5. Memorandum From the Country Director for Lebanon, Jordan, Syrian Arab Republic, and Iraq (Houghton) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Battle)1
- Arms for Jordan
Ambassador Symmes’ Position
We strongly urge that you discuss the problem of Jordan arms at the SIG meeting scheduled for November 30. Ambassador Symmes has urgently recommended that we make available to Jordan certain military equipment which the Jordan Army considers essential. In support of his request, the Ambassador points out that it will be indispensable to Hussein in continuing to work for political settlement to have his Army solidly behind him. The Army, according to the Embassy, is not pressing for full replacement of equipment lost last June, but is seeking reassurance that the King has a plan to obtain certain priority items. The Ambassador believes that the November 21 incidents with the bombardment of the Karama Refugee Camp and the Israeli air attack will heighten Army pressure on the King. The Ambassador fears that if the King becomes suspicious that we will not be able to help him out he will quickly become so frustrated that he might go to the Soviets for arms. The Ambassador further argues that our willingness to lift our embargo on arms for Jordan and to exert efforts to help Jordan obtain arms from other suppliers may soon become critical to our relationship. King Hussein informed the Ambassador on November 28 that the Jordan Army leadership was pressing him very hard and stressed that the need for him to take some action was “becoming a matter of days.”
The Ambassador has discussed Jordan’s requirements with General Khammash, Chief of Staff of the Jordan Army, who maintains that the list which he gave Colonel Jordan last August represents the Army’s current minimal essential requirements. Ambassador Symmes and the Defense Attaché have come up with a sanitized version. It includes [Page 10] items from the Khammash list which they consider least likely to cause us problems. They make clear, however, that the sanitized list does not meet Jordan’s complete desires nor it requirements. The Ambassador does believe that the revised list would meet Hussein’s main need to hold the loyalty of the Jordanian Army and at the same time would avoid serious embarrassment at the forthcoming Arab Summit, reportedly scheduled around the beginning of December.
A detailed list, which we estimate would cost approximately $9 million, is enclosed.2 The main elements of the list are as follows:
- 106 mm recoilless rifles with truck M151A1C.
- Ammunition primarily for small arms and antiaircraft with some light artillery and antitank ammunition.
- Communication equipment, including 340 radios and 1,000 telephones.
- 40 2-1/2-ton trucks. M35A2.
- Aerial target drone system and ancillary equipment.
- Automotive, weapon, and communication spare parts and medical supplies.
Our short-term stake in Jordan is clear. Hussein has taken the initiative and leadership on the Arab side in seeking a settlement with Israel. He can probably do this only with Nasser’s support. Dubious as the prospects for a settlement are now, they may well become nil should Hussein fall or be forced into a more radical posture. To a large extent he has staked his lot on working with the West and particularly the US. Consequently he is seeking arms from us not only because he needs them but also because of the tangible evidence of US support which the supply of such arms would give him. There would be a gap between the time of our informing him of our willingness to supply him arms and the delivery of these arms. The announcement itself, however, would tend to strengthen Hussein’s position vis-a-vis the Army as well as bolstering his position vis-a-vis the radical Arabs. It would have a stabilizing influence in Jordan at the time the UN Special Representative begins his important mission.
He has been trying since last June to secure arms from the US. He was given in August what a reasonable man could interpret as a US commitment to supply him arms. He asked again when he was recently in Washington. Jordan is the only Eastern Arab state which considers it has legitimate arms requirements and is making little or no progress in meeting them. It is difficult for Hussein to justify to his people his continued reliance on the West. Those who have worked with the Soviet [Page 11] Union can more convincingly prove the benefits from their association.
Our position in Jordan has declined since the war. The Embassy reports increasing frustration and bitterness by the Jordanians against the US. The Jordanians consider our Near Eastern policy discouragingly under the influence of the Zionists and the Israelis. Nonetheless we still have resources in Jordan but their strength is waning. The pattern of our relationship is being steadily whittled away.
The few arms which Ambassador Symmes recommends we provide3 could help arrest this trend. The quantity is small and could hardly constitute a threat to Israel or alter the arms balance in the area. The Joint Staff considers the ammunition requested as minimal in both quantity and type. The most deadly item, the 106 mm recoilless rifle, is primarily an anti-tank gun and lacks the protection needed for offensive deployment. The arms requested are replacements for a portion of the arms lost in fighting and not additions to Jordan’s arsenal.
We shall encourage the GOJ to seek European suppliers for some of its requirements particularly in the heavy weapon and aircraft fields. We do not think we should do so for this list. As a matter of fact, for some of the items such as spares it is not practical. In general, procurement of this type of ground equipment from West European sources would create further problems for the Jordanian Army as its training, maintenance facilities and tactical doctrine are now based primarily on US weapons. More important, however, is the impact that a refusal to carry out our previous commitments would have on USG-GOJ relations. A ruler in Hussein’s position has an obvious need for a reliable source of external support—both economic and military. If we tell the King that he is on his own and should shop for weapons wherever he can obtain them from Western sources, he will feel that we are opting out of the role of external supporter. The USSR has offered to take over this role and there is a real danger that the King, under pressure from Nasser and the radical Arabs, may decide that Soviet sponsorship, with all its drawbacks, is the best of the options left open to him. The actual weapons involved are of less significance than the symbolic value to Hussein and to his Army of our continued willingness to play the role of supporter.
The only valid reason why such small sales cannot be made available is because the Zionists and Israel, unless otherwise persuaded, can [Page 12] cause difficulties in Congress and elsewhere if we send any arms to Jordan.
We think that our own interests in this matter are of sufficient importance to justify a difference of opinion with the Israelis and their domestic partisans here. We strongly urge that we go ahead on arms for Jordan. If you agree, we suggest (a) that you consult again with Congress and (b) that Mr. Katzenbach or Rostow inform the Israelis. It should be made clear, however, that whereas we would endeavor to persuade Western Europeans to supply arms to Jordan, we, in our own interest, should continue to provide small quantities ourselves. Our rationale would be the strengthening of Hussein’s position to permit him to proceed on the path of settlement with the Israelis and to maintain his moderate pro-Western position.
We recommend that:
(1) You raise the issue of Jordan arms along the lines discussed in this paper and seek the SIG’s concurrence in your taking the necessary steps to enable us to release the arms requested by Ambassador Symmes.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN. Secret. Drafted by Houghton and Marshall W. Wiley of NEA/ARN and cleared by Davies.↩
- Not printed.↩
- Some of this equipment would be sold to the GOJ and some items could be provided under the MAP as previously scheduled. [Footnote in the source text.]↩