A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 1945: Roosevelt Meets "Ibn Saud"

Admiral William D. Leahy, Bill Eddy translating, the King and FDR
I've been so preoccupied with the 100th anniversary of World War I that I let slip a critical 70th anniversary: the meetings between Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Farouq, Haile Selassie, and King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa‘ud ("Ibn Saud") in the Suez Canal in February 1945. FDR was returning from the Yalta Conference on the the cruiser USS Quincy. The conference took place February 12-14, 1945, so I'm a couple of days late in noting its anniversary. Roosevelt arrived by air from Yalta and then traveled to join the Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake of the Suez Canal. The next day he met with King Farouq and Haile Selassie.

On February 14th the the destroyer USS Murphy, which had been sent to Jidda to bring the King and his party to Egypt, arrived. In the negotiations that followed, Roosevelt sought to obtain King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz' cooperation on Palestinian partition (unsuccessfully), but also negotiated the right to build an air base at Dhahran and secure access to Saudi oil supplies for the West, the beginning of the long Saudi-US security relationship. (The US was already involved through US oil companies' partnership in the Arabian American Oil Company, ARAMCO.)

The first film clip is partially in color; though the two clips show the same events there are some differences in detail.

The US Marine Corps colonel appearing in the meetings with Roosevelt and Ibn Saud is Colonel Bill Eddy, the US Minister to Saudi Arabia. You can find an account of the meeting written by Eddy here. For more about Eddy, see Tom Lippman's 2008 book, Arabian Knight: Colonel Bill Eddy USMC and the Rise of American Power in the Middle East.

You can find Eddy's own account of the meeting here.

 I note that both newsreels say that this is the first time Ibn Saud had left his Kingdom. I guess they mean since he became King; he spent his youth in exile in Kuwait until he led the raid on Riyadh that expelled the Rashid family and restored the Sauds, beginning the formation of the Kingdom.

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