250. Memorandum From Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • The Situation in Jordan

The situation in Jordan is still very uncertain. Amman was calm during the day but King Hussein may soon move against the fedayeen with full force and request our help. The negotiations for the [Page 693] release of the remaining hostages are still stalled but the hostages are safe.

Security Situation in Jordan

Amman was calm but tense during the day. The fedayeen made no apparent attempt to comply with the cease-fire agreement and talked big but they seemed eager not to directly provoke the army. There was even some speculation that they may be prepared to sit it out for now, or at least until such time as the army begins to physically enforce the agreement. By evening, however, there were press reports of fighting in Amman.

Today’s situation may only be the calm before the storm. The embassy has learned that the Jordanian Cabinet is meeting tonight and that King Hussein is inclined to move vigorously against the fedayeen either at daybreak or twenty-four hours later.2 The King’s concern centers on possible intervention by Syria and the more remote possibility of intervention by the Iraqi forces. In this regard, the Jordanians are considering their contingency plans and wonder about possible air support from either the U.S. or the Israelis if their Arab neighbors intervene. Ambassador Brown does not consider this to be a formal request for U.S. military involvement at this time and will be meeting with King Hussein tomorrow morning. Such a formal request could, however, come out of his meeting with King Hussein.

The Hostages

The embassy in Amman believes that the danger to the hostages has not been appreciably increased by the present political crisis, but will be if an armed showdown between the army and the fedayeen occurs and widespread fighting breaks out. The embassy further believes that the hostages may be more valuable to the PFLP as an insurance policy against the government threat than as a bargaining counter for a prisoner exchange and that therefore the PFLP may have an incentive to assure their safety.3 On the other hand, the PFLP may not be able to ensure the safety of the hostages even if it wishes to do so if heavy fighting breaks out.

One of the remaining Red Cross representatives reports that he has good information that the hostages are safe. Some, however, may have been taken out of Amman. The Red Cross is still trying to get visitation rights as a first step toward a protective role.

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The Negotiations

The Bern Group met again this afternoon for another difficult session.4 The British took the lead in pressing the Israelis by insisting that the group agree to a mandate which included a contribution by the Israelis going beyond the release of the two Algerian officials they are holding. The British representative went so far as to threaten that if no such agreement were reached the UK would be taking a ministerial decision and “we all know what that means.” The Germans then joined the British in demanding an immediate response from the Israelis. Finally, our representative was able to save the situation securing agreement to consider a formula whereby the five powers would say they agree to consider the PFLP proposals at such time as the PFLP provides its total demands, including a specific list of the fedayeen it wants.

Once again we have bought some time within the Bern Group. If the Israelis buy our latest formula it may calm down the British some, although there are continuing indications from London that they are still very close to breaking away from the united front. The German attitude is even more problematical. At this point, it may be that only an unequivocal Israeli acceptance of the formula will hold the group together. The Israeli Ambassador has become increasingly engaged in the Bern discussions and it has seemed increasingly clear from the last several sessions that the element of solidarity has become a thing of value to Israel.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 615, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. V. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. Kissinger initialed the first page of the memorandum.
  2. As reported in telegram 4844 from Amman, September 16, 2205Z. (Ibid.)
  3. As reported in telegram 4822 from Amman, September 16, 1115Z. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, AV 12)
  4. As reported in telegram 2319 from Bern, September 16, 2319Z. (Ibid., POL 23–9 JORDAN)