220. Letter From the Under Secretary of State (Hoover) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Gray)1
Dear Gordon : The question of arms shipments to the Middle East continues to be a pressing one. Up to the present time, the U.S. has declined to accede to Israel’s request for some $50,000,000 worth of arms, including jet fighters. In the meantime, Egypt and possibly other Arab states are receiving quantities of arms from the Soviet bloc, including jet bombers, that will considerably strengthen their military position.[Page 404]
In considering what policy the U.S. should adopt in dealing with this problem, it has to be assumed that a policy of helping Israel to maintain the military superiority which she has enjoyed over the past years, would incur severe Arab resentment and would enable the Soviet Union to move even more dangerously than heretofore to a position of friend and ally of the Arab nations. Such a development would threaten to result in a situation where the Soviet Union would have such dominance in the area that it could deprive the Western Powers of the oil resources of the Middle East and some of the important air bases upon which the West now bases its military strategy.
On the other hand, the U.S. and the other countries who are consulting with it through the Ambassadorial Committee (the United Kingdom, France and Italy) cannot pursue a policy merely of denying to Israel the means of defending herself against the new weapons which Egypt is acquiring.
It is, therefore, important to devise a policy governing arms shipments to the Middle East that will, insofar as possible:
- Avoid undermining the U.S. position in the area by creating Arab resentments that would furnish the Soviet Union with opportunities for further penetration in the area; and,
- Provide a maximum of defensive capacity for recipient countries while minimizing the incipient race to acquire large amounts of weapons of mass destruction.
It would be most useful in determining what action we should take upon Israel’s requests to us, and what policies we might suggest to the other members of the Ambassadorial Committee, if we could have from the Department of Defense an analysis of the amounts and nature of arms which Israel would have to receive to bring it into a standoff position vis-à-vis the Arab countries.
We would appreciate any analysis and comments the Department of Defense could make on this question.2