72. Action Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1
- Jordan Arms Package
In the attached,2 Secretaries Rusk and McNamara recommend3 what they feel is the minimum package that King Hussein might see as meeting his legitimate needs. This poses two separate issues: (1) whether you are now ready to go ahead with a substantial program; and (2) if so, how to handle the difficult Conte-Long amendments.4
The package contains 18 F-104 aircraft, 88 M-48 A-1 tanks, medium artillery and a range of support equipment. This $82 million (FY 1968-FY 1970) package contrasts to Hussein’s $200 million request, which included 36 aircraft and 200 M-48 A-4 tanks. Our rationale for paring his request is to help replace war losses except for some planes and tanks and heavy artillery. We would have to be willing to consider something beyond this package later but would suggest starting with this.
Our paring may leave this too little to meet what Hussein considers his needs. He lost 179 tanks in June, and we are offering half that. He wants tanks with a diesel engine (greater range) and a 105 mm. gun (which we sold the Israelis). We couldn’t supply what he wants for two years. Our plane offer has a better chance, since we would just pick up our 1966 contract where it was suspended but offer half the number of planes now.
Our two hopes for flexibility are (a) that he can get British tanks to his specifications much sooner (they’re available) and (b) that he might take some British aircraft if the Saudis would give them and we would supply a few more tanks instead. But the Secretaries feel we have to offer to supply both if neither of these deals works out.
Jordan could pay cash for the FY 1968 installment (about $32 million, of which $10 million already paid under the 1966 contract). The [Page 148] cost in FY 1969 would be $36.3 million and in FY 1970 $10.3 million. Neither Khammash nor the USG yet knows definitely how the FY 1968 and FY 1969 tranches might be financed, so we would have to feel our way.
This package will be painful to approve, but the alternative is accepting the probable consequences of not going ahead now. Eshkol acknowledged to you that he wished no one had to give arms to Jordan but he’d rather see us there than the USSR. Dayan in a published interview on January 19 said: “We shall not profit by it in any way if the Americans lose their influence in Jordan.”
I should hate to see this presented to you simply as selling arms to block Soviet military aid, because the issue is now much broader. We have reached the point in Jordan where the question is whether they think they have a better chance of achieving their objectives with US or Soviet help. If we are ending our aid relationship and are unable to press Israel toward a settlement, then Hussein is wondering whether a Soviet ring around Israel wouldn’t better bring Israel to terms. This is, of course, the thinking of an increasingly desperate man who sees his choices diminishing. It would just about end chances for the kind of settlement we’d like.
There are other things we must do on the diplomatic front such as presenting a clearer position on Jerusalem and helping get the Jarring exercise moving. But unfortunately, this military aid decision has become a symbol to Hussein. We have strung him along since last June, and Khammash has been here since January 17. Now Hussein has told you he would continue to avoid Soviet arms if he could be sure of meeting his legitimate needs in the US. That is the purpose of this exercise.
Approve Secretaries’ approach5
The Conte-Long amendments require you to withhold aid from Jordan in an amount equal to its expenditure for sophisticated weapons unless you waive on the ground that the Jordanian purchases are “vital to the national security of the United States.” The airplanes, the tanks, and the howitzers in this package are pretty clearly sophisticated [Page 149] weapons. If you do not waive, we would have to eliminate all economic aid to Jordan for at least the next two years.
It would be possible to weave a complicated legal argument which might allow you to maintain aid without a waiver. But it would be very dubious and would certainly cause serious trouble on the Hill. Therefore, Rusk and McNamara recommend that you make the waiver.
This will be the first use of the waiver provision. I think the Secretaries have a strong case, but you may want to have some fast checking done on the Hill. I don’t think we should seek agreement from Conte, Fulbright, Morse, Church and the others most interested in this topic, but you may want to be able to say that you notified them beforehand. (The law requires you to make formal notification of waiver to the Congress within 30 days.)
- If you approve this package, Secretary McNamara would go over it in detail with Khammash. In view of the importance of your personal intentions as Hussein sees them, there could be great advantage in your inviting him in before he leaves for a heart-to-heart talk.
I’ll see him
I’d rather not6
- Source: Johnson Library, White House Central File, Meeting Notes File, 11/67–4/68. Secret.↩
- Document 71.↩
- A handwritten note by Dorothy Territo indicates that the attachment was not attached when the memorandum went forward to the President. She added another note in which she stated that Rusk and McNamara had not yet signed their memorandum to the President. Rostow apparently summarized that memorandum from an advance copy.↩
- See footnote 7, Document 49.↩
- There is no indication of the President’s response to the options. Telegram 111563 to Amman, February 7, however, informed the Embassy that the President had agreed in principle with the recommended arms package, subject to Congressional consultations. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 19-8 US-JORDAN)↩
- Neither option is checked.↩