RIYADH, May 4: The United States had threatened to use force against Saudi Arabia in 1973 after King Faisal and other Arab and Muslim leaders imposed an embargo on oil shipments to western countries which supported Israel during the October War, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, said in an interview with the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat.
In the interview that appeared ahead of a seminar on King Faisal, Prince Turki, son of the former Saudi king, shed light on important events that took place during his father’s rule.
Prince Turki, who was an adviser at the Royal Court in 1973 when King Faisal took the oil embargo decision, said the king was not shaken by the US threat and stood firm.
He added that the embargo was instrumental in encouraging the US to find a quick and just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. “King Faisal and other Arab leaders were forced to take the decision as a result of America’s unprecedented support for Israel during the (1973 Arab-Israel) war,” the prince said. The embargo resulted in almost quadrupling of the world oil prices in what is termed the ‘first oil shock.’
Prince Turki revealed that American officials talked about the possibility of attacking Saudi oil fields, and this was leaked in US newspapers. Some of these statements came from the then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.Prince Turki said that King Faisal, who was in Jeddah at the time, received a telegram from Mr Kissinger warning that if the kingdom did not lift the embargo the US would take all measures to protect its interests.
“The message was not specific about the measures they were going to take, but it appeared that they would use force. A CIA representative gave me the unsigned message, telling me it was from Kissinger... I went to the king and conveyed its contents. He received the message, read it and said: ‘Khair,
Insha Allah (Good, God willing).’
“It was very clear that it had come from the American government... The king was very relaxed, cheerful, and humorous and was in good spirits despite the threat... This reflected his high quality and determination. He was giving the message that the kingdom would not bow to a threat, as a result of a decision it had taken with other Arab countries. It was a great reply,” said Prince Turki.
He said the embargo was announced after the October War when the US public was disgruntled by a lack of gasoline. He added that before announcing the embargo, King Faisal had warned the US against its unqualified support for Israel, and for providing weapons to the Jewish country.
Asked whether the embargo was right or wrong, Prince Turki said: “I am not the person to comment; the action speaks for itself. There is no doubt that the situation necessitated such a decision, as the US was totally siding with Israel during the Ramadan War by providing the Jewish state with weapons.”
He added that King Faisal had warned the US before the war and raised the issue of Israel occupying Palestinian land. He also emphasised the need for Israel to withdraw from Arab territories occupied after the 1967 war.
“Before the Ramadan War, King Faisal had created public opinion that the US support for Israel would have negative consequences. The king, along with other Arab leaders, later adopted the decision for an oil boycott. This influenced events as well as US policy towards Arab countries,” he said.
“The US tried to resolve the crisis and Kissinger visited the region about
10 times to reach a solution, as the US saw that its interest was in reaching a peaceful settlement. President Nixon then talked about a just solution to the Middle East problem. Later, other American leaders also presented projects and solutions to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict... For me, the embargo was effective in boosting the Middle East peace process and making new proposals to solve the Palestinian issue.”
In order to highlight the achievements of King Faisal, the King Faisal
Centre for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS) is currently holding an exhibition on King Faisal titled “Witness and Martyr.” New information and documents about the king have been collected from several countries, including the US and Britain. On display will be the king’s possessions and speeches, and films and pictures about him.