189. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Jordan
  • His Majesty King Hussein Bin Talal
  • His Excellency Abdul Hamid Sharaf, Ambassador
  • His Excellency Zaid Rifai, Ambassador to London
  • United States
  • The President
  • Mr. Henry Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Mr. Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Ambassador to Jordan, L. Dean Brown

The President congratulated the King on the successful outcome to Jordan’s grave problems of September. Central to the solution of the Middle East’s problems is the survival of a strong and independent Jordan. Jordan’s survival is, in turn, dependent on the King’s survival.

The King thanked the President warmly, saying that Jordan could not have gotten through its difficult days without the support and interest of the United States. He and Jordan are proud of the close and excellent relations between the two countries and two peoples. He stressed his conviction that the U.S. and Jordan share the same views and principles. Stresses and strains have increased in the Middle East since 1967. The number of extremists has grown: There is greater disunity among the Arabs as evidenced by the recent UN vote when Arabs split seven-and-seven.2 Extremism among the Arab states seems to grow in relation to the distance from the problem. He has feared that the Middle East is changing from one of Arab-Israeli involvement to one of major power involvement. There are those in the area who want to see that sort of confrontation. The situation in Jordan has improved: the task now is to rebuild. Since 1967 Jordan has been trying to find a just and lasting solution to the Middle East problem. It is now trying to consolidate the unity of the country and to make itself an area of sta[Page 663]bility. It will not be easy. Jordan is the target of extremists, both from Arab and Israeli quarters.

The President commented that Jordan is getting it from both sides. Jordan really is in the middle.

The King went on to say that Jordan wants to play a constructive role. It wants to build and get its young people back from abroad to take part in this new effort. He had just visited Saudi Arabia and the UAR where he found many cross-currents on the Palestine issue. The Cairo atmosphere is more relaxed: There is decentralization of authority. For the first time he had heard differing views as to what to do, but there was deep concern as to what would happen when the cease-fire comes to an end. Egyptians are worried by the lack of progress towards talks and wanted him to tell the President of their fears. They say there could be disaster if nothing substantial is initiated before the expiration of the 90-day period. The new government is under greater pressure than that of Nasser and less sure of itself or its ability to meet internal pressures. The Egyptians fear Israel will agree to talks just a few days before the cease-fire ends and then procrastinate again. He thinks this might lead to another explosion.

The King said in accordance with the commitment he made in Cairo, he wanted to bring up another UAR idea which had already been broached with the Soviets. Could there be concentration now on guarantees? These could be worked out by US and USSR or perhaps by the Big Four. The guarantees essentially would be aimed at settling the question of security once Security Council Resolution 242 was implemented. The UAR had told him that peace achieved this way could lead to disbandment of the UAR armed forces. He had committed himself to bring this up. He was not prepared to move farther along this path until he has further discussion with the Egyptians. He expects to see them again soon. He believes, however, that there is no solution except an imposed one. Jarring will probably not get anywhere. In any case Resolution 242 is not clear to all concerned.

The President replied that this is a very delicate problem. We want to get the parties together and not separate them. Imposition requires finding parties who are ready to have solutions imposed upon them. This is just not the case. The US recognizes that Jordan’s security must be adequate. We will look at what we can do as sympathetically as possible, given the limitations we have. The President stated that he has already asked Congress for funds to start this assistance.3 As for the cease-fire, its continuation is in the interest of all. It would solve [Page 664] nothing to resume hostilities. People in the area are tired of fighting. As for negotiations, candidly there is no guarantee that if talks were to begin we would get the results we hope for, but continuing as we are will get us nowhere.

The President said the King is surrounded by problems: Palestinians, radical neighbors, and Israel. That he has survived is both a modern miracle and a key to a solution. He then asked Mr. Sisco to talk about an imposed settlement and solution.

Mr. Sisco said that we are trying to get negotiations started and expect that this will happen by a reasonably early date. Even if negotiations start, we do not intend to stand aside. Jarring has no divisions to back him up.

