The Buraimi Dispute 1950–1961  Contemporary Documents

ISBN:  978-1-85207-420-3  Extent: 10 volumes, 8,000 pages, including 1 map box
Editor: J. Priestland   Published: 1987
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt
See sample pages: not available


This companion work to the Archive Editions’ publication The Buraimi Memorials provides the evidence of the original historical and contemporary political files to set alongside the official government submissions of the Memorials. With one volume summarising the historical background from earlier records, key documents are assembled providing a broad perspective on events and conditions in the Buraimi Region in the post-war period. The chronological presentation of original records shows the cumulative build-up in the late 1940s and early 1950s of local incidents, tribal unrest, intrigue and political tension; including details of Saudi and British manoeuvres and diplomacy. The set is illustrated with a box of contemporary maps including Ibn Saud´s map of Arabia.


This publication provides a sequence of key documents selected from the enormous amount of archive material relating to the Buraimi dispute. While most of the publication is organised around the development and aftermath of the armed crisis in 1955, the first volume provides historical background up to 1949.
The documents convey the complexity of regional and tribal affairs and the cumulative strain of territorial claims and provocations. The documents show how over a period of years the British and Saudis developed irreconcilable positions and how the various attempts at settlement, including the Dammam Conference and the Arbitration Tribunal, rapidly became likely to fail.
On a wider front the records show how the commercial interests of Aramco became entangled with American foreign policy and how the determination of the British to maintain their earlier level of influence led to the alienation of US support. With hindsight the Buraimi affair can be seen in conjunction with the Suez crisis as a point of re-alignment of British relations both with the Americans and with the Arab world.
The Buraimi dispute was apparently settled in 1974 when Saudi Arabia ceded, or at least relaxed, its claim in favour of Abu Dhabi in return for territorial concessions elsewhere; although the agreement has not been published.
The Buraimi Dispute: contemporary documents provides scholars and researchers with the detailed primary materials required for an understanding of the origins and escalation of the Buraimi crisis, as well as of the following years of international diplomatic repercussions involving the Arab League and the United Nations, the roles of the UK and the US and the evolving relationships of Abu Dhabi, Oman and Saudi Arabia.


This collection of primary source material provides evidence from the original political archives to set beside the official government submissions of the Buraimi Memorials themselves. Key documents show the build-up of tension and the clash of interests between the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Omani and Abu Dhabi, the British and the Americans. It includes detailed records of tribal relations and allegiances, payments of zakat, frontier claims and incursions, provocative actions and armed incidents, all of which demonstrate the international repercussions of the Buraimi dispute, the severance of Anglo-Saudi diplomatic relations, the linkage with the Suez crisis, and the increasing strain on Anglo-American understanding.


Historical background to the 1950s dispute
  • Tribal allegiances around Buraimi and the payment of zakat
  • Wahhabi influence in Buraimi
  • Reports on expeditions and petroleum exploration
  • The Agreement of Sib between the Sultan of Muscat and Oman and leading shaikhs, 1920
  • Anglo-Saudi frontier discussions, 1935
  • Oil considerations, 1940-1949
  • Procedures for resolution of frontier dispute considered by Saudi Arabia, UK and USA, 1950
  • Saudi claim and tribal allegiance
  • Sultan´s jurisdiction over tribes
  • Saudi/Abu Dhabi relations and payment of zakat
  • Status of Imam´s administration, 1951
  • Activities of Aramco and IPC
  • Anglo-Saudi frontier conference at Dammam, 1952
  • Arrival of Turki bin Ataishan in Hamasa
  • Saudi call for American intervention
  • Proposal for Standstill Agreement
  • Consideration of use of force by HMG
  • Situation in Buraimi, Dhank and Ibri
  • Rift among Beni Ka´ab
  • Infringement of Standstill Agreement
  • Saudi tax collecting
  • Activities of Turki bin Ataishan, Abdullah bin Salim and Obaid bin Juma´a
  • Support by HMG of Gulf Rulers and Shaihks
  • British attitude to United Nations
  • Deployment of Muscat Levies
  • Increase in shooting incidents
  • Attitudes of Shaikh Saqr and Shaikh Zaid
  • Shaikh Shakhbut visits Buraimi
  • Oman applications to join Arab League
  • Anglo-American relations
  • Saudi approach to United Nations
  • Extent of American Government´s involvement with Aramco
  • British and Saudi protests
  • Nominations for Arbitration Tribunal


  • Evidence and preparations for Arbitration Tribunal
  • First meeting of Arbitration tribunal
  • Access to Buraimi
  • Anglo-Saudi relations prior to arbitration
  • Arbitration proceedings and breakdown, September 1955
  • British military action and approach to UN
  • International repercussions of British action
  • Aramco incursion; Anglo-American relations
  • Situation in Buraimi after re-occupation; tribal allegiance
  • Omani-British relations
  • Saudi documents found in Buraimi
  • Anglo-American relations; influence of Col. Nasser on King Saud
  • Repercussions of Suez
  • Situation in Oman and British military intervention
  • Involvement of UN and Arab League
  • Action against Omani rebels
  • Frontiers between Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi near Buraimi
  • The exiled Shaikhs of Buraimi
  • Khor al Odaid and the Buraimi refugees
  • Shaikh Zaid´s relations with Muscat
  • United Nations discussion on Oman
  • Anglo-Saudi relations
  • Aramco incursions and boundary claims
  • The de Ribbing Mission on the Buraimi question, 1961
  • Negotiations for the return of refugees


01. Map illustrating Anglo-Saudi Boundary negotiations, 1935-1937. [Foreign Office Research Dept. 1941]
02. Outline map from Petroleum Development, Qatar to Sir Rupert Hay, 15th November 1949, to accompany note on parts of Eastern Arabia, showing routes and tribes; including detail of Buraimi Oasis.
03. ´Tribes of Oman´. Map of Oman showing tribes of Muscat and Oman. Published by Foreign Office Research Dept., October 1950.
04. Map of Southern Arabia published by Foreign Office Research Dept., October 1949 to illustrate claim lines and tribal areas - to accompany Memorandum to State Dept.
05. ´Frontier Claims by Ibn Saud´. Map of South East Arabia published by Foreign Office Research Dept., March 1951. Map showing frontier claim lines.
06. Arabic map prepared for the Saudi Arabian Government by ARAMCO, July 1951.
07. Map of South Eastern Arabia (Appendix ´D´) illustrating significance of the Wadi Jizzi Area - to accompany document EA 1016/12, 19 October 1954.
08. Arabic map published by ARAMCO of South Eastern Arabia showing the claims of King Ibn Saud - produced in Riyadh by the King.
09. Map showing the disputed areas referred to Arbitration, 1954 and Central Oman, Dhofar and the Hadhramaut, Foreign Office Research Dept., January 1955.
10. RAF map of Oman to accompany Report of Searches carried out by aircraft of no. 1417 Flight: February 1955.
11. Map issued by the Permanent Delegation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations on 20 January 1956. Accompanies Saudi Arabian brochure on British aggression.
12. Map of south eastern Arabia illustrating modified Riyadh Line, 1956.
13. Map of south eastern Arabia illustrating operational areas of oil companies in relation to the Riyadh Line. Accompanies letter from Sir G. Middleton to Mr R.A. Beaumont, 11 February 1961.
14. Map of south eastern Arabia. Foreign Office Research Dept., May 1955 (revised and corrected March 1961).