14. Memorandum for the President’s File by the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Meeting with King Hussein of Jordan, Political Adviser Zayd Rifa’i, and Henry A. Kissinger, February 6, 1973 11:35 a.m.–12:45 p.m., The Oval Office

The President opened the meeting by asking the King to give him his personal analysis of the Middle East situation. The President would be thinking about the situation very seriously and wanted the benefit of the King’s views.

The King thanked the President for his interest, stressing that the United States was now in a situation of leadership on this issue. The President’s initiative in making the Middle East a matter of high priority for the second term was “a victory for all of us.”

The King then began a detailed analysis of the overall situation, reading from an aide-mémoire which is attached at Tab A.2

“Since our last meeting,” the King began, “several significant developments have taken place in the area which we believe have a direct bearing on the chances for a peaceful solution of the Arab/Israeli problem. The Egyptians’ expulsion of the Soviet advisors from Egypt was perhaps the most significant event.3 While it removed the Soviet presence from possible direct involvement in any resumption of armed [Page 32] conflict between the Egyptians and the Israelis, it also increased the danger of President Sadat perhaps heating up the situation on his own by some form of limited offensive, which could escalate into an all out war. Indeed, we have heard from President Sadat himself that such are his intentions.

“Secondly, we have seen hostilities break out on the Israeli/Syrian front with increased regularity. The Syrians are already calling for more than moral support from the other Arab nations which reminds us of the pre-1967 war situation when the Syrian/Israeli confrontation compelled President Nasir to take his bold aggressive action which led to the Arab disaster.

“On the other hand, in very recent months both Syria and Egypt have demonstrated a conciliatory attitude toward Jordan, with Syria going as far as to reopen her borders and air space to Jordanian traffic. We also have established a diplomatic interests section in Damascus. We have held exploratory talks with the Egyptians, including President Sadat, in an effort to achieve mutual better understanding and to normalize our relations with Egypt. While nothing concrete has yet come of these maneuvers we can say there has been some forward movement. We cannot, however, accept any normalization of relations with these two countries by compromising two of our cardinal principles, (a) refusing return of any fedayeen forces to Jordan, and (b) resumption of hostilities on our front with Israel or handing over command of the armed forces to a unified command without a very clear joint policy drawn by the political supreme powers in the three countries and a clear definition of the command’s authorities and terms of reference.”

As for Sadat’s negotiating position, the King felt that Sadat would still be interested in a partial settlement first as long as it was clearly linked to a total settlement.

The King then discussed Soviet policy, reading again from the aide-mémoire:

“The Soviet policy in the area, following the relative deterioration of their position in Egypt, appears to be one of:

“(a) Concentrating on saving what they could of their presence in Egypt and maintaining a footing there. As for the Arab/Israeli problem, and to serve their own ends, the Soviets continue to indicate their willingness to encourage efforts aimed at reopening the Suez Canal; while attempting at the same time to champion the Arab resolve to ensure full implementation of Security Council Resolution 242, i.e. complete withdrawal of Israel from all territories occupied in June 1967.

“(b) The Soviet Union appears bent on creating physical difficulties in the face of the implementation of 242 by the continuous flow of Soviet Jews to Israel in numbers that could, over a period of time, [Page 33] largely increase Israel’s population, and possibly eventually alter the nature of the state as a result of the predominance of a leftist oriented population.

“(c) The Soviets appear to be interested in avoiding over-stretching their reach in the area by concentrating on Iraq, which poses a nuisance to Iran and a threat to the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan.

“(d) The Soviets are apparently most interested in Syria, and it is possible that they, either directly through their excessive military assistance, or indirectly through Iraq, may eventually bring Syria and Iraq into their orbit, thus straddling both the Gulf and the Mediterranean.

“(e) The Soviets are using Iraq as a base for Soviet intelligence in the area. They are strengthening the regime and the only possible threat comes from Mustafa Barzani,4 who is constantly appealing for more of your help and support through Iran.”

King Hussein then turned to his relations with Israel:

“We have managed to keep our border with the occupied territory quiet and have accomplished some steps through indirect cooperation with the Israelis which has eased the flow of traffic between the West and East Banks. We intend to continue our policy of maintaining quiet on this front and believe our internal security situation is such that this can be done without difficulty.

