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

2912. For Asst Secy Battle or Deputy Asst Secy Davies. Deliver opening of business January 9.

1.
We have had a series of very grim discussions with Jordanians today. With considerably difficulty we have just obtained King Hussein’s agreement to postponing the visit of a high-level Soviet military delegation (two lieutenant-generals and four other senior officers scheduled to arrive in Jordan on the eleventh) pending discussions of General Khammash with our military people in Washington. (Khammash’s travel plans will be subject subsequent message.) The King has also agreed to withdrawal of a letter written by Zaid Rifa’i to me incorporating the King’s response to the President’s oral message I delivered to the King yesterday.2 I obtained the King’s agreement to withdrawal of this letter, which stated basically that our response had come too late, against my personal assurances to him that the President’s [Page 100] message implied that the “legitimate requirements” of Jordan would be discussed in a positive way with Khammash in Washington. The nature of these “legitimate requirements” as the Embassy understands them from the King and Khammash will be spelled out in a separate message.3
3.
Today’s situation came about primarily because we were late in responding to the King’s oral message of December 30 to the President.4 Beyond that, however, the King apparently had decided we were only stringing him along, that we had no intention of discussing or supplying more than token arms to Jordan, and that in effect we had called his hand. Reliable Jordanian sources and an Embassy officer who knows him well said the King has been under considerable psychological tension on this matter. My own limited experience with Hussein confirms that he has become quite desperate and somewhat overwrought. Prime Minister Eshkol’s visit and the recent series of difficulties on the border have contributed to his sense of being cornered. We are also informed he has developed a deep sense of guilt about the events of June.
4.
I would emphasize that in agreeing (1) to postpone the visit of the Soviet military delegation, (2) to withdraw the letter and (3) to send Genl Khammash to Washington, the King understands we seriously intend to come to a meeting of the minds with Genl Khammash on what arms we are willing to supply to Jordan. Khammash will have full powers to discuss this matter. I think he and the King recognize they may not get all they want, but they do expect more than token satisfaction and playing for time. If we are not able to agree on “legitimate requirements,” then the King will consider he has no alternative to rescheduling the visit of the Soviet delegation and, presumably, accepting Soviet offers.
5.
King Hussein requested my personal undertaking that under no circumstances would we reveal that at our request (1) he had postponed the Soviet visit or (2) withdrawn Zaid Rifa’i’s letter. I assured him he would be protected in both cases.
Symmes
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Rostow sent a copy of this telegram to the President on January 9 with the observation that “It was a close thing with Hussein.” He added: “We shall have to talk to the Jordanians about more than arms.” (White House telegram CAP 80213; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Jordan, Vol. IV, Memos, 5/67-2/68)
  2. See Document 37.
  3. In telegram 2913 from Amman, January 9, Symmes laid out in greater detail the difficult meetings he had with King Hussein on January 8, when Hussein responded to the oral message from President Johnson by indicating that the U.S. response was too little and too late. After persuading the King to postpone the Soviet military mission, Symmes met with Hussein and Khammash to discuss in some detail the Jordanian desire to expand Khammash’s “emergency list” of priority requirements. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 19-8 US-JORDAN) Symmes amplified on his “traumatic evening” with the King and Khammash in a January 14 letter to Rodger Davies. (Ibid., POL JORDAN-US)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 29.