113. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Arms Supply to Jordan

Background

At the time of King Hussein’s talks with you last April,2 it was agreed to meet some of Jordan’s more pressing military equipment needs. With your approval, Secretary Rogers told the King then that we would sell some ground equipment and a second squadron of F–104 aircraft if requested, as had been agreed in 1968.3 As the package was finally worked out, it contained less artillery than Jordan wanted.4

The question of artillery became active again last summer when Hussein asked the Soviets what they might be able to supply him. They delayed for six months and then came up with an offer to deliver 90% of everything the King wants this year.5 You may recall that this was mentioned at the NSC meeting on December 10 and you encouraged Secretary Laird to do what could be done before the Rabat Arab summit conference.6 A U.S. military team went to Jordan and put together a package designed to meet Jordan’s minimum needs.

The package which Secretary Rogers now recommends you approve [memo attached]7 consists of enough artillery to provide minimum support for Jordan’s 9 infantry brigades and 1 armored division which are presently deployed in defensive positions along a line in the heights 3–5 miles from the Jordan River. Although the proposed U.S. [Page 378] package is not insignificant, the Soviets have offered a more substantial package to Jordan. For example, only medium range weapons are included, whereas the Soviet package includes weapons with a range to reach Jerusalem. Fifteen million dollars in sales credit have been earmarked from FY 1970 funds, and another $15 million could be made available from FY 1971 funds if necessary.

Issues

The first issue arises from the fact that one purpose of this package would be to pre-empt a Soviet arms offer.

If we provide no artillery or a smaller package than the one proposed (which has been considerably reduced below what Hussein requested), or if we delay further giving Hussein an answer, he will almost certainly go the Soviet route for arms. He could do so in a matter of weeks or even days, if his special emissary who is arriving in Washington Monday carries back a negative or temporizing response from us.

If the Soviets take this first step toward establishing a foothold in Jordan, it would probably be the irreversible beginning of a reorientation of Jordan away from the U.S. toward Moscow. U.S. influence would begin to decline, and over time the Soviets might achieve a position in Jordan comparable to that which they have established in the UAR.

The second issue is whether this package would seriously affect the Jordan-Israel balance.

The proposal would provide a significant increase in Jordan’s artillery, but there are some limits. It would not give the Jordanian army the capability to cross the Jordan River against Israel, and the Jordanian army would remain inadequate against the Israeli ground threat. The main point, however, is that a safe military balance as the Israelis see it includes the capability to mount a sharp decisive strike. Moreover, the Israelis are less concerned about the Jordanian offensive threat than they are about Jordan’s capability to conduct a war of attrition. The proposed package would significantly enhance Jordan’s capability in this respect.

The other side of this point is that while the Israelis would prefer no weapons in Jordan, they have generally agreed that if Jordan is armed Israel would prefer a U.S. to a Soviet military presence. Israel is nervous about the Soviet role in the UAR, and may well see the importance of keeping the Soviets out of Jordan. The choice for them is between a smaller U.S. package and a larger Soviet one. But Tel Aviv would in any case use whatever we do in Jordan as one further argument in support of additional military assistance for Israel.

The third issue, closely related, is how Israel’s view of the overall military balance will be affected if the Israelis see some decrease in their ability to mount a pre-emptive strike in Jordan as well as in the UAR. [Page 379] The problem is more acute with respect to the Israeli air balance with the UAR. The combination of the new missile system (SA–3) provided by the Soviets and more active participation of Soviet pilots in the UAR air force presents Israel with a serious threat. Since the Israelis measure the balance of power, both on the ground and in the air, in terms of a long war of attrition, the cumulative impact of a shift on the Jordanian front coupled with significantly increased Soviet aid to Egypt is likely to appear most ominous to Israel.

The fourth issue is the question of domestic reaction at a time when some segments of the public are already aroused because of our action in Cambodia.8 The degree of domestic criticism would depend to a large extent on whether Israel is persuaded that U.S. aid to Jordan is the lesser of two evils. But even if Israel could be convinced, pressure would increase for a positive response to Tel Aviv’s requests for U.S. assistance. The Israelis know we are discussing an arms package for Jordan and would be informed of its magnitude.

Although the decision on the arms package could have been delayed at least a week, State’s agreement to see King Hussein’s emissary on Monday has forced our hand and we should be prepared to discuss the Jordanian request at that time.

Recommendation

On balance, I recommend that you approve the proposed arms package for Jordan provided that you make it clear:

—That approval is based on the premise that it is an alternative which will hinder Soviet entry into Jordan;

—That approval is linked with a decision on your part to provide additional hardware support to meet the increased threat posed to Israel by the combination of this action and substantially increased Soviet aid to Egypt;

—That you require a recommendation as to the level of additional aid for Israel by June 15, 1970.9

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 614, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. IV. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action. Printed from an uninitialed copy. Attached to a memorandum from Haig to Saunders on May 12 asking him to prepare a National Security Decision Memorandum reflecting the President’s decision. The brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 19.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 19.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, Documents 95, 107, and 111.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 69.
  6. See Document 74. The Rabat summit conference was held December 21–23, 1969.
  7. Attached but not printed. The details of the package are included in attachments to a memorandum that Warren Nutter sent to Laird on April 15. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–0067, Box 75, Jordan) In a telephone conversation on May 1 at 11:25 a.m., Sisco told Kissinger that the arms package was “peanuts” compared to what the Soviet Union was “not selling but giving” to Jordan. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 5, Chronological File)
  8. The United States began bombing North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia in April.
  9. Nixon approved Kissinger’s recommendation, and Kissinger sent it to Rogers and Laird as NSDM 61, May 19, which reads: “The President has approved the arms package for Jordan,” adding that “if Jordan accepts this package, it does so with the understanding that it will not accept Soviet arms” and “that this decision is linked with the decision to provide additional equipment to Israel.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–216, National Security Decision Memoranda) But King Hussein had already rejected the arms package, a decision that Zaid Rifai conveyed to Sisco on May 13. Hussein informed Rifai: “I could not justify to myself or the Armed Forces, who are aware of our needs, accepting an offer short of what the Untied States Armed Forces Team recommended as the bare minimum required with total deliveries this year.” He concluded: “In short if your list as stated is the final offer, thanks but no thanks.” (Telegram 73228 to Amman, May 13; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 15–2 JORDAN)