“As you are aware from our frequent statements and declarations, Jordan neither desires nor intends to enter into another conflict with Israel unless she is forced to do so in self-defense. Jordan wishes a peaceful settlement with Israel, but that settlement must be just and honorable. We have kept you advised of developments and exchanges with the Israelis and we are sorry to point out that the Israelis seem as intransigent as ever on the basic issue of withdrawal. They insist on annexing the Western Valley of the river Jordan, as well as Jerusalem, which, of course is the main stumbling block. Jerusalem is the key to any lasting Arab/Israeli settlement since if this question is solved, we believe all other problems will be quickly resolved.”

The King handed over a paper summarizing Jordan’s secret contacts with Israel and analyzing the obstacles to progress. [Tab B]5

Jordan was also developing its relations with the States of the Persian Gulf, the King continued:

“Since we last met,6 we have made a good deal of progress in assisting the Gulf States and further Jordanian relations and influence in the Gulf States. Our greatest contribution has, of course, been in Oman where we were able to furnish some much needed artillery, increase the number of Omanis being trained in various JAA and Jordanian civilian schools. We feel our presence in Oman and our training program [Page 34] for Omanis has had a significant impact on Sultan Qabus’ own internal situation. We hope to be able to do more in the coming year.

“We have continued our training mission in Abu Dhabi and this too has begun to pay off. Also, we feel that through our conciliation efforts we contributed to the rapprochement between the Shah of Iran and Shaykh Zayid. Unfortunately, we have not been successful to date in helping bring about a resolution of the Saudi/Abu Dhabi territorial dispute, but we are still working on it.

“We now have four embassies functioning in the Gulf States and hope shortly to open an embassy in Sana. Through this latter embassy we will explore possible avenues of assistance we may be able to offer the new regime in the Yemen Arab Republic.

“We have noted that in all our contacts in the Gulf, we are constantly urged to bring to the attention of the United States Government the need for greater U.S. involvement in the Gulf in order to assist those states to ward off the communist and extremist influences that are increasingly coming to bear on the area. We are certain that basically all states in the Gulf are against communism and Arab extremism, but they lack the means and experience to combat it in some cases. Understanding U.S. reluctance to become directly involved, which we consider the correct decision, we believe we can expand our role in the Gulf if we receive the necessary financial support.

“We believe there is indeed the possibility of extremist and communist influence increasing in the Gulf, in fact we have had some intelligence reporting that indicates the leftist elements of the fedayeen are already well-established in some Gulf states and hope to expand their efforts there, given their untenable situations in Lebanon and Syria. We feel immediate action is necessary to counter this threat.”

The King then turned to Jordan’s internal situation, economic and military. He handed over a detailed paper [Tab C]7 on Jordan’s budget and development requirements, and then spoke from the aide-mémoire.

“With the return of security and stability to Jordan, we have seen a slow but sure resurgence of economic activity. The opening of the Syrian border also helped our economy, although we suffered some severe losses to our agricultural production due to recent adverse weather. We held a very successful international conference at which we explained our Three Year Development Plan and frankly the response to that conference in forms of interest and offers of investment has been most satisfying. We are, however, still in a very difficult financial situation and will require budgetary assistance for some time to come, especially before July of this year. We have had to carry over from last year’s budget into this year’s one a substantial deficit, which, when added to the deficit of this year’s budget, will amount to almost one third of our total recurring budget. We have, for the first time, separated the development budget from the recurring expenses budget, [Page 35] and it is this latter one which particularly needs your help and support. The forty million dollars which you have promised us in your fiscal year 74 will be of great help, but we will start receiving this as of July. We badly need a minimum of thirty million dollars between now and July. We still hope to regain the Khartoum subsidies, at least from Kuwait, but until our relations are normalized with Egypt and Syria, it is doubtful the Kuwaitis will be forthcoming.

“Our modernization program is moving along satisfactorily but we would appreciate a speed up in deliveries, and the necessity for a new program to meet our urgent requirements and provide us with badly needed items. We have no intention of enlarging our present armed forces strength, but wish to improve our firepower and mobility in order to meet the ever present Syrian and Iraqi threats to our territory. As you are aware, the Soviets are making large deliveries of the most advanced weaponry to the Syrian armed forces and this is creating a tremendous imbalance between our armed forces and the Syrians. We must emphasize that our wish to strengthen our armed forces is based solely on the principle of defense of our territory and deterrent in terms of mutual interest and help where required, since we have no aggressive intentions toward anyone. While our relations with Syria at the moment are improving, past experience has taught us that the situation could change overnight so we must always be adequately prepared to defend our northern border. This will be especially true if, God willing, we should enter into some negotiations or form of settlement with the Israelis. To do so we must be in a position of military strength since we may well have to ward off some military threats from the north and east. We believe that a militarily strong Jordan is imperative for a lasting peace in the area and it is for this reason that we would like to complete our modernization program as quickly as possible.”

