244. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1

6463. Subj: The Fedayeen problem and Jordan’s internal security. Ref: State 230885 (Notal).2

On third I told King Hussein the Embassy had been authorized to engage in working level substantive discussions of Jordan’s internal security problem. I therefore wanted to have a general discussion with him before our working levels got into details. I wanted him to know we regard the Fedayeen problem as a primary cause of incidents between Jordan and Israel. These incidents place strains on US-Jordanian relations, and they create an impossible climate for progress toward a peaceful settlement. Perhaps even more important, the Fedayeen pose a real threat to the integrity of the Jordanian regime itself. Beyond that, the Fedayeen groups almost inevitably could be counted on to create disorder when and if some tangible progress toward a peaceful settlement was achieved and publicized. We therefore want to do all we can to help Jordan deal effectively with the Fedayeen problem both in the short and long term. Our discussions with his people would be for the primary purpose of determining Jordan’s requirements. I had to make clear I was not promising grant aid. In principle, we would expect Jordan to purchase material it needed. We would determine how we could best assist Jordan’s own internal defense efforts. I added that I assumed he would have no objection if I kept the British Ambassador generally informed of our efforts. I asked the King what general strategy he had in mind especially with regard to the timing of his efforts to deal with the Fedayeen problem.
Hussein proceeded to review the Fedayeen problem in general terms pointing to the differences between the present situation and the [Page 476] situation before the June war when he had been able generally to control Fedayeen activities in Jordan territory. In connection with more recent developments he went over the ground covered in NJA-7030,3 Amman 6371, 6368, 6426,4 and other recent Embassy reporting. He said he is now due to have another meeting with the Fedayeen groups. He is holding off on this meeting until he has assessed the results of FonMin Rifai’s tactics in the Arab League Council meeting. (He mentioned parenthetically that the formation of the Eastern Arab Command, which has now been formalized, was from his standpoint important as a means of asserting a degree of control over Fedayeen activities in Syria and Iraq.) See NJA-7040.5
The King said he is confident that the army is loyal to him and, if required, would be able to deal with the Fedayeen. He has issued new orders to insure that army units take even stricter measures to control Fedayeen irregular activities in the Beisan area. In his view the Israelis could not expect perfection from him and his forces any more than they were able to get it from their own in suppressing Fedayeen activities. (I stressed to him during this part of our conversation that we see Fedayeen activity against civilian settlements in the Beisan area as the chief irritant to the Israelis and that I could not emphasize too much our hope that the Jordan army would exert greater control over the Fedayeen in this region. I commented that the Israelis seemed able pretty well to defend themselves in other parts of the ceasefire line. The vicious circle could be broken if some means could be found to prevent or significantly to diminish the Fedayeen attacks on Israeli civilians across the old ADL. We do not question the need to improve public security capability for coping with the Fedayeen, but on the old ADL front the problem seemed to be the army’s responsibility. The King acknowledged this point and said he had issued new orders to the JAA in this area.)
The King said he wanted to make it clear that his plans for improving the capability of dealing with the Fedayeen and internal disorder generally were based on public security forces rather than the [Page 477] army for specific reasons that he proceeded to explain. Psychologically speaking, it was impossible for him to give the army an internal security mission when troubles were taking place along the frontier, the Israelis remained in occupation of the West Bank, and generally hostile Israel-Arab confrontation existed. The presence of Iraqi troops in Jordan and the situation in Syria also made it important for him not to divert the army from its primary mission of defense from outside aggression. While he recognized that if Fedayeen incidents diminished there would be less threat from Israel, the psychological difficulties he had described would remain for some time to come. Therefore, he must rely on public security forces as distinguished from military forces in order to deal with the Fedayeen and other internal security problems. In the event of GOJ’s moving toward a peaceful settlement with Israel, the Fedayeen would probably seek to promote internal disturbances in protest. Mobile Bedouin police forces had proved themselves over the years the best means of dealing with this kind of security problem. He said he would like for Embassy officials to discuss the requirements with General Ma’an Abu Nuwar and other officials under Abu Nuwar. He stressed, however, that the mobile Bedouin forces would be separate from the police although under Abu Nuwar’s over-all control.
The King said he thought it would be important for me to stay in touch with the British Embassy on this matter and he thought coordination between the two Embassies would be helpful.
With regard to timing, the King says he does not anticipate an immediate confrontation with the Fedayeen. On the other hand, he must be prepared to move if his tactics at any moment should provoke outright confrontation. The optimum solution, in his eyes, would be agreement from the other Arabs to order all Fedayeen forces supported from the outside to place themselves under his control. This would enable him to clamp down on Fedayeen activities, assuming that there could be some progress toward a peaceful settlement. In the latter circumstance, he would be able to deal effectively with any Fedayeen confrontation with his control measures and would have the blessing of the other Arab countries. He regards it as unlikely, however, that the other Arabs will agree at this stage to this kind of control. Depending on how FonMin Rifai’s tactics come out in the Arab League Council meeting, he intends to visit Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAR to persuade them to agree to his asserting control over the Fedayeen in Jordan. He anticipates a real problem with Saudi Arabia. He observed that the Saudis at present are subsidizing Fatah on condition they not coordinate with any Arab govt, including Jordan.
Comment: I did not take issue with the King on the somewhat contradictory elements in his thinking, primarily because I was encouraged by these further signs that he has been trying to get a grip [Page 478] on the Fedayeen situation. A good deal of what he said was, as will be obvious to the Department, in the thinking aloud category. I will of course keep in touch with his thinking as it crystallizes further, and adopt my tactics with him accordingly. Meanwhile, we will explore Jordanian requirements at the working level.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23 JORDAN. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to London, Tel Aviv, and CINCSTRIKE.
  2. Document 243.
  3. Not found.
  4. Symmes reported in telegram 6371, August 28, that Foreign Minister Rifai had been instructed by King Hussein to seek the approval of the Arab League Council for Jordanian efforts to control the Fedayeen. In telegram 6368, August 28, Symmes reported that Prince Mohammad, acting as Viceroy in his father’s absence from the country, had told him that Jordan planned to seek the support of other Arab countries in its efforts to control the Fedayeen. Telegram 6426, August 31, reported on Symmes’ meeting with Foreign Minister Rifai prior to Rifai’s departure for the Arab League Council meeting in Cairo. Symmes, encouraged Rifai to pursue his stated intent to seek the Council’s support for Jordanian efforts to deal with the Fedayeen problem. (All in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 27 ARAB-ISR)
  5. Not found.