89. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan1

118025. Ref: Amman 3417, 3418,2 34193 and 3420.4

We are disappointed in Hussein’s assessment of our arms package as being insufficient to meet his political and military requirements. We believe that further study on his part will reveal it as a substantial response to his request. With the exception of some of the tanks (and 155 mm guns which may not be available) we are offering to make up his June losses. The Russians have done no more for Syria and the UAR although admittedly they are doing it more quickly. We fully appreciate that the King has problems but he must remember that we also have problems about which he and Khammash should be fully conversant. Our offer should be viewed in this context.
As Khammash left Washington before we had a chance to explain our package, we believe the Jordanians perhaps do not fully appreciate all of the considerations which went into the determination of the size of the package. The arms offered to Jordan include almost every item in the spectrum of military hardware used by the Jordan Arab Army. Such a sweeping offer should be very useful to the King in explaining his policy to the army officers. It should also be noted that the [Page 182] illustrative items following those specifically listed in the memorandum of understanding provide for $2 million in small arms, $12.8 million in ammunition, $4 million worth of vehicles (1200), and miscellaneous communications and engineering equipment.
For reasons with which the King and Khammash should be familiar, it would be difficult for us to enlarge our arms package at this time. There are very real restraints in terms of quantities on what we can offer at any one time. We cannot ignore strong congressional and public feeling against (a) the supply of arms to countries where economic resources are so limited and (b) where we appear to be arming both sides of a conflict. These same restraints have influenced our response to Israeli requests as well. There is also genuine concern within the USG that Jordan’s military establishment not be drastically disproportionate to its economic capacity to finance such an establishment. However irrelevant such considerations may seem to be to the King’s immediate problem, these are facts of life with which we have to deal. Notwithstanding, we have offered him as an earnest of our support such politically sensitive items as tanks, planes, artillery and ammunition.
We should also bear in mind that our offer is the beginning of a renewed military supply relationship. It seeks to meet Jordan’s legitimate military requirements as we see them at this juncture and as we are able to provide. We will be prepared to review Jordan’s equipment requirements during the first annual review to be held within the next few months. In addition, he has been given strong assurances of support from the United States (State’s 113645).5 Such assurances should not be taken lightly.
In the circumstances, we believe that the King should accept our offer in the context and spirit in which it was made. To solve his immediate problem with his army, the important thing is for him to get on with the re-equipping of that army. You should make this clear in your talks with him. In addition to the above, you may wish to use the following points in your talks.
We understand why King is impatient and are aware of the urgency of his problems. He should realize, however, that senior levels of USG were faced with other serious problems concerning Vietnam and Korea during the period that General Khammash was in Washington. Our decisions in respect to Far East are serious matter not only for us but for entire international community. Since we are not a totalitarian government decisions on matters of wide political interest (such as supplying major combat items to Jordan) cannot be made [Page 183] overnight. In fact, in light of the other problems we were facing at the time, our decision to resume substantial arms shipments to Jordan, given the political problems created for us by Jordan’s participation in the June hostilities, was reached relatively quickly.
In meeting our political problems, it is important to us that the total package be phased over 2-1/2 years and in establishing a delivery schedule we must take into consideration relative priorities for Vietnam where our troops are actively engaged in combat operations. The following is our initial assessment of delivery dates. We are now attempting to obtain higher priorities for some of these items.
  • F-104 aircraft: FY 1968
  • M48A1 Tanks: 1st and 2nd half FY 1969
  • 105 mm Howitzers: 2nd half FY 1969
  • M113 APC’s: 2nd half FY 1970
  • 106 mm Recoilless Rifles: 25 Units FY 1968, 113 units 2nd half FY 1969
  • 40 mm AA SP: 2nd half FY 1969
  • 50 cal. quad AA: 1st half FY 1969
  • 2-1/2 ton trucks: 25 units FY 1968, 15 units 1st half FY 1970
  • Miscellaneous vehicles: 2nd half FY 1969
  • Ammunition: $8 million FY 1968, $4.8 million 1st half FY 1970
  • Miscellaneous Small Arms: $.8 million in FY 1968, $.8 million 1st half FY 1969, $.4 2nd half FY 1969
In discussing these delivery schedules you may wish to point out that the King, by accepting our offer, can initiate a steady flow in the months ahead of military equipment for Jordan. As a first step the undelivered MAP FY 1966-67 and the balance of ground force equipment sold to Jordan in 1965 can be ready for shipment in the next 60-90 days. Although these categories do not contain such glamour items as tanks or artillery they do contain important communications equipment, some vehicles, ammunition and vitally needed spares for tanks, vehicles and weapons. The memorandum of understanding listed only general categories for vehicles, small arms, ammunition, spare parts, communications and engineer equipment. You may wish to be more specific. For example, the package includes 7,105 calibre 30 rifles; 1802 carbines; 732 calibre 30 machine guns; 398 calibre 50 machine guns; 1240 vehicles of 1 to 3 tons, approximately $8 million for engineer equipment and various radios, telephones, switchboards, field wire, test sets, and $12 million worth of ammunition.