The President thanked the King for his clear analysis of the situation and his exposition of Jordanian policy. “We want you to survive as an independent country and we are willing to take considerable risks,” the President stressed. Getting money, however, was difficult, as the King knew, and we would have difficulty arranging an increase.

Adviser Rifai pointed out that the major problem was to get another $30 million which Jordan badly needed to cover its deficit. The President assured him we would approach it sympathetically. The money needed was for the civilian recurring budget, Mr. Rifai observed. The President remarked that we would have to go back to the drawing boards on this. There was a severe Congressional problem with regard to all foreign aid.

The President then turned the discussion back to the negotiating situation. There were three possible strategies, he noted: Egypt-first, Egypt and Jordan together, and Jordan-first. He wanted the King’s [Page 36] judgment of the priority. “We don’t want a public effort that only exacerbates the situation. We are concerned about having another public situation that fails. On the other hand, we have a great interest in getting this off dead center.”

King Hussein replied that his effort had been to keep it away from the public eye. Jordan was willing to go alone, but believed that if it was kept private the chances were increased. “Must you wait for an Egyptian settlement?” the President asked. “We can’t wait for the elections in Israel. We must try to get things off dead center.” Mr. Rifai replied that Jordan didn’t mind going first. The real question was, what was the content of the settlement? Jordan did not want a partial settlement; Jordan wanted an intermediate settlement. Sadat was certain to start another “war of attrition,” Mr. Rifai was convinced. The Saudis said they would pay a subsidy if Jordan would let the fedayeen back in. But Jordan would never do this.

The President thanked the King again for his analysis. “It is a miracle that your country survives and that you survive. We are grateful for that. We have no bright new formula but we are going to study the issue and see where we can be helpful.”

“We have had a good talk,” the President concluded, “and we will have your concerns in mind.” The President then pointed out that Dick Helms, newly appointed U.S. Ambassador in Iran, would have a special influence and a special responsibility in the area. Dr. Kissinger observed that there had been terrorist incidents in Tehran during the President’s visit last June and that this was a source of concern.

The meeting then ended.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 137, Country Files, Middle East, Iran—Oil to JORDAN/RIFAI, January 3, 1973 [2 of 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive. A Presidential tape recording of the conversation is ibid., White House Tapes, Conversation No. 850–8.
  2. Attached, but not printed.
  3. Sadat announced on July 18, 1972, that he had ordered the immediate withdrawal of Soviet “military advisers and experts” from his country and the placing of Soviet bases and equipment under exclusive control of Egyptian forces. (The New York Times, July 19, 1972) In his autobiography, Sadat explained why he chose to remove the Soviets from his country: “One of the reasons behind my decision was the Soviet attitude to me; but another important reason was that within the strategy I had laid down, no war could be fought while Soviet experts worked in Egypt. The Soviet Union, the West, and Israel misinterpreted my decision to expel the military experts and reached an erroneous conclusion which in fact served my strategy, as I had expected—that it was an indication that I had finally decided not to fight my own battle. That interpretation made me happy; it was precisely what I wanted them to think. A further reason for the expulsion of the Soviet experts was that the Soviet Union had begun to feel that it enjoyed a privileged position in Egypt—so much so that the Soviet ambassador had assumed a position comparable to that of the British High Commissioner in the days of British occupation in Egypt. . . . Yet another reason for my decision was that I wanted to put the Soviet Union in its place—in its natural position as a friendly country, no more, no less.” (In Search of Identity, pp. 230–231)
  4. Mustafa Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
  5. Attached, but not printed. All brackets are in the original.
  6. See footnote 3, Document 12.
  7. Attached, but not printed.
  8. Kissinger later recalled that the February 6 meeting with Hussein was his first “direct exposure for what turned out to be a tragedy for the peace process in the Middle East: the personal distrust between Sadat and Hussein.” He added that Hussein feared “Sadat’s volatility might do harm to Jordan as had Nasser’s,” while Sadat dealt with Hussein at “arm’s length, thus preventing the emergence of the one spokesman with whom Israel might have successfully negotiated with over the West Bank.” “The pity was that these two moderate leaders failed to give each other the support that might have speeded up Middle East diplomacy; they wound up in an impasse from which the sole exit was war.” (Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 219)