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

3417. Subject: Hussein’s reaction to Jordan arms package.

Summary: King Hussein’s reaction to our arms package is that as it stands it is insufficient in terms of quantities (particularly tanks), [Page 168] delivery dates, and financial terms. He requested we give urgent consideration to corresponding changes he wishes incorporated into our draft memorandum of understanding2 to take care of these deficiencies. King also indicated he will reluctantly have to consider other sources if we cannot go further to meet his politico-military needs.
King Hussein asked I call late on the thirteenth. As I expected, he wanted to discuss the arms package which he had spent most of day discussing with General Khammash and various other GOJ officials. Crown Prince Hassan and General Khammash were present throughout our conversation.
King began by expressing warm thanks for President’s letter (State 113645)3 and said he would be responding in similar spirit. He also expressed thanks for time and attention given to General Khammash during his talks in Washington and for opportunities for Khammash to discuss Jordan’s problems with key US officials. He then said he was quite disappointed that length of time and nature of discussions had not produced a more acceptable package in terms of his political and military needs. If package brought by General Khammash represented best we could do, he was still faced with question whether it was not in Jordan’s best interest to seek arms from another source. He hoped that he would not have to go to that other source because he still did not consider it to be in Jordan’s long-term interest, nor for that matter in the interest of the US. Nevertheless, fact remained that arms package that had been brought back by Khammash did not satisfactorily meet Jordan’s political and military requirements.
The King then specified deficiencies in terms of quantities and delivery dates. He first laid great stress on insufficient number of tanks included in package. He referred to fact we had said we were in general replacing losses suffered by JAA in June hostilities. Jordan has lost 152 American tanks of which 124 were M48s and the remainder M47s. Yet we were offering Jordan only 88 M48 tanks to make up this loss. These 152 tanks were apart from the Centurion tanks that had been lost. The King noted bitterly that 142 of the American tanks lost by Jordan are now in service in Israeli Army. He then pointed out various other increased quantities of ground equipment needed by Jordan. He emphasized need for more anti-aircraft capability in terms of morale factors and deterrent effects, but it was clear tanks were his chief concern.
Hussein said that apart from failure of package to meet Jordan’s “legitimate requirements” in terms of quantities, proposed delivery dates also greatly disturbed him because they failed to meet Jordan’s [Page 169] political and military needs. He noted that other Arab countries have already made up their losses, whereas our proposed delivery dates, offered eight months after the June war, extend into US fiscal year 1970. He said memo of understanding provided no assurance that significant amounts of ground equipment would arrive in Jordan in 1968. He had no idea of when tanks, which were so important for morale, would begin to arrive.
Moving to aircraft, the King at first said that he did not want F104s under any conditions, and he asked to have 18 A4 Skyhawks substituted for 18 F104s. After some discussion, however, he said that he wanted to reconsider that part of the package for at least a further 24 hours to make up his mind as to what he should do about aircraft. His main complaint about the F104s was that they are no longer suitable for Jordan’s needs. I pointed out the local and area political impact as well as the morale significance that deliveries of some F104s by June 1968 might have and the fact that his pilots are already well down the road in their training. I suggested that introduction of any other type of aircraft at this stage, whether US or non-US, would pose unknown delivery and training delays. It was after he had reflected on this that he said he wanted to reserve his position with regard to aircraft for another 24 hours.4
Finally, the King had a number of editorial revisions that he wished made in the memorandum of understanding. Most of these, he emphasized, related to his concern in event of publicity, to appearing to have tied his hands. He said he particularly wanted to avoid being put in a position of potential embarrassment vis-a-vis other Arab states and with his own people if the memo of understanding should ever become public. In any case, he said, he probably would be forced to show the memo of understanding to some of the other Arab countries providing funds to Jordan-with obvious results. He then handed me his copy of the memo of understanding and requested I transfer his interlineations to my telegraphic copy (amended memo of understanding will be transmitted by septel).5
Bearing in mind points in State 113632,6 I responded to Hussein that while I could see package did not contain everything he wanted, I thought he might have overlooked how much it did contain. It seemed to me that it represented a very substantial meeting of his stated military requirements. Most important, it represented tangible and significant proof of US intention to support Jordan and to promote close and cordial relations we have had. I said we had hoped he would proceed immediately to sign the agreement and that I thought it would be important to move ahead now on the arms package in order to obtain the political benefits I saw coming from his acceptance of the package. For example, the morale of his army could be improved immediately. Moving ahead quickly with the package would enable him to ask now for the evacuation of Saudi and Iraqi troops and thereby to exert greater control over the terrorists who have been the primary cause of the recent incidents in the Valley. It would also improve the general psychological atmosphere necessary for him to proceed towards a Middle Eastern settlement.
Hussein interrupted to say that unfortunately the quantities and the delivery dates in the package would not be sufficient to enable him to hold up his head with the officers of his own army. He therefore needed to know as soon as possible whether we would meet his requirements as he had outlined them. When he had our final answer, he intended to send General Khammash to King Faisal to see what, if anything, Faisal is prepared to do in terms of further financial assistance before he considers other sources.
