Near & Middle East Titles:
Records of Saudi Arabia 1966–1971
ISBN: (13) 978-1-84097-085-2
Extent: 6 volumes, 5,000 pages, including 2 maps in pocket
Editor: A. Burdett
Author:N/A ISBN: (10) 1-84097-085-5 Published: 2004 Paper: Printed on acid free paper Binding: Library binding with gilt finish. Front cover carries the Saudi Arabian crest. See sample pages:
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The events of the period 1966 to 1971 reveal a tumultuous period in the history of Saudi Arabia: the exile of King Saud; the war with Yemen over Asir and other disputed territories; the concerns for security engendered simultaneously by aggression from the UAR in support of Yemeni insurgents and from the Arab–Israeli War of 1967; unresolved territorial contests with other Gulf states; the implications for the region of the dramatic decision of the British to withdraw firstly from Aden, then from the Gulf, by 1971; and increasingly complex negotiations over petroleum rights through OPEC. However, by the close of this period the resolution of several issues was effected: several boundary agreements were reached; more positive relations with neighbouring states were consolidated, partly through aid and the Saudi desire to fill the power vacuum left by the end of the British presence; the war with Yemen was concluded; and smoother relations with Egypt developed following the death of Nasser.
Throughout the collection there is an overall structure of subjects covered such as the affairs of the royal family, foreign and internal affairs, economic, civil and social development, defence policy and territorial negotiations and disputes.
The three Records of Saudi Arabia titles combine to create a large collection which offers historical evidence for the creation of Saudi Arabia – the capture of Riyadh, the conquests of Al Hasa and the Hijaz, the occupation of Taif, Jedda, Mecca and Medina, and the proclamation of the Kingdom. It includes many original letters of King Abdulaziz and illustrates the political, social and economic changes which in just over half a century transformed the desert amirate into one of the richest countries in the world.
The early part of the collection is organised so as to present a series of key documents which provide researchers and historians with access to original documents upon which to base their own work. In the more modern period, 1960 to 1970, almost all of the material available has been included providing a very detailed series of papers for these years.
Several sensitive items have been retained by the FCO, and were therefore not available for inclusion.
1966 was a pivotal year for the House of Saud: firstly a reconciliation of sorts was achieved between King Saud and Prince Feisal. Among the new king’s goals was the creation of an Islamic alliance or summit. At the same time several regional disagreements were brewing: the attempt to resolve the Buraimi dispute collapsed paving the way for difficulties with Abu Dhabi; the dispute with Yemen over the province of Asir intensified. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that arms procurements from Britain became a key interest of Saudi Arabia, and that Prince Sultan was greatly disappointed at the delay in fulfillment of Saudi orders.
The exiled ex-King Saud caused difficulties in 1967 when he went to Yemen and then Cairo in a bid to stir up anti-regime feelings. Regional headaches, such as the Buraimi Oasis dispute remained a problem, but some effort at reconciliation with Shaikh Zaid of Abu Dhabi was achieved via his visit to Saudi Arabia. Stronger links to Dubai were also forged, while relations with Iran were strained over a disputed Aramco drilling vessel. A perpetual state of military preparedness was necessary due to the Six-Day War and Saudi Arabia’s own regional conflict with Yemen, which had the military support of the UAR. Egyptian attacks on the village and area of Najran, allegedly using poison gas, and the bombing of Jizan, led to protests at the UN. Defence issues, including the training of the National Guard and the extension of the navy dominated the British–Saudi cooperative efforts and relations. Economically the country suffered from loss of oil revenue owing to the Arab–Israeli War, but nevertheless exercised a ban on exports to the UK and the USA.
Increasing regional unity was in evidence in 1968, including excellent relations with Bahrain and the achievement of the joint causeway project. Relations with Dubai were especially good and Saudi Arabia opened a separate office there. The visit of the Shah of Iran was an indication that disputes over island ownership in the Gulf might be resolved. Britain’s key role, in providing arms and defence training schemes, was undermined by the lack of progress of the Saudi Air Defence scheme, and further hampered by the decision to appoint a British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia who was Jewish, a decision vigorously protested by Saudi Arabia.
The death of ex-King Saud in exile in 1969 relieved King Feisal of one problem, but internal security threats and unrest increased throughout the year, culminating in an alleged assassination plot against Emir Fahd. A review of foreign policy and the internal government structure for dealing with foreign relations, was undertaken, while Islamic unity was a growing theme. Regional relations continued to improve: agreements were reached on some of the outstanding boundary issues, notably the seabed boundary with Qatar and Abu Dhabi, while the Kuwait Neutral Zone was partitioned. However, hostilities between Saudi Arabia and the Yemen continued, with especially severe clashes in Najran. Although relations with Great Britain were not always cordial, Prince Fahd visited Britain, as well as the USA. The muddle over the sale of the Saudi Arabian Defence System continued, although numerous official talks were held concerning reciprocity at Dhahran. Detailed tours of the Eastern Province, undertaken by British commercial staff, provide much insight into local officials, personalities and business/development potential.
During 1970 there were increased concerns by the regime regarding the possibilities of subversion, and therefore the potential of the National Guard as a defence force became a key consideration. Saudi views on the future of the Gulf States were sought and evaluated in a series of formal exchanges with British officials, revealing Saudi apprehension over the possible Gulf union. The plans for an Islamic Conference culminated in The Islamic Foreign Ministers´ Conference, held 23–26 March 1970.
Despite the Saudi Arabian regime’s history of support for the insurgents in Oman the new ruler, Sultan Qabus, was among the state visitors in 1971. Other regional relations improved, notably with Lebanon, when King Feisal paid a visit, following the conclusion of an agreement for an oil refinery. The King also went to Cairo, marking a new phase in relations with Egypt and the new regime under Anwar Sadat, and the close of the civil war in Yemen. Detailed military assessments of the National Guard and other Saudi forces were relayed by British military observers. Fairly ambitious local development projects, such as the King Feisal Hospital were inaugurated, undoubtedly enabled through the additional revenue derived from petroleum income boosts, achieved through the “participation” negotiations of OPEC, spearheaded by the Saudi Minister for Petroleum, Shaikh Z.A. Yamani.