110.15 McG/3–2951: Despatch

The Chargé in Jordan (Fritzlan) to the Department of State 1

No. 234

Subject: Conversations Between Mr. McGhee,2 King Abdullah, Jordan Prime Minister and Other Members of the Government.

On March 26, 1951, Mr. McGhee, who had just arrived for a two day visit to Jordan, was received in audience by His Majesty King Abdullah. Also present at the meeting were the Jordan Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and myself.

After some complimentary opening remarks in which he expressed pleasure at having the opportunity to visit Jordan again after an absence of two years, Mr. McGhee congratulated King Abdullah on the great progress in economic development which had taken place in the country since his last visit. He paid tribute to the King and his Government for the clear cut stand which had been taken in support of United States and United Nations action on the Korean question and for His Majesty’s wish that Arab Legion soldiers participate in the fighting against Communist aggressors. Mr. McGhee added that the well organized Arab Legion and the courage of its soldiers were widely known and admired in the United States. The King was visibly touched by these remarks and said that while he regretted it had not been possible to send Arab Legionnaires to Korea, the United States could count on this force to do all within its power to repell aggressors or invaders in this part of the world.

Mr. McGhee then touched on the refugee problem,3 indicating the admiration of his Government for the welcome which King Abdullah had extended to Arab refugees and the helpful policy which his Government [Page 978]had adopted in regard to this very difficult problem.… Mr. McGhee indicated that it was his opinion that radical changes would be necessary and he hoped that such changes, together with the cooperative attitude of Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries, would in the near future enable the resettlement of large numbers of refugees. He stated that the United States would continue economic assistance and he was confident that the United States would meet the very large obligation it had undertaken to contribute to the relief and reintegration fund. He stated that he also felt confident that Jordan, apart from aid in connection with the refugee problem, could continue to count on economic assistance, possibly through an expanded Point IV program.

King Abdullah then reverted to the question of the defense of the area, giving a long exposé of his views regarding the necessity for building up further the defenses of Greece, Turkey and Iran, with particular emphasis on the exposed position of the latter country. He remarked that although adequate defenses might at the present or in the near future exist in these states, lack of unity, indecision and political instability in most of the Arab States had prevented them from building up anything like effective defenses for any eventual resistance to invasion.

Mr. McGhee said that the United States and other free Governments of the world recognized the great danger of Soviet aggression which existed in several corners of the world and particularly in the Middle East. However, the United States and its Western European allies were engaged in a large scale re-armament and mobilization program. If any possible Russian invasion could be delayed for a period of eighteen months, the overwhelming superiority of the Western Powers in war material and manpower would, in all likelihood, remove the fear of Russian attack on any of the countries bordering it. In substantiation of this view, Mr. McGhee quoted figures on the extent of plane, tank and gun manufacture in the United States as compared with Russian output, which clearly showed that after the elapse of a year and a half the Russians would be far outstripped in war-making potential.

These figures and facts greatly impressed the King, who agreed with Mr. McGhee’s conclusions, but stated that lack of unity in the Arab world would constitute a serious weakness in developing the strategy of the defense of the Middle East and that, regardless of our strong position eighteen months hence, it should be our policy to encourage such unity.…

In reply Mr. McGhee stated that the United States Government was not against the union of like-minded people when such union was accomplished of their own free will and without the use of force. Nor was the United States opposed to disunion of such people after they had [Page 979]united if they wished to take such action. However, the United States could not sanction … unilateral action to bring about union. He and his colleagues felt very strongly that action of this character taken in an undemocratic and unilateral manner would diminish rather than build up the stability and security of the area and, were it ever attempted, the United States Government would be obliged to oppose it.

… [The King] fully understood the import of Mr. McGhee’s words, and conversation on this subject ended with a promise from the King to the effect that … he would do all in his power to build up the defenses of the area and that in the event of invasion or attack the United States could count on him to fight at its side.

Mr. McGhee expressed keen appreciation for these remarks and stated that he felt a great deal more could be done to accomplish our mutual objectives in the area through cooperation and coordination between the Middle Eastern countries on defense matters. He felt that such cooperation and coordination could possibly be as effective as overall unity of governments and of fighting forces within one sovereign area.

The conversation got around to the question of Jordan-Israeli relations and in this connection Mr. McGhee reaffirmed the intention of the United States Government to implement the Tripartite Declaration4 should a serious violation of frontiers take place. In reply to this the King said that he had no fear whatsoever as regards his frontiers with the Israelis.…

As regards the likelihood of a greater degree of agreement between Israel and Jordan in the near future the King stated that there had been discussions in recent weeks but that the Israelis had shown no willingness to make any concessions. He added that unless the Israelis found themselves able to reach agreement with the present Prime Minister, Samir Pasha Rifa’i, who was well known for his moderate and reasonable attitude, he was certain that there was no likelihood of such agreement being reached in the foreseeable future.

