they are losing, e.g. their failure in East Germany caused their intransigence on East Berlin. He noted that it was no accident that the North Vietnamese who were witnessing the contrast of prosperity in South Viet Nam chose to attack the latter.

Prince Faysal expressed gratitude for this obvious mark of personal confidence in making the Prince privy to U.S. policy considerations. He assured the Secretary that Saudi Arabia stands against Communism for traditional and religious reasons. He stated that Saudi Arabia is doing everything possible for its people. Education and health are free and, recently, social security regulations have been promulgated in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is not afraid of Communism as an ideology. This, however, does not mean that Saudi Arabia might not establish diplomatic relations with the USSR at some point. He expressed the hope that Saudi Arabia will not be compelled to do so in the near future.

Arrangements for Luncheon with the President

The Secretary informed Prince Faysal of the President’s invitation to him to lunch at the White House on Thursday, October 4, and of the informal briefing session which the President’s confidential advisors would give him at the Department. Faysal expressed gratitude and said he looked forward to both events.

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 320/9-2762. Confidential. Drafted by Seelye and Sabbagh on October 5 and approved in S on October 12. The conversation was held in the Secretary’s suite at the Waldorf Towers.