Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (McGhee) to the Secretary of State 1


Subject: Assassination of King Abdullah of Jordan

Discussion: In continuation of my earlier memorandum of this date on this subject, our strictly tentative estimate of the immediate effects of this event in Jordan and neighboring countries is as follows:

Jordan: The Arab Legion under British tutelage will be able to maintain internal control. The Anglo-Jordan treaty will be a deterrent to military action by neighboring countries. The prospective new King Talal’s reign is likely to be brief in view of his questionable sanity, and the question of securing the popular acceptance of a successor will be difficult particularly in view of the low reputation in the Arab world of all the eligible members of the Jordan royal family.

Syria: Syria may press for attachment of Jordan to Syria, but at present Syria has a great many internal difficulties, not to mention trouble with Israel in the Huleh area. Military action by Syria is considered unlikely unless Israel should make a move against Jordan.

Lebanon: We foresee no possibility of the Lebanese taking action except to ask for great power guarantees of Lebanon’s independence. The Lebanese will be thoroughly frightened.

Saudi Arabia: King Ibn Saud will derive a certain satisfaction from the death of his old enemy, but Saudi Arabia is unlikely to take any positive action.

Iraq: The Iraqi Government will exert strong diplomatic pressure for its long standing plan for federating or unifying the two Hashemite kingdoms. Iraq would no doubt wish to include Syria in the unification plan. Military action by Iraq, especially if warned by the UK and US, is unlikely unless Israel should march.

[Page 984]

Israel: It is unlikely Israel will take military action unless an Arab State marches or threatens to march into Jordan. In the latter case, Israel might use this as a pretext for rectifying its frontiers and realizing its ambition for full control of all of Palestine.2

Egypt: In view of its desire for hegemony in the Arab World, Egypt will try to prevent any other Arab State from acquiring dominance over Jordan. It is not in a favorable geographic position to take military action.

Arab League: There will undoubtedly be a meeting of the Arab League to discuss the situation but no concrete results are likely.

Mufti: The inconclusive information available causes us to believe the assassination may have been inspired by the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, who claims to represent the Palestine Arabs, rather than the followers of the late Riad Solh. We believe the assassination is more likely to have been the result of a vendetta rather than a deliberate act of any Near Eastern state. Soviet involvement by financing the Mufti is possible but not proved. There is no evidence that Israel, which loses by Abdullah’s death, is connected with the assassination.

Summary: In short, any immediate military conflict is considered unlikely, but in the long run there will be an increased Arab pressure for some form of larger Arab territorial unit with Iraq and Egypt, vying for hegemony in the Arab World. Saudi Arabia will oppose any increase in the power of the Hashemite rulers of either Iraq or Jordan, and Israel will bitterly oppose any larger Arab formation.

US Objectives: Our objectives are: (1) To stabilize the situation so that the future of Jordan can be worked out in a calm atmosphere. A circular telegram3 has been dispatched to the Arab States and Israel instructing our Chiefs of Mission to counsel restraint and moderation.

(2) Our long range objective is to find a solution to the problem which will preserve the strategic position which the UK has enjoyed in Jordan, at the same time taking into account the fact that Abdullah’s death may create an opportunity for peacefully incorporating Jordan into a more viable territorial unit. Discussions of the problem are being initiated with the UK.

  1. Drafted by Barrow and Jones of NE.
  2. At this point in the source text, the following sentence is inserted, presumably in McGhee’s handwriting: “Of all the Arab leaders, Abdullah was the most cooperative toward Israel.”
  3. Telegram 69, July 20, not printed. (785.11/7–2051)