The President noted that Jarring has no more than the Pope, maybe less. Mr. Sisco said we intend to be active in the context of the Jarring talks. He cannot do it alone. The President said this was correct.

Mr. Sisco said he would like to discuss the question of guarantees and the role of the big powers, noting that it is a problem for the U.S. and is delicate since it could involve commitments.

The President said we have to think about this problem of guarantees and in this connection, what those in the area think about them. Mr. Sisco said the primary basis of security has to be a peace agreement based on reciprocal commitments between the parties. What the major powers then did would be complementary and additive. If there is a peace agreement between those involved, major powers could endorse them within the context of the Security Council.

Ambassador Sharaf said he thought that the King wants to see guarantees springing from Israeli withdrawal from occupied Jordanian territories. The Arabs have played their part: they have accepted Israel as a state and it is now Israel’s turn to withdraw. The Arabs are ready to entertain any sort of international guarantee which brings about withdrawal and peace. Jordan cannot just go into talks with Jarring without some sort of goal: that goal must be withdrawal and peace.

The President said he would be discussing the Israeli position with Dayan on Friday.4 To be fair, Israelis have a point when they say that written guarantees are not enough. They need to have the ability to defend their security if guarantees break down. The world has, indeed, changed since 1967. Arab states are now ready to do what they were not prepared to do then. They now accept Israel as an independent state with secure borders. We want to look carefully at both sides and see where we can be helpful in between. Israel cannot accept faith [Page 665] alone. Somewhere guarantees will need to be fitted in. Jordan needs these too. It also has enemies in the area.

Mr. Sisco said that international guarantees can provide an additional and complementary psychological basis for confidence. In addition, there need to be commitments between two sides and practical security agreements on the ground. He noted that violations of the standstill have undermined the weight Israel would attach to international guarantees.

The President said that we have to face up to the fact that Israel has such views. Wars occur in peacetime and often between states which have non-aggression pacts. De Gaulle thought this way, believing that France needed a minimal ability to defend itself; if there is no defense, treaties are meaningless. Sophisticated government leaders always look to the future, asking what next the government will do. Great powers may have a role as a result of this.

Ambassador Rifai said he was skeptical. He just does not know what the Israelis want. The King interjected that maybe they do not either. Ambassador Rifai said the Israelis want peace but as they see it and this will be at Jordan’s expense. Jordan paid the price of defeat of 1967. It recognized Israel. Peace also has its price. This is for Israel to pay and it requires withdrawal.

The President said this is preceptive thought: Defeat has a price and peace has a price. The Government of Jordan is the most responsible government in the area. We admire and respect the King for this. Jordan has earned the right to survive. We will keep in mind the thoughts the King has expressed.

The advisors then left and the President and the King had a brief private talk.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 616, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. VI. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Brown and approved by Sisco and Kissinger. The meeting took place in the Oval Office from 11:06 to 11:48 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) The King was in Washington December 8–10. Later in the day on December 8, he met with Laird. A memorandum of conversation is in the Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–0067, Box 74, Jordan. He met with Agnew on December 10. A memorandum of conversation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 616, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. VI.
  2. Reference is to General Assembly Resolution 2628; see footnote 8, Document 177.
  3. The President earmarked $30 million for Jordan in the $1.03 billion supplemental foreign aid package that he sent to Congress on November 18. See footnote 4, Document 187.
  4. See Document 190.
  5. No record of the private talk has been found. That evening, the President held a working dinner for King Hussein in the State Dining Room, attended by Rogers, Laird, Sisco, Kissinger, Helms, Moorer, Shakespeare, Hannah, Mosbacher, Brown, Atherton, Saunders, Seelye, and Jordanians including Salah, Sharaf, and Zaid Rifai. They discussed Jordan’s success in putting down the fedayeen uprising in September, the Palestinian question, the Jarring talks, the possibilities presented by new leadership in Cairo, and Soviet intentions in the Middle East, while the King expressed particular concern over growing “extremism” in the region. (Memorandum of conversation, December 8; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 616, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. VI)