Today we present for your consideration a video documenting a key event in the history of Saudi-US relations when King Saud traveled to the United States in 1957 to visit the United Nations and meet President Eisenhower and American officials. The 25 minute “Movietone” film, produced by the United States Information Service, shows many of the events on the King’s agenda and the officials with whom he met. The video is accompanied by the Eisenhower-Saud joint statement and an excerpt from Parker T. Hart’s exceptional book, “Saudi Arabia and the United States: Birth of a Security Partnership.” [The book is online at LINK]
Joint Statement Following Discussions Between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and King Saud of Saudi Arabia
His Majesty Saud ibn Abd al-Aziz Al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, and President Eisenhower today concluded the series of discussions which they have held during King Saud’s state visit. His Majesty and the President met previously on January 30 and February 1. Their discussions have been supplemented during the past week by further meetings between His Majesty and his advisers with the Secretary of State and other American officials.
These meetings provided the opportunity to reaffirm the close friendship which has so long existed between Saudi Arabia and the United States. In an atmosphere of cordiality, the King and the President exchanged views on how the two nations might work together to strengthen the peace of the Middle East.
The two Heads of State reached full agreement on the following:
1. Saudi Arabia, by virtue of its spiritual, geographical, and economic position, is of vital importance in the Middle East. It is in the interests of world peace that this Kingdom be strengthened for the maintenance of its own stability and the safeguarding and progressive development of its institutions.
2. The two Governments will exert efforts to settle justly problems of the Middle East area by peaceful and legitimate means within the framework of the United Nations Charter. They assert their firm opposition to the use of force from any source as a means of settling international disputes.
3. The aim of the peoples of the area is to maintain their full independence, live in peace, and enjoy economic freedom and prosperity. Any aggression against the political independence or territorial integrity of these nations and the intervention from any source in the affairs of the states of the area would be considered endangering peace and stability. Such actions should be opposed in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
4. His Majesty indicated his purpose to continue close cooperation with the United States and carried the expressed wishes of other Arab leaders to improve their relations with the United States. President Eisenhower explained the purposes of his proposals to Congress in relation to the Middle East, pointing out that they were designed to supplement the universal non-aggression principles expressed in the Charter of the United Nations and to promote the independence and proper aspirations of the Arab peoples. King Saud received with satisfaction this exposition and assured President Eisenhower that he welcomed every step that promotes the United Nations principles respecting independence and sovereignty of states and self-determination of peoples.
5. With respect to the military defense of Saudi Arabia, including the Dhahran Airfield, President Eisenhower assured His Majesty King Saud of the willingness of the United States to provide assistance for the strengthening of the Saudi Arabian armed forces within the constitutional processes of the United States. To this end, plans are being made by representatives of both countries for the supply of military equipment, services and training, for the purposes of defense and the maintenance of internal security in the Kingdom. In the same spirit, His Majesty King Saud assured President Eisenhower of His Majesty’s intention that the United States continue for another five years to use the facilities accorded to it at the Dhahran Airfield under conditions provided for in the Agreement concluded between the two countries on June 18, 1951. The United States agreed to consider the provision of economic facilities that would serve to augment the combined aims and interests of the two countries.
6. The two Chiefs of State exchanged views on a number of other matters of common interest.
THE EISENHOWER DECISION TO BUILD UP KING SAUD
On October 29, 1956, the Suez War was touched off by Israel’s invasion of Sinai, followed shortly by the intervention of British and French forces. At the United Nations, Dulles condemned this action vigorously, and in the Security Council Britain vetoed the US draft resolution of condemnation. I had been transferred from Washington to Cairo as deputy chief of mission in 1955. From my very busy vantage point there, it was apparent that, as a by-product of the enhancement of the US image in the Third World for its stand at the United Nations, King Saud’s moral position before his “external” as well as “internal” critics had been considerably strengthened.
