Middle East: The U.S. Intervenes On Both Sides

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The little civil war in Yemen last week spluttered on like a defective fuse. The royalist tribesmen trying to put the deposed Imam of Yemen back on his feudal throne made hit-and-run attacks on strongpoints held by the "republicans" of General Abdullah Sallal and their Egyptian allies. In return Egyptian planes bombed the tribal encampments and even crossed the border to blast again the Saudi Arabian town of Najran, the main staging area for supplies sent to the royalists by the nervous monarchs of both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Kings Hussein and Saud.

Behind the scenes, the U.S. was exerting major efforts to contain the struggle. By recognizing Sallal's republican regime last month, Washington had delighted Egypt's Nasser and offended Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Now Washington hoped to deter Nasser and reassure Hussein and Saud by sending the U.S. destroyer Forrest Sherman on a "routine" visit to the Saudi seaport of Jidda—the hoary political device that hints of force. And, though it was laconically denied in Washington, sources in the Middle East insist that the U.S. has agreed to a Saudi request that antiaircraft batteries and radar-control equipment be sent to the oft-bombed supply depot at Najran; this, hopefully, would have a sedative effect on Egyptian air raids inside the territory of Saudi Arabia itself.

On instructions from Washington, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt John Badeau last week brought the major foes face to face. In Badeau's presence at Cairo, Saudi Arabia's U.N. specialist, Ahmad Shukairy, held a long, secret conference with Egypt's Foreign Minister Mahmoud Fawzi. The purpose of the discussions: an armistice in Yemen.

Without U.S. intervention, the Yemeni conflict would almost certainly have exploded into a far wider struggle between socialist Egypt and the Arab monarchies. But last week only the Soviet Union, which predictably denounced U.S. "provocative measures," was doing much complaining. As for the Arab world, Lebanon's independent daily Al Hayat said approvingly that the "U.S. policy in the Middle East is to encourage stability, and American standing in this area is now very strong. Today America is listened to in Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Riyadh and San'a—everywhere. We hope the American efforts will be continued and their main goal reached: an end to the bloodshed in Yemen. Once this is achieved, a general peace may be possible."