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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Report on Negotiations Related to Arms for Jordan

(February 6, 1968)

This report from the Secretaries of State and Defense to the President outlines the pressure Jordan placed on the United States to recieve arms. As was commonplace during this time period, Jordan used the threat of allying itself with the USSR to gain bargaining leverage from the U.S. The memorandum describes the Jordanian demands, an acceptable U.S. counteroffer and the domestic politics surrounding the issue.


Recommended Arms Package for Jordan as a Result of the Khammash Negotiations

General Khammash, Chief of Staff of the Jordan Arab Army, arrived in Washington on January 17 as a result of our decision to resume arms deliveries in Jordan.

Since the June Arab-Israeli hostilities the Jordanians have pressed us to resume arms shipments to make up at least part of the losses they suffered in June. We were not responsive until January 7. You will recall that in December in an oral message to you King Hussein agreed that he would not purchase arms from the Soviet Union if the United States would meet his legitimate defensive arms requirements. Not having heard from us, the King decided that the pressure for arms from his army was such that he could no longer resist persistent Soviet offers of military equipment. As a result of our Ambassador's intervention, Hussein postponed his decision until General Khammash could determine in Washington what we are willing to do. Unless we can convince the King that we are willing to resume our previous role of arms supplier to Jordan, there is little doubt that, in his present critical situation, he will turn to the Soviets for arms.

Upon his arrival, General Khammash presented us with a list of military requirements totalling approximately $200 million. (The details are outlined in Tab A.) (3) We have met with him periodically during the last two weeks to discuss his requirements and we have explained to him our very serious problems in meeting them. He admitted that his requests were the maximum. Because of the critical situation in which Jordan now finds itself he maintains this list, which in fact exceeds Jordan's losses by a substantial amount, is necessary to restore the morale of the armed forces. It is apparent that he will stand on his original request until we make a counter proposal.

Khammash argues strongly that he must go back with explicit assurances of resumed US support for the Jordan armed forces; that he Khammash, has continually assured his officers and men (based on discussions with us last summer) that American help was coming, but that his assurances are wearing dangerously thin: and that pressures on the King to meet arms needs" even from the USSR if necessary, a mounting. Our Ambassador confirms this assessment. We have also had disturbing reports of a deterioration in the internal security situation in Jordan.

It is clear that the very modest arms package we recommended to you in December will not meet the political objectives we have set ourselves, namely, (1) to shut off any further temptation on the part of the King to accept Russian arms; (2) to increase the morale of the armed forces and their loyalty to the King; (3) to increase his prestige and stature with respect to his Arab neighbors; and (4) to strengthen Hussein so that he can better carry out his role as principal proponent of a settlement with Israel.

The principal problems presented by the Khammash list, in addition to its size, are his requests for tanks and aircraft. Khammash wishes to pursue his pre-war plan of standardizing on American tanks and phasing out his British Centurions. He has asked for 200 M-48 A-4s with diesel engines and 105mm guns. He has also asked for 36 "multipurpose, versatile jet aircraft."

Both the tanks and the aircraft are troublesome because of their high cost and relatively large numbers, and because we would then be almost the sole supplier of major equipment items for Jordan. The problem with Israel would be increased if we agreed to supply Jordan with tanks with 105mm guns as opposed to the 90mrn guns with which their present tanks are equipped.


We have put together a counter proposal which we recommend that our negotiator offer to Khammash. The details of this proposal are at Tab B. In essence, we would: (a) Agree to deliver ground force items suspended after the war. These are a combination of cash sales and prior year grant MAP items totalling about $10 million. There are no major items of consequence included. (b) Make up Jordan's war losses not included in (a) with the exception of heavy artillery and some of the tanks. (c) Offer 88 M-48s instead of 200-and without the larger 105mm gun, and (d) Agree to go ahead with our F-104 contract by selling 18 F-104s now and, subject to certain conditions, consider a second 18 aircraft at some point in the future. We would plan deliveries and financing over two and a half fiscal years; actual deliveries after 1968 would be subject to an annual review of Jordan's military requirements, taking into consideration the political and economic situation then prevailing and particularly progress towards an Arab-Israeli settlement and progress of efforts towards arms limitations in the area. The considerations which would be the subject of the annual reviews are at Tab D.

The installation for the first fiscal year would cost approximately $32 million in cash sales for both ground and air force items. Of this amount, $10 million has already been paid under the previously concluded F-104 contract. The installment for the second fiscal year would cost approximately $36.3 million while the third would be $10.3 million. The estimated cost of the total program would be approximately $49 million for ground force items and $33 million for air force items, a total of $82 million inclusive of shipping and related charges-a substantial reduction from the cost of his request. About $3.8 million of this would be in prior year grant MAP and the balance in cash sales. Jordan can pay cash for the 1968 tranche; neither we nor they can promise anything definite about availability of funds thereafter. We believe cash sales will cause less opposition in Congress than credit sales. (See financial summary at Tab C.)

We propose the F-104 aircraft for the following reasons: (a) By resuming arms shipments to Jordan we are in effect placing it in the category of countries for whom we selectively lifted our arms suspension on 23 October. The suspension for Jordan specifically included the F-104's, and we would thus be doing for Jordan now what we did for the other "moderates" last October. (b) Jordan has on deposit $10 million against the F-104 contract. Spares, ground support and other equipment were shipped to Jordan prior to June. Twelve aircraft are currently in storage awaiting delivery. Some Jordanian pilots and technicians have been trained and others are now in training, and (c) the delivery time for the F-104 is almost immediate. If the morale of the armed forces is the key political factor in our aid to Jordan, they should have on their airfields some US planes as soon as possible.

We could put to Khammash a counter proposal which included 18 F-104's but excludes any tanks, making him meet his tank requirements in Great Britain. We consulted the British last week and they could make available their Centurion tank at a price comparable to our M48AL in quantities of up to 200, with deliveries beginning in six months. They could, in about two years, upgun these Centurions to 105mm.

This proposal is not, however, likely to meet Jordan's minimum requirements; Jordan would want at least a partial fulfillment off its tank needs from American sources. Part of their reasoning is military: they now have a mixture of American and British tanks, but very few of the latter are in operable condition. It would be less expensive and more efficient to standardize, at least for their two armored brigades, on American tanks. An offer of about 88 US M48AI tanks would permit them to equip their two brigades with American tanks. (Their total inventory of American tanks would then be 181, 64 less than prewar. T he more important reason is political. Tanks are the important element of their ground forces and consequently they want them to be American, as evidence of our continued support.

The King's mood is one of increasing frustration. In spite of his efforts, there has been no significant progress towards a settlement. His army is the only one in the area which has not been substantially reequipped since the June war. The King wants the assurance of continued American support which our supply of major military items would imply. Given our traditional close relationship with Jordan, Hussein's demise or his acceptance of Soviet arms would be a serious blow to US prestige and interests in the area and would be interpreted as a Significant Soviet victory.

In the circumstances, we recommend that you approve the recommendation below. If you approve, the Secretary of Defense will present this proposal to General Khammash.

Recommendation: That you authorize us to negotiate on the basis of the arms package outlined in Tab B on the understanding that we would first try to persuade the Jordanians to accept British tanks. We would plan deliveries and financing over two and a half fiscal years; actual deliveries after FY 1968 would be subject to an annual review of Jordan's military requirements, taking into consideration the political and economic situation then prevailing. If you approve, we would consult with members of Congress. Should they raise strong objections, we would return to YOU.(4)

Dean Rusk

Robert S. McNamara

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 20, Arab-Israeli Dispute 1967-1968. DC: GPO, 2001.