128. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1

5368. Subj: Hussein’s Views.

1. Have just returned from meeting with King held in army’s war room where Jordanian military and civilian leaders congregating. They are sleepless and living on cigarettes and coffee. King himself said he [Page 375]felt incoherent. This psychological atmosphere must be considered as we look at what he has to say.

2. First, he thinks that the Syrians are going to get a pasting. I said I agreed as it seemed to me that the Israelis will concentrate first on that front, that their mobilization is complete, and that we may see a different story on the Golan than we had had up to now. What disturbs him the most is that the Israelis will not be content to drive the Syrians back to the cease-fire line but will want to pursue and destroy even if this takes them to Damascus. Of first importance, he believes, is get point across to Israelis that this is unacceptable. Here he thinks big powers, especially U.S., have major responsibility. A large-scale Israeli invasion of Syria, he warns, could drag Jordan in willy-nilly.

2. Second, and this is related, Israel must stop its constant over-flying of Jordan. Today, 64 Israeli planes used Mafraq airbase as a homing area for repeated attacks at Syrian targets. His air force stood on the ground and his pilots feel increasingly humiliated. Israeli planes have constantly and continuously violated Jordan air space on their forays to and from Syria but Mafraq action is a step up over casual passage.

4. Third, the Security Council must act and promptly. It cannot simply be a call for all parties to return to their original positions. A straight-forward simple demand for a cease-fire is what is needed. To it should be coupled something which will re-launch negotiations. He hopes it will come tonight and not drag on.2

5. The King asked what I thought. I said that, while it might sound trite, he should cool it. Jordan has been under pressure before. It has stood up well. This is no time for its resolution to waver. Most of all it should not give in to the emotional call of other Arabs, especially those who have absolutely nothing to lose. Jordan has. Its people, its armed forces, and its future development plans are what are at stake.

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6. King said he agreed with all this but sometimes events have a way of getting out of control and carrying national leaders with them. He thought he could hang on for a few days more.3

7. I said we should take it a day at a time. I hoped to have a better idea tomorrow (from Washington) as to how the situation looks. Let’s not make any decisions tonight.

8. At another point in conversation King said he thought the Egyptians could hang on. He said it was his understanding that Sadat would not advance far beyond the canal as he would want to keep under the SAM umbrella. The Israelis could do a lot of damage to the Egyptian forces and the SAM missile sites, but probably at great expense to the air force. Said Rifai disagreed; he thought the Egyptians would pause for a moment and then move on to attack Mitla, moving their SAM protection with them. I said the latter might be more difficult than he envisaged.

9. The King said that he had not been informed in advance of the Syrian-Egyptian attack. He reminded me that, however, after each talk he has had with the Egyptians in recent months he has told us that it was his considered view that Egypt would cross the canal, no matter what the odds. His estimate, he continued, had been more accurate than USG intelligence.

10. Comment: King was tired, somewhat confused but most friendly. He had done me favor by getting a Dove to Tobruk in Saudi Arabia so that I could get back here. When I thanked him, he said that all he wanted in return was the stabilization of the situation and an immediate start on a meaningful settlement for the ME. If it does not come, the Arabs will sit back for a short while, convince themselves that they could have won the war with a slightly greater effort, and then re-launch it. Who would be running what country then he could not guess. I think he is right.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 618, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, IX, January–October 1973. Secret; Flash; Exdis. Also sent Flash to USUN; Niact Immediate to Tel Aviv, Jidda, Beirut, and DIA; and Priority to Jerusalem and Cairo.
  2. An October 8 memorandum to Kissinger reported Rifai’s statement that political pressures on Jordan to intervene in the current Middle East crisis were reaching an intolerable level and that although Jordan could stall for “a day or two,” the King could not maintain this position indefinitely. Also, this position probably could not be maintained if the military situation should change drastically, which Rifai thought it ultimately would. Therefore, Rifai considered it essential from the Jordanian point of view to have the Security Council call for a cease-fire, even if it was not adhered to completely. Rifai also said that in his opinion Egypt and Syria would not respond to a cease-fire call which required them to return to their positions of October 5. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 168, Geopolitical File, Jordan, Chronological File, 4 June 73–5 Nov 73)
  3. At 2041Z (4:41 p.m. Washington time), in telegram 5367 from Amman, October 8, Brown reported that Hussein told him that he had just received a message from Faisal asking for release of the Saudi forces stationed in Jordan so they could be sent immediately to the Syrian front to take part in the battle. The King said that Faisal’s message was “semi-hysterical and very critical of Jordanian inaction at moment Syria and Egypt fighting the ‘sacred battle’.” Hussein had already replied, saying that the Saudi troops were needed in their present positions in Jordan, but told Brown that this was the sort of pressure he was increasingly subject to from virtually every Arab state and he begged for a prompt cease-fire. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 618, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, IX, January–October 1973)