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

3270. Subject: Actions needed to forestall further Jordanian moves toward Soviets.

After sending King’s message to General Khammash today through special channels (in essence King told Khammash that if USG does not meet his requirements he will buy Soviet arms), I arranged meeting with King’s private secretary and confidante Zaid al-Rifa’i to try to obtain better insight into King’s current mood. I also wanted to get Zaid’s advice on whether it would be wise for me to try to see King before Khammash returns with arms package.
Zaid told me that Hussein himself had drafted message to Khammash. He said that King has become increasingly convinced about the correctness of his view of larger context in which he now sees USG policy toward Middle East. Zaid then explained King’s analysis very much along lines King had taken with me on Jan 25 (Amman 3129).2 US is tied down in Far East and other areas and has little flexibility or, for that matter, will to act constructively to promote just peace in Middle East. Soviets have been moving in, particularly since June war and, rightly or wrongly, are credited by Arab leaders with right motives and sympathetic policies in Middle East.USG is judged to be both unwilling and unable to control Israel. Thus, moderate Jordanians agree with King Hussein that time has come to “stay a step ahead of situation by moving toward Soviets.”
King feels he has gone “ninety percent of the way” with the US. After June the US seemed to forget completely all that he and other moderate Jordanians had done over past decade and more to help preserve stability and moderation in Middle East. US had done nothing to help Jordan out since June. To the contrary, we had in effect, voted against Jordan on Jerusalem question; we had posed continuous difficulties about matters of mere words in Security Council resolutions; we had finally lifted arms embargo for Israel and certain other Arab states but pointedly excluded Jordan; and then we had discontinued budgetary support which had become symbol of our relationship. Although subsequently we had affirmed our continued support of Jordan in general way, fact was that totality of our actions toward Jordan had been negative rather than positive. Finally, King’s reception in US in November, particularly in contrast to later reception of Eshkol, had been serious psychological blow.
Zaid explained that he separately and later together with PriMin Talhouni today had argued at some length with King to effect he should accept US arms package, even if it provides only 50 percent of Jordan arms strength as of June 4. They had urged it would be better go along with us in present situation because Soviet arms deal would not contribute to solution Middle East problem and, in their view, would further obstruct solution. King had pressed his own analysis in paragraph 2 above in response to this advice.
In Zaid’s view there is much to what King says. He said he believes that if US arms package proves inadequate in King’s view, only way to keep King from going to Soviets for arms is to be able to cite something tangible and dramatic to indicate that US does have continuing positive interest in Jordan and does in fact intend “use its muscle” to prevent Israelis from carrying off a massive fait accompli. Zaid said that “statements without practical effect” simply are not enough. Jordan must be able to point to something tangible to show that USG intends to implement its statements about Jerusalem and the Jarring Mission. It is not enough to say USG will exert pressure;USG must actually exert pressure and point to results. In the past decade and more the King felt that Jordan had given everything and gotten nothing in trying to live with Israel. USG had spoken a great deal about human and legal rights in Viet Nam. What about Arab rights? What about villages that had been levelled on West Bank by Israel? What about people who had been evicted from their homes in Gaza, Jerusalem, and West Bank? What about UN decisions that had been consistently flouted? What about recent US statements about not accepting unilateral Israeli actions? Fact is that USG is accepting Israeli actions and doing nothing about them.
Throughout this conversation Zaid emphasized that these are things King is thinking. This is his reading of situation. Actually his advisers are trying without much hope of success to convince him to make no drastic moves. Yet, many Jordanians now believe the Soviets can call the tune in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. They are beginning to believe the Soviets [garble—are able?] to challenge the US Sixth Fleet in the Middle East and that the Soviets also have Marines and helicopters to land in Middle East if necessary. Thus, many Jordanians and other Arabs now see a possibility of Security Council or other UN action to face Israel with sanctions similar to those that had been put on Israel in 1956 by the US. But in this case it would be the Soviets that would take the credit for forcing the Israelis to respect world opinion, not the US.
I shall not detail rejoinders and comments I made to Zaid with regard to foregoing. I sought his reaction to idea I might seek an audience with Hussein tomorrow or Monday before Khammash returns in order to try to dispel some of King’s apparent misinterpretations of our policies and actions. Zaid counselled me against seeing King but said he would let Hussein know I was available whenever he wanted to see me. (I will in any case accompany Eugene Black in call late on sixth.) He thought it would be better for me not to see King until Khammash has returned with “package,” but he emphasized it would be essential for package to be approximately what King wanted and for it to be placed in best possible light. More important, however, would be some kind of US action with regard to Jerusalem or Jarring Mission that could be cited as real evidence of US intentions to use its muscle to bring about a peaceful settlement.
As Zaid was leaving he said he and PriMin Talhouni had obtained King’s grudging agreement to let King Faisal know if he finds US package unacceptable. According to Zaid, Talhouni had said to King that even he, who had never had good relationship with Americans, believed it would be in Jordan’s interest to do everything possible avoid changing “political balance” in area at this time. Zaid and Talhouni, however, are not sanguine Hussein will go again to Faisal if US package appears too far short of his requirements. (Dept may wish inform Ambassador Eilts of most recent developments.)
Comment: A. At this stage we need something more than a gimmick. We need an earnest of our intentions with regard to Jerusalem and the UK resolution. Jordan accepted the UK resolution and has categorically stated this to Jarring. Jordan is willing to make a public statement to this effect as soon as Israel similarly commits itself to Jarring and publicly accepts resolution. In my opinion even more important than giving Hussein double the arms he has requested would be a clearcut public statement with practical effect of our intentions re Jerusalem and Jarring (or failing that, unpublicized evidence through [Page 138] Jarring or otherwise that Israelis will cease their unilateral actions in Jerusalem and will accept UK resolution as basis for negotiations). In this regard, I must emphasize that Jordanians immediately picked up and began to suspect phrase “in spirit of” in reference to Israeli attitude toward Jarring Mission as carried in Eshkol-Johnson communique.

B. I think we also might consider giving immediate publicity to our decision supply arms to Jordan thus making it more difficult for King to more towards Soviet arms relationship. This statement would have to be to effect we have decided satisfy legitimate requirements of Jordan because of our long and cordial relationship, because of its moderate views, and because we think Jordan is entitled satisfy its defensive requirements.

C. Dept may wish repeat this on Nodis basis to USUN and Tel Aviv.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. VIII, Cables and Memos 12/67-2/68. Secret. A handwritten notation indicates the memorandum was received in the President’s office on February 1 at 9 a.m.
  2. Not printed. Secretary of Agriculture Freeman and Acting AID Administrator Poats put their joint recommendation to President Johnson in a January 24 memorandum. (Ibid.) On January 27 Director of the Bureau of the Budget Schultze sent a supporting memorandum to the President, noting that the Agriculture-AID recommendation was also supported by Secretary of the Treasury Fowler. (Ibid.)