305. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • The Situation in Jordan

According to the Israelis, the Syrians took Irbid without a fight and are digging in.2 It is not clear whether they intend now to advance on Amman. There are indications of Iraqi involvement in the conflict and they could well cast their lot with whatever side seems to have the upper hand during the day. Meanwhile, King Hussein has clarified his earlier message to include the landing of troops if he loses control. It is premature to predict where this situation is heading. However, it seems possible to say that, on the basis of this morning’s report, it appears from the massing of Syrian equipment around Irbid that the immediate Syrian interest may be to consolidate a position in the north. If they continue to dig in, it will be understandable that the Israelis feel that air strikes may not be decisive.

Message From King Hussein

King Hussein has sent this follow-up message to you via his close confident Zaid Rafai:3

“The King believes that (an) air strike will tip the balance but if communications between us break as a result of a complete breakdown [Page 861] of authority in Amman then you have my advice and authority to land.”

Ambassador Brown says that he does not know what the King means when he talks about a breakdown. He imagines, however, that going through Hussein’s mind is the possibility that defeat of his northern army by an overwhelming Syrian force would so demoralize his tired and confused troops in Amman that they would cease to function as an effective force.4

The Military Situation

We do not yet have the full results of the most recent Israeli reconnaissance of northern Jordan. The Israelis, however, are able to confirm that Irbid fell to the Syrians last night without a fight as the Jordanians withdrew. The Israelis also report that the Syrians have reinforced their strength in the Ramtha–Irbid area to about 300 tanks and appear to be digging in. They caution that they have no way of knowing the Syrian intentions but that for the time being at least they are standing still in Irbid.

The Israelis report that the Iraqis are ready to intervene or have already intervened on the side of the fedayeen. They are reportedly deploying tanks moved in from Syria and, according to the Israelis have already taken a Jordanian radar station.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–077, Washington Special Actions Group Meetings, WSAG Meeting Middle East 9/21/70. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 304.
  3. Transmitted in telegram 4989 from Amman, September 21, 0510Z. (Ibid., Box 615, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, Vol. V)
  4. In telegram 4993 from Amman, September 21, 0547Z. (Ibid.)