The audience was concluded with complimentary remarks on both sides and expressions from Mr. McGhee of his admiration of the King’s grasp of world affairs, his practical outlook and of his frankness in laying before him his innermost ambitions regarding Arab union.

Following Mr. McGhee’s audience with King Abdullah, he had extended conversations with Prime Minister Samir Pasha Rifa’i, Foreign Minister Ahmad Bey Tuqan and other members of the Jordan Government.… [The Prime Minister] felt that union of the [Page 980]Fertile Crescent was inevitable and it was the duty of Arabs to work for it. The method of achieving the union, the organization of the union or confederation, and the person who should be at the head of it, would be matters which would have to be worked out on the basis of common agreement. In this connection he referred to Dr. Qudsi’s federation scheme and expressed the hope that it would be the basis for achieving a greater degree of cooperation and coordination and ultimate unity between the countries of the Fertile Crescent. (In this regard attention is invited to Legation’s despatch 229 of March 22, 19515 which recorded a conversation at length between the Prime Minister and myself.)

In subsequent conversation with the Prime Minister, Samir Pasha sought to impress upon Mr. McGhee two important points. First, he repeated and emphasized the fact that Jordan was in dire need of substantial economic assistance in order to develop its limited resources with a view of achieving some degree of self-sufficiency. This, of course, was a question quite apart from assistance which would be necessary in order to contribute to the resettlement of refugees. Mr. McGhee reaffirmed his intention to assist in every way possible in order that the United States Government might be able to expand substantially its economic assistance to Jordan through some sort of enlarged Point IV program. The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude for these remarks.

Second, Samir Pasha took up in some detail recent developments in connection with Jordan-Israeli negotiations under the Armistice Agreement.6 He stated that while previous Jordan Governments had done little to insure implementation of the Armistice Agreement, it had become his policy from the beginning of his assumption of power to accept the obligation to implement fully the Armistice, in particular Article VIII, assuming he could count on a cooperative and conciliatory attitude on the part of the Israelis. He regretted that so far he had not found the Israelis to be motivated by such feelings. (In this connection see the Legation’s despatch 223 of March 19, 19517 which summarized Samir Pasha’s proposals made on March 16 and the reaction of the Israelis.) Samir Pasha dwelt at great length on the question of Mount Scopus and of his offer to provide free access to the Jewish institutions there in order that they might resume their normal functioning, subject to the fact that United Nations control of the area would terminate and that Jordan control would be substituted. [Page 981]The institutions in the area would have the status of foreign institutions in Jordan territory and would be protected as such. He was surprised to learn that the Israelis considered the area as Israeli territory, a claim which had no foundation in any of the agreements made. He asserted that Jordan could implement its obligation under Article VIII to provide free access only if Jordan exercised control of the area. He produced a copy of the Armistice Agreement, official maps and a copy of the agreement made prior to the Armistice, under which the United Nations assumed “protection” of the institutions in the area, in order to convince Mr. McGhee of his argument. Mr. McGhee stated that while on the basis of evidence presented it appeared that Samir Pasha had a good case, he felt certain that during his visit to Israel he would be presented with evidence by the Israelis which would probably indicate that they also had a case. In any event, he hoped that by reducing legal quibbling to a minimum some form of agreement could be reached. Samir Pasha agreed that quibbling on technical points should be reduced wherever possible, but he felt that if Jordan, or for that matter Israel, had a good legal case on any particular subject it should be recognized. In this connection he had serious criticism of the Mixed Armistice Commission which, very often, sought to resolve disputes on the basis of compromise without special regard to legal right. He felt that since the Armistice Agreement was, like any other document of its nature, open to legal interpretation, it was advisable for the Jordan Government to procure qualified legal advice which did not exist in the country. He had asked for the services, for a brief period, of a competent international lawyer from England who was due to arrive soon.

The conversation ended with Samir Pasha expressing the hope that he could count on Mr. McGhee to continue to adopt a friendly attitude toward Jordan in matters affecting Jordan–Israel relations.

A. David Fritzlan
  1. Repeated to London, Cairo, Jidda, Baghdad, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Damascus, and Jerusalem.
  2. For information on Assistant Secretary of State McGhee’s tour of the Near East in February and March 1951, see the editorial note on p. 49.
  3. For documentation on the Palestine refugee problem, particularly on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, see pp. 559 ff.
  4. For text of the three-power statement by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States regarding security in the Near East, released to the press May 25, 1950, see the Department of State Bulletin, June 5, 1950, p. 886. For documentation on the subject, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, pp. 122 ff.
  5. Not printed.
  6. For documentation on these negotiations, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, pp. 594 ff. and ibid., 1950, vol. v, pp. 658 ff. The Agreement was signed at Rhodes on April 3, 1949. For text, see United Nations, Official Records of the Security Council, Fourth Year, Special Supplement No. 1.
  7. Ante, p. 601; for other documentation on talks between Jordan and Israel, see pp. 559 ff.