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U.S. Department of State
Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
Press Statement

December 4, 2000

Release of   Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XXI, Near East Region; Arabian Peninsula

During the Cold War, the strategically important Near East, bridging three continents and possessing two-thirds of the world's oil reserves, was an arena in which the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, jockeyed for influence. The efforts of the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson to prevent the expansion of Soviet influence in the region is the subject of Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XXI, Near East Region; Arabian Peninsula, released today by the Department of State. This volume, one of five documenting U.S. policy with respect to the Near East during the Johnson administration, covers regional U.S. policy concerns in the Near East and U.S. policy toward and relations with the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute and the June 1967 War, which vastly complicated the Johnson administration's policy in the region, is covered in Volumes XVIII, XIX, and XX. U.S. policy toward Iran is documented in Volume XXII. Documentation on U.S. oil policy is in Volume XXXIV.

U.S. policymakers sought to maintain the viability of the moderate Arab regimes in the Near East region in the face of rising anti-Western Arab nationalism under the influence of UAR President Gamal Abdul Nasser. The U.S. goal of promoting peace and stability while avoiding being drawn into either inter-Arab or Arab-Israeli disputes ran aground, however, when the Arab-Israeli dispute broke out in the June 1967 War in June 1967. The widespread perception in the Arab world that the United States supported Israel during and after the war severely damaged U.S. relations with the Arab countries in the region and opened the way for expanded Soviet influence.

The Johnson administration was concerned with maintaining U.S. access to and influence in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, both because of U.S. interest in access to oil and because of the region's strategic significance. U.S. concerns were heightened by the United Kingdom's plans to withdraw British forces from Aden and the Persian Gulf. U.S. policymakers believed that a precipitate British withdrawal would result in a chaotic situation in South Arabia harmful to Western interests. Therefore, the United States tried to delay that withdrawal and, when that was not possible, to mitigate its effects. Nevertheless, U.S. policymakers agreed that it was not politically feasible or desirable for the United States to attempt to replace the British. Following Prime Minister Wilson's January 1968 announcement that British forces would be withdrawn from the Persian Gulf by the end of 1971, however, the United Kingdom agreed that a proposed U.S. military facility should be established on Diego Garcia to enable the United States to respond militarily to contingencies in the Indian Ocean area.

U.S. policymakers saw the ongoing civil war in Yemen, with Saudi aid to the royalists and UAR troops intervening on the side of the republic, as a threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Peninsula as a whole. The United States had a long-standing interest in maintaining the security and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia, and the two countries shared a mutual interest in the uninterrupted flow of Saudi oil to the West. The civil war in Yemen, however, put an ongoing strain on U.S.-Saudi relations and fueled Saudi demands for increased U.S. military aid. While U.S. officials regularly reaffirmed U.S. support for Saudi security, they stressed that this was not a shield behind which the Saudis could continue to stimulate hostilities in Yemen or provoke an attack by UAR forces there. The Johnson administration continued the Kennedy administration's policy of attempting to prevent the escalation and spread of the Yemen conflict by encouraging a negotiated settlement. The June 1967 War and its aftermath put U.S.-Saudi relations to a severe test, although the Saudis did not break relations with the United States. The war also devastated the UAR air force and greatly weakened the UAR position in Yemen, and Nasser and Faisal subsequently agreed to a plan to withdraw UAR troops from Yemen and end Saudi aid to the royalists. A November 1967 coup in Yemen, however, led to new royalist offensives and a massive Soviet airlift of arms to Yemen. During the ensuing military stalemate, the United States continued to express opposition to all foreign military intervention in Yemen and to maintain that only compromise among the contending Yemeni factions could settle the Yemen problem.

The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of the volume. For further information, contact David S. Patterson, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1127; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: [email protected] The texts of the volume, the summary, and this press release will soon be available on the Office's Web site: http://state.gov/www/about_state/history/index.html. Copies of volume XXI can be purchased from the Government Printing Office. http://bookstore.gpo.gov/sb/sb-210.html.

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