278. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State 1
Amman, October 12, 1968, 1325Z.
- Summary—Gist of President’s message to Hussein given to PriMin Talhouni Oct 12 along with further explanations based on Dept’s guidance. PriMin expressed appreciation but reviewed US actions on aid, arms, and Near East issues at the UN as demonstrating lack of balance in US position toward Jordan as compared with Israel. Asserted these actions embarrassed friends of US and stimulated heavy pressures from the public against those friends. These pressures had been withstood but it was becoming increasingly difficult.
- I acknowledged some delays and problems inherent in our system and the complexity of the situation but stressed the great strength of our fundamental policies and determination to carry through on them. I also suggested as a personal observation that clearing away the Phantom issue might make our dialogue with the Israelis on more fundamental problems easier. Meeting was cordial and overall effect of President’s message, particularly reaffirmation of intentions continue work for a solution, seemed useful. End Summary.
- I informed PriMin Talhouni morning Oct 12 of gist message from President to King Hussein as delivered in London, drawing extensively on copy which I excused myself from giving to him. DepPriMin Touqan present. I also drew on State 2522864 making particularly points (a) clear expression Congressional views; (b) negotiations may take some time and agreement necessary on range of points before any aircraft would actually be sent to area; (c) Soviet deliveries to Israel’s neighbors and fact that so long as source for replacement of high performance aircraft in doubt, this in itself destabilizing; and (d) our reaffirmed intention work for solution basic problem.
- Touqan commented that they had thought of calling me in yesterday and both he and PriMin expressed appreciation for information and background. Talhouni said that while he did not know what King’s [Page 553] reaction message would be, of course, he would give the present views of the King’s govt. Talhouni then gave a long and closely reasoned account of events of the past year, culminating in the announcement of the Phantom decision, which he said led him to feel there was a basic and disturbing lack of balance in the relationships of the US with Israel and with Jordan. He cited the suspension of budget support, the protracted ban on arms shipments to Jordan, and various stands taken by the US at the UN as examples of the kind of moves which the Jordan public could not understand and which were an embarrassment and a source of mounting criticism of the King and govt by all walks of life in Jordan. He emphasized he was not asking for a resumption of budget support but was illustrating the kind of things which had been piled one on another and made it hard for Arab friends of the US. During the arms ban Jordan had been under tremendous pressure to accept Soviet arms and the Soviets had indicated willingness to supply. The Jordan Govt, however, had decided that the wisest course was to maintain its ties with the US. He mentioned too the delivery of Skyhawks to Israel while Jordan was still under the ban. Also Jordan had expected a major effort by the US to help clear the way for real progress after last November’s SC resolution.
- With respect to the supersonic aircraft, Talhouni said this opened the way to the Soviets to supply more aircraft which would tend nullify whatever additional security these planes were expected to give Israel. Also there was the fact these would be viewed by the Arabs in the light of the use of the Skyhawks supplied with modern rockets (sic) in the attack on Salt in which innocent civilians had been killed. He said he was distressed by the timing of the announcement and deeply concerned for the cumulative effect of such actions on the US image in the area and the position of the people who continue close ties with the US. Certainly up until now King Hussein had been able to stand off all pressures and attacks on his policy, but this was becoming increasingly difficult.
- Talhouni said that while it was not for him to suggest what US policy should be he could not escape the conclusion that US interests had suffered from various actions in the past year, mentioning in this connection the entry of additional Soviet ships into the Mediterranean. He also expressed concern for implications of the delay in ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as symptomatic of US problems today.
- Talhouni said the press had asked him to comment on the aircraft negotiations announcement and he had refused just as he had refused be drawn out on the Eban speech. Touqan said that they had just received a telegram from Farra in New York reporting a decision of the Arab delegates at the UN to ask their governments to express to respective [Page 554] American Ambassadors their concern and displeasure for the Phantoms announcement and to urge trade unions and other institutions in the country to telegraph their protests to the US and the UN. Talhouni said that Jordan obviously was not going to stir up the local organizations and the street against the US in such a way, but this was an example of the kind of pressures they were under. Talhouni also described the latest meeting with Nasser in which Nasser had said that it was only on account of Hussein that he had been persuaded to make a public acceptance of the SC resolution. This decision had, Nasser said, given him countless headaches with his own people and he maintained it because of Hussein.
- After hearing Talhouni out, as he had me, I said I would report fully his comments. I said I also wish to reaffirm that I knew that the highest levels in the USG admired and appreciated the wisdom and course he as well as the King had followed in this long difficult period. We knew that delays and sometimes our actions resulted in problems for them. These elements were inevitable in our system and the complex situation with which we were dealing. With respect to budget support, the facts of the fiscal situation had made the action inevitable but we had tried to show our support for Jordan in other ways. He should not overlook, however, the great strength of our fundamental policies and our determination to carry through on these. One of these policies was to work for a basic solution which would establish conditions of real peace in the area. This required cooperation of all. I noted the reaffirmation of our intentions in the message to the King and the statements of Amb Wiggins in New York.
- With respect to the aircraft negotiations decision, I said that speaking apart from instructions and as an observer, I saw real value in having cleared away an issue which had served only to confuse more basic problems in our relations with the Israelis. Again stressing it was my personal view I said that entry into negotiations should make it easier for us to talk with the Israelis about a solution of the broader problems. So long as Israel had no indication of source for replacement of its losses while Soviet planes were being supplied to its neighbors, Israel’s preoccupation with its ultimate security prompted it to hang on to every tactical advantage it had and made it unresponsive to our suggestions for moves which it claimed might undermine that security. I stressed I did not know the extent to which this might play a part but said I thought it could be important.
- I closed with a renewed request for understanding of the complex factors that had entered into the President’s decision. I said I believed they should see in our genuine efforts in New York and elsewhere evidences of the real and fundamental support which we had again reaffirmed to Jordan. I again referred to appreciation of the wisdom [Page 555] and understanding Talhouni and his colleagues had shown in their handling of such matters.
- Comment: The President’s message was obviously appreciated. Although Talhouni expressed concern for the effect of the announcement, the meeting was very cordial and Talhouni’s and Touqan’s presentations relaxed and thoughtful. Comments as to Talhouni’s own wise handling of affairs produced a pleased smile.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to London and USUN.↩
- Document 277.↩
- Telegram 13455 from London, October 11, reported King Hussein’s appreciation for the message from President Johnson and noted that he had been giving the subject a great deal of thought and would respond to the President. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 ISR)↩
- Document 275.↩