Paper Prepared in the Office of Near Eastern Affairs for Discussion by the Policy Planning Staff
Subject: Future of Jordan; Possible Alternatives
Alternative No. 1
Jordan to remain an independent monarchy under Tallal, Hussein or Naif
1. The UK strategic position would presumably be unaffected (although Tallal is reportedly less well disposed toward UK than was Abdullah).
2. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria under its present regime would probably favor maintenance of status quo since none of these is in a favorable position to annex Jordan and would oppose Iraq’s or Israel’s doing so. These states would seek to integrate Jordan more closely into the Arab League than heretofore.
3. The Armistice Agreement with Israel would be unaffected; Israel would like to rectify its frontiers, but would agree to the status quo if thwarted from doing so by the Great Powers.
4. France would favor the status quo since it fears a UK-dominated Arab Union.
5. Some leading Arab-Palestinians and Jordanians having vested interests in positions of influence will prefer the status quo. However, if Tallal and his followers are ousted they may join forces with Iraqis or others seeking annexation.
1. Jordan is not a viable territorial unit, and its existence as an independent state was intimately related to the personality of Abdullah. This may be a golden opportunity to correct an entirely illogical situation.
2. None of prospective successors has a high standing in the Arab World. Of all, Tallal as Crown Prince is best known in limited sense, but all now question his capacity to rule.
3. Iraq and the majority party in Syria (The Populists) will favor incorporation of Jordan into an Arab federation or union. Probably the majority of the people of the northern Arab States favor unification and will lay blame on the UK and US if Union does not come about, claiming latter opposing (a) to protect UK “imperialistic position” and (b) to appease Israel.
4. East and West Jordan will never be fully compatible under the present political arrangement.[Page 986]
Alternative No. 2
Jordan to be federated or unified with Iraq
1. Communications between the two states are not particularly good, but there are no insurmountable geopolitical obstacles.
2. Merger of the Hashemite clan “a natural”.
3. The Iraq financial situation will soon be good enough to take on the additional burden, although the UK subsidy and UN aid to the refugees will be needed initially. Continuing need for the subsidy may be an advantage in preventing any drastic change in the UK strategic position.
4. The UK position in Iraq is less certain than in Jordan, but UK interests in Jordan are less likely to be adversely affected under a merger with Iraq than if Jordan assimilated elsewhere.
5. UK treaty question would be thorny but not impossible to resolve so long as Nuri and Coterie in power.
6. US and UK encouragement of the merger would give the lie to the charges that the great powers are resisting Arab unity and might be an effective psychological move to cause the Arabs to shed their present nihilism.
7. The Arab Legion, and Iraqi forces might in time be welded into a trim fighting unit capable of assisting Western forces substantially in holding the line at the Iranian frontier.
8. The great powers could possibly use support of unification as quid pro quo for a settlement with Israel, but chances of success of this maneuver would be very remote.
1. Iraq, with increased power and influence, will possibly develop muscle-flexing tendencies toward the UK and US. This would be even more true should Nuri be eliminated.
2. There is no armistice agreement between Iraq and Israel and the Iraqis are among the most hostile toward the Jews. There is a strong likelihood of Israel opposing the merger and using it as a pretext for gaining additional territory.
3. Pressure on Syria and on Lebanon for incorporation into Arab Union would be intensified.
4. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the controlling clique in the Syrian Army would be bitterly opposed, and it is possible, though not inevitable, such a move would rip the Arab World asunder.
5. Possible dynastic quarrels among the Hashemites.[Page 987]
Alternative No. 3
Attachment of Jordan to Syria (or vice versa)
1. Geopolitically sound—even more so than in the case of union with Iraq from a communications and ethnic standpoint.
2. It is possible, though remotely so, that this would result in an increase in UK influence in Syria since Syria definitely would need continuation of UK assistance to Jordan during the initial period of the merger.
3. Syria has an Armistice Agreement with Israel, Iraq does not.
4. Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be less bitterly opposed to Syrian aggrandizement since the present Syrian Government is more closely oriented toward them than to Iraq and presently has no chance to threaten their hegemony in their respective domains.
5. Syria is the most independent of the Arab States and fundamentally its traditions are more progressive and democratic than those in the rest of the area.…
6. Merger with the Arab Legion would improve the rag-tag Syrian Army so long as the Legion’s UK officers were retained.
1. Syria is internally divided, unstable, and Army controlled; it has troubles with Israel in the Huleh area.
2. The Syrians are rooted, to a degree, in republicanism and have a low opinion of all the Jordanian Royal family, whereas the latter would probably be unwilling to renounce the throne in Jordan in favor of a republican regime.
3. Syria could possibly eventually assume the financial burdens of Jordan but not so quickly as Iraq. Initially they could give no assistance to Jordan.
4. Syria is presently in a bitter mood toward US and UK and the “Dawalibi psychology” might be extended to Jordan.
5. The UK Treaty question would be extremely difficult.
6. If UK influence remained, a clash between the UK and France might be expected, particularly in view latter’s belief, that it has a special position in Syria.