The king had repeatedly raised with Ambassador Wadsworth his vulnerability to Arab attack for having accepted a foreign base [Dhahran airbase] on Saudi soil. He gave it as the prime reason for asking the United States for something “special.” In return to this something, he could answer his critics in regard to permitting the United States to retain Dhahran. What he wanted, it turned out, were arms in considerable quantity, on a grant basis as the United States had recently offered Nasser.
On November 6, 1956, Saud broke relations with the United Kingdom. He did so to support Egypt, to demonstrate solidarity with the overall Arab condemnation of Britain, France, and Israel, and to register his reprisal for the British action against him in Buraimi. At the same time, via messages through the US embassy in Jeddah, Saud developed contact with President Eisenhower and accepted the president’s invitation to visit him in Washington. The time set was January 30 through February 1, 1957.
Just as Saudi-US relations had reached their lowest point in 1953-1954, in 1957-1958 they rode on a crest. Eisenhower and Dulles constituted a team that could reply on the president’s unchallenged popularity at home and his vast prestige abroad. Dulles had stood up at the United Nations against America’s major and indispensable allies in condemning, and reversing, an aggression on a Third World country. The effect was electric; even Nehru of India was impressed. Dropping his usual caustic attitude toward the US government, he rose in the UN General Assembly to pay eloquent tribute to an America that had at last located its soul. The US image was greatly strengthened around the Arab world (for the time being), making Saudi Arabia’s relationship with it defensible. The Eisenhower-Dulles team considered King Saud a most useful counterweight in the Middle East to the pro-Soviet Nasser, an idea that proved to be a miscalculation.
The Saud-Eisenhower meetings in Washington drew on the best talents of both sides and were held against a background of great cordiality and determination to reach a meeting of the minds. The king was an active participant, as was Eisenhower. Cabinet and subcabinet meetings explored military and economic factors in depth. By contrast, the evenings were filled with elaborate dining. When the king reciprocated the presidential hospitality offered him, the scene was lavish in the extreme, with a huge guest list to match and ice sculpture as a centerpiece of the extended banquet hall. It overstepped, by far, the image appropriate for a monarch counting on US grant aid from the many congressmen present as guests.
In the conference rooms, the royal debt in the aftermath of the Suez War was computed at $200 million, including $50 million lost in oil revenues due to the closure of the Suez Canal. Estimates were that six months would elapse before the waterway could be reopened. Looking to the future, it was noted that Saudi dollar income from oil revenues would probably double in ten years to $600 million. For its major development projects, the Saudis sought very large “outside” help (grants), but the United States argued that loans were the logical means of financing development. The Saudis announced that they had decided to join the World Bank but were not yet ready to borrow. Eventually, a compromise of loan-versus-grant military aid was reached — a high point in the history of US relations with Saudi Arabia. The solution required the military expertise of all levels of the US government, from President Eisenhower on down. An agreement was reached on February 9, 1957.
Military grant aid to Saudi Arabia included air force development, training and maintenance; the augmenting of army training, including the Royal Guard; and construction of a new air terminal at Dhahran, not to exceed $5 million — with the cumulative cost to the United States over a five-year period not to exceed $50 million, in consideration of renewal of the Dhahran Airfield agreement. Military sales called for a ground force program of two divisions at $110 million; the immediate sale of eighteen M-47 tanks; reconditioned equipment to fill the gap pending delivery of new equipment to fill the gap pending delivery of new equipment ordered; eight T-33 aircraft for training; coastal patrol craft and US training for use; and US credit for sale up to $41 million. As economic aid, the United Stated offered technical assistance — in principle US funding, at moderate levels, of specific projects, such as the port of Dammam (about $20 million) — and US good offices for the development of projects through commercial institutions, namely the Export-Import Bank and the World Bank.
- King Saud’s Historic Visit to USA – Youtube (Video)
- King Saud of Saudi Arabia – Wikipedia
- Chronological Events of the History of King Saud
- Saudi Arabia and the United States: Birth of a Security Partnership – Parker T. Hart