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1. Memorandum From Richard T. Kennedy of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) 1

SUBJECT

  • Secret Jordan-Egyptian Negotiations

At Tab A 2 is a memorandum from Director Helms conveying detailed information on secret negotiations between a representative of King Hussein and President Sadat which took place on 17 December. The key item is Sadat’s assertion that he has decided Egypt must launch a war of attrition against Israel.

Zayd Rifai represented King Hussein at the talks which took place in Cairo. In essence, the King proposed that Egypt and Jordan resume diplomatic relations and that they work together through political efforts to force a settlement on Israel. Rifai stated that the Arabs cannot risk another full scale war with Israel. He argued that the Soviets, having reached an understanding with the U.S., do not wish to do anything that might jeopardize their newly-established working relationship with the Americans.

Thus, according to Rifai, the United States is the only country in a position to break the present impasse and force the Israelis to withdraw from occupied Arab territories. Rifai informed Sadat that it is for this reason that on King Hussein’s last visit to Washington3 he attempted to take the problem out of State Department channels and bring it to President Nixon’s office. (CIA deleted this sentence from the version of this report sent to State and Defense.)

Sadat expressed pleasure at Hussein’s initiative in sending an emissary to meet him. He denied having any direct contacts with Presi[Page 2]dent Nixon’s representatives but he said that he had received letters from President Nixon, all of which he had answered. (This information was also deleted from the version of the report sent to State and Defense.)

Sadat told Rifai that he disagreed with Hussein on the Soviet role in the Middle East, asserting that Moscow does have a role to play in bringing about a solution to the Middle East problem, even though it is secondary to the role played by the United States.

Sadat informed Rifai that his major disagreement with Hussein’s views is in regard to the question of war versus political pressure on Israel. Sadat stated that he is absolutely convinced that the only way to force Israel to surrender the occupied territories is by renewing a war of attrition. He said that he had carefully calculated the cost to Egypt of starting such a war and he believes that it can be sustained. By hitting hard and deep inside Israel and by inflicting a sizeable number of civilian casualties on a regular basis, Egypt could force Israel into deciding that it is better to surrender the occupied territories.

Sadat also told Rifai that under no circumstances should Jordan in any way become involved in Egypt’s war of attrition because the Israelis would quickly overrun the East Bank and destroy the Jordanian army. Sadat also pushed aside Rifai’s question about resuming normal diplomatic relations between Jordan and Egypt.

Sadat closed by telling Rifai that he would have some thoughts to convey to Hussein on what he could say to President Nixon about Egypt.4

At Tab B is a report of King Hussein’s 22 December comments [less than 1 line not declassified] regarding Sadat’s plans for a war of attrition.5

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 168, Geopolitical File, 15 May 1972–7 May 73. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information.
  2. Attached, but not printed
  3. King Hussein visited Washington March 28, 1972.
  4. King Hussein met with President Nixon on February 6 during his February 5–7 visit to the United States. See Document 14.
  5. Attached, but not printed. Hussein said he thought that Sadat’s plans for a war of attrition would be a foolish course to follow and that the Israelis would certainly retaliate with a massive attack that would inflict heavy material and human casualties on Egypt.