Other Alternatives and Possibilities
The alternatives previously mentioned are those which have a chance of being accomplished relatively peaceably. There are several other alternatives and possibilities which would probably involve military action of one sort or another, but which may nevertheless confront us:
1. The ex-Mufti’s Gaza Government will emerge from shadow to substance in Arab-Palestine; Jordan to be confined to the eastern [Page 988]bank. The disadvantages of this are obvious and enormous, and the US should oppose this development by every possible means.
2. Arab-Palestine and/or Jordan to be partitioned among neighboring Arab States and possibly Israel; Ibn Saud’s claim to the Aqaba-Ma’an region, (as stated in the 1927 exchange of letters attached to the Treaty of Jidda with the UK) to be recognized. The Arab Legion would resist by force any attempt made in this direction.
3. Israel to annex old Palestine; Jordan to remain independent on the eastern bank or another Arab State, such as Iraq, to annex Jordan up to the eastern bank. From the point of view of easing Israel’s immigration and territorial problems and making its frontiers more natural, this proposal has much merit. However, the Arab States would resist to the last ditch and the US and UK would be in for a bad time in the Arab World if it supported such territorial acquisition by Israel.
4. A military protectorate over British tutelage to be established in Jordan. The severity of reaction in the Arab World to this would be tremendous.
Of all the alternatives mentioned above, number 1, that is the maintenance of the status quo, is the least risky. The US and UK do not have much to lose under this alternative, and from the standpoint of the UK strategic position the status quo may well be the best arrangement. It would also save us the trouble of trying to reconcile Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Israel. In any event, the US and UK should not take the initiative in advancing proposals to bring about a change in the status of Jordan since this would give credence to the “grand imperialist design” idea.
However, it seems inevitable that pressures will increase in Iraq, in Jordan and among the majority political party in Syria for unification of Iraq and Jordan, of Iraq, Syria and Jordan, or more remotely, of Syria and Jordan alone. When and if such a movement develops, it will be equivocal as to whether it has popular support in the countries concerned and whether it can jell in the face of opposition from other Arab States. The determining factor, which will likely move the train of events in one way or another, is the US and UK attitude.
The Western Powers may well harbor some legitimate fears as to the effect of the Arab union movement on their own interests and how the Israel-Arab situation would be affected. However, considering the problem in a deeper psychological sense, it is possible that the US and the UK would be “missing the boat” if they took a negative or indifferent attitude toward a genuine unification movement. The Arab nihilism of today, which is resulting in a gradual disintegration of the US and UK position in the Near East, is undoubtedly a product of defeatism and frustration. Any step, even a partial one, towards realization of deep-seated Arab aspirations may do more than any sums of money that could be poured into that part of the world to create that [Page 989]psychological something called “the will to resist” aggression from outside. The US and UK will win no gratitude for supporting an Arab union, and, as pointed out previously, they may well be confronted with some “muscle-flexing”. Nevertheless, it is possible we have something real to gain in giving the northern Arab States a sense of having achieved something positive. The new life thereby breathed into the nihilistic Near Eastern atmosphere may for the time being diminish Arab preoccupation with anti-Western ideas.
Moreover, the possibility should not be overlooked that the Arab Union movement will gain impetus and come upon us notwithstanding and that instead of controlling events, events will control us. It would only be prudent to try to control the movement so that we would be in a position to salvage our vital interests as a price for our support. Later the movement may be completely in the hands of extremist elements and beyond our control. If we support a merger, we should, in view of the relatively greater stability offered, lean in the direction of unification with Iraq.
There should be several important conditions attached to our support for any merger of Jordan with another Arab State namely: (1) All international obligations of Jordan will be continued in good faith, particularly the UK Treaty and the Armistice Agreement with Israel (unless the parties to these treaties and agreements should deem it mutually desirable that they be renegotiated or superseded by some other mutually satisfactory arrangement).
(2) The unified state should give appropriate guarantees of nonaggressive intent and respect for the independence and territorial integrity of all other neighboring states. We should require that Iraq, if it is to be the predominate power, endeavor to mend its fences with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Some form of easement or territorial concession to Ibn-Saud in the Aqaba-Ma’an region may be a useful gambit in this.
A difficult problem would be posed in connection with relations with Israel and the status of Arab-Palestine which has not been recognized (even by the Arabs) as under Jordan sovereignty. Israel would oppose, possibly to the last ditch, its being taken over by Iraq. If a merger goes forward, it would take the utmost diplomatic pressure and probably invocation of the Tripartite Declaration to persuade Israel not to seize the territory by force. At the same time, we should make it clear that we would not recognize Iraq’s or any other Arab State’s claim to the territory unless the Iraqis are willing to negotiate a settlement with Israel or at the very least, abide by the terms of the Jordan-Israel Armistice Agreement.