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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Jordan Arms Sale Moves Forward

(February 1, 1965)

The Johnson Administration is inching toward an agreement to provide arms to Jordan, but on a limited scale. The view is this will not adversely affect Israel's military edge. The telegram also notes that tanks provided to Israel through Europe was well-known and expresses irritation with what the State Department views as deliberate leaks from Israel.

131. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

Washington, February 1, 1965, 9:02 p.m.

672. For the Ambassador. Subject to final review by the President, Talbot scheduled discuss our decisions on Jordan's arms request in Amman end of January or early February. When you are notified of President's approval, you should at earliest opportunity inform Prime Minister Eshkol of the decision2 drawing on following presentation:

As Prime Minister aware, USG over past six months has been pondering painful dilemmas posed by Jordan's request to buy arms, using funds made available by Unified Arab Command. Jordan has resisted heavy pressure from the UAC to acquire Soviet equipment, against arguments stressing merits of standardization military equipment among Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, by assessing that it can and prefers to depend on Western sources of supply. Jordan has also refused agree to positioning of non-Jordanian UAC forces in Jordan except in time of war. If we refuse now to supply arms, particularly armor and aircraft, almost inevitably Jordan will acquire Soviet equipment with UAR military trainers with all the dangers that entails.

Our assessment is that even if US-Jordan relations are put on the line to prevent arms acquisition, Hussein will feel he has no alternative but to accept UAC decision to modernize and expand his forces. Aside from his "image" in Arab World which would be impaired if he abandoned Arab ranks for Western subsidies, his own armed forces would not accept such an outcome. We believe that although Hussein recognizes that acceptance of the Soviet/UAR alternative could be beginning of end for his regime, he would do it rather than take immediate consequences of isolation from rest of Arab world.

We have reached conclusion that some positive response to Jordan's request is necessary to avoid disastrous confrontation with UAC which would be strengthened, not weakened, by our refusal sell equipment to Jordan. Prime Minister will realize that UAC objective of improving Arab military posture relative to Israel makes our dilemma especially painful. However, positive USG response less disadvantageous than other possible alternatives.

Our strategy seeks to hold Jordan's arms purchases to minimum necessary enable Hussein withstand UAC pressures, and to space deliveries so that there will be no unacceptable rapid arms build-up in Jordan. By avoiding confrontation with UAC, time may well permit divisive Arab forces to effect the weakening or destruction of UAC and policy of diverting sorely needed resources to arms.

Jordan has requested USG sell GOJ approximately $90 million equipment including modern tanks and supersonic aircraft. Planned use ground equipment includes modernization JAA and creation five new brigades. Latter will be manned by approximately 8500 men in existing National Guard and 6000 to 7000 new recruits. On air side, King seeks to purchase one 20 plane squadron of F-104G fighters.

After months of exhaustive study, we have decided inform King Hussein in next few days of our willingness sell for cash ground equipment to be delivered over calendar years 1965-1969 inclusive which prices out at about $50 million. We are prepared extend credit not to exceed $7 million at any time. We will seek to hold tanks to M-48s on grounds of cost and to phase deliveries through period.

On supersonics we will seek to dissuade Hussein from acquisition any supersonics this juncture, but frankly we not likely succeed. We will inform Hussein that if he convinced no alternative to acquisition, we unwilling sell American aircraft and could not countenance Soviet MIG 21s. We will urge Jordan purchase supersonics in West Europe. Supersonic squadron cannot be operational until 1968 to 1969 at earliest.

In reaching our decisions, we have had ever in mind requirements of Israeli security. Planned Arab buildup will not threaten existing Israeli over-all military superiority over Arabs for foreseeable future. We are confident Israel will agree USG decision is least unattractive alternative from viewpoint both American and Israeli interests.

You should inform Eshkol we distressed that, contrary to Israel's assurances about ability maintain secrecy M-48A3 tank transaction 2-3 years, entire transaction known to Arabs and to large segments general public. He will appreciate under circumstances and in order mitigate political repercussions in Arab world, we compelled either 1) invoke security clause to cancel conversion kit procurement agreement or 2) respond favorably to Jordanian request for similar tanks.

We are disturbed at continued press campaign about alleged role Cubic Corporation in UAR rocket program and hiring of German technicians from Litton subsidiaries. Given the Secretary's assurances that allegations about Cubic clearly distortion, we cannot escape conclusion continuing press campaign has tacit approval GOI and stimulated by Israeli leaks. We hope Israel can take effective steps end further sterile and misleading publicity.3

In this connection, you should apprise Eshkol questions raised by Israel and press have stimulated interest in problem export sophisticated technological equipment and know-how abroad. View large amount electronic equipment and related information going to Near East, we fear such exports encouragement to escalation arms race. We looking into ways control flow. Of course, as Secretary noted in letter to Mrs. Meir, any controls necessarily applied regionally despite possible hardship to American business.



1 Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 12-5 JORDAN. Top Secret; Limdis. Drafted by Davies and Killgore on January 25; cleared by Meyers, Bunte, Solbert, and Talbot; and approved by Ball. Repeated to Amman, London, and Bonn.

2 Telegram 675 to Tel Aviv, February 2, informed the Embassy of the President's approval and authorized discussion with Eshkol. (Ibid.) Telegram 682 to Tel Aviv, February 3, authorized Barbour to discuss it with Foreign Minister Meir, omitting the reference to the M-48 tank transaction with Israel in the third to the last paragraph of telegram 672. (Ibid.) Telegram 919 from Tel Aviv, February 4, reported that Barbour presented U.S. views on Jordan arms to the Foreign Minister that morning. (Ibid.) Telegram 920 from Tel Aviv, February 4, and telegrams 921 and 922, both February 5, reported that Meir expressed unhappiness at the prospect of U.S. provision of tanks to Jordan. (Ibid.)

3 Foreign Minister Meir alleged in a letter to Secretary Rusk, not found, that the Cubic Corporation was involved in the supply of a missile telemetry system to the UAR. Telegram 490 to Tel Aviv, December 12, 1964, summarizes the letter and states that Gazit had been informed that the charges were unfounded. (Ibid., SCI 11 UAR) Rusk replied in a January 18 letter to Meir, not found. Telegram 627 to Tel Aviv, January 22, 1965, recounts a meeting between Jernegan and Harman in which Jernegan commented on Rusk's letter and provided additional information on the subject. (Ibid.) Barbour reported in telegram 926 from Tel Aviv, February 5, that in a February 4 meeting with Meir, he stressed U.S. concern about "public campaigning" on this subject, and Meir referred to the Secretary's "unsatisfactory" letter of January 18. (Ibid.)

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO, 2000.