167. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1
2260. Although final outcome Lebanese rebellion unknown all indications point best we can expect is neutral Lebanon in place former pro-western government with definite possibility country may come under UAR domination. My opinion time has come consider politico/economic effects such change will have on Jordan. Present HKJ pro-western government headed Prime Minister Rifai lacks popular support, is maintained in power only through imposition martial law carried out by army/security forces loyal King Hussein. Both Hussein/RIFAI reluctant yield more than minimum sovereignty AU, fear they might lose direct control those forces protect own political interests. For same reason Rifai refuses delegate authority, operates virtually as dictator with every branch Jordanian Government under his personal control. Result, while his ability respected, alienation other government officials including certain number cabinet virtually complete. Mutual interdependence Hussein Rifai and latter’s astuteness protecting Jordan’s interests information of AU plus his demonstrated ability secure substantial US economic/military aid provides raison d’être his power. Since sudden death either Hussein or Rifai which is definite possibility would shatter present power structure, question arises what prospect continuance pro-Western policies by successor government. Unfortunately my opinion these not very bright because:
- Considerable evidence exists large percentage civil service including those officials immediately below Cabinet rank are extreme nationalists if not pro-Nasser.
- Potential leaders among intelligentsia both ins out government are basically opposed “western influence”. Eagerly look forward to time when wealth (oil) generated Middle East will be distributed “have-not nations” thereby eliminate need aid from west.
- US aid, despite obvious benefits, resented because of so-called “strings” which offend Arab sensitivities. This applies not only to money and projects but equally to technical assistance wherein US advisors appear to be forcing their methods and ideas on Jordanian officials.
- Despite fact knowledgeable and responsible leaders in both official and private community admit Jordan can only exist through foreign subsidy majority opinion is Nasser represents “wave of future”. Look upon US support feudalistic monarchies sheikdoms as [Page 293] “progress to the past,” since these destined be swept away by rising tide Arab nationalism. Under these circumstances your men of “promise” reluctant cast their lot with “reactionaries” even if opportunity immediate financial reward considerable.
- Although on surface army appear completely loyal King there is abundant evidence considerable disaffection which highlighted by recent arrest number officers ranging from captain to colonel alleged complicity plot assassinate Hussein/RIFAI other pro-Western leaders.
In event either Hussein/RIFAI or both should be killed who would be able form new government? All indications are that no single group politicians could form a government without substantial support army/security forces. In view lack dynamic civilian leadership best guess is military junta with strong UAR ties would take over. Inconceivable Nasser would permit any independent government remain power regardless whether or not it renounces monarchy. Under these circumstances US Government position Jordan might well follow pattern developed Syria with Jordan becoming part UAR.
What are prospects achievement US policy objectives Middle East should Hussein/RIFAI continue in power but Iraq becomes subversive battleground on assumption Nasser might elect strike first at wealthier AU partner, temporarily postpone movement against Jordan? One possible, and, on basis actions Hussein/RIFAI to date, likely strategy might be HKJ cease further implementation union with Iraq, withdrawal into self-contained unit, relying strongly on US military/economic support make Jordan embattled pro-Western island in Nasser sea. Should this occur chances are Jordan able hold out considerable period because:
- US gifts flour, fodder, wheat will mitigate effects 1958 drought.
- $10 million economic aid especially East Ghor canal and roads program will absorb substantial number of unemployed.
- Balance $7.5 of original 15 million provided as budgetary support will insure payment security forces salaries, permit retention loyalty, sufficient military defense government against defectors.
In this situation wherein Nasser threatened encirclement both Jordan/Israel possibility settlement their basic differences might appear lesser two evils, provide Jordan access Mediterranean.
In my opinion, and as such action affects Jordan, following are possible courses action US on assumption Lebanon lost to US as sphere influence and Nasser continues aggression against Jordan/Iraq:
- Attempt reach working arrangements with UAR thereby accepting Nasser’s domination Middle East.
- Provide maximum assistance AU if it develops into “going concern”. If not “buy time” through support whichever partner demonstrates willing/able maintain its pro-Western posture.
- Make maximum effort bring about modus vivendi between Israel/Jordan, set precedent future Israel/Arab relations.
In foregoing I have deliberately confined my observations to Jordan with limited reference Iraq. Undoubtedly in broader Middle East picture Nasser’s designs other Arab states important consideration which however I do not feel competent discuss. Important US face fact Nasser unlikely deal with AU as unit, therefore any future aggression would continue present pattern attacking individual state Jordan/Iraq toward which vicious propaganda/subversion program already directed.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 785.00/6–2858. Secret. Repeated to Baghdad.↩