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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Memorandum on Latest Developments on Jordan Arms Problem

(February 13, 1965)

The United States is having trouble getting Jordan to accept its arms offers and is weighing its options if Jordan obtains an unlimited supply through Soviet channels.

Briefing Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Talbot)1

Washington, February 13, 1965.


Latest Developments on Jordan Arms Problem

I have been in Jordan February 7-10 negotiating with King Hussein on the arms problem. Simultaneously, several meetings with the President were held here as developments unfolded.

In the initial presentation to King Hussein, I was authorized to offer: (1) The basic M-48 tanks, (2) A $42 million ground equipment package to be delivered over a five-year period and to include the tanks, (3) U.S. acquiescence in Jordanian acquisition of a West European supersonic fighter squadron, and (4) a $7 million revolving credit. This was not enough to satisfy King Hussein.

The King revealed his knowledge of the supposedly secret tank deal between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel which, as the King pointed out, included the 105 mm gun. He argued that it was not fair to offer Jordan a tank inferior to that which Israel is getting. The King was also dissatisfied with the delivery schedules envisaged in our offer, the amount of credit, and the West European supersonic. He and the Jordanian side argued that the over-all American offer was not sufficient to enable Jordan to withstand Unified Arab Command pressures to accept Soviet equipment.

After the second long meeting on February 8, I reported that the real issue had become whether to sell arms to both Jordan and Israel or to Israel alone, following Jordanian acquisition of Soviet materiel. I recommended increasing the credit to $15 million, offering the M-48A1 tank with a fall-back to the M-48A3 (with diesel engine), cooperating with Jordan to find a suitable Free World supersonic fighter (with American supersonics to be held eventually in the offing if a suitable non-American plane could not be found) and speeding up of deliveries to the extent feasible.

After a February 9 White House meeting, the Department authorized me to offer (1) $15 million credit, (2) the basic M-48 tank for the first part of the Jordanian order with an agreement to reconsider the possibility of getting the M-48A3 for the second part, but (3) to offer nothing further on supersonics beyond our original offer.

In a final meeting February 10 the King held firm to his request for the M-48A3, but did not insist on delivery before late 1967-1968. He did, however, ask for an agreement to supply 100 of the M-48's in calendar years 1965-1966. Brigadier Khammash later specified 50 M-48 tanks in 1965 and 50 in 1966. The King is obviously convinced he cannot successfully resist the pressures of the UAC with anything less than the above assurances. I am persuaded he has soberly estimated his position and is staking his chances for continued close relations with the West on our supplying what he judges will be necessary to hold his membership in the Arab Club. Our offer to help Jordan find an acceptable aircraft from Free World sources remains. We are proposing to the President that he concur in our proposals to supply 100 M-48 tanks in 1965-66 and 100 M-48A3 tanks with the 105 mm gun in late 1967-68.

Meanwhile, Robert Komer has gone to Israel as a special emissary of the President in order to convey our rationale for providing arms to Jordan and to reassure Israeli leaders of our continuing deep interest in Israel's security and welfare.

We anticipate agreement to sell arms to Jordan and cancellation of German military assistance to Israel will create pressure for direct sale of U.S. arms to Israel. To mitigate the severe political damage this would cause the U.S. in the Arab world, NEA has recommended that we compensate for any disproportionate Arab military buildup only in return for Israeli agreement 1) to support actively U.S. aid to Jordan and to assist in abetting the stir over aid to the U.A.R., 2) to forego nuclear weapons and accept full IAEA safeguards, 3) not to deploy offensive missiles, and 4) not to undertake premature preemptive action against Arab diversion works.


1 Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 US/KOMER. Secret. Drafted by Killgore and Lee F. Dinsmore of NE on February 12 and cleared by Davies. Filed as an attachment to a February 15 memorandum from Talbot to Rusk.

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