Aramco Interference in US Middle East Policy-1967

May 24, 1967

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Aramco Interference in US Middle East Policy-1967

May 24, 1967


Gamal Abdul Nasser and his fellow officers had taken power in Egypt in order they claimed, to modernize the country and undo the shame of the lost 1948 war. However, in 1956, after Nasser closed the straits of Tiran and Suez canal to Israeli shipping and moved terror squads into the Sinai peninsula, Israel, Egypt and France attacked Egypt. Israel captured the entire Sinai peninsula in 100 hours. Before agreeing to withdraw, Israel got a commitment from the US in the form of an Aide de Memoire, stating that it would support Israel's right to unrestricted access to the straits of Tiran, in accordance with international law, and the UN agreed to station an emergency force in Sinai (UNEF).

Subsequent clarifications by the US apparently confirmed that the US supported the right of Israel to use force to enforce freedom of navigation. Israeli passage in Aqaba became a sore point for Nasser, and he was taunted by other Arab states for permitting it. The Aide de Memoire and U.S. position became an issue in 1967 when prior to the Six day war Israel insisted that closure of the straits was an act of war. The U.S. agreed but asked Israel to allow the US to open the canal. However it became apparent that the US was not able or willing to fulfill its commitment. 

Representatives of the American-Saudi oil company, Aramco, volunteered to give their views on the crisis, and reported that Saudi Arabians stated that:

If the US does not stay out of this conflict, the US is finished in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabian Petroleum Minister Yamani also commented that in his opinion, Egypt and Syria could "handle" Israel and therefore US restraint of Israel was "unimportant."

This document was declassified under the U.S. Freedom of Information act. The source is at

Ami Isseroff


The introduction above is copyright 2007 by Ami Isseroff. The document below is in the public domain. Please cite the sources.

56. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, May 24, 1967.

/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I. Secret. An attached note indicates a copy was sent to Read.

Conversation with ARAMCO Representative

ARAMCO's Washington representative, John Pendleton, called me this afternoon to read a telegram which he had received from ARAMCO's Vice President Brougham, who is currently visiting Beirut.

Brougham reports a conversation with Saudi Arabian Petroleum Minister Yamani at Beirut airport on 23 May. Yamani is convinced there will be war between the Arabs and Israel. Syria is pushing Nasser toward war, and Russia must not resist the Syrians too sharply because Moscow fears Syria is leaning toward Peiping.

Yamani recommends that the US keep hands off this crisis, work through the UN and not try to be a policeman. He disagrees flatly with our position on the Gulf of Aqaba/2/ and says that if the US directly supports Israel, ARAMCO can anticipate being nationalized "if not today, then tomorrow." If the US does not stay out of this conflict, the US is finished in the Middle East.

/2/Telegram 4848 from Jidda, May 24, reported that when Ambassador Herman Eilts gave Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Sayyid Omar Saqqaf a copy of the note verbale contained in Document 35, Saqqaf stated that the Saudi Government did not agree that the Gulf of Aqaba was an international waterway; in the Saudi view, it represented Arab waters, and the Arabs had the right to close it. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL ARAB-ISR)

When Brougham asked Yamani why Saudi Arabia would object to our standing up to Nasser, Yamani replied, "We are all Arabs. Your government would be foolish if it does not keep out."/3/

/3/Telegram 206646 to Jidda, June 1, states that on May 25 Eugene Rostow sent an informal message via Aramco to Yamani assuring him that the U.S. Government was doing all possible to restrain the Israelis, reiterating U.S. dedication to the principle of free passage in the Gulf of Aqaba, and expressing the hope that the Saudi Government would realize that it too had a stake in this principle. Yamani later told Aramco he had conveyed this message to the King. Yamani commented that in his opinion, the UAR and Syria could handle Israel and therefore efforts at restraint were not important, and that even if Saudi Arabia had an interest in keeping the Gulf of Aqaba open, it could not say so. (Ibid.)




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