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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sessions: Background Briefing on Disarmament Problems

(February 3, 1967)

Arms Race in The Middle East

I am just as concerned as Senator Symington about the danger in the arms race in the Middle East. I, too, have just come back from there, although I did not go into the matter in nearly as great a depth as Senator Symington.

I got the general impression based on conversations I had with politicians, and with one conversation I had with the Israeli chief of military intelligence, that the UAR does not presently want to go to war with Israel because they are afraid they would get licked. The Israelis know this. And that the balance of power for the foreseeable future, as between the Arab states, which more or less ring Israel, and the Israelis, is such, that there is no present danger of an Arab attack on Israel. How would you explain that?

Mr. Helms. I think that is correct. I would subscribe to that. I do not think there is any doubt that the Israeli army is far more competent than the Egyptian or any combination of Arab armies. Their air force is much better and much better manned.

I recognize that one should be very careful in using characterizations, but the Egyptians have not shown any great capability to man very well the sophisticated equipment which the Soviets have given them. The Israelis are far better at this and, therefore, I do not believe that any single Arab state or probably any combination of them intends to attack Israel these days.

Russian Interests in Middle East

Senator Clark. I also got the view over there that the Russians, as a political matter, were looking with rather covetous eyes on the other end of the Red Sea, the Aden area and the Somalia area. And that their support of the UAR in Yemen and their view that the British pretty soon are going to get out of Aden, and the thought that de Gaulle was shortly going to conduct a plebiscite to see whether he should give up French Somaliland, posed a pretty considerable threat that the vacuum thus created might be filled, not directly by the Russians, but by Russian--if at least not satellites, at least allies who would be Russian oriented.

Would you comment on that?

Mr. Helms. We agree with your assessment.

Subcommittee's Jurisdiction

Senator Gore. With due apologies to my colleagues, could we not stay a little more along the line of the jurisdiction of this subcommittee.

Senator Clark. Well, I think, Mr. Chairman, if you will excuse me saying so, and I hope you would agree with me, that the conventional arms race in the Middle East is a problem for the Disarmament Subcommittee of a high order of priority. These questions of mine were intended to develop what could be done to terminate an arms race in the interests of arms control and disarmament.

Senator Gore. All right, proceed.

Senator Symington. Maybe it is my fault, because I was trying in the conventional--this growing conventional danger of the UAR with the reaction on the part of the Israelis [Deleted.]

Senator Gore. Well, I certainly do not mean to imply that the arms race in the Middle East is not of great importance. I guess I had just overly anticipated that we would stay on the ballistic and antiballistic development today. But if members desire to go elsewhere, proceed.

Senator Clark. No, I only had one more question.

Senator Symington. It is probably my fault.


Senator Clark. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Senator Gore. Senator Cooper? Senator Pell?

Jet Aircraft to Jordan

Senator Pell. One question, along the line of Senator Symington and Senator Clark, is we were informed by the committee, and I am sure everybody else knows, that we were giving a rather large supply of brand new jet airplanes, I think, to Jordan. Would that not very much upset the present balance from an intelligence viewpoint? Is Jordan at the low end of the balance of terror, or whatever it is called, in that part of the world?

Mr. Helms. The jet aircraft that we give to Jordan is not going to upset the balance of power in the Middle East in a way that would be dangerous in our opinion. In the first place, the Jordanians have been one of the Arab countries that has taken a rather moderate road, as you know, and has stood for peace and quiet in the area. These jet planes, obviously the Israelis object to it, and come in and make comments about it, and put all the pressure on our government they can about it, but they are not fearful of them.

Senator Pell. Thank you. No further questions.

Sources: Federation of American Scientists