You may also wish to point out that the Jordanians have apparently given no consideration to the rate at which the equipment requested by Khammash can be effectively absorbed into their military establishment.
On the subject of aircraft, we find the Jordanian reaction difficult to understand. General Khammash told the negotiating team that he wanted a supersonic multi-purpose plane but also made clear that [Page 184] he wanted a type which could intercept high level MACH 2 intruders. FYI. He told General Wheeler he wanted F-104’s. End FYI. With the negotiating teams he refused to specify the American aircraft he had in mind. When pressed he replied, “It is for you to choose which of your aircraft is most suitable for our needs.” The F-104, in addition to being an excellent high level interceptor, can be converted to carry out a tactical ground support mission. Conversion kits to add a bomb carrying capability were included in the original sales contract. The A-4 on the other hand has practically no air defense capability. It is a subsonic attack bomber. The F-5 is a possible substitute but Jordan would then lose a substantial part of the $10 million they have already paid on the F-104’s. In addition, the delivery time would be much longer, perhaps 18 to 24 months. We were given clearly to understand by General Khammash that delivery time on aircraft was extremely important to him. We therefore designed a package that together with the 18 Hawker Hunters he anticipates receiving from the UK, would give him 36 good planes to fly, off Jordan’s own airfields, before the end of this calendar year. If some other Arab state, such as Saudi Arabia, were willing to foot the bill, we would have no objection to Jordan purchasing Lightnings or Mirages, but they would cost two or three times as much as the F-104’s with uncertain delivery times.
Given Jordan’s present comfortable reserve position and relatively large balances of unused donations we do not believe that any credit should now be offered for arms purchases. We understand that Jordan’s longer range economic future is a matter of concern to the GOJ and we are willing to discuss financing of the latter part of our package during the annual reviews. FYI. We also feel that insistence on cash injects a healthy note of self discipline into the Jordanian appetite for military equipment. End FYI.6
Our comments on the King’s suggested revisions for the memorandum of understanding follow in septel.7
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Wiley and Houghton on February 19; cleared by Battle, Davies, and Murray in DOD/ISA; and approved by Under Secretary Katzenbach.
  2. See Document 82 and footnote 5 thereto.
  3. In telegram 3419 from Amman, February 14, the Embassy suggested revisions to the proposed arms package for Jordan, including a larger package in line with Jordanian requests, but conditioned on Jordan finding other sources of cash or credit to pay for the package, presumably from Saudi Arabia. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN)
  4. See footnote 4, Document 82.
  5. Document 77.
  6. Symmes responded on February 21 that he would use the arguments outlined in this telegram when he met with King Hussein and General Khammash on February 22. He asked, however, if he could introduce more flexibility into the U.S. offer. He noted that there had been no negotiations in Washington with Khammash, who had been given the U.S. offer and told to take it back to Jordan to discuss with the King. Symmes expressed concern that if he took the position he was instructed to take, the King might feel he was being confronted with a take-it-or-leave-it offer that did not take into account his difficult situation. Symmes suggested that the offer of an additional 12 tanks might make a critical difference. (Telegram 3527 from Amman; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 JORDAN) The Department replied that the negotiating position outlined in telegram 118025 was the preferred starting point in discussions with the Jordanian Government. If additional flexibility seemed indicated, the U.S. offer might include an additional 12 tanks as Symmes had suggested. (Telegram 119271 to Amman, February 22; ibid.)
  7. In telegram 117988 to Amman, February 20, the Department assessed and accepted most of King Hussein’s proposed changes to the draft memorandum of understanding. Some of the provisions in the memorandum, such as the requirement for prior U.S. approval before Jordan purchased major military equipment items from other sources and the provision for U.S. approval of the Jordanian defense budget were inserted to meet the stipulations of the Conte and Symington Amendments and could not be deleted without affecting the U.S. ability to continue economic assistance to Jordan. The Department suggested that a separate classified agreement covering these matters might meet Hussein’s concern about showing the basic agreement to his army or other Arabs. (Ibid.)