I told the King I believed that in constituting our package we had tried to go as far as possible to meet all of his requirements. I was not yet informed, of course, on details of Washington’s views on various elements of the package, particularly with regard to detailed provisions of the memo of understanding. I said I would surmise that quantities therein represented the best mix possible, given presumed availability of the items involved and the funds that Jordan had available. I stressed that our capability to extend credit had been drastically modified by Congress. I noted also that we have always tried to exercise restraint with regard to arms deliveries to all states in the area and that no states had obtained everything they wanted when they had come to us for arms. Khammash had said Secretary McNamara told him he would take another look at helping Jordan to find some 155mm guns. With regard to delivery dates, I pointed out that the memo of [Page 171] understanding in para IV-C referred to US fiscal years and not calendar years, which would take six months off the 1970 date. On the other hand, I thought that it would be unrealistic to expect everything to be delivered in calendar year 1968 in view of funds available to Jordan, our own credit limitations, as well as perhaps the limited availability of some of the equipment. I referred to Secretary McNamara’s mentioning to Khammash that he would look again at the possibility of shipping some items out by air. The important thing was that Jordan had a quite substantial military package. I would have hoped this in itself would be enough to take care of morale in his army and public opinion in Jordan and elsewhere, particularly once it became known publicly that items were coming in and that Jordan’s “legitimate requirements” were being met by the US.
Specifically on tanks, I mentioned our understanding British might have up to 200 Centurions available which could easily be upgunned in Jordan with spares available well into 1970. Both King and Khammash said most emphatically they do not want any more Centurions. Khammash added that if he could get additional M48s they need to make up their US tank losses he would happily dump existing Centurions in Gulf of Aqaba—if that were a US condition. Principal argument against Centurions, he said, is Jordan’s need to standardize. Now it had very complicated supply and maintenance as well a training problems. Given obsolescence of Centurions and Britain’s position today, he thought it would be folly to standardize on British tanks and mixing simply is not feasible.
As I responded the King kept returning to his original statements with regard to the acceptability of the quantities and delivery dates of the package and his need to know as soon as possible what we are prepared to do to make up for the deficiencies that he sees in it. He wants to send Khammash to see Faisal as soon as possible.
With regard to credit and funds, I asked the King if he thought King Faisal would be willing to advance Jordan additional funds if necessary to speed up deliveries or, assuming the additional items might be available, to obtain our agreement to increase some quantities in the package. The King turned to Khammash, who said Faisal had told them to come back before they went to any other source and they had no clear idea of what he was prepared to do for them. Khammash said he would hope that at the very least, however, there might be some way to arrange for Saudi Arabia to put up an acceptable loan to Jordan or loan guarantee to us that would then enable the USG to provide financing or credit arrangements that would take care of the delivery and quantity problems they had just discussed with me.
Comment: Hussein was more relaxed and friendly today than he has ever been with me. It was clear he had been cheered up by our [Page 172] willingness to go as far as we had. He saw this as a real political plus, but there was no lack of determination in his statements with regard to the present deficiencies he sees in our package and his intention to go elsewhere if necessary. At this stage I feel unable to say whether he will be willing to compromise on less than his total asking price. My present estimate is that there must be some sweetening of the package to gain his acceptance. I believe that the critical sweetener would be some more tanks. Anti-aircraft is also a major concern. Beyond that I think we need to develop a set of options on the other items that he can present to his army as a global indication of what we are prepared to do-subject actually, of course, to his finding additional funds or credit either from us or from the Saudis. We will present our detailed ideas in a following message.7
Suggest Dept repeat to Jidda FYI only.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. See Document 76.
  3. Document 77.
  4. Symmes reported in telegram 3420 from Amman, February 14, that the King reaffirmed his interest in obtaining Skyhawk aircraft rather than F-104s. Symmes noted that one of the reasons the Jordanians were interested in the Skyhawks was because it was the same aircraft recently supplied to Israel. Symmes proposed separating the ground and air elements in the arms package while the Embassy endeavored to find out how anxious the Jordanians were to receive aircraft in the near term. He asked for an estimate of how long it would take to meet Jordan’s request for Skyhawks. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN)
  5. Telegram 3418 from Amman, February 14. (Ibid.) 6 Telegram 113632 to Amman, February 11, provided guidance for Symmes’ use in discussing the proposed arms package for Jordan. Symmes’ report of his discussion with the King indicates that he incorporated all the Department’s suggestions. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN)
  6. Telegram 113632 to Amman, February 11, provided guidance for Symmes’ use in discussing the proposed arms package for Jordan. Symmes’ report of his discussion with the King indicates that he incorporated all the Department’s suggestions. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN)
  7. Symmes provided additional detail about Hussein’s reaction in telegram 3440 from Amman, February 15. Hussein was pleased by President Johnson’s letter and the uniform support for Jordan Khammash reported receiving in Washington, but he was disappointed with the terms of the U.S. offer. Hussein’s reaction grew out of a concern over losing influence with and control over the army. Khammash urged that the U.S. offer be expanded even if it should prove ultimately impossible to deliver fully on the offer, in order to give Hussein and Khammash a package to which the army would respond favorably. (Ibid.)