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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sessions: Briefing on Greece and Middle East

(December 14, 1967)


After the Arab-Israeli war and after the Khartoum Conference in which the moderate Arabs agreed--the oil rich countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya--agreed to pay part of the cost of the closure of the canal and the cost of the war to the Jordanians and Egyptians, King Faisal really had three purposes by that agreement, and he is paying a very large amount of money. He wanted three things: He wanted the Egyptians out of the Yemen; he wanted to get Radio Cairo off his back; and he wanted to establish himself as a good Arab because he had not fought in the Israeli war and he had no intention of fighting in the Israeli war, and he had no intention----

Senator Symington. Who is this?

Mr. Battle. Faisal. He did want to identify himself for political reasons as a member of the Arab club and he wanted to get Nasser out of Yemen which is a problem for him because it is so close to him.

The Egyptians needed to withdraw from Yemen. They had had 70,000 troops in there just before the Arab-Israeli war. They had about 25,000 reduced from a high of 70,000, had economic reasons for wanting to get out, and they began to withdraw and they are now out.

As they pulled out and lessened their own numbers in Yemen, they also found themselves being supplanted directly by Russians.

Now, as the Egyptians withdrew, and they had been steadily withdrawing since the Khartoum arrangement, they have been getting their money. Faisal has handled it very well. He has been handing it out to Nasser a little bit at a time and, as I might say, the Battle view of how to aid Nasser, he holds him--

Senator Fulbright. So much a soldier. [Laughter.]

Mr. Battle. Just about, sir.


What is disturbing is that a Soviet pilot was shot down there some days ago. We have gotten this pretty clearly established. There is no doubt, virtually no doubt, that this is accurate. This is the first time we had been aware of direct Soviet pilots in there.

Senator Symington. Excuse me. This is the first time that a Soviet military person has been known to have been fighting or working in that part of the world, is that not correct?

Mr. Battle. I think in direct fighting, yes, sir.

Senator Symington. Advisers in Syria but indirect fighting.

Mr. Battle. There were some reports of Russian officers captured during the Arab-Israeli war who were serving apparently as advisers. We have never had a complete confirmation of this, Mr. Chairman.

There is no doubt that the Soviets are putting equipment in. They have put in about 30 military people which would support roughly six or eight pilots. The planes that they put down there, I do not think the Yemenis are capable of flying them, so I think we must assume that this is more than a one- pilot thing.

They have also been pouring in technicians, pouring them in; they have got several hundred in there.


Senator Hickenlooper. Is there any question in your mind, Mr. Secretary, but that this is only the continuation of a farfetched and long-planned program to encircle the whole oil of the Middle East there and take over the Arabian peninsula? It seems to me it is so evident there is not any argument about it. When they get that, then Persia is gone. It is the encirclement puzzle and they will control the Red Sea, and all the approaches to that area, and in the meanwhile I do not know what we are doing about it.

Mr. Battle. Senator, we have just had a study made of this called a--Julius Holmes did a study on the whole Russian thrust in the area. It comes up pretty much with the same conclusion you just enunciated.

Senator Hickenlooper. I never read Julius Holmes' study, but it seems apparent on the face of it.

Mr. Battle. You got the point without reading it, and I think it is quite true. I think their interests are several. I think it is oil; I think it is strategic location; I think it is political pressure.

Let us never forget that there are three wars in this Middle East that we are fighting now, that the Arab-Israeli one goes on and on, the cold war goes on, and the struggle between the moderate and the radical Arabs goes on.


Senator Hickenlooper. Of course we must be, I suppose, very careful about not taking too many sides but we have taken sides in the Middle East. We are supporting Israel a thousand percent, and we are kicking Faisal in the teeth. In that great area there is a chance that he, I think, would gravitate more and more toward a western orientation.

I am not for him or against him one way or the other. That is not it. But I think we are making a terrible mistake there that is going to rise up to haunt us and cause us trouble.

Mr. Battle. Mr. Chairman, I am very concerned about U.S. influence in the modern Arab states, particularly Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan. I think those are states in which we must not let our influence go.

Senator Hickenlooper. We are rolling them over just as fast as they stick their heads up, I think.

Mr. Battle. Well, sir, I assure you----

Senator Hickenlooper. It looks to me that way.

Mr. Battle. There is nothing I am more concerned about. We have had problems growing out of the Arab-Israeli war in terms of our relations with the moderate Arabs, but I think we have a great stake here and we simply must not ignore the importance to us economically and politically of those countries.

Senator Hickenlooper. Well, I could not agree with you more.

Mr. Battle. Iran--I know the Shah of Iran has been very much concerned. He has been worried to death about Nasser and he is worried about the same line you are, Senator Hickenlooper, in terms of the thrust into the area.

Senator Hickenlooper. It is not without its problems. I do not mean to say it is an easy solution, but there are too many influences pushing us just one way in that thing and that is going to rise up to smite you.


Senator Fulbright. Do these Arabs ever remind you of our pledge to protect their territorial integrity of all the countries in the Middle East?

Mr. Battle. Senator, I could not tell you how many discussions I have had with them. I try very hard to keep in touch with all the Arabs, even those countries we broke relations with. I might tell the committee after they had broken relations and during the General Assembly meeting I had the word passed in New York. We had several official and unofficial points of contact; we did not want to lose touch with them. I got Bob Anderson, Jack McCloy, several others, businessmen who have been very active in the Arab world, and I put two of our people in New York and sent word they were available to talk at any time. We have talked about every aspect of it including the question of territorial integrity.

The general opinion of territorial integrity when defined in detail gets very complicated.

Senator Hickenlooper. Well, they are hysterically emotional about this thing, and emotionally unreasonable in terms of our rights. It complicates the problem, no question about that.

Mr. Battle. I think this mission that is out in the area now, Ambassador Goring is out there on behalf of the Secretary General of the U.N., and I am hopeful that not only will that mission be successful but that we can exercise such leverage as we have in two ways, well, both Arabs and Israelis, to bring about in time a settlement on this thing.

I am not optimistic that it is coming quickly, but I think we have got to keep on trying and looking towards a permanent one and not a temporary cease-fire.

Senator Symington. Senator Clark?


Have you had a look at the five-year Israeli refugee plan which was in the paper this morning?

Mr. Battle. I have discussed it generally. I have not seen that specific plan, but I had a long meeting with Comay, Ambassador Coman, last week on their attitude. I am generally familiar with what they have in mind, Senator Clark. I have not looked at that specific piece of paper.

Senator Clark. Do you think it holds some hope for a basis for negotiation?

Mr. Battle. I think you have got to cope with some of the political realities on this scene before you get very far on the refugees.

There are some very deep-seated emotional problems that bring political problems. I think that unless you can get a basic understanding on a political settlement, it is going to be difficult indeed to get a real plan working on the refugees.

Senator Clark. Is not the refugee problem one of the things that has to be solved as part of any political settlement?

Mr. Battle. I think it has to be and my own view is that we ought to be whacking away at it as opportunity permits without ever saying we are solving it.

This sounds like a non sequitur, but let me tell you specifically what I mean. If you talk about liquidating the problem of refugees, the Arabs get their backs up immediately because they have used it as a political weapon. They say there is only one solution and that is repatriation or compensation.

However, many of those people could be placed, and I think capital projects--I talked with Jim Linen of Time Magazine who has been the leader in this project for Near East Emergency Donations--it is called NEED--and it has been suggested that while he never said he is trying to liquidate the problem that such funds they could put into it for capital projects that gave employment that gave permanence ought to be instituted without ever saying we are trying to liquidate or removing it, but simply do it.

They have tried a certain amount of that. I hope the world can do a certain amount of this, but if you say we have a plan that is going to liquidate the problem, there is an immediate political difficulty, but you can go ahead with some projects.

Senator Symington. Senator Case.


Senator Symington. Senator Javits made a speech on the floor the day before yesterday about arms. Apparently General de Gaulle has refused to give, or sell rather, to the Israelis, at least to this point, arms that they have already paid for, tens of millions of dollars, $42 million that France has taken. I read that he said that they disobeyed him. “Israel disobeyed me,” is a quote.

There are only three countries making this kind of weaponry: one is the Soviet Union that is rearming the Arabs; one is General de Gaulle who is now rumored--and Senator Javits mentioned in his speech--to be sending to Iraq the planes he was going to sell to Israel; and the third ourselves. Nobody else, to the best of my knowledge, in production makes the type and character of sophisticated weaponry that the Israelis need.

For the record, and before we leave, I have seen figures which show that the total number of modern Israeli planes today, combat planes, is 75. I have checked it and rechecked it, and I believe that is about right, and they have no bombers. The total number already of Arab planes, fighters, is around 580. Bombers, the figures are not important--the bombers they have considerable of including new bombers they have given Iraq which are beyond the two-way range of Israeli fighters.

Their situation, therefore, according to Senator Javits, and I must say I have heard the same, I did not know he was going to make the speech and I was not in town when he made it. But their situation, therefore, means that Israel could be subject any time now, especially with borrowed pilots, and the Algerians put 40 pilots into Egypt in the last episode in June, they could be subject any time to an attack from the air, which would be dangerous because of the size of the distances involved.

With the premise that these figures are reasonably accurate and the condition is reasonably stated, which was in the talk that I read that he made, what is our policy going to be about letting them buy military equipment from us?

Mr. Battle. Mr. Chairman, let me make several comments on it.


Senator Symington. Before you do it, I want to say this: People high in the Administration have been telling other people that because we passed the Church amendment that we made it impossible to help Israel with arms. I want to say for the record that is not true. I have investigated it very carefully. The Church amendment had primarily to do with undeveloped countries that were being sold arms in South America that we did not know about, despite the fact when they came up for economic aid they assured us that the military aid was not going to go. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that the Defense Department tried so hard to keep the names of the country involved in the country X deal from being known. Mr. Bader knows this story backwards and forwards because the Chairman let him work with me on it.

Now, the story has gotten around that because of what the Senate did, it is not possible for this country to supply arms to Israel.

We know, you and I know, that that is false. What I would like to do would be to find out why. What is the reason for not supplying these arms quickly in the interest of the United States?

So far as I know, with the possible exception of a few Australians, the Israelis are the only people who are doing any fighting at any place in the entire world for us unless they are paid--that is, against Soviet aggression, and if that is important.


Now, that is just a premise which is really not pertinent to the thrust of my question. What are we going to do if these people come and ask us to purchase arms from us? You have told us about Pakistan. We know about Iran. We know about the five countries in South America. What is going to be our policy with respect to Israel if they put up the money?

Mr. Battle. Mr. Chairman, I would like to make several comments.

As you said, the figures are less important than the basic issue.

I think the question of the accuracy of the figures depends upon your definition of ``modern,'' but let us not argue that.

Senator Symington. I will say 155 fighters all told for Israel, and 75 of those I would consider, namely the Super Mystere and the Mirage, modern fighters against MIG 21's or SU- 7's.

Mr. Battle. I would like to say, sir, we are following this issue. I spent a great deal of time on this in recent days. I expect to spend a great deal more time on it in the days ahead. I was authorized to say this afternoon only that no decision has been made with respect to the future, but I would like to comment on two or three of the points made.

First, as far as the French deal, the Israelis bought 50 Mirages. Their traditional supplier of planes, from the French pre-war, you are quite right. They paid not for all but a good portion of it, and the Israelis prefer the Mirage and wanted it. We also over the years have preferred not to be the only supplier, and the Israelis concur with that view, and therefore we hoped that they would continue to supply it.

Senator Symington. May I just in context--we preferred to be not a supplier. There are no modern American combat airplanes in Israel.

Mr. Battle. No, sir, I meant all kinds of military equipment. There are other kinds of equipment, too, so we have supplied military equipment.


So far as the status of this order is concerned, it has been rather interesting to watch over the last few days. I talked with Mr. Eban in September when he was here. He told me then that he felt that the French would live up to the contract, having gone as far as it had including the money. Since that time, the Israelis have told us they had serious doubts that the French were going to live up to that arrangement.

A few days ago there was a statement made and a good deal of speculation that the French were playing around in Iraqi oil and were going to commit military equipment to the Iraqis. At that same time that story came out, there were two other stories that accompanied it. One was an intelligence report that there were a hundred Mirages about to be sold to Belgium and that those included the 50 for Israel, the destination of them after that not identified.

Second, the story was that 50 Mirages would go to Iraq of the group, of the ones that had been planned for Israel.

A debate then began in France and after the first--heavily involving the question of anti-Semitism and following that the French were forced to a rather strange and hard-to-understand statement. That statement said that they had not diverted 50 planes from Israel to Iraq. They did not say they were going on with the sale, however, but they made it very clear they had not diverted them.

Now, in checking into the matter, I found that we had authorized export licenses for Sperry gyroscopes for those planes. On the basis that it was a contract for the sale of those 50 gyroscopes to Israel through commercial channels rather than governmental ones, which I will explain in a moment, I sent a message that those had been authorized on the basis those planes were being delivered to Israel, and that if they were not sent there we would consider this a violation on the terms of the original arrangement.

At the moment our embassy in Paris believes--I am not sure this is not an overstatement--that probably the French will go through, after dragging their feet for a while, with their contract. The Israelis do not believe so. It is an open question. It is at least a possibility that has changed in the last two or three days.


Now, we are concerned about the Israeli, the possibility of an imbalance. The military authorities in our country do not think there is an immediate threat. There is, however, a potential problem there.

Senator Symington. They are the same ones who have been giving us information on the other war.

Mr. Battle. I suspect pretty much the same, Mr. Chairman.

We have made no decision on this, but we are watching this very, very closely and including the possibility of the French and their arrangement.

We have talked in general terms with the French about arms policies, but they have not been very forthcoming so far. We are considering another demarche to them in the very near future.

As you know, I reported to the committee some weeks ago we were providing 48 A-4s to--that number is not public knowledge and I hope it will be handled with care--to the Israelis, deliveries to start this month. It would be at about the rate of four a month and would be completed at the end of the year. All I can say to you is we are watching this most carefully, and I assure you it will get very, very careful attention. I will be very happy during the next weeks to keep in touch with you about it, Mr. Chairman, if that is the wish of the committee, or with Mr. Marcy or with anyone you designate because I think this is an area in which you have a very legitimate interest and I would hope I would keep you informed.


Senator Symington. First, because my senior colleagues are interested in this, I wish any information you do get, you would give to Mr. Marcy so he could give it to the chairman, Senator Hickenlooper, Senator Gore, or any members of the committee.

As I understand it, what you are saying is (a) we are going to deliver the planes to Israel that we had already agreed to deliver to them.

Mr. Battle. That is right, which were held up after the war when all arms sales were suspended.

Senator Symington. And (b), despite the development in France or anywhere else, we have not yet reached a decision to sell them any additional arms. In both cases I should use the word “sale.” We have not reached any decision to sell them any additional arms beyond what we agreed before the June war.

Mr. Battle. That is substantially accurate. That is certainly accurate on planes. I think there is additional small stuff, spares, things of that sort.

Senator Symington. But you know their problem----

Mr. Battle. Your concern, sir, is entirely legitimate. All I can do at this moment, I tried to see whether a decision could be made before I had this hearing. I did not obtain clearance for one. I assure you we are watching this most carefully, and I will be in touch with you.


I would also like to mention the problem of Jordan in passing. We have, I think, a very serious political problem there as well as a military one. Jordan is the only country that has had no additional equipment. While we had contracted for planes before the Arab-Israeli war, there is no thought at the moment of putting in planes. We do have before us a request for $6.5 million in miscellaneous spare parts, some ammunition, some recoilless rifles that we will have to consider. The main issue here is whether we are going to be a supplier or going to have the Soviets be a supplier of Jordan.

Senator Symington. You decided, as I understand it, that you should give aid to other Arab countries if you gave the aid to Israel or rather sold-we should sell aid or give aid to other Arab countries if we sold to Israel what we agreed to sell to them before.


So that has been done. What are the Arab countries that we are now selling arms or giving arms to?

Mr. Battle. Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, something for Lebanon, very little, but a little bit, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, but that is so small----

Senator Symington. Mr. Chairman?


Senator Hickenlooper. Let me ask you about this: What caused the change in the relationship between France and Israel? France was supplying Israel before the war. France worked with Israel on the secret atomic plant that Israel had, and so on, and now they seem to not be buddies so much.

Mr. Battle. Well, I think there are two or three factors in this. One, I think the French are playing the oil game here in several respects. Secondly, I think they have watched our own relationship with Egypt and others go into periods of decline and they would like to replace us as a major western influence.

Third, their relations with the Soviets in this area, I think, are at least interesting to speculate about. They continue to talk in terms of a Big Four arrangement, for example, on peace in the area that sort of thing. But basically I think they are trying to increase their own influence with a minimum of outlay and with the oil in mind.

As far as Israel is concerned, I strongly suspect that they have continued, at the same time they have denied it, the supply of small spare parts to them even though they publicly profess to have an embargo.

Senator Hickenlooper. You mean at the same time the Israelis deny it also.

Mr. Battle. The Israelis have not denied it to me, not the small spares. I think they have not denied it. I suspect that the French have gone on.

I suspect the dollar or the Israeli pound has a good deal of influence in France, and I would not rule out the possibility they will find out a way to make--at the same time they profess in an effort to establish a very warm relationship with the Arabs, they may still work out some third country deal. I would not rule it out.

Senator Hickenlooper. Thank you.

Senator Symington. Mr. Secretary, we are always rewarded by the privilege and pleasure of listening to your mellifluous words and sound logic.

Mr. Battle. Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to be here.

Senator Hickenlooper. I think you have fully explained and clarified everything.

Mr. Battle. I have not solved any of them. It is good to see you, sir.

[Whereupon, at 4:05 p.m., the committee adjourned.]


Sources: Federation of American Scientists