383. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara0



  • Near East Arms Policy (U)
Reference is made to a memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), I-28675/63, dated 2 December 1963,1 subject as above, which requested the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the matter.
The OSD proposed policy introduces two variants to the present policy which would:
Abandon the practice of deferring to European sources the sale of arms to Israel and the Arab states.
Not preclude the sale of so-called offensive weapons to Near East states on a case-by-case basis.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that the present US policy of avoiding actions likely to intensify the Arab-Israeli arms competition has not prevented an accelerated arms race in the area. While Soviet arms continue flowing to the UAR, Syria, and Iraq, West European arms suppliers are apparently intensifying their efforts to sell weapons in the area, sometimes in direct opposition to advice given by the United States. Current NIEs indicate that the flow of weapons to the Near East has so far not upset the substantial military equilibrium between Israel and the Arab states. Nevertheless, tension and antagonism between them and among some of the Arab states continue unabated. A change in US policy so as to permit the selective sales of weapons on a case-by-case basis would not necessarily reduce these tensions or provide the area stability which the United States seeks. It would, however, provide greater flexibility in exerting US influence to restrict the flow of arms to the area and in maintaining the military equilibrium which inhibits actual hostilities. The appearance of US discrimination in the Arab-Israeli conflict could be expected, however, to impair US influence with the adversary discriminated against. The Joint Chiefs of Staff therefore believe that US arms policy for the Near East should emphasize the requirement for effective limits and controls on the flow of arms into the area. The achievement of such controls, however, requires a more flexible Near Eastern arms policy than that currently in effect.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that certain of the other related actions contained in the OSD proposed memorandum to the President would afford an opportunity for the United States to assert leadership in establishing an arms control in the Near East area. By initiating some of these actions, the United States could possibly receive credit for being the predominant influence leading to area arms stabilization and at the same time avoid the onus for stimulating an arms race.
In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the substantial military equilibrium presently existing among Near Eastern states does not warrant immediate action to supply major quantities of arms to any of those countries. Rather, the highest priority effort should be directed toward achieving agreement among Middle East arms suppliers to restrict the flow of arms into the area. Pending the results of such efforts, however, the arms policy should provide the requisite flexibility without positively identifying the United States with either side in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
For the foregoing reasons, the Joint Chiefs of Staff generally concur with the conclusions and “other related actions” proposed in the OSD draft memorandum, except as follows:
The “other related actions” which affect only Israel should be either eliminated or broadened in scope to include all Near Eastern countries.
The proposed measures to restrict the flow of arms into the area should be vigorously pursued as a first step.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
A. H. Manhart
Major General, USA
Deputy Director, Joint Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131, Near East, 1963. Secret.
  2. Document 375.