371. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State 1

8101. Subj: Meeting with Hussein on 28th.

Summary: King Hussein told me on 28th that: (A) Phantom announcement could not fail to have a bad effect on Middle East situation: (B) he was keeping a watchful eye on the Iraqi troop presence in Jordan, whose total number, he said, was just over 10,000 (about half our present estimate); (C) the 14-point arrangement was working satisfactorily with Al-Fatah but the PFLP and similar Fedayeen groups were giving him trouble; (D) Gromyko apparently had used in Cairo a line similar to that recently asserted by the USSR Ambassador in Amman, i.e., USSR support for peace and for Arabs, and US could influence Israel; (E) he would take a special interest in problem of DP feeding; and (F) he expected to spend some three weeks in London in January. End summary.

1.
I had a lengthy meeting with King Hussein on 28th: Phantom announcement. I opened the conversation by saying that I had not anticipated the Phantom announcement would have been made just before my audience. I commented that the President and others had already made clear that whatever we did on the Phantoms should not be taken as any diminution of our support for Jordan. Unfortunately other factors in the area had made the Phantom deal a foregone conclusion, citing as examples the absence of some dramatic improvement in the Arab-Israel confrontation or Soviet willingness to discuss practical arms control with US. Hussein shook his head and said emphatically that he considered the announcement most unfortunate and that he believed it could not fail to have a bad effect on situation in Middle East. He was very sorry to hear news of the conclusion of the deal.
2.
Iraqi troops. I told Hussein that we remained concerned about the Iraqi troops in Jordan. When he was here, Governor Scranton had been quite interested in the implications of their presence. More recently we have received significantly different estimates from various sources of number of Iraqis in Jordan. We hear from some sources that there may be more than 20,000 and from other sources that there are just over 10,000. Hussein interjected that there were just over 10,000. I asked if there were not other supporting troops, in addition to the three [Page 733] brigades. Hussein said emphatically that there are just over 10,000 in all and that he intends to be very careful about allowing any more. King also said that recent removal of Chief of Staff Ansari and other Iraqis has further complicated the situation. He said that he believes Communists are determined to get rid of the Ba’athists and that the Communists have a good base in Iraq to do this. He mentioned that the Iraqis in Jordan are very upset about the most recent changes. In conclusion, he said he is well aware of and worried about the Iraqi troops in Jordan and is keeping a very careful eye on them. He said, “We are penetrating them instead of having them penetrate us.”
3.
Fedayeen. The King said he believes the 14-point arrangement has been working all right with Fatah and some of the other groups but that the “Front” and groups like the “Front” are giving him considerable trouble. Just yesterday, the 27th, on the outskirts of Amman, he said, three rival groups in the “Front” had had a fire fight. (By Front, I presume King meant Popular Front—PFLP.)
4.
Soviet Initiatives. I asked the King whether he had any comments on Gromyko’s visit to Cairo. The King said a report from his Ambassadors in Cairo had not indicated anything startlingly new. It was consistent with what the Soviet Ambassador had said to him when he called before leaving for Moscow a few days ago: that is, the Soviets want peace, they want to prevent conflagration in the Middle East, they are supporting the Arabs as strongly as they can, and they think the United States should use its influence more effectively with Israel. The Soviet Ambassador had also informed him that the Soviets had had contacts with the United States about the situation but they had not reached any conclusive results.
5.
Refugees and Displaced Persons. I outlined our efforts during current GA to induce Israel to allow more displaced persons to return to West Bank. I said we would continue these efforts. Meanwhile, as I had mentioned to him on several previous occasions, I hoped we could continue our discussions with GOJ on how the displaced persons on East Bank would be fed in coming months. I said our contacts with GOJ levels below the Prime Minister had not been fruitful so far, and that I believed some indication of interest and a green light were needed from higher levels. I had not had an opportunity so far to mention this to the PriMin. I hoped that the King could indicate his interest in our at least having detailed discussions without any commitment on either side. The King agreed that this was important and said that he would make clear his interest in it.
6.
King’s Forthcoming Visit to London. (Noforn) The King said he was not certain yet how long he expected to be gone but that he thought it would be about three weeks. His first operation (on his jaw) would be on January 9 and would require a general anesthetic. He had been [Page 734] told he would have to have another operation before he returned. (End Noforn)
Symmes
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 JORDAN. Secret. Repeated to Beirut, Jerusalem, Jidda, London, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Cairo